Chapter I: Pre-War Policies and Plans
On the 3rd September, 1939, at eleven o’clock in the morning, Great Britain was again at war with Germany. Only twenty years had passed since ‘the war to end war’ had finished in victory. At that time German had been beaten and disarmed; the Rhine, giving access to the ‘cock-pit of Europe’, was occupied by Allied troops and was to be demilitarised for ever; and so that war might not recur, the League of Nations was being formed to settle international quarrels by more sensible means. For four years the achievement of peace had been men’s chief desire, and an assumption that peace would continue was the background and basis of all their thinking. When the fighting ceased and the unity of a national purpose gave place to the clash of lesser interests, when economic and social pressures again produced divergent policies, the nation was still united in desiring above all that the Government should ‘seek peace and ensue it’.
It was in this mood that, while a general reduction of armaments was discussed with other nations, Britain herself disarmed. Successive British Governments assumed that at least there would be no major war for ten years, and from 1928 as each year passed the assumed decade of peace was moved forward with it.(1) The Services were drastically reduced and for thirteen years deficiencies in equipment of the small forces retained were allowed to accumulate. It was not so with other countries. No general reduction of armaments followed from our lead, and in March, 1932, the danger of our position was at last admitted, the ten-year policy was abandoned and during the next two years the need for rearmament was discussed (there was little more than discussion) while economic, military and political policies contended for mastery.(2)
One would have lingering wars with little cost;
Another would fly swift but wanteth wings;
A third thinks, without expense at all,
By guileful fair words peace may be obtained.1
A measure of rearmament was at last decided on in 1934, but by 1936, when Hitler’s troops reoccupied the Rhineland in breach of the Locarno agreement, little progress had been made. By then Italy and Germany were openly creating huge armies and Japan was
spending 46 percent of its national income on armaments.2 The League of Nations could not stop aggression in China or in Abyssinia and men perceived reluctantly that force, as the instrument of national ambition and the solvent of international quarrels, had not been superseded. Peace was not assured.
The First World War had come suddenly, without prelude, and the nation had embarked on it with a popular enthusiasm that was ignorant of what war means. The Second World War approached gradually, and the awfulness of war was understood. As the sky grew darker the nation watched and waited for the coming storm in a mood of sombre realism. Hitler’s deeds and declarations made it daily seem more certain that he would pursue his way at whatever cost and day by day it became clearer that his way and ours must cross. Unless we or he altered course there must be a collision.
To the last minute the British people’s desire to keep the peace and the Government’s knowledge that we were in no condition for war were joined in a policy of appeasement to which the Government clung obstinately, hoping against hope to reach agreement with Hitler or, if that should prove impossible, to gain time for rearmament.
Months passed while the Government, swayed largely by economic considerations, debated what was to be the character and cost of their rearmament programme. By April, 1938, they had reached the conclusion that in a war with German the British contribution to Allied strength should consist mainly of naval and air forces. We should avoid sending a large army to the Continent; the role of the Army would be limited to home defence and the defence of British territories overseas. The rearmament programme, so far as the Army was concerned, accordingly provided for considerable increases of coastal and air defences, but for a field force of only five divisions, equipped for imperial defence rather than for continental warfare. No provision was mad for the reinforcement of this field force and the Territorial Army was only to be supplied with training equipment.
The policy of limited liability did not apply to the other two Services, but the Government’s conception of defensive war coloured the whole rearmament programme. Their decision as to what would be the role of the Royal Navy in a war with German (and possibly also with Italy and Japan) did not directly affect British operations in France and Flanders with which alone this volume is concerned; but their decision as to the role of the Royal Air Force profoundly affected the conduct of air operations and had considerable influence on the course of the campaign.
