Victory in Europe 1944 - Effects on the British Empire and the Postwar World

This is a follow-up "Daughter Thread" to https://www.alternatehistory.com/fo...plausibility-and-operations-in-france.512778/ - to which reference should be made. It is based upon the likely outcome of a successful cross-channel invasion of France by the Western Allies in May 1944.

Setting the Stage: In light of a successful invasion of France in May 1943, and the collapse of German power not later than one year later, there are a number of OTL events which I believe would not take place. The first to be addressed are the “Big Three” Conferences at Tehran in November 1943 and Yalta in February 1945. There are several reasons why.

The first is Stalin is in no need of meeting in Tehran. His primary demand in the OTL – a Second Front in France has been obtained. Stalin also does not want to be pressured by President Roosevelt into a commitment to declare war on Japan after the surrender of Germany. Nor does Tehran stand much chance of producing agreements that can be touted as a successful outcome commensurate with the prestige expended at a summit. The USSR has just broken diplomatic relations with the Polish Government-in-Exile after the Katyn Massacre revelations, and the death of Wladyslaw Sikorski under suspicious circumstances has left an irreconcilable breech on this topic. The Red Army does not provide Stalin with trump cards as in the OTL – the Western Allies are certainly pulling their share of the load in France, and will enter Germany well ahead of the Red Army. Stalin will not attend a summit hat in hand, looking for concessions.
Roosevelt strongly desires to meet Stalin face-to-face, but cannot do so without Churchill being present. Churchill may see himself as the honest broker and mediator between the United States and the USSR, but Stalin distrusts the mediator more than the Americans because of Churchill’s competing interests in Eastern Europe. Moreover, having conceded Roundup to the Americans, Churchill has political capital to expend with the Americans, and the Russians know it.

The Obvious Advantages to Great Britain: Many of the points have been made by others, and this cannot be a comprehensive list. Moreover, some topics, most notably Lend-Lease will be addressed at length separately. The first, and most difficult advantage to quantify is the psychological or moral boost to the British people by the earlier end to the war – which I estimate to be about May 1944. Although the war continues in the Far East, the Japanese do not represent the existential threat to the British culture that the Nazis did. The end to blackouts, internal travel restrictions, civil and local defence measures, the loosening of wartime regulations may not immediately heal the nation, but the nation is given a head start on the process.

Secondly, the physical damage to the United Kingdom comes to a close. Efforts to rebuild are not at risk of being undone, both by enemy action, and by the diversion of effort to essential war need. Projects commenced are far more likely to be completed. The conversion of the British economy from wartime to peacetime production is accelerated, but also less haphazard.

Thirdly, the reduced loss of life is significant (not only in Great Britain, but throughout Europe), and intertwined in several areas with reduced loss of key infrastructure or material. For example, of 218 British, Allied and Neutral merchant ships under charter to the British Ministry of Transport lost between June 1944 and August 1945, only 37 were lost in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. Given the high proportion lost in the North Atlantic and Arctic, the reduction in lost merchant crews is as significant as the addition of 181 ships of 727,221 grt to the British seaborne lifeline. The reduced loss of naval personnel in the European Theater is also not completely quantifiable, but significant as well.
The reduced loss of life is not just a maritime issue. The bulk of RAF casualties, some 55,000 of 70,000 were incurred by Bomber Command. The earlier end to the war reduces that loss of life, as well as opposing German casualties; and British civilian casualties from V-1 and V-2 missiles and conventional German retaliatory air attacks during that time.
Numerically, the largest saving in lives is with the British Army. The drive into Germany proper from Normandy will initially result in far fewer casualties than in 1944, but will rise from August 1943 as first class German forces withheld from earlier commitment to combat to complete training and equipment and those transferred from Italy are engaged. Once those German units are destroyed, they cannot be replaced. There is no “quiet year” in France from May 1943 to May 1944 in which German divisions destroyed in Russia can be rebuilt and new ones formed. Allied offensive power is not stalemated in Italy. Throughout 1943-44 the German Army is simultaneously bled white on both the Western and Russian Fronts. It cannot provide replacement troops, equipment, fuel and other supplies faster than their losses in combat. British casualties will drop below historical levels once the Rhine is crossed, but rise again in the Battle for Berlin and as the Germans are penned between Russian and Allied troops in Poland. The losses are likely to be a wash when compared to the OTL.
The lack of an Italian Campaign will save the bulk of the British troops lost in that theater – some 89,000. A small percentage will be lost in the Balkans, with perhaps a quarter of the 22,000 Indian troops. The Americans are not spared – the divisions sent to Italy have been diverted to France. Most – perhaps two-thirds to three quarters of the 26,000 Canadians lost in Italy are also lost in France, as the Canadians have assumed a greater load of the fighting with a full field army of two – not one corps. The 32,000 French casualties are likely sustained in the liberation of their own country. Few of the 8,600 New Zealanders and 3,500 South Africans lost in Italy will become casualties in the Balkans, primarily because their arrival coincides with the onset of winter, and a front-line equilibrium until the spring of 1944. German casualties from Italy from 1943-44 are transferred with those units to France, and likely increased.
Finally, British prisoners of war are released sooner.

