The 2nd World War or WW2 began on the 1st September 1939 and is generally accepted to have ended on Armistice Day 14th August 1945, rather than the formal surrender of Japan on 2nd September 1945. It was fought between the Axis Powers of Germany, Italy and Japan and the Allied Powers of Great Britain, The United States of America, France and the Soviet Union. The 2nd World War was regarded in some respects as a continuation of disputes left unsettled, at the end of WW1. The 2nd World War ranks as the deadliest war ever, with approximately 70 million people killed. Historians would list the principle causes of the war to the rise in power of Adolf Hitler’s Nazi party in 1933, and its aggressive foreign policy. Secondary causes are regarded as the rise of Italian Fascism in the 1920s, and Japanese militarism preceding its invasion of China in the 1930s.
Political attempts to resolve the escalating moves towards war were many, one of which was The Munich Agreement or ‘Munich Betrayal‘ as it became known. It was an agreement concluded on 30th September 1938 by Nazi Germany, the United Kingdom, the French Third Republic, and the Kingdom of Italy. It provided “cession to Germany’ of the Sudeten German territory, known as Czechoslovakia.
Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain’s return from the Munich on the 30th September 1938 to Heston Aerodrome and his claim of ‘Peace for our Time’ was not universally well received, but it did buy the time to prepare for war.
By the early part of 1939 Adolf Hitler was determined to invade, and occupy Poland. Meanwhile, under a temporary agreement the French and British military had undertaken to support Poland should Germany attack.
Hitler for his part needed to avoid the possibility that the Soviet Union would resist an invasion, of its western neighbour. Secret negotiations in August 1939 led to the signing of a Non-aggression pact between Germany, and the Soviet Union. In a secret protocol of that pact the Germans and Soviets agreed to sub-divide Poland between them, with the western 1/3rd of the country going to Germany and the rest going to the U.S.S.R.
Having achieved this agreement Hitler now thought Germany could attack Poland without Soviet or British intervention, and gave orders for the invasion to start on 26th August 1939. But news of the signing on 25th August of a formal treaty of mutual assistance between Great Britain and Poland, which superseded the temporary agreement, caused him to postpone. However, he was still determined to ignore diplomatic efforts to restrain him. On the 31st August 1939 at 12:40 pm, Adolf Hitler on ordered hostilities against Poland to start at 04:45 hrs the next morning. In response, Great Britain and France declared war on Germany at 11.00 am and 17.00 hrs respectively, and on 3rd September 1939 WW2 began.
The Grenadier Guards had been in France since 2nd September 1939, as part of the British Expeditionary Force or B.E.F. They now became part of a rapid rear-guard action known as ‘The Fall of France’ in helping to defend against Germany’s rapid progress across France.
The subsequent battle of Dunkirk and the increasing possibility of defeat was averted when Hitler was unable to agree with his senior military staff, turned his attention towards Paris. This gave rise to ‘Operation Dynamo’ organised by Vice Admiral Bertram Ramsay, and a small team deep under Dover Castle, Kent. The operation called upon small privately owned vessels to ferry soldiers from the beaches to larger ships waiting offshore, or repatriate them entirely back to Britain. It began on 26th May and ended 4th June 1940 during which time some 198,000 British and 140,000 French & Belgium troops were saved, this then led to the period known as the battle of Britain.
- The following pages list Cemeteries and Memorials of the fallen, by country:-