Presentation on theme: "Britain and World War II. World War II, or the Second World War (often abbreviated WWII or WW2), was a global military conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945."— Presentation transcript:
World War II, or the Second World War (often abbreviated WWII or WW2), was a global military conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945 which involved most of the world's nations, including all of the great powers, organized into two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis.military conflictmost of the world's nationsgreat powersAlliesAxis
It was the most widespread war in history, with more than 100 million military personnel mobilized. In a state of "total war," the major participants placed their entire economic, industrial, and scientific capabilities at the service of the war effort, erasing the distinction between civilian and military resources.total war
Marked by significant action against civilians, including the Holocaust and the only use of nuclear weapons in warfare, it was the deadliest conflict in human history, with over seventy million casualties.Holocaustonly use of nuclear weapons in warfaredeadliest conflict human historyseventy million casualties
The war is generally considered to have begun on 1 September 1939, with the invasion of Poland by Nazi Germany and subsequent declarations of war on Germany by France and most of the countries of the British Empire and Commonwealth. invasion of PolandNazi Germanydeclarations of warFranceBritish Empire Commonwealth
Many countries were already at war by this date, such as Ethiopia and Italy in the Second Italo-Abyssinian War and China and Japan in the Second Sino-Japanese War. Many that were not initially involved joined the war later in response to events such as the German invasion of the Soviet Union and the Japanese attacks on the U.S. Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor and on British overseas colonies, which triggered declarations of war on Japan by the United States, the British Commonwealth, and the Netherlands.EthiopiaItalySecond Italo-Abyssinian WarChinaJapanSecond Sino-Japanese War German invasion of the Soviet UnionU.S. Pacific Fleet Pearl HarborBritish overseas coloniesUnited StatesBritish CommonwealthNetherlands
While the USA proclaimed neutrality, it continued to supply Britain with essential supplies, and the critical Battle of the Atlantic between German U-Boats and British naval convoys commenced. Western Europe was eerily quiet during this 'phoney war'. Preparations for war continued in earnest, but there were few signs of conflict, and civilians who had been evacuated from London in the first months drifted back into the city. Gas masks were distributed, and everybody waited for the proper war to begin.
The war ended with the victory of the Allies in 1945, leaving the political alignment and social structure of the world significantly changed. While the United Nations was established to foster international cooperation and prevent future conflicts, the Soviet Union and the United States emerged as rival superpowers, setting the stage for the Cold War, which lasted for the next forty-six years. Meanwhile, the acceptance of the principle of self-determination accelerated decolonization movements in Asia and Africa, while Western Europe began moving toward economic recovery and increased political integration.United NationsSoviet UnionUnited States superpowersCold Warself-determinationdecolonizationWestern Europe economic recoverypolitical integration
The basic causes of World War II were the nationalistic tensions, unresolved issues, and resentments resulting from World War I and the interwar period in Europe, plus the effects of the Great Depression in the 1930s. The culmination of events that led to the outbreak of war are generally understood to be the 1939 invasion of Poland by Nazi Germany and the 1937 invasion of the Republic of China by the Empire of Japan. These military aggressions were the decisions made by authoritarian ruling Nazi elite in Germany and by the leadership of the Kwantung Army in the case of Japan. World War II started after these aggressive actions were met with an official declaration of war and/or armed resistance.World War IIinterwar periodGreat DepressioninvasionPolandNazi GermanyinvasionRepublic of ChinaEmpire of JapanNaziKwantung Armydeclaration of war armed resistance
World War II Timeline 1939 Hitler invades Poland on 1 September. Britain and France declare war on Germany two days later. 1940 Rationing starts in the UK. German 'Blitzkrieg' overwhelms Belgium, Holland and France. Churchill becomes Prime Minister of Britain. British Expeditionary Force evacuated from Dunkirk. British victory in Battle of Britain forces Hitler to postpone invasion plans.
1941 Hitler begins Operation Barbarossa - the invasion of Russia. The Blitz continues against Britain's major cities. Allies take Tobruk in North Africa, and resist German attacks. Japan attacks Pearl Harbor, and the US enters the war. 1942 Germany suffers setbacks at Stalingrad and El Alamein. Singapore falls to the Japanese in February - around 25,000 prisoners taken. American naval victory at Battle of Midway, in June, marks turning point in Pacific War. Mass murder of Jewish people at Auschwitz begins. 1943 Surrender at Stalingrad marks Germany's first major defeat. Allied victory in North Africa enables invasion of Italy to be launched. Italy surrenders, but Germany takes over the battle. British and Indian forces fight Japanese in Burma.
