1939 in the United Kingdom
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|1939 in the United Kingdom|
|1937 | 1938 | 1939 | 1940 | 1941|
|Individual countries of the United Kingdom|
|England | Northern Ireland | Scotland | Wales|
|Sport, Television and music|
Events from the year 1939 in the United Kingdom. This year sees the start of World War II.
- 2 January – all-time highest attendance for a U.K. Association football league game as 118,730 people watch Rangers beat Celtic in an "Old Firm derby" played at Ibrox Park in Glasgow.
- 4 February – the Irish Republican Army bombs two London Underground stations - Tottenham Court Road and Leicester Square.
- 25 February – first Anderson shelter built in London.
- 27 February – Borley Rectory, a reputed haunted house, destroyed by fire.
- 31 March – Britain pledges support to Poland in the event of an invasion.
- 4 April – Royal Armoured Corps formed.
- 11 April – Women's Royal Naval Service re-established.
- 27 April – Military Training Act (coming into force 3 June) introduces conscription; men aged 20 and 21 must undertake six months military training.
- May–September – the Sutton Hoo treasure – an Anglo-Saxon ship burial – is excavated. The principal treasure is presented to the British Museum by the landowner, Edith Pretty, at this time its largest ever gift from a living donor.
- 6 May – Dorothy Garrod is elected to the Disney Professorship of Archaeology in the University of Cambridge, the first woman to hold an Oxbridge chair.
- 15 May – film Goodbye, Mr. Chips released.
- 17 May – George VI and Queen Elizabeth arrive in Quebec City to begin the first-ever visit to Canada by a reigning British sovereign.
- 1 June – submarine HMS Thetis sinks during trials in Liverpool Bay. 99 men are lost.
- 7 June – George VI and Queen Elizabeth visit New York City on the first visit to the United States by a reigning British sovereign.
- 14 June – 20 August: Tientsin Incident – the Imperial Japanese Army blockades British trading settlements in the north China treaty port of Tientsin.
- 28 June – Women's Auxiliary Air Force created, absorbing the forty-eight RAF companies of the Auxiliary Territorial Service which have been formed since 1938.
- 30 June – the Mersey Ferry stops running to Rock Ferry.
- 1 July – Women's Land Army re-formed to work in agriculture.
- 8 July – the Pan American Airways Boeing 314 flying boat Yankee Clipper inaugurates the world's first heavier-than-air North Atlantic air passenger service between the United States and Britain (Southampton).
- 26 July – the Barber Institute of Fine Arts at the University of Birmingham, designed by Robert Atkinson, is officially opened by Queen Mary.
- 5 August – weekly transatlantic flights scheduled by Imperial Airways; suspended in September.[verification needed]
- 24 August – Emergency Powers (Defence) Act 1939 gives full authority to 'defence regulations'. Parliament recalled, Army reservists called up and Civil Defence workers placed on alert.
- 25 August – Irish Republican Army bomb explodes in Coventry, killing 25.
- 30 August – Royal Navy proceeds to war stations.
- late August – most paintings evacuated from the National Gallery in London to Wales.
- 1 September
- 3 September – World War II
- Declaration of war by the United Kingdom on Nazi Germany following the German invasion of Poland on 1 September. Shortly after 11.00, Chamberlain announces this news on BBC Radio, speaking from 10 Downing Street. Twenty minutes later, air raid sirens sound in London (a false alarm). Chamberlain creates a small War Cabinet which includes Winston Churchill as First Lord of the Admiralty.
- General mobilisation of the armed services begins. The signal "Total Germany" is sent to ships.
- National Service (Armed Forces) Act passed by Parliament introduces National Service for all men aged 18 to 41.
- British liner SS Athenia becomes the first civilian casualty of the war when she is torpedoed and sunk by German submarine U-30 between Rockall and Tory Island. Of the 1,418 aboard, 98 passengers and 19 crew are killed.
- 4 September – first bombing of Wilhelmshaven in World War II by the Royal Air Force.
- 5 September – National Registration Act.
- 9 September – British Expeditionary Force crosses to France.
- 10 September – British submarine HMS Triton torpedoes and sinks another British submarine, HMS Oxley, believing her to be a German U-boat, with the loss of 52 crew.
- 16 September – the Duke of Windsor is appointed a major-general attached to the British Military Mission to France.
- 17 September – aircraft carrier HMS Courageous is torpedoed and sunk by German submarine U-29 in the Western Approaches with the loss of 519 crew, the first British warship loss of the War.
- 18 September – Fascist politician William Joyce begins broadcasting Nazi propaganda under the name Lord Haw-Haw.
