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Glossary - B

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Baedeker raids

Series of 1942 German air raids on Britain, targeting English cities listed in the famous German Tourist Guidebook

Bal Gangadhar Tilak

Born in 1856, he was an Indian nationalist, social reformer and independence fighter, known as the 'Father of Indian Unrest'. He founded and led the Indian Home Rule League in 1914 and concluded the Lucknow Pact with Mohammed Ali Jinnah in 1916, providing for Hindu-Muslim unity in the independence struggle. He died in 1920.


Islands off the eastern coast of Spain

Barbara Castle

Left-wing Labour MP. She was the only female member of Harold Wilson's first Cabinet. As Transport Minister she introduced the breathalyser. Her white paper 'In Place of Strife' attempted to ease industrial relations, but failed due to union pressure. Published her provocative diaries in retirement.


Seaport in eastern Libya

Barry Hertzog

Boer General and then Minister of Justice in the first union government. Founder of the Nationalist party in 1914, he opposed South African intervention in the First World War. South African premier for much of the 1920s and 1930s, he firmly believed in racial segregation.

Batista regime

Fulgencio Batista was a Cuban soldier who participated in two military coups and led Cuba twice as a right-wing, pro-American dictator. His  corrupt and oppressive regime was famously overthrown by Fidel Castro in 1959.

Battle of Berlin

Two Soviet army groups attacked Berlin from the east and south in late April 1945, while a third overran German forces north of Berlin. Adolf Hitler and some of his followers committed suicide during the battle, which led to the city's surrender on 2 May 1945.

Battle of Caporetto

A First World War battle in late 1917. German and Austrian forces broke the Italian line at Caporetto, advancing deep into Italy. The Italians were routed and humiliated. The arrival of British and French reinforcements and the inability of the Austrian support services to supply their troops, stabilised the front

Battle of Doiran

The First World War battle of September 1918 in which Greek and British troops launched an assault on Bulgarian positions near Lake Doiran. The Bulgarians repulsed all attacks and inflicted enormous losses on the Allies, for whom the battle was a complete disaster. However, the Bulgarians subsequently retreated, leading to their surrender

Battle of Hamburg

Around-the-clock' bombing mission targeting Hamburg between July-August 1943. Later called the 'Hiroshima of Germany' by British officials, it was at the time the heaviest aerial assault in history. One attack created a firestorm causing approximately 40,000 mostly civilian deaths. Over 1 million people were left homeless by the raids

Battle of Megiddo

Throughout the First World War Turkey threatened Britain's oil supplies in Persia and territory in Egypt. The Allies were forced to deploy 600,000 British and Empire troops there and gradually drove the Turks back until they finally defeated them at Megiddo (September 1918). The Turks surrendered on 3 December 1918

Battle of the Bulge

A Second World War battle from December 1944 to January 1945. It was the final German counter-attack into the Ardennes, Belgium, against the advancing Allied forces (predominantly the 1st US Army). It attempted to split the Allied line and seize fuel supplies and communication links. It was repulsed with heavy German losses

Battle of the Ruhr

The Battle of the Ruhr was a major bombing offensive of 1943. Its targets were the towns of the Ruhr Valley, Germany's industrial heartland. Mounting losses caused the offensive to be called off. Post-war analysis indicated that the impact upon German industry was not as great as had been believed

Battle of the Somme

July-November 1916, on the Western Front. The first battle for Kitchener's new volunteer army. The British suffered 400,000 casualties for negligible gains. The 57,000 casualties of the first day of the battle remain a record for the British Army

Battle of Vittorio Veneto

The Italians defeated Austria-Hungary right at the end of the First World War. It reversed the Italian defeat at Caporetto and led to the Austrian request for an armistice


The raw material in the manufacture of aluminium

Bay of Pigs

An American attempt, sponsored by the CIA, to overthrow the Soviet-backed Cuban leader, Fidel Castro in 1961. The invasion was executed by Cuban exiles. President Kennedy cancelled air support at the last minute and the poorly-armed exiles were killed or captured

Bear Island

Norwegian island on the shipping routes from the Atlantic Ocean to the White Sea ports

Beda Fomm

A small coastal town in south-western Cyrenaica, Libya


City now in southern Israel


The capital and largest city of Lebanon


Collective name given to Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg, who work together as a regional economic group

Bentley and Craig

Derek Bentley was hanged for the murder of a policeman possibly committed by friend and accomplice, Christopher Craig, in the course of a robbery attempt. It created a cause célèbre and led to a 45-year-long successful campaign to win him a posthumous pardon. Craig, being under 18, could not be hanged

