Seventy-five years ago today Britain declared war on Germany, an act which ushered in six years of carnage and ultimately led to the downfall of Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler.
After appeasing Hitler's ruthless policy of annexation for several years, British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain and his government eventually opened hostilities on 3 September 1939, following the German government's refusal to withdraw from Poland.
Twelve months earlier Chamberlain had returned triumphantly from a summit meeting with Hitler in Munich, during which the Nazi Fuhrer pledged not to invade any more foreign territories. At the airport on his return home Chamberlain brandished a copy of the agreement, proclaiming 'peace in our time'.
However Hitler promptly reneged on the agreement, conquering the whole of Czechoslovakia and then invading Poland, forcing the British government to take action.
Here is the full transcript of the declaration of war issued by Chamberlain 75 years ago:
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, although they were announced in a German broadcast on
Thursday night, Hitler did not wait to hear comments on them, but ordered his
troops to cross the Polish frontier. 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.
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 by 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 all 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.
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 your 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.