Second World War History Logo

France WW2 Timeline

Authored By Dan Alex | Last Updated: 3/19/2015

A valiant defense by France was not enough to stand against the power - and blitzkrieg tactics - of the German war machine in the early going of World War 2.

Tweet

There are a total of 131 WW2 French Timeline Events. Entries are listed below by date of occurrence ascending and are gathered from the overall SwwH site database as they relate to their particular series of events.


Text ©2003-2015 www.SecondWorldWarHistory.com. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction Permitted. Email corrections/comments to SecondWorldWarHistory at Gmail dot com.

1939
Saturday
September 2nd

The governments of Britain and France deliver their ultimatums to German officials in regards to the German invasion of Poland.

1939
Sunday
September 3rd

France declares war on Germany.

1939
Thursday
September 7th

French forces begin light fighting against German elements near Saarbrucken.

1939
Monday
September 10th

General Lord Gort and his British Expeditionary Force begin to arrive on French soil.

1939
Wednesday
September 13th

French Prime Minister Edouard Daladier begins setting up his war cabinet.

1939
Saturday
December 2nd

The Finnish government seeks assistance from the League of Nations.

1939
Thursday
December 14th

The Soviet Union is expelled from the League of Nations.

1940
Monday
February 5th

The Allied Supreme War Council agrees to come to the aid of Finland and Norway - if only to protect valuable Swedish ore from falling to the Germans.

1940
Saturday
February 24th

Following General von Manstein's recommendation, the German invasion plans of Western Europe are revised to send armored forces through the "impassable" Ardennes Forest.

1940
Wednesday
March 20th

French PM Daladier resigns his post after the failure to save Finland.

1940
Thursday
March 21st

Paul Reynaud succeeds Edouard Daladier as France's Prime Minister.

1940
Thursday
March 28th

The governments of France and Britain agree to not make any secret peace treaties with the Germans and remain a unified front.

1940
Sunday
April 14th

An Allied rescue force made up of British, Polish, and French begin arriving at Namsos, Alesund, and Narvik.

1940
Saturday
April 20th - April 30th

The German defense at Trondheim holds and prepares for reinforcements.

1940
Wednesday
April 24th

Allied naval guns open up on German positions at Narvik in preparation for a ground assault.

1940
Wednesday
May 1st - May 2nd

Allied forces abandon their missions at Namsos and Andalsnes.

1940
Friday
May 3rd

Duringan evacuation operation, the French destroyer Bison and the British destroyer Afridi are sunk by air attack.

1940
Sunday
May 5th

French and Polish forces land at Tromso and Harstad.

1940
Saturday
May 11th

British and French army forces begin defensive preparations in Belgium in an effort to stave off the German advance. A long line of strategic defenses is contructed.

1940
Monday
May 13th

French forces land at Bjerkvik.

1940
Tuesday
May 14th

Panzer Corps XV and XIX break through the Allied defenses at Sedan, allowing German forces to completely bypass the formidable defenses at the French Maginot Line.

1940
Wednesday
May 15th

German Panzer Corps cross into the north of France.

1940
Friday
May 17th - May 18th

Allied forces are in full retreat of the Germans, making their way towards the French coastline.

1940
Monday
May 20th

Compounding battlefield losses across France and the Low Countries force a change at the helm - General Maxime Weygand replaces General Maurice-Gustave Gamelin as supreme Allied commander.

1940
Monday
May 20th

Sensing a catastrophic loss in the making, Winston Churchill orders preparation of vessels to evacuate the British Expeditionary Forces from northern France.

1940
Tuesday
May 21st

The Allies are able to make some gains near Narvik.

1940
Tuesday
May 21st

An Allied counterattack against the German Army near Arras ends in failure as the attack is itself countered by another advancing German land force.

1940
Friday
May 24th

German Luftwaffe bombers hammer Allied defensive positions in and around the French port city of Dunkirk.

1940
Friday
May 24th

In a stunning move, Hitler orders his forces not to cross the Lens-Bethune-St Omer-Gravelines line, allowing the retreating Allied forces more time to reach the French coast.

1940
Saturday
May 25th

The German Army takes Boulogne.

1940
Saturday
May 25th

More and more retreating Allied units arrive at the French port city of Dunkirk.

1940
Sunday
May 26th

Over 850 British civilian vessels take part in assisting military forces off of French soil to awaiting transports in what would become the largest military evacuation in history.