1944 Allies land at Anzio and bomb monastery at Monte Cassino. Soviet offensive gathers pace in Eastern Europe. D Day: The Allied invasion of France. Paris is liberated in August. Guam liberated by the US Okinawa, and Iwo Jima bombed. 1945 Auschwitz liberated by Soviet troops. Russians reach Berlin: Hitler commits suicide and Germany surrenders on 7 May. Truman becomes President of the US on Roosevelt's death, and Attlee replaces Churchill. After atomic bombs are dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan surrenders on 14 August.
On 10 May 1940 - the same day that Winston Churchill replaced Neville Chamberlain as Prime Minister of the UK - Germany invaded France, Belgium and Holland, and western Europe encountered the Blitzkrieg - or 'lightning war'. Germany's combination of fast armoured tanks on land, and superiority in the air, made a unified attacking force that was both innovative and effective.
Despite greater numbers of air and army personnel, the Low Countries and France proved no match for the Wehrmacht and the Luftwaffe. Holland and Belgium fell by the end of May; Paris was taken two weeks later. British troops retreated from the invaders in haste, and some 226,000 British and 110,000 French troops were rescued from the channel port of Dunkirk only by a ragged fleet, using craft that ranged from pleasure boats to Navy destroyers.
In France an armistice was signed with Germany, with the puppet French Vichy government - under a hero of World War One, Marshall Pétain - in control in the 'unoccupied' part of southern and eastern France, and Germany in control in the rest of the country. Charles de Gaulle, as the leader of the Free French, fled to England (much to Churchill's chagrin) to continue the fight against Hitler. But it looked as if that fight might not last too long.
Having conquered France, Hitler turned his attention to Britain, and began preparations for an invasion. For this to be successful, however, he needed air superiority, and he charged the Luftwaffe with destroying British air power and coastal defences. The Battle of Britain, lasting from July to September, was the first to be fought solely in the air. Germany lacked planes but had many pilots. In Britain, the situation was reversed, but - crucially - it also had radar.
This, combined with the German decision to switch the attacks from airfields and factories to the major cities, enabled the RAF to squeak a narrow victory, maintain air superiority and ensure the - ultimately indefinite - postponement of the German invasion plans. The 'Blitz' of Britain's cities lasted throughout the war, saw the bombing of Buckingham Palace and the near-destruction of Coventry, and claimed some 40,000 civilian lives.
With continental Europe under Nazi control, and Britain safe - for the time being - the war took on a more global dimension. Following the defeat of Mussolini's armies in Greece and Tobruk, German forces arrived in North Africa in February, and invaded Greece and Yugoslavia in April 1941. While the bombing of British and German cities continued, and the gas chambers at Auschwitz were put to use, Hitler invaded Russia. Operation Barbarossa, as the invasion was called, began on 22 June.
The initial advance was swift, with the fall of Sebastopol at the end of October, and Moscow coming under attack at the end of the year. The bitter Russian winter, however, like the one that Napoleon had experienced a century and a half earlier, crippled the Germans. The Soviets counterattacked in December and the Eastern Front stagnated until the spring.
Winter in the Pacific, of course, presented no such problems. The Japanese, tired of American trade embargoes, mounted a surprise attack on the US Navy base of Pearl Harbor, in Hawaii, on 7 December. This ensured that global conflict commenced, with Germany declaring war on the US, a few days later. Within a week of Pearl Harbor, Japan had invaded the Philippines, Burma and Hong Kong. The Pacific war was on.
The first Americans arrived in England in January 1942 and in North Africa Field Marshal Erwin Rommel's Afrika Korps began their counter-offensive, capturing Tobruk in June. The Blitz intensified in both England and Germany, with the first thousand-bomber air raid on Cologne, and German bombing of British cathedral cities. The second half of the year also saw a reversal of German fortunes. British forces under Montgomery gained the initiative in North Africa at El Alamein, and Russian forces counterattacked at Stalingrad. The news of mass murders of Jewish people by the Nazis reached the Allies, and the US pledged to avenge these crimes.
In the Pacific, the Japanese continued their expansion into Borneo, Java and Sumatra. The 'unassailable' British fortress of Singapore fell rapidly in February, with around 25,000 prisoners taken, many of whom would die in Japanese camps in the years to follow. But June saw the peak of Japanese expansion. The Battle of Midway, in which US sea-based aircraft destroyed four Japanese carriers and a cruiser, marked the turning point in the Pacific War.
The second half of the year also saw a reversal of German fortunes. British forces under Montgomery gained the initiative in North Africa at El Alamein, and Russian forces counterattacked at Stalingrad. The news of mass murders of Jewish people by the Nazis reached the Allies, and the US pledged to avenge these crimes.
