Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands to Britain, when her country was overrun by the German army; she headed the government in exile
General Charles de Gaulle, from France to Britain, as French defeat became evident; he then declared himself leader of the Free French
|Invasion of the Low Countries and France|
From April to May 1940, Germany successfully invaded its neighbouring countries of Norway, Denmark, Belgium, Luxembourg and finally France.
On May 12, German tanks rolled into France from Belgium through the Ardennes Forest. The French had thought that these wooded hills were too dense to pass through, and had little anti-tank or anti-aircraft guns ready. On May 17, the Germans simply went around the Maginot line to the north, a series of forts protected by heavy guns and anti-tank devices, stretching along the France-Germany border. The French were stunned; with France’s tank forces poorly organized and its planes hugely outnumbered, the end was inevitable.
On June 10, as the French wilted under German fire, Italy joined Germany, declaring war on the Allies. The French capital, Paris fell to the Germans on 14 June. To protect their people and land from further death and destruction, the French government surrendered to Germany on 22 June, leaving many Allied troops trapped in France. Despite heavy bombing, Britain’s Royal Navy helped over 300,000 in Britain from the beaches at Dunkirk. The amazing evacuation was done through the help of every available vessel - warships, passenger ferries, fishing smacks and pleasure boats, which ferried the 200,000 British, and 140,000 French and Belgian soldiers across the English Channel to safety in Britain.
Churchill becomes British Prime Minister
On May 10, as the invasion of the Low Countries (the low-lying countries between Germany and France – the Netherlands, Belgium, and Luxembourg) began, Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain resigned and was succeeded by Winston Churchill. To his people and the rest of the world, Churchill became the symbol of British determination, urging Britons to make the war "their finest hour". He inspired his countrymen to go on fighting bravely, with his famous words: "We shall not flag or fail... We shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be...We shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender."