Rahul Sharma (Editor)

1940 in the United Kingdom

Updated on
Share on FacebookTweet on TwitterShare on LinkedInShare on Reddit
1940 in the United Kingdom

Events from the year 1940 in the United Kingdom. This year is dominated by Britain's involvement in World War II, which had commenced in September the previous year, as well as the numerous enemy air raids on Britain and thousands of subsequent casualties. Although the war continued, Britain did triumph in the Battle of Britain and foiled Nazi Germany's invasion attempt.



  • Monarch - George VI
  • Prime Minister - Neville Chamberlain (national coalition) (until 10 May), Winston Churchill (coalition) (starting 10 May)
  • Events

  • 1 January - World War II: Britain calls up two million 19- to 27-year-olds for military service.
  • 3 January - Unity Mitford, daughter of David Freeman-Mitford, 2nd Baron Redesdale, and fervent admirer of Adolf Hitler, having attempted suicide, returns to England from Germany (via Switzerland); she is carried down the gangplank of the cross-channel ferry at Folkestone on a stretcher.
  • 5 January - Oliver Stanley replaces Leslie Hore-Belisha as Secretary of State for War.
  • 8 January - Food rationing introduced.
  • 9 January - World War II: Liner Dunbar Castle of the Union Castle Line hits a mine in the English Channel and sinks with the loss of 9 men (2 dead and 7 missing).
  • 17 January - A wave of freezing weather afflicting most of Europe leads to the River Thames freezing for the first time since 1888.
  • 18 January - Explosion at Waltham Abbey Royal Gunpowder Mills (five killed).
  • 26–30 January - Severe ice storm across the UK.
  • 3 February - A Heinkel He 111 bomber is the first German plane shot down over England.
  • 16 February - Altmark Incident: Royal Navy destroyer HMS Cossack (F03) pursues German tanker Altmark into the neutral waters of Jøssingfjord in southwestern Norway and frees the 290 British seamen held aboard.
  • 26 January - British battleship HMS Barham (04) is torpedoed by a U-boat but suffers only minor damage.
  • March - Frisch–Peierls memorandum: Otto Frisch and Rudolf Peierls, at this time working at the University of Birmingham, calculate that an atomic bomb could be produced using very much less enriched uranium than has previously been supposed, making it a practical proposition.
  • 3–9 March - RMS Queen Elizabeth makes her maiden voyage on delivery from Clydebank to New York.
  • 11 March - Rationing of meat introduced.
  • 16 March - First civilian casualty of bombing in the UK, on Orkney.
  • 29 March - Metal security threads added to £1 notes to prevent forgeries.
  • 31 March - 33 fascist sympathisers, including Oswald Mosley, are interned.
  • 5 April - Neville Chamberlain declares in a public speech that Hitler has "missed the bus".
  • 9 April - The British campaign in Norway commences following Operation Weserübung, the German invasion of neutral Denmark and Norway.
  • 12–13 April - British occupation of the Faroe Islands, following the German invasion of Denmark, to avert a possible German occupation of the islands.
  • 23 April - The War Budget sees the introduction of a purchase tax and an increase in tobacco duties.
  • 2 May - Last British and French troops evacuated from Norway following failure in the Norwegian Campaign.
  • 7–8 May - Norway Debate in the House of Commons. Strong opposition to the Chamberlain government's conduct of the war make it impossible for him to continue as Prime Minister.
  • 9 May
  • In private discussions, Viscount Halifax rules himself out as successor to Chamberlain in favour of Winston Churchill.
  • Guy Lloyd wins the East Renfrewshire by-election for the Unionist Party (Scotland).
  • 10 May
  • Neville Chamberlain resigns as Prime Minister, and is replaced by Winston Churchill with a coalition war ministry.
  • British Invasion of Iceland, following the German invasion of Denmark and Norway, to avert a possible German occupation of the island, in violation of Iceland's neutrality.
