World War Two Timeline of Events - 1939

Sourced from the Forces War Records Historic Document Archives, the 'Timeline of Events from 1939-45' provide a fascinating picture of the war as it was viewed at the time. Looking at this detailed timeline of WWII you can see wht it was called a World War, with so many countries involved across land, sea and air.

Within this timeline you will also discover Victoria Cross recipients with citations, Shipping losses, Battles, actions, RAF operations and so much more.

World War II Day by Day - 1939

1939 Second World War Timeline & detailed history of WWII


August 23, 1939

  • German-Soviet Pact of Non-Aggression signed in Moscow by Von Ribbentrop and Molotoff, in presence of Stalin.
  • Sir Nevile Henderson, British Ambassador to Germany, delivered to Hitler a message from the British Government and a personal letter from the Prime Minster.
  • King Leopold of Belgium broadcast an appeal for peace to all nations on behalf of seven small states.

August 24, 1939

  • The King arrived in London from Balmoral and held a Privy Council.
  • Parliament met and passed Emergency Powers (Defence) Act.
  • President Roosevelt sent an appeal to King Victor Emmanuel, urging the calling of a peace conference.
  • The Pope broadcast an appeal for peace.
  • Von Ribbentrop returned from Moscow and immediately saw Hitler.
  • British subjects warned to leave Germany.
  • Herr Forster proclaimed himself Head of State of Danzig.
  • Army reservists are called up.
  • Civil Defence workers are put on alert.

August 25, 1939

  • Sir Nevile Henderson called on Hitler at the latter’s request, as also did French, Italian and Japanese envoys.
  • Hitler cancelled Tannenberg celebrations.
  • Anglo-Polish Agreement of Mutual Assistance signed in London.
  • Mussolini was twice in telephonic communications with Hitler.
  • President Roosevelt sent messages to Hitler and Polish President urging settlement of differences by direct negotiations, arbitration or conciliation at the hands of a disinterested Power.
  • Germans advised by their Embassy to leave Great Britain.
  • German merchant ships ordered by their government to remain in or return to German ports.

August 26, 1939

  • Sir Nevile Henderson flew to London with a message from Hitler. The reply was considered at a meeting of the Cabinet at which Sir Nevile was present.
  • Hitler received the French Ambassador after day of consultation with his advisors.
  • The Nazi Party “Congress of Peace” at Nuremburg was cancelled.
  • Germany gave assurance of respect for the frontiers of Belgium, Holland and Switzerland.
  • Further messages exchanged between Hitler and Mussolini.
  • President Roosevelt made a second appeal to Hitler for the maintenance of peace, enclosing the reply from the Polish President.

August 27, 1939

  • The Cabinet met to consider the reply to Hitler’s proposals.
  • Hitler rejected a proposal from M. Daladier that one more attempt should be made at direct negotiation between Germany and Poland. At the conclusion of the letter Hitler made the clear demand that Danzig and the corridor must return to the Reich.
  • Rationing introduced in Germany.
  • Admiralty assumed control of British merchant shipping.
  • The entire German-Polish frontier was closed to railway traffic.
  • Stated that France now has about 3,000,000 men under arms.

August 28, 1939

  • British Government’s reply to Hitler was delivered to him by Sir Nevile Henderson.
  • Defence Regulations (Defence) Act, were issued by the Stationery Office
  • The Mediterranean was closed to British ships on orders from the Admiralty.
  • Government of Holland ordered the mobilization of the Army and Navy.
  • Fall of Japanese Cabinet.

August 29, 1939

  • Hitler handed to Sir Nevile Henderson his reply to the British note, making at the same time verbal explanations. The reply was immediately transmitted in code to London. It was stated in Berlin that the British proposal of direct negotiation between Germany and Poland had been accepted provided that a Polish plenipotentiary arrived in Berlin within 24 hours.
  • At a brief sitting of both Houses of Parliament, statements on the crisis were made by Lord Halifax and Prime Minister.
  • Germany occupied Slovakia as a “protection” from the Polish. Poland issued a protest.
  • The diplomatic representatives of Great Britain, France and Poland accepted an offer of mediation made jointly by Queen Wilhelmina and King Leopold.

August 30, 1939

  • The Polish declined to send a plenipotentiary under menace.
  • The Cabinet considered Hitler’s last communication and sent a reply to Berlin, which was handed to Von Ribbentrop shortly after midnight by Sir Nevile Henderson.
  • Hitler issued a decree setting up a Council of Ministers for the Defence of the State. Field-Marshal Goering was appointed chairman and invested with very wide powers.

August 31, 1939

  • The Soviet-German Pact was ratified by the Supreme Council in Moscow.
  • The German Government broadcast a 16-point plan for a settlement with Poland. In spite of the fact that this was the first time that the Polish Government heard of them, it was stated that the German Government had waited in vain two days for the arrival of a Polish negotiator, and therefore considered that the proposals had been rejected.
  • British Fleet mobilized.
  • French railways under military control.
  • The Pope made a new peace appeal, notes being handed to all envoys of foreign countries attached to the Holy See.


September 1, 1939

  • The German battleship Schleswig-Holstein fires the first shot of the war when it shells the fortress guarding the port of Danzig.
  • At 4.45am Poland was invaded by 53 German Divisions German from East Prussia, Slovakia and the main body of the Reich. No declaration of war had been made.
  • Britain and France delivered final warnings to Hitler to withdraw from Poland.
  • General mobilization proclaimed in Britain and France.
  • Statements on the German invasion of Poland were made in both Houses of Parliament. In the Commons war credit totalling £500,000,000 were voted. A number of emergency measures were passed through all their stages.
  • President Roosevelt appealed to Great Britain, France, Italy, Poland and Germany to refrain from bombing civilians and unfortified towns, and received assurances from Britain, France and Poland. Italy replied that she was not concerned, as she was remaining neutral.
  • Hitler, addressing the Reichstag, gave his reasons for the invasion of Poland, and subsequently a Bill entitled “The Law for the Reunion of Danzig with the German Reich” was passed with acclamation.
  • Government initiates 'Operation Pied Piper' - The evacuation of British school children from exposed and congested areas was begun, and nearly 500,000 were moved.
  • The Government took over control of the railways.
  • The Blackout begins.
Hitler declaring war on Poland at the Reichstag Kroll Opera House September 1939
Hitler declaring war on Poland at the Reichstag Kroll Opera House Berlin 1st September 1939

