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2.1 World War Two (In One Take)

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Lesson description

Two decades after the First World War came to a close, Europe erupted into a world war once again. This lesson covers all six years of that conflict, and the run up to it, with one energetic seven-minute musical video and is supported with three packed activities in the Teacher Pack.

This lesson contains:

  • The chronology of World War Two, including the biggest battles, players, and events leading up to its outbreak and during the conflict.
  • A look at international relations and the development of rising tensions between European powers in the lead up to the war.
  • An analysis of the key developments and turning points of World War Two and how important they were to the development of the war.

Fact Sheet

When did World War Two start?

France and Great Britain officially declared war on Germany on 3 September, 1939, two days after Adolf Hitler invaded Poland.


What was the Treaty of Versailles, and how did Hitler defy it?

The Treaty of Versailles was the peace agreement signed in 1919, ending World War One. In this treaty, Germany had to give up land, pay reparations, and limit its armed forces. Germany defied this treaty by invading the Rhineland, Austria and Czechoslovakia, and rearming.


How was Germany able to invade France?

Germany invaded France in just six weeks in 1940 through the military strategy of ‘blitzkrieg’, or ‘lightning war’, which involved rapid, overwhelming attacks.


How did Britain prevent a German invasion?

In July 1940, the German air force – the Luftwaffe – launched a series of air raids over England. The British Royal Air Force and the Fleet Air Arm of the Royal Navy, however, developed an air defence network, allowing them to win the Battle of Britain and preventing a German invasion.

Why did German-USSR relations break down?

In July 1941, Hilter attempted to invade the USSR, in an operation called Operation Barbarossa. German forces attacked Leningrad, Moscow, and Ukraine. Soviet forces were able to overcome their German invaders, which was a massive turning point for the war. This led the USSR to joining the Allied coalition with Britain and the USA.


When did the war end?

The war in Europe came to an end on 8 May, 1945, after six years. The end of the war came about after the success of the D-Day landings, the advancement of Soviet troops from the east and the Allied armies converging on Berlin. The war still continued in Japan, however, until September 1945.