The Government’s air policy was based on the principle that Britain should maintain a defensive air force strong enough to withstand any
likely attack, and an offensive striking force not inferior to any which Germany could bring against us. The first required fighter aircraft to destroy and drive away enemy air forces; the second required bombers to damage and destroy enemy targets on the ground. Apart from a small provision for army cooperation, the 1938 expansion of the Royal Air Force so that it might be equipped and trained for the air defence of Great Britain and for counter-offensive operations against German. Neither role required provision for air participation in large-scale land operations or for the dispatch of large mobile air forces overseas, though it was agreed with France that, in a war with German, until the number of our long-range bombers was increased we might station an advanced striking force of bombers on French airfields in order to bring them nearer to German targets. This was the Army and Air Force policy expressed in the Government’s rearmament programme of 1938.(4)
But after the Munich meeting in the autumn of 1938 the hope that we could avoid war evaporated quickly. By the spring of 1939 the mists of wishful thinking which had obscured facts and beclouded judgement were finally dispelled and the dangers of the situation were revealed in stark reality. Italy and Japan were aligned with Germany, Austria had been absorbed, Abyssinia conquered, Czechoslovakia dismembered, and Albania invaded. In the Far East Japan was seeking to conquer China and in Europe Hitler was threatening Poland. Appeasement gave place to a more realistic policy and preparation for the war which now seemed unpreventable assumed new urgency. Radical changes in the rearmament policy which had taken years to arrive at were forced upon the Government in as many months by the swift movement of events.
It had always been clear that if war came Britain and France would fight together. It now became necessary to plan together for the conflict that seemed imminent. A somewhat desultory exchange of technical information with the French General Staff had indeed been maintained since 1936, when Hitler first showed his hand by re-occupying the Rhineland, but full Staff conversations had been avoided. For such Staff conversations are apt to imply a military alliance and involve definite military commitments, and at that time the Government (and their military advisers) were unwilling to proceed so far while the police of appeasement was being pursued. When, following the Munich agreement, it became clear that Hitler’s word meant nothing and that in fact he was bent on the destruction of Czechoslovakia’s independent existence, full Staff talks with France were authorised. The absorption of Austria had been a prelude to Germany’s move on Czechoslovakia; the obvious intention to absorb Czechoslovakia presaged a move against Poland. German troops
entered Prague on the 14th March 1939; on the 29th March, six months before the Allies declared war on Germany, Anglo-French Staff conversations reopened.(5) It is only necessary to refer here to discussions which were concerned with a war in North-West Europe, though the position which might arise in other theatres was also considered in the series of conversations which followed.
At the first meeting the French delegation stated that France’s first objective, in a war with Germany, would be the defence of French territory. When this had been secured they intended to remain on the defensive, though maintaining an economic blockade of Germany, till sufficient resources for an offensive had been built up.
From this starting-point the Anglo-French Staffs found no difficulty in agreeing on a broad strategic policy for the Allies and an appreciation of probable German action. They concluded that we should be faced by enemies (assuming Italy to be involved) who would be more fully prepared than ourselves for war on a national scale, who would have superiority in land and air forces but would be inferior at sea and in general economic strength. In these circumstances we must be prepared to face a major offensive directed either against France, or Great Britain, or both. We should have to concentrate all our initial efforts on the defeat of such an offensive and our strategy during this phase must be defensive. Thus while we were building up our military resources our policy should be to hold Germany, and exercise rigorous economic pressure so as to reduce our enemies’ power of resistance. The fact that these conclusions were the best which could be reached under the circumstances shows to what a precarious position pre-war policies had reduced the Allies. Because of their military weakness they had to base their strategic plan on an assumption that during the years needed to build up our military strength Allied armies could maintain the integrity of French soil against an enemy ‘more fully prepared’ and ‘having superiority in land and air forces’. In other words they had to presume that the Allies could force German to accept a repetition of the static warfare of 1914–1918, in spite of the fact that mechanisation, tanks and air forces had made obsolete the pedestrian pattern of the First World War.
The precarious foundations of this intention are apparent when it is considered together with the appreciation of probable German action, on which the Anglo-French Staffs also agreed. ‘In view of the defensive strength of the Maginot Line the Germans might, in the event of war with France, be impelled to seek success by turning the barrier through Belgium and Holland. By a sudden movement through the territory of these states they might hope rapidly to crush Belgian and Dutch resistance as it was being organised; further, they might hope that by pushing boldly on until they gained contact with
the French defences, they could find themselves well placed to attack those defences, whilst at the same time obtaining control of the North Sea coast and putting air forces within range of vital French and British objectives.’ While the enemy covered their southern flank and immobilised the defences of the French fortified zone, their main attack, it was thought, would be directed towards Brussels and Cambrai with the object of reaching the French position from Hirson to the North Sea. It would be an attaque brusquée, followed by immediate and thorough exploitation of the initial success.
