By Lorenzo Hernández and Belén Leiva



Timeline

War is declared: September 1939
Phoney war: September 1939 to April 1940
Dunkirk: 26 May–4 June 1940
Battle of Britain: June 1940
The Blitz: September 7, 1940 - May 11, 1941
VE Day: 8 May 1945

War is declared: September 1939


On September 1, 1939 German troops swarmed across the Polish border and unleashed the first Blitzkrieg the world had seen. Hitler had been planning his attack since March - ever since German troops occupied the remainder of Czechoslovakia. The Poles suspected as much and readied their defenses. Unfortunately, the Poles based their defensive strategy on the experiences of World War I. Mobility was crucial - mobility provided by cavalry troops the Poles considered the best in the world. Indeed, their horsemen were probably the world's best - but horses offered little defense against tanks.
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Blitzkrieg (a German word that means "lightning war") is a method of warfare whereby an attacking force spearheaded by a dense concentration of armoured and motorised or mechanised infantry formations with close air support, breaks through the opponent's line of defence by short, fast, powerful attacks and then dislocates the defenders, using speed and surprise to encircle them.

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View of the entrance to a marketplace reduced to rubble as a result of a German aerial attack. Warsaw, Poland, September 1939.

Britain and France had sworn to defend Poland. Honoring these obligations, the two countries sent ultimatums to Hitler demanding his withdrawal from Poland. Hitler declined to respond. On September 3, Prime Minister Chamberlain went to the airwaves to announce to the British people that a state of war existed between their country and Germany. World War II had begun.

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Neville Chamberlain broadcast the news to the nation at 11.15 A.M, on September 3. One part of the transcript of Neville Chamberlain's Declaration of war: “I have to tell you now that no such undertaking has been received, and that consequently this country is at war with Germany”.

Testimonies

David Jacobs
“I was alone, listening to the thin, sad voice of Mr Chamberlain”. “And I was guiltily conscious that my heart was leaping with joy because I was destined to be a farmer."

Phoney war: September 1939 to April 1940


Phoney War is the name given to the period of time in World War Two from September 1939 to April 1940 when, after the blitzkrieg attack on Poland in September 1939, seemingly nothing happened. Many in Great Britain expected a major calamity – but the title ‘Phoney War’ summarises what happened in Western Europe – near enough nothing. In Western Europe very little of military importance did take place. In fact, so little occurred that many of the children who had been evacuated at the start of the war returned to their families. To many, war had been declared by Neville Chamberlain but nothing was actually happening.



There followed seven months of what became known as the ‘Phoney War’, during which the two sides in the West glared at one another across the Siegfried and Maginot Lines, the latter a 280-mile-long defensive fortification that ran along the entire length of the Franco-German border and which had the reputation of being impregnable. London and Paris were not bombed for the moment, and some deluded souls even believed that it might be possible to re-start peace negotiations with Hitler.

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Both, the Siegfried and Maginot Lines, refer to a national defence system. They are, respectively, German and French. The principal difference between the two is that the former was erected in France by the Germans in World War I; the latter by the French between 1929 and 1934 on their own eastern frontier.

‘One thing is certain,’ the prime minister Neville Chamberlain said of Hitler on 4 April 1940, speaking to an audience in Central Hall, Westminster, ‘he missed the bus.’ Only five days later he was proved catastrophically wrong when Germany successfully invaded Denmark and Norway. The Allied defeat in Norway brought Chamberlain down after a highly-charged two-day debate in the House of Commons, at the end of which 41 MPs who usually supported his Government voted against it, and dozens more abstained.

On Friday 10 May 1940 Chamberlain was replaced by Winston Churchill , who wrote afterwards that he was conscious “of a profound sense of relief”.

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Friday 10 May 1940 was one of the most dramatic days in British history. The government was in disarray as Winston Churchill became PM and, on the continent, Germany ended the Phoney War by invading the Low Countries. Photo: Churchill leaving Downing St with Sir Kingsley Wood and Anthony Eden.

Testimonies

David Jacobs
"The sirens were sounding the false alert that marked the opening of the phoney war. And I was guilty conscious that my heart was leaping for joy because I was destined to be a farmer".

Dunkirk: 26 May–4 June 1940


The Battle of Dunkirk was an important battle that took place in Dunkirk, France, during the Second World War between the Allies and Germany. As part of the Battle of France on the Western Front, the Battle of Dunkirk was the defence and evacuation of British and allied forces in Europe from 26 May to 4 June 1940.

Dunkirk, and the evacuation associated with the troops trapped on Dunkirk, was called a “miracle” by Winston Churchill. As the Wehrmacht swept through western Europe in the spring of 1940, using Blitzkrieg, both the French and British armies could not stop the onslaught. For the people in western Europe, World War Two was about to start for real. The “Phoney War” was now over.

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The Wehrmacht was the unified armed forces of Nazi Germany from 1935 to 1946. It consisted of the Heer (army), the Kriegsmarine (navy) and the Luftwaffe (air force).

