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Life poster 1969

News Seller on The Strand with a poster announcing the declaration of war, 1939

(Photo by © Hulton-Deutsch Collection/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images)

The Allied Forces Declare War on Nazi Germany

80 years ago, on the 3rd September 1939, the British ambassador to Berlin handed a final note to the German government, warning that unless they announced plans to withdraw from Polish land by 11am, a state of war would be declared. At quarter past 11 Neville Chamberlain announced that this ultimatum had not been met. Later that day the French issued their own demands, and when they were ignored, joined Britain in declaring war against Nazi Germany.

In this article, ‘At the Eleventh Hour!’ Churchill sums up ‘the World Crisis’ they faced. Published in The Daily Mirror just 10 days before war was declared and the Allies were formed, Churchill writes that war is becoming ever more inevitable, driven by the ambition and aggression of Nazi Germany. He warns that the Germans could attack within hours of an order being given, and that along the Rhine frontier French and German forces are already at their battle stations, poised to strike.

Churchill, unsurprisingly, blames Hitler for the ‘tragic, doom laden state of Europe and of all the world’ and points out the Fuhrer could stop the war even now, if he chose to. If Hitler simply sent his soldiers home, ‘his example would be followed step by step in every country’, avoiding the impending catastrophe that would ‘explode what is left of civilisation’. Yet, Churchill seems convinced that Nazi regime shall inevitably force a war upon the world, giving the Allies no choice but to respond in kind.

‘At the Eleventh Hour’ reassures readers of the Allies’ unified front and combined power, telling them to take comfort that ‘in this grave hour everyone is united’. Describing Britain, France and their allies as ‘the nations which form the anti-aggression front’, Churchill emphasises that they are in this together. From the image of General Gamelin of France with Viscount Gort of Britain, to a reminder of their parallel imperial heritage and their joint victory in the First World War, readers are assured that the Allies are prepared for war together against their common foe.

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