War with Germany declared

War with Germany declared  (1939) 
by Neville Chamberlain

On 1 September 1939, Germany invaded Poland. Many in the United Kingdom expected war, but the government did not wish to make a formal declaration unless it had the support of France. France's intentions were unclear at that point, and the government could only give Germany an ultimatum: if Hitler withdrew his troops within two days, Britain would help to open talks between Germany and Poland. When Chamberlain announced this in the House on 2 September, there was a massive outcry. The prominent Conservative former minister Leo Amery, believing that Chamberlain had failed in his responsibilities, famously called on the acting Leader of the Opposition Arthur Greenwood to "Speak for England, Arthur!" Chief Whip David Margesson told Chamberlain that he believed the government would fall if war was not declared. After bringing further pressure on the French, who agreed to parallel the British action, Britain declared war on 3 September 1939.

A recording of Chamberlain's speech (help | file info or download)
Announcing the outbreak of war with Germany, 3 September 1939

I am speaking to you from the cabinet room of 10 Downing St. 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.

You can imagine what a bitter blow it is to me that all my long struggle to win peace has failed. Yet I cannot believe that there is anything more, or anything different, that I could have done, and that would have been more successful. Up to the very last it would have been quite possible to have arranged a peaceful and honourable settlement between Germany and Poland. But Hitler would not have it; he had evidently made up his mind to attack Poland whatever happened. And although he now says he put forward reasonable proposals which were rejected by the Poles, that is not a true statement. The proposals were never shown to the Poles, nor to us. And though they were announced in the German broadcast on Thursday night, Hitler did not wait to hear comments on them but ordered his troops to cross the Polish frontier the next morning.

His action shows convincingly that there is no chance of expecting that this man will ever give up his practice of using force to gain his will. He can only be stopped by force, and we and France are today in fulfillment of our obligations going to the aid of Poland who is so bravely resisting this wicked and unprovoked attack upon her people. We have a clear conscience, we have done all that any country could do to establish peace, but a situation in which no word given by Germany's ruler could be trusted, and no people or country could feel itself safe, had become intolerable. And now that we have resolved to finish it, I know that you will all play your parts with calmness and courage.

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