On 3/9/1939, Britain and the Commonwealth declared war on Germany.
It was a Sunday and whole families gathered around the radio to hear the news, which was announced at 11:15am. The war, which lasted until 1945, saw blackouts, bomb shelters, rationing, mass evacuation and the loss of many lives. More
Many children's lives were changed completely.
Some were evacuated from the cities to small towns or villages, often many miles away from their homes. Others stayed with their families through the Blitz (bombing), or, if they lived in the countryside, had evacuees from other families staying in their houses. More
The evacuation saved thousands of lives.
By the end of the war, about 3.5 million people had been evacuated, mainly children. No one was forced to go, but parents were told that their children would be safer from German bombs if they moved to the country. More
German U-boats sank many merchant ships, causing shortages.
Before the war, Britain imported large amounts of food to feed her people, who lived mostly in towns and cities. From the very start of the war, British shipping was attacked by German U-boats and aircraft. Many ships were lost until, gradually, the British warships learnt how to beat the U-boats. More
Petrol, clothes and many food items were rationed.
People had to 'make do'. Queuing became a normal part of life. A million British women lined up every day for their groceries. Where possible, people still saved any little treats they could for occasions such as Christmas, which had a special meaning with loved ones away. Sometimes, they also used the 'black market'.
In October 1939, a new campaign 'Dig for Victory' was announced
With so little food available, the Government wanted Britain to become more 'self-sufficient'. It became one of the great wartime slogans. Flowerbeds and parks were dug up to plant potatoes, carrots and other vegetables. More
Women were out of the home doing 'war work'.
Even more than in the First World War, women worked to help the war effort - in factories, on the land, in hospitals and in the services. Until then, most women had been mothers and housewives, and that's what they were to be again after the war. More
In 1940, many people feared that Germany would soon invade Britain.
All through the war, people kept up to date by listening to the radio. During 1940, they followed the German invasion of the Low Countries (Holland and Belgium), the evacuation of British and Allied forces from the beaches of Dunkirk and the Fall of France. At this point, morale was perhaps at its lowest. More
A 'Home Guard’ was formed to defend the British coastline.
The Home Guard was made up of volunteers. Their job was to delay any enemy forces that landed, until the regular army could form a front line to fight the enemy invasion and turn it back. More
National security was important, everyone carried an identity card.
This included children. The identity (ID) card included a unique National registration number that was assigned to the holder, as well as their name and address. More
The Battle of Britain saw the war being fought in the skies.
During the summer and autumn of 1940, the German Air Force (Luftwaffe) tried to defeat the Royal Air Force in the air. Nazi Germany's aims were to destroy Britain's air defence or to force Britain out of the war by bombing civilians and making Britain surrender. The fact that they failed was an important turning point in the war. More
In the years 1940 and 1941, the Blitz saw British cities heavily bombed.
The main bombing raids on London and other big cities took place between the summer of 1940 through to the summer of 1941. This period was known as the Blitz. There were far less bombing attacks after that. However, in 1944 and 1945, new kinds of attacks came about, when the Germans launched V1 and V2 rockets. More
Air raid shelters saved thousands of lives.
During the air raids, people hurried to bomb shelters they had built in gardens, or hid under strong tables in their basements or, if they lived nearby, went down into underground stations. More
In 1941 the Soviet Union and the USA entered the war.
In the summer of 1941, the Soviet Union was invaded by Germany and, in December 1941, the US entered the war, after the attack on their naval base at Pearl Harbour, Hawaii, by the Japanese. A few days after the attack, Hitler declared war on the US. More
Many Americans were stationed at air bases across Britain.
In January 1943, the UK and USA decided to work together to bomb Germany and disable its economy. Conditions in Britain were harsh and the American GIs, who seemed to have lots of luxuries, such as nylon stockings and cigarettes, proved popular with British women. There were thousands of marriages between US servicemen and British women. More
The war in Europe finally came to an end in May 1945.
On 6th June 1944 (known as D-Day), British, Commonwealth and American armies invaded Normandy. They pushed the German armies back until, at last, they invaded Germany itself. Meanwhile, the Soviet Army had been pushing the Germans back from the East and, in April 1945, the two sets of Allied armies met in central Germany. More
World War 2 did not end with Victory in Europe.
Many families in Britain, and across the Commonwealth, were still waiting for news of loved ones who were fighting in Burma and the Far East, or had become prisoners of war after the fall of Singapore to the Japanese in 1942. This conflict became known as 'The Forgotten War'. More
World War 2 saw the first use of atomic weapons in warfare.
Bombing had played an important part in the war against Germany, and American military leaders used the same tactics on Japan. Air raids from May 1945 destroyed vast areas of urban Japan. Then, in August 1945, atomic bombs were dropped on the towns of Hiroshmo and Nagasaki. Shortly afterwards, Japan surrendered. More
People took to the streets to celebrate the peace.
With the announcement of VE-Day (Victory in Europe) on 7/8th May 1945, and VJ-Day (Victory over Japan) on 15th August 1945, people celebrated. However, for many, life could never return to normal. Thousands had lost loved ones and even things such as food rationing continued until the 1950s. By this time, for many children, it had become a way of life. More