Can You Answer These Questions About the British Empire in WWII?


By: Robin Tyler

7 Min Quiz

Image: PeterTowle/Moment Open/GettyImages

About This Quiz

From 1939 to 1945, the world was at war. Nazi and Japanese expansionism had run rampant during the 1930s. Finally, on September 1, 1939, Germany went a step too far.

After they had been warned by both France and Great Britan not to do so, Germany invaded Poland. Two days later, both France and Great Britain, true to their word, declared war on the powerful Nazi war machine. And soon they regretted it. Just like they had powered through the rest of Europe, the German war machine could not be stopped, even by the French Army and 400,000 British troops. 

The Germans took Paris, forcing the British back to the coast where they were evacuated back to Great Britain. And soon, they stood alone against the might of Germany. What many people don't realize is that the British Empire was so much bigger than just the island of Great Britain. The Commonwealth included many other countries that joined in the fight against the Nazi scourge.

But just how much do you know about the British Empire during World War II? From their allies to their enemies to their equipment, could you beat this quiz and win the war?

Good luck! 

Who was the British Prime Minister who declared war on Germany for invading Poland?

Neville Chamberlain served as the British Prime Minister from 1937 to 1940. Despite meeting with Hitler and assuring the British people that a war between the two countries would not take place, he had no other option than to declare war on Germany when they invaded Poland on September 1, 1939.


Of the options below, can you pick the British territory occupied by Germany from June 30, 1940 until May 9, 1945?

The Channel Islands are found near the coast of Normandy. They were invaded by German forces and occupied for five years during World War II. Many German fortifications built on the islands over this period can still be seen today.


From which French port did the British Expeditionary Force leave France in 1940, leaving the country to fall to the Germans?

Knowing that the superior numbers of the German army would overpower their forces, British commanders ordered the British Expeditionary Force to Dunkirk so they could be evacuated back to Britain. From May 26 until June 4, 1940, the most incredible story of the war unfolded as boats of every kind, both military and civilian, sailed across the English Channel to take soldiers back to England. Over 336,000 were evacuated in this manner.


Can you tell us who succeeded Neville Chamberlain as the British Prime Minster in 1940?

Winston Churchill became British Prime Minister on May 10, 1940. He was just the man that the United Kingdom needed for the task ahead. A master orator, Churchill famous for his rousing, define speeches delivered during World War II.


True or false? Australia formed part of the British Empire and fought alongside Great Britain during World War II.

Australia was heavily involved in World War II. The country provided troops that fought in many theatres. For example, Australian "diggers" or soldiers fought against Germany and Italy in Africa as well as against the Japanese in the Pacific theater.


Which world organization did little to stop the acquisitions of Nazi Germany in Europe?

The League of Nations was formed after World War I. The sole purpose of this global organization was to stop another massive global war from starting. But by allowing Hitler to do what he wanted in Europe, the League of Nations was simply ineffectual.


Which German leader flew to Britain in 1941 supposedly to negotiate a peace deal?

On May 10, 1941, Rudolph Hess took a German military plane and flew to England. History tells us that he wanted to negotiate peace with Great Britain but if that was the real reason for his trip is still open to debate. Hitler was furious and stripped Hess of any authority within the Nazi party. The British arrested Hess, and after the Nuremberg trials, he was kept in jail until his death in 1987.


What was the name of the air force that protected the skies around Great Britain?

By 1940, the Royal Air Force was barely ready to defend Britain. Although it had a range of excellent aircraft in terms of a fighter based defense, the German Air Force was just far bigger and had more experienced pilots.


Can you name the German Air Force that had swept all before them in the lead up to the proposed invasion of Great Britain?

Hitler knew that air power was important if a major war was to be fought in Europe. As soon as he rose to power, he quickly rebuilt the German Luftwaffe as the country was not allowed an armed airforce as one of the terms they agreed to after World War II. By the time the conflict started, German had the best air force in Europe.