The advancing German Army trapped the British and French armies on the beaches around Dunkirk. 330,000 men were trapped here and they were a sitting target for the Germans. Admiral Ramsey, based in Dover, formulated Operation Dynamo to get off of the beaches as many men as was possible. The British troops, led by Lord John Gort, were professional soldiers from the British Expeditionary Force; trained men that we could not afford to lose. From May 26th 1940, small ships transferred soldiers to larger ones which then brought them back to a port in southern Britain.

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Dunkirk evacuation: Operation Dynamo. Small ships including pleasure craft were used to evacuate allied troops from Dunkirk.

The London Blitz


The appearance of German bombers in the skies over London during the afternoon of September 7, 1940 heralded a tactical shift in Hitler's attempt to subdue Great Britain. During the previous two months, the Luftwaffe had targeted RAF airfields and radar stations for destruction in preparation for the German invasion of the island. With invasion plans put on hold and eventually scrapped, Hitler turned his attention to destroying London in an attempt to demoralize the population and force the British to come to terms. At around 4:00 PM on that September day, 348 German bombers escorted by 617 fighters
blasted London until 6:00 PM.


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Two hours later, guided by the fires set by the first assault, a second group of raiders commenced another attack that lasted until 4:30 the
following morning.

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This was the beginning of the Blitz - a period of intense bombing of London and other cities that continued until the following May. For the next consecutive 57 days, London was bombed either during the day or night. Fires consumed many portions of the city. Residents sought shelter wherever they could find it - many fleeing to the Underground stations that sheltered as many as 177,000 people during the night. In the worst single incident, 450 were killed when a bomb destroyed a school being used as an air raid shelter. Londoners and the world were introduced to a new weapon of terror and destruction in the arsenal of twentieth century warfare. The Blitz ended on May 11, 1941, when Hitler called off the raids in order to move his bombers east in preparation for Germany's invasion of Russia.

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Air raid sirens
Air raid sirens were placed on the top of tall buildings - often police stations or similar - or on the top of poles if no suitable building could be found.
In cities the sirens were powered electrically and produced two signals.
The first was the warning - a rising and falling signal, created by varying the power to the siren.
The second was the all clear - a single, continuous note. After it was confirmed the skies were clear of enemy aircraft the 'all clear' would sound. It brought relief to countless thousands as they made their way wearily out of shelters to resume daily life.
LISTEN TO AN AIR RAID SIREN HERE
LISTEN TO THE ALL CLEAR SIREN HERE

The Battle of Britain


The Battle of Britain:The Battle of Britainis the name given to the Second World War defence of the United Kingdom by the Royal Air Force (RAF) against an onslaught by the German Air Force (Luftwaffe) which began at the end of June 1940. (Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Britain)

By mid-September 1940, the Battle of Britain had been lost by the Germans. This was the first setback Hitler had received during World War Two. The Blitz on British cities – night-time raids as opposed to daytime to enhance the fear factor – was Hitler’s attempt to destroy Britain’s morale. The attacks started on September 7th 1940 and continued to May 1941.
“The Blitz and World War Two” The History Learning Site

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RAF: is the United Kingdom's aerial warfare force. Here for more information: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Royal_Air_Force
He saw 'dog-fights' taking place over head, planes being shot out of the sky and airmen dangling on the ends of their parachute lines hoping to land safely. Many didn't. The night that the luftwalffe came over in waves, and set the thames on fire, the woods on the top of the

downs behind us were set alight. All the able bodied adults and what fireman could be spared, set to and saved the woods from total destruction.

Luftwaffe:was the aerial warfare branch of the German Wehrmacht during World War II.

Dog-fight: is an aerial battle between fighter aircraft, conducted at close range. (Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dogfight)

DAVID JACOBS

He learned that war had been declared one Sunday morning, sitting beside an old battery wireless. “I was alone, listening to the thin, sad voice of Mr Chamberlain”. “And I was guiltily conscious that my heart was leaping with joy because I was destined to be a farmer."

Testimonies


TONY FAWCET

"The Battle of Britain I will never forget, as it took place above my head."

"The Bull Inn at Wrotham was the mess for the RAF officer stationed at Mailling Aerodrome. It was to here that German airmen were taken after being shotdown. We used to watch over the church wall to see if we could see any of the enemy. All schoolboys could indentify all the aircraft. There was always a race to get to the scene of a crashed plane, to see what souvenirs could be had. But somehow it always seemed that a big RAF man with arifle fot there first."


AN ANONYMOUS CONTRIBUTION

"'We had all slept together in the Morrison shelter in London, me at the top with my small brother and sister at the bottom."


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Morrison Shelters were a way of protecting people from in their own homes from falling bombs. This was an alternative to the Anderson Shelter in the garden and the public shelters.
This type of protection was named after the Home Secretary, Herbert Morrison. The shelters were made of very heavy steel (almost like a cage) and could be put in the living room and used as a table. One wire side lifted up for people to crawl underneath and get inside. Morrison shelters were quite large two or three people could sleep in them.

DYMPHNA PORTER



The early months of 1940 passed by without any invasion or air raids and her mother said they could return to London. They were all overjoyed. She was looking forward to going back to Old Oak School again but school could only be in half day sessions, so she spent much of her free time in the local library, reading and writing projects.

