The Second World War: 1942

167 TUTOR: Josh Lynbeck (Marlborough College)

If 1941 was the high water mark for the Axis, 1942 was the year their earlier successes were shown to be hollow victories. While Germany struggled to regain the strategic initiative on the Eastern Front, they were being hard pressed at sea by the Royal Navy, although the U-Boat menace continued to plague Allied shipping. In North Africa, the British Army inflicted a series of defeats on the combined German and Italian forces, and British air raids on Germany grew ever more devastating. The war was far from over, however, as the Japanese seemed unstoppable in the Far East, despite their awakening of the mighty US war machine. By the end of the year, the United States was finding its feet, and in the words of Winston Churchill 'the end of the beginning' of the war had been reached.



2 PM
PM course

Course Notes

The end of 1940 had seen Britain driven 'bag and baggage' from the continent of Europe, but 'save herself' in Dunkirk and the Battle of Britain. Standing alone through the remainder of the year Britain found herself at the start of 1941 victorious in Africa against Italy, but unable to bomb Germany effectively. The British people were united behind Churchill, but those who tried to see a way forward were puzzled as to how they might defeat Germany.

1941 sees what has been described as a European civil war change into a global war. In June Hitler made the momentous decision to invade the Soviet Union, with initial rapid success. In December, the Japanese Empire attacked both the USA at Pearl Harbour in the Hawaiian Islands and in the Philippines, as well as the British Empire in Malaya and then Burma. Truly this was now a world war.

We shall concentrate on looking at the diplomatic manoeuvrings that lead to these momentous events, and at the various campaigns of 1941, which ended with the German Army knocking on the gates of Moscow, while the small British Imperial Army in North Africa was trying to cope with Rommel. The RAF was discovering that they could not find targets in Germany, and when they could find them, they could not hit them. The Royal Navy was engaged in what can only be described as an existential campaign against the U-boats in the north Atlantic. Only at Bletchley Park were the Allies actually winning anything, although it has to be said that our own naval codes were deeply compromised.

As December 1941 arrived, with the news from Pearl Harbour, Churchill comforted himself with the words; 'So we had won after all! I went to bed and slept the sleep of the saved and thankful.'


James Holland The War in the West: A New History. Volume 1: Germany Ascendant, 1939-41. Penguin, 2015.

Richard Overy Blood and Ruins. The Great Imperial War, 1931-1945, Alen Lane, 2021.

Winston Churchill The Second World War, Volume III: The Grand Alliance, Cassell, 1950.

Antony Beevor The Second World War, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2012.


Alan Clark Barbarossa, The Russian-German Conflict, 1941-45, Hutchinson, 1965.


Course Tutor

Josh Lynbeck

Josh Lynbeck

Marlborough College

About Josh

Josh studied History at Balliol College, Oxford, and later completed postgraduate work on the influence of religious rhetoric on the politics of the United States, also at Balliol. His primary historical interests are the history of the United States, medieval Britain, religious history, and military history, and he is a member of the Royal Historical Society.

Josh joined the History Department at Marlborough College in 2021. He is also a rugby, netball, and cricket coach, and a boarding house tutor in Barton Hill.

In addition to his historical interests, Josh is also a non-practising barrister, having completed his legal training in London and Cardiff, and he is a member of the Honourable Society of the Inner Temple. He maintains an interest in legal affairs, particularly in property law and education law.

Outside of academic work, Josh enjoys reading long books and writing short stories. He has competed in powerlifting, rugby, athletics, and cricket, and he has coached all four sports. He is also an enthusiastic amateur musician, which he combines with his love of hiking to ensure as few people as possible are afflicted by his singing.

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