Basic account

  Describe the steps after the Munich conference of September 1938 that led to the outbreak of war in September 1939.

  In March 1939, Britain changed its policy towards Germany. Why?


Causes of War - how the invasion of Czechoslovakia and the Polish Guarantee provoked war.


Britain Goes To War

The End of Appeasement

28 Sept 1938

Chamberlain signs the Munich Agreement.

3 October

Duff Cooper, First Lord of the Admiralty, resigns over Munich.

27 October

Quentin Hogg, a Chamberlain supporter, wins a by-election in Oxford, but his opponent is supported by many Conservatives (including Winston Churchill), who claim: ‘A vote for Hogg is a vote for Hitler’.

8 November

Kristallnacht – Nazis attack the German Jews. Hitler begins to persecute the Jews in Germany.

1 December

Britain sets up a ‘National Register’ of who would do what if there was a war.

3 January 1939

The British navy is made stronger.   The RAF increases production of planes to 400 a month.

15 February

Parliament increases defence spending to £580 million a year.   A quarter of a million free air raid shelters are given to Londoners.

28 February

The Fascist ruler Franco wins the Spanish Civil War.   British MPs shout ‘Heil Chamberlain’ in Parliament.

15 March 1939

Hitler invades Czechoslovakia; Chamberlain says it is a ‘shock to confidence’.   This is the first time Hitler has attacked a non-German people. 

29 March

The Territorial Army is doubled in numbers.

30 March

Britain and France promised to give the Polish government 'all support in their power' if Poland was attacked.

5 April

A Civil Defence Act is passed; it plans to evacuate women and children from London to the countryside.

13 April

Mussolini (the Fascist ruler of Italy) conquers Albania.

25 April

Parliament votes to spend £1,322 million on defence.

28 April

Germany renounces the German-Polish Non-Aggression Pact of 1934 and the London Naval Agreement of 1935.

1 May

The Military Training Act introduces conscription in Britain.

19 May

Stalin suggests an alliance of France, Britain and Russia against Hitler.

22 May

Pact of Steel: Hitler and Mussolini make an alliance of support in the event of a war.

11 August

British politicians go to Moscow to make the alliance with Russia.

23 August

Russia and Germany sign a treaty, not to go to war with each other, and to attack and divide Poland between them.

25 August

Britain signs a Common Defence Pact with Poland, promising to send military aid if Poland is attacked; hearing of it, Hitler postpones the invasion of Poland he had planned for 26 August.

26 August

Hitler sends 2000 armed Nazis to Danzig to stir up trouble, then demands Danzig and the Polish corridor.

26 August

Hitler offers to defend the British Empire if Britain lets him have Danzig and all former German colonies.  Britain replies that it is 'willing in principle to come to an agreement with Germany’, but was committed to fight if Germany attacked Poland.

31 August

The first children are evacuated from London.

1 September

Hitler invades Poland.

3 Sept 1939

Britain declares war on Germany.




1.  In the list above identify:

  1. Events in Europe which pressurised Chamberlain to change his policy of appeasement.

  2. Events in England which pressurised Chamberlain to change his policy of appeasement.

  3. Events which showed that Britain was preparing for war all the time.

2.  Which event - if any - do you think was the 'turning point ' - the time when the British government decided that negotiation had failed - that a war was coming and they had better prepare for it?

3.  Was there a 'no turning back' point - when it was impossible for the nations to stop war happening?