WWII: Outbreak | Britain on the brink of World War II
CHANNEL | Regional Programme
FIRST BROADCAST | 23 August 1959
DURATION | 12 minutes 52 seconds
News correspondents and diplomats in Germany and Warsaw recall what they were doing and how they felt when reports about the invasion of Poland came in. In London, a politician, a police officer in Downing Street, a mother trying to decide whether or not to evacuate her children and a flower-seller in Piccadilly all vividly describe the atmosphere during the days leading up to the declaration of war.
Note: this item was recorded live from the radio playout of the original broadcast.
Most countries involved in World War II had a policy of evacuating civilians to safer regions, but Britain moved more people than anyone else. About four million adults and children were evacuated under a government scheme and two million more were relocated privately. In the first few days following the invasion of Poland on 1 September 1939, 827,000 unaccompanied youngsters and 524,000 mothers with pre-school children left their homes. However, because of the lack of activity during the 'Phoney War', 80 per cent had returned by early 1940.
Chamberlain returns from a meeting with Hitler in Bad Godesberg.
The BBC announces Britain's home defence measures.
Chamberlain broadcasts to the nation after one of his last meetings with Hitler.
Richard Dimbleby is at the scene of Chamberlain's return from Munich.
News extract on one aspect of British home defence measures - gas masks.
An inside report from Czechoslovakia on the German occupation.
Germany proposes a settlement to the Polish problem.
Children from London depart for an unknown destination in the countryside.
'Germany has invaded Poland and has bombed many towns.'
'This country is at war with Germany' announces the Prime Minister.
The King calls for courage and faith in the battle ahead.
The ultimatum to Germany is due to expire at 11.00am.
The Battle of the Atlantic begins as the first British ship is sunk by the Germans.
Teachers and a schoolgirl describe settling down in the country.
Evacuees from Manchester discuss their new lives.
The Foreign Secretary speaks after two months of war.
A message of hope and encouragement to the women of Europe.
How various hospitals in London prepared for war.
Personal memories of the outbreak of World War II.
A reporter remembers Poland in the summer of 1939.
What will the BBC's role be during war?
Precautions to protect staff from air raids.
Plans for variety programmes during wartime.
Defence: the Corporation's plans in the event of war.
Plans for the 'Radio Times' during wartime.
'This department will have to stand by in a period of comparative chaos.'
The front cover of the 'Radio Times' from the pre-war edition.
Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain's broadcast to the nation.
The front cover of the 'Radio Times' from the wartime revised edition.
Are the headquarters of the BBC in danger from an air attack?
Is there a need to camouflage the headquarters of the BBC?
Remember your gas mask.
A collection of photographs from the BBC archives on the outbreak of World War II.
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