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Second World War  On This Day

Events prior to the outbreak of the war 1939


11 November 1918
The Armistice ends the fighting in the Great War.
28 June 1919
The Treaty of Versailles ends the Great War.  Germany was forced to accept responsibility for the war, and causing all the loss and damage.  Germany was to disarm and pay reparations at a total cost of 6.6 billion, or approximately 284 billion in 2020 money.
30 January 1933
Nazi leader Adolf Hitler is appointed Chancellor of Germany
3 February 1933
Adolf Hitler gives a secret speech to his military leaders outlining his plans to rearm Germany, in defiance of the Treaty of Versailles, and to adopt a a policy of living space in Eastern Europe.
23 March 1933
The Reichstag passed the Enabling Act making Adolf Hitler dictator of Germany.
2 August 1934
Adolf Hitler becomes Fuhrer of Germany, or head of stated combined with that of Chancellor, following the death of President Paul von Hindenburg.
26 February 1935
Adolf Hitler orders the reinstatement of the air force, the Luftwaffe, in violation of the Treaty of Versailles.
16 March 1935
Adolf Hitler announces Germany re-armament in violation of the Treaty of Versailles.
21 May 1935
Adolf Hitler announces the reintroduction of conscription to the German Army in violation of the Treaty of Versailles.
7 March 1936
Nazi Germany re-occupied the Rhineland in violation of the Treaty of Versailles.
5 November 1936
Adolf Hitler holds a secret meeting and states his plans for acquiring 'living space' for the German people.
14 February 1938
Britain formally dedicated the Singapore Naval Base, the largest of its kind in the world.  This was key for British policy in the Far East.  It had the largest dry dock in the world at the time and enough fuel tanks to support the entire Royal Navy for six months.
20 February 1938
Germany's leader, Adolf Hitler, gave a speech vowing to protect German minorities outside of the Reich and reiterating demands for the restoration of former German Colonies.
10 March 1938
Adolf Hitler ordered his generals to prepare for the invasion of Austria.  No plans were available, so they had to produce something very quickly.
12 March 1938
The German Army crossed the Austrian Border, Hitler arrived in Austria and thousands of potential opponents of the Nazis were arrested.
14 March 1938
Adolf Hitler made a triumphant procession through Vienna.
British Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain, said the that British government disapproved of Germany's invasion of Austria, but that "nothing could have prevented this action by Germany, unless we and others with us had been prepared to use force to prevent it."
23 March 1938
Neville Chamberlain called upon the Trades Union Congress and asked for their help in speeding up Britain's war production, plans included day and night shifts in the munitions factories.
28 March 1938
A flood of Austrian refugees in Switzerland was slowed by the Austrian passport holders were required to have visas.
10 April 1938
A referendum on the unification of Austria and Germany was held, 99.7% were in favour.
Parliamentary elections in Germany gave the Nazi Party 99% of the vote.
20 May 1938
'May Crisis' saw the Czechoslovak government order a partial mobilisation in reaction to reports of suspicious German troop movements.
22 May 1938
British Foreign Secretary, Lord Halifax, told the French ambassador not to count on British support in the event of a war over Czechoslovakia.  The Poles also said they would not move if France moved against Germany to defeat Czechoslovakia. 
23 May 1938
The May Crisis passed when Germany denied any planned aggression against Czechoslovakia.
24 June 1938
The Royal Air Force launched a new recruitment campaign.
15 July 1938
The Evian Les Baines Refugee Conference resulted in only one country, the Dominican Republic, willing to accept any Jews from Germany and Austria.
16 July 1938
Japan said it would forfeit the 1940 Summer Olympics, since it could not prepare for them whilst at war with China.  The games were then awarded to Helsinki, Finland.
12 August 1938
Adolf Hitler called up 750 000 German troops for a series of military exercises
16 August 1938
In Britain, the Secretary of State for War put 13 generals on the retired list to inject younger blood into the Army High Command
18 August 1938
Switzerland refused entry to all refugees without a visa.
12 September 1938
Adolf Hitler made a speech declaring the oppression of Sudeten Germans in Czechoslovakia must end.  The British Cabinet met almost as soon as Hitler stopped speaking, relieved that Hitler had only demanded justice for Sudeten Germans and had not committed himself to war.
13 September 1938
Sudeten Germans began to attack police stations and other symbols of Czechoslovak authority.
The French Prime Minister asked Neville Chamberlain to make the best deal he could with Adolf Hitler.
15 September 1938
British Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain, bordered an aeroplane for the first time and flew to meet Adolf Hitler.  Chamberlain had already decided not to go to war over Czechoslovakia, so all he was going to be able to do was to agree to Hitler's terms.
18 September 1938
An Anglo-French Conference in London agreed upon the German annexation of the Sudetenland.
20 September 1938
The Czechoslovakian Government rejected the outcome of the Anglo-French Conference.
22 September 1938
The Czechoslovakian Government resigned. 
Neville Chamberlain returned to Germany, and met Adolf Hitler again, who demanded he would occupy the Sudetenland by 1 October.
23 September 1938
The new Czechoslovakian Government ordered full mobilisation of its military.
24 September 1938
France ordered partial mobilisation of its military
In Lancaster, trench digging took place at Bowerham Barracks, gas-proofing took place of keep parts of Bowerham Barracks, as troops were warned to prepare for air attacks.
25 September 1938
The Czechoslovaks rejected Adolf Hitler's demands.
26 September 1938
Adolf Hitler threatened Czechoslovakia with war.
27 September 1938
The French government announced that they would not go to war purely over Czechoslovakia.  British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain gave a radio address and said that the whole Empire would not be taken to war over the issue between Czechoslovakia and Germany.
28 September 1938
Adolf Hitler agreed to hold a four party conference in Munich, between Germany, Great Britain, France and Italy.
29 September 1938
The Munich Conference took place to settle the Sudetenland Crisis.  Czechoslovakia was not invited, nor was the Soviet Union.
