Edexcel Unit 3B: War and the transformation of british society 1931-51- Topic 2: britain alone revision notes!

Edxecel GCSE history A: Making of a modern world. Unit 3B: War and the transformation of British society 1931-51. Topic 2: britain alone

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Topic 2- Britain Alone
War was declared on Germany on 3 September 1939 following the Nazi invasion of Poland.
The British Expeditionary Force (BEF) was transferred to France gradually but there was no
actual fighting for the first 8 months of the war. The period of military inactivity from
September 1939 to April 1940 was known as the `Phoney War'.
The military campaign truly began when the Germans invaded Norway and Denmark. By
capturing Norway, Hitler had control of N.Sea bases from which he could attack Britain.
However, this campaign in France was a big failure as the British were inadequately
The failure of this campaign put a lot of pressure on the PM, Neville Chamberlain. He lost
support of the people and the government and resigned. As a result, on 10 May 1949,
Churchill was appointed PM of Britain. He was a strong opposer of Nazism and Hitler.
He rallied the British people with big speeches and became a figure of strong leadership that
was greatly needed by Britain. Under Churchill, there was no talk of surrender or peace. For
him, the defeat of Nazism was vital. He kept British morale high.
Blitzreig was new German military tactic featuring speed, surprise and co-ordination of troops. It was
effective as it took the Allied troops by surprise and created confusion. The Allied troops and BEF
were forced to retreat in order to evacuate from Dunkirk.
They followed the pattern:
1) German planes bombed the area to be occupied.
2) Tanks move in and take over area.
3) Troops move in and occupy area under cover of artillery fire
4) Planes and tanks move onto next target leaving troops to put down all resistance.
Dunkirk- Operation Dynamo (started on 26 May 1940- 4 June)
British navy to evacuate as many troops as possible from Dunkirk before Germans took the port.
20,000-30,000 were estimated to be evacuated in civilian and Royal Navy boats. Instead, final total
was 338,000- large part of BEF and many Allied troops.
It was important for the British: Dunkirk spirit- brave and resourceful resistance that they keep
fighting even when situation is hopeless. Thousands or troops saved to fight another day. Many
believed otherwise... Churchill said `Wars are not won with evacuations'.
Battle of Britain (August- September 1940)
It was a battle between the RAF and the Luftwaffe for control of the air over Britain. Operation
Sealion- Hitler's plan to invade Britain which relied on eliminating RAF so it could not attack the
invading troops. Blitzkrieg (lightning war tactics) had worked in France but the English Channel meant
that the Germans needed a sea and air invasion.
Why did Britain win?
In June 1940, RAF had 640 whilst Luftwaffe had 2600 bombers and fighter planes. But RAF had
Radar: early warning system for incoming German bombers. Enough time for spitfires to
scramble and meet enemy.
Efficient British intercepting planes- Spitfire
Germans switched targets from airfields to London, giving RAF breathing space. If they
hadn't done that air fields would've been eliminated.

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British factories worked around the clock to build more planes and replaces lost ones much
more quickly that the Germans.
RAF pilots had Dunkirk Spirit
Importance of the Battle of Britain:
Was generally viewed as a very important part of the war as it was Hitler's first real defeat. It
showed that they were beatable.
It was also a great morale booster for the British.
It made Britain seem more attractive to the USA as a future ally.…read more

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Blitz (1944-45)
Luftwaffe had lost air superiority due to massive casualties from previous years and unable to
launce another major offensive.
In 1944 and 1945 the Germans attacked Britain from the air again.
This time they used much more efficient weapons knows as the V-1 and V-2. V stood for
vengeance. The aim was to demoralise British people, take revenge on Britain for destroying
German cities.
The V-1/doodlebug did affect the morale of the British at first because it could fall anywhere
without warning.…read more


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