- 19 September – popular radio comedy show It's That Man Again with Tommy Handley first broadcast on the BBC Home service, following trial broadcasts from 12 July. Known as "ITMA", it runs for ten years.
- 24 September – petrol rationing introduced.
- 26 September – flying from HMS Ark Royal in the North Sea, Lieutenant B. S. McEwen of the Fleet Air Arm scores the first British victory over a German aircraft of the war, shooting down a flying boat. The aircraft carrier comes under air attack but survives.
- 27 September – first war tax is revealed by the Cabinet, including a significant rise in income taxes.
- 29 September – national register of citizens compiled to support the introduction of identity cards and rationing.
- 30 September – Identity cards introduced.
- 1 October – call-up proclamation: All men aged 20–21 must register with the military authorities.
- 14 October – HMS Royal Oak sunk by a German U-boat in Scapa Flow, Orkney Islands with the loss of 833 crew.
- 16 October – first enemy aircraft shot down by RAF Fighter Command, a Junkers Ju 88 brought down into the sea by Spitfires following an attack on Rosyth Naval Dockyard in Scotland.
- 17 October – first bomb lands in the U.K., at Hoy in the Orkney Islands.
- 21 October – registration of men aged 20 to 23 for National Service begins.
- 30 October – British battleship HMS Nelson is unsuccessfully attacked by U-56 under the command of captain Wilhelm Zahn off Orkney and is hit by three torpedoes, none of which explode; Winston Churchill (First Lord of the Admiralty), Admiral of the Fleet Dudley Pound (First Sea Lord) and Admiral Charles Forbes (Commander-in-Chief Home Fleet) are onboard.
- 4 November – Stewart Menzies is appointed head of the Secret Intelligence Service.
- 8 November – Venlo Incident: two British agents of SIS are captured by the Germans.
- 23 November – British armed merchantman HMS Rawalpindi is sunk in the GIUK gap in an action against the German battleships Scharnhorst and Gneisenau.
- 24 November – British Overseas Airways Corporation formed by merger of Imperial Airways and British Airways Ltd. effective from 1 April 1940.
- 4 December
- 9 December – first soldier of the British Expeditionary Force killed: Corporal Thomas Priday triggers a French land mine.
- 12 December – escorting destroyer HMS Duchess (H64) sinks after a collision with battleship HMS Barham (04) off the Mull of Kintyre in heavy fog with the loss of 124 men.
- 13 December – the Battle of the River Plate takes place between HMS Exeter, HMS Ajax, HMNZS Achilles and the German cruiser Admiral Graf Spee, forcing the latter to scuttle herself on 17 December.
- 18 December – Battle of the Heligoland Bight: RAF Bomber Command, on a daylight mission to attack Kriegsmarine ships in the Heligoland Bight, is repulsed by Luftwaffe fighter aircraft.
- December – Pilgrim Trust establishes Committee for the Encouragement of Music and the Arts, predecessor of the Arts Council.
- H. E. Bates' short story collection My Uncle Silas.
- Joyce Carey's novel Mister Johnson.
- James Hadley Chase's thriller No Orchids for Miss Blandish.
- Agatha Christie's novels Murder is Easy and Ten Little Indians.
- Henry Green's novel Party Going.
- Aldous Huxley's novel After Many a Summer.
- Richard Llewellyn's novel How Green Was My Valley.
- Jan Struther's short story collection Mrs. Miniver.
- Poetry London: a Bi-Monthly of Modern Verse and Criticism, founded by Tambimuttu, first published (January/February).
