By Imperial War Museum, Max Hastings
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Extra info for The British Army: The Definitive History of the Twentieth Century
De Valera never made any secret of his wish to establish Ireland as a Republic outside the British Empire, but he eventually came to the view that the republican status which he desired might well be established gradually, not by a single traumatic act of separation. De Valera excluded himself from the Dáil for several years, but he returned in 1927. The republican party with which he was associated, Fianna Fáil, was able to form a Government in February 1932, and de Valera was to hold the chief executive office in Ireland until 1948.
It was certain that there would be substantial and rapid moves everywhere in the direction of self-government, and some of the places would become more or less completely independent. Whether the various countries which were currently part of the British Empire would be called ‘Dominions’ or not, they would certainly not look towards Britain with the almost family feelings which Australia, Canada and New Zealand had been wont to show. Yet in the major Allied countries, the British Empire was apparently regarded as a quasi-permanent institution, right to the end of the war.
Was it possible to secure that result by some approach to the Indian political leaders? At first, Churchill was highly sceptical,3 but as time went on and the military situation became increasingly grave, the Prime Minister and his colleagues began to waver. On 5 February 1942, the War Cabinet was confronted with two weighty memoranda, expressing very different views of how the matter should be handled. S. Amery, supported by the Viceroy, argued that no further constitutional advance could be made at that juncture without aggravating internal discords.