All our Yesterdays: September 3rd 1939

On this day in 1939, at 11.15am, British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain broadcast to the nation the declaration of war against Germany. 

Chamberlain is remembered by the British people as an "appeaser". This judgement may actually be unfair, writes Gary Cartwright.

Chamberlain, like many European politicians across the political spectrum, had his memories of the First World War, and was desperate to do everything in his power to avoid another such conflict. He also recognised that the terms of the Versailles Treaty placed huge, and many would say unfair, burdens on the German people, and were creating a political climate that was fomenting unrest.

Chamberlain met with Adolf Hitler three times in 1938, famously returning with a signed undertaking from the Nazi leader which Chamberlain thought would offer "peace in our time".

However, the Fuhrer reneged on his word and Germany invaded Poland on 1st September 1939. Britain was obliged, by treaty, to protect the security of Poland.

Chamberlain, solemnly and with a heavy heart, did his duty two days later and announced that the nation was at war with Germany.

It was to become one of the greatest tragedies in history.

This morning the British Ambassador in Berlin handed the German Government a final Note stating that, unless we heard from them by 11 o'clock that they were prepared at once to withdraw their troops from Poland, a state of war would exist between us. I have to tell you now that no such undertaking has been received, and that consequently this country is at war with Germany.

Neville Chamberlain, British Prime Minister, September 3rd 1939

Chamberlain was to be replaced in 10 Downing Street by Winston Churchill. The rest is history.

Chamberlain died in November 1940 a broken man.

At his funeral Winston Churchill said "Whatever shall I do without poor Neville? I was relying on him to look after the Home Front for me."

Perhaps history should look more Kindly on Neville Chamberlain, the man who wanted only peace.

Read also:

All Our Yesterdays: Warsaw Uprising 74 Years On

All Our Yesterdays: The Great Escape

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Gary Cartwright

Gary Cartwright

Gary Cartwright is publishing editor of EU Today.

An experienced journalist and published author, he specialises in environment, energy, and defence.

He also has more than 10 years experience of working as a staff member in the EU institutions, working with political groups and MEPs in various policy areas.

Gary's latest book WANTED MAN: THE STORY OF MUKHTAR ABLYAZOV: A Manual for Criminals on How to Avoid Punishment in the EU is currently available from Amazon

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