  • 13 May - Winston Churchill makes his famous "I have nothing to offer you but blood, toil, tears, and sweat" speech to the House of Commons.
  • 13–14 May - Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands and her government are evacuated to London using HMS Hereward following the German invasion of the Low Countries.
  • 14 May - Recruitment begins for a home defence force - the Local Defence Volunteers, renamed as the Home Guard from 23 July.
  • 16 May - Large-scale alien internment begins.
  • 22 May - Parliament passes the Emergency Powers (Defence) Act 1940 giving the government full control over all persons and property.
  • 23 May - Parliament passes the Treachery Act 1940 to facilitate the prosecution and execution of enemy spies.
  • 24 May - Anglo-French Supreme War Council decides to withdraw all forces under its control from Norway.
  • 26 May–4 June - The Dunkirk evacuation of British Expeditionary Force takes place. 300,000 troops are evacuated from France to England.
  • 28 May - May 1940 War Cabinet Crisis: Churchill wins the War Cabinet round to his view that there should be no peace negotiations with Hitler, contrary to the view of his Foreign Secretary, Viscount Halifax.
  • 4 June - Churchill makes his We shall fight on the beaches speech to the House of Commons.
  • 5 June - Novelist J. B. Priestley broadcasts his first Sunday evening radio Postscript, "An excursion to hell", on the BBC Home Service, marking the role of the pleasure steamers in the Dunkirk evacuation.
  • 7 June - King Haakon VII of Norway and his government are evacuated to London on HMS Devonshire.
  • 9 June - The Commandos are created.
  • 10 June - Italy declares war on France and the United Kingdom.
  • 11 June - The Western Desert Campaign opens with British forces crossing the Frontier Wire into Italian Libya.
  • 12 June - Over 10,000 soldiers of the 51st (Highland) Division under General Victor Fortune surrender to Rommel at Saint-Valery-en-Caux.
  • 16 June - The Churchill war ministry offers a Franco-British Union to Paul Reynaud, Prime Minister of France, in the hope of preventing France from agreeing to an armistice with Nazi Germany.
  • 17 June - RMS Lancastria, serving as a troopship, is bombed and sunk by the Luftwaffe while evacuating British troops and nationals from Saint-Nazaire with the loss of at least 4,000 lives, the largest single UK loss in any World War II event, immediate news of which is suppressed in the British press.
  • 18 June
  • Churchill makes his Battle of Britain speech to the House of Commons, "...the Battle of France is over. The Battle of Britain is about to begin... This was their finest hour."
  • Appeal of 18 June: General Charles de Gaulle, de facto leader of the Free French Forces, makes his first broadcast appeal over Radio Londres from London, rallying French Resistance.
  • 23 June - BBC Forces Programme begins broadcasting Music While You Work.
  • 30 June - German forces land in Guernsey marking the start of the 5-year Occupation of the Channel Islands.
  • 2 July - British-owned SS Arandora Star, carrying civilian internees and POWs of Italian and German origin from Liverpool to Canada, is torpedoed and sunk by German submarine U-47 off northwest Ireland with the loss of around 865 lives.
  • 3 July
  • Operation Catapult aims to take French navy ships into British control or destroy them to prevent them falling into German hands. Those in port at Plymouth and Portsmouth are boarded and in an attack on Mers-el-Kébir British naval units sink or seize ships of the French fleet anchored in the Algerian ports of Mers El Kébir and Oran. The following day, Vichy France breaks off diplomatic relations with Britain.
  • Cardiff bombed for the first time.
  • 9 July - The Battle of Britain begins.
  • 19 July - Adolf Hitler makes a peace appeal to Britain in an address to the Reichstag. Lord Halifax, British foreign minister, flatly rejects peace terms in a broadcast reply on 22 July.
  • 9 August - Birmingham Blitz (Regenschirm): Heavy bombing of Birmingham begins.