February saw German surrender at Stalingrad: the first major defeat of Hitler's armies. Battle continued to rage in the Atlantic, and one four- day period in March saw 27 merchant vessels sunk by German U-boats. A combination of long- range aircraft and the codebreakers at Bletchley, however, were inflicting enormous losses on the U-boats. Towards the end of May Admiral Dönitz withdrew the German fleet from the contended areas - the Battle of the Atlantic was effectively over.
In mid-May German and Italian forces in North Africa surrendered to the Allies, who used Tunisia as a springboard to invade Sicily in July. By the end of the month Mussolini had fallen, and in September the Italians surrendered to the Allies, prompting a German invasion into northern Italy. Mussolini was audaciously rescued by a German task force, led by Otto Skorzeny, and established a fascist republic in the north. German troops also engaged the Allies in the south - the fight through Italy was to prove slow and costly.
In the Pacific, US forces overcame the Japanese at Guadalcanal, and British and Indian troops began their guerrilla campaign in Burma. American progress continued in the Aleutian Islands, New Guinea and the Solomon Islands. As the Russian advance on the Eastern Front gathered pace, recapturing Kharkov and Kiev from Germany, Allied bombers began to attack German cities in enormous daylight air raids. The opening of the Second Front in Europe, long discussed and always postponed, was being prepared for the following year.
The Allied advance in Italy continued with landings at Anzio, in central Italy, in January 1944. It was a static campaign. The Germans counter-attacked in February and the fighting saw the destruction of the medieval monastery at Monte Cassino after Allied bombing. Only at the end of May did the Germans retreat from Anzio. Rome was liberated in June, the day before the Allies' 'Operation Overlord', now known as the D-Day landings.
On 6 June 1944- as Operation Overlord got underway - some 6,500 vessels landed over 130,000 Allied forces on five Normandy beaches: codenamed Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno and Sword. Some 12,000 aircraft ensured air superiority for the Allies - bombing German defences, and providing cover. The pessimistic predictions that had been made of massive Allied casualties were not borne out. Overall, the landings caught the Germans by surprise, and they were unable to counter-attack with the necessary speed and strength. Cherbourg was liberated by the end of June. Paris followed two months later.
The New Year 1945 saw the Soviet liberation of Auschwitz, and the revelation of the sickening horror of the Holocaust, its scale becoming clearer as more camps were liberated in the following months. The Soviet army continued its offensive from the east, while from the west the Allies established a bridge across the Rhine at Remagen, in March. While the bombing campaigns of the Blitz were over, German V1 and V2 rockets continued to drop on London. The return bombing raids on Dresden, which devastated the city in a huge firestorm, have often been considered misguided.
Meantime, the Western Allies raced the Russians to be the first into Berlin. The Russians won, reaching the capital on 21 April. Hitler killed himself on the 30th, two days after Mussolini had been captured and hanged by Italian partisans. Germany surrendered unconditionally on 7 May 1945, and the following day was celebrated as VE (Victory in Europe) day. The war in Europe was over.
In the Pacific, however, it had continued to rage throughout this time. The British advanced further in Burma, and in February the Americans had invaded Iwo Jima. The Philippines and Okinawa followed and Japanese forces began to withdraw from China. Plans were being prepared for an Allied invasion of Japan, but fears of fierce resistance and massive casualties prompted Harry Truman - the new American president following Roosevelt's death in April - to sanction the use of an atomic bomb against Japan. Such bombs had been in development since 1942, and on 6 August 1945 one of them was dropped on the Japanese city of Hiroshima. Three days later another was dropped on Nagasaki. No country could withstand such attacks, and the Japanese surrendered on 14 August.
The Blitzkrieg The speed, flexibility and initiative of the German Wehrmacht army took the Allies completely by surprise during the blitzkrieg at the start of World War Two. A stunned British military establishment struggled to determine how it was that events had so quickly gone so horribly wrong. The BEF had sailed for France believing that they and their French ally were well equipped and well trained to fight a modern war. In truth, as events proved, they were completely unprepared to face Hitler's Wehrmacht.
During World War I, the armies of the two Allies had dug in for what became a long, drawn-out conflict. And in 1940, influenced by this experience, the British and French leaders of World War II were still expecting to fight a war in which the defensive would dominate. With this approach in mind, the French army was sent to man France's heavily fortified border with Germany, the Maginot Line, and to await a German attack.
The Maginot Line: the Allies expected a protracted, defensive war
The events in May and June 1940 proved that this outdated vision of war could not have been further from reality. This time, unlike the Allies, the Germans intended to fight the war offensively, and win quickly.