30 September 1938
Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain flew back to Britain and declared 'peace for our time'.
1 October 1938
German troops occupied the Sudetenland.
5 October 1938
Winston Churchill MP made a speech in the House of Commons calling the Munich Agreement 'a total and unmitigated defeat'.
7 November 1938
In Paris the German diplomat Ernst von Rath was shot at the German Embassy by a Jew whose parents had just been deported from Germany to Poland.
9 November 1938
'Crystal Night' was a wave of violence targeting Jews throughout Germany and Austria in response to the assassination of von Rath.  The vast amounts of broken glass littering the streets outside Jewish shops gave the night its name 'Kristallnacht'.
12 November 1938
All of Germany's Jews were ordered to pay a collective fine of 1 billion Reichsmarks for the assassination of Ernst von Rath.
1 December 1938
Britain introduced a 'national register' for war service.
2 December 1938
The first 200 Jewish children arrive in England as part of the 'Kindertransport' programme.
15 December 1938
Senior Nazi Joseph Goebbels told the German people that the territories occupied by the Reich were 'still too small to meet our vital needs'.
11 January 1939
Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain visited Italy and had meetings with the Italian leader Mussolini hoping he would advise Hitler not to make any war like moves.  Chamberlain was heartened by the loud cheers he received from Italians during the visit.
23 January 1939
Neville Chamberlain launched a recruitment drive with the goal of mobilising 30 million Britons for the voluntary civil defence organisations.
9 February 1939
The Home Office announced plans to provide air raid shelters for homes in areas most likely to be bombed.
21 February 1939
Nazi Germany decreed that all Jews were to turn in their gold, silver and other valuables to the state without compensation.
22 February 1939
The British cabinet authorised the production of military aircraft to maximum levels without regard to cost.
27 February 1939
Britain and France formally recognised Francoist Spain.
16 March 1939
German troops marched into Czechoslovakia and Germany annexed the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia.
17 March 1939
Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain condemned Adolf Hitler for breaking the word he had given at the Munich Conference and warned that Britain would resist any further territorial expansion by Germany.
23 March 1939
German troops occupied Memel in Lithuania, and the territory was formerly signed over to Germany.
27 March 1939
Germany started an anti-Polish propaganda campaign.
29 March 1939
The British government unveiled plans to double the size of the Territorial Army.
31 March 1939
Neville Chamberlain pledged Anglo-French support if Polish independence was threatened by Germany.
3 April 1939
Germany's leader, Adolf Hitler, gave a top secret directive to prepare for military operations against Poland for anytime from 1 September 1939
6 April 1939
Britain and France agreed on a mutual assistance pact with Poland, pledging to come to Poland's aid in the event of a German attack.
7 April 1939
The Italian invasion of Albania began, with little resistance.
10 April 1939
The Italian occupation of Albania was completed.
18 April 1939
British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain vowed to go to the aid of the Netherlands, Denmark and Switzerland if they were attacked.
26 April 1939
In Parliament a Bill would be introduced for military conscription of all males aged 20-21 years old.
27 April 1939
The plans for the introduction of conscription were approved in the House of Commons.
14 May 1939
Adolf Hitler arrived in Aachen to conduct an inspection of the Siegfried Line, the German defensive line opposite the French Maginot Line.
21 May 1939
On a visit to Canada King George VI dedicated Canada's National War Memorial honour those Canadians who died in the 1914-1918 war.
26 May 1939
The Military Training Act received Royal Assent, introducing conscription in Britain for the first time in peace time.
3 June 1939
Britain's first conscripts under the Military Training Act were enrolled.
8 July 1939
The southern third of England, less London, was darkened for an air raid test.
19 July 1939
A group of Royal Air Force bombers flew from London to Marseilles in France, and back as a demonstration of British air power.  The distance between London and Marseilles was the same as London to Berlin.
31 July1939
Britain and France announced that military talks would start in Moscow to negotiate a pact with the Soviet Union.
8 August 1939
1 300 War planes filled the skies over Britain on the first of several days of air defence tests.
11 August 1939
Half of England went dark for four hours to determine the effectiveness of the black out.
23 August 1939
The Soviet and German foreign ministers signed the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact.  Both the Soviet Union and Germany would not attack each other and remain neutral if attacked by a third power and a secret part of the agreement agreed upon the portioning of Poland.
25 August 1939
Adolf Hitler met with Sir Neville Henderson, the British Ambassador, and offered Britain a deal  guaranteeing the Empire in order to solve the Polish question once and for all.
26 August 1939
Sir Neville Henderson flew to London with the German offer.
28 August 1939
Sir Neville Henderson flew back to Berlin and stated that there should be discussions between Germany and Poland and that His Majesty's Government had made obligations to Poland.
29 August 1939
Adolf Hitler demanded the return of the free city of Danzig and the Polish Corridor, and stated he was still prepared to have discussions with the British government.
30 August 1939
The Polish government ordered partial mobilisation of its military.
Sir Neville Henderson met German foreign minister Ribbentropp, noting the desire for improved relations and German interests but also the interests of the Polish Government.
31 August 1939
In Britain the Royal Navy was mobilised.
Army and Royal Air Force reserves were called up.
The official order was given to evacuate civilians from cities and town which were likely targets for enemy action.
Adolf Hitler issued Directive Number 1 - ordering an attack on Poland on 1st September.

September 1939


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 You must seek permission prior to publication of any of our images.

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