Timeline of the United Kingdom home front during World War II

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This is a Timeline of the United Kingdom home front during World War II (1939–45). For narrative and bibliography see Home front during World War II#Britain[1]


3 June 1939

The Military Training Act, Britain's first peacetime draft, comes into force. All men aged 20-21 are now liable to call-up for four years military service as 'Militiamen'.

24 August 1939

Given the worsening situation in Europe, Parliament is recalled and immediately enacts the Emergency Powers (Defence) Act 1939, granting the government special legislative powers for the duration of the crisis.
Army reservists are called up.
Civil Defence workers are put on alert.

30 August 1939

The Fleet proceeds to its war stations.

1 September 1939

In response to the German invasion of Poland and the prospect of war with Germany, plans for the evacuation of children and nursing and expectant mothers from London and other areas deemed vulnerable to German air attack are put into action.
The Blackout begins.
The British Army is officially mobilized.

2 September 1939

Under intense criticism from the House, Neville Chamberlain abandons an offer to negotiate peace terms between Germany and Poland and agrees to present an ultimatum to Hitler.

3 September 1939

Shortly after 11:00 Chamberlain announces to the nation that his ultimatum has expired and that Britain is at war with Germany.
Twenty minutes later the first air raid sirens are sounded in London. They are a false alarm.
Chamberlain reforms his Government, creating a small War Cabinet which includes Winston Churchill as First Lord of the Admiralty.
The National Service (Armed Forces) Act is passed. All men aged 18-41 are now potentially liable for conscription.
Newspaper vendor holding stack of newspapers and sign announcing the state of war

7 September 1939

The National Registration Act is passed, introducing identity cards.

27 September 1939

The first war tax is revealed by the Cabinet, including a significant hike in income taxes.

1 October 1939

Call-Up Proclamation: all men aged 20-21 who have not already done so must apply for registration with the military authorities.

6 October 1939

With the end of formal Polish resistance the Phony War begins.


8 January 1940

First food rationing introduced.

7 May 1940

The debate on the recent debacle in Norway leads (on May 10) to Chamberlain's resignation.

10 May 1940

Germany invades France and the Low Countries, ending the Phony War.
Winston Churchill becomes Prime Minister and forms an all-party coalition government.

14 May 1940

In a BBC radio broadcast Anthony Eden calls for the creation of the Local Defence Volunteers (LDV) militia - renamed on 23 July the Home Guard.

22 May 1940

The Emergency Powers (Defence) Act 1940 is passed, granting the government even more authority to control persons and property for the duration of the war.

3 July 1940

Cardiff is bombed for the first time.

9 July 1940

Official start date of the Battle of Britain.

July 1940

Strikes became illegal, and none are called by any trade unions during the war; there are unofficial short local strikes in coal, shipbuilding and machinery

7 September 1940

German bombing raid on South London; formal beginning of The Blitz.

31 October 1940

Official end date of the Battle of Britain.

14 November 1940

Massive German bombing raid on Coventry.


21 January 1941

The Communist Daily Worker is banned.

10 May 1941

Last major attack on London of the 1940-41 Blitz.

18 December 1941

The National Service (No. 2) Act is passed. All men and women aged 18-60 are now liable to some form of national service, including military service for those under 51. The first military registration of 18.5-year-olds takes place. The Schedule of Reserved Occupations is abandoned: from now on only individual deferments from the draft will be accepted.


5 March 1942

The Daily Mirror publishes a controversial cartoon by Zec which Churchill and other senior government figures alleged was damaging to public morale. Zec is investigated by MI5 and the government seriously proposes banning the newspaper until parliamentary opposition forces a retreat.

23 April 1942

Beginning of so-called Baedeker Blitz on English provincial towns; attacks continue sporadically until 6 June.

1 December 1942

Sir William Beveridge's Report on Social Insurance and Allied Services published.

The Ministry of Labour reports that 1942 strikes cost 1,527,000 working days, as compared with 1,079,000 in 1941.[2]


18 February 1943

The House of Commons votes, 335 to 119, against a Labour amendment demanding the creation of a Social Security Ministry and immediate implementation of the Beveridge report. The government has approved the plan "in principle" but called for a delay until the war is over.

19 February 1943:

The Labour Party National Executive Committee rejects the Communist Party's application for affiliation saying it must carry out decisions of the Comintern in Moscow, that it has shown "complete irresponsibility in British politics" and because "its general outlook is entirely out of harmony with the philosophy and objectives of the Labour Party."[3]

7 April 1943

The Government releases a White Paper by John Maynard Keynes, announcing its post-war currency stabilization plan designed to provide an international banking system.