- 20 January – Chandra Wickramasinghe, Ceylonese-born British astronomer and poet
- 10 February – Peter Purves, actor and television presenter
- 8 March – Christopher Story, editor and intelligence analyst (died 2010)
- 7 April – David Frost, television personality (died 2013)
- 12 April – Alan Ayckbourn, playwright
- 13 April – Seamus Heaney, Irish poet, winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature (died 2013)
- 22 April – Alex Murphy, English rugby league footballer and coach
- 4 May – Neil Fox, rugby league footballer
- 10 May – Bill Cash, English lawyer and politician
- 31 May – Terry Waite, humanitarian, author and hostage
- 5 June – Margaret Drabble, novelist and biographer
- 8 June – Francis Jacobs, English lawyer and judge
- 11 June
- 19 June – Michael Standing, actor
- 10 July – John Dunlop, racehorse trainer
- 4 August – Jack Cunningham, politician
- 15 August – Bill Wratten, air marshal
- 19 August – Alan Baker, mathematician
- 30 August – John Peel, disc jockey and radio presenter (died 2004)
- 25 September – Leon Brittan, politician (died 2015)
- 27 September – Nicholas Haslam, interior designer
- 29 September – Rhodri Morgan, Welsh politician (died 2017)
- 7 October – Harry Kroto, organic chemist, winner of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry (died 2016)
- 19 October – David George Clark, Baron Clark, politician
- 27 October – John Cleese, comic actor
- 4 November – Michael Meacher, politician (died 2015)
- 11 November – Alf Adams, physicist
- 12 November – Terry McDonald, footballer and coach
- 18 November – Margaret Jay, Baroness Jay of Paddington, born Margaret Callaghan, politician
- 16 December – Gordon Miller, Olympic high jumper
- 20 December – Tony Bentley, footballer
- 9 January – Edwin Farley, mayor (born 1864)
- 2 March – Howard Carter, archaeologist (born 1874)
- 9 May – Sophie Williams, previously Mary, Lady Heath, aviator and athlete (born 1896)
- 25 June – Richard Seaman, racing driver (car crash) (born 1913)
- 26 June – Ford Madox Ford, novelist, poet, critic and editor (born 1873)
- 6 September – Arthur Rackham, illustrator (born 1867)
- 3 December – Princess Louise, Duchess of Argyll, daughter of Queen Victoria (born 1848)
- "Notable Dates in History". The Flag in the Wind. The Scots Independent. Archived from the original on 23 May 2014. Retrieved 2014-07-17.
- Penguin Pocket OnThis Day. Penguin Reference Library. 2006. ISBN 0-14-102715-0.
- Palmer, Alan; Veronica (1992). The Chronology of British History. London: Century Ltd. pp. 385–386. ISBN 0-7126-5616-2.
- Fletcher, Marjorie H. (1989). The WRNS: a history of the Women's Royal Naval Service. London: Batsford. p. 90. ISBN 0-7134-6185-3.
- "WW2 People's War Timeline, BBC". Retrieved 2008-03-02.
- Libraries and Culture, Stanley Chodorow
- Callander, Jane (2004). "Garrod, Dorothy Annie Elizabeth (1892–1968)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/37443. Retrieved 2011-02-14. (subscription or UK public library membership required)
- Warren, C.E.T.; Benson, James (1958). "The Admiralty regrets ...": the story of His Majesty's submarine Thetis and Thunderbolt. London: Harrap.
- Narracot, A.H. (1941). "9 – Woman in Blue". How The R.A.F. Works. Frederick Muller Ltd. p. 108 (n115). Retrieved 2009-07-30.
- Twinch, Carol (1990). Women on the Land: their story during two World Wars. Cambridge: Lutterworth Press. p. 67. ISBN 0-7188-2814-3.
- Spencer-Longhurst, Paul (2004). "Atkinson, Robert (1883–1952)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/38347. Retrieved 2010-12-31.
- "The Barber Institute: A Cultural Centre For Birmingham". The Times (48366). London. 25 July 1939. p. 17.
- Bosman, Suzanne (2008). The National Gallery in Wartime. London: National Gallery Company. p. 25. ISBN 978-1-85709-424-4.
- Clouting, Laura. "The Evacuated Children Of The Second World War". London: Imperial War Museum. Retrieved 2015-08-19.
- "Conscription". Spartacus Educational. Retrieved 2008-03-02.
- Brennecke, Jochen (2003). The Hunters and the Hunted. Naval Institute Press. pp. 15–16. ISBN 1-59114-091-9.
- "1939: An emergency population count in wartime". 2011 Census. 2011. Retrieved 2011-02-13.
- Matthew, H. C. G. (2004). "Edward VIII, later Prince Edward, duke of Windsor (1894–1972)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/31061. Retrieved 2012-03-08.
- "The BBC Story – 1930s" (PDF). Retrieved 2010-05-31.
- Sturtivant, Ray (1990). British Naval Aviation: The Fleet Air Arm, 1917-1990. Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press. pp. 33–34. ISBN 0-87021-026-2.
- Duncan, George. "Lesser-Known Facts of World War II". Retrieved 2012-01-19.
- Doyle, Peter (2010). ARP and Civil Defence in the Second World War. Oxford: Shire Publications. p. 9. ISBN 978-0-7478-0765-0.
- Flower, Stephen (2011). No Phoney War. Stroud: Amberley. ISBN 978-1-84868-960-2.
- English, John (1993). Amazon to Ivanhoe: British Standard Destroyers of the 1930s. Kendal: World Ship Society. ISBN 0-905617-64-9.