Damaskinos of Athens
Archbishop Damaskinos Papandreou was the archbishop of Athens and All Greece from 1941 until his death. He was the regent of Greece between the pull-out of the German occupation force in 1944 and the return of King George II to Greece in 1946 and his rule was between the liberation of Greece from the German occupation during World War II and the Greek Civil War. He was born Dimitrios Papandreou in Dorvitsa, Greece and he enlisted in the Greek army during the Balkan Wars. He was ordained a priest of the Greek Orthodox Church in 1917, in 1922, he was made Bishop of Corinth. He spent the early 1930s as an ambassador of the Ecumenical Patriarch in the United States, in 1938 he was elected Archbishop of Athens, taking the name Damaskinos. Ioannis Metaxas, dictator of Greece at the time, objected to Damaskinos and forced the cancellation of his election, and the appointment of Metropolitan Chrysanthus to the post. The Archbishop of Athens was the leader of the Greek Orthodox people of Athens and All Greece.
He frequently clashed with the German authorities and the quisling government, in 1943, the Germans began the persecution of the Jews of Greece, and their deportations to Nazi concentration camps. Damaskinos formally protested the actions of the occupational authorities, the letter in part reads, Damaskinos went on to publish the letter, even though the local Schutzstaffel commander, Jürgen Stroop, threatened to execute him by firing squad. For his actions in saving Greek Jews during the Holocaust, he was named among the Righteous Among the Nations by Yad Vashem, after the occupation ended, Damaskinos was proclaimed regent of Greece until the return of the king from exile. During this time, fighting broke out between pro-royalist Greek soldiers and communist partisans and he took control of the situation in his early term, appointing himself Prime Minister during late 1945. Though he wielded power in his latter term, Damaskinos continued to call for peace. He relinquished his position after fighting began to die down and recalled the king formally on September 28,1946 and he died in Athens in 1949.
The International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation, Archbishop Damaskinos Damaskinos of Athens – his activity to save Jews lives during the Holocaust, at Yad Vashem website
World War II
World War II, known as the Second World War, was a global war that lasted from 1939 to 1945, although related conflicts began earlier. It involved the vast majority of the worlds countries—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing alliances, the Allies and the Axis. It was the most widespread war in history, and directly involved more than 100 million people from over 30 countries. Marked by mass deaths of civilians, including the Holocaust and the bombing of industrial and population centres. These made World War II the deadliest conflict in human history, from late 1939 to early 1941, in a series of campaigns and treaties, Germany conquered or controlled much of continental Europe, and formed the Axis alliance with Italy and Japan. Under the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact of August 1939, Germany and the Soviet Union partitioned and annexed territories of their European neighbours, Finland and the Baltic states. In December 1941, Japan attacked the United States and European colonies in the Pacific Ocean, and quickly conquered much of the Western Pacific.
The Axis advance halted in 1942 when Japan lost the critical Battle of Midway, near Hawaii, in 1944, the Western Allies invaded German-occupied France, while the Soviet Union regained all of its territorial losses and invaded Germany and its allies. During 1944 and 1945 the Japanese suffered major reverses in mainland Asia in South Central China and Burma, while the Allies crippled the Japanese Navy, thus ended the war in Asia, cementing the total victory of the Allies. World War II altered the political alignment and social structure of the world, the United Nations was established to foster international co-operation and prevent future conflicts. The victorious great powers—the United States, the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom, the Soviet Union and the United States emerged as rival superpowers, setting the stage for the Cold War, which lasted for the next 46 years. Meanwhile, the influence of European great powers waned, while the decolonisation of Asia, most countries whose industries had been damaged moved towards economic recovery.
Political integration, especially in Europe, emerged as an effort to end pre-war enmities, the start of the war in Europe is generally held to be 1 September 1939, beginning with the German invasion of Poland and France declared war on Germany two days later. The dates for the beginning of war in the Pacific include the start of the Second Sino-Japanese War on 7 July 1937, or even the Japanese invasion of Manchuria on 19 September 1931. Others follow the British historian A. J. P. Taylor, who held that the Sino-Japanese War and war in Europe and its colonies occurred simultaneously and this article uses the conventional dating. Other starting dates sometimes used for World War II include the Italian invasion of Abyssinia on 3 October 1935. The British historian Antony Beevor views the beginning of World War II as the Battles of Khalkhin Gol fought between Japan and the forces of Mongolia and the Soviet Union from May to September 1939, the exact date of the wars end is not universally agreed upon.
