On August 23, 1939, Germany astonishes
the world by announcing that it has signed,
in spite of its deeply anticommunist ideology,
a pact with the USSR. The Ribbentrop-Molotov
Pact (from the signatories’ names)
includes a non-aggression clause, a trade
agreement and a secret provision dividing
the Polish territory between the two powers.
This time, France and Great Britain, even
though the clauses on the partition of Poland
remain unknown, can no longer harbour any
doubts over the fate awaiting that country.
But contrary to Hitler’s expectations,
Great Britain takes a firm stand and on
August 24 signs a mutual assistance agreement
with Poland. The British Parliament meets
and proclaims the state of emergency.
In Canada, Prime Minister King sets up
an Emergency Council on August 30, which
on the following day calls back the Parliament
for an extraordinary session. The War Measures
Act is proclaimed and the armed forces mobilized.
The same day, after failed negotiations,
German tanks and bombers invade the Polish
territory. On September 3, at 9:00 am, the
British government demands the withdrawal
of German forces within two hours. At 11:00
am, the French government does likewise.
I am speaking to
you [from] the Cabinet Room at 10 Downing
Street. This morning, the British ambassador
in Berlin handed the German government
a final note stating that unless we heard
from them by eleven 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, September 3, 1939
World War II has started.
With the exception of Newfoundland, which
is not yet part of the Canadian Confederation,
Canada is not at war. But for most Canadians
the Parliament’s decision is obvious:
Canada will go to war on Great Britain’s
side. But what form will that assistance take?
Will conscription be considered? The country
is feverish, veterans from WWI and young men
are already queuing outside recruitment offices.
Tension is at its highest as a whole country
September 3, 1939, Prime Minister
W.L. Mackenzie King (right of
microphone) and Minister of Justice
Ernest Lapointe (left) speak to
the nation on the CBC radio network,
King in English and Lapointe in
Film Board / National Archives
of Canada, C-016770.
Parliament meets for an extraordinary session
on September 7. In his following day address,
Mackenzie King sums up the situation and
proposes that war be declared. He foresees
that Canada will take all measures necessary
to protect its territory, will cooperate
closely with Great Britain and will supply
military material as well as food. For the
time being, however, King does not wish
to present a detailed plan of action, mentioning
only a training program for pilots and the
expansion of air force and naval facilities.
Not a word about either sending troops overseas
or conscription. The moment is dramatic,
the House of Commons sets asides all differences
of position and, almost unanimously, votes
for declaring war. On September 10, the
state of war is proclaimed.
continued devastating and widespread bombing
of Poland today while the Polish Army
worked to establish itself along a new
defense line skirting the Vistula River.
It was estimated that 1,000,000 men were
being massed on the east bank of the Vistula,
while others were being prepared for a
defensive stand along the Bug River.”
The Globe and Mail, Toronto, September
we do not win this war on the banks of
the Rhine, we are going to have to fight
it on the banks of the St. Lawrence.”
Terse, logical, uncompromising, Right
Hon. Arthur Meighen [Leader of the Opposition],
from the floor of the Senate Chamber yesterday
drove home to Canadians the meaning of
the Anglo-French struggle against Germany.
The only remaining wartime minister in
the present Parliament, Mr. Meighen declared
that a defeat on the Rhine meant the end
of the world, ‘as we have known
The Globe and Mail, Toronto, September
Until now, the people
of Canada has been informed that our country
has officially declared war to Germany
and that there will be no conscription,
two facts that were expected and caused
no surprise. Today, we learn the most
important part; the part that the people
of Canada will be called to pay from the
start; the way government will tax income,
the interest rate paid on national bonds.
It was officially announced this morning
that the government will ask the Parliament
to authorize a budget of $100,000,000.
La Presse, Montréal, September