Britain in WW2

these show the part of GCSE modern world history of Britain in the secon world war

  • Created by: tom
  • Created on: 04-06-10 14:37

Basic Timeline




Poland attacked by Germany

Convoys introduced

BEF sent to France

Poland Defeated

Phony war

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Basic Timeline continued.....


Rationing introduced in Britain

Blitzkrieg in west

Defeat in Norway

Defeat of Netherlands, Belgium and France


Home Guard formed

Battle of Britain


Bombing of Germany

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Basic Timeline continued.....


USA enters the war


Bombing of Germany Intensified


Turning Point in the Battle of the Atlantic


Britain and USA gain control of air space over Germany D-day - advance into Germany


Bombing of Dresden Finally leading to V-E Day

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The Phony War 1939 - 1940

The German attack on poland from the West and The Soviet attack from the Easton 17 september 1939 were successful. By the end of september Poland had been totally defeated. Between september and April little progress was made in the war in the west. this became known as the phony (pretend) war in Britain and Sitzkrieg in Germany.

The phony war seemed to be an attempt by Hitler to push Britain and other western european powers into backing down over Poland, as they had backed down in Munich in 1938. Hitlers strategy for fighting a war was to fight a series of quick campaigns known as Blitzkrieg because Germany didn't have the resources for an all out war.

Both the French and The British were prepared for war so they sent over the BEF to help the French however the war effort was half hearted as the french believed that it was impossible for the Germans to Invade due to the long line of fortifications they had built in the 1930's

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German Invasion of Norway April 1940

This marked the end of the Phony war as Germsany invaded Norway because Germany relied on Norway and neighbouring Sweden for half of it's iron. The British Prime Minister, Chamberlain wanted to advance into Norway and cut off the German advance however feared the reaction of the rest of the world as Norway was a neutral country

Germany maaged to defeat Norway by using it's Blitzkrieg tactics via the sea capturing points along the Norwegian coast and sending paratroopers to capture major bridges. The British and French didn't do enough to protect Norway from being defeated.

This led to an important decision in Britain, Chamberlain resigned, 10 may 1940, and was replaced by Winston Churchill as Germany Invaded France.

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Defeat of France 1940

Blitzkrieg is German for lightning war and gained Germany rapid success in the early parts of the war. It involved an initial heavy bombing of a certain area or target then parachutists would drop behind enemy lines and attack enemy weak points encircling enemy strongholds. The Use of tanks was key for the Germans because they sent them around separately in huge groups which were very fast and very devastating, the French and British on the other hand still backed up infantry with tanks minimizing effectivness.

France was invaded 10 may 1940. This was done by avoiding the Maginot line ( the line of French Fortifications) altogether by going through Belgium's forests which the French thought was impossible to do. Belgium held out until 28 may before being defeated then the bulk of the German Army advanced into France, soon the British and French troops were on the retreat.

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Dunkirk may 1940

may 1940 the BEF was in danger from being cut off from the coast be the Blitzkrieg. May 27 1940 Commander Bort ordered the BEF to leave any mission they were on by the French and evacuate France. This seemed impossible as calais had been taken but nevertheless evacuations from Dunkirk started may 27. it was called operation dynamo

It was a greater success than the British had hoped for, it was turned from an evacuation into a propaganda idea, hundreds of privately owned vessels from pleasure boats to fishing boats helped the evacuation from the beach, overall 860 ships took part. by 4 June 338,000 men had been evacuated 139,000 of them French.

Alot of it was down to luck however, the seawas perfectly still and Hitler decided to halt the Army before the Beach. The me on the Beaches were under constant fire from the Luftwaffe and it was only down to the skill of the RAF that more didn't die.

The evacuation from Dunkirk was seen as a victory, 68,000 BEF casualties were saved, many to fight another day in the core of the main army. However many equipment was lost as it couldn't be taken so it was either destroyed or captured by the Germans. in addition the RAF lost 474 planes defending the beaches.

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Battle of Britain and Blitz 1940 - 1941

After defeating France Hitler planned to invade Britain called 'operation sealion'. To achieve this the Luftwaffe needed control over the british airspace in summer 1940 the Luftwaffe attacked British airfields, ports and radar stations. The battle involved trying to build planes and train pilots as fast as possible to protect the skies.

7 september 1940 the first bombing attack on Britain was launched aiming to bomb London by night. The purpose was to try and break British moral. Though operation sealion and the bombing of the RAF had been called off these bombing campaigns continued. over a period of 77 days London was bombed almost every night. other targets for the Luftwaffe included other major industrial centres such as manchester and Birmingham.

By the time the Blitz had ended in summer 1941 about 43,000 people had been killed with over 2 million homeless. Hitler beleived that Britain had been efeated because june 1941 he carried out his plan to search for land for his arian race by breaking the Nazi-Soviet Pact 1939 and attacking the USSR.

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Battle of the Atlantic 1939 -1945

The Germans aimed to do what they had done in the first world war and intercept incoming shipping into Britain using U-boats as Britain relied almost entirely on foreign imports, if they were blocked off Britain would be done for.

