WW2 Overview

The story of World War Two is an epic tale of political extremism, racism, territorial expansionism, subjugation and mass murder on an industrial scale. It’s also a story of immense courage, sacrifice, determination, ingenuity and great leadership. The war transformed every facet of civil and military life, turning millions of ordinary people into soldiers, sailors, aircrew and auxiliaries. The war cast a long shadow, leaving an indelible shared memory on all those it touched with triumph and tragedy.

Nazi Party Nuremberg Rally 1938

A Great and Terrible Story

The story of World War Two starts with the political turmoil of the 1920s, Great Depression of the 1930s and ends with the development of atomic weapons, guided missiles and jet aircraft. In between, tens of millions of people are killed, wounded and displaced. From the invasion of Poland in September 1939 until final victory over Japan in August 1945 the war ebbs and flows from the deserts of North Africa to the frozen Russian steppe and coral atolls of the Pacific. This is the great and terrible story of World War Two.

1939

  • Nazi Germany invades Poland on 1 September. Britain and France declare war on Germany two days later.

1940

  • German 'Blitzkrieg' overwhelms Belgium, Holland and France.
  • Churchill becomes Prime Minister of Britain.
  • Operation Dynamo - British Expeditionary Force (BEF) evacuated from the beaches of Dunkirk.
  • The RAF defeated the German Luftwaffe in the Battle of Britain.

1941

  • Germany invades the Soviet Russia - Operation Barbarossa.
  • The aerial bombing of British cities by the Luftwaffe known as the Blitz continues.
  • Japan launches a surprise air attack on the US naval bases at Pearl Harbour.
  • America enters the war.

1942

  • Wannsee Conference sees the implementation of Nazi Germany’s plan to exterminate the Jews of Europe – the Final Solution.
  • The Allies win a decisive victory at the Second Battle of El Alamein, North Africa.
  • Singapore falls to Japan – humiliating defeat for British Imperial and Commonwealth forces.
  • US victory at the Battle of Midway turns the tide of the Pacific War.

1943

  • German 6th Army is encircled and finally defeated at the Battle of Stalingrad.
  • Allied victory in North Africa enables invasion of Italy.
  • Italian dictator Benito Mussolini is deposed and Italy surrenders 3 weeks later.

1944

  • Allies land at Anzio.
  • Battle of Monte Cassino ends with Allied victory in May.
  • D-Day: The Allied invasion of Normandy, France.
  • Paris is liberated in August.
  • Guam liberated by the US.

1945

  • The Auschwitz labour and death camp is liberated by Soviet troops.
  • Hitler commits suicide and Nazi Germany surrenders on 7 May.
  • Victory in Europe – 8th May.
  • Atomic bombs dropped on Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
  • Japan surrenders on 14 August.