At dawn on 10 May, the Germans began an invasion of Belgium and the Netherlands. Accordingly, convinced that they were facing a repeat of the German strategy of 1914, Allied commanders moved the bulk of their forces from the Franco-Belgian border into defensive positions within Belgium to await the continuation of the German attack. In so doing, they fell right into Hitler's trap. Rather than repeating the World War I plan, the Germans in 1940 advanced with their main thrust through the Ardennes Forest, in order to smash the vulnerable flank of the Allies.
Shocked by their experience, the Allied military observers who had survived the fall of France attributed their defeat to the completely new form of warfare pioneered by the Wehrmacht - the blitzkrieg. Blitzkrieg seemed to be based around the pervasive use of new technology. After all, during the disastrous campaign in Belgium and France, it had seemed as if German tanks and aircraft were everywhere. This view that the Germans used technology, namely the tank and the dive-bomber, to create a new and unique form of warfare has often dominated understanding of how the Germans fought in World War II.
The Allies believed that 'blitzkrieg' was dependent on new technology, such as tanks and dive-bombers
DUNKIRK As France fell rapidly, the Allies' northern and southern forces were separated by the German advance from the Ardennes to the Somme. The Allied armies in the north were being encircled. By 19 May 1940 the British commander was considering the withdrawal of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) by sea. But London was demanding more action and on 21 May, an attack was launched from Arras. This attack lacked the necessary armour and General Heinz Guderian's tanks continued past Boulogne and Calais to cross the canal defence line close to Dunkirk, the only port left for an Allied withdrawal from Europe.
On 29 May, the evacuation was announced to the British public, and many privately owned boats started arriving at Dunkirk to ferry the troops to safety. This flotilla of small vessels famously became known as the 'Little Ships'. The contribution these civilian vessels made to the Dunkirk evacuation gave rise to the term 'Dunkirk spirit', an expression still used to describe the British ability to rally together in the face of adversity. By 4 June, when the operation ended, 198,000 British and 140,000 French and Belgian troops had been saved, but virtually all of their heavy equipment had been abandoned.
No surrender When France fell with such rapid speed in June 1940 ten months after the outbreak of World War Two and six weeks after German invasion, Germany believed it had achieved an unprecedented triumph in the most extraordinary conditions. To a large degree, of course, it had. Traditional enemies and apparently strong opponents had fallen with ease and dramatic speed - not only France, but Poland, Holland, Belgium, Denmark, Norway and Luxembourg had been over run and Britain's army had been outflanked and ejected in late May from Europe with the loss of most of its heavy weapons and equipment.
But to Germany's surprise, Britain, although apparently defeated and certainly painfully exposed and isolated, did not surrender. It did not even seek to come to terms with Germany. This was a puzzling state of affairs for the Germans who now had two options: to lay siege to Britain and to wear it down physically and psychologically through limited military action and through political and propaganda warfare, which would include the threat or bluff of invasion; or to actually invade.
The Germans, surprised by the speed of their military success in Europe, had no detailed plans for an invasion of Britain. But this absence of a plan did not prevent Hitler from announcing on 16 July that an invasion force would be ready to sail by 15 August. The operation was given the codeword Sealion.
On 27 May Churchill had put General Sir Edmund Ironside, Commander-in-Chief Home Forces, in charge of organising Britain's defence. Ironside acted quickly. He had a large force at his disposal, but one that was poorly armed and equipped and generally poorly trained. In the circumstances, his only option was to set up a static system of defence which, he hoped, could delay German invasion forces after landing and so give Britain time to bring its small mobile reserves into play. If the Germans could be delayed on the beaches and then delayed as they pushed inland their timetable could be thrown off balance, they could lose impetus, direction and initiative and the British army might be able to counter attack effectively.
During August, as the stop-lines were nearing completion, the Luftwaffe's battle for the control of the air over England and the channel continued. But the assault on the RAF started to go awry as Goering changed the emphasis of attack from radar stations and airfield to aircraft factories and more peripheral targets - thus giving RAF front line squadrons a much needed breathing space. While what became known as the Battle of Britain started to reach its crescendo, the debate about Operation Sealion also continued to rage during August between the German navy and the army.
The Battle of Britain 1940 In the summer of 1940, the German Luftwaffe attempted to win air superiority over southern Britain and the English Channel by destroying the Royal Air Force and the British aircraft industry. This attempt came to be known as the Battle of Britain, and victory over the RAF was seen by the Germans as absolutely essential if they were eventually to mount an invasion of the British Isles.
Pilots rush to take off during the Battle of Britain
Although the fear of a German invasion was real, it was perhaps unfounded, however, as German plans were in fact somewhat amateurish - when planning the air attacks they made the mistake of regarding the Channel as a relatively minor obstacle, little more than a wide river crossing. In addition even if Hitler had achieved his aim of destroying the RAF, Germany might still have failed to establish a foothold after any invasion, because the British Royal Navy was enormously strong, and very capable of repulsing German troop ships.