September 2, 1939

  • Mr. N. Chamberlain announced in the House of Commons that Germany’s delay in replying to the British warning might be due to consideration of a proposal, put forward by Mussolini, for a Five-Power Conference.
  • The British and French Governments consulted on the question of a time limit for Hitler’s reply.
  • Bill for compulsory Military Service between the ages of 18 and 41 passed.
  • Fighting in Poland increased in intensity. Warsaw was bombed six times.
  • Hitler sent a favourable answer to Roosevelt’s appeal against bombing open towns.
  • British Government received pledges of support from Canada, Australia and New Zealand and from 46 Indian rulers.
  • Berlin officially denied that either gas or incendiary bombs had been used during raids on Polish towns.
British soldiers read King's Proclamation calling up all services in 1939
British soldiers read King's Proclamation calling up all services - 2nd September 1939

September 3, 1939

  • A final British note was presented in Berlin at 9 a.m. giving Hitler until 11 a.m. to give an undertaking to withdraw his troops from Poland.
  • At 11:15 a.m. Mr Neville Chamberlain, in a broadcast to the nation, stated that “no such undertaking has been received and that consequently this country is at war with Germany
  • The French ultimatum, presented at 12:30 p.m. expired at 5 p.m.
  • The German reply rejected the stipulations that German troops should withdraw from Poland and accused the British Government of forcing war on Germany.
  • Fierce fighting on both Polish fronts.
  • A War Cabinet of nine members was created, to include Mr. W. Churchill as First Lord of Admiralty.
  • The King broadcast a message to his people.
  • Hitler left Berlin to assume command on the Eastern front.
  • German submarine torpedoed and sank without waring the British Liner S.S. Athenia, 200 miles north-west of Ireland.
  • President Roosevelt announced that the U.S.A. would remain neutral.
  • Mr. de Valera announced that Eire would remain neutral.
  • Australia and New Zealand declared war on Germany.
King George VI delivers the King's Speech Buckingham Palace 3rd September 1939
King's Speech to the Nation from Buckingham Palace - 3rd September 1939

September 4, 1939

  • Fleet blockade began.
  • In the course of an extensive reconnaissance of Northern and Western Germany during the night of September 3rd – 4th; R.A.F. aircraft dropped more than 6,000,000 copies of a note to the German people.
  • R.A.F. carried out an evening raid on Wilhelmshafen and Brunsbuttel. Two German battleships heavily damaged.
  • Heavy fighting on the Polish fronts, and several towns in the north-west, but admitted the loss of Czestochowa, near upper Silesian frontier. More air raid over Warsaw.
  • France stated operations on land, sea and air.
  • Evacuation of 650,000 children and adults from London completed.
  • Mr. Chamberlain broadcast a message in German to the German people in which he made it clear Britain’s quarrel is with the German regime, not with the people.
  • Egypt broke off diplomatic relations with Germany.
  • Japan decided upon neutrality.
  • German income tax increased 50 per cent.
Evacuees heading for Railway station in early September 1939.
Evacuees heading for Railway station in early September 1939.

September 5, 1939

  • Warsaw admitted loss of several important towns south of the Corridor.
  • British aircraft carried out an extensive reconnaissance over the Ruhr and dropped more than 3,000,000 copies of the note to the German people.
  • President Roosevelt proclaimed American neutrality.
  • Jugoslavia announced her neutrality
  • Argentina and Chile officially declared their neutrality.
  • British cargo steamer S.S. Bosnia sunk in the Atlantic.
  • Three German ships, which might have become raiders, sunk, also in the Atlantic.

September 6, 1939

  • The Germans occupy Cracow (Krakow) and make further progress towards Lodz.
  • German aircraft approach the East Coast of England but turn back before they have crossed the coast. The French cross the German frontier in the region of Saarbrucken.
  • A further British “leaflet” air raid over Germany.
  • All distinctions between the various elements in the British Army are abolished by legislation which absorbs the Territorials, Militia, etc., into the Regular Army.
  • British and French Governments sign an agreement to lend Poland £8,500,000 cash.
  • A state of war exists between the Union of South Africa and Germany.
  • Australia calls up the first 10,000 of her militia.
  • Polish Government leave Warsaw for Lublin about 100 miles to the south-east of the former capital, which is bombed several times during the day. The Germans reach different points from 50 to 100 miles eastwards into Poland.

September 7, 1939

  • The Admiralty reports various attacks by and on German submarines. The German invasion of Poland gathers weight and records considerable progress.
  • After a week of heroic resistance under fire from all sides, the Polish garrison holding the munitions depot at Westerplatte, outside Danzig, surrenders.
  • Attempts were made to torpedo the Dutch Steamship Batavia in which, escorted by destroyers, Sir Nevile Henderson and his Embassy staff were returning to England.
  • The King visits Aldershot.
  • The National Registration Act is passed, introducing identity cards.
  • The Stock Exchange reopens.
  • Our R.A.F. help in the U-Boat hunt.
  • Warsaw is threatened with German pincers movement from the north and south-west, is again bombed, causing many fires on the western front. French troops along the no-man’s land between the Maginot and Siegfried lines at various points.
  • Evacuation, of patients from the great voluntary hospitals in London almost complete.
  • British freighter S.S. Olivegrove torpedoed some 200 miles north-west of the Spanish coast.
  • Eire Government called up first line volunteers. The Army Reserve had already been mobilized.

