War between Britain, France, and Germany

War between Britain, France, and Germany

In the annals of history, September 3, 1939, stands as a defining moment in the tumultuous narrative of the 20th century. On this fateful day, Britain and France declared war on Germany, setting the stage for one of the most devastating conflicts in human history: World War II. The declaration of war marked the culmination of a series of events that had been unfolding across Europe, characterized by political tensions, diplomatic maneuvering, and ultimately, the failure of appeasement policies. This article by Academic Block dive into the circumstances surrounding the declaration of war, the key players involved, and the seismic impact it had on the global landscape.

The Road to War

The roots of the declaration of war on September 3, 1939, can be traced back to the aftermath of World War I. The Treaty of Versailles, signed in 1919, imposed harsh reparations and territorial losses on Germany, igniting resentment and a desire for revenge among the German populace. The economic hardships that followed, exacerbated by the Great Depression of the 1930s, created a fertile ground for the rise of Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party. Hitler’s ascent to power in 1933 marked a pivotal turning point in European politics. His aggressive expansionist agenda, articulated through the concept of Lebensraum (living space), sought to establish German dominance over Eastern Europe and eradicate the Treaty of Versailles.

Hitler’s remilitarization of the Rhineland in 1936 and the annexation of Austria (Anschluss) in 1938 underscored his determination to challenge the post-World War I order. The Munich Agreement of September 1938, hailed as a triumph of diplomacy, epitomized the policy of appeasement pursued by Britain and France towards Nazi Germany. Under the agreement, British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain and French Premier Édouard Daladier acquiesced to Hitler’s demands for the annexation of the Sudetenland, a German-speaking region of Czechoslovakia, in exchange for a pledge of no further territorial expansion.

The Commencement of War

The Munich Agreement, though hailed as a diplomatic success, proved to be a fleeting illusion of peace. Hitler’s insatiable appetite for conquest remained undiminished, and within six months, Nazi Germany’s aggressive expansionism would once again plunge Europe into turmoil. On March 15, 1939, Hitler violated the Munich Agreement by occupying the remainder of Czechoslovakia, effectively dismantling the country and extinguishing the last vestiges of Czech independence. The swift and ruthless annexation of Czechoslovakia sent shockwaves across Europe, shattering the illusion of Nazi Germany’s commitment to peace.

The international community’s response to Hitler’s brazen act of aggression was marked by condemnation and alarm. Britain and France, grappling with the specter of war, sought to avert a full-scale conflict through diplomatic channels. However, Hitler’s bellicose rhetoric and expansionist ambitions left little room for negotiation or compromise. The signing of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact on August 23, 1939, between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union, further destabilized the fragile balance of power in Europe. The non-aggression pact, named after German Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop and Soviet Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Molotov, contained a secret protocol that delineated spheres of influence in Eastern Europe, effectively clearing the path for the imminent invasion of Poland.

The Spark of War

The fate of Poland emerged as the flashpoint that would precipitate the declaration of war on September 3, 1939. Hitler’s expansionist designs on Poland, driven by a combination of ideological fervor and strategic imperatives, represented a direct threat to the stability of Eastern Europe and the security of Britain and France. On August 31, 1939, under the pretext of fabricated provocations, Nazi Germany launched a false flag operation along the German-Polish border, designed to justify a full-scale invasion of Poland. The staged attack, orchestrated by the SS, aimed to create a casus belli and provide Hitler with a pretext for military intervention.

In the early hours of September 1, 1939, the Wehrmacht, the German armed forces, launched a devastating blitzkrieg (lightning war) against Poland, employing a combination of armored divisions, air power, and coordinated infantry assaults. The speed and ferocity of the German onslaught overwhelmed Polish defenses, signaling the beginning of a protracted and bloody conflict. The invasion of Poland triggered an immediate response from Britain and France, who had pledged to come to Poland’s aid in the event of aggression. On September 3, 1939, with solemn resolve and a sense of duty, Britain and France declared war on Germany, signaling the formal commencement of hostilities and the onset of World War II.

The Consequence of the Declaration

The declaration of war on September 3, 1939, reverberated across the globe, heralding a new era of conflict, chaos, and upheaval. The specter of war cast a long shadow over Europe, plunging the continent into the abyss of violence and destruction. For Britain and France, the decision to confront Nazi Germany represented a defining moment in their respective histories. The declaration of war underscored their commitment to collective security, the defense of democratic values, and the preservation of international order in the face of tyranny and aggression.