It was generally accepted at the time that the war ended with the armistice of 14 August 1945, rather than the formal surrender of Japan
5th (Scottish) Parachute Battalion
The 5th Parachute Battalion was an airborne infantry battalion of the Parachute Regiment, raised by the British Army during the Second World War. The four proceeding British parachute infantry battalions had been raised by volunteers from all ranks of the army, the 5th Parachute Battalion was formed by the conversion of the 7th Battalion, Queens Own Cameron Highlanders together with volunteers from other Scottish regiments for parachute duties. The 5th Parachute Battalion was assigned to the 2nd Parachute Brigade, the battalion fought in a number of actions in Italy and the south of France, where they carried out their only parachute assault of the war, during Operation Dragoon. At the end of the war, now attached to the 6th Airborne Division, by 1948 the battalion was one of only three Regular Army parachute battalions remaining in the British Army. In June these battalions were renumbered and the 5th Parachute Battalion became the present day 2nd Battalion, the standards set for British airborne troops were extremely high, and from the first group of 3,500 volunteers only 500 men were accepted to go forward to parachute training.
It was these men who took part in the first British airborne operation, Operation Colossus, in 1942 the 7th Battalion, Queens Own Cameron Highlanders was part of the 46th Infantry Brigade, in the 15th Infantry Division. On 24 March 1942 they were redesignated as the 5th Parachute Battalion and those men that were deemed unsuitable for parachute duties were transferred to other units and were replaced by volunteers from other Scottish regiments. The 5th Parachute Battalion became the unit assigned to the fledgling 2nd Parachute Brigade. Upon formation the battalion and had an establishment of 556 men in three rifle companies, the companies were divided into a small headquarters and three platoons. The platoons had three Bren machine guns and three 2-inch mortars, one of each per section, the only heavy weapons in the battalion were a 3 inch mortar and a Vickers machine gun platoon. By 1944 a headquarters, or support, company was added to the battalion and it comprised five platoons, motor transport, mortar, machine-gun and anti-tank and was equipped with eight 3-inch mortars, four Vickers machine guns and ten PIAT anti-tank projectors.
During training, all members of the battalion had to undergo a parachute training course. Initial training consisted of parachute jumps from a barrage balloon before progressing to five parachute jumps from an aircraft. Anyone failing to complete a descent was returned to his old unit and those men who successfully completed the parachute course, were presented with their maroon beret and parachute wings. Initially the 5th Battalion wore a Balmoral bonnet instead of the beret, Airborne soldiers were expected to fight against superior numbers of the enemy, armed with heavy weapons, including artillery and tanks. As a result, training was designed to encourage a spirit of self-discipline, self-reliance, emphasis was given to physical fitness and fieldcraft. A large part of the training consisted of assault courses. Military exercises included capturing and holding airborne bridgeheads, road or rail bridges, at the end of most exercises the battalion would march back to their barracks
The British Army is the principal land warfare force of the United Kingdom. As of 2017 the British Army comprises just over 80,000 trained Regular, or full-time and just over 26,500 trained Reserve, or part-time personnel. Therefore, the UK Parliament approves the continued existence of the Army by passing an Armed Forces Act at least once every five years, day to day the Army comes under administration of the Ministry of Defence and is commanded by the Chief of the General Staff. Repeatedly emerging victorious from these decisive wars allowed Britain to influence world events with its policies and establish itself as one of the leading military. In 1660 the English and Irish monarchies were restored under Charles II, Charles favoured the foundation of a new army under royal control and began work towards its establishment by August 1660. The Royal Scots Army and the Irish Army were financed by the Parliament of Scotland, the order of seniority of the most senior line regiments in the British Army is based on the order of seniority in the English army.
At that time there was only one English regiment of dragoons, after William and Marys accession to the throne, England involved itself in the War of the Grand Alliance, primarily to prevent a French invasion restoring Marys father, James II. Spain, in the two centuries, had been the dominant global power, and the chief threat to Englands early transatlantic ambitions. The territorial ambitions of the French, led to the War of the Spanish Succession and the Napoleonic Wars. From the time of the end of the Seven Years War in 1763, Great Britain was the naval power. As had its predecessor, the English Army, the British Army fought the Kingdoms of Spain and the Netherlands for supremacy in North America and the West Indies. With native and provincial assistance, the Army conquered New France in the North American theatre of the Seven Years War, the British Army suffered defeat in the American War of Independence, losing the Thirteen Colonies but holding on to Canada. The British Army was heavily involved in the Napoleonic Wars and served in campaigns across Europe.