September 8, 1939

  • The Admiralty reports the sinking of several British ships by submarine activities. Further progress by the Germans in Poland and the French in Lorraine. The latter have the important coal and industrial area of the Saar either in their possession or within effective artillery range so that their resources are denied to the Germans.
  • Another leaflet raid over Germany.
  • Iraq breaks with Germany.
  • An appeal for funds to enable the British Red Cross Society and the Order of St. John to work for the relief of the sick and wounded in the war is signed by the Duke of Gloucester as Grand Prior.
  • Places of entertainment in neutral and reception areas in Great Britain allowed to reopen up to 10 o’clock at night.
  • Britain tells Japan that whether Poland is conquered or not the British are determined that Hitlerism must be destroyed.
  • Evacuation of patients from great voluntary hospitals completed, released about 200,000 beds for air-raid casualties.
  • British steamer S.S. Manaar shelled and sunk by enemy submarine in the Atlantic

September 9, 1939

  • The Cabinet announce that they have based their policy upon the assumption that the war will last for three years or more and that instructions have been given to all Government Departments to make their plans accordingly.
  • More losses of ships by hostile submarine activity are announced.
  • General Goering makes a speech to German armament workers in which he refers to the British propaganda air raids. He says that if England likes to drop puerile propaganda from aeroplanes at an immense height he does not mind, but if a single bomb is dropped Germany will retort with a vengeance. He also throws out peace feelers, hinting that since Poland is on the verge of being liquidated, there are no more causes of dissension between Germany and the Western Powers.
  • The French report important gains, including a large part of the Warndt Forest, an important coal producing area.
  • The Duke of Kent assumes a naval appointment and Lord Gowrie continues in office as Governor-General.

September 10, 1939

  • The Ministry of Information reports some further sinkings by submarines but also successful attacks upon them.
  • The Germans reach Warsaw but are there held up.
  • A German torpedo boat mounting guard by the mine-field off Trelleborg hit a mine and sank.
  • Poles withdraw gradually to new lines of defence while the Germans reach certain suburbs of Warsaw, which is bombed 15 times.
  • The French continue to make headway with some heavy fighting.
  • Canada declares war on Germany.

September 11, 1939

  • Over 150,000 British troops are shipped across to France to bolster the European defences against Germany.
  • The presence of British troops in France is reported in a broadcast from Paris which adds that they have been fighting at the side of the French. It is subsequently denied that they have yet been engaged. The French close in on Saarbrucken.
  • The Germans retire from the outskirts of Warsaw.
  • The King Emperor through the Viceroy sends a message to India thanking the peoples for their wide-spread attachment to the British cause; the federation is to be postponed owing to the war.
  • H.M. the King opened the fund of the British Red Cross and Order of St. John with a gift of £5,000.
  • The British Government issued, through the Ministry of Information, a declaration of policy, in which it was stated that Britain would make peace only with a German Government whose word could be trusted, and therefore no peace was possible with Hitler.

September 12, 1939

  • An Anglo-French Supreme War Council is formed and holds its first meeting on French soil, Britain being represented by the Prime Minister and Lord Chatfield, and M. Daladier and General Gamelin representing France.
  • Despite strong artillery reaction, the French continued their progress.
  • The German advance on Warsaw is checked temporarily and the Poles attempt to consolidate their main lines of defence. In the rest of Poland Germans continue their advance and many prisoners and much war material has been captured. The Polish Government moves to Brest-Litovsk.
  • British troops received a warm welcome in France. It was reported that R.A.F. contingents had been stationed in France for some time.
  • Four more British cargo vessels were reported sunk by U-boats, namely M.V. Inverliffey, S.S. Firby, S.S. Blairlogie, and S.S. Gartavon.
  • It was announced that owing to doubts about permanence of neutrality, almost all German residents in Eire had left for Germany.

September 13, 1939

  • The German High Command announced that, in order to crush civilian resistance, open towns and villages in Poland will henceforth be bombed and shelled.
  • Lord Halifax stated in the House of Lords that if such action were taken by the Germans the British Government would hold themselves free “to take such action as they might deem appropriate.”
  • According to statements issued by the Polish Embassy in London and by the American Ambassador in Poland, German aeroplanes have for some time been bombing civilians in Poland.
  • German advance on Warsaw still held up, but encircling movements were made round the Polish position. Attacks on Modlin and Lwow have been repulsed, but east of Warsaw Polish forces had withdrawn under heavy pressure.
  • Paris reported that French troops had improved the whole of the positions taken in the course of the last few days.
  • French War Cabinet was formed, with M. Daladier as Prime Minister, Foreign Minister and War Minister.
  • Mr. Chamberlain gave Parliament a second survey of the progress of the War.
  • It was reported from Brussels that Hitler had issued an appeal to all doctors, engineers and other technical experts, whatever their race, who had fled from Germany, to return, with the promise that fortunes confiscated from such refugees would be restored.

September 14, 1939

  • Germany claimed to have captured Gdynia and to be making rapid progress in the encircling of Warsaw. Polish reinforcements were hurried to Lwow, where the enemy’s aim is to seize important oilfields and to cut communications with Rumania.
  • HMS Ark Royal, patrolling the Atlantic coast is attacked by the German submarine U-39. HMS Ark Royal’s escorts chase the submarine and force her to the surface with depth charges. Shortly after being abandoned by its crew the badly damaged U-39 sank. Thus becoming the first enemy U-boat to be sunk in the War.
  • The French launched a new offensive on the extreme north of the common frontier with Germany. There was also a heavy artillery duel in the region of Saarbruecken.
  • Two British merchant ships H.V. Vancouver and M.V. British Influence have been sunk.
  • The official Kremlin organ “Pravda” attributed what it termed Poland’s “military debacle” mainly to her brutal oppression of her minorities, especially the Polish Ukrainians and the White Russians.
  • In the House of Commons Mr. Chamberlain stated that no British Government would ever resort to deliberate attacks on women and children for the mere purpose of terrorism.
  • Lord Halifax announced in the House of Lords that the British Government had received a notification from the German Government that it would for the duration of the War observe the Geneva protocol prohibiting the use of poison gas and bacteriological methods of warfare.

September 15, 1939

  • A Polish communique declared that an attack on Lwow by German motorised forces had been repulsed. German troops crossed the frontier from East Prussia near Suvalki. The Germans claimed to have surrounded Warsaw; also, to have occupied most of the Polish oilfields.
  • Poland stated that Germany had begun a ruthless campaign of bombing open towns.
  • On the Western Front a strong French force reached the outposts of the Siegfried Line.
  • It was reported that the situation in Palestine had markedly improved since the outbreak of war, and that Jews and Arabs were co-operating against the common danger.
  • The Australian Cabinet decided to raise immediately an initial volunteer force of 20,000 for service in Australia or overseas.
  • The Ministry of Information announced that vast seizures of goods intended for Germany, including 28,000 tons of petroleum had been made by the British Contraband control.