Which famous air battle that lasted from July 10 to October 31, 1940, saw the German Air Force try to defeat the Royal Air Force protecting England?

The Battle of Britain saw the German Luftwaffe try to destroy the Royal Air Force, thus paving the way for German troops to invade Britain. They did this by attacking radar installations and British airfields between July 10 and October 31, 1940. Inexplicably, they changed their focus point to London and other towns shortly after, just when they had the RAF on its knees.


Who said this famous line in reference to the Battle of Britain? "Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few."

One of the most famous lines from World War II, Winston Churchill said this in a speech on August 20, 1940, in which he praised the Royal Air Force for holding the superior numbers of the German Air Force at bay.


How did Britain import weapons and goods from America during World War II?

The only way to get the goods from the United States to Great Britain was through merchant shipping. They traveled in massive convoys with protection from Royal Navy warships. That said, convoys were still easy targets for both aerial and underwater attack.


From the list below, can you name a Royal Air Force fighter aircraft that fought during the Battle of Britain?

Possibly one of the greatest aircraft ever built, the Supermarine Spitfire first flew in 1936. It was not available in as high numbers as the Hawker Hurricane during the Battle of Britain, but it quickly caught the imagination of the British public as a defender of the skies over the United Kingdom.


True or false? South Africa joined up with Great Britain in the fight against Nazi Germany.

South Africa was part of the Commonwealth, but their entry into World War II was not that simple. It took the South African parliament three days to decided to declare war on Germany. This is because many people were sympathetic toward Germans. Jan Smuts, who supported Britain, managed to convince most to vote to help fight Nazism and war on Germany was declared on September 6, 1939.


The merchant ship supply convoy that Britain used to import goods, food, and weapons was a prime target for German submarines throughout World War II. What were these vessel called by the British Navy?

U-boats caused havoc with merchant convoys during World War II. Although these convoys were protected, U-boats were difficult to detect and usually attacked with the element of surprise. That said, convoys still managed to keep supplies flowing to England.


British forces came across the Italian army at points during their campaign for control of Africa. Who was the fascist leader of Italy?

Benito Mussolini rose to power in Italy in the early 1920s, gaining power in 1922. A fascist, Mussolini often met with Hitler while aiding the Germans. Mussolini was one of the first of the Axis allies to test the resolve of the League of Nations, which he did by invading Abyssinia in Africa in 1935.


On October 14, 1939, a German U-boat snuck into the British harbor at Scapa Flow, Scotland and sunk a British vessel, with 800 sailors dying in the aftermath. What was the name of the British ship?

The HMS Royal Oak was a World War I era battleship, commissioned in 1914. Although she was officially a reserve ship and would not have seen frontline service, her sinking did have a massive effect on Navy morale.


The German Air Force’s biggest attack on Royal Air Force airfields took place on August 17, 1940. What was the codename for the day?

The German Luftwaffe attacked on August 17, 1940, was known as Eagle Day or Aldertag in German. The whole operation to destroy the Royal Air Force was known as Operation Eagle Attack or Unternehmen Adlerangriff in German.


Can you name the British fighter that equipped most of the Royal Air Force squadrons during the Battle of Britain?

The Hawker Hurricane is the less famous fighter plane from the Battle of Britain. It filled most of the squadrons, however, and was easier to make than the Spitfire. A stable gun platform, the Hurricane was armed with eight .303 Browning machine guns.


At the outbreak of World War II, despite Germany rearmament throughout the 1930s, Great Britain still had the largest navy in the world. True or false?

Yes, the British Navy was the biggest in the world at the time. Britain always saw themselves as a seafaring nation, and that is one of the reasons the Commonwealth was built up.


Of the options below, which is the name of the planned German invasion of Great Britain, which if it happened would have effectively ended the British Empire?

Operation Sea Lion or in German Unternehmen Seelöwe was planned for September 1940, after the German Air Force had subdued their British counterparts. This, however, never happened, leaving Hitler to postpone the invasion on September 17, 1940 for good.