The Battle of Britain began on 30 June 1940. Reichsmarschall Hermann Göering, head of the Luftwaffe, ordered his force to draw the RAF into battle by attacking coastal convoys and bombing radar stations along the south coast, installations of the British aircraft industry, and RAF airfields. This dilution of effort, which became more marked as the battle progressed, was one of the principal reasons why the Luftwaffe eventually lost the battle.
On 17 September, two days after the Luftwaffe's worst day in the Battle of Britain, Hitler cancelled Operation Sealion - the name of his plan for the invasion of Britain. The campaign of city bombing continued, but Hitler by now was focusing on Russia - and on 22 June 1941, he launched the greatest land- air campaign in the history of war. This campaign was called Operation Barbarossa - and its aim was the invasion of the Soviet Union.
THE HOME FRONT The Home Front is the civilian side of warfare. Away from the battlefields with the cannons and guns and bullets, the home front was where ordinary people fought in their own way, to help their boys who were fighting miles away on distant battlefields and it was where great sacrifices were made by ordinary mothers, fathers, wives and relations, to keep their soldiers alive and safe, even though they might be on the other side of the world. The Home Front was important for supplies, information, moral support and intelligence-gathering. The Home Front showed that war touched everyone, not just the soldiers fighting in the field.
Mass Evacuations From very early in the war, it was thought that the major industrial cities of Britain, especially London in the south east, would come under Nazi German Luftwaffe air attack. Some children were sent to Canada, the USA and Australia and millions of children and some mothers were evacuated from London and other major cities when the war began under government plans for evacuations of civilians in Britain during World War II. London Nazi GermanLuftwaffeevacuations of civilians in Britain during World War II
Operation Pied Piper in action. These are just a few of the 827,000 children who were evacuated from London from 1939- 1940. The cards attached to their clothes would allow their carers or relatives to identify the children when they arrived at their destinations.
It was a massive undertaking; Upwards of three and a half million Britons were evacuated from southern England. It was suggested, at one point, that the British Royal Family should evacuate, either to the country, and then later, to Canada, for their own safety. Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, horrified at the thought of what the Royal Family abandoning its people to its fate, might do to civilian morale, famously declared that: “The children won’t leave without me, I won’t leave without the king, and the king will never leave!”
Preparing for War All over the British Isles, people were preparing for war. They bought miles and miles of sticky-tape to tape neat, diagonal crosses onto the windows of their houses and shops. The tape was to hold the window- glass together so that it wouldn’t shatter and become lethal pieces of flying shrapnel in a bomb-blast. Similarly, people filled sandbags (although usually filled with soil) and stacked them up outside important buildings, around air-raid shelters and Underground railway stations.
People started digging Anderson shelters in their back yards. An ‘Anderson’ shelter was a partially- buried air-raid shelter, made of corrugated steel, usually placed a few feet into the ground, or in some cases, right under the ground.
One of the most enduring images of the Home Front of WWII, was the organization of public air-raid shelters in London, which centered around London’s famous “Underground”, its subway-system, which had existed since Victorian times. Several of London’s lesser-used Underground stations were converted to bomb-shelters. Bunk- beds, canteens, toilets and chairs were put in for peoples’ comfort. Food was delivered on subway trains towing specially-modified carriages, which rolled into each station at dinnertime, to serve soup, bread, coffee and other necessities.
All over England, people observed the ‘blackout’. The blackout was the mandatory electrical blackout which the government enforced on the populations, for its own safety. After sundown, every single person, every home, every business, had to either turn off its lights, or it had to cover its windows with heavy, jet-black blackout curtains. In the streets, public streetlamps were turned off. Cars had their headlamps covered, allowing only a tiny slit of light to shine onto the road, windows were shuttered and billboard lights were turned off. The purpose of the blackout, which happened every single night for the duration of the war, was to disorientate enemy fighter and bomber aircraft.
In late 1940, the Blitz began. The Blitz was the intense, night-by-night bombing of London (and other cities, such as Coventry), by German Luftwaffe bomber- planes. It was supposed to pound the British into submission, all it did was wreck London, kill people and waste valuable German war-materials.
Finding food, clothing, water and other essential supplies was a constant, daily struggle during the War. On the Home Front, housewives in the UK, all had to be incredibly resourceful when it came to making ends meet when there was barely anything to eat. Rationing became a way of life for everyone, rich or poor. When someone complained about the rationing, the common reply was: “There’s a war on, you know!”, or “Don’t you know there’s a war on?”