September 16, 1939

  • Germany claimed to have captured Przemysl and Bialystok. The struggle for Warsaw and Brest-Litovsk continued.
  • French troops advanced still farther on the 40-mile front from Luxemburg frontier to 12 miles east of Saarbruecken.
  • Soviet-Japanese armistice on the Manchukuo-Mongolia frontier was arranged in Moscow.
  • Four vessels – S.S. Fanad Head, F.V. Davara, F.V. Rudyard Kipling and M.V. Cheyenne have been sunk by U-boats.

September 17, 1939

  • Soviet troops invade Poland without warning along the whole length of the frontier, ostensibly to protect the population of Western Ukraine and Western White Russia. A Note of the effect was handed to the Polish Ambassador in Moscow, and copies of the Note to the representatives of all States with which Russia maintains diplomatic relations. A broadcast later from Moscow repeated this declaration of “protection,” and added that the invasion of Poland would open a new road for the world-wide triumph of the Communist creed.
  • The Polish frontier collapsed under crushing German attacks. Germany claimed to have taken Brest-Litovsk. The Polish government was stated to have removed to Kuty, near the Rumania frontier; some members of it crossed into Rumania.
  • Germany presented terms for the surrender of Warsaw.
  • German attacks on the Western frontier were repulsed with loss. The French High Command recorded the arrival of large German reinforcements from Poland.
  • German U-boat U-29 sinks the aircraft carrier H.M.S. Courageous off the Hebrides.

September 18, 1939

  • Soviet and German troops meet near Brest-Litovsk. In a joint communique the two Governments announced their intention of resorting order in Poland.
  • Soviet troops also reached Vilna in the north and occupied the Rumano-Polish frontier in the south.
  • Attack on Warsaw resumed.
  • Polish Government having crossed the frontier into Rumania, together with many refugees, the Rumanian frontier closed.
  • Japanese Press reports from Rome were to the effect that Hitler was bringing pressure to bear on Russia to abandon her support of China.
  • French troops advanced within three miles of Saarbruecken and Zweibruecken.
  • British Aircraft carrier H.M.S. Courageous was sunk by an enemy submarine on the night of September 17, with the loss of 518 members of her crew. The submarine was believed to have been sunk later by destroyers.
  • Two R.A.F. flying-boats rescued the crew of the British steamer S.S. Kensington Court sunk by a U-boat in the Atlantic.
  • The Duke of Windsor assumed the rank of Major-General on taking up a Staff appointment abroad.
  • Lord Camrose appointed Chief Assistant to Lord Macmillan, Minister of Information.

September 19, 1939

  • Soviet troops occupied Vilna, advanced beyond Brest-Litovsk, and in the South, reached the Hungarian frontier.
  • Hitler entered Danzig at noon, and later broadcast a speech defending his action in Poland and his policy towards Russia.
  • On the Western Front, German attacks between the district east of the Moselle and the region of Bitsch were repulsed.

September 20, 1939

  • Fierce fighting west of Warsaw in what the Germans termed a battle of extermination. They claimed to have taken 105,000 prisoners, and also to have captured Gdynia.
  • The Soviet army reached Lwow, said to have been conceded to them by Germany.
  • A revolt in Czecho-Slovakia, which first broke out on Sunday, continued to spread in spite of ruthless repressive measures. Mass executions were reported.
  • The French Council of Ministers met and approved the “military, economic and financial measures for pursuing the conduct of the War until final victory.”
  • On the Western Front a period of comparative calm was reported.
  • H.M.S. Kittiwake struck a mine in the English Channel. Five members of the crew were missing, believed killed and two injured.
  • In the House of Commons Mr. Chamberlain made the third of his weekly reviews of the War situation.
  • The Canadian Cabinet decided to raise immediately and expeditionary force of 20,000 for service overseas.
  • Australia offered to Britain the complete personnel of four bomber squadrons and two squadrons of two-seater fighting planes.
  • Contraband goods to the value of £500,000 were reported to have been intercepted on their way to Germany during the week ending September 16.
  • Details of the private fortunes, totalling over £3,000,000, accumulated abroad by seven Nazi leaders, were published by leading New York papers.

September 21, 1939

  • M. Calinescu, Rumanian Prime Minister, was assassinated in Bucharest by members of the Iron Guard. General George Angeseanu appointed to succeed him.
  • President Roosevelt addressed Congress on the Neutrality Statutes, urging the repeal of the arms embargo.
  • The Polish continued to resist in Warsaw, Modlin and other area, despite ruthless attacks.
  • Germany claimed that the southern Polish army had surrendered.
  • On the Western Front there was an increase of air activity by both the French and British.
  • The British Government set up a Council of ten members to organise the supply of munitions.
  • Diplomatic exchanges preceding the outbreak of war were recorded and issued in a Government Blue Book.

September 22, 1939

  • Warsaw still holding out.
  • German troops hand over Brest-Litovsk to the Soviet Army.
  • General von Fritsch, former Commander-in-Chief of the German Army, killed in action outside Warsaw.
  • Reports from the western Front stated that fresh detachments had reached the outskirts of Zweibruecken, in the Siegfried Line.
  • Steamer S.S. Arkleside reported sunk by U-boat.
  • The assassins of the Rumanian Prime Minister, and many other members of the Iron Guard, were executed in Bucharest.
  • The Allied Supreme War Council met “somewhere in Sussex.”

September 23, 1939

  • Polish troops still resisted desperately near Modlin, north-west of Warsaw, and in the capital itself. In South-East Poland the Germans claimed to have captured Lwow
  • German High Command announced that 450,000 Polish prisoners had been taken to date and 800 aeroplanes destroyed or captured.
  • Mussolini, in a speech to Fascist leader at Rome, declared that the moment had come to cease hostilities, since Poland was now liquidated and Europe not yet effectively at war.
  • Petrol rationing introduced in Great Britain.

September 24, 1939

  • Bombardment of Warsaw continued incessantly, German troop claimed to have crossed Vistula between Modlin and Warsaw, thus cutting off the latter.
  • On the Western Front local attacks by the enemy were repulsed, several successful air actions were fought.
  • It was stated that the British Expeditionary Force in France was still moving up to its positions preparatory to going into action.
  • British cargo boat S.S Hazelside was sunk without warning during the night by an enemy submarine. Twenty-three of the crew were picked up six hours later by a fishing boat, but eleven were reported missing.

