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3 Incredible Battles of WW2 - A Beginners Guide

Updated: Jun 27, 2022

Learning about World War 2 is an intimidating prospect. After all, it’s arguably the most important war in all of human history. It’s a vast conflict, one with millions of combatants and hundreds of countries involved. There’s approximately one-million, nine-hundred-thousand and twenty-three books written about World War 2 – it’s true, we counted – so where should you even begin your learning journey?

We have the perfect solution: Dominic Sandbrook’s new book ‘Adventures in Time: The Second World War’ manages the difficult balancing act of being authentic, exciting, and accessible. All that and Dominic’s managed to cram the story of the entire war into a scant 350 pages – which is a mightily impressive feat!

In the Adventures in Time series, Dominic brings the past alive for twenty-first century children. ‘The Second World War’ allows a new generation to discover the thrills and spills of history. It’s an exhilarating adventure, every bit as exciting as classic children’s fiction.

We loved this book and regularly hugged it like a dear friend - which resulted in terrible paper cuts, but that’s a story for another day. We learnt all sorts of awesome stuff, like how eight hundred civilian boats sailed to Dunkirk in a daring and deadly voyage, the depths of savagery that took place in Stalingrad, and how chess players broke unbreakable codes.

For this article then, we thought we’d whet your appetite by giving you some quick-fire, rapid-punch info on three incredible battles from WW2, before ‘The Second World War’ releases on the 1st of July 2021. We’ll let Dominic tell the rest of the tumultuous tale in his uniquely adventurous style!

Battle of Sedan: May 1940

By Bundesarchiv, Bild 101I-124-0211-18 / Gutjahr / CC-BY-SA 3.0, CC BY-SA 3.0 de

Prior to the Battle of Sedan, war enthusiasts assumed the Second World War would be just like the First World War: very slow with everyone taking cover in trenches. That was not to be the case.

In May 1940 the German army launched ‘The Blitzkreig’ – meaning "lightning war". This was effectively a sprint towards the French fortifications of the Maginot Line. But this sprint didn’t involve a pair of smelly trainers, copious sweating, and a finishing line. Instead, it was all about hordes of Panzer tanks charging full pelt deep into France. Thanks to the sheer speed of the assault, and potent air support from Stuka dive bombers, the Germans smashed through the French defences and France surrendered soon after.

Battle of Britain: July to October 1940

Courtesy Tim Felce (Airwolfhound)

For the first time in history, a battle was fought entirely in the sky. In July 1940, Adolf Hitler had his gaze set on Britain, with a planned invasion designed to knock Britain out of the war. First though, in order for an invasion to succeed, the Germans needed to control the skies.

Over four months, the German air force (called the Luftwaffe), bombed British cities, factories, and airfields. The Luftwaffe may well have outnumbered the British air force (called the RAF), but they had a fatal weakness; the German dive bombers (called Stukas) were vulnerable to interception. Thanks to the "Dowding System", which improved communication between radar, plane spotters, and aircraft, the RAF was able to mobilise planes incredibly quickly to exactly where they needed to be.

After four months of fighting, thousands of casualties and lost aircraft, German invasion plans were foiled. The skies above Britain could not be controlled.

D-Day: June 1944

Courtesy MOD

D-Day is likely the most iconic conflict of World War 2. It was the largest amphibious assault in human history, with over 5000 ships landing 150,000 allied troops on the beaches of Normandy in France. Thanks to some cunning spy work, the Germans were expecting the landing. But they had expected it to occur further to the East and had set up many of their defences there.

That was all a ruse though, the American Army attacked beaches, codenamed Omaha and Utah, whilst British and Canadian forces attacked Sword, Juno, and Gold. But this was only part of the Allied plan: planes and warships also bombarded the German defences and paratroopers were dropped behind enemy lines to destroy bridges and prevent the German army from easily deploying reinforcements.

What followed was a furious battle, one that saw 2,500 Allied soldiers lose their lives. But at its culmination, the Allies took control of Normandy. Soon 300,000 Allied troops had landed in Normandy to begin the long and grinding march towards the capital of Germany, Berlin. D-Day wasn’t the end of the war but it was the beginning of the end.

Oh, by the way, for those – like me - who have always wondered what the "D" in "D-Day" stands for, prepare to be disappointed. The "D" doesn’t actually stand for anything! D-Day is a standard military term for the planning of operations that you don’t know the date for – the "D" refers to the unknown date.


To find out more about WW2 and to discover incredible tales of heroism, horror and heartbreak be sure to check out 'Adventures in Time: The Second World War'. If you like, you can order it here:

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