Chapter 12: War and Peace
When Britain declared war on Germany in 1939, she was still a major world power. But by mid 1940 Britain was the only European nation still resisting the spread of Fascism. Ships carrying vital supplies from the Empire had to run the gauntlet of German submarines and suffered unsustainable losses. Prime Minister Winston Churchill realised that, without the help of neutral America, the War could not be won.
President Franklin Roosevelt was sympathetic to the British cause but, after the carnage of the Great War, American public opinion was strongly against involvement in another European conflict. The compromise was a formal declaration of shared ideals for the post-war world. It would unite the two countries and commit America to helping Britain’s cause, without taking up arms. It was called the ‘Atlantic Charter’ and was drawn up during a meeting on board ship between Roosevelt and Churchill in August 1941. Four months later, Japan attacked Pearl Harbour and America entered the war as Britain’s ally.
Max Gill was commissioned by the magazine Time and Tide to produce a pictorial map of the Atlantic Charter. Although neither Roosevelt nor Churchill actually signed the original document, their signatures were cut out and added to the artwork. When the map appeared in 1942, the Charter’s principles had already become the blueprint for the declaration forming the United Nations, so a modified version was also produced in 1948 entitled ‘The Time and Tide Map of the United Nations’.
Churchill and Roosevelt may have appeared to carry equal weight in the alliance, but in reality Britain would be very much the junior partner in the post-war world that the Charter anticipated. When the War ended in 1945, the British Empire was fast dissolving and it was America that now dominated the international stage.