  • 18 August - HRH The Prince Edward, Duke of Windsor, installed as Governor of the Bahamas.
  • 20 August - Churchill pays tribute in Parliament to the Royal Air Force fighter crews: "Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few."
  • 24 August
  • First aid raid on London takes place.
  • Howard Florey and a team including Ernst Chain, Arthur Duncan Gardner, Norman Heatley, M. Jennings, J. Orr-Ewing and G. Sanders at the Sir William Dunn School of Pathology, University of Oxford, publish their laboratory results showing the in vivo bactericidal action of penicillin. They have also purified the drug.
  • 26 August - The RAF bomb Berlin for the first time.
  • 7 September - The Blitz begins. This will be the first of 57 consecutive nights of strategic bombing on London.
  • 15 September - RAF command claims victory over the Luftwaffe in the Battle of Britain; this day is thereafter known as "Battle of Britain Day".
  • 17–18 September - SS City of Benares is torpedoed by German submarine U-48 in the Atlantic with the loss of 248 of the 406 on board, including child evacuees bound for Canada. The sinking results in cancellation of the Children's Overseas Reception Board's plan to relocate British children abroad.
  • 23 September - King George VI announces the creation of the George Cross decoration during a radio broadcast.
  • 27 September - The Battle of Graveney Marsh in Kent, the last exchange of shots with a foreign force on mainland British soil, takes place when soldiers of the London Irish Rifles capture the crew of a downed new German Junkers Ju 88 bomber who initially resist arrest with gunfire; one of the enemy is shot in the foot.
  • 9 October - Winston Churchill succeeds Neville Chamberlain as Leader of the Conservative Party.
  • 14 October - At least 64 people are killed when a German bomb penetrates Balham station on the London Underground which is in use as an air-raid shelter.
  • 25 October - Air Chief Marshal Sir Charles Portal is appointed Chief of the Air Staff, a post he will hold for the remainder of the War.
  • 31 October - The Battle of Britain ends.
  • 6 November - 14 children are killed when a German bomb hits the Civic Centre in Southampton.
  • 11 November - Battle of Taranto - The Royal Navy launches the first aircraft carrier strike in history, on the Italian fleet at Taranto.
  • 14/15 November - Coventry Blitz: The centre of Coventry is destroyed by 500 German Luftwaffe bombers: 150,000 incendiary devices, 503 tons of high explosives and 130 parachute mines level 60,000 of the city's 75,000 buildings. At least 568 people are killed, while 863 more are injured.
  • 19 November - Less than a week after the blitz of Coventry, further heavy air raids take place in central England. Birmingham, West Bromwich Dudley and Tipton are all bombed. Some 900 people are killed and 2,000 more injured - there are 53 deaths at the Birmingham Small Arms Company factory in Small Heath alone. Most of the region's casualties are in Birmingham.
  • 23 November - Southampton Blitz: Southampton is bombed.
  • 24 November - Bristol Blitz: beginning of the bombing of Bristol.
  • 27 November–1 December - Oil storage depot fire at Turnchapel, Plymouth, caused by bombing.
  • 12–15 December - Sheffield Blitz ("Operation Crucible"): The city of Sheffield is heavily bombed by the Luftwaffe. 660 people are killed, while another 1,500 are injured and 30,000 more left homeless.
  • 20 December - An anti-aircraft shell fired from Dudley accidentally strikes a public house in neighbouring Tipton, resulting in dozens of casualties.
  • 20–21 December - Liverpool Blitz: Liverpool is heavily bombed, with well over 300 people killed and hundreds more injured.
  • 22 December - Manchester Blitz: Manchester is heavily bombed as the Luftwaffe air raids on Britain continue. 363 are killed and 1,183 wounded; and Manchester Cathedral is badly damaged.
  • 29 December - Heavy bombing in London causes the Second Great Fire of London. Guildhall is among many buildings badly damaged or destroyed. There are hundreds more casualties.
  • Undated

