Hitler’s forces invade Poland. Their reign of terror was to claim 6 million victims.
1st September 1939
Britain and France declare war on Germany. Two weeks later Russia invades Eastern Poland, murdering the army officers and deporting tens of thousands to Siberia.
3rd September 1939
Hitler’s forces invade neutral Holland and Belgium and attack northern France. Overwhelmed by the ‘Blitzkrieg’, the Low Countries surrender within days.
10th May 1940
The British Expeditionary Force and the French Army, in danger of being cut off, retreat to Dunkirk. Over nine days, 340,000 troops are evacuated to Britain by warships and the ‘little ships’ of civilians.
27th May 1940
Mussolini’s Italy joins the war on the side of the Axis Powers.
10th June 1940
France surrenders to Germany. Hitler turns his attention to Britain, but the Nazis need air superiority before they can attempt to cross the Channel.
22nd June 1940
The ‘Battle of Britain’ begins with Luftwaffe attacks on British shipping, airfields and aircraft factories. By the end of the summer, having failed to eliminate the Spitfires and Hurricanes, the Germans switch to night bombing.
10th July 1940
‘Black Saturday’ – the start of the London Blitz. The capital is bombed for the next 57 nights with high explosive and incendiary bombs.
7th September 1940
The Luftwaffe also begins bombing other cities, starting with Coventry. That night most of the city centre is destroyed and 568 people are killed. The bombing can be clearly heard in Warwick.
14th November 1940
Hitler attacks Russia, but the German advance is stopped before it can reach Moscow or Leningrad.
22nd June 1941
Japanese aircraft attack the US Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbour. America declares war on Japan and Hitler declares war on the USA.
7th December 1941
Singapore falls to the Japanese with thousands of military and civilian prisoners taken.
15th February 1942
After capturing Hong Kong, Malaya, The Philippines and the Dutch East Indies, the Japanese confront the US fleet at the Battle of Medway and are heavily defeated.
4th June 1942
Montgomery’s forces launch an offensive against Rommel at El Alamein. Six months later final victory in North Africa is achieved.
23rd October 1942
In Russia, Hitler’s forces surrender at Stalingrad. 91,000 German troops go into captivity; fewer than 6,000 are to return home.
31st January 1943
D-Day. ‘Operation Overlord’. British, American and Canadian troops invade northern France.
6th June 1944
Following V2 rocket attacks and German submarine attacks, Dresden is attacked by 1,200 bombers to convince Hitler the war was lost. The firestorm kills an estimated 35,000 people.
13th February 1945
The Belsen Concentration and Extermination camp is liberated by British troops, enabling the world to see without doubt what the Nazis had been doing.
15th April 1945
Adolf Hitler commits suicide in his Berlin bunker, surrounded by advancing troops.
30th April 1945
Montgomery accepts the surrender of the German Army in Europe at Luneburg Heath.
4th May 1945
VE Day – the unconditional surrender of all German forces in Europe.
8th May 1945
The Americans drop the atomic bomb ‘Little Boy’ on Hiroshima. Three days later, a second bomb, ‘Fat Man’, is dropped on Nagasaki. About 160,000 people are killed.
6th August 1945
VJ Day – the world is told that Japan has surrendered bringing the war to an end. WW2 had lasted six years and one day. An estimated 75 million people had died in the war.