September 25, 1939

  • Polish resistance continued in Warsaw and Modlin, with appalling loss of life and destruction to buildings.
  • French artillery began bombardment of Rhine fortifications. There were air battles in the Saar region.
  • Zeppelin base at Friedrichshafen, near Swiss frontier, was stated to have been bombed by French aircraft.
  • Reported that further reconnaissance flights had taken place over Western Germany on Sept 24 and during the night. As before, copies of a leaflet were dropped. Attacks by enemy fighter were beaten off.
  • Sabotage was stated to be the cause of explosions which occurred in many German factories.
  • President Moscicki and Marshal Smigly-Rydz, interned in Rumania.
  • All German women between the ages of 17 and 25 are conscripted for “obligatory national labour service.”

September 26, 1939

  • German attacks on Warsaw renewed.
  • On the Western Front there was a continuation of intense artillery fire, and local infantry engagements took place.
  • Hitler returned to Berlin from the Eastern Front and held a conference with his ministers.
  • Mr. Chamberlain gave to the House of Commons his fourth review of the progress of the War.
  • Mr. Churchill reviewed the progress and success of the campaign against U-boats.
  • HMS Ark Royal returning to Rosyth with the damaged submarine HMS Spearfish, is spotted by three Dornier Do-19 seaplanes. One of the Do-19’s is shot down by a Blackburn Skua from Ark Royal and makes a water landing. Where it is sunk by destroyer HMS Somali. Thus being the first British aerial kill of the War.
  • Thirty-two survivors of the British ship S.S. Royal Sceptre, torpedoed on Sept 6, who had been given up for lost, arrived at Bahia, Brazil, on board the British freighter Browning.

September 27, 1939

  • Warsaw announced that surrender had been agreed upon and that conditions were negotiated. It was reported that the Polish were still holding out at Modlin and the Hel Peninsula, overlooking Danzig.
  • Ribbentrop arrived in Moscow at the head of a delegation to discuss matters connected to Poland.
  • From the Western Front it was reported that Germany was massing troops in the Rhineland. Minor attacks by the enemy were repulsed.
  • French and British aircraft, working in co-operation, brought down several enemy fighters. R.A.F. aircraft carried our further reconnaissance flights into Germany and on the Western Front.
  • War Budget introduced by Sir John Simon in the House of Commons; the principal feature was an increase of income tax from 5s. 6d. to 7s. 6d.

September 28, 1939

  • Negotiations for surrender of Warsaw and the fortress of Modlin in progress.
  • French troops advanced to near the Saar River. There was a heavy artillery engagement near the Luxemburg frontier.
  • Conversations between Ribbentrop, Molotov and Stalin continued in Moscow.
  • Germany claimed that the U-boat that sank H.M.S. Courageous had returned to Wilhelmshaven.

September 29, 1939

  • Molotov and Ribbentrop signed a treaty in Moscow, by which Poland was completely abolished and a new permanent Russo-German frontiers established. The term included a denial of the right of interference by any third Power, and declaration that the war should now stop.
  • Estonia became virtually a Soviet protectorate by signing of a ten-year mutual assistance pact and trade agreement. By this pact Russia get the right to maintain naval bases on the Baltic.
  • There was an unsuccessful German attack on Saarbruecken.
  • Units of the R.A.F. carried out attacks on ships of the German Fleet in Heligoland Blight. In spite of formidable anti-aircraft fire, the attacks were pressed home at a low altitude.
  • A Turkish military mission, headed by Ge. Kiazim Orbay, left Ankara for London.

September 30, 1939

  • M. Moscicki resigned the Presidency of Poland. A statement from the Polish Embassy in Paris announced the constitution of a new Polish Government, with M. Raczkiewicz as President, and General Sikorski as Premier and Minister of War.
  • Warsaw garrison began to leave the city.
  • Successful reconnaissance flights were carried out by the R.A.F. over Germany. Five British aircraft, reconnoitring on the Western Front, engaged in an air battle with 15 German fighters at a height of 20,000 feet over enemy territory, and suffered some casualties.
  • The Air Ministry announced that R.A.F. pilots had flown at a height on only 600 feet above the Siegfried Line and made a valuable photographic survey of gun emplacements and other defences.
  • The British merchant ship SS Clement becomes the first victim of the German pocket battleship Graf Spee when it is spotted and captured off Pernambuco, Brazil.


October 1, 1939

  • Garrison of Hel Peninsula surrendered.
  • The French Command reported and advance on a mile-long front west of Saarlouis. There were fierce air engagements between the Franco-British and German forces.
  • A Royal Proclamation calling up all men over 20 years of age and under 22 was made.

October 2, 1939

  • A Soviet military mission arrived in Tallinn, Estonia, to discuss mutual relations.
  • The French High Command reported that local enemy attacks had repulsed.
  • U.S. Senate opened the debate on the Neutrality Bill.
  • British freighter S.S. Clement reported to have been sunk by a German armed raider or a vessel termed a “cruiser.”
  • Twenty-three tribunals began to deal with 50,000 enemy aliens registered in the London area.

October 3, 1939

  • Mr. Chamberlain stated in the House of Commons that nothing in the German “peace offensive” could modify the attitude which Great Britain had felt it right to take place.
  • German territory occupied by the French was announced by the French High Command to a total 154 square miles.
  • M. Sarajoglu, Turkish Foreign Minister still in Moscow and stated to be awaiting instructions from Ankara on the proposals of the Soviet Government.
  • The Turkish military mission arrived in London and began discussions on matters of common interest to Great Britain and Turkey.
  • Operation Tannenberg, the elimination of Polish intellectuals, activists, officers and civic leaders by the SS begins. This is the beginning of a ruthless slaughter of Polish civilians, especially Jews. By the end of the War over 6 million Polish civilians (over 20% of the population) are thought to have been murdered.

October 4, 1939

  • Karlsruhe said to have been evacuated, the seventh German city behind the Siegfried Line to be converted into a military base.
  • Minor enemy attacks on the Western Front were repulsed.
  • German High Command reported that fighting was still taking place against isolated Polish detachments near the line of demarcation.
  • Italy maintained complete silence on the subject of the Hitler-Ciano meeting in Berlin.
  • Mr Eden announced that the Dominion Governments are each sending a Cabinet Minister to London to confer with the British Government on the co-ordination of resources.
  • British steamer S.S. Glen Farg sunk by U-boat.