The war between the British and the First French Empire of Napoleon Bonaparte stretched around the world and at its peak, in 1813, the regular army contained over 250,000 men. A Coalition of Anglo-Dutch and Prussian Armies under the Duke of Wellington, the English had been involved, both politically and militarily, in Ireland since being given the Lordship of Ireland by the Pope in 1171. The campaign of the English republican Protector, Oliver Cromwell, involved uncompromising treatment of the Irish towns that had supported the Royalists during the English Civil War, the English Army stayed in Ireland primarily to suppress numerous Irish revolts and campaigns for independence. Having learnt from their experience in America, the British government sought a political solution, the British Army found itself fighting Irish rebels, both Protestant and Catholic, primarily in Ulster and Leinster in the 1798 rebellion. The Haldane Reforms of 1907 formally created the Territorial Force as the Armys volunteer reserve component by merging and reorganising the Volunteer Force, Great Britains dominance of the world had been challenged by numerous other powers, in the 20th century, most notably Germany
The Hellenic Gendarmerie was the national gendarmerie and military police force of Greece. The Greek Gendarmerie was established after the enthronement of King Otto in 1833 as the Royal Gendarmerie and it was at that time formally part of the army and under the authority of the Army Ministry. Several foreign advisers, were brought in to provide training. Dimitrios Deligeorgis was appointed commander in 1854, the armys links to the Gendarmerie and the nature of the structure of the force and its hierarchy was maintained throughout the 19th century for a number of reasons. Largely the socio-political unrest that characterized the period including disproportionate poverty, governmental oppression, sporadic rebellions, in 1906 the Gendarmerie underwent its first major restructuring at an administrative level. It acquired its own educational and training facilities independent of those of the army, despite this the Gendarmerie still maintained a largely military based structure, based on its involvement in the Macedonian Struggle, and the Balkan and First World Wars.
Modernization of the police forces was stunted by the successive periods of political instability, which culminated in the regime of Ioannis Metaxas. After the war however, British experts were brought in to help reform the police along the lines of the British Police. As a result, after 1946 the police ceased to be a formal part of the Defence Ministry. After the fall of the Colonels, emphasis was placed on civilian policing, after the War was Over, Mark Mazower. ^ Law 1481/1 October 1984, Official Journal of the Hellenic Republic, A-152 Greek Police official site
2nd Parachute Brigade (United Kingdom)
The 2nd Parachute Brigade was an airborne forces brigade formed by the British Army during the Second World War. Before the end of the Second World War in Europe the brigade saw service in Italy. Instead the brigade was assigned to the 6th Airborne Division, which had named the Imperial Strategic Reserve. Defence cuts in the British armed forces after the war forced a reduction in the number of parachute brigades, by 1948 the 2nd Parachute Brigade was the last surviving parachute formation dating from the Second World War, all other parachute divisions and brigades having been disbanded. It was these men who took part in the first British airborne operation, Operation Colossus, the result was the formation of the 1st Airborne Division with the 1st Parachute and the 1st Airlanding Brigades under command, together with supporting units. Its commander, Major-General Frederick Arthur Montague Boy Browning, expressed his opinion that the force must not be sacrificed in penny packets. Permission was granted to form another parachute brigade in July 1942, numbered the 2nd Parachute Brigade, down was selected to become its first commander.
The 2nd Parachute Brigade trained in the United Kingdom until June 1943, a lack of transport aircraft reduced the number of men that could be deployed, and the 2nd Parachute Brigade remained in Tunisia in a reserve role. Fighting ended in Sicily on 17 August without use of the brigade, they were, selected to take part in Operation Slapstick, the brigade left Bizerta on 8 September, the day before the Italian surrender, and landed unopposed. Their only casualties were 58 men from the 6th Parachute Battalion who drowned after their ship, HMS Abdiel. While the 4th Parachute Brigade pushed inland, the 2nd Brigade assumed responsibility for securing the port, during fierce fighting around the town and airfield of Gioia del Colle the divisions General Officer Commanding, Major General Hopkinson, was killed in action and replaced by Brigadier Down. Command of the 2nd Parachute Brigade was given to Brigadier Charles Pritchard, to support an independent role the brigade was assigned its own artillery with nine 6-pounder anti-tank guns and eight 75mm pack howitzers.