In Britain, the declaration of war evoked memories of the Great War and the sacrifices made by a generation that had endured the horrors of trench warfare. Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, who had pursued a policy of appeasement in the vain hope of averting conflict, now found himself thrust into the crucible of war, tasked with leading the nation through its darkest hour. For France, the declaration of war evoked a sense of déjà vu, as memories of the devastation wrought by World War I loomed large in the national psyche.

Premier Édouard Daladier, mindful of the perils of appeasement and the imperative of collective action, rallied the French people to the cause of resistance, vowing to confront the forces of tyranny and aggression with unwavering resolve. The declaration of war on September 3, 1939, also had far-reaching implications for the international community. The conflict that ensued would engulf nations on every continent, reshaping the geopolitical landscape and redrawing the boundaries of power and influence.

For the United States, the declaration of war served as a wake-up call to the dangers of isolationism and the imperative of global engagement. Though initially reluctant to intervene in the affairs of distant continents, the United States would ultimately be drawn into the maelstrom of war following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. For the Soviet Union, the declaration of war provided an opportunity to expand its sphere of influence in Eastern Europe and pursue its own strategic objectives. The signing of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact had bought Stalin time to consolidate his position and prepare for the inevitable confrontation with Nazi Germany.

Final Words

The declaration of war by Britain and France on September 3, 1939, marked a watershed moment in the annals of history, heralding the onset of one of the deadliest conflicts humanity has ever known. The decision to confront Nazi Germany represented a moral imperative, a commitment to the defense of freedom and democracy in the face of tyranny and oppression. The legacy of September 3, 1939, serves as a sobering reminder of the consequences of appeasement, the dangers of aggression, and the enduring human cost of war. As we reflect on the events of that fateful day, let us honor the sacrifices of those who fought and died for the cause of freedom, and reaffirm our commitment to the principles of peace, justice, and solidarity in an uncertain world. Furthermore, please provide your valuable thoughts to make this article by Academic Block better. Thanks for reading!

Controversies related to the Declaration of War on Germany by Britain and France

Appeasement Policy: One of the primary controversies surrounding the declaration of war revolves around the policy of appeasement pursued by Britain and France in the years leading up to World War II. Critics argue that the policy of appeasement, characterized by concessions to Hitler’s demands in hopes of avoiding conflict, emboldened Nazi aggression and ultimately failed to prevent war. The Munich Agreement of 1938, which allowed Germany to annex the Sudetenland, is often cited as a prime example of appeasement.

Timing of the Declaration: There has been debate over the timing of Britain and France’s declaration of war on Germany. Some argue that the declaration came too late, allowing Hitler to consolidate his power and embark on military campaigns with little resistance. Others contend that the timing was appropriate given the need for diplomatic efforts and military preparations.

Soviet Union’s Non-Aggression Pact: The Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact signed between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union in August 1939 included a secret protocol dividing Eastern Europe into spheres of influence. Critics argue that the pact facilitated German aggression by removing the threat of a two-front war for Hitler. The Soviet Union’s role in enabling Hitler’s expansionism has been a source of controversy and debate.

Polish Campaign: Some historians and commentators have raised questions about the efficacy of Britain and France’s declaration of war in terms of their ability to come to Poland’s aid effectively. The swift defeat of Poland by German forces raised doubts about the Allies’ capacity to protect their Eastern European ally, leading to criticisms of their military preparedness and strategic planning.

Conduct of the War: The conduct of the war itself, particularly in the early stages, has been subject to scrutiny and controversy. The lack of decisive action and the so-called “Phony War” period, characterized by limited military engagements and stalemate on the Western Front, has been criticized as a missed opportunity to confront Nazi Germany more aggressively.

Post-War Repercussions: The declaration of war and the subsequent conflict had far-reaching repercussions for Europe and the world. Controversies have arisen over the division of post-war Europe, the establishment of new borders, and the geopolitical realignment that followed the defeat of Nazi Germany. The onset of the Cold War and the division of Europe into Eastern and Western blocs further complicated the aftermath of World War II.