October 5, 1939

  • French High Command reported a 7-hour battle in the Moselle Valley.
  • Hitler flew to Warsaw to review Nazi troops who had taken part in the siege.
  • A pact of mutual assistance between the Soviet Union and Latvia was signed in Moscow.
  • Washington announced that a warning of the imminent sinking, in the same manner as the Athenia, of the American steamer Iroquois, had been received from the head of the German Navy.
  • Mr. Chamberlain consulted with T.U.C. leader on the war work control.
  • Ministry of Information issued the account of the escape and safe return of a British submarine practically disabled be enemy depth charges.

October 6, 1939

  • The Admiralty made a strong protest against the “warning” by Admiral Raeder with regard to the American steamer “Iroquois.” Washington reported that U.S. destroyers had been sent to meet the vessel as a precautionary measure.
  • Hitler announced his “peace” plan to the Reichstag. It included the proposal that a conference should be held to discuss questions arising out of the “collapse” of Poland. Germany’s claims to colonies and the limiting or armaments.
  • A statement was later issued on the authority of the British Government that, although his proposals were “vague and obscure,” they would be carefully examined bat that something more than words would be required from the German Government to establish confidence in Europe.
  • A conference of the Allied Commands was held in France.

October 7, 1939

  • Twelve German raids on the Western Front were repulsed during the night and early morning.
  • There was a series of artillery action on both side between the Moselle and the Saar.
  • Red Cross and St. John Fund for the sick and wounded reached the quarter million mark.
  • Reported that the £5,000,000 British loan to Poland was being used for war purposes by the Polish Government recently established in France.

October 8, 1939

  • H.M. the King returned from a two-day visit to the Home Fleet.
  • Nazi trade delegation arrived in Moscow.
  • Paris reported that French artillery were engaged in repulsing German patrol attacks, chiefly to the south-east of Zweibruecken.
  • Finland, under pressure, decided to send a delegate to Moscow to discuss political and economic problems.
  • Canada announced that a division of 20,000 men would leave for overseas early next year.

October 9, 1939

  • Hitler announces his Fuher Directive No.6 (Plans for Offensive in the West) to defeat France and her allies before the arrival of large numbers of British troop reinforcements.
  • The Admiralty announced that on the previous afternoon a German naval squadron had been sighted by patrol aircraft south west of Norway. Owing to oncoming darkness the enemy escaped.
  • There were repeated actions in the North Sea between German aircraft and British warships. No British ship was damaged.
  • Paris reported enemy patrol activity on either side of the valley of the Lower Nied and the south of Saarbruecken.
  • For the first time, Germans made use of loudspeakers to put across propaganda from their front lines.
  • Dr. Juho Paasikivi, Finnish Minister in Stockholm, left Helsinki for Moscow.
  • Sweden decreed that men who would normally leave the army next Sunday should remain with the colours.
  • Soviet troops who are to occupy naval and air bases began marching into Estonia.
  • First contingent of the re-formed Czecho-Slovak army left Paris for the Western Front.

October 10, 1939

  • M. Daladier replied to Hitler’s “peace” proposal in a broadcast, and stated that France would continue to fight for a definite guarantee of security in Europe.
  • The work of the R.A.F. was reviewed by Sir Kingsley wood in the House of Commons. He announced that there would soon be 100 per cent increase in production of planes.
  • London Gazette announced that two R.A.F. officers who took part in the raid on Wilhelmshaven on September 4 had been awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross (D.F.C.). These were the first decorations to be made in the present war. 
  • Paris reported very great activity on the part of the enemy reconnaissance units between the Moselle and the Saar. There was also artillery activity on both sides.
  • Estonian Government resigned. M. Ulots was appointed Premier, and M. Piip Foreign Secretary in the new Government.
  • The partial evacuation of certain towns in Finland, including Helsinki and Viborg, was begun.
  • Hitler opened the Winter Relief Fund campaign in Berlin.

October 11, 1939

  • The British Expeditionary Force (B.E.F.) finishes its initial landings in France with around 158,000 troops deployed.
  • Paris reported heavier Nazi attacks on French outposts. Artillery duels of extreme violence continued.
  • Soviet-Lithuanian pact signed in Moscow. Vilna was resorted to Lithuania in exchange for the right to establish Soviet garrisons at any point on Lithuanian soil.
  • In all big towns in Finland machine-guns and anti-aircraft guns were being mounted. Voluntary evacuation continued.
  • A commercial agreement between the British and Soviet Government was signed in London by virtue of which timber will be imported in exchange for rubber and Cornish tin.
  • Evacuation of Germans from the Baltic States in progress.
  • M. August Zaleski, Foreign Minister in the new Polish Government set up in Paris arrived in London and consulted with the Prime Minister and Lord Halifax.

October 12, 1939

  • Sharp fighting was reported from the Western Front.
  • Finnish-Soviet talks opened in Moscow.
  • The American Ambassador in Moscow. Mr. Steinhardt, expressed to M. Molotov the hope that ample time would be given for those discussions. That would be impossible for Great Britain to accept Hitler’s proposals, since aggression cannot be the basis of peace, and no reliance could be placed upon the promise of the present German Government, was declared by Mr. Chamberlain in the House of Commons.
  • Government Bill to check war profiteering was introduced.

October 13, 1939

  • King of Sweden invited the Danish and Norwegian sovereigns and President of Finland to a conference in Stockholm.
  • Paris stated that German raiding and patrol activities had diminished.
  • British steamer S.S Heronspool sunk by U-boat.
  • Sir John Gilmour appointed Minister of Shipping.
  • Ministry of Supply announced that three more munition factories were to be built with speed.

October 14, 1939

  • Finnish delegation left Moscow to report to the Government in Helsinki.
  • Admiralty announced that H.M.S. Royal Oak had been sunk, presumably by a U-boat. U-47 had penetrated the anti-submarine defences at Scapa Flow where it fired two salvoes of torpedoes at HMS Royal Oak. The ship sank in 15 minutes with the loss of 833 crew.
  • Signor Bastianini, new Italian Ambassador, arrived in London.