Video Transcript

German OfficerThey are ready for you Mein Fuhrer. They await your truth.
HitlerIt is not truth that matters, but victory.
ChrisTwenty years after World War 1, Optimism would be undone, The fateful Treaty of Versailles, Was all too easily defied.
The depths of the Great Depression, Fuelled German unrest and aggression, And from ‘39 to ‘45,
60 million more would lose their lives.
But how did Europe descend once more, From fragile peace to total war?
How was Germany infected,
By a poisonous leader’s bleak objective? A leader who would instigate,
A regime of terror built on hate, Come with us now as we pursue, The History Bomb of World War Two.
HitlerWe must rise up and take a stand, Bring glory to the Fatherland,
Our children, this Aryan race,
Will save us from our past disgrace.
Cast out the Jews, they make us weak, Guilty for our shameful defeat,
We have suffered so dreadfully,
Let us now secure our destiny!
ChrisHitler seized control of Germany in 1933 and defied the Treaty of Versailles, rearming, marching into the Rhineland and Austria and invading Czechoslovakia.
In August 1939, with tensions rising across Europe, he found an unlikely Russian ally in Joseph...
Hitler...Stalin! May I propose a pact,
Our two great nations should not attack, Fighting together will lay the foundation, For our European domination!
StalinOK, I will take this chance,
And forget an alliance with Britain and France.
HitlerGOOD! To Poland. Let’s attack quickly.
StalinAnd we’ll split the land?
ChrisIn September 1939, Germany and Russia invaded Poland with an agreement to divide the country between themselves. Britain’s Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain, had always aimed to maintain peace with Germany, but this time he could not ignore Hitler’s aggressive intent.
ChamberlainNow with regard to the state of Poland, I can assure you it’s all in hand.
We must stay calm, I am quite sure, Knowing Herr Hitler, he’ll soon withdraw.
AideSir, sorry to butt in,
It’s 11 o’clock, we haven’t heard from Berlin!
ChamberlainGood Lord, we can’t hold back anymore, I have no choice, we are at war.
PresenterAs Britain and France prepared for war, German forces tore through Western Europe, with a new form of highly intensive warfare known as Blitzkrieg. They overran France with devastating speed and by May 1940 the Allies were forced back to the English Channel.
British Soldier 1Now I’d heard about Jerry’s famous Blitzkrieg, But I never thought they’d attack with this speed!
British Soldier 2They’ve pushed us all the way back to the beaches, We’ve dumped our kit, I’m down to my breeches!
British Soldier 1We best keep going, I hope they’ve got some boats, There’s 300,000 Tommies to float!
British Soldier 2Do you ever think we’ll ever return to this section?
British Soldier 1Who knows!? Right now there’s only one direction!
PresenterAgainst the odds 300,000 Allied troops were evacuated at Dunkirk, but they left behind a lot of men and valuable equipment.
With Western Europe overrun, Britain now stood alone and in the summer of 1940. Hitler attempted a knock-out blow to the Royal Air Force to pave the way for a full invasion of Britain.
RAF Pilot 1By Jove! They mean business, this Luftwaffe,
I don’t think we’re far away from disaster!
RAF Pilot 2Yes they’re coming thick and fast,
But our new Spitfires are up to the task!
RAF Pilot 1I do hope you’re right, we must fight at all cost, If the RAF fails, all hope will be lost.
RAF Staff MemberThere’s another squadron over the Channel!
RAF Pilot 2Here we go, don’t amble, SCRAMBLE!
ChrisHitler’s plan to invade Britain was stopped in its tracks as the RAF held firm, much to the delight of Britain’s new Prime Minister...
Churchill...Our Finest Hour.
ChrisGerman bombers continued to pound British cities for months during the Blitz without a breakthrough. Eager for progress, Hitler looked East.
German OfficerMein Fuhrer, we’ve lost another bomber, I fear this Blitz can’t last much longer.
HitlerBlast! In that case we march East! To Russia!
German OfficerStalin’s not going to like this!
ChrisIn June 1941, German forces advanced against Russian troops, who to this point had been on the same side! Then, as if taking on one growing super-power was not enough, in December there was trouble in paradise as US forces in Hawaii came under a surprise Japanese attack.
US Navy 1What in the heck is going on?
These Japanese, they’re just too strong! They’ve taken out the battleships,
And our planes are burnt out on the airstrip!
US Navy 2A sneak attack? They’ve got some nerve, Don’t worry they’ll get what they deserve, They’ve won this battle, but watch out Japan, You’ve just awoken Uncle Sam.
ChrisThe Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour brought the US into the war. This would prove pivotal and in June 1942, the US struck a decisive victory over the Japanese at the Battle of Midway. In October, the Allies would have further success, this time in the Egyptian desert.
Australian SoliderStrewth, this heat is berserk!
This Egyptian sun is even hotter than Perth!
South African SoldierToughen up mate, endure the pain,
Let’s get ready for the battle at El-Alamein!
Australian SoldierThe chances of victory are already slight,
And now they expect us to fight them at night?
South African SoldierJust put your faith in General Montgomery, This is a man who can lead us to victory.
ChrisThe Allies victory at El-Alamein proved a decisive turning point in the North Africa campaign.
Meanwhile on the Eastern Front the Germans were suffering heavy losses in the snows of Stalingrad.
They were short of supplies and the Russians were resolute and determined. Whilst Hitler continued to send divisions East, in June 1944, the Allies launched an ambitious attack in France.
US SoldierHowdy y’all, get out the way,
America’s here to save D-Day!
We got as many troops as you could want, To open up a Second Front.
We’ll flood the beaches with our guys,
And take the Germans by surprise!
Our tanks and guns will never miss.
BritishThey’re never going to let us forget this.
ChrisThe D-Day landings gave the Allies a foothold in Europe from which they pushed forward towards Germany. It wasn’t all plain sailing but after eleven months, on 8 May 1945, Victory in Europe was secured. Whilst Germany surrendered, Japan refused to back down and the US decided to unleash two knock out blows.
US Soldier 2My God, what have we done?
Hiroshima and Nagasaki well, they’re just gone. The nuclear age has been unfurled,
We are become death, destroyer of worlds.
ChrisOn the 15th August 1945,
Japan surrendered to save their lives, The entire world had been transformed, Around this truly global war,
Countless lives in countless lands, Lost so that we might stand,
Together, now the guns have ceased, As nations, side by side, in peace.