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World War II Tuesday, 21 September, 1999, 08:39 GMT 09:39 UK
Sights and sounds
BBC News Online has delved into the BBC Archives for eyewitness accounts of the day when war broke out.

Click here to send us your memories of the outbreak of war.


When the clock struck 11

Big Ben
Britain was at war from 11 o'clock - Chamberlain made his radio broadcast at 1115.
Chamberlain's speech
Veterans and civilians reflect on how they felt after hearing the prime minister's broadcast.

Piccadilly flower-seller
Mrs Pegg remembers the uncanny atmosphere that Sunday, with no lights, and little trade.

London PC Jack Jones
PC Jones was on duty outside 10 Downing Street in the hours leading up to the declaration of war.

Immediately the air raid siren sounded
Everyone braced themselves for an attack from the skies.

"When the clock struck 11, I said 'we're now at war' and groaned"
Three more vivid accounts from the day war was declared.

Mr. Kynvin, a bank clerk, describes his wedding day on 3 September, 1939
The vicar expected bombs to rain down in the middle of the ceremony and the couple spent their wedding night in an air-raid shelter.

Patrick O'Hare describes the coming of war in the village of Pettigo
On the border between the Irish Free State and Northern Ireland half the inhabitants were officially at war, and the other half at peace.

The last full day of professional sport for six years
Cricket player Len Hutton, footballer Ted Drake, and rugby footballer Wilf Wooller recall their fears that there would be no sport for some time.

"It'll all be over by Christmas"
The people of Derby remember blackouts, gas masks and 'moaning minnie' - the air-raid siren.


Evacuating the children

Children with gas masks
Children were given special lessons on wearing their gas masks properly
In the months leading up to the outbreak of the war many thousands of children were evacuated to the countryside.

Departure from Waterloo
BBC Reporter S J de Lotbinière was at Waterloo station to see off hundreds of schoolchildren on September 1, 1939

A difficult decision
Mrs. Reynolds was one of the first parents to consent to having her children evacuated.

"I couldn't bear to see my children go"
Mrs Ayres decided to take her children to the country herself.

Growing up at six years old
Steve Allen explains how he was told by his father "look after your mother and sisters - you're the man of the family now."

"On a train with a label on my lapel"
Janet Renshaw remembers being a five year-old evacuee.

"How do you spell 'yokels'?"
Charles Gardiner, Clerk of Evesham Rural District Council, remembers looking after evacuees.


Parliament and politics

Chamberlain making a radio broadcast
Neville Chamberlain's "no such undertaking has been received" meant war
Lobby correspondent Graham Cawthorne describes the atmosphere in Parliament on September 2, 1939
"The anxiety and contempt of the whole House towards Chamberlain's policy of 'appeasement' was palpable."

"There was no alternative"
Emanuel Shinwell, former MP, describes the feeling in Parliament when the ultimatum to Germany was announced.

The military man
Sir Edmund Ironside heard the news of the outbreak of war at the Horse Guards. Three days later he was appointed Chief of the Imperial General Staff.


Accounts from the war zone

German soldiers
German troops quickly overran Danzig and Poland
"The Admiralty should blow the whistle at the starting time and not 17 minutes late"
Commander Eadon of the British submarine Spearfish took part in the first act of war.

The Gestapo came to "take me under their protection"
Sir Francis Shepherd was the British Consul-General in Danzig. He recalls that he thought he was to be taken to a concentration camp.

"When we heard explosions we knew it was war"
Mrs Majewska remembers seeing German planes over Warsaw.


Reporting the War

London underground used as an air-raid shelter
In London, underground stations were adapted to serve as air-raid shelters
Life in Berlin as the storm-clouds gather
The Daily Mail's Berlin correspondent Ralph Izzard remembers how the Russo-German Pact left the German people bewildered.

"The streets of Warsaw filled with Poles weeping with joy"
William Forrest was the News Chronicle's special correspondent in Warsaw.

"I remember wondering what one did in an air-raid"
The Warsaw correspondent of the Daily Telegraph, Hugh Carleton-Greene remembers being woken up as German aircraft began their attack.

"A story we did not want to print"
Alec Hunter was in charge of the foreign news desk at the News Chronicle.


Joy in Poland

Bombed-out street in Warsaw
Poland suffered enormously during the war
"Singing, shouting, crying, praying for England"
Mrs Martin remembers the crowds when Britain declared war. Everyone thought their planes would be over Poland the next day.

Stuck in the air
Wing Commander Ostrowski of the Polish Air Force remembers German planes bombing his airfield.

"Treating war as a sport"
Group Captain Gabszewicz describes shooting down a German plane and then being shot down himself over Warsaw.

Click here to send us your memories of the outbreak of war.


Video extracts from 1983 BBC documentary The Day War Broke Out. Archive video by permission of Imperial War Museum.
 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Video
Veterans and civilians look back at their responses to Chamberlain's 11 O'clock speech
Audio
Evacuation of children to country - Outside broadcast from Waterloo station
Video
After Chamberlain's announcement everyone braced themselves for an immediate attack
Audio
Mrs Ayres
Video
"When the clock struck 11, I said "We're now at war" and groaned a bit"
Audio
Janet Renshaw
Audio
Charles Gardiner
Audio
Mrs Reed
Audio
Mrs Reynolds
Audio
Steve Allen
Audio
Mrs Pegg
Audio
Mr Kynvin
Audio
Sport on Four, 2.9.39
Audio
Sir Edmund Ironside
Audio
Graham Cawthorne
Audio
London P.C. Jack Jones
Audio
Emanuel Shinwell
Audio
People of Derby
Audio
Commander Eadon
Audio
Group Captain Gabszewicz
Audio
Mrs Martin
Audio
Mrs Majewska
Audio
Sir Francis Shepherd
Audio
Wing Commander Ostrowski
Audio
Hugh Carleton-Greene
Audio
Alec Hunter
Audio
Ralph Izzard
Audio
William Forrest
Audio
Group Captain Gabszewicz
Audio
Senator Patrick O'Hare
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