The main countries and leaders that made up the Allied powers were:
- Great Britain – led by Prime Minister Winston Churchill
- The United States – led by President Franklin D Roosevelt
- France – led by Charles de Gaulle
- The Soviet Union – led by Joseph Stalin
- China – led by Chiang Kai-shek
The three main countries and leaders that made up the Axis powers were:
- Germany – the Nazis, led by Adolf Hitler
- Italy – the Fascists, led by Benito Mussolini
- Japan – known at that time as the Empire of Japan, led by Hideki Tojo; the emperor of Japan during World War II was Emperor Hirohito.
World War II began when the UK and France declared war on Germany, after German troops led by Adolf Hitler had invaded Poland on 1 September 1939 to claim land there as their own. Hitler had already invaded Austria and Czechoslovakia, so the war began over his plan to take more land for Germany.
The Siege of Leningrad is a famous event during World War II. For 900 days – from 8 September 1941 to 27 January 1944 – the city of Leningrad in Russia was surrounded by German troops. That meant everyone inside the city had to stay there, and that there wasn’t any way for food or other provisions like medicine to get in. Many hundreds of thousands of people died during this time (600,000-800,000) because there wasn’t enough food or heating to go around, but the people who lived in Leningrad refused to surrender to the Germans even though life had got so hard.
In 1940, the French port of Dunkirk was the location of a big turning point for the Allies in World War II. Hitler’s armies bombed Dunkirk heavily, and many Allied troops were waiting on the beach to be rescued because they didn’t have the resources they needed to fight back. From 26 May to 4 June, over 550,000 troops were ferried to safety across the English Channel – the code name for this was ‘Operation Dynamo’. Some British civilians (people who weren’t in the army) even used their own boats to help save as many people as they could. The rescue operation helped to boost morale in Britain, where they really needed some good news. This helped in going into the next major event in World War II, the Battle of Britain.
The Royal Air Force were the stars of the Battle of Britain, which is the first military battle to be fought entirely in the air. In ‘Operation Sea Lion’, Hitler planned to invade Britain and add another country to his list of conquests. But, first he had to fight off the RAF, which is where he ran into trouble. Britain’s RAF beat Germany’s Luftwaffe, but after a long series of battles from 10 July-31 October 1940. The whole thing is called the Battle of Britain because it’s what made Hitler eventually change his mind about trying to invade the UK, and he went after Russia instead. The RAF pilots showed tremendous courage and bravery as they kept fighting the Luftwaffe even when it looked like they might lose.
June 6, 1944 is also known as D-Day. On that day, the Allied forces launched a huge invasion of land that Adolf Hitler’s Nazi troops had taken over. It all began with boats and boats full of Allied troops landing on beaches in the French region of Normandy. They broke through the German defences and carried on fighting them back through Europe for the next 11 months until they reached Berlin, where Hitler was then hiding.
The Battle of the Bulge took place from 16 December 1944-25 January 1945, and was the last major effort by Hitler to defeat the Allies. He had hoped to break up the parts of Western Europe that the British, American and French troops secured by splitting the area in half – this would mean that the armies wouldn’t be able to get supplies across to each other, and would make them easier targets for Hitler and his armies to fight against. But, all Hitler did was to make the Allied line of troops ‘bulge’ in the middle as he fought to push them back, and the line didn’t break completely. So, he didn’t accomplish his goal, and the Allies won the battle.
Names to know
Neville Chamberlain (1869-1940) – British Prime Minister from 1937-1940; Chamberlain was Prime Minister when Britain declared war on Germany.
Winston Churchill (1874-1965) – British Prime Minster from 1940 to 1945, then again from 1951 to 1955; Churchill was Prime Minister during most of World War II. Churchill is famous for his speeches that inspired people to keep on fighting.
Adolf Hitler (1889-1945) – German dictator during World War II, and leader of the Nazi political party
Benito Mussolini (1883-1945) – Italian dictator during World War II, and leader of the Fascists; Mussolini was also known as ‘Il Duce’ (‘the leader’), and joined forces with Hitler as one of the Axis powers.
Franklin D Roosevelt (1882-1945) – United States President during most of World War II
Joseph Stalin (1878-1953) – leader of the Soviet Union during World War II
Hideki Tojo (1884-1948) – Japanese leader and military general during World War II
Age Range: 5 - 11
By: Mark Warner
The ideas below were contributed by teachers from all around the world when I was planning a World War 2 day with my Year 5 class. Thanks to everyone who helped.
- Pupils create identity cards before the day.
- Dressing up, of course.
- Writing postcards home.
- Luggage labels.
- Listening to the 'wireless'
- Recreating the famous broadcast - podcasting throughout day.
- Watching British Pathe news clips.
- Siren alerts - (fire alarms) children have to get under the table or into an air raid shelter.
- Video recording of what to do in the blackout, perhaps in the style of the VideoJug website.
- Inviting in community members who were evacuated to be interviewed - these can then be written up by children and shared on a school website and blog - also useful for archiving podcasting interviews.
- Children to research what happened in local area during War, e.g. photos of buildings that survived and why?
- Science - investigating what materials are best seen in a black out or not seen.
- I really love the idea of radio broadcasts. Audacity is a great tool for recording and creating it.
- Give children names which were common during the period.