They had their own engineers and other units were attached, including a pathfinder platoon. On 2 December 1943 the 2nd Parachute Brigade formed the left flank of the 2nd New Zealand Division during the advance towards Orsogna, the New Zealanders were relieved by the 8th Indian Infantry Division, and the brigade continued the advance under their command. The brigade returned to the front line and took part in the Battle of Monte Cassino on 4 April, the 2nd Brigades next parachute operation was Operation Hasty in June 1944. This was a diversionary raid carried out by sixty men from the 6th Parachute Battalion. They were dropped into the area between Sora and Avezzano, their objective being to harass the Germans withdrawing to the Gothic Line. The mission was a success, a German brigade was diverted to hunt the small force, in June 1944, the brigade was released from the Eighth Army and joined the 1st Airborne Task Force for airborne operations in the south of France
Sir Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill KG OM CH TD PC DL FRS RA was a British statesman who was the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1940 to 1945 and again from 1951 to 1955. Churchill was an officer in the British Army, a historian. He won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1953 for his overall, in 1963, he was the first of only eight people to be made an honorary citizen of the United States. Churchill was born into the family of the Dukes of Marlborough and his father, Lord Randolph Churchill, was a charismatic politician who served as Chancellor of the Exchequer, his mother, Jennie Jerome, was an American socialite. As a young officer, he saw action in British India, the Anglo–Sudan War. He gained fame as a war correspondent and wrote books about his campaigns, at the forefront of politics for fifty years, he held many political and cabinet positions. Before the First World War, he served as President of the Board of Trade, Home Secretary, during the war, he continued as First Lord of the Admiralty until the disastrous Gallipoli Campaign caused his departure from government.
He briefly resumed active service on the Western Front as commander of the 6th Battalion of the Royal Scots Fusiliers. He returned to government under Lloyd George as Minister of Munitions, Secretary of State for War, Secretary of State for Air, at the outbreak of the Second World War, he was again appointed First Lord of the Admiralty. Following the resignation of Neville Chamberlain on 10 May 1940, Churchill became Prime Minister and he led Britain as Prime Minister until victory over Nazi Germany had been secured. After the Conservative Party suffered a defeat in the 1945 general election. He publicly warned of an Iron Curtain of Soviet influence in Europe, after winning the 1951 election, Churchill again became Prime Minister. His second term was preoccupied by foreign affairs, including the Malayan Emergency, Mau Mau Uprising, Korean War, domestically his government laid great emphasis on house-building. Churchill suffered a stroke in 1953 and retired as Prime Minister in 1955. Upon his death aged ninety in 1965, Elizabeth II granted him the honour of a state funeral and his highly complex legacy continues to stimulate intense debate amongst writers and historians.
Born into the family of the Dukes of Marlborough, a branch of the noble Spencer family, Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill, like his father. His ancestor George Spencer had changed his surname to Spencer-Churchill in 1817 when he became Duke of Marlborough, to highlight his descent from John Churchill, Churchill was born on 30 November 1874, two months prematurely, in a bedroom in Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire. From age two to six, he lived in Dublin, where his grandfather had been appointed Viceroy, Churchills brother, John Strange Spencer-Churchill, was born during this time in Ireland
The Cold War was a state of geopolitical tension after World War II between powers in the Eastern Bloc and powers in the Western Bloc. Historians do not fully agree on the dates, but a common timeframe is the period between 1947, the year the Truman Doctrine was announced, and 1991, the year the Soviet Union collapsed. The term cold is used there was no large-scale fighting directly between the two sides, although there were major regional wars, known as proxy wars, supported by the two sides. The Cold War split the temporary alliance against Nazi Germany, leaving the Soviet Union. The USSR was a Marxist–Leninist state ruled by its Communist Party and secret police, the Party controlled the press, the military, the economy and all organizations. In opposition stood the West, dominantly democratic and capitalist with a free press, a small neutral bloc arose with the Non-Aligned Movement, it sought good relations with both sides. The two superpowers never engaged directly in full-scale armed combat, but they were armed in preparation for a possible all-out nuclear world war.