Berlin Blockade

Eleven month blockade of the city between 1948-1949, as Stalin tried to force the Allies out of West Berlin. The city was supplied by air. Stalin eventually backed down. As a consequence Germany was split into two - East and West - and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) was set up to protect the West from Communism

Beveridge Report

A very influential report on Social Insurance and Allied Services in 1942, which identified five evils: want, ignorance, disease, squalor and idleness. It recommended a compulsory system of state insurance (to which employers, employees and the state would contribute) to cover sickness, unemployment, retirement pensions and support for young families

Bevin Boys

48,000 conscripted men, aged 18-25, who were ordered to work in coal mines instead of joining the armed forces from December 1943. Coal mining lost 36,000 workers to the armed forces, and 10% of male conscripts were made to work in coal mining, often until 1948

Biafran Republic

Predominantly Ibo part of Eastern Nigeria that broke away in 1967. After initial success the republic was re-conquered by Nigeria, with British support, in 1970


A parliament or legislature with two chambers

Bikini Atoll

An atoll in one of the Micronesian Islands in the Pacific Ocean, part of Republic of the Marshall Islands


City in northern Spain. The largest in the Basque Country and the capital of the province of Biscay


Vessels which run, or attempt to run into a blockaded port by evading the blockading force


Ships, usually old and no longer seaworthy, deliberately sunk to prevent a river, channel or canal from being used. May be sunk by a navy defending a waterway to prevent attack, or by enemy raiders trying to prevent its use by the defending forces

Blue Streak

Blue Streak was a British designed medium range nuclear missile. Work on the project started in 1955 but the system was cancelled in 1960 in favour of the American air launched ballistic missile 'Skybolt'. Blue Streak was to be a liquid fuelled missile and would have been launched from protective silos

Board of Agriculture

A government department created in 1889. It became the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food in 1955. Until the Food Standards Agency was created, it was responsible for both food production and food safety, which was seen by some to give rise to a conflict of interest

Board of Education

Precursor of the Department of Education; it was set up to oversee government spending on education


Majority' group of the Russian Social Democratic Party, led by Lenin. Split from the more moderate Mensheviks in 1912. Seized power in the second revolution of 1917. 'Bolshevik' remained the official name of the Soviet Communist Party until 1952. Bolshevism was the strategy developed by the Bolsheviks with a view to seizing state power and establishing a dictatorship of the proletariat

Bonin Islands

A chain of islands 1,000 km south of Japan


An institution for reforming and training young offenders. Now replaced by detention centres and youth custody centres


The world's narrowest strait used for international navigation, it connects the Black Sea to the Mediterranean Sea. Forms the boundary between European Turkey and its Asian part


Hanseatic port repeatedly bombed in the Second World War because of its aircraft and shipping factories, as well as an oil refinery. It was also a U-Boat base

British Aerospace

Nationalised company formed in 1977 by the merger of several major aircraft manufacturers. Privatised in the 1980s. Became BAE Systems in 1999. Britain's largest exporter, averaging £4.5 billion a year, 80% of which is defence-based

British Expeditionary Force (BEF) (1914)

BEF 1914. The cream of the British Army sent to France in 1914. Known as the 'Old Contemptibles' due to the Kaiser dismissing them as a 'contemptibly small army'. Played a crucial role in stopping the German advance at the Battle of the Marne

British Expeditionary Force (BEF) (1939-40)

BEF 1939-1940. Sent to France at the start of the Second World War. It consisted of ten infantry divisions in three corps (I, II, and III), 1st Army Tank Brigade and a RAF detachment of about 500 aircraft. The Allied collapse led to its miraculous evacuation at Dunkirk, leaving virtually all of its equipment behind

British Medical Association

Professional organisation set up in 1832 to represent the professional and personal needs of doctors. Regulates the profession, and negotiates with government over health issues

British South Africa Company

Modelled on the British East India Company, this was set up by Cecil Rhodes in 1889 to conquer and exploit southern Africa. Handed over political power to white-dominated Southern Rhodesia in 1923, it maintained its mineral rights in Zambia until independence in 1964

Broadmoor Hospital

A high security psychiatric hospital in Berkshire with about 260 patients, most of whom suffer from severe mental illness. Some also have personality disorders. The majority have been convicted of serious crimes or have been found unfit to plead in a trial for such crimes

Brussels Treaty

A 50-year guarantee of mutual military assistance signed in 1948 by Britain, France, Belgium, Netherlands and Luxembourg. It set up the Western European Union to discuss future European peace and stability. Although joined by West Germany and Italy in 1955, it was of little significance after (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) NATO was set up in 1949