33. The Second World War: Major Events

While grandad’s diaries are not focused on the main events of the Second World War, those events do provide the backdrop to life at the time. He notes some of them especially when they were of particular relevance to him or the family.

Declaration of War

As noted in Chapter 12, at the end of 1938, grandad thought that war had been averted through the agreement achieved in Munich. But, on 1 September 1939, he noted that Germany began to invade Poland and then, on the 3rd, that Britain declared war on Germany at 11am. Edith Searson noted the radio broadcast of the declaration of war in her book(let) “I Remember” (p52).

Grandad’s diary entry for 3 September 1939 noted Britain’s declaration of war on Germany

First Air Raids and Other Events

On 17 September 1939, grandad noted that Russia had begun to invade Poland.  In April 1940, he noted that Germany had invaded Denmark and Norway, and that, in May 1940, Germany invaded Holland and Belgium. He noted, that same month, that there had been the first air raid on England in the North Riding of Yorkshire and that eight people had been injured. According to news reel footage of the time, it was the first air raid with casualties There are some major events he does not mention. For example, his diaries are silent on the Dunkirk rescues although Edith Searson recalls these on p54 of her book(let) “I Remember”.

Air raid damage in August 1940 – this is a public domain image provided by the Imperial War Museum and available on Picryl

Battle of Britain

Grandad does make comment on some aspects of the Battle of Britain, for example noting, in August 1940, that over 180 German aeroplanes had been brought down. In May 1941, he noted that there had been a night raid on London and that 34 German planes had been shot down.

Pearl Harbor and Other Events

On 22 June 1941, grandad noted that Germany invaded Russia. On 7 December 1941, he noted the Pearl Harbor attacks saying that Japan had attacked “US islands”. That same day he noted that Japan declared war on the USA and Britain. A few days later he noted that Germany and Italy also declared war on the USA. He then recorded that, at the end of May 1942, Mexico joined the Allies. On 10 July 1943, he noted that there was news, at 8am, that Allied forces had invaded Sicily and, on 3 September 1943, British and Canadian troops landed in Italy. Within a week, he noted that Italy surrendered unconditionally and, at the beginning of October, British and American forces entered Naples. By 4 June 1944, he recorded that the Allies reached the outskirts of Rome and, the next day, they entered the city.

D Day and Germany’s Surrender

Grandad recorded the D Day landings on 6 June 1944 by saying that the Allies had begun a second front with landings at Le Havre in France. On 7 May 1945, he wrote “Germany surrendered unconditionally to Britain & America (USA)”. The following day he wrote that there was a general holiday throughout the country and Winston Churchill announced victory at 3pm. Edith Searson, in her book(let) “I Remember”, also noted VE day and the celebrations that went with it. On the 9th, he noted the holiday continued and Germany surrendered unconditionally to Russia. Among mum’s papers was a copy of the Daily Express for 9 May 1945 with the headline “This Was Their Finest Day”.

Grandad’s diary entry for 8 May 1945 noted Victory in Europe

The Atomic Bomb and VJ Day

However, the war against Japan continued and, on 6 August 1945, grandad noted that the Allies had dropped “atomic bomb” on Japan. Just over a week later, Japan surrendered. Grandad wrote, that Japan had surrendered and that this meant that the war was over. He also noted that there had been dancing in the streets! He further wrote that the Japanese signed the unconditional surrender on 2 September 1945.

Grandad’s diary entries for August 1945 showing dropping of the atomic bomb on the 7th and Japan’s surrender on the 14th
Celebrating VJ day in Washington Avenue © Missouri Historical Society and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence