When Britain is at war the British Commonwealth is at war, too. Hardly had Britain taken up the challenge thrown down by the Nazi aggressors when member after member of the great family of nations of which she is the head hastened to offer her their unstinted support in men, money, and materials.
On the very day, September 3, 1939, that Britain declared war on Germany, Mr. R. G. Menzies, Prime Minister of the Commonwealth of Australia, in a broadcast to the Australian people declared that "there is unity in the Empire ranks – one King, one flag, one cause. We stand with Britain."
On the same day New Zealand hastened to make it plain that she, too, stood shoulder to shoulder with Britain and her fellow Dominions. New Zealand's fullest co-operation was promised by Mr. Fraser, acting Prime Minister, in a broadcast to the nation, and it was stated that the British Government had been informed that New Zealand concurred entirely with her determination to honour her pledged word. A week alter the decision was announced to raise a special military force to serve within or beyond New Zealand.
Canada, too, was quick in making it plain where she stood. Mr. Mackenzie King, the Prime Minister, in a broadcast speech to the nation on the first Sunday evening of the war, referred to the King's broadcast from London, in which he had appealed to all to make this their own fight to destroy once for all the doctrine that might is right. "Canada", said Mr. Mackenzie King, "has already answered that call". He went on to say that the Canadian parliament was to be called immediately, and that war measures were to be put in operation. "There is no home in Canada", he added, "and no man, woman or child whose life is not bound up with this struggle". On September 10 a state of war between the German Reich and His Majesty's Dominion of Canada was declared to exist. In his speech in the House Mr. Mackenzie King said that Canada's liberties came from "those men in England and France who never hesitated to lay down their lives when their freedom was threatened".
Measures of economic, naval and air co-operation were immediately instituted, and, as "down under", huge sums were voted for war purposes.
In South Africa there was at first an attempt by the Prime Minister, General Hertzog, to declare the Union's neutrality in the struggle, but anti-Hitler, anti-Nazi opinion in his cabinet, as in Parliament and amongst the South African people as a whole, proved too strong. The Prime Minister resigned, and his place was taken by General Smuts, the famous soldier-statesman who had captained South Africa in the last war.
From India, too, there came a stream of offers to service. "Nothing could be more significant", said Lord Linlithgow, the Viceroy, "than the unanimity of approach of all in India – princes, leaders, great political parties, the ordinary man and woman – or of their political contributions, and the offers of personal service which have already reached me from the princes and people of India".
So from all the British Crown Colonies, the Protectorates, the Mandated Territories, in every corner of the globe, the answer came in no uncertain voice: "Where the Motherland stands, there her children stand beside her."