Britain in World War II

Contributor: Suzanne Riordan. Lesson ID: 13290

The most destructive war in history was won not only by the military, but by everyone at home! How did Britain help win the war? How did women fill in for the men? And why were the kids sent away?

categories

World

subject
History
learning style
Auditory, Kinesthetic, Visual
personality style
Beaver, Golden Retriever
Grade Level
Middle School (6-8)
Lesson Type
Dig Deeper

Lesson Plan - Get It!

Audio:
  • Did you know that during World War II, many British children had to leave their parents and go live with strangers?

To keep them safe from the bombing in World War II, thousands of children were sent to safer locations in the countryside until the danger was over.

This scene from the movie The Lion, the Witch, and Wardrobe shows how one family said goodbye during this difficult time.

Narnia Train Station and Leaving London from Gryphon Realm:

For almost six years, Britain fought in the most destructive war in history. At home, everyone was called on to help in the war effort.

World War II started on September 1, 1939 and ended on September 2, 1945.

It was a global war, involving nearly every country in the world!

map of WWII participants

Image by Pharexia, via Wikimedia Commons, is licensed under the CC BY-SA 4.0 license.

As you can see in the image above, the war was between two groups of allied countries called The Allies (green) and the Axis Powers (blue).

The Allies

  • Britain and other countries that were part of its empire such as Australia, Canada, and India
  • France
  • Poland
  • United States (joined in 1941)
  • Russia (joined in 1941)
  • China
  • and others

The Axis Powers

  • Germany
  • Italy
  • Japan
  • and others

Causes

Let's look at why and how this war got started.

What Caused World War Two? in 90 Seconds from History Vids:

While Germany was trying to take over Europe, Japan wanted control of a large area of the Pacific. Emperor Hirohito of Japan attacked China before the European conflict even began (in 1937).

So World War II was fought on many different fronts throughout the world.

In this lesson, we'll get an overview of the whole war, and then focus specifically on Britain's involvement.

Overview

Watch the following video for a brief introduction. Have some paper and a pen or pencil handy, and take notes on the facts that involve Britain.

A Brief Overview of World War II from Simple History:

Appeasement

At first, the British government did not want to get involved in another war. Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain worked for appeasement, meaning he wanted to give some territory to Germany in exchange for peace.

Horrible Histories shows how well this idea worked (or not!) in Best of Winston Churchill | Compilation | Horrible Histories:

As you saw in the video, Chamberlain's idea for appeasement didn't work very well, and Winston Churchill took over as Prime Minister. He remained so for the rest of the war.

Winston Churchill

Churchill, 1941

Image by Yousuf Karsh, via Wikimedia Commons, is in the public domain.

Churchill was a strong and inspiring leader. He urged the British people to fight hard and never give up.

Listen to Churchill's most famous speech, made to the House of Commons on June 4, 1940.

Winston Churchill Speech We Shall Fight On The Beaches from Jamie McClenaghan:

Churchill also made alliances with Russia and the U.S., which helped to win the war.

Dunkirk

In the beginning of the war, things looked pretty bad for the Allies. In fact, many Allied troops got stuck in France, surrounded by Germans, with no escape in sight!

Remember Dunkirk: Timeline of a Miracle, from World of Tanks North America, tells the story of their dramatic escape:

Battle of Britain

Supermarine Spitfire

From July to September of 1940, the German air force, called the Luftwaffe, flew over England dropping bombs on major cities. The RAF (Royal Air Force) took to the air and defended their country.

In the end, the RAF defeated the mighty Luftwaffe. This conflict is called the Battle of Britain.

Hitler's plan was to knock out the RAF and then invade Britain, but he was not able to accomplish the first step. It was the first-ever battle that was entirely in the air--no ground forces invaded England at all during the war.

Battle of Britain in 90 Seconds from History Vids:

Horrible Histories celebrates the The RAF in Horrible Histories song - RAF Pilot Song - CBBC from CBBC:

As you heard in the song, the British fighting force was composed not just of Britons, but of people from many different countries. This war poster shows some of the different peoples and nationalities that fought for Britain:

Together, 1939

Image, via Wikimedia Commons, is in the public domain.

D-Day

On June 6, 1944, the Allies launched an attack on German-controlled France. It was the biggest sea invasion of all time: 150,000 men. It happened on five beaches nicknamed Utah, Omaha, Gold, Sword, and Juno.

Let's meet one of those British invaders, a Scotsman called Bill Millin. Amazingly, he didn't carry a gun but a bagpipe!

D Day; the commando piper from Grid ClubVideos:

The D-Day invasion was successful, and the Allies were able to drive the Germans out of France.

  • What was happening at home while all this was going on?

Home Guard

home guard armband

The men who didn't go to fight in the war helped to keep guard at home in Britain. They didn't have a lot to work with, though, as Horrible Histories shows us in this funny video.

Horrible Histories World War Two Homeguard -HD 1080p from Sarah Brown:

Home-Front

As you watch this public service announcement, list eight things the people on the home-front were asked to do.

Are We Doing Everything We Can? Home Front WWII - 1940 from British Movietone:

  • What did the women do while the men were off fighting the war?

They took over men's work!

Women in World War II from Studies Weekly:

Although Rosie the Riveter was a term used in the United States, British women also did similar work in factories.

And they took over the work in the fields and forests. Lumberjills cut down trees, and the Women's Land Army took care of the farms.

Getting Dressed in WW2 - Women's Land Army from CrowsEyeProductions:

End of the War

In 1945, the Allies invaded Germany. They had already freed France, and now they forced the Germans to surrender.

The War in Europe ended on May 8, 1945. This is known as VE Day (Victory in Europe Day).

Churchill celebrating VE Day

Image by Major W.G. Horton, via Wikimedia Commons, is in the public domain.

Watch how the Allies celebrated in WWII in HD - VE Day from The Dork Knight:

As U.S. President Truman said, fighting continued in the Pacific. The Japanese did not surrender until the U.S. dropped atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

They finally surrendered on September 2, 1945. This is known as VJ Day (Victory in Japan Day).

VJ Day from Studies Weekly:

Wow! You've learned a lot about Britain in World War II.

Move on to the Got It? section to see how much you remember!

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