The decline in the UK's awareness of WW2 facts

January 1945. The first French regiment of paratroopers to fight with an American unit to liberate Alsace in France.

The nation’s knowledge of key events, and figures from World War Two are at risk of becoming forgotten, with many people confused about basic facts, reveals new research out today

WW2 at risk of becoming forgotten?

The poll commissioned by TV channel HISTORY to mark the launch of its World War True season, revealed that a shocking 36% of us are unaware that Britain’s allies included France and the US whilst facts such as the location of Pearl Harbor and when the Battle of Britain took place also leave the nation stumped. 

Over a third of UK adults polled (35%) didn’t know that the Battle of Britain took place during the Second World War; and 32% didn’t know that the attack on Pearl Harbour took place in Hawaii.

Although over half (53%) of the nation claim to be knowledgeable about World War Two, almost one third (30%) had no idea that the Blitz was a World War Two event.

"Over a third of UK adults polled (35%) didn’t know that the Battle of Britain took place during the Second World War"

New research from HISTORY reveals declining awareness of World War Two facts

Interestingly - and despite the UK’s recent decision to leave the EU - over two thirds (62%) of Brits are unaware that it was Winston Churchill who wanted to unite Europe and encourage freedom of movement following the Second World War.

Furthermore, an alarming 1 in 10 (10%) had no idea Adolf Hitler was involved in World War Two with some even believing Germany and Britain were on the same side (8%).

Despite being widely recognised as the battle that ended the Second World War, the poll reveals that 60% of the UK population can’t name 1944 as the year the D-Day landings took place.

In terms of where the UK gets its knowledge on historical events from, the poll found that half (51%) of Brits believe the majority of their history education comes from their school days whilst over half (57%) of Brits say they pick up war-time facts from TV programmes whilst 37% rely on films. The survey also found that the public’s top ten World War Two Films are:

  1. The Great Escape
  2. Schindler's List
  3. Saving Private Ryan
  4. The Bridge on the River Kwai
  5. Dunkirk
  6. Pearl Harbor
  7. The Eagle Has Landed
  8. Das Boot
  9. Battle of Midway
  10. Downfall

Dan Korn at TV channel HISTORY said: “Britain’s role in World War II in defying the Nazis, was one of the most important in our recent history. This research shows the importance of telling its stories to the next generation so the fortitude and sacrifice of our forebears in the forces and on the home front, is not forgotten. In HISTORY’s World War True season, a mix of documentaries, drama, personal accounts and classic films, will tell the remarkable true story of Britain’s war years”.