Great Britain was one of the main participants of the two World Wars in the 20th century. These global conflicts set the stage for future economic and political developments throughout Europe and the world. Britain's primary enemies in these struggles were Germany, Austria-Hungary, Hungary, Japan and Italy.
Germany in WWI and WWII
Germany was Britain's primary nemesis in both both World War I and World War II. The assassination of Austro-Hungarian Archduke Franz Ferdinand spurred a conflict that saw Germany invade Britain's ally Belgium. This drew Britain into conflict with Germany. After the Central Powers were defeated by England and the Allies, Germany was forced to accept a crippling surrender that set the stage for the rise of Hitler and the beginnings of World War II. The German invasion of Poland prompted Britain to declare war on Hitler's increasingly powerful nation. Germany's manufacturing and technological efficiency made it a powerful enemy in both conflicts.
Austria-Hungary and Hungary
Fighting as Austria-Hungary in World War I and splitting with the defeat of the Central Powers, Hungary would once again take up arms against England as part of its alliance with Hitler's Germany. An increase in trade and manufacturing and an influx of German money caused Hungary to experience a period of revitalization during the early stages of World War II. This made Hungary a desirable target for British and Allied forces during the war.
Japan in WWII
While Japan and Great Britain never did battle on British soil during WWII, the two countries fought important battles on a number of island territories across the Pacific. Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor stemmed from disrupted trade lines and natural resources and caused the United States to declare war on Japan. As a U.S. ally, Britain was drawn into conflict with Japan. The two forces also clashed in Burma, a conflict that ultimately saw Great Britain emerge victorious. The successful Burma campaign restored British confidence after defeats in Singapore and Hong Kong.
Italy in WWII
Led by dictator Benito Mussolini, Italy was not as significant a threat as Germany and Japan in World War II due to its small size and lack of military might. However, the country's geographic location played an important role in propping up the Axis power alliance. Italy joined Germany's war effort in the early stages of World War II and was eventually invaded by Allied forces in 1943. German troops were unable to stop the advances of British, American and Canadian troops.
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