Front Pages: Britain Declares War
75 years ago today the Second World War began when Great Britain, followed by her ally France and the senior independent dominions of the British Empire: Canada, Australia New Zealand and South Africa declared war on Nazi Germany. This was in response to Germany’s refusal to withdraw their invading forces from Poland.
Above are a collection of regional and national British newspapers published on the day Britain declared war on Germany. Many of the newspapers lead with the declaration and Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain’s radio address to the nation, in which he said “I trust I will may live to see Hitlerism destroyed and a liberated Europe has been re-established.” Sadly, he would not, dying from stomach cancer in 1940.
Many of the papers make much of the declarations importance with the Nottingham Daily Post calling it a “fateful day in the world’s history”. Both the Daily Mirror, Manchester Guardian lead with Winston Churchill’s return to the cabinet as First Lord of the Admiralty (the position he had first held at the outbreak of the First World War.) In the decade preceding his return to the British Government he had been seen as an outsider working against Chamberlain’s government on a number of issues. However, he was well regarded publicly and many remembered his work during the World War One as Minister of Munitions, First Lord and as a soldier.
The Derby Evening Post leads with the King’s anticipated address and the bombing of more Polish towns. The Daily Mirror announces the new appointments to the War Cabinet and that petrol will be rationed while the Manchester Guardian announces that Field Marshal Lord Gort would command the British Expeditionary Force readying to embark for France. Interestingly the Portsmouth Evening News includes a comparison to the beginning of the First World War in its central column, the circumstances, events and enemy bore many similarities.
Despite Britain and France’s declaration of war there was little practical assistance they could render to Poland initially. The Royal Navy began the blockade of German ports and the Battle of the Atlantic began in earnest while the French Army made a limited advance into the industrial Saarland region which had rejoined Germany following a plebiscite in January 1935. Germany’s invasion of Poland continued despite Britain and France’s declarations and all Polish resistance had ceased by early October 1939.
Newspaper sellers with placards announcing declaration of war: Image One Source + Image Two Source (IMW)
Daily Mirror, Sept. 4th, 1930 (source)
Manchester Guardian, Sept. 4th, 1930 (source)
Nottingham Evening Post, Sept. 3rd, 1939 (source)
Derby Evening Post, Sept. 3rd, 1939 (source)
Portsmouth Evening News, Sept. 3rd, 1939 (source)