For all its moral complexities, the Second World War was the ultimate struggle of good against evil and, in Britain and the Empire, was widely recognised as such. Yet when Britain declared war on Germany on 3 September 1939, she was not well prepared to fight an enemy with modern weapons and new techniques such as the 'blitzkrieg'. Our Forces were scattered around the world in imperial outposts. The Army in particular was short of transport, communications, artillery, engineer and supply units.
In the early years there were serious reversals in Norway, France, Greece and North Africa. After Japan's entry into the war these were followed in 1942 with a succession of disasters in the Far East. That we prevailed in the end was mainly due to providence, enemy mistakes (especially invading the Soviet Union) and the arrival of the USA on our side.
The fightback was long and hard, beginning with General Montgomery's victory at El Alamein in October 1942; which led across North Africa to Tunis and the landings in Sicily, Italy and France. The liberation of France, Belgium, Holland and Denmark followed. After the crossing of the Rhine in March 1945, the Allied Armies rampaged across Germany until they met the Russians on the River Elbe.
Meanwhile, in the Far East, the tide began to turn in 1943 with the appointment of Bill Slim as the commander of the 14th Army. The Chindit operations harassed and distracted the Japanese and indirectly led to the decisive battles of the India-Burma campaign at Kohima and Imphal. Following the destruction of the Japanese advance, Slim's offensive in 1944 drove the Japanese behind the Irrawaddy River and, by May 1945, out of Burma.
In 2016, come with us and find out how disaster was transformed into deliverance by the men and women of our Armed Forces. Our programme of tours allows veterans, friends and relatives to pay their respects at war graves and memorials from Burma and India to France and Italy and more than a few places in between.
Join us on one of our Journeys of Remembrance as we delve deeper into the experience of our soldiers, sailors and airmen – each one will help you to understand what it was like to be there in the very places where history was written.