  • Following the outbreak of World War II, housebuilding is halted, but some 1.1 million council houses have been built in the last 20 years to replace slum property, although the need for further demolition and rehousing remains, including the issue of rehousing families left homeless by air raids.
  • Publications

  • Michael Foot, Frank Owen and Peter Howard’s political tract Guilty Men (published under the pseudonym "Cato").
  • Joyce Carey's novel Charley is My Darling.
  • Agatha Christie's Hercule Poirot novels Sad Cypress and One, Two, Buckle My Shoe.
  • T. S. Eliot's poem East Coker, second of the Four Quartets (in March New English Weekly).
  • Graham Greene's novel The Power and the Glory.
  • Michael Sadleir's novel Fanny by Gaslight.
  • Thomas Sharp's Pelican book Town Planning.
  • C. P. Snow's novel George Passant.
  • C. Henry Warren's account England is a Village illustrated by Denys Watkins-Pitchford.
  • Literary magazine Horizon (January).
  • Births

  • 4 January
  • Alexander Chancellor, English journalist (died 2017)
  • Professor Brian Josephson, scientist
  • 14 January - Trevor Nunn, stage and film director
  • 19 January - Mike Reid, comedian, actor, and author (died 2007)
  • 22 January - John Hurt, actor (died 2017)
  • 23 January
  • Brian Labone, footballer (died 2006)
  • Ted Rowlands, politician
  • 2 February - David Jason, actor
  • 6 February - Jimmy Tarbuck, comedian
  • 20 February - Jimmy Greaves, footballer and television pundit
  • 24 February
  • Denis Law, Scottish footballer
  • John Lyall, football player and manager (died 2006)
  • 1 March - David Broome, showjumping champion
  • 15 March - Frank Dobson, politician
  • 1 April - Annie Nightingale, radio music presenter
  • 2 April - Penelope Keith, actress
  • 15 April - Jeffrey Archer, politician, novelist and perjurer
  • 17 April - Billy Fury, singer songwriter (died 1983)
  • 1 May - John Wheeler, politician
  • 7 May - Angela Carter, novelist and journalist (died 1992)
  • 8 May - James Blyth, Baron Blyth of Rowington, English businessman and academic
  • 9 May - Alan Ryan, English philosopher and academic
  • 12 May - Dominic Cadbury, English businessman and academic
  • 13 May - Bruce Chatwin, novelist and travel writer (died 1989)
  • 16 May - Gareth Roberts, physicist (died 2007)
  • 7 June - Tom Jones, Welsh singer
  • 8 June - Carole Ann Ford, actress
  • 20 June - John Mahoney, actor
  • 23 June
  • Adam Faith, actor and singer (died 2003)
  • Derry Irvine, Scottish-born Lord Chancellor of England
  • 29 June - John Dawes, rugby player
  • 4 July - Dave Rowberry, pianist and songwriter (The Animals) (d. 2003)
  • 7 July - Ringo Starr, drummer (The Beatles)
  • 13 July - Patrick Stewart, actor
  • 17 July - Tim Brooke-Taylor, radio and television personality
  • 19 September - Zandra Rhodes, fashion designer
  • 9 October - John Lennon, musician and singer (The Beatles) (murdered 1980)
  • 14 October - Cliff Richard, singer and actor
  • 19 October - Michael Gambon, actor
  • 4 November - Daniel Sperber, Welsh-born Israeli author, university professor and scholar
  • 14 November - Freddie Garrity, singer (died 2006)
  • 10 December - Anne Gibson, Baroness Gibson of Market Rasen, English union leader and author
  • 22 December - Noel Jones, British Ambassador to Kazakhstan (died 1995)
  • Deaths

  • 11 February - John Buchan, Scottish novelist, Unionist politician and Governor General of Canada (born 1875)
  • 18 April - H. A. L. Fisher, historian and Liberal politician (born 1865; died as result of road accident)
  • 7 May - George Lansbury, politician and social reformer; leader of the Labour Party from 1932 to 1935 (born 1859)
  • 17 June - Arthur Harden, chemist, Nobel Prize laureate (born 1865)
  • 24 June - Alfred Fowler, astronomer (born 1868)
  • 22 August - Oliver Lodge, physicist (born 1851)
  • 30 August - J. J. Thomson, physicist, Nobel Prize laureate (born 1856)
  • 26 September - W. H. Davies, Welsh poet and author (born 1871)
  • 9 October - Sir Wilfred Grenfell, medical missionary to Newfoundland and Labrador (born 1865)
  • 2 November - Squadron Leader Archie McKellar, fighter ace (born 1912; killed in Battle of Britain)
  • 9 November - Neville Chamberlain, former Prime Minister (born 1869)
  • 16 December - William Wallace, Scottish composer (born 1860)
  • References

    1940 in the United Kingdom Wikipedia

    Similar Topics
    Whistling in the Dark (1941 film)
    Tom Bathurst
    Irma Maury