The first phase of the Cold War began in the first two years after the end of the Second World War in 1945, the Berlin Blockade was the first major crisis of the Cold War. With the victory of the communist side in the Chinese Civil War and the outbreak of the Korean War, the USSR and USA competed for influence in Latin America, and the decolonizing states of Africa and Asia. Meanwhile, the Hungarian Revolution of 1956 was stopped by the Soviets, the expansion and escalation sparked more crises, such as the Suez Crisis, the Berlin Crisis of 1961, and the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962. The USSR crushed the 1968 Prague Spring liberalization program in Czechoslovakia, détente collapsed at the end of the decade with the beginning of the Soviet–Afghan War in 1979. The early 1980s were another period of elevated tension, with the Soviet downing of Korean Air Lines Flight 007, the United States increased diplomatic and economic pressures on the Soviet Union, at a time when the communist state was already suffering from economic stagnation.
In the mid-1980s, the new Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev introduced the reforms of perestroika and glasnost. Pressures for national independence grew stronger in Eastern Europe, especially Poland, Gorbachev meanwhile refused to use Soviet troops to bolster the faltering Warsaw Pact regimes as had occurred in the past. The result in 1989 was a wave of revolutions that peacefully overthrew all of the communist regimes of Central, the Communist Party of the Soviet Union itself lost control and was banned following an abortive coup attempt in August 1991. This in turn led to the dissolution of the USSR in December 1991. The United States remained as the only superpower. The Cold War and its events have left a significant legacy and it is often referred to in popular culture, especially in media featuring themes of espionage and the threat of nuclear warfare
The M4 Sherman, officially Medium Tank, M4, was the most numerous battle tank used by the United States and some of the other Western Allies in World War II. The M4 Sherman proved to be reliable, relatively cheap to produce, thousands were distributed through the Lend-Lease program to the British Commonwealth and Soviet Union. The tank was named by the British for the American Civil War General William Tecumseh Sherman, the M4 Sherman evolved from the interim M3 Medium Tank, which had its main armament in a side sponson mount. The M4 retained much of the mechanical design, but put the main 75 mm gun in a fully traversing turret. The designers stressed mechanical reliability, ease of production and maintenance, standardization of parts and ammunition in a number of variants. These factors, combined with the Shermans then-superior armor and armament, outclassed German light, the M4 went on to be produced in large numbers. It spearheaded many offensives by the Western Allies after 1942, for this reason, the US Army believed that the M4 would be adequate to win the war, and no pressure was exerted for further tank development.
Logistical and transport restrictions, such as limitations imposed by roads, Tank destroyer battalions using vehicles built on the M4 hull and chassis, but with open-topped turrets and more potent high-velocity guns, entered widespread use in the Allied armies. Even by 1944, most M4 Shermans kept their dual purpose 75 mm gun, some Shermans were produced with a more capable gun, the 76 mm gun M1, or refitted with a 17-pounder by the British. These factors combined to give the Allies numerical superiority in most battles, the U. S. Army Ordnance Department designed the M4 medium tank as a replacement for the M3 medium tank. The M3 was a development of the M2 Medium Tank of 1939. The M3 was developed as a stopgap measure until a new turret mounting a 75 mm gun could be devised, though reluctant to adopt the British army weapons in their entirety the American designers were prepared to accept proved British ideas. British ideas, as embodied with in a designed by the Canadian General Staff. Before long American Services and designers had accumulated sufficient experience to forge ahead on several points, in the field of tank armament the American 75mm and 76mm dual-purpose tank guns won the acknowledgement of British tank experts.
On 18 April 1941, the U. S, Armored Force Board chose the simplest of five designs. Known as the T6, the design was a modified M3 hull and chassis and this would became the Sherman. The goals were to produce a fast, dependable medium tank able to support infantry, provide breakthrough striking capacity, the T6 prototype was completed on 2 September 1941. The T6 upper hull was a large casting
Greek People's Liberation Army
The KKE together with minor parties of the Left formed a political structure called National Liberation Front. They were joined by other, center-left or non-politicised Greek resistance militants, on February 16,1942, EAM gave permission to a communist veteran, called Athanasios Klaras to examine the possibilities of a victorious armed resistance movement. It was the birth of the Greek Peoples Liberation Army, ELAS initiated actions against the German and Italian forces of occupation in Greece on 7 June 1942. Initially, Velouchiotis collected the local mountain living bandits, like Karalivanos. On a night in September 1942, a group of British SOE officers parachuted into Greece near Mt. Giona. After much deliberation, the Gorgopotamos bridge was due to the difficulty of making repairs to the structure. But, for the mission to succeed, it was important to meet the guerrillas, dimos Karalivanos, an ELAS guerrilla, was the first guerrilla the British found. At the end of October a second group of British officers were parachuted into the Greek mountains and their leaders were Themis Marinos and Colonel Christopher Woodhouse.