In September she experienced her first real air raids. In the small garden of her house they had an Anderson shelter, half under ground.

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The Anderson shelters were buried over 1 metre in the ground and then they were covered over with a thick layer of soil and turf. Anderson shelters were free to those with an annual income of less than £250. For those who didn’t fall into this category, the price was £7.

MICHAEL WARD

"Then I went home for the blitz. In 1944, I lived on through the V1 raids."

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"In 1944 the first V2 rockets fell."

V2 Rockets
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HARRY COLE

He was 10 years old in October 1940 when the blitz peaked in London. Each morning, he used to meet his friends Rosie and Charlie to discuss the previous night’s bombing.
They felt lucky to live in London and not in “Random” because every night that unfortunate and unknown town was targeted by bombs.
Every day on the radio the newscaster used to say that bombs were dropped ‘at random’ and the children thought that ‘ramdom’ was a city.
On the same night that his father and his relatives decided that the women and children should leave London for the country they experienced the worst attack.

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“It certainly seemed like Dad had a direct line to Hitler”, he said.

That night his Uncle George, Aunt Nell and six year-old cousin Georgie-boy came to their place because their flat had been blasted out. But then it was their turn, his tenement was bombed too, the building began to disintegrate. Noise was followed by great clouds of dust, they had to find their way through the pitch black towards the door.

LORNA PYKE

My uncle and aunt, who lived in Putney, had two small girls who were evacuated with their school to Cattistock in Dorset.

A bomb dropped right next door to them. Everyone in that house was killed, and my aunt and uncle, next door, found themselves suspended over the space of what had been their home. They were homeless, and had lost everything, but at least they knew that their little girlsweresafe, and that they were right to have had them evacuated.

MARJORIE WALKER

Growing up during the war, I saw things happen that no children had ever seen before. We didn’t realise what was happening. Now I would be terrified, but then it was just something different. I recommend you this website, where you will find interesting information about the Air Raids and The Blitz:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/schools/primaryhistory/world_war2/air_raids


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EILEEN WOODS

One night Eileen's mother saw a plane come down in the woods of their field. She went to look for survivors, she also phoned to report it. Soon they were visited by lot's of VIPs and "top bass". It turned out that we had had one of the very first "Doodle Bugs" and it had missed their home by just a couple of hundreds yards.
"On another ocassion, the vicar called on us and asked if my mother would attend the funeral of a German airman who had been killed in the locality.Eileen's mother was a little reluctant as he was an enemy but as he was Christian she accepted.” He had a simple white wooden croos on his grave and Eileen used to put flowers on it from time to time.
A local lady was tragically killed in action because she had joined the ATS. Eileen remebers her funeral with masses of flowers on her grave. Her grave now has a headstone engravedand with her regimental company and ATS insignia.

VE Day: 8 May 1945


May 8th 1945, historical named VE Day that means Victory in Europe Day, was the date the Allies celebrated the defeat of Nazi Germany and the end of Adolf Hitler's Reich, formally recognising the end of the Second World War in Europe.
The Allies had begun to overrun Germany from the west during April as Russian forces advanced from the east. On 25th April 1945, Allied and Soviet forces met at the Elbe River, the German Army was all but destroyed.
Five days later, Hitler killed his dog, his new wife Eva and then committed suicide in his Berlin bunker. His successor, Admiral Karl Doenitz, sent General Alfred Jodl to General Dwight Eisenhower's Supreme Allied Headquarters in Rheims to seek terms for an end to the war. At 2:41 a.m. on 7th May, General Jodl signed the unconditional surrender of German forces, which was to take effect from 8th May at 11:01 p.m.
After six years and millions of lives lost, the Nazi scourge was crushed and the war in Europe was finally over.


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It was on this date that great celebrations took place across Europe and North America: in London over a million people celebrated the end of the European war. Crowds massed in Trafalgar Square and up the Mall to Buckingham Palace, where King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, accompanied by the Prime Minister Winston Churchill, appeared on the balcony of the Palace to cheering crowds.



Testimonies

Dymphna Porter
"On May 8th 1945 I heard the church bells ring for the first time. The war was over and we could go home. The whole village prepared a big party. It was one of the happiest days of my life".

Sources:

http://www.eyewitnesstohistory.com/vocham.htm
http://news.bbc.co.uk/onthisday/hi/dates/stories/september/3/newsid_3493000/3493279.stm
https://www.wikiwand.com/en/Blitzkrieg
http://www.bbc.co.uk/archive/ww2outbreak/7957.shtml?page=txt
https://www.ushmm.org/
http://www.historylearningsite.co.uk/world-war-two/world-war-two-in-western-europe/the-phoney-war/
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/history/britain-at-war/3153329/Britain-at-War-The-Phoney-War-and-the-Fall-of-France.html
http://general-history.com/the-siegfried-and-maginot-lines-similarities-and-differences/
http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/events/churchill_becomes_prime_minister
www.germaniainternational.com
http://www.historic-uk.com
www.gov.uk
www.express.co.uk
www.dailymail.co.uk