Fourth, economic revitalization of Great Britain begins a year earlier. The most immediate effect is the release of thousands or requisitioned trawlers and drifters to their prewar fishing activities. Food imports from Latin America and Africa were revived. A second effect is the end of convoy movements, which allowed ships to depart when ready, rather than losing days, and sometimes weeks until a convoy sailing date. There is also no requirement to zigzag, reducing transit times and fuel costs by one-fifth to one-third depending on ship type and length of voyage. Traditional trade patterns into Scandinavia, Eastern Europe and South America are gradually resuscitated; where Sterling is still a competitive currency.

The conversion from a wartime to peacetime economy is not an abrupt one, across three months from 7 May until 14 August 1945, but more gradual over fifteen months. This reduced the disruption of both capital and labour. While the war with Japan did not make the same level of demands on British industry as did Global War, it did require some industrial commitments remain in place, a stabilizing factor – while non-essential factories reverted to peacetime products in scarce supply after five years of non-availability. Nations including Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, Argentina and others unable to modernize their military and air forces during the previous half-decade were anxious to do so now, and found British ready suppliers. Dependency upon the United States alone as a supplier is diminished.

The Collapse of National Unity in Government in Great Britain – May 1944: Great Britain had fought the Second World War under a Government of National Unity based upon the 14 November 1935 Elections that gave a considerable Conservative majority in Parliament. This was mutually beneficial for the major parties, the Conservatives not facing the electorate during the darkest days of the war. The Labour Party establishes a record of responsible governance; and the Liberal Party remained relevant after devastating electoral losses and a split into Liberal and National Liberal factions based on personal animosities among leadership. Elections normally due within five years were put off through routine confidence votes in the National Unity Government; although Churchill nearly lost an unscheduled one in June 1942 after the strategic defeats at Tobruk and Singapore, and an embarrassing escape by KMS Scharnhorst, Gneisenau and Prinz Eugen through the English Channel.
During the course of the war, Members of Parliament (MP) gradually fell more and more out of touch with constituents; the internal cohesion of the Government began to fray as the Labour Party tended to win by-elections to fill vacancies. Clement Atlee, the Labour Party leader used Churchill’s weakened position in early 1942 to secure a commitment to an independent India, and the adoption of the Beveridge Report which advocated a socialist economy. On 23 May 1944, Churchill submitted his resignation, confident that vanquishing Hitler would surely result in an overwhelming Conservative mandate from the electorate; and that no other leader would be considered to complete the final task of subduing Japan. After two days attempting to persuade all parties to forgo the election, King George VI accepted the resignation.
It was not a reckless gamble. Churchill’s popularity rating exceeded 86% as the campaign opened, but the Conservative Party was not as popular as he. Victory was viewed as a national, not a partisan achievement, and the Conservatives still bore the bulk of the blame for pre-war appeasement and the weakening of British power in the Great Depression which the populace believed caused the war. Many in serving in uniform believed the Conservative Governments of the 1920s and 1930s mistreated World War I veterans. Labour Party platforms such as National Health Insurance were extremely popular; however Atlee had yet to convince the electorate he could lead both a national economic recovery and on the international stage. The campaign came down to the tactical conduct of the campaign; and Churchill nearly botched it.
Still very much a Victorian man, Churchill made a series of costly errors to squander his popularity. He based the campaign entirely on recent wartime successes and failed to lay out any future goals or social promises; his obsession with the defeat of Japan was overplayed. He also claimed the Labour Party was under the domination of Stalin in Moscow, when in fact a break had occurred a generation earlier. Rather than, tactfully withdraw the falsehood, Churchill doubled down – claiming during a 4 June radio address that Atlee and the Labour Party would establish a Gestapo-like secret police in order to impose socialism. Atlee quietly responded the next day by magnanimously thanking Churchill for exceptional wartime leadership, and for his convincing demonstration of an inability for future peacetime domestic political leadership. Undeterred, Churchill continued to bombastically denounce his wartime coalition partners. It backfired in devastating fashion, and his personal popularity plummeted. Once Churchill was photographed voting on 5 July 1944, the day balloting among service personnel and expatriates began, the Conservative Party was more than happy to send Churchill to the Continent for consultations with his military commanders, the French Government of De Gaulle, and President Roosevelt prior to the Potsdam Conference.
While Churchill was away, Conservative fortunes revived. Tories emphasized Churchill’s “Special Relationship” with Roosevelt was needed now more than ever. When the second and third scheduled voting sessions were conducted on 12 and 19 July, fears of untested leadership had sapped some of Labour’s early strength. The results announced on 26 July still came as an utter shock to Churchill and his party, they dropped from 387 to 302 seats; not enough to control the 640-seat Parliament. Labour jumped from 154 to 264, also short; and by 28 seats the first chance at forming a coalition went to the Conservatives. Although consulted frequently, Churchill had lost much of his power to dictate. In the National Unity Government he held the posts of both Prime and Defence Minister. Giving up the latter is necessary for his own party unity. Other offices are bait to bring 22 members of the National Liberal Party and the Liberal Party’s 16 members on board. With two Independent Conservatives, two Northern Irish Nationalists, two National Government (a party advocating unification of all parties) and three Independent MPs, the Conservatives were able to pass a Vote of Confidence 349 to 62 with 229 abstentions.
Churchill’s margin was too thin to last long. Two factors, the willingness of Conservative rank and file to cooperate with Labour to enact a National Health Service and major housing reform as a part of rebuilding war damage, and Churchill’s concentration on the defeat of Japan kept the status quo in place until late 1945. Beginning in January 1946, Labour began pressing for nationalization of industry to counteract a slowing economy, and Churchill finally lost a Vote of Confidence eight months later. In the October 1946 Election, the Conservatives were shellacked; dropping to 212 seats, the Labour Party climbing to 388, and six years of Coalition Governance came to an end.
In the meantime, earlier victory in Europe has left continuity in place in British Government policy in the interim.