It was agreed that the Allies would be unable to assist Holland to repel a sudden assault, but it was hoped that if a similar attack were mad on Belgium it might be possible to collaborate in withstanding it. With this in mind alternative positions, on which such an attack could be held as far forward as possible, were examined. If time allowed it might be possible to reinforce the Belgians on their line of resistance on the Meuse-Albert Canal; as a minimum the line of the Scheldt (known to the French as the Escaut) might be held, connecting Maulde on the French frontier with the Belgian national redoubt above Ghent. Neither of these slender hopes was destined to be realised. German was held only when what remained of the Allied armies were behind the greater obstacle of the Channel and the North Sea. Then indeed the necessary time was secured to build up Allied strength till, in their turn, they had ‘superiority in land and air forces’. But the integrity of French soil was not meanwhile preserved.
This, however, is looking ahead by the light of after-knowledge. In 1939 the Anglo-French Staffs still worked by the dim light of 1914–1918. And while they did not forget the desirability of passing to the offensive as soon as possible, the firs object of the French was the defence of French territory and their chief hope the French Army and the Maginot Line. The British, for their part, knowing that it was proposed at this date to contribute so small a British force, could be accept the French soldiers’ view as to the course which land operations on the Continent should take.
it is but fair to remember that when these talks began, in March 1939, no one then knew that war would begin in less than six months. Even so, the Government had failed till then, though known circumstances should have made it impossible, to recognise the extreme urgency of the situation. Thus while the French Government had been informed in the previous year that our initial contribution to the Allied forces could only be two Regular divisions, they were now told that it would be approximately eleven months before we could sent out two more divisions.(6) We had said that two armoured divisions would be sent as soon as possible; we now said that this part of the programme could not be fully realised before September 1940.
We could make no promise as to the use of our Territorial divisions (for which in any case there were neither reserves nor equipment) because they might be needed for some other theatre when they became available. Italy and Japan might have to be reckoned with as well as Germany—we might have to fight not one front but on three. The French Staff, not unnaturally, ‘viewed with dismay’ such a minute and unpromising programme.
At the end of March the Government changed their policy. The belief that in a war with Germany the British contribution to Allied strength could be restricted in the main to naval and air force and that we could avoid sending an army to the Continent was abandoned.
So far rearmament (with priority for the Navy and Air Force) had been proceeding on a non-emergency basis and a comparatively small scale. Only in the case of aircraft construction had provision been mad for rapid expansion. But, however much the programme for producing trained men and equipment was enlarged and pressed forward, it was now too late to provide a large force at the outset. In Germany by contrast conscription had been proceeding at an accelerated pace since 1935 and a large proportion of German industrial organisation had been concentrated on war requirements. The mass production of war materials on a vast scale was already nearing the period of flood.
On March the 29th the Cabinet decided to increase British military strength by doubling the Territorial force and on the 27th April to introduce conscription. A programme of expansion was adopted which would eventually provide Great Britain with an army of thirty-two divisions. By the end of April we had undertaken to double the size of our initial contingent.(7) Two corps, each of two Regular divisions, and an air components of the Royal Air Force, were now promised for dispatch to France within thirty-three days of the date of mobilisation. We also gave the French Staff our latest forecast of future development, though nothing more definite could be promised about the dates on which further forces would become available.
The initial Expeditionary Force would consist of General Headquarters and two corps, comprising:
Two cavalry regiments (light tanks)
One army tank battalion
Twenty field regiments of artillery
Seven medium regiment of artillery
one heavy regiment of artillery
Three anti-aircraft regiments
Two light anti-aircraft batteries
Four light anti-aircraft regiments
Forty-three infantry battalions
Four machine-gun battalions
Thirteen anti-tank companies
Engineers, signals and administrative units.