This Article will answer your questions like:

  • Why did Britain and France declare war on Germany in 1939?
  • What events led to Britain and France declaring war on Germany in 1939?
  • What was the significance of Britain and France declaring war on Germany in 1939?
  • How did the declaration of war by Britain and France impact World War II?
  • What was the role of Neville Chamberlain in the declaration of war on Germany in 1939?
  • What were the immediate consequences of Britain and France declaring war on Germany in 1939?
  • How did the declaration of war by Britain and France change the course of World War II?
  • How did the declaration of war by Britain and France impact the balance of power in Europe?
  • What were the military strategies employed by Britain and France after declaring war on Germany in 1939?
  • Were there any efforts to avoid war before Britain and France declared war on Germany in 1939?
Britain and France declare war on Germany
Britain and France declare war on Germany

Facts on Declaration of War on Germany by Britain and France

Context of Appeasement: The declaration of war came after years of appeasement policies pursued by Britain and France towards Nazi Germany. Leaders such as Neville Chamberlain and Édouard Daladier hoped to avoid another devastating conflict like World War I.

German Aggression: Adolf Hitler’s regime in Germany had been steadily expanding its territory and influence in Europe. The annexation of Austria (Anschluss) in 1938 and the occupation of the Sudetenland in Czechoslovakia, following the Munich Agreement, demonstrated Hitler’s expansionist ambitions.

Invasion of Poland: The immediate cause of Britain and France declaring war was the German invasion of Poland on September 1, 1939. This invasion violated international treaties and agreements, including the Treaty of Versailles and the Munich Agreement.

Blitzkrieg Tactics: The invasion of Poland by Germany was characterized by the use of blitzkrieg tactics, a swift and coordinated combination of air power, armored units, and infantry assaults. The speed and ferocity of the attack overwhelmed Polish defenses.

Military Pacts and Alliances: Britain and France had previously pledged support to Poland in the event of German aggression through various military pacts and alliances. The invasion of Poland forced them to honor these commitments.

Formal Declarations: On September 3, 1939, Britain and France formally declared war on Germany in response to the invasion of Poland. This declaration marked the beginning of World War II in Europe, with other nations subsequently joining the conflict.

International Response: The declaration of war by Britain and France received widespread international attention and condemnation of Nazi aggression. It also prompted responses from other nations, including the United States, which initially maintained a policy of neutrality.

Soviet Union’s Role: The Soviet Union, under Joseph Stalin, had signed a non-aggression pact with Germany known as the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact in August 1939. This pact included secret protocols that divided Eastern Europe into spheres of influence between Germany and the USSR, allowing the invasion of Poland without Soviet interference.

Impact on the World: The declaration of war by Britain and France on September 3, 1939, had far-reaching consequences for the world. It led to a global conflict involving numerous countries and resulted in immense human suffering, loss of life, and destruction over the next six years.

Result: The events of September 3, 1939, remain a pivotal moment in history, highlighting the failure of appeasement and the importance of confronting aggression early. The sacrifices made during World War II continue to be remembered and honored today.

Impact of Declaration of War on Germany by Britain and France

Escalation of World War II: The declaration of war by Britain and France marked the formal commencement of World War II in Europe. It escalated the conflict from a series of localized skirmishes and invasions, such as the German annexation of Austria and the occupation of Czechoslovakia, into a full-scale global conflagration involving major powers and spanning multiple continents.

Military Mobilization:
The declaration of war triggered massive military mobilization efforts in Britain, France, and their respective empires. Armies were mobilized, reserves were called up, and industrial production shifted towards wartime needs. The conflict demanded the full mobilization of resources and manpower to sustain the war effort.

Alliance Dynamics:
The declaration of war solidified the alliances and coalitions that would shape the course of World War II. Britain and France were joined by other Allied powers, including Poland, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and later the Soviet Union and the United States, in the fight against Nazi Germany and its allies.

Strategic Imperatives:
The declaration of war forced Britain and France to confront the strategic imperatives posed by Nazi Germany’s aggressive expansionism. It necessitated the formulation of military strategies, alliances, and diplomatic initiatives aimed at containing and eventually defeating the Axis powers.

Impact on Civilian Populations:
The declaration of war had profound implications for civilian populations in Britain, France, and other Allied countries. It led to the imposition of wartime measures, including rationing, censorship, and evacuation programs, aimed at protecting civilians and mobilizing resources for the war effort. The threat of aerial bombing and invasion heightened fears and disrupted daily life for millions of people.