The End of Lend-Lease: Although planning was never formalized, it was likely the United States intended the British Government be given 90-days’ notice Lend-Lease would end once Germany surrendered. At the Second Quebec Conference, Roosevelt offered up to US $6 billion in loans to tide Great Britain over until the surrender of Japan, but this was also not formally adopted, or the funds appropriated by the US Congress. What happened historically, is upon Roosevelt’s death, his successor, President Harry S Truman knew almost nothing of what Roosevelt planned, and Britain was given no notice prior to being informed on 21 August 1945 that Lend-Lease was immediately terminated. Moreover, Churchill was out of office, and the Atlee Government had no institutional knowledge with which to bargain.

In the OTL, Lend-Lease was calculated (sources do vary) at US $30.4 billion (£ 7,543,423,000), with a Reverse Lend-Lease of US $7.8 billion calculated to reduce the total British debt to US $22.6 billion (£ 5,604,962,000). Reverse Lend-Lease was only partially based upon actual provision of British supplies ranging from raw materials to facilities provided to the US Armed Forces. It was also an attempt to quantify the unquantifiable in concepts such as “Equity of Sacrifice”. How for example, to compensate Britain for holding the line against Nazi Germany prior to the United States entry into the war? Or, what benefit accrued to the United States from Great Britain’s geographic location in Europe? The exact sum of US $7.8 billion can only be justified on these grounds – both the American and the British Governments agreed to it.

The end of the war in Europe in May 1944, is likely to bring a more orderly end to Lend-Lease – with the Americans giving 90 days’ notice soon after the German surrender. This will lead to large-scale cancellation of most contracts for war material placed with American companies, but not necessarily all. Items for which the British have no comparable counterpart, such as the Douglas C-47 Dakota, the LVT amphibious vehicle will now be bought outright, rather than leased. There will be caveats. Nearly all naval vessels, amphibious ships and the 200 “Sam Liberty” cargo ships have already been delivered, and will remain on lease until after the end of the war with Japan. It is similar with military equipment and aircraft. Items damaged or uneconomical to return to the United States may be surveyed for scrap value, or, if appropriate, sold for civilian use.

In the OTL, about £ 768,000,000 (US $3,095,000,000) in Lend-Lease was received after 30 June 1944, and about £ 1,100,000.000 (US $4,433,000,000) in 1945.