There would also be an air component of the Royal Air Force consisting at the outset of:
Two bomber reconnaissance squadrons
Six army cooperation squadrons
Four fighter squadrons
Two flights H.Q. Communications squadron(8)
As agreed in earlier conversations (page 3) an Advanced Air Striking Force of medium bombers (from the forces of Bomber Command) would, with French concurrence, be stationed in France, not to collaborate with land forces but to bring aircraft which at that time had a limited range nearer to military targets in Germany.(9)
The first of the two armoured divisions which had been promised would now be available in approximately eight months’ time; the second ‘at a much later date’. With regard to the Territorial divisions, ‘whose role has not been definitely settled’, it was now expected that two would be available for dispatch to ‘an overseas theatre’ in four months’ time; a further three, plus one motor divisions, in five months; and one horsed cavalry division in from four to sixth months.(10) When the remaining divisions would become available could still not be forecast with any certainty for this did not only depend on the time required to train men. To produce the necessary equipment and weapons and the vast and varied quantities of ammunition on the scale required in modern warfare, mass-production methods must be employed; and since during these years of inaction the whole armament industry had been allowed to run down, considerable time must now elapse before production could be in full swing. Not even the fearful gaps in the Army’s equipment could be filled quickly.
At this time it was understood that France would be able to mobilise seventy-two divisions in addition to fortress troops equivalent to another twelve or fourteen divisions. She would thus have approximately eighty-four to eighty-six divisions, of which twelve would be needed to guard the Italian frontier. Seventy-two to seventy-four would thus be available to garrison the Maginot forts and to operate against German. With the addition of the four British divisions, there would therefore be a total Allied force of, say, seventy-six divisions. Against this, it was estimated that Germany would be able to mobilise at least 116 divisions by the middle of September.(11)
In the air Germany’s numerical superiority was equally marked. The strength of an air force depends not only on the number but on the type and performance of aircraft and on reserves behind frontline
formations. A note on British aircraft is included in Appendix I on the ‘British Forces Engaged’ in this campaign. An estimate was made of front-line air forces available for war in Europe (that is excluding units required to protect overseas possessions) in April 1939. At that date it was understood that the Allies had together 824 bombers, 856 fighters and 954 army cooperation and reconnaissance aircraft, a total of 2,634 of all types. German was believed to have 1,900 bombers, 1,000 fighters and 800 army cooperation and reconnaissance aircraft, a total of 3,700 aircraft. Moreover, Italy, if she joined in the war, could bring a further 1,4000 aircraft to battle.(12)
It was thought unlikely that France would be attacked till Poland was disposed of, but once that had been done Hitler would be able to employ something like a hundred divisions in an offensive against the Allies. Moreover, while the latter must extend their smaller forces so as to cover the 500-mile French frontier from Switzerland to the North Sea, Germany’s larger forces could be concentrated against the selected point of attack. How soon Hitler would feel free to launch a western offensive, was, of course, not foreseeable. But it was with the sobering knowledge that when that time arrived he would have the double advantages of initiative and superior strength that we eventually declared war on Germany.
There were no similar Staff conversations with Belgium. The geographical position of Holland and Belgium made it highly probable that one or both would be involved in any war between Germany and a Franco-British alliance. Why, then, were they not joined in the Staff conversations of 1939? The answer is that both countries had announced that they would remain strictly neutral in such a war unless their own frontiers were attacked. When Hitler reoccupied the Rhineland in 1936 and before Belgium had declared her neutrality, she had asked for Staff conversations, but we had drawn back lest the fact that such conversations were being held should give Hitler an excuse for counter-measures. And when, later in that year, Belgium declared her neutrality, the British Chiefs of Staff argued that an effective Belgian neutrality would be greatly to our advantage and should not be deliberately rendered impossible, even though the chance of its being maintained throughout a West European war seemed remote.(13) Yet when war became imminent three years later both Britain and France pressed Belgium to join in Staff conversations, urging that without preliminary planning they would be less able to assist her effectively if she were attacked. Belgium argued, as we had done earlier, that she could not engage herself to one set of neighbours while proclaiming her neutrality to another. So she now held back. The political implications of this decision must be sought in the volumes of this history which deal with grand strategy. Here, only the fact that there were no Staff conversations with Belgium needs to
be recorded. When hostilities opened we were inevitably handicapped by the fact that there had been no full exchange of information and no concerting of plans, but such an abandonment of Belgian neutrality as would have been signified by Staff conversations might well have had other results which can now only be a subject of speculation. The course she took may even have been to our ultimate advantage, in that while we lost in efficiency through the absence of joint planning, we gained time, so long as Hitler respected Belgian neutrality, in which to strengthen our own forces and complete our own plans.
The case of Holland was different she had remained neutral throughout the First World War, and it was recognised that in any event the Allies would not be able effectively to intervene if she were attack by Germany.
