Britain declares War on Germany - WWII begins
The 3rd of September 1939 AD
The major war that had for some at least seemed inevitable for years finally became a reality on September 3 1939. Czechoslovakia had already been over-run in March, an act that British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain more or less ignored, though his government and that of France agreed to support Poland in case of subsequent German invasion. When that invasion did come on September 1 1939, as we now know he had to be forced by certain ministers to adhere to that agreement.
Germany was given an ultimatum to begin troop withdrawals from Poland by 11.00 BST on September 3. When no withdrawals were made, a declaration of war was delivered to Hitlerís government by the British Embassy in Berlin. Thus at 11.15 Britain and Germany were at war. Franceís similar ultimatum expired at 17.00 the same day, so they too were at war with Germany. Australia and New Zealand soon followed Britainís lead with their own declarations.
In spite of Chamberlainís blind hopes of avoiding conflict, preparations had been made, and September 3 saw the completion of the evacuation of 1.5 million civilians, mainly children, from major cities across the country. But after appeasement and vacillation more belligerent action was needed: Winston Churchill after years in the wilderness was brought into a nine-man war cabinet . At the same time Anthony Eden was also called back into the ministerial fold a year after resigning in exasperated protest at Chamberlainís policies.
September 3 saw the first German atrocity of WWII against British civilians: the liner Athenia was sunk in the North Atlantic by the submarine U-30, with the loss of 112 lives, among them 28 American civilians, though the US Government remained determinedly neutral as yet.
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