German Success

  • sinking ships rapidly, 1000 in 6 months 1942
  • U- Boats are quicker than normal ships
  • U- Boats were undetectable in the beginning of the war
  • over 10 million tonnes of shipping sunk
  • 'Wolf Pack' hunting

German Problems

  • had few u - boats
  • Luftwaffe and u-boats didn't co-operate
  • 8/10 sailors died in u-boats
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Battle of the Atlantic continued.....Convoysare

British Success

  • RAF and Navy co-operation
  • The British were more technically advanced
  • Anti - u-boat methods became increasingly effective
  • their tactic of sending ships in convoys worked
  • Their Radar was more advanced than u-boat radar and could avoid 'wolf packs'

British Problems

  • convoys easily spotted
  • 1/2 of all merchant ships sunk
  • over 5 million tonnes of shipping sunk per year at peak
  • Ships were only protected within 300 miles of the coast
  • Escorts were often untrained
  • sometimes the escorts had trouble locating the convoys
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The Bombing of Germany

bombing campaigns started in 1940 when it was only Britain Vs Germany. They started off by attacking strategic areas however by 1942 British aircraft were bombing entire cities in an attempt to break the Germans morale and military power.

most of the Bombing attacks were on industrial areas however since the attacks were done at night often civilian areas were hit. The Bombing campaign was led by chief air marshall sir Arthur Harris, he was also in control of the first 'thousand bomber' campaing

This had a drastic effect on German industry and industrial production continued to fall until 1944.

American bombing raids started in August 1942, however they chose to bomb during the day this meant that the bombs were more accurate however this raised casualty numbers. The breakthrough came in 1944 when precision bombing was designed, this ment that bombing campaigns could be more devastating and eventually led to the final defeat of Germany.

Feb 1945 British aircraft bombed Dresden with incendiary bombs killing 25,000, was this justified? overall buy the end of the war 600,000 civilians had been killed by bombing campaigns.

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D-Day 6 june 1944

  • The Allies wanted to start a new front on the west to ease the pressure on other fronts
  • they were initiated by British, French, American and Canadian troops who landed along 5 beaches on the Normandy coast
  • There were 10,000 Allied casualties out of an invasion force of 150,000 and by 12 june there were 325,000 troops in France and were preparing to push the Germans back to Germany.
  • By september 1944 the Allies cross the Rhine river
  • The Whole operation was called operation overlord and had lots of success because the beaches at Normandy weren't very well guarded as Hitler thought that the invasion would come from Calais.
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Home front - Recruitment

After Hitler invaded Czechoslovakia in March 1939 conscription it was put into effect when Britain declared war in september 1939. It involved conscripting men between 18 and 40, though certain professions such as doctors and firemen were exempt. In May 1940 the Emergency powers act came into effect which gave complete control over 'person and property' allowing the government to direct worker into any part of the country.

some people were appointed to be air raid wardens, though most were part time volunteers. Britain expected to be invaded from the air so these peoples job was to help people in case of bombing and make sure people followed the blackout instructions.

may 1940 the home guard was set up this was part time volunteers who received basic training to protect the country against invasion. on the first day 250,000 17 - 65 year olds did so.

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Home Front - Women

Conscription of workers meant that industry was understaffed so women were called in to play a greater role than than they did in the first world war and take the place of men who had been conscripted. by 1943 57% of all workers were women. The work was often portrayed by propaganda as patriotic, great work however the reality was often on a production line in a factory.

Women in service

Each of the auxiliary services had their own section for women. ATS for the army, WAAF for the air force, and WRNS for navy. although the women did not directly fight by firing guns they did help by either refilling sandbags or operating the Radar or acting dangerously as spies behind enemy lines.

The Women's Land Army

The food shortages needed to be overcome as much of the food being shipped in from abroad was being sunk by U-boats. Campaigns such as the 'dig for victory campaign' were set up to encourage people to grow their own using characters such as doctor carrot and potato pete to help. The women's land army was also re-initiated in 1939 and grew to 80,000 by 1944. their job was to do the role of farmers who had gone to war. by 1943 production in britain had almost doubled.

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Introduced January 1940 to make sure everyone got the same amount of food.

The Board of trade introduced special recipe books so people could make more of the food they got with their ration books.

at first only butter, bacon and sugar were rationed though this was later extended to include most foods, excluding vegetables. People were encourage to 'grow their own' and were helped by doctor carrot and potato pete.

from january 1941 clothes were rationed, people were then encouraged to not throw away clothes and were encouraged by the 'make do and mend' campaign to mend their own clothes. Some clothes and furniture were identified with utility marks to show people that when they bought them they were helping the war effort.

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the first evacuation was announced on 31 August 1939, the purpose was to move children away from likely targets for bombing raids, such as the cities, and to transfer them into the country for safety.

Some children were not happy about being moved back to the country and started to drift back to the cities however when the Blitz started in 1940 another evacuation was announced.

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The Blitz

The government supplied citizens with air raid shelters at the beginning of the war an example of a type of shelter is an anderson shelter. every citizen also received a gas mask in case of gassing, over 38 million were supplied. air raid precautions were also taught to people and september 1st the blackout was enforced to prevent enemy bombers from seeing at night.

some other volunteer emergency services were organized to help the emergency services in case of air raids.

Air raid precautions

at first defense against air raids was very limited. Radar worked on the coasts to detect incoming planes however spotlights in the city only had a limited range so planes could fly above it.

ARP wardens were active in enforcing air raid precautions and helped out the emergency services when the bombing started.

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Propaganda and censorship

the ministry of information was responsible for the distribution of posters centered on the war effort. they also did surveys and undercover reconnaissance missions to find out what the average person thought. Other propaganda was centered around the 'squander bug' which encouraged people not to waste anything as it could help the Germans.

newspapers were censored by the government to focus on the positive aspects and not allow criticism of the war effort for example after a particularly bad bombing raid the newspapers would concentrate on the acts of heroism rather than the death count. Short films and radio broadcasts were played before films and radio programmes to maintain morale.


There was worry that there was lots of secret spies in Britain. Soon after the war started, German and Italian citizens living in Britain were sent to a prisoner of war camp on an island out from the coast of Britain, even though many of them had come to Britain to escape the fascism in their own country. By 1941 the scare had died down and only about 5000 were kept in prison. overall by the end of the war it was discovered that there were no German spies operating in Britain, containment had been a success.

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I hate how the 'printable PDF' creates a massive error, as it is upside down sometimes.

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