August 6. The Japanese city of Hiroshima was destroyed
by an atomic bomb. Three days later, Nagasaki was obliterated
by a similar weapon. On August 14, unable to offer any more resistance,
Japan surrendered and the Second World War was over.
atom bombs had been developed by British and US scientists working
on the top-secret Manhattan Project. Although Japan had already
suffered terrible damage from conventional bombs (more people
died in Tokyo than Hiroshima), it was the threat of more atom
bombs that brought a speedy surrender, and saved the lives of
thousands of Allied troops who would otherwise have had to fight
for every inch of the Japanese mainland.
May 8. The final surrender of German forces in Europe
brought VE-Day. Britain went mad. Crowds thronged the streets
of London and other cities. Street parties were held everywhere.
It had been a hard-won victory. Great swathes of our major cities
lay in ruins. But from the liberated concentration camps of Germany
came appalling evidence that Britain had fared well compared with
Piles of emaciated bodies and half-dead scraps of humanity cowering
behind the barbed wire at Belsen, Buchenwald and other camps was
evidence of the "Final Solution" that Hitler had planned for the
Jews whom he blamed for all Germany's ills. The true figure of
those shot, exterminated in gas chambers, worked to death or killed
in sadistic "experiments" will never be known but was probably
about six million.
Germany had reaped the whirlwind. The bombing that Hitler inflicted
on the rest of Europe was bad enough but it was not in the same
league as the day-and-night pounding of German cities by RAF and
US heavy bombers. By the end of 1944 a staggering 20 million Germans
were homeless as a result of the bombing. In 24 hours of bombing
in February 1945, a fire-storm developed in the historic city
of Dresden and 130,000 died.
Berlin was overrun by the Red Army in an orgy of rape and retribution.
In his bunker beneath the city on April 30, Hitler and his bride
Eva Braun committed suicide. To the end he was still blaming everything
on a Jewish-Bolshevik conspiracy.
July 26. Labour took power for the first time following
a landslide General Election victory. Thirteen Tory Cabinet members
lost their seats and the Liberals took a hammering, too. Other
nations were astonished that Britain, having revered Churchill
through the war years, had booted him out of power so spectacularly.
But this was a generation of voters, including many servicemen
still overseas, who had seen their parents promised "a land fit
for heroes" after the First World War, only to be betrayed. This
time, the people voted for a new sort of Britain as promised by
the quietly-spoken new prime minister, Clement Attlee. "We are
facing a new era," Attlee told the nation. "Labour can deliver
June 26. Determined to build a better world, delegates
from 50 nations signed the World Security Charter to set up the
United Nations. "It provides peace with teeth," declared prime
minister of South Africa, General Smuts. US president Truman,
too, had high hopes for the UN. But within a few years, events
in Berlin and Korea would show that it, like the League of Nations
before it, did not have unlimited powers.
June 26. William Joyce, better known as the Nazi propaganda
broadcaster Lord Haw Haw, was arrested in a wood near the Danish
border. Joyce's sneering broadcasts ("Where is your Ark Royal?")
had become as much a part of the Blitz as rations and Anderson
shelters. His well-known tones became his downfall. Confronted
by a British officer who recognised his voice, Joyce reached for
his pocket and was shot in the leg. Irish-born Joyce protested
that he was not a British citizen but was put on trial for treason
January 31. Up to 7,000 people perished
- the worst loss at sea ever recorded - when the German
liner Wilhelm Gustloff was sunk by a Russian submarine in
February 14. Dresden was laid waste
in a night and a day of Allied bombing. Estimates of the
dead are up to 130,000.
March 25. Allies crossed the Rhine
and headed for the heart of Germany.
April 2. The deaths in action of three
West Midland army majors were reported on the same day: John
Sherren of Hagley, Christopher Budgen of Lichfield, and Wilfred
Foster of Shifnal.
April 15. Horrified British troops
liberated the concentration camp at Belsen.
April 18. Bilston vicar, the Rev Norman
Keen, warns that "wild and disorderly" celebrations on VE-Day
would offend the bereaved.
May 8. Victory in Europe (VE) Day.
May 25. The last day of the "German
Guilt Exhibition" in Wolverhampton. More than 3,500 people
had inspected the gruesome photographs of Nazi atrocities.
June 19. Special trains were laid
on to take more than 1,000 evacuees back to the South-East
from their wartime homes in the West Midlands.
June 21. After 83 bloody days of
fighting, US troops take Okinawa.
June 27. Speaking at Wolverhampton
in support of Jennie Lee, the Cannock Labour candidate, the
great writer J B Priestley accuses the Conservatives of "carting
Churchill around the country, because they have nothing else
July 26. General Election landslide
victory for Labour.
August 14. Japan surrenders.
September 9. First reports reach
Britain of wholesale cruelty to PoWs in Japanese camps.
October 14. 43,000 British dock
workers were on unofficial strike.
November 20. Hitler's cronies were
put in trial for war crimes at Nuremberg.
December 21. General George S.
Patton, a hero of the war, died of injuries suffered in
a road accident.