It was a warm late summers Sunday morning in Britain when Neville Chamberlain addressed the nation on radio. Many people in Britain recorded their reactions to the declaration of war:
Joan Wyndham, then 17, was among many who recorded the first air raid warning in London:
This morning war was declared by the Prime Minister over the radio.
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.
When the room was ready we went and sat on the front doorstep waiting for the first gun. The balloon barrage looked too lovely in the sun against the blue sky, like iridescent silver fish swimming in blue water. After a bit the all-clear sounded. We heard afterwards that it had all been a mistake.”
J. K. Stanford , a veteran of the First World war, had voluntarily rejoined the army in July as a junior officer:
‘ELEVEN o’clock! War’s declared! From now on everybody will wear tin hats!’
With this, the stupidest order of the war, ringing in my ears, I began my tiny part on 3rd September in the most momentous conflict in history. My captain, commanding a National Defence Company, looked at us digging slit trenches in an Ordnance Depot, crammed, as an afterthought, his own helmet on his brow, and looked at his watch again.
Then, murmuring something about ‘a reconnaissance’, he stepped abruptly into his car. The brim of his helmet caught its roof with a hollow clang, and he fell back as if pole-axed.
We picked him up, dusted him down, and assured him he was the primal British casualty of the war. He drove off, shaken, to ‘reconnoitre’ an inn, where they were lenient to travellers on a Sunday morning. The war had begun. “