"This morning the British Ambassador in Berlin handed the German Government a
final Note stating that, unless we heard from them by 11 o'clock that they were
prepared at once to withdraw their troops from Poland, a state of war would
exist between us.
I have to tell you now that no such undertaking has been received, and that
consequently this country is at war with Germany..."
(Neville Chamberlain, British Prime Minister, 11.15 a.m. 3rd September 1939)
"In September, 1939, I was a six year old schoolboy and my favourite pastime was reading and so I spent much time indoors. On Sunday morning, September 3rd, I was sitting in my usual corner reading. I had the feeling that something important was about to happen but had no idea what it was. My father was outside tending to his garden and my mother was sitting and listening to the radio. Then my father came in and stood beside my mother to listen to the radio. It was then that the Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain, made the famous announcement that this country was at war with Germany. To this day, I can still see the serious expression on my father's face. He had fought throughout World War One from October 1914 to November 1918 and the memories must have come flooding back to him. My mother began to weep and had to be comforted by him. Neither of them had ever mentioned World War One to me and it was not until 1998 that I discovered that my mother had a brother, very close to her in age, who had been killed in that conflict. I discovered that at Christmas 1917 he was in Jerusalem and was killed in Belgium in September 1918. My mother also had a much loved uncle who had been killed at the battle of the Somme in 1916..."
"My Mum died in 2005, but I remember asking her once whether she remembered Neville Chamberlain's radio broadcast in September 1939. She said that yes, she did. She was seven years old and sitting on her Dad's knee at her grandma's house in Cropwell Bishop, Nottinghamshire. You could hear a pin drop in the room when the broadcast had finished and then my mum asked her Dad "What's war, Daddy?" to which my Grandad replied gravely "War is a very nasty thing, my darling." Grandad had been a teenage tommy during the Great War and had fought at Passchendaele, he'd appeared twice in the Casualty Lists and carried a piece of shrapnel in his skull until he died in 1983. His blood must have run cold listening to that broadcast..."
"Now that the war had started, Britain began to prepare herself for a possible invasion. Before long everyone was issued with a gas mask. As we were a large family we received three different types. I was old enough to get one of those issued to adults which is the type mostly seen on tv nowadays. Two of my younger brothers received a mask for children which had round eyeglasses and a red nose that trembled when they breathed out my youngest brother, who was just a baby got one that he could be placed into bodily and which had a device which had to be pumped continuously and like bellows forced air into the main body. Mine was the type which was carried in a cardboard box with a string cord to enable us to carry it on our hip. They had to be taken with us wherever we went and we each had one on our desk at school. The Headmaster of my school was an officer in the Army Cadet Force and we had regular testing where every movement was prompted by his whistle. One blow and we bought the box towards us, another and we opened the box, another and then we took out the mask and finally put it on in the correct manner..."
"My dad (Ray Archer) was born Oct 1928. When war broke out he was just over eleven. During the ‘first phase’ of evacuations he went away but found it ‘not to be to his liking’, preferring home comforts and his mum and dad (who were both close to him, especially to his dad). His dad was dispatched and duly brought him home. With the onset of the blitz and ‘second phase’ evacuations he simply refused to go. His first real memory of the war ‘proper’ was his father coming home from work ‘full of euphoria’ (served at a local hostelry) claiming in Dec 1939 "We’ve sunk the Graf Spee!"..."
"In the summer of 1939 my father and family moved into a new house on the Scrattons Terrace estate built on the A13 just along from the Ford Motor works. As a 12 year old he refused to go into their family Anderson shelter, he ‘showed off badly’.....taken invariably by force by his older brother, he grumbled constantly, he apparently disliked the cold and damp more than he disliked the German Airforce..."
"Another defence measure was the building of air raid shelters. Just a few yards from our house an underground one was built with mounds of earth piled on top of it. It was soon deemed to be unsafe and so some others were built above ground, from brick, which would sway at a bomb blast and would need a direct hit to be destroyed. We had one built in the schoolyard and once again the Headmaster's whistle was used for us to practice entering and leaving it in an orderly manner. At the end of every play period, he would give us a few minutes military style drill and then we had to file smartly into the classroom. He was a strict disciplinarian but I found out many years later that he did a great deal of charity work. My own debt to the man is that he worked very hard to persuade my parents to allow me and one of my brothers to go to Grammar School, but that's another story..."