Key facts of WW2 1939 – 1945

1 September 1939

The leader of Germany (Adolf Hitler) invades Poland. Britain and France declare war on Germany two days later. Before World War 2 had ended most countries in the world had become involved.

January 1940

Rationing starts in the UK

May 1940

340,000 British troops evacuated from Dunkirk on a hastily assembled fleet of over 800 boats arranged by the British Prime Minister Winston Churchill

July – October 1940

British victory in Battle of Britain. This was the 1st battle fought only in the air between German Luftwaffe and Royal Air Force. It forced Hitler to postpone invasion plans of Britain.


Hitler begins the invasion of Russia.


The Blitz (bombing) continues against Britain’s major cities.

December 7 1941

Japan attacks Pearl Harbour, and the US enters the war.

June 1942

American naval victory at Battle of Midway, marks turning point in Pacific War.


Mass murder of Jewish people at Auschwitz begins.

February 1943

German surrender at Stalingrad, Russia marks Germany’s first major defeat.

May 1943

Allied victory in North Africa Campaign enables invasion of Italy to be launched.

January 1944

Allies land in Italy and fight Germans as they advance towards Rome, the capital of Italy, which they capture on 5 June 1944

6 June 1944

D-Day – the start of The Normandy Campaign: The Allied invasion of France. Paris is liberated in August 1944

January 1945

Auschwitz liberated by Soviet troops.

May 1945

Russians reach Berlin: Hitler commits suicide and Germany surrenders on 7 May. World War 2 ended in Europe on 8 May 1945 – this is known as VE Day

2 September 1945

After atomic bombs are dropped on cities in Japan (Hiroshima and Nagasaki) Japan surrenders on 2 September 1945 – this is known as VJ Day