- Carry out radio broadcasts and news reports on both Battle of Britain and VE day.
- Invite members of the British Legion in and recreate a street party! They are really helpful and like coming in and sharing their stories - we have linked it to what is going on now as well as the country now celebrates a veterans day for all who served in June each year.
- DT activity - using recipes from Home front books. Lots are available online and children can cook these!
- As part of the shelters topic, they had to 'design' what they thought would be the 'best' shelter using given materials.
- What about talking to someone on the other side of the pond? Maybe a Skype/IM event where you talk with another class about WWII?
- DT/Maths - design and make a gas mask box.
- Watch an episode of Dad's Army or extracts from other videos (e.g. Goodnight Mr Tom, Carrie's War, videos from BBC class clips etc.).
- Role play interviews with characters from the period.
- Use Crazy Talk with a photo of Winston Churchil. The pupils would love to see his lips moving.
- How about writing in role - in a shelter - freeze framing and then thought talking to follow. They could be shown a photo of children / family in the shelter and try and express how the people feel.
- Think about being evacuated and taking a suitcase of your favourite items. What would you put in it? Bring some of them into school to discuss. Children bring a small bag with their favourite items in it?
- Learning simple first aid - like how to make a sling or put somebody in the recovery position. It would be an important skill in times of war. Maybe invite St Johns ambulance or Red Cross?
- You could write 'found' poetry where children look at poems written by others about war and collect words and phrases from them and then create their own poetry by selecting and rearranging - could be linked to freeze-framing.
- Make a book quiz using Wordle. Copy and paste extracts from books for people to guess the book... could be done with war extracts.
- What about sticking tape across the windows of classrooms to stop them shattering if a bomb were to explode? You could also try blacking some out too.
- What are they going to eat on the day? Can you get dried egg nowadays? They should also see suet - there is the whole history of food here.
- Think about 'voice' and the cooks of the day - was it Margureite Patten. Great to do comparison with Jamie Oliver in terms of how formality etc has changed. Could you write instructions in the style of both?
- Design WW2 campaign posters and slogans. You could also use Glogster for this. Have a look at this site for lots of lesson ideas about using the campaign posters - http://www.archives.gov/education/lessons/wwii-posters/
- Make Anderson shelters in DT. Use Go Control and they will build procedures to control their shelters - e.g. the lookout sees the planes coming, then air-raid siren sounds, light comes on in shelter etc. After preset time the all-clear siren goes etc...
- Sing WW2 songs. What about learning actions as well - think "Run rabbit, run rabbit, run, run, run".
- Watch WW2 dramas... Spywatch is fantastic.
- Suitcase activity - what would they pack if they were being evacuated? What does the content of a particular case tell us about its owner?
- Get the children to bring in a cereal box and design a suitcase and then put things that an evacuee would have in the suitcase (suggested by Katie Warriner).
- Photograph the day using 21st century technology then use editing software to make B&W / sepia and add effects to make look like old photos.
- I am sure there is lots of map work - is it possible to find 'old' maps online?
- Use a tool like Primary Pad for collaboration on the day. Have a Primary Pad page up on the computer and throughout the day messages are sent to the pupils? e.g is there anyone out there? My house is under attack etc. This could also be used to communicate between different classes... and share experiences of the day? If all classes are doing ww2 day, then each can be given a different role and therefore respond differently to the messages?
Home guard, RAF, Land army, etc.
- How about a virtual telegraph STOP they could send each other telegram-type messages STOP. Makes children be aware of fullstops STOP.
- Overlap with English dept - The Machine Gunners is a brilliant novel aimed at young teenagers.
- What about a short drama about feelings; saying goodbye to Mum as you're packed off on the train to the countryside. How does it feel as you leave the station/arrive at your destination?
- Could you do some dancing? Find out about dancing from the period and try it out for yourself!
- ...and following on, what about some WW2 music? You could get students to write extra verses / analyse the mood / message of different songs
- It would be a good idea to develop the unit by COMPARING the experience in the UK with that of civilians in Russia (Leningrad) and Germany (Dresden) - otherwise it gets a bit "Anglocentric"...
- Art - how about some dramatic 'going over the top' paintings?
- The day itself could be interspersed with "events" that can be presented to the students via radio broadcasts from Chamberlain (declaration of war) through Churchill ("Fight them on the beaches" etc) through to 1945; for each, the students could keep their own "war diary" so that as well as getting the empathetical skills, they are also developing their chronological understanding of the main events. Lord Haw-Haw's broadcasts could be used too, all the way up to VE day ("we may allow ourselves a brief period of rejoicing" etc).
- 'In the Mood' - get the children to imagine they are playing instruments - join together to form an orchestra with a band leader. Learn the Lambeth Walk and Jitterbug - Pathe News have great clips of both these dances. Why not teach the children how to waltz? There must be some parents out there who would come in for an afternoon.
- A simple timeline always keeps things in perspective - try http://www.dipity.com. Works well in a group as you can log in with a single username/password and timeline will update in real time. I like to use research groups to look at different aspects of the same subject and each group adds to the same timeline.
- Could you ask parents to come in at the end or beginning of the day to 'choose' their evacuees to take home with them? We did this in school and it was good fun!
Do you have any more suggestions? Please add them to the comments below, or email me and I'll add them to this page.