British and French declaration of war on Germany

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The Declaration of war by France and the United Kingdom was given on 3 September 1939, after German forces invaded Poland. Despite the speech being the official announcement of both France and the United Kingdom, the speech was given by the British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, in Westminster, London.[1]

The Speech[edit]

Below is the speech, given by Neville Chamberlain.

British and French Declaration of War

I am speaking to you from the Cabinet Room at 10, Downing Street.

This morning the British Ambassador in Berlin [Nevile Henderson] handed the German Government a final note stating that unless we heard from them by 11.00 a.m. 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 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 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 has 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 although they were announced in a German broadcast on Thursday night, Hitler did not wait to make comment on them, but ordered his troops to cross the Polish frontier.

His actions show 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.

We and France are today, in fulfilment of our obligations, going to the aid of Poland, who is so bravely resisting this wicked and unprovoked attack on her people. We have a clear conscience. We have done all that any country could do to establish peace. The situation in which no word given to Germany’s ruler could be trusted and no people or country could feel themselves safe has become intolerable.

And now that we have resolved to finish it, I know that you will play your part with calmness and courage.

At such a moment as this the assurances of support that we have received from the Empire are a source of profound encouragement to us.

When I have finished speaking certain detailed announcements will be made on behalf of the Government. Give these your closest attention.

The Government have made plans under which it will be possible to carry on the work of the nation in the days of stress and strain that may be ahead. But these plans need your help.

You may be taking part in the fighting Services or as a volunteer in one of the branches of civil defence. If so you will report for duty in accordance with the instructions you have received.

You may be engaged in work essential to the prosecution of war for the maintenance of the life of the people – in factories, in transport, in public utility concerns or in the supply of other necessaries of life. If so, it is of vital importance that you should carry on with your jobs.

Now may God bless you all. May He defend the right. It is the evil things that we shall be fighting against – brute force, bad faith, injustice, oppression and persecution – and against them I am certain that the right will prevail.

Historical Context[edit]

After losing World War I, Germany signed the First Armistice at Compiègne on 11 November 1918 as a formal cessation of hostilities. Over six months later, on 28 June 1919, Germany agreed to the Treaty of Versailles, as an official peace treaty. After surrendering, the Weimar Republic was set up in Germany. The Republic was doomed from the start. The transition from monarchy to republic was not very smooth, and many people in the government were not sure what to do, after years of having one person decide most everything. On top of that, the army did not support the Republic, and hyperinflation rapidly set in, making German Marks next to worthless. On top of all of that, Germany had to pay make reparations, and took out a loan from the United States. The inflation was so severe that in November 1922, one US Dollar equaled 4,200,000,000 marks, over one million times higher than it had been in 1914, and almost two million times higher than it had been just over two years before (in January 1922, 1 dollar equaled 191 marks).[2] In 1933, Adolf Hitler was elected Reichskanzler (German for Chancellor of the Reich) of Germany. After being elected, Hitler quickly turned the government from a republic back into a dictatorship. After five years of power, Hitler annexed Austria into Germany, despite such an act being banned by both the Treaty of Saint-Germain-en-Laye and the Treaty of Versailles. In early November 1938, the First Vienna Award was signed, allowing Germany to control part of Czechoslovakia. Soon after, the German territory of Memelland was granted to Germany, through the 1939 German ultimatum to Lithuania.

Despite all of the land Germany had recaptured, Hitler still wanted more: he wanted to create Lebensraum, or "living space". Many of the Western powers threatened to declare war if Germany had any further hostilities. Many of the countries followed through on that promise soon after Germany's Invasion of Poland, on 1 September 1939.[3]


  1. ^ "Britain and France declare war on Germany". The History Channel. Retrieved 6 May 2014. 
  2. ^ Kalfus, Richard. "Weimar Republic 191-1923". St. Luis Community College. Retrieved 6 May 2014. 
  3. ^ Rapten, Pema Dechen. "Political Disorder: The Weimar Republic and Revolt 1918-23". Mount Holyoke College. Retrieved 6 May 2014.