Though there had so far been but inadequate preparation for a war with Germany, much was done in the last six months to remedy past neglect and to ensure that we should at least be ready to dispatch without delay the small force which was all we could contribute at the outset. The Services completed necessary arrangements. Plans were made ready. When war was declared they could be put into operation immediately. They provided for something that was new in military history, for this was the first occasion on which a wholly mechanised army was dispatched overseas. It was a considerable Staff achievement to complete plans in so short a time.
The Army plan—W4(14)—was inevitably a complicated and highly technical document; here it is only necessary to note certain features.
1. Because of the risk of air attack the main ports of disembarkation in France were to be on the western coast. This meant a longer sea passage, but was thought to be safer than the use of the Channel ports both for shipping and for the landing of troops, equipment, supplies and stores.
2. There were to be two main bases—a northern base at Rennes and a southern base at St Nazaire-Nantes. There was also to be a medical base at Dieppe.
3. The chief ports to be used were Cherbourg (for personnel, with motor transport and drivers); St Nazaire (ammunition and frozen meat for the southern base, with motor transport and drivers); and Nantes (other stores for the southern base and, again, motor transport and drivers).
4, After landing, troops not employed at the bases or on lines of communication would move at once to an assembly area south of Abbeville, and from there go to their allotted stations.
The Air Force plan—W.A.4(15)—was complicated by the need to provide for two distinct formations, namely:
1. The Air Component, intended to supply reconnaissance and protection for the Expeditionary Force, and
2. The Advanced Air Striking Force of Bomber Command, stationed in France so as to be nearer to Germany and the probable scene of operations.
The movement of the former had only to keep pace with that of the Expeditionary Force: but bombing operations from French bases might be needed at once on the outbreak of war, so plans were completed by which the Advanced Air Striking Force could move to France immediately. To make this possible, arrangements had been mad for part of the Royal Air Force to mobilise secretly in advance.
With the collaboration of the French Staff, necessary reconnaissance had been carried out before plans took final shape.
All these plans for the dispatch of land and air forces to France presupposed that the Royal Navy could ensure their safe passage and due arrival, and the naval plan for this operation had also been completed before war was declared. It was, of course, but part of the vastly greater operations in which the Navy was immediately to engage on the outbreak of war. Unless that is realised a delusive appearance of simplicity, arising from the Navy’s skill in planning and performance, may give a misleading impression of their part in this campaign.
Apart from the obvious requirement that the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force should protect our own shores from invasion by the enemy, the very life of this country and its ability to engage in war, whether in France or in the rest of the world, depends on the Navy’s ability to control sea communications—not, indeed, immediately to establish control of all seas, but so to employ our naval strength that zones of maritime control can be established wherever and whenever they are needed for the prosecution of war. One such zone of control, essential for the waging of war in France and Flanders, is, of course, the waters of the North Sea and English Channel—‘the narrow seas’. As a part of the larger naval war plans concerted with the French Staff, the main tasks of the French Fleet were to be ‘generally responsible’ for the Western Mediterranean and to constitute a force de raid to operate in the Eastern Atlantic against enemy surface raiders. The control of the narrow seas was to be a responsibility of the Royal Navy, part of its wider responsibility for the control of our sea communications throughout the world. The success of that control alone mad possible the Navy’s use of the narrow seas for operations which formed an essential part of the campaign in France and Flanders. Its dependence on the success of wider operations must be borne in mind.
Naval plans for the campaign provided, among other things:
1. For the formation of a Channel Force whose primary purpose was to cover the passage of the British Expeditionary Force to France. (It was based at Portland and would consist of the battleships Resolution and Revenge, the aircraft carriers Courageous and Hermes, the cruisers Ceres and Caradoc, the anti-aircraft cruiser Cairo, and the 18th Destroyer Flotilla);
2. For the shipping needed to bear to France our forces and the vast quantity of equipment, ammunition, stores, and supplies on which their maintenance depended;
3. For the embarkation of troops and stores from Southampton, Avonmouth, Swansea, Barry and Newport;
4. For their escort in convoy and their local defence by flotillas of the Portsmouth and Western Approaches Commands; and
5. For the cooperation of the Royal Air Force in reconnaissance and protection from air attack.(16)
Two further decisions of major importance must be mentioned. On the 3rd of September the Cabinet decided to entrust the command of the British Expeditionary Force to General the Viscount Gort. Lord Gort was a Guardsman who had served with distinction through the First World War, first on the Staff and afterwards commanding in turn the 4th and 1st Battalions of the Grenadier Guards. (He was four times wounded, nine times mentioned in despatches, and was awarded the Military Cross, the Distinguished Service Order and two Bars, and the Victoria Cross.) Subsequently he held various Staff appointments including those of Director of Military Training in India, Commandant of the Staff College, and Military Secretary; he was Chief of the Imperial General Staff when he was selected to command the British Expeditionary Force. He was fifty-three years old and had no previous experience of a large command.