Global Conflict:
The declaration of war transformed World War II into a truly global conflict, with theaters of operation spanning Europe, Africa, Asia, and the Pacific. It drew in nations from every corner of the globe and unleashed untold devastation and suffering on civilian populations, soldiers, and societies caught in the crossfire.

Holocaust and Genocide:
The declaration of war also had profound implications for the victims of Nazi persecution, including Jews, Romani people, disabled individuals, political dissidents, and others deemed undesirable by the Nazi regime. The Holocaust, the systematic genocide of six million Jews, and millions of other innocent victims, unfolded within the context of World War II and represented a dark chapter in human history.

Enduring Lineage:
The impact of Britain and France declaring war on Germany in September 3, 1939, continues to reverberate today. It serves as a poignant reminder of the sacrifices made by millions of people in the fight against tyranny and oppression, and the enduring struggle for peace, justice, and human dignity in the face of adversity.

Popular Statements given on Declaration of War on Germany by Britain and France

Neville Chamberlain, British Prime Minister: “We are now at war with Germany.”

Édouard Daladier, French Premier: “C’est la guerre” (It is war).

King George VI of the United Kingdom: “In this grave hour, perhaps the most fateful in our history, I send to every household of my peoples, both at home and overseas, this message, spoken with the same depth of feeling for each one of you as if I were able to cross your threshold and speak to you myself.”

Winston Churchill, British Member of Parliament and later Prime Minister: “The great fact of today is that, after nearly two months of deadlock, during which the heroic Polish defense has been crumbling under the overwhelming and ceaseless attacks of the German armed forces, Great Britain and France, bound together in indissoluble union, have at last taken up arms in defense of justice and freedom.”

Charles de Gaulle, French General and later President: “France has a sacred right of legitimate self-defense. We have decided to face the trial that confronts us without fear or weakness.”

Franklin D. Roosevelt, President of the United States: “This nation will remain a neutral nation, but I cannot ask that every American remain neutral in thought as well. Even a neutral cannot be asked to close his mind or his conscience.”

Joseph Stalin, Leader of the Soviet Union (in a statement prior to the invasion of Poland): “Everything is going well in Germany, and the war [with Poland] will start in a few days.”

Academic References on the Declaration of War on Germany by Britain and France


  1. Churchill, W. (1948). The Second World War: The Gathering Storm. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
  2. Taylor, A. J. P. (1961). The Origins of the Second World War. Simon & Schuster.
  3. Shirer, W. L. (1960). The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History of Nazi Germany. Simon & Schuster.
  4. Reynolds, D. (2006). From Munich to War: The Soviet Union and the Changing Balance of Power, 1938–1939. Cambridge University Press.
  5. Kennedy, P. M. (1980). The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers: Economic Change and Military Conflict from 1500 to 2000. Random House.
  6. Lukacs, J. (1997). The Last European War: September 1939–December 1941. Yale University Press.
  7. Roberts, A. (2006). The Storm of War: A New History of the Second World War. Penguin Books.
  8. Neiberg, M. S. (2006). The World War I Reader. New York University Press.
  9. Davidson, E. (2006). The Origins of World War II. Wiley-Blackwell.
  10. Kershaw, I. (2007). Fateful Choices: Ten Decisions That Changed the World, 1940–1941. Penguin Books.
  11. Reynolds, D. (1997). From Munich to Pearl Harbor: Roosevelt’s America and the Origins of the Second World War. Ivan R. Dee.
  12. Weinberg, G. L. (1995). A World at Arms: A Global History of World War II. Cambridge University Press.
  13. Bell, P. M. H. (2007). The Origins of the Second World War in Europe. Pearson Longman.
  14. Watt, D. C. (1989). How War Came: The Immediate Origins of the Second World War, 1938–1939. Pantheon Books.

Journal Articles:

  1. Hobsbawm, E. (1994). The age of extremes: A history of the world, 1914-1991. Pantheon Books.
  2. Noggle, A. R. (1987). A great conspiracy against our race: Italian immigrant newspapers and the construction of whiteness in the early twentieth century. PhD diss., University of Wisconsin-Madison.
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