The reduction of total Lend-Lease from US $30,400,000,000 to US $22,872,000,000 in original debt totals almost 25%. I cannot precisely say how much of Reverse Lend-Lease would be applied. I doubt if it would be a full US $7.8 billion, however if Churchill were still Prime Minister, he would obtain a better bargain from Roosevelt than Atlee did from Truman. Even if Reverse Lend-Lease were dropped by a billion dollars, Britain’s reduced debt is down to about US $16,072,000,000 (£ 3,988,000,000). This reduction of Britain’s OTL Lend-Lease debt by 29% gives Britain a significant boost in her postwar recovery.

Economics, specifically the burden of British debts is the major driving force in the fate of postwar Britain.

The Atomic Bomb. It is well known the British contributed significantly to the technical, if not the financial development of the Manhattan Project. This resulted in Roosevelt and Churchill signing the Quebec Agreement on 19 August 1943. This document’s clear use of the term “we” in the following statements indicates the technology developed into atomic weapons was at that time viewed as under joint ownership.
“First, that we will never use this agency against each other.”
“Secondly, that we will not use it against third parties without each other's consent.”
“Thirdly, that we will not either of us communicate any information about Tube Alloys to third parties except by mutual consent.”
The full document can be accessed here.
https://www.atomicarchive.com/resources/documents/manhattan-project/quebec-agreement.html

An earlier end to the war in Europe will result in far greater British attention to the progress of the Manhattan Project. It will preclude the passage of the McMahan Act in March of 1946, a law passed by the US Congress that essential stole the intellectual and technological contributions made by the British scientists. The British may have to purchase the weapons themselves, and the Washington B1 (B-29) aircraft to deliver them with scarce US Dollars; but the Atlee Government will not be forced to spend the estimated US $150 million to reinvent the wheel and produce an entirely British bomb between 1946 and 1952. This spending on acquiring an independent nuclear capability came at a time when Britain could least afford it.
Great Britain will be a nuclear power in 1945.

I will post more as I can.
 
@Eric C Johnson With Roosevelt being in charge as the war in Europe ends, we would likely see a similar effect as in Britain with a smoother transition to a peacetime economy.
As far as I know, Truman strayed significantly from the demobilisation plans made under his predecessor.
 
This is a very interesting discussion and I am interested in seeing more. I do have two questions

1) Since the Americans and British drive on different sides of the road, did the Americans makes any changes in the jeeps and trucks sent to Britain?
2) Could extended Lend Lease hurt the British manufacturing sector in the long run. I am wondering about the impact on the British car, truck, plane, and ship building industries. If Britain is flooded with donated jeeps, trucks, planes, and ships, how can their domestic industry complete with that surplus?
 
This is a very interesting discussion and I am interested in seeing more. I do have two questions

1) Since the Americans and British drive on different sides of the road, did the Americans makes any changes in the jeeps and trucks sent to Britain?
2) Could extended Lend Lease hurt the British manufacturing sector in the long run. I am wondering about the impact on the British car, truck, plane, and ship building industries. If Britain is flooded with donated jeeps, trucks, planes, and ships, how can their domestic industry complete with that surplus?
1. So far as I'm aware, no changes were made to US made vehicles supplied to Britain. They were military vehicles and therefore the road "orientation" was irrelevant as they were largely used overseas.

2. Again, Lend Lease was largely military, so Britain was not flooded with jeeps cars etc. Whilst I would have to specifically check, I think the British shipbuilding industry recovered quite quickly after the war (there was little competition). The problem it had was the failure to modernise techniques, because it didn't have to. Great to start with, not so when the competition got going with modern technology.

The British air industry was also successful, but very fragmented. Further, it was military oriented, not civilian. Even though de Havilland made the first jet propelled passenger airliner, the Comet, the US aviation industry had more experience in long range transport aircraft, especially Boeing.

So, in short, my view is that extended Lend Lease would not particularly harm British industry. As Eric C Johnson says, it was the debt which was the problem, not the goods.
 
1. So far as I'm aware, no changes were made to US made vehicles supplied to Britain. They were military vehicles and therefore the road "orientation" was irrelevant as they were largely used overseas.

2. Again, Lend Lease was largely military, so Britain was not flooded with jeeps cars etc. Whilst I would have to specifically check, I think the British shipbuilding industry recovered quite quickly after the war (there was little competition). The problem it had was the failure to modernise techniques, because it didn't have to. Great to start with, not so when the competition got going with modern technology.

The British air industry was also successful, but very fragmented. Further, it was military oriented, not civilian. Even though de Havilland made the first jet propelled passenger airliner, the Comet, the US aviation industry had more experience in long range transport aircraft, especially Boeing.

So, in short, my view is that extended Lend Lease would not particularly harm British industry. As Eric C Johnson says, it was the debt which was the problem, not the goods.
Thank you for the update.
 
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