At the height of rationing in England, around 1942, this was an ENTIRE WEEK’S rations in food for one adult: Four small pieces of meat, one egg, a little bit of butter, a bit of flour, sugar, and precious little else. Housewives had to stretch their cooking-skills to the maximum, if they intended to feed their families. The government even issued special ‘ration-recipes’, giving suggestions to wives on how to use their rations effectively, to cook delicious meals.
Colonies, Colonials and World War II African, Indian, Caribbean and other colonial troops and personnel played a crucial role in supporting the Allied cause in World War II.
India Troops from the British Empire fought in every theatre of war through the years of World War II - as they had fought in a range of conflicts, on the side of Britain, for the past 150 years or so. There were over two and a half million Indian citizens in uniform during the war.
The land of India also served as an assault and training base, and provided vast quantities of foods and other materials to British and Commonwealth forces, and to the British at home. This necessitated the involvement of more millions of men and women in war work and war production.
Africa Britain's colonies in West Africa, Gambia, Sierra Leone, the Gold Coast (now Ghana) and Nigeria also served as staging posts and military bases during World War Two. Aircraft destined for the 'Middle East' and the North African front had to fly via West Africa,and were serviced there. Ships bound for India and the east, unable to use the Suez Canal, had to sail via the Cape, and were serviced and filled with supplies at West African ports.
Although the colour bar in the British services had been lifted for the duration of the war, in fact very few black men served in the British army. With only two exceptions, even qualified black medical practitioners were refused. Although Churchill lifted the colour bar, he sent telegrams to every Embassy and High Commission, telling them to find 'administrative means' to reject black volunteers. Among the specialist units provided by West Africa were four Medical Units, comprising orderlies trained by the West African Army Medical Corps. They were attached to British hospitals in Sicily and Italy. South Africans were also drawn into the war. They and the 'coloureds' in the South African Army were not trained in the use of firearms.
Caribbean The British colonies in the West Indies were under direct threat by German submarines, who were hunting for oil tankers and bauxite carriers making their way from the Caribbean to the USA and the UK. On the islands, the available manpower was taken up guarding the ports and POW camps, as well as providing the labour for the increased production of primary produce necessitated by the war.
The Battle of the Atlantic The Battle of the Atlantic was a fight for Britain's very survival.
If Germany had prevented merchant ships from carrying food, raw materials, troops and their equipment from North America to Britain, the outcome of World War II could have been radically different. Britain might have been starved into submission, and her armies would not have been equipped with American-built tanks and vehicles. Moreover, if the Allies had not been able to move ships about the North Atlantic, it would have been impossible to project British and American land forces ashore in the Mediterranean theatres or on D-Day. Germany's best hope of defeating Britain lay in winning what Churchill christened the 'Battle of the Atlantic'.
The British were consequently forced to divert their own shipping away from vulnerable UK ports, and were faced with the need to provide convoys with naval escorts for greater stretches of the journey to North America. The Royal Navy was critically short of escort vessels, although this problem was eased somewhat by the arrival of 50 old American destroyers that President Roosevelt gave in return for bases in British territory in the West Indies. U-boats, supplemented by mines, aircraft and surface ships, succeeded in sinking three million tons of Allied shipping between the fall of France in June 1940 and the end of the year.
Admiral Dönitz, the commander of the U-boat arm, introduced the 'wolfpack' tactic at the end of 1940, whereby a group of submarines would surface and attack at night, thus greatly reducing the effectiveness of ASDIC. This remorseless attrition of merchant shipping was a far greater threat to Britain's survival than the remote possibility of the Kriegsmarine landing German troops on the English coast.
The British survived this period through a number of factors, including the development of improved tactics. The emergence of powerful allies was also vital. The Royal Canadian Navy, which was tiny in 1939, began an amazing period of growth that eventually made it capable of bearing a substantial part of the fighting in the North Atlantic. Even more importantly, the United States, although neutral, began to behave in a most un-neutral fashion. From May 1941 the US Navy became a British ally in the struggle in the Atlantic.
The crisis The crisis of the Battle of the Atlantic came in early 1943. Döntiz, by this time commander of the German Navy, now had 200 operational U- boats. British supplies, especially of oil, were running out, and it became a question of whether Allied shipyards could build merchant ships fast enough to replace the tonnage that was being sunk. Mass production of Liberty Ships in US shipyards, however, helped to ensure that the Allies would win this race. By April the U-boats were clearly struggling to make an impact.
By April the U-boats were clearly struggling to make an impact. Even worse, from Hitler's point of view, was the fact that Allied sinkings of German submarines began to escalate, with 45 being destroyed in the months of April and May. Dönitz, recognising that the U-boat's moment had passed, called off the battle on 23 May 1943. This was not the end of the threat in the Atlantic, but thereafter it was greatly diminished.