Can you name the British long-distance bomber that flew night missions against targets in Germany?

The Avro Lancaster was a four-engine British heavy bomber that was introduced into service in 1942. Powered by Rolls Royce Merlin engines, the same as found in the Supermarine Spitfire, the Lancaster was able to reach targets in Germany with the Royal Air Force predominately flying night mission.


In 1943, a bombing raid carried out by Lancaster bombers carried a very special weapon to breach the walls of German dams. What was it called?

The bouncing bomb was the invention of Barnes Wallis. He painstakingly calculated a way to spin a barrel bomb that it would skip over the surface of the dams, hit the wall and slide under, exploding near the bottom and breaching the dam wall.


What were the pilots that carried out the dam raids called?

The mission to breach dams in German was given to 617 Squadron. They trained for months to learn the very precise flying need to ensure the bomb would be dropped successfully. They were led by Guy Gibson.


True or false? The German attacks on London were called "The Blitz" by the British people.

Just when the German Air Force had the Royal Air Force at breaking point, Hitler turned their attacks to a new target... London. And that ushered in the era of what became known as "The Blitz." The Germans changed their approach even more, moving to night-time raids because of the heavy losses that they suffered during the day.


How many British citizens died as a result of German bombing during the eight months of "The Blitz?"

Although "The Blitz" only lasted for eight months, around 43,000 British civilians perished during it. They got respite, however, when Hitler turned his attention on the Soviet Union.


Which of these below were the main air raid shelters used by Londoners during German bombing raids?

The first section of the London Underground train system was operational in 1890, and by the start of World War II, it was extensive. With some stations as deep as 50 meters underground, they made the perfect bomb shelters were the people of London often sat out German air raids.


True or false? One of the British heroes of the Battle of Britain was a fighter ace with no legs.

Douglas Bader had lost his legs in a flying accident in the early 1930s. He returned to active service with the Royal Air Force during World War II, flying with tin legs. During his career, he shot down around 23 German planes before he was forced to bail out over France in 1941 and was captured.


Together with other Allied troops, most notably Americans, on which day did British troops invade France to begin the final push to victory in World War II?

June 6, 1944, was D-Day. On this day, British, Canadian and American forces landed at beaches across Normandy, often under withering German fire, to establish a beachhead and allow other troops to get to shore. It was the start of the end for Adolf Hitler.


Which crack German commander did the British and other Allied troops defeat in North Africa?

Hitler's star commander, Erwin Rommel, had led German forces to many victories. After pushing the Allied forces back in North Africa, Rommel finally tasted defeat, and his Afrika Korps was eventually forced out of the continent.


Where did the Allied forces defeat Rommel's Afrika Korps?

In 1942, Rommel and the Afrika Korps laid siege to the town of Tobruk, which was manned by the 9th Australian Regiment. Over the next 242 days, the Afrika Crops, no matter what gains they made, were repelled. Eventually, Rommel gave up on Tobruk giving the German army their first-ever defeat of World War II.


Do you know the name of the country that Great Britain virtually guaranteed independence if they helped fight the Axis powers?

The British ruled over India at the start of World War II. As one of the world's most populous countries, Britain knew that India could significantly contribute manpower to their cause. With the promise of independence as an incentive, India committed 150,000 troops to Great Britain.


What work did Princess Elizabeth, the future queen of England, do during World War II?

When she turned 18 in 1945, Princess Elizabeth joined the Women’s Auxiliary Territorial Service to contribute to the war effort. She was trained as both a mechanic and driver.


Before World War II started in earnest, what did the government ask British people to do?

Sadly, the government decided that with bombing from Germany aircraft imminent, having pets roaming the streets of bombed towns would not be a great idea. Over 750,000 pet were euthanased.


In 1944, London faced a new threat, the V1 flying bomb. What nickname was it given?

The V-1 Flying Bomb was essentially the world's first cruise missile. The "Doodlebug" was launched from sites in France. Often British pilots would fly alongside side and them over into the sea using their wing.


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