•Of the western European countries opposing Germany, only Britain succeeded in avoiding invasion. By October 1939, British men aged between 20 and 41 were required to register and be ready to be 'called up' into the Services.
•The war spread across Europe into Africa, the Middle East, the Far East and the Pacific. In 1941, the USA joined the Allied forces after Japan attacked the US naval base at Pearl Harbor on the island of Oahu in Hawaii. The longest battle of the war – the Battle of the Atlantic – lasted for five years, eight months and five days between 1939 and 1945.
•One of the most significant events of the war was the Holocaust.
•The Second World War was the most destructive conflict in history – it killed more people, damaged more property and cost far more financially than any other war. The total number of casualties is estimated as being between 50 and 70 million people.
•In Britain, the war was described as the 'Phoney War' for the first eight months because there were very few signs of conflict. Civilians who had fled London at the first signs of trouble started drifting back to the capital. Gas masks were distributed as people waited for the 'real war' to begin.
•On 10 May 1940, Winston Churchill replaced Neville Chamberlain as Britain's prime minister. On the same day, Germany – having already occupied Denmark and Norway – invaded France, Belgium and Holland.
•Allied forces retreated from their positions. Between 27 May and 4 June 1940, 226,000 British and 110,000 French troops were rescued from the beaches of Dunkirk by a hastily-assembled fleet of 800 boats. 338,226 soldiers were rescued in the operation, being delivered safely to the UK.
•On 14 June 1940, the German army marched into Paris.
The Battle of Britain
The Battle of Britain, which lasted from July to September 1940, was the first battle ever to be fought entirely in the air. Britain's Royal Air Force (RAF) won a narrow victory over the German air force – the Luftwaffe, causing Germany to postpone plans to invade Britain. The air attack – 'The Blitz' – of Britain's cities continued for the duration of the war, causing around 40,000 civilian deaths and causing damage to important sites of national heritage such as Buckingham Palace and Coventry Cathedral