One of the major nails in the coffin of the British empire
was the decision to sign the Washington treaty in 1921, effectively abandoning a
trusted ally (Japan) and committing Britain to the hints of an alliance with
Washington, a commitment that proved VERY elusive and came at a very high cost.
America refused to provide guarantees for the Empire and would not
support the British with anything concrete.
The net result was a severely insulted Japan, which was diplomatically
isolated – and then driven into the hands of the axis.
WW2 showed how weak the British Empire had become and it was destroyed by
the Japanese and American interference. America
has always proven a very jealous ally.
I am presuming that the British find the guts to demand
major, public, and long-term guarantees. They
need, at least, economic support, military assistance and a commitment to
defending the British Empire – even without the US being attacked directly.
I suspect that American politics would not allow any president to make
such agreements – and the talks break down.
Japan and Britain kiss and make up.
Japan is dependent upon imports from the British Empire and would
therefore forgive any minor indiscretions.
Britain quietly agrees to not support the Chinese, as long as British
interests (Hong Kong, trade stations, missionaries) are protected.
There probably won’t be a larger battleship race.
The British were exhausted and in no state to continue building new
ships. The Americans had the
ability, but did not feel that they needed to, while the Japanese had only
limited building capability anyway – although, in OTL, they did not bother to
keep the Washington treaty limits.
There will be profound economic and military repercussions.
The great depression may be lightened if the British and Japanese are
selling to each other within their empires.
The two powers can share technology and tactical ideas – can you
imagine the British having a carrier with Shokaku-level planes at Norway
– and can keep their own defences in the Far East at minimal levels.
The British do not build a major naval base at Singapore. The Australians benefit from the depression slack and build
bases in Australia. Japan is able
to build a larger army to fight in China, while the Chinese have less suppliers
and foreign assistance.
Assuming that war still starts in 1939, it will probably
take a different path. Japan sends
a few ships to aid the British in the Atlantic and Norway.
They help the British to wipe out a large chunk of the German fleet at
minimal costs. The Japanese learn
important lessons about anti-submarine warfare.
France probably still falls.
Bigger differences here.
The Japanese and British occupy both Indochina and the Dutch East Indies.
The former because they pay homage to Vichy – denounced as a German
puppet – and the latter for ‘safe-keeping’.
Japanese flood into both areas. The
US occupies the French islands in the Caribbean.
Sea Lion looks even more impossible to Adolf, as does North
Africa. The expanded British units
(Singapore, Austrian, Indian garrisons) plus the Japanese units make the Italian
defeat quicker. The British and
Japanese spend 1940-41 cleaning up the remains of the Italian Empire, as well as
taking most of the French Empire for ‘safekeeping’.
Hitler heads east earlier, takes Moscow, but is unable to finish off the
Russians, committing Germany to years of hard warfare in Russia.
The Japanese are less than willing to aid the Russians – the Nomonhan
battles were a stalemate in ATL – and block allied plans to send supplies. The war in the east stalemates.
Peace becomes imperative.
Britain is running out of resources with only one major victory to their
credit (Norway). Chamberlain is
still in power (absent the Norwegian disaster he’ll survive in Power if he’s
canny enough to blame May 1940 on the French), while there are fewer supplies
from America. Hitler’s forces
have reached the limits of what they can seize by force, Stalin does not have
anything like the army he’d built up in OTL.
Franco is able to serve as mediator in exchange for goods from Britain.
Britain recognises the German position in Europe.
Germany recognises the British conquests in Africa on the condition that
the British allow immigration of ‘undesirables’ from Germany.
Vichy France is dissolved and Germany occupies all of France.
Japan’s conquest of Indochina and the Dutch East Indies is confirmed.
Britain occupies Greenland and Iceland, although with US observers.
Germany keeps the Ukraine and Byelorussia, but withdraws from the Russian
The long-term implications of this are very interesting.
Stalin would have a reduced power base and would probably get the blame
for the defeats, making soviet politics far nastier than OTL, while he’d be
desperately trying to build an atomic bomb.
Germany would be sated for the moment, while Italy would be a subordinate
power and French independence would have been ended for the foreseeable future.
Africa would have been largely divided up between the
British and the Japanese. The
Japanese would have far more incentive to have ‘living space’ and would
probably colonise much of the Ex-French Empire and the Congo. The British would probably developed Madagascar as a Jewish
state, avoiding the Palestine problem, but suffering problems from Jews who
The Far East is very different. Without the collapse of the British Empire of OTL, India would probably attain dominion status instead of full independence, perhaps reasoning that British formal domination is better than the almost-certain war in Vietnam. The Japanese would probably end up fighting to control most of china, eventually burning out at some point. Without a creditable threat, America goes back to isolation.