The story appears on

Page A9

August 19, 2009

GET this page in PDF

Free for subscribers

View shopping cart

Related News

Home » World

Exhibition details the slow start to WWII

FOR months after the declaration of war against Germany in 1939, many Britons were convinced the conflict would be relatively brief, a new exhibition at London's Imperial War Museum shows.

"Outbreak 1939" has been organized to mark the 70th anniversary of Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain's radio announcement on September 3 that Britain was at war.

It includes Chamberlain's pocket diary, in which he simply scrawled "war declared" on September 3, and a letter to his sister written a week later which underlined the mood of optimism in Britain before major military operations in Europe began.

He wrote: "Since then (declaration of war), although I have had some dreadful anxieties, especially during one sleepless night, the tension has actually decreased and I have occasionally times, perhaps an hour or even more, when there has been nothing for me to do."

But Elsie Warren, a member of the auxiliary fire service and the kind of ordinary Briton the exhibition focuses on, was less sanguine, writing in her diary after hearing Chamberlain's broadcast:

"The past few days have been very morbid. Everything is quiet and the shadow of war darkens."

Terry Charman, senior historian at the Imperial War Museum, said the British authorities were quick to encourage public optimism about the outcome of the war, triggered by Nazi leader Adolf Hitler's decision to invade Poland.

"There was a great deal of unwarranted optimism that the war wasn't going to last," he said.

"This optimism was encouraged by the government. If you look at the newspapers, for example, there were reports that the Nazis were on their last legs."

Yet the war became the most destructive conflict in history.

Britain and France, the exhibition argues, initially made "very little effort" to come to Poland's aid. The first British soldier was not killed in action until December 9.


Copyright © 1999- Shanghai Daily. All rights reserved.Preferably viewed with Internet Explorer 8 or newer browsers.

沪公网安备 31010602000204号

Email this to your friend