1940
Sunday
May 26th

Operation Dynamo - the all-out evacuation of Allied forces from Dunkirk - officially begins at 6:57 PM.

1940
Sunday
May 26th

Hitler orders his army forces towards Dunkirk for the final blow to the Allied cause.

1940
Sunday
May 26th

The British lose HMS Curlew in an attack from the air.

1940
Monday
May 27th

The Allies enter Narvik.

1940
Tuesday
May 28th

By the end of this day, some 25,473 British soldiers have been evacuated from France.

1940
Tuesday
May 28th

With Belgium out of the way, German Army elements begin making their way towards the French coastline in an attempt to completely eliminate Allied forces for good.

1940
Tuesday
May 28th

King Leopold of Belgium orders his army to surrender to the Germans. By this time, his government has already relocated to Paris, France.

1940
Tuesday
May 28th

With the fight gone out of them, the Belgian Army surrenders to the German 6th and 18th armies. Their actions, however, supply the evacuating Allies with much-needed time.

1940
Wednesday
May 29th

Another 47,000 British troops are evacuated from Dunkirk.

1940
Thursday
May 30th

6,000 French soldiers join some 120,000 total Allied soldiers evacuated from Dunkirk on this day.

1940
Friday
May 31st

Over 150,000 Allied soldiers (including some 15,000 French) arrive in Britain.

1940
Saturday
June 1st

Defense of the outlying region near Dunkirk now passes to French XVI Corps.

1940
Saturday
June 1st

The British and French governments notify the Norwegian government of their plans to evacuate.

1940
Tuesday
June 4th

Allied forces at Harstad begin their evacuation of the area.

1940
Tuesday
June 4th

Some 40,000 French soldiers are taken prisoner by Germany at the fall of Dunkirk.

1940
Tuesday
June 4th

Operation Dynamo - the evacuation of Allied forces at Dunkirk - officially ends. 338,326 total soldiers are saved including 113,000 French troops.

1940
Tuesday
June 4th

German Luftwaffe bombers cease bombardment of Dunkirk.

1940
Monday
June 17th

French Marshal Henri-Philippe Petain, having replaced outsted Prime Minister Paul Reynaud, ask Germany for armistice terms.

1940
Monday
June 24th

The formal signing of the French surrender takes place at Compiegne - site of the original German surrender of World War 1.

1940
Saturday
July 6th

German ships begin operating out of captured bases along the French coast.

1940
Sunday
September 22nd

Japanese forces enter French Indochina now being governed by French Vichy.

1940
Monday
September 23rd

A combined force of Free French and British personnel attempt to take Dakar of French West Africa but the invasion falters after several days.

1940
Monday
September 24th

Vichy French air elements launch unsuccessful attacks on British positions at Gibraltar.

1940
Friday
October 18th

The Vichy French government imposes anti-semitic laws upon the local Jewish population.

1942
Wednesday
May 20th

The 2nd Canadian Infantry Division begins training for Operation Rutter on the Isle of Wight.

1942
Wednesday
May 27th

The 1st Free French Brigade at Bir Hacheim holds off the German progress.

1942
Wednesday
June 10th

The 1st Free French Brigade at Bir Hacheim can hold no more and retreat under the mounting German pressure.

1942
Tuesday
July 7th

This date is set aside for Operation Rutter - the amphibious landing at the port city of Dieppe in occupied France.

1942
Tuesday
July 7th

Bad weather cancels this original date for Operation Rutter. Discussions begin on whether or not to nix the entire endeavor. It returns to the planning stages under a new name - Operation Jubilee.

1942
Wednesday
August 19th

By 2:00 PM, all survivors of the Dieppe invasion have been rescued. Left behind are 3,367 casualties, wounded, prisoners of war or missing.

1942
Wednesday
August 19th

At 5:20 AM, the main invasion force - made up of the 14th Army Tank Regiment, the Essex Scottish Regiment, and the Royal Hamilton Light Infantry - come ashore.

1942
Wednesday
August 19th

At 4:30 AM, Canadian soldiers wade ashore and take on the German coastal batteries at Berneval, Puys, Pourville and Varengville.

1942
Wednesday
August 19th

At 3:48 AM, several Allied invasion vessels run into a German convoy, which actively engages the ships, ruining any chance the Allies held in the element of surprise. This event is a fore-telling of the day to follow.

1942
Wednesday
August 19th

4,962 Canadian soldiers, along with 1,000 British troops and a 50-man contingent of American US Army Rangers set sail on no fewer than 237 boats towards Dieppe.

