The first day of World War II

British war cabinet 1939-40 (Credit: Walter Bellamy)

9.00am

Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain issues the German ambassador with a demand that Germany withdraw their troops from Poland, otherwise Britain will be forced to declare war on his nation.

11.00am

The deadline imposed on Germany by Britain for withdrawal of troops from Poland passes.

11.15am

Neville Chamberlain takes to the radio waves to announce to the country that Britain is now officially at war with Germany. His announcement ends with the phrase: “I have to tell you now that no such undertaking has been received and consequently this country is at war with Germany.”

12.30pm

France issues Germany with a similar ultimatum. They are to withdraw troops by 5.00pm or they too will declare war.

5.00pm

This deadline passes, leading French Premier Edouard Daladier to issue a statement of war. He does not actually say France are at war, stating instead “I am conscious of having worked unremittingly against the war until the last minute. I greet with great emotion and affection our young soldiers, who now go forth to perform the sacred task which we ourselves did perform before them.”

9.15pm

Australian Prime Minister Robert Menzies announces via radio that Australia is also at war with Germany.

11.45pm

New Zealand receive news that Britain has declared war on Germany so issue their own declaration of war, backdated to 9.30pm to coincide with the British announcement when accounting for the time difference.


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