The second decision, which was largely to determine Lord Gort’s conduct of British operations in France, was that he should serve under the French Commander-in-Chief, ‘North-East Theatre of Operations’. The first two paragraphs of his Instructions read:
1. His Majesty’s Government have decided to send a Field Force to France and to entrust its command to you.
2. The role of the force under your command is to cooperate with our Allies in the defeat of the common enemy.
You will be under the command of the French Commander-in-Chief ‘North-East Theatre of Operations’. In the pursuit of the common object, the defeat of the enemy, you will carry out loyally any instructions issued by him. At the same time, if any order given by him appears to you to imperial the British Field Force, it is agreed between the British and French Governments that you should be at liberty to appeal to the British Government before executing that
order. Whilst is it hoped that the need for such an appeal will seldom, if ever, arise, you will not hesitate to avail yourself of your right to make it, if you think fit.
The following further paragraphs are also specially important as defining Lord Gort’s position:
4. It is the desire of His Majesty’s Government to keep the British Forces under your command, as far as possible, together. If at any time the French Commander-in-Chief ‘North-East Theatre of Operations’ finds it essential for any reason to transfer any portion of the British troops to an area other than that in which your main force is operating, it should be distinctly understood that this is only a temporary arrangement, and that as soon as practicable the troops thus detached should be re-united to the main body of the British Forces.
8. While the Royal Air Force Component of the Field Force is included under your command, the Advanced Air Striking Force, which will also operate from French territory, is an independent force under the direct control of the Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Bomber Command, in the United Kingdom. The War Office has nevertheless undertaken the maintenance of this force from the common bases up to railhead and for this you, as Commander-in-Chief of the Field Force, will be responsible.
Finally the Commander-in-Chief was instructed to keep in constant communication with the War Office and report regularly on the situation; and he was to ‘rely with absolute confidence on receiving the full and unqualified support of the Government, of the Army Council, and of the British people.(17)
Thus when war was declared the following preparations had been made:
1. The general strategy which was to govern the Allies’ conduct of operations had been agreed;
2. The size and composition of the British Expeditionary Force and the date by which it would be assembled in France had been decided and naval plans had been mad for its prompt dispatch and subsequent supply and maintenance;
3. The Commander-in-Chief was selected (though only at the last minute) and the terms on which he would serve under the French Command had been defined;
4. The size and composition of air forces to be employed in France had been decided, the necessary measures for their operation had been agreed, and plans had been mad for their prompt dispatch and accommodation.
In all these matters there had been close and harmonious collaboration with France.
There was little of peace left in this last six months before war was declared. On the 15th March Hitler announced that Bohemia and Moravia were taken under German ‘protection’—Czechoslovakia ceased to exist as an independent state. In the two months which followed Germany seized Memel, the chief port of Lithuania, denounced her pact of non-aggression with Poland and her Naval Agreement with Great Britain, and signed a ‘Pact of Steel’ with Italy, who meanwhile had invaded Albania.
In Great Britain the growing menace of these events and of Hitler’s warlike attitude to Poland led progressively to the adoption of conscription, the calling up of Army Reservists for training and the partial mobilisation of the Fleet and the Royal Air Force.
Germany’s next move was to insure her eastern borders by concluding two treaties with Russia which included a secret agreement to divide Poland and left Russia free to rob Finland.3 Two days later—on the 25th August—the British Government signed an Anglo-Polish Defence Alliance, providing for mutual assistance in the event of aggression; but Hitler was not to be deterred. On the 1st of September Germany invaded Poland across every accessible frontier without any previous declaration of war and after heavily bombing Polish airfields without warning. Great Britain at once ordered full mobilisation and sent an ultimatum to German, timed to expire on the 3rd of September. To this there was no response and to eleven o’clock that morning the Second World War began.