1942
Wednesday
August 19th

Operation Jubilee is officially put into action.

1942
Wednesday
August 19th

By 11:00 AM, disaster has completely befallen the invaders. Many are trapped, forced back or dead to a prepared German defense.

1942
Wednesday
August 19th

This date is targeted for Operation Jubilee.

1942
Wednesday
August 19th

At 5:35 AM, Allied armor makes it to the beach. Over half of the tanks are lost in the action.

1942
Friday
August 21st

Nazi-allied French leader Marshal Petain celebrates the German victory over the Allied invasion at Dieppe.

1942
Sunday
November 8th

At Oran, French coastal guns destroya US transport with 200 soldiers aboard.

1942
Sunday
November 8th

French General Mast surrenders to the British Eastern Task Force.

1942
Sunday
November 8th

The US Western and Central task forces tangle with Vichy French opposition.

1942
Monday
November 9th

The first French cease-fires begin to ring out across Algeria and Morocco.

1942
Monday
November 9th

US forces tangle with a suprisingly stout French defense. It was believed that the two country's histories would have brought France to surrender rather than fight a former ally.

1942
Wednesday
November 11th

French Admiral Jean Francios Darlan joins French General Alphonse Juin in calling an all-out cease fire for French forces throughout Africa.

1942
Wednesday
November 11th

The British Eastern Task force capture the strategic airfield at Djidjelli via Bougie from Algiers.

1942
Sunday
November 15th

American paratroopers land at the airfield near Youks les Bains

1944
Tuesday
January 11th

The first major Allied offensive to take Cassino is launched.

1944
Tuesday
January 11th

French Expeditionary Corps assail the outer defences at Cassino, achieving modest gains.

1944
Sunday
January 16th

The US IC Corps and the French Expeditionary Corps arrive at Rapido River.

1944
Friday
February 11th

A blanket retreat is enacted by the Allies in an attempt to regroup and plan a new strategy to take Cassino.

1944
Tuesday
February 15th

Following the Allied aerial bombardment, the second major Allied offensive to take Cassino is launched.

1944
Saturday
February 19th - March 13th

The Italian winter makes its arrival and postpones any further Allied offensives for the next month.

1944
Wednesday
March 15th - March 21st

Positions on Monte Cassino are officially in Allied hands.

1944
Wednesday
March 15th

Artillery guns open up on Cassino while 600-plus Allied bombers attempt to shake the German defenders.

1944
Wednesday
March 15th

A third major Allied offensive is put into action.

1944
Wednesday
March 22nd

With mounting losses in both manpower and tanks, further Allied thrusts are called off.

1944
Thursday
March 23rd - May 10th

A lengthy six-week period allows the Allies to rebuild their forces - though this period allows the Germans to increase their defensive foothold.

1944
Saturday
April 1st - June 5th

Allied bombers increase their sorties across Northern and Western France in preparations of the D-Day landings. Targets include the vital railways, railyards, bridges and roads dotting the French landscape. These facilities will prove crucial to the German response to the invasion.

1944
Thursday
May 11th

The fourth offensive to take Cassino is put into action.

1944
Wednesday
May 17th

June 5th is selected as the next official launch date for D-Day.

1944
Wednesday
May 17th

Weather on May 17th cancels the D-Day operation. Leaving the next best weather window of opportunity to be June 5th.

1944
Wednesday
May 17th

This date became one of the two best weather options for the Allied invasion of France.

1944
Thursday
May 18th

Monte Cassino falls to the Allies, costing some 50,000 casualties along both sides of the battlefield.

1944
Sunday
June 4th

Official word comes down that the June 5th landings will be postponed due to inclement weather across the North Sea.

1944
Monday
June 5th

Some 6,000 naval vessels depart from the south of England towards France.

1944
Tuesday
June 6th

By 8:00AM, most of the German defenders at or near Gold and Sword beaches have been cleared or are on the run.

1944
Tuesday
June 6th

American forces at Utah beach hold pockets of land totaling just over 6 miles.

1944
Tuesday
June 6th

The first town in France - Ste Mere Eglise - is liberated by the Allies, this honor falling to the American forces from Utah beach and paratroopers from the previous day's drops.

1944
Tuesday
June 6th

Omaha statistics are grim and the group holds the least amount of real estate at just 4.3 miles across and 1.2 miles inland. However, they do hold positions in Vierville sur Mer, Colleville and St-Laurent sur Mer.