The Battle of El Alamein The Battle of El Alamein, fought in the deserts of North Africa, is seen as one of the decisive victories of World War II. The Battle of El Alamein was primarily fought between two of the outstanding commanders of World War II, Montgomery and Rommel. The Allied victory at El Alamein lead to the retreat of the Afrika Korps and the German surrender in North Africa in May 1943.North AfricaWorld War IIWorldWar II MontgomeryRommel
By November 2nd 1942, Rommel knew that he was beaten. Hitler ordered the Afrika Korps to fight to the last but Rommel refused to carry out this order. On November 4th, Rommel started his retreat. 25,000 Germans and Italians had been killed or wounded in the battle and 13,000 Allied troops in the Eighth Army.
Since World War II was a world war, many of the campaigns and battles were fought in the Far East, with the Axis power Japan. Two of the famous conflicts between the Britain and Japan were the Burma campaign and the Battle of Singapore.
The Battle of Singapore was fought in the South-East Asian theatre of World War II when the Empire of Japan invaded the Allied stronghold of Singapore. Singapore was the major British military base in South East Asia and nicknamed the "Gibraltar of the East". The fighting in Singapore lasted from 8 February 1942 to 15 February 1942. South-East Asian theatreEmpire of JapaninvadedAlliedSingaporeSouth East Asia"Gibraltar of the East"
Lt Gen. Arthur Percival, led by a Japanese officer, walks under a flag of truce to negotiate the capitulation of Allied forces in Singapore, on 15 February 1942. It was the largest surrender of British-led forces in history.Arthur Percivaltruce
It resulted in the fall of Singapore to the Japanese, and the largest surrender of British- led military personnel in history. About 80,000 British, Australian and Indian troops became prisoners of war, joining 50,000 taken by the Japanese in the Malayan campaign. Britain's Prime Minister Winston Churchill called the ignominious fall of Singapore to the Japanese the "worst disaster" and "largest capitulation" in British history.surrenderIndian prisoners of warMalayan campaignWinston Churchill
The campaign in which Allied forces defeated the Japanese in Burma was unique in that neither side particularly wished to wage war there. When Japan entered the war on the side of the Axis powers in December 1941, her main aims were to acquire raw materials, particularly oil, rubber and tin and, through expansion of the so-called Greater Co- Prosperity Sphere, to create space for the population of the over-crowded home islands.
There were two reasons for the Japanese invasion of Burma. Firstly the Japanese knew it would serve them well if they cut overland access to China from Burma via the famed Burma Road. Along this road a steady stream of military aid was being transported from Rangoon, over the mountains of the 'Hump' and into Nationalist China, but if this supply route was closed, the Japanese could deprive Chiang Kai Shek's Kuomintang (Nationalist Chinese) armies of their life-blood, permitting the Japanese to conquer all China.
Furthermore, possession of Burma would place the Japanese at the gate of India, where they believed general insurrection against the British Raj would be ignited once their troops had established themselves in Assam, within reach of Calcutta.
The Burma campaign had no decisive effect on the war as a whole; but it did a great deal to restore respect for British arms following the humiliations of Hong Kong, Malaya and Singapore. The re-opening of the Burma Road permitted the resumption of supplies to Nationalist China, but there was to be no long-term benefit here, and American dreams of establishing an All-China trade zone after the war evaporated when Mao Tse Tung's Communist forces thrashed the corrupt regime of America's client, Chiang Kai Shek, within four years of the Japanese surrender in 1945.
By 1944, the Allies (Britain, Canada and the USA) were ready to dislodge Hitler from ‘Fortress Europe’. This involved a (very dangerous) invasion of the mainland. The invasion was codenamed ‘Operation Overlord’ and was led by the American General Ike Eisenhower. The invasion day (D-Day) was set for some time in June – the actual date to be decided by Eisenhower at the last minute.
The operation began on 6 June 1944 with the Normandy Landings when a 12,000-plane strong airborne assault preceded an amphibious assault involving almost 7,000 vessels. Nearly 160,000 troops crossed the English Channel on 6 June, and more than 3 million troops had landed by the end of August. Allied land forces that saw combat in Normandy on D-Day itself came from Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States of America. Free French forces and Poland also participated in the battle after the assault phase, and there were also minor contingents from Belgium, Czechoslovakia, Greece, the Netherlands, and Norway. Other Allied nations participated in the naval and air forces. Normandy Landingsamphibious assaultEnglish Channel Free FrenchPolandBelgium CzechoslovakiaGreeceNetherlands Norway
Once the beachheads were secured, a three-week military buildup occurred on the beaches before Operation Cobra, the operation to break out from the Normandy beachhead began. The battle for Normandy continued for more than two months, with campaigns to establish a foothold on France, and concluded with the closing of the Falaise pocket on 24 August, the subsequent liberation of Paris on 25 August, and the German retreat across the Seine which was completed on 30 August 1944. Operation CobraFalaise pocketliberation of Paris
Tuesday 8 May 1945 was 'Victory in Europe' (VE) Day, and it marked the formal end of Hitler's war. With it came the end of six years of misery, suffering, courage and endurance across the world. Individuals reacted in very different ways to the end of the nightmare: some celebrated by partying; others spent the day in quiet reflection; and there were those too busy carrying out tasks to do either. Ultimately nothing would be quite the same again.
