It is notified that a State of War exists between His Majesty and Germany as from 11 o’clock A.M. to-day the 3rd September, 1939. — King George VI
War! 3rd September 2009 sees the 70th anniversary of Britain’s entry into the conflict that was to become known as the Second World War. King George VI declared war against Germany at 11am on that day because of the refusal by Hitler's Government to give assurances that it would withdraw from Poland. The war was to last six long, hard and world-changing years.
Speaking to the Nation from 10 Downing Street at 11.15 am, Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain explained how Britain had requested an undertaking from the German Government that it would immediately prepare to withdraw from Poland and if there was no word by 11am, Britain would be at war. He went on to say, “I have to tell you now that no such undertaking has been received and that consequently this country is at war with Germany”.
The King confirmed the Nation’s slide into a state of conflict through an announcement in a supplement to the London Gazette newspaper, distributed on that evening, which said "It is notified that a State of War exists between His Majesty and Germany as from 11 o’clock A.M. to-day the 3rd September, 1939".
France also joined Great Britain by sending a message to Berlin at 12.30pm asking for assurances that Germany would immediately start plans to withdraw from Poland with a deadline of 5pm. No assurances were received, as with Britain’s ultimatum, so from that deadline on the same day, 1939, France too was at war.
Also declaring war against Germany on the 3rd was Australia’s Prime Minister, Mr Menzies, on behalf of his country. Hot on the heels of the Australian announcement came one from New Zealand. India showed its support and also declared war. South Africa’s declaration of war came on September 5th.
Canada offered support initially giving the rationale – "when Britain is at war, Canada is at war", then made its official declaration on September 10th following Parliament's formal approval. It is the first time that Canadians make their own declaration of war as a sovereign nation. The previous week, a solemn King took to the airwaves with an address called "Canada at the side of Britain.", even though Canada remained neutral until Sept. 10. King George VI declared war on Germany in the name of Canada the same day.
The day after Parliament's decision, the Globe and Mail described Canada's entry into the war as follows: "This peaceful country, 3,000 miles distant from the scene of the conflict, which desires to live on terms of amity with the whole world, has spoken in it own right for human justice and equity, prepared to defend with life and its full treasure principles more sacred than life or material welfare."
"The solemn decision reached was the echo of a nation's soul," the Globe and Mail continued, "torn by wholesale murder and brigandage on land and sea and tyranny which it could not in silence see imposed on others wishing to live undisturbed like itself." While keeping up a front of patriotic fervour, the Globe did take a swipe at Prime Minister MacKenzie King and Parliament for not immediately committing to the war effort.
Over the next six years, King George VI, following in his father's footsteps, visited troops, munitions factories, supply docks and bomb-damaged areas to support the war effort. As the Nazi's bombed London, the royal family remained at Buckingham Palace; George went so far as to practice firing his revolver, vowing that he would defend Buckingham to the death. Fortunately, such defense was never necessary. The actions of the King and Queen during the war years greatly added to the prestige of the monarchy.