12 April 1943

The Chancellor of the Exchequer presents a budget of £5.8 billion with 56% to be raised from current revenue; the deficit would be £2.8 billion of which £2.2 will be borrowed at home.[4]

29 July 1943

Labour Minister Ernest Bevin announces that women from 19 to 50 will be called for work in plane and munitions plants. Men eligible for military service may choose work in coal mines.[5]

23 September 1943

The Ministry of Health reports that 1942 births totaled 654,039 versus 480,137 in 1941; deaths 66,811 versus 55,043. Infant mortality was 49 per 1,000, the lowest on record for Britain.[6]


10 March 1944

R.A. Butler's Education Act passed, reorganizing Britain's school system under the tripartite system.

12 June 1944

First V-1 flying bomb attack on London.

8 September 1944

First V-2 rocket attack on London.

17 September 1944

The Blackout is replaced by a partial 'dim-out'.

22 September 1944

Ernest Bevin announces the government's plan for eventual military demobilization.

3 December 1944

The Home Guard is stood down.


27 March 1945

Last V-2 attack on London.

29 March 1945

Last [[V-1 flying bomb

V-1]] attack on London.

8 May 1945

VE Day.

23 May 1945

The Labour Party members of the coalition government resign in order to prepare for the upcoming general election. Churchill appoints a largely Conservative caretaker government.

16 June 1945

The Family Allowances Act passed. Mothers will receive a tax-free cash payment for each child in their care. This is the first time in Britain that a state payment has gone directly to a wife rather than her husband.

18 June 1945

Demobilization of the armed forces begins.

5 July 1945

General election voting takes place in the UK. The ballots are then sealed for three weeks to allow the collection and counting of overseas service votes.

26 July 1945

The Labour Party wins the general election with a historic landslide. Clement Attlee becomes Prime Minister and forms a new government.

15 August 1945

VJ Day.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ The main sources are Facts on file yearbook (compilation of weekly reports) and Keesing's Contemporary Archives (monthly reports), both online.
  2. ^ Facts on File, Facts on file yearbook 1943 (1944) p. 178
  3. ^ Facts on File, Facts on file yearbook 1943 (1944) p. 59
  4. ^ Facts on File, Facts on file yearbook 1943 (1944) p. 115
  5. ^ Facts on File, Facts on file yearbook 1943 (1944) p. 243
  6. ^ Facts on File, Facts on file yearbook 1943 (1944) p. 307

Further reading[edit]

  • Addison, Paul. "The Impact of the Second World War," in Paul Addison and Harriet Jones, eds. A Companion to Contemporary Britain: 1939-2000 (2005) pp 3–22
  • Brivati, Brian, and Harriet Jones, ed. What Difference Did the War Make? The Impact of the Second World War on British Institutions and Culture. Leicester UP; 1993.
  • Calder, Angus . The People's War: Britain 1939-45 (1969), highly influential survey
  • Corelli, Barnett. The Audit of War: The Illusion and Reality of Britain as a Great Nation. (1986)
  • Costello, John. Love, Sex, and War: Changing Values, 1939-1945 (1985)
  • Fielding, S., P.Thompson and N. Tiratsoo, 'England Arise!': The Labour Party and Popular Politics in 1940s Britain (Manchester UP, 1995),
  • Fox, Jo. Film propaganda in Britain and Nazi Germany: World War II cinema (2007)
  • Hancock, W. K. and Gowing, M.M. British War Economy (1949) (official History of the Second World War). London: HMSO and Longmans, Green & Co. Available on line at: British War Economy.
  • Hancock, W. K. Statistical Digest of the War (1951) (official History of the Second World War). London: HMSO and Longmans, Green & Co. Available on line at: Statistical Digest of the War.
  • Harris, Carol. Women at War 1939-1945: The Home Front. (2000) Thrupp: Sutton Publishing Limited. ISBN 0-7509-2536-1.
  • Hayes, Nick, and Jeff Hill. 'Millions like us'?: British culture in the Second World War (1999)
  • Hubble, Nick. Mass-Observation and Everyday Life (Palgrave Macmillan. 2006). ISBN 1-4039-3555-6.
  • Jones, Helen (2006). British civilians in the front line: air raids, productivity and wartime culture, 1939-45. Manchester University Press. ISBN 978-0-7190-7290-1. 
  • Marwick, Arthur. The Home Front: The British and the Second World War. v
  • Postan, Michael British War Production (1952) (official History of the Second World War). London: HMSO and Longmans, Green & Co. Available on line at: British War Production.
  • Rose, Sonya O. Which People's War?: National Identity and Citizenship in Wartime Britain 1939-1945 (2003)
  • Smart, Nick. British strategy and politics during the phony war: before the balloon went up (Greenwood, 2003)
  • Titmuss, Richard M. (1950) Problems of Social Policy. (official History of the Second World War). London: HMSO and Longmans, Green & Co. Available on line at: Problems of Social Policy official history


  • Harris, Jose. "War and social history: Britain and the home front during the Second World War," Contemporary European History (1992) 1#1 pp 17–35.