The Anglo-Soviet Alliance Comrades & Allies During WW2 written by Colin Turbett and published by Pen & Sword Books – £20.00 – Hardback – Pages 248

From the onset of the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia in 1917 until the German invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941, Britain enjoyed an ambiguous relationship with the USSR and its people. All inter-war governments were concerned about the communist ideals of the new state and the threat they presented to British interests at home and abroad, and this was inevitably reflected amongst the general population. However there was a well-established British Communist Party whose fortunes were tied to the Soviet Union’s successes and failures.

The wartime alliance offered the Communists an opportunity to extend their influence and win electoral support. Or did it? There were influences at work stemming from both sides that sought to put the importance of allied victory above competing ideology, with agreement over the need for a strong and unconditional anti-Fascist alliance. Compromises were made and relationships formed that would have seemed strange indeed to the pre-war observer. There were, however, tensions throughout the period of the war. By mid-1945, the alliance was threatened by differences that reflected original ideologies that had been glossed over for the duration of the conflict: these led to a Cold War for the next 45 years.

This book, using both contemporary sources as well as post-war analyses, examines these matters alongside images that take us back to the period and help us understand its intricacies. It will start with a look at Britain’s opposition to the Bolshevik Revolution and the consolidation of the Soviet State under Lenin and then Stalin. The main body of the book goes on to give detail of the Wartime Alliance and the various forms through which it was expressed – from Government led Lend-Lease of equipment, to voluntary ‘Aid for Russia. It ends with the War’s aftermath and the division of the world between the influences of capitalism on the one hand, and the “really existing socialism” of the Soviet Union and its satellites on the other. Tensions and expectations resulted, amongst other great social events, in the launch of the Welfare State, the demise of the British Empire, the nuclear arms race and, ultimately, the end of the Soviet Union in 1991.

This is a fascinating book on a much down played part of WW2, or at least not while researched by historians. This book is excellent in that it looks at the relationship between Britain and Russia or Churchill and Stalin. It is hard to believe that we got on well with Russia at one point if you went by today’s media, but you only have to look at the work between the two countries and the agreements. I mean after all how successful would Russia have been if Britain & US were not supplying the Russians with tanks, armaments, and raw materials. The convoy system/agreement was one of the pivotal parts of the agreement and that can only be seen as a success. Whilst Russia might have not done things or undesirable traits in the ‘British way in a number’, it’s my opinion that Churchill saw in a ‘keep your friends close, but keep your enemies closer’ way. 

This book written by Colin Turbett is most certainly a fine book to read, that shows his clear, in-depth knowledge and interest in the subject he must be commended for. I enjoyed how he has entwined this book with the story of the ordinary people with the more formal political part of the story. The book is very well supported by a number of photographs and pictures. This has certainly been an excellent book to read, one I would certainly recommend to everyone, but especially students looking to learn more about this part of history. This gets a 5-star rating from me.

By Ben Davidson

Hello, I have been studying all aspects of history for about 25 years. I have a BA History from the University of Bedfordshire. My historical areas of interest are anything really, but I specialise in 19th - 20th century Britain, America and Ireland. I am also strongly aligned with most military history, really enjoying WW2 and the US Civil War. Chuck in the king or queen and Bob's your uncle.