September 1939

Sep

3

1939

S.S. Athenia – the first ship torpedoed in World War II

On the first day of war, 3rd September, 1939, a ship of approximately 10,000 tons was torpedoed in the late hours of the evening by the U-30. After the ship was torpedoed and we surfaced again, approximately half an hour after the explosion, the Commandant called me to the tower in order to show me the torpedoed ship.

Sep

3

1939

The King speaks to the Nation

By the way I have estimated this affair will last five to six years. What a hell of a time. Five times 365 days each of which might produce some sort of frightfulness in the way of an air raid or bad news.

Sep

3

1939

The British decide to drop leaflets on Germany

Consideration was given to the question whether we drop propaganda leaflets over Germany. It was believed these leaflets would have an important effect on German public opinion. Moreover, the Germans would realise that British aircraft were flying over their country. The dropping of leaflets might well have its maximum effect in the first few hours of war. The risk to pilots was not regarded as great. The area in which it was proposed to cover were Hamburg, Bremin and the Ruhr.

Sep

3

1939

Reactions to the British declaration of war

Five minutes after the National Anthem, while we were still sitting around feeling rather sick, the air-raid warning went. For a moment we didn’t believe our ears – we hadn’t had time to realise we were at war – then we went down to our gas room and began damping the blankets with pails of water.

Sep

3

1939

The ‘Final Note’ is delivered to Germany

Although this communication was made more than twenty-four hours ago, no reply has been received but German attacks upon Poland have been continued and intensified. I have accordingly the honour to inform you that, unless not later than 11 a.m., British Summer Time, today 3rd September, satisfactory assurances to the above effect have been given by the German Government and have reached His Majesty’s Government in London, a state of war will exist between the two countries as from that hour.

Sep

3

1939

Hitler learns that Britain means war

When I entered the next room Hitler was sitting at his desk and Ribbentrop stood by the window. Both looked up expectantly as I came in. I stopped at some distance from Hitler’s desk, and then slowly translated the British Government’s ultimatum. When I finished, there was complete silence.

Sep

1

1939

The British ultimatum to Germany

I am accordingly to inform your Excellency that unless the German Government are prepared to give His Majesty’s Government satisfactory assurances that the German Government have suspended all aggressive action against Poland and are prepared promptly to withdraw their forces from Polish territory, His Majesty’s Government in the United Kingdom will without hesitation fulfil their obligations to Poland.

Sep

1

1939

The opening shots of World War II on the Westerplatte

The heavily wooded Westerplatte peninsula had been a popular park but now contained an ammunition depot. The Polish garrison of only 182, armed mainly with machine guns and mortars, was to make a heroic stand, fighting against overwhelming odds for over a week.

Sep

1

1939

Germany invades Poland

One of a series of well known propaganda shots of German troops on the point of invasion.