October 15, 1939

  • Paris reported that French reconnaissance units were active on the whole front. There was some reciprocal activity west of Saarlouis.
  • The French Command also stated that there were indications that strong concentrations of German forces were massing behind the lines.
  • The Admiralty issued lists of 414 survivors of H.M.S. Royal Oak.
  • German-Estonian agreement for transfer of German minority in Estonia was signed at Tallinn.
  • Polish Minister in Kaunas protested to the Lithuanian Government against the incorporation of Vilna in Lithuania, on the grounds that Russia had no right to dispose of this territory.
  • It was reported that typhoid and cholera had broken out in Warsaw.
  • First exchanges took place of British consular officials detained in Germany against German officials still in Britain.

October 16, 1939

  • German troops launched an attack on a four-mile front immediately east of the Moselle. They were halted by French gun-fire. The enemy attacked later along a 20-mile front east of the Saar. French out-posts retired, according to plan, to lines of defence well in front of the Maginot Line.
  • Two enemy air raids were carried out in the Firth of Forth. The first, a reconnaissance raid, took place between 9 a.m. and 1.30 p.m., several aircraft being seen over Rosyth.
  • At 2.30 p.m. a group of Junkers Ju-88 and Heinkel He-111 bombers attacked the port of Rosyth on the Firth of Forth. Slight damage was done to the cruiser H.M.S Southampton and less still to the cruiser H.M.S. Edinburgh and the destroyer H.M.S Mohawk. Spitfires of No.602 and 603 Squadrons chased the raiders and shot down two Ju-88’s and one He-111.
  • R.A.F. carried out further reconnaissance flights during Sunday night over northern and central Germany, and further leaflets, printed in large type so that they could be read without being picked up, were dropped.
  • The Polish Embassy in Paris stated that Polish troops were still holding out against German and Russian invaders, notably at Suwalki, in the Carpathians, and in the Pripet Marshes at Bialowieza.
  • French steamer “Vermont” sunk by U-boat.
  • Paris reported the loss by torpedoing of the tanker “Emile Miguet.”

October 17, 1939

  • French command reported sharp infantry engagements following the two German attacks of Monday.
  • Two German air attacks were made over the north of Scotland. The first raid, at 10.30 a.m., and directed at Scapa Flow, was carried out by four machines. The battleship H.M.S. Iron Duke suffered some damage. Two enemy planes were shot down. The second raid, on the Orkneys, lasted from 12.30 to 2.30, and was carried out by ten planes. No damage was done.
  • Enemy aircraft were active near the east coast of Britain during the afternoon. Two were destroyed in a fight with R.A.F. All British aircraft returned safely.
  • Reported that the first of the two British Army Corps in France had taken over a section of the front.
  • Turkish Prime Minister announced that negotiations between Turkey and Moscow had been broken off, and that M. Sarajoglu; Foreign Minister, was returning to Ankara.
  • Mr. Churchill announced in the House that the “Royal Oak” was lying at anchor in Scapa Flow when she was torpedoed at 1.30 a.m. on October 14.
  • Officers and crew of the British steamer S.S. Sneaton sunk by a U-boat were brought to port by a Belgian oil-tanker.
H.M.S. Royal Oak
H.M.S. Royal Oak

October 18, 1939

  • Paris reported great activity behind the German lines, but no renewal of the attack.
  • Enemy aircraft approached Scapa Flow; no bombs were dropped. They were engaged by heavy anti-aircraft fire.
  • The Kings of Norway and Denmark and the President of Finland arrived in Stockholm to confer with the King of Sweden.
  • The German Ambassador to Turkey, von Papen, was recalled by his Government.
  • General Wavell, commander of British Land forces in the Middle East, and General Weygand, former chief of French General Staff, arrived in Ankara by air for talks with the Turkish General Staff.
  • The Admiralty announced that 24 officers and 786 men lost their lives in H.M.S. Royal Oak, out of a complement of 81 officers and 1,153 men.
  • Reported that two British liners, S.S City of Mandalay and S.S. Yorkshire had been torpedoed in the Atlantic. U.S. steamer Independence Hall picked up 300 survivors.
  • R.A.F. aircraft made a successful night reconnaissance over north-west Germany.

October 19, 1939

  • Heavy rain held up operations on the Western Front. Some German outposts were stated to be flooded.
  • Anglo-French Treaty with Turkey was signed at Ankara. The terms provide for mutual assistance in the event of an act of aggression by a European Power against any of the signatories leading to war in the Mediterranean area. The Treaty has been concluded for 15 years.
  • Two German airmen, half the crew of a bomber shot down over the North Sea on Tuesday, drifted ashore in a collapsible rubber boat at Whitby.
  • German balloon, to which a long wire cable was attached, came down in a field at Cruden, Aberdeenshire.
  • Sir Kingsley Wood returned to London from a 2-days visit to France to inspect the R.A.F. units.
  • The Scandinavian monarchs and the President of Finland broadcast declarations of mutual solidarity and of Finland’s determination to preserve her integrity.
  • Ministry of Transport announced that in September, first month of the black-out, the total number of persons killed on the roads of Great Britain was 1,130, compared with 617 in August.
  • During the week ending October 14, the British Contraband Control intercepted and detained 23,000 tons of goods, making a total of 338,000 tons since the beginning of its activities.

October 20, 1939

  • The Western Front generally was quiet. There was patrol and reconnaissance activity between the Moselle and the Saar.
  • German reconnaissance aircraft appeared twice over the Firth of Forth area. R.A.F. fighters took off to meet them, but the enemy planes disappeared before contact could be made.
  • King George and the President of Turkey exchanged telegrams, expressing mutual satisfaction over the signing of the Treaty of Mutual Assistance between Britain, France and Turkey.
  • Mr. R. G. Menzies, Prime Minister of Australia, announced the re-introduction in January, 1940, of compulsory military training for home service.
  • It was announced that Hitler had signed a decree by which 3,000,000 Jews now living in Poland will get their own territory in East Poland, with a Jewish capital at Lublin.