The final document of unconditional surrender was signed at General Dwight Eisenhower's headquarters in Reims on 7 May. Prime Minister Winston Churchill and King George VI wanted Monday 7 May to be VE Day, but in the event, bowing to American wishes, victory was celebrated on 8 May. The USSR waited an extra day before beginning their formal celebrations.
In much of Britain, VE Day was marked by street parties. The people of Britain badly needed to let their hair down. The country was war-weary by May 1945. There had been years of austerity and rationing: five inches of water to a bath, few eggs, no bananas and the motto 'make do and mend'. Half a million homes had been destroyed, and many millions of lives disrupted. Although the casualty lists from the battlefields were lower than in World War I, they were still terrible. When in 1944 the primitive V1 'doodlebug' missiles and V2 ballistic missiles began to rain down on south-east England, the morale of civilians who had already endured the Blitz of 1940-1 took a knock.
People were already on the streets celebrating on 7 May, and huge crowds gathered in London on the following day. At 3.00pm Churchill made a radio broadcast. In Trafalgar Square, an eye-witness noted, '...there was an extraordinary hush over the assembled multitude', as Churchill's voice was relayed over loudspeakers: The King and Queen appeared eight times on the balcony of Buckingham Palace, while the two princesses - Margaret and Elizabeth (the present Queen) - mingled with the crowds. Churchill gave an impromptu speech on the balcony of the Ministry of Health, telling the crowds, 'This is your victory.'
The effects of World War II had far-reaching implications for most of the world. Many millions of lives had been lost as a result of the war. Germany was divided into four quadrants, which were controlled by the Allied Powers — the United States, Great Britain, France, and the Soviet Union. The war can be identified to varying degrees as the catalyst for many continental, national and local phenomena, such as the redrawing of European borders, the birth of the United Kingdom's welfare state, the communist takeover of China and Eastern Europe, the creation of Israel, and the division of Germany and Korea and later of Vietnam. GermanyAllied Powers United StatesGreat BritainFrance Soviet UnionUnited Kingdomwelfare state communistChinaEastern EuropeIsraelKoreaVietnam
In addition, many organizations have roots in the Second World War; for example, the United Nations, the World Bank, the World Trade Organization, and the International Monetary Fund. Technologies, such as nuclear fission, the electronic computer and the jet engine, also appeared during this period.United NationsWorld BankWorld Trade OrganizationInternational Monetary Fundnuclear fissioncomputer jet engine
A multipolar world was replaced by a bipolar one dominated by the two most powerful victors, the United States and Soviet Union, which became known as the superpowers.multipolar bipolarsuperpowers
One of the greatest outcomes of the war was the great world power shift. For more than a century Great Britain had been the wealthiest and most powerful nation in the world. But it used up too many resources in the wars and its status greatly decreased. The fact is that all of the countries, excluding the US, lost much more than what they gained. Britain lost its power, France lost lives and land, Germany lost everything and Japan was totally crushed after the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. So the United States emerged as the greatest world power.
Britain was devastated by the war, having experienced extensive bombing during the 1940 blitz by the Germans. The economy depended for recovery upon aid from the United States. Britain rapidly phased out most of its remaining imperial holdings in the years immediately following the war.
After World War II self-government advanced rapidly in all parts of the empire. In 1947, India was partitioned and independence granted to the new states of India and Pakistan. In 1948 the mandate over Palestine was relinquished, and Burma (Myanmar) gained independence as a republic. Other parts of the empire, notably in Africa, gained independence and subsequently joined the Commonwealth. In 1997 Hong Kong passed to China and, in the opinion of many historians, the British Empire definitively ended.
While the empire may have faded into history, Great Britain still continues to administer many dependencies throughout the world. They include Gibraltar in the Mediterranean; the Falkland Islands, South Georgia, the South Sandwich Islands, and St. Helena (including Ascension and Tristan da Cunha) in the South Atlantic; Anguilla, Bermuda, the British Virgin Islands, the Cayman Islands, Montserrat, and the Turks and Caicos Islands in the West Indies; and Pitcairn Island in the Pacific. These dependencies have varying degrees of self- government.