How much do you really know about World War history?
Leger Holidays - the UKs leading provider of escorted Battlefield tours - put World War knowledge under the spotlight by running some questionnaires with both under-16s and adults across the UK.
Survey Results - UK fails to know its VE Day from its D-Day
A new campaign which aims to ‘Keep the Memories Alive’ has revealed there is a startling lack of knowledge about the First and Second World Wars across adults in the UK.
A questionnaire conducted by Leger Holidays with members of the British public shows that one in five (21%) don’t know which country we went to war for in 1939 and a startling two thirds of people (69%) don’t know which was the main British battlefront in the First World War.
In addition, the research revealed 57% of respondents wrongly thought that the D in D-Day stood for Dunkirk, Deliverance, Decision or even Doom – in reality D Day was a military term indicating the start day of a military operation. It was not specific to Normandy or 6th June 1944.
The multiple choice questionnaire was completed by 500 adults over the age of 18, from across the UK. The answers revealed:
- A shocking 83% don’t know the official dates of the First World War (1914 – 1919), with many thinking it ended a year earlier in 1918. Although fighting finished on the Western Front in 1918, it was in reality just a ceasefire agreement, and the war didn’t officially end until the signing of the Treaty of Versailles on 28th June 1919.
- Three quarters of people (77%) don’t know that Armistice Day marks the end to the official fighting on the Western Front, with many wrongly thinking it marks the official end of the war.
- One in five (21%) didn’t know we went into the Second World War for the country of Poland – 11% wrongly guessed France and 5% Great Britain.
- Two out of three people (69%) don’t know the main British Battlefront in WW1 was Ypres, with the majority believing it was the Somme.
- One in ten (9%) don’t know VE Day stands for Victory in Europe Day – some wrongly guessing it was ‘Victory for England’.
- Despite it being the largest amphibious military operation in history, one in seven (14%) don’t know the date of the famous D-Day landings in Normandy (6th June).
- More than one in three (38%) don’t know that VJ Day, on 2nd September, marked the end of World War Two.
- The release of the findings is part of an ongoing campaign by Leger Holidays, the UK’s leading battlefield tour provider, to encourage people to ‘Keep the Memories Alive’ by talking to older relatives, friends and neighbours before vital information is lost forever. As part of the campaign people are urged to share stories, via speeches from veterans at schools, to a dedicated memories on the site.
- Paul Reed, Leger’s battlefield expert, with more than 25 years experience as a military historian, battlefield guide and broadcaster, said: “Although the results across the board were pretty disappointing, I think they show that WW1 history is fading quicker than WW2, which is perhaps understandable given the last British veteran from the First World War sadly died in 2009. But I don’t think people really understand that – one in five people questioned (19%) thought there were still WW1 veterans alive, but if you think about it, they would have to be well over 110 years old now.
- “Although people can read in books, there is no substitute for talking to someone who was actually involved about their own experience, or going and visiting some of the key sites and taking a moment to really reflect on what happened. We have set up a programme of taking WWII veterans into schools to talk through their experiences, and the children are fascinated. Given the results from the questionnaire, it seems we just need to encourage Britain’s adults to do likewise!”
An introduction to Keep the Memories Alive.
UK fails to know its VE Day from its D-Day.
Collection of memories from World War 2
Keeping your memories alive online
All the latest Keep the Memories Alive News
Photo memories from the past & present.
A selection of books and website articles.