5 Heroes of World War 2 - A List for KS2/KS3
Updated: Jan 6
There were many heroes who fought, died, and saved lives in the Second World War, sadly we can't do them all justice in this article. Instead, we've selected five heroes who we think have stories that will inspire and astonish you. We’re not just focused on soldiers in the military - we’ve also included brave civilians and non-military personnel in our selection too. We hope, at least in some small part, that we’ve played a role in ensuring that the names and deeds of these heroes can continue to be passed down from generation to generation.
‘Mad Jack’ Churchill
John Churchill had a varied career before serving in WW2; he managed to juggle being a male model, champion archer, and adventurer alongside being a soldier. His exciting pseudonym ‘Mad Jack’ was well earnt, as Jack was the only soldier permitted to carry both a longbow and broadsword. Indeed, he’s thought to have achieved the only longbow kill in WW2.
Jack led commando raids in both Norway and Yugoslavia before he was captured. Handcuffs and prison bars were no match for Jack who promptly escaped, only to be captured again, before escaping once more. This second escape saw Jack walk 90 miles to freedom.
After the war, Jack became a surfer. Because of course he did! What could be better than a male model surfboarding archer?
Lachhiman Gurung was a Nepalese Gurkha soldier who was awarded the Victoria Cross for his heroic actions in May 1945. Now prepare yourself, as these heroic actions are undoubtedly the most amazing deeds you’ve ever heard of.
Gurung singlehandedly held off an attack from 200 Japanese Soldiers to allow time for his wounded comrades to be evacuated safely. This would be an impressive feat, but Gurung did this after his right arm had been exploded by a grenade. Yes, you read that right. I struggled to go to work after I'd bruised my elbow, whilst Gurung fought for four hours missing several fingers and with severe damage to his arm, face, body, and right leg.
Gurung bravely fought off the Japanese, saved his friends, and went on to live a simple and peaceful life until he passed away in 2010.
Eileen Nearne was a civilian who escaped to Britain from France during the German occupation. However, that was not the end of Eileen’s story; she decided to help the war effort and become a spy. Eileen could speak both English and French, making her the perfect candidate to go undercover in France, deep in enemy territory. Eileen was parachuted into France and assisted the French Resistance by carrying out sabotage missions and gathering supplies.
Life as a spy was incredibly dangerous. Eileen was eventually captured and sent to a concentration camp where she was horribly tortured. Despite the pain she endured, Eileen refused to disclose any secrets to her German captors. She was sent to multiple death camps, escaped, and was captured multiple times until she was freed by American soldiers. Eileen was awarded the Croix de Guerre by the French government and an MBE from the British government.
Doris Miller was the main cook serving aboard the US battleship West Virginia. As a cook, it’s unlikely that he'd have expected to see frontline action, but that’s exactly what happened to Doris during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour. Despite being in grave danger and coming under constant attack, Doris worked heroically to rescue wounded soldiers from the wreckage.
He then manned an anti-aircraft gun, despite never having used the weapon before, and shot down several Japanese planes. Tragically, just a few years later, Doris was killed while serving aboard the escort carrier Liscome Bay during the Battle of Makin.
Doris Miller was awarded the Navy Cross, The Purple Heart, and the Combat Action Ribbon for his heroic actions.
Ruby Bradley was a surgical nurse serving in WW2 who was captured and sent to a Prisoner of War camp in Manilla. It was there that she became known as ‘The Angel in Fatigues’. Ruby performed an astonishing 230 surgeries in the torrid condition of the camp, saving hundreds of people in the process. Not only that, but she also smuggled in food and medical supplies to help keep the camp’s inhabitants alive.
Ruby didn’t stop being a hero after the end of WW2 though, oh no. Only five years later she went to the front lines during the Korean War, serving as the Chief Nurse of the 171st Evacuation Hospital. Despite being under attack by over 100,000 Chinese soldiers, Ruby refused to leave the hospital until all of her patients were evacuated. In a scene like something out of an action movie, Ruby managed to survive by leaping aboard a plane as the ambulance she was escaping in was hit by a shell and exploded.
During her career, Ruby was promoted to the rank of Colonel and was awarded numerous medals, including the Legion of Merit, the Bronze Star Medal, the Army Commendation Medal, and the Florence Nightingale Medal. What a legend.