September 3rd, 1939: War is Declared – The British Newspaper Archive Blog

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September 3rd, 1939: War is Declared

In August of 1939, Britain and Poland signed an agreement of mutual assistance. This mean that were any foreign power to interfere with either country militarily, the other would rush to their aid. Days later, on September 1st, Germany crossed the Polish border under a flag of nationalism, on an invented crusade to liberate the oppressed Germans of Danzig, a semi-independent area created by the terms of the Treaty of Versailles, 1919.

Sunderland Daily Echo and Shipping Gazette - Friday 01 September 1939
Sunderland Daily Echo and Shipping Gazette – Friday 01 September 1939 Image © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

This German foray into Poland triggered pacts that the Poles had made with Britain and France. On September 2nd, Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain issued an ultimatum to Germany; exit Poland or a state of war will exist between us. Germany had until the 3rd to respond, and 76 years ago today the threatened state of war came to pass.

Sunderland Echo and Shipping Gazette 3 Sept 1939 1
Sunderland Echo and Shipping Gazette 3 Sept 1939 Image © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
Sunderland Echo and Shipping Gazette 3 Sept 1939
Sunderland Echo and Shipping Gazette 3 Sept 1939 Image © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

Chamberlain announced the declaration of war to the British public via radio broadcast. In this broadcast (the full transcript of which you can read here), he states that ‘this morning, the British Ambassador in Berlin handed the German government a final Note stating that, unless we heard from then by 11 o’clock that they were prepared at once to withdraw their troops from Poland, a state of war would exist between us.

Nottingham Evening Post - Sunday 03 September 1939
Nottingham Evening Post – Sunday 03 September 1939 Image © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

I have to tell you now that no such undertaking has been received, and that consequently this country is at war with Germany.’ With those words, wheels were set in motion that would see the country plunged into six long years of war, a bloody global conflict that would change the world forever.

Gloucester Citizen - Sunday 03 September 1939
Gloucester Citizen – Sunday 03 September 1939 Image © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

To read more about the outbreak of war, browse our collection of newspapers from that fateful day.

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