1940 - 1945


Walk with us, through the life of a legend

Life of Churchill

War Leader

Churchill became Prime Minister of a national government on 10 May 1940, the very day that Hitler invaded France and the Low Countries. The first few weeks of his premiership were marked by military disaster, as France surrendered and the British army was evacuated from Dunkirk. The United Kingdom then faced direct attack in the Battle of Britain and the Blitz.

Churchill’s famous speeches and broadcasts were carefully constructed to raise British morale while sending a message of defiance to Germany and a call for support to the United States. Churchill’s policy was ‘victory at all costs’ through ‘blood, toil, tears and sweat’. Though sixty-five in 1940, he strove to take the offensive to the enemy and worked tirelessly to assemble and maintain the Grand Alliance against fascism. With his bulldog scowl, ever-present cigar and V for Victory salute he came to personify the British war effort. This section will tell you more about his time as

If you want to learn about the Second World War in more detail, look at the Imperial War Museums’ website.

This section will tell you more about his time as leader in the Second World War.

1940 - 1945

9 April 1940

Germany invades Denmark and Norway

10 May 1940

Germany invades Luxembourg, Holland and Belgium

10 May 1940

Churchill becomes Prime Minister and Minister of Defence

13 May 1940

Promises only ‘Blood, toil, tears and sweat.’

More on this speech

20 May 1940

U.S. Ambassador Joseph Kennedy tells Roosevelt that ‘Britain is finished’

24 may 1940

Germans reach Calais on English Channel

26 May - 4 Jun 1940

Dunkirk evacuation of Allied troops from the French coast

28 May 1940

Convinces Cabinet to fight on, Belgium surrenders

4 Jun 1940

Tells Parliament ‘We shall never surrender.’

18 Jun 1940

Churchill gives his famous ‘Finest Hour’ speech

25 Jun 1940

France surrenders

4 Jul 1940

Churchill orders attack on the French fleet at Oran in North Africa

10 Aug 1940

Battle of Britain begins

27 Sep 1940

Tripartite Pact signed forming the Axis Powers

15 Dec 1940: Halifax named Ambassador to the US; Eden named Foreign Secretary

11 Mar 1941

US Lend-Lease Act

27 May 1941

German battleship Bismarck sunk

22 Jun 1941

Germany invades Russia in Operation Barbarosa

12 Aug 1941

Drafts the Atlantic Charter communiqué outlining the principles for the post-war world 

7 Dec 1941: Japan attacks Pearl Harbor

10 Dec 1941

HMS Prince of Wales and HMS Repulse sunk

11 Dec 1941

Germany and Italy declare war on the US

22 Dec - 14 Jan 1941-2

Washington conference

25 Dec 1941

Hong Kong surrenders to Japan

26 Jan 1941

Churchill gives his first speech to a joint session of the US Congress

27 Jan 1942

Wins vote of confidence in the House of Commons, 464 to 1

14 Feb 1942

Singapore falls to the Japanese when British Lieutenant-General Arthur Percival surrenders 

2 Jul 1942

Defeats vote of no confidence in the House of Commons, 475 to 25

12 Aug 1942

Flies to Moscow for his first meeting with Marshall Stalin of the Soviet Union 

8 Nov 1942

American troops land in North Africa

Dec 1942

Allies crack the German Enigma code

14-24 Jan 1943

Casablanca Conference

2 Feb 1943

Battle of Stalingrad ends when German Field Marshall Friedrich Paulus surrendered to the Soviet forces

5 May 1943

Travel to Washington for ‘Trident’ conference

10 Jul 1943

Allied invasion of Sicily, codenamed Operation Husky, let by American General Dwight D. Eisenhower, as Commander-in-Chief of all the Allied forces in North Africa

25 Jul 1943

Mussolini dismissed from office and arrested

14 Aug 1943

First Quebec Conference begins

3 Sep 1943

Allied invasion of southern Italy

28 Nov - 1 Dec 1943

Meets Roosevelt and Stalin at Teheran Conference

6 Jun 1944

D-Day, codenamed Operation Overlord, the Allied invasion of France

12 Jun 1944

Churchill crosses the English Channel and visits Normandy beachheads

13-14 Jun 1944

First V-1 flying bomb lands in England

20 Jul 1944

Oberst (Colonel) Claus von Stauffenberg’s bomb hidden in a briefcase fails to kill Adolf Hitler in his Wolf’s Lair located in East Prussia near the town of Rastenburg

24 Aug 1944

Liberation of Paris

9 Oct 1944

Makes ‘percentages’ agreement on spheres of influence

7 Nov 1944

Roosevelt elected for a fourth term

11 Nov 1944

Celebrates Armistice Day in Paris

25 Jan 1945

Relief of Bastogne ends Battle of the Bulge

4-12 Feb 1945

Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin meet at Yalta

More on Yalta

25 Mar 1945

A victorious Churchill crosses Rhine River in Germany two days after Allied Armies

12 Apr 1945

Roosevelt dies in Warm Springs, Georgia

28 Apr 1945

Italian dictator Benito Mussolini executed by partisans at Mezzegra

30 Apr 1945

Adolf Hitler commits suicide in his bunker under Reich Chancellery in Berlin

VE Day 8 May 1945

8 May 1945

V-E (Victory in Europe) Day, Germany surrenders

4 Jun 1945

Churchill delivers ‘Gestapo’ speech, throwing his campaign into controversy

5 Jul 1945

Polling day in Britain

17-25 Jul 1945

Churchill meets President Truman and Marshall Stalin at Potsdam, just outside of Berlin, Germany

26 Jul 1945

Winston Churchill resigns as Prime Minister

6 Aug 1945

Atom bomb dropped on Hiroshima

15 Aug 1945

V-J (Victory over Japan) Day, Japan surrenders