1944
Tuesday
June 6th

The Allied elements at Sword beach hold onto a 6-by-6 mile piece of land though they are still cut off from the Allies at Juno.

1944
Tuesday
June 6th

The British and Canadian forces out of Gold and Juno beaches enjoy the largest footholds in France, encompassing land holdings some 9 miles wide and 6.2 miles inland.

1944
Tuesday
June 6th

By midnight, D-Day is more or less over. Not all objectives are captured but progress is made nonetheless.

1944
Tuesday
June 6th

By 8:00PM, the Canadian 3rd Infantry Division out of Juno beach connects with the British 50th Division out of Gold beach. This union becomes the largest Allied-held pocket in the north of France to this point.

1944
Tuesday
June 6th

The German 21st Panzer Division is repelled by a combined Allied armor and air assault, saving further actions at Sword.

1944
Tuesday
June 6th

The German counter-attack reaches the beachhead at Sword.

1944
Tuesday
June 6th

British and French special forces elements out of Sword beach connect with the British paratroopers holding the key bridges over the Orne River.

1944
Tuesday
June 6th

Near the town of Pouppeville, the US 4th Infantry Division at Utah beach connects with the 101st Airborne Division paratroopers.

1944
Tuesday
June 6th

The Canadians out of Juno beach take Bernieres at about 11:00AM.

1944
Tuesday
June 6th

At 4:00PM, the mobilized German 21st Panzer Division launches a counter-attack.

1944
Tuesday
June 6th

The Canadian 3rd Infantry Division makes its way towards Juno beach. The German defenses, heavy seas and underwater obstacles cause a loss of 30 percent of the landing craft. The onshore result is equally grim as the Canadians are assaulted by the prepared Germans.

1944
Tuesday
June 6th

Allied naval warships open up with their guns on German defensive positions along the French coast.

1944
Tuesday
June 6th

Elements of the US 82nd and 101st Airborne divisions land across the Cotentin Peninsula. Despite all the planning, their dropzones are widely scattered.

1944
Tuesday
June 6th

British paratroopers of the 6th British Airborne Brigade land near Benouville.

1944
Tuesday
June 6th

The British paratroopers take the bridges over the Caen Canal and the Orne River.

1944
Tuesday
June 6th

British paratroopers destroy the coastal fortifications at Merville.

1944
Tuesday
June 6th

At approximately 10:00AM, British forces out of Gold beach take La Riviere.

1944
Tuesday
June 6th

Despite the confusion on the part of the misdropped Allied paratroopers, the defending Germans are thrown into an equal level of confusion, noting Allied airdrops all around them.

1944
Tuesday
June 6th

In preparation for the arrival of the regular armies by way of amphibious landing, British and American airborne paratroopers arrive in France just after midnight.

1944
Tuesday
June 6th

At approximately 6:30AM, American Army forces begin landing at two key beaches, codenamed Utah and Omaha.

1944
Tuesday
June 6th

US Army forces arriving at Utah beach find themselves some 2,000 yards away from where they should be. The result is the force finds little German opposition at Utah. Their original landing zone was to be centered around Les-Dunes-de-Varreville. Total casualties from the landing are 300 personnel.

1944
Tuesday
June 6th

The US Army forces arriving at Omaha beach face a prepared, stout and veteran defense made possible by the German 352nd Division. After 2,400 casualties, the 1st US Infantry Division holds a beachhead.

1944
Tuesday
June 6th

At approximately 7:25AM, forces of the British and Canadian armies wade ashore at beaches codenamed Gold and Juno.

1944
Tuesday
June 6th

The combined British and Canadian forces at Gold face little opposition and claim their objectives with little incident.

1944
Tuesday
June 6th

The British 50th Division pushed some 6 miles inland.

1944
Tuesday
June 6th

The British 3rd Division arriving at Sword beach face a stouter German defense but are able to overwhelm the enemy and establish a foothold.

1944
Tuesday
June 6th

No less than five key bridges over the Dives River are blown up by British paratroopers.

1944
Saturday
August 26th

Brigadier-General Charles de Gaulle, leader of the Free French forces, leads a contingent of Allied troops on a march down the Champs Elysees to a thunderous reception by liberated French citizens.

1945
Saturday
January 20th

Hitler orders his 6th SS Panzer Army out of the Ardennes forrest on the West Front towards Budapest, Hungary in the east.