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3 Oct 2014
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This Sceptred Isle

The Approach of War
In September 1939 Chamberlain announced that Britain was at war with Germany.

By the summer of 1939, the British Army was preparing to go to war with an Expeditionary Force that was not equipped to fight. It was planning to send to two fronts an army that had none of the guns that had been ordered and only a "car park full" of tanks instead of the more than 1,600 that were scheduled. Montgomery's view was that the transport system consisted of civilian vans and lorries.

Government Departments were set up that would regulate and administer the dissemination of information and news, the control of food supplies and Conscription. Belatedly the Government entered discussions with the Trade Unions. Women munitions workers were already striking for equal pay. Plans to evacuate 2.5million children were announced.

The war in Europe was not the only worry for the British government in 1939. The IRA had started a bombing campaign in London, Manchester and Birmingham.

W B Yeats
W B Yeats
William Butler Yeats (1865-1939)

  • Born in Dublin
  • His father was an artist
  • Went to school in Hammersmith
  • Returned to Ireland in 1884
  • Went to art school but realised that he was really only interested in poetry and Irish mythology
  • Moved back to London but returned to Ireland in 1891
  • Founded the Irish Literary Society in 1892
  • Fell in love with Maud Gonne and followed her to America in 1903 after the death of her poet husband John MacBride
  • Married a 15 year old Georgie Hyde-Lees when he was 52
  • They lived in Italy for a time
  • Died in France in 1939

did you know?
The Spanish Civil War officially ended on All Fools Day 1939. The British Government officially recognized the government of General Franco.



  • 10-16 Germany takes rest of Czech homelands
  • 21 Germany annexes Memel
  • 31 Britain and France guarantee Polish independence
  • 7 Italy invades Albania
  • 13 Britain and France guarantee independence to Romania and Greece
  • Britain, France and USSR start negotiations
  • 23 Germany and Russia sign agreement - the Ribbentrop Pact
  • 24 Britain promises Poland assistance
  • 30 Evacuation starts of 1.5 British children
  • 31 Tri-service reserves called-up
  • 1 Germany invades Poland
  • 3 Britain declares war on Germany
  • 4 Winston Churchill appointed First Lord of the Admiralty
  • 17 Soviet armies invade Poland
  • 18 HMS Courageous sunk - 500 dead
  • 27 Polish surrender
  • 12 British Expeditionary Force of 158,00 men lands in France
  • 14 HMS Royal Oak sunk at Scarpa Flow- 800 dead
  • 30 USSR attacks Finland
  • 17 Battle of River Plate - Germans scuttle Graf Spee
    Beginning of Battle the Atlantic
  • 19 Canadian troops arrive in UK
Select historical period

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1935Baldwin becomes Prime Minister
1936 George V dies
Edward VIII becomes King
Edward VIII abdicates
George VI becomes King
1937Chamberlain becomes Prime Minister
1938The Munich Agreement is signed
Germany annexes Austria
1939World War II begins
Conscription is introduced
1940Churchill becomes Prime Minister
Rationing is introduced
1941The Atlantic Charter is formed
Anglo-Soviet Treaty is signed
1942The Beveridge Report is published
1944Butler's Education Act

Some British Ships Sunk in WWII
HMS Courageous
HMS Royal Oak
SS Union Castle (liner)
HMS Daring
SS Lancastria
SS City of Benares
HMS Hood
HMS Repulse
HMS Prince of Wales
HMS Kelly

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