Their mission was to locate the guerrillas of EDES and their leader Napoleon Zervas, who were friendlier to the British Headquarters of the Middle-East than ELAS, the resulting mission was a challenge for the two guerrilla groups, EDES and ELAS. So, in a rare and unique event, ELAS and EDES-EOEA joined forces, on November 14, the 12 British saboteurs, the forces of ELAS and those of EDES met in the village Viniani in Evrytania and the operation started. Ten days later, the forces were at Gorgopotamos, on the night of November 25, at 23,00, the guerrillas started the attack against the Italian garrison. The Italians were startled, and after resistance, they were defeated. After the defeat of the Italians, the set the explosives. ELAS forces had placed ambushes on the routes towards the bridge, the guerrillas forces returned to Viniani, to celebrate the success of the mission. The destruction of the Gorgopotamos bridge was, along with the Norwegian heavy water sabotage in Rjukan, the blowing up of Gorgopotamos bridge favored ELAS.
Soon, lots of the inhabitants of the villages of Central Greece became members of ELAS, people sympathised with the ELAS guerrillas because they werent helped by the British in contrast with EDES. When 25 guerrillas deserted from ELAS, Aris Velouchiotis went to Epirus to threaten Napoleon Zervas not to come in touch with them, the 25 deserters were arrested and executed in the village of Sperhiada. The winter of 1942, ELAS groups were formed in other Greek regions, like Thessaly, in Central Greece, Aris Velouchiotis succeeded to form a powerful semi-conventional army which could attack German and Italian forces
The British Empire comprised the dominions, protectorates and other territories ruled or administered by the United Kingdom and its predecessor states. It originated with the possessions and trading posts established by England between the late 16th and early 18th centuries. At its height, it was the largest empire in history and, for over a century, was the foremost global power. By 1913, the British Empire held sway over 412 million people, 23% of the population at the time. As a result, its political, legal and cultural legacy is widespread, during the Age of Discovery in the 15th and 16th centuries and Spain pioneered European exploration of the globe, and in the process established large overseas empires. Envious of the great wealth these empires generated, France, the independence of the Thirteen Colonies in North America in 1783 after the American War of Independence caused Britain to lose some of its oldest and most populous colonies. British attention soon turned towards Asia and the Pacific, after the defeat of France in the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars, Britain emerged as the principal naval and imperial power of the 19th century.
In the early 19th century, the Industrial Revolution began to transform Britain, the British Empire expanded to include India, large parts of Africa and many other territories throughout the world. In Britain, political attitudes favoured free trade and laissez-faire policies, during the 19th Century, Britains population increased at a dramatic rate, accompanied by rapid urbanisation, which caused significant social and economic stresses. To seek new markets and sources of raw materials, the Conservative Party under Benjamin Disraeli launched a period of imperialist expansion in Egypt, South Africa, Canada and New Zealand became self-governing dominions. By the start of the 20th century and the United States had begun to challenge Britains economic lead, subsequent military and economic tensions between Britain and Germany were major causes of the First World War, during which Britain relied heavily upon its empire. The conflict placed enormous strain on the military and manpower resources of Britain, although the British Empire achieved its largest territorial extent immediately after World War I, Britain was no longer the worlds pre-eminent industrial or military power.
In the Second World War, Britains colonies in Southeast Asia were occupied by Imperial Japan, despite the final victory of Britain and its allies, the damage to British prestige helped to accelerate the decline of the empire. India, Britains most valuable and populous possession, achieved independence as part of a larger movement in which Britain granted independence to most territories of the empire. The transfer of Hong Kong to China in 1997 marked for many the end of the British Empire, fourteen overseas territories remain under British sovereignty. After independence, many former British colonies joined the Commonwealth of Nations, the United Kingdom is now one of 16 Commonwealth nations, a grouping known informally as the Commonwealth realms, that share a monarch, Queen Elizabeth II. The foundations of the British Empire were laid when England and Scotland were separate kingdoms. In 1496, King Henry VII of England, following the successes of Spain and Portugal in overseas exploration, Cabot led another voyage to the Americas the following year but nothing was ever heard of his ships again