Primary History

World War 2: The war ends

  • The last battles

    6 June 1944 was D-Day, when Allied forces landed in Normandy (France) to begin the liberation of western Europe. Everyone hoped the war would soon be over. However, there were many fierce battles in Europe and in the Pacific war with Japan before the fighting stopped in 1945.

    Life was very hard for children in the countries where the last battles were fought. Towns were bombed day and night. Railways and roads were blown up. There was fighting in villages and city streets. There was so little fuel or food that millions of people were cold and starving. Many people became homeless refugees.

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  • Victory parties

    On 8 May 1945 people celebrated VE Day (Victory in Europe Day). Crowds packed the streets, cheering, singing and dancing. Children joined in the fun, waving flags, dressing up and making party hats. There were fireworks and bonfires, speeches and Church services, parades and street parties.

    The wartime government, led by Winston Churchill, had done its job. There was a general election in July 1945, and it was won by the Labour Party. Clement Attlee became Britain's new prime minister.

    In August 1945 Japan stopped fighting. On 2 September, the Allies officially celebrated VJ Day (Victory in Japan Day). World War 2 was over.

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  • Families reunited

    Soldiers, sailors and airmen came home: over 100,000 every month. Men and women swapped uniforms for 'civvy' (civilian) clothes. Also coming home were thousands of prisoners of war or POWs. Some had been prisoners for 5 years.

    People had got used to war. Now they had to get used to peace. Families were together again, but life was not easy. Many homes had been destroyed in air raids. Some homeless families moved into 'prefabs' - concrete bungalows built in factories for quick assembly. Many children found it strange getting to know again a father who'd been away for years. Not all families got back together happily.

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  • Refugees

    World War 2 left millions of people homeless as refugees. Some had escaped from the Nazis before the war. Others had been driven from their homes by fighting. In Europe there were more than 12 million refugees, or 'displaced persons', including millions of Germans. There were people seeking missing relatives, and many children without parents.

    The Allies set up the United Nations to keep the peace. One of its most urgent tasks in 1945 was to help refugees return to their homes or find new ones.

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Fun Facts
  • More than 100,000 British 'GI brides' married American or Canadian soldiers and went to live in North America.

  • In January 1946 the first shipload of bananas after the war landed in Britain.

  • In 1946 planes began using London's new airport, Heathrow.

  • The first Biro ballpoint pen appeared in 1946. During the war, people wrote with fountain pens or pencils. In school many children used wooden pens with metal nibs, dipped in ink.

  • TV programmes began again in Britain in June 1946, but still hardly anyone had a TV set.

  • Britain celebrated VJ Day twice: on 15 August and 2 September 1945.

  • In November 1945 a British Meteor jet plane flew at a record speed of 606 mph.

  • The first all-electronic computer was ENIAC (1946). It could add up 1000 times quicker than a wartime mechanical adding machine.

  • The BBC published a special issue of Radio Times, with Victory Programmes, in May 1945. One favourite was a Sherlock Holmes radio play.

  • People laughed at postcards making fun of Hitler. One had a picture of him; in the dark, it changed into a glowing skeleton!

  • Soldiers came home and amused their families with Army slang, joking about 'bubble dancing' for 'washing up'.

  • People bought red, white and blue 'Victory cord' to make VE Day decorations.

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Jump to: A-D | E-G | H-L | M-O | P-S | T-Z

A to D

air raid
An attack by planes dropping bombs.
air raid drill
Practice for what to do in air raid, such as going to the shelter.
air raid shelter
A building to protect people from bombs.
Allies
Countries (including Britain, France, the Soviet Union and the USA) who joined forces to fight the Axis Powers.
allotment
Small plot of land for growing vegetables.
atomic bomb
Weapon first used in 1945 when two bombs were dropped on Japan, killing more than 100,000 people.
Axis Powers
Germany, Japan, Italy and other countries that were allies in World War 2.
blackout
Wartime ban on street lights and other lights at night.
Blitz
German air raids, from a German word 'blitzkrieg' which means 'lightning war'.
British Empire
Countries ruled by Britain.
censorship
Controlling what people say or write.
civilians
People not in the armed forces.
Civil Defence
A network of civilian volunteers who assisted in the war effort by helping in air raids and rescuing people from bombed buildings.
Commonwealth
Group of friendly countries almost all of which were once part of the British Empire.
concentration camp
Prison where Jews and other prisoners were kept by the Nazis.
coupons
Slip of paper marked or torn out of a ration book.
D-Day
6 June 1944, the date Allied forces landed in Normandy, France.
department store
Large shop selling different things in different departments.

E to G

evacuee
Someone who was evacuated, moved from a danger area to a safer place.
factories
Places where things are made.
Forces
The Army, Royal Air Force, Royal Navy and other services.
Frank,Anne (1929-1945)
A German Jewish girl who spent two years hiding from the Nazis in a house in Holland. Her wartime diary was published after the war.
gas mask
Face mask to protect people against poison gas.
general election
Vote to choose Members of Parliament, and a new government.
gramophone
Machine for playing music records.

H to L

Hitler,Adolf (1929-1945)
Leader of Nazi Germany.
Holocaust
Mass murder of Jews and other people by the Nazis.
host family
People who took in evacuees to live with them.
invaded
Attacked and taken over by an enemy.
Jews
People who follow the religion of Judaism.
liberate
To free from an enemy's control.

M to O

military uniform
Clothing worn by soldiers, sailors and airmen.
To do with the navy or warships.
A fight between ships at sea.
Nazi
Short for National Socialist Party (in Germany), a follower of Hitler was also called a Nazi.
occupied
Taken over by enemy forces.

P to S

prime minister
Leader of the government of Britain.
prisoners of war
Soldiers captured by the other side.
propoganda
Controlling news media (such as radio) to show your side in the best way.
rationing
Controlling the supply of food, clothes, petrol and other things.
refugee
A person forced to leave their home, often by war.
register
A list of names. In WW2 people had to register with shops before they could use their ration books there.
Resistance
Fighting back in an occupied country, for example by refusing to help the enemy.
scrap metal
Waste metal such as old cooking pans.
siren
Machine that made a wailing noise as a warning when enemy planes were seen.
slogan
A catchy phrase or saying.
Soviet Union
Country made up of Russia and other states that are now independent.
steam train
A train pulled by a locomotive burning coal.
stirrup pump
Small hand pump for squirting water to put out fires.

T to Z

telegram
A short message sent by phone, then printed out and delivered.
Underground
London's Tube rail system.
United Nations
Organization set up in 1945 by the Allies to work for world peace.
Vegetarians
People who don't eat meat.
war crime
Mass murder or cruel treatment of people during a war.
washboard
Wooden board with ridges, for scrubbing dirty clothes on.