October 21, 1939

  • A British convoy in the North Sea was attacked by twelve German raiders. They were engaged by British fighters and escort vessels, and four enemy aircraft were brought down. No casualties were suffered by British aircraft, nor was any damage done to the convoy or escort.
  • There was heavy artillery action from both sides on the Western Front.
  • Hitler summoned all Nazi district leaders throughout the Reich to “important consultations” in Berlin.
  • Finnish delegation left Helsinki for Moscow with new instructions for the resumption of negotiations with the Soviet Government.
  • Mr. Hore-Belisha, Minister for War, broadcast a review of the position at the end of the seventh week of conflict.
  • Italo-German agreement for the transfer to the Reich of German citizens in South Tyrol was signed.
  • German minefield patrol vessel “Este 710” struck German mines in the Baltic and sank.

October 22, 1939

  • Paris reported that, apart from sporadic artillery exchanges, the Western Front had been generally calm since the French took up their new positions. No-man’s-land on the Moselle-Rhine front was said to be still a sea of mud.
  • There were further enemy air operations off the East Coast of Britain. In the morning R.A.F. fighters went up to intercept unidentified aircraft flying northwards. No bombs were dropped. In the afternoon two enemy aircraft were seen over the south-east of Scotland, and one was shot down.
  • General Wavell and General Weygand left Ankara at the conclusion of successful talks with the Turkish General Staff.

October 23, 1939

  • Finnish delegation, led by M. Paasikivi and accompanied by M. Tanner, Finnish Minister of Finance, arrived at Moscow to resume negotiations with Russia.
  • Paris reported that, after a quiet night on the Western Front, there had been marked activity on the part of advance units, particularly in the region west of the Saar.
  • Two British ships, S.S. Sea Venture and S.S. Whitemantle, were reported sunk. The first was torpedoed off the north coast of Scotland; the second lost after an explosion due either to a mine or a submarine.
  • U.S. steamer City of Flint, which had been seized as contraband by a German cruiser, was brought by a prize crew into Kola Bay, north of Murmansk, flying the Swastika.
  • Sir Eric Phipps, retiring British Ambassador, left Paris.

October 24, 1939

  • Raids and ambushes were reported from various parts of the Western Front, and fairly sharp engagements towards the south-eastern border of the Forest of Warndt, where a German attack on a French outpost was driven back.
  • Von Ribbentrop delivered a bitter speech at Danzig in which he accused the British Government of systematically preparing, over a period of years, to make war on Germany.
  • Poland’s gold reserve, amounting to more than £15,000,000, reached Paris after an eventful journey from Warsaw.
  • Leaders of the Finnish delegation left Moscow to consult with their Government on new proposals put forward by Stalin.
  • Polish Consul-General in London announced that Poles in Britain would be mobilized for service in the Polish Army in France.

October 25, 1939

  • Further news comes to hand that the German pocket-battleship Deutschland is at work in the Atlantic. She sank the steamer Stonegate and transferred the crew to the City of Flint. The loss of other British vessels, Clan Chisholm, Ledbury, Menin Ridge and Tafna is announced.
  • The Russians release the German prize-crew on the City of Flint at Murmansk.
  • The R.A.F. carry out further reconnaissance work in Germany, including appearances over Berlin, Magdeburg and Hamburg.
  • Lord MacMillan makes a strong speech in the House of Lords in defence of the Ministry of Information.
  • In the Quebec elections the Liberals, who support the Dominion Government, win a crushing victory over the Union Nationale Party of Monsieur Duplessis, which favours a policy of isolation. The Prime Minister emphasises that this victory demonstrates the solidarity of Canada.
  • Russia replies to the British notes about contraband with an intimation that it does not admit the right to intercept neutral ships and reserves the right to claim indemnities.
  • U-16 is sunk whilst on a minelaying raid in the English Channel. Initially thought to have been sunk by depth charges from HMS Puffin and HMS Cayton Wyke, recent investigation of the wreck concludes that it more likely hit a mine.

October 26, 1939

  • It is announced that the loss of seven out of the twelve German planes engaged in the attack on the North Sea convoy has been definitely established.
  • The wreck of a German submarine is observed on the Goodwin Sands.
  • In the House of Commons Sir Samuel Hoare restates the Government’s attitude and policy with regard to India. It is intended to grant dominion status, but certain preliminary conditions must be satisfied and the Government hoped that Congress would co-operate with the Viceroy and the Executive in smoothing the way.
  • The King visits three munition works in a day tour.
  • The Soviet Government orders the release of the City of Flint.

October 27, 1939

  • The United States Senate votes for the repeal of the arms embargo by a large majority.
  • Reports of German troop movements and concentrations on the frontiers of Holland and Belgium cause great uneasiness. In a broadcast message to the United States, King Leopold of Belgium says that neutrality is a vital interest of his country but Belgium would fight if her independence were threatened.
  • The City of Flint leaves Murmansk.
  • The British Government approaches the Japanese with a view to resuming the negotiations for the settlement of the Tientsin controversy.

October 28, 1939

  • The United States Government complains of the attitude of the Soviet Government in the City of Flint affair.
  • In the course of the night of the 27th and 28th, the R.A.F. carries out its first reconnaissance flights over Southern Germany.
  • A German plane is brought down by British fighters in the Lammermuir Hills in full view of the inhabitants of the village of Humbie.
  • A demonstration in Prague to celebrate Czech Independence Day results in clashes with the German military and police.
  • Mr. Crerar, the Canadian Minister selected to lead the delegation to England for joint consultation with the Imperial Government, arrives in England.

October 29, 1939

  • During a raid on the Scottish fleet basses, Heinkel He 111H-2, piloted by Unteroffizier Kurt Lehmkuhl, becomes the first enemy plane shot down over the British mainland. Spitfires of both 602 and 603 Squadrons claimed the kill with post-war sources crediting it to Archie McKellar of 602 Squadron. The two surviving crew members also becoming among the first German POW’s to be held in the UK
  • Increasing number of British heavy gun were moved into position on the Western Front.
  • The Germans issue an astonishing and fantastic account of their submarine operations during the war. It is said that only three U-boats have been lost while enemy ships of a total tonnage of 475,321 have been destroyed.
  • The German Press hints that the forthcoming meeting of the Soviet Supreme Council will mark a fateful change in the war.
  • The British merchant vessel S.S. Malabar is sunk by a German submarine.
the War's first German aircraft shot down onto British soil.
Heinkel He 111H-2, piloted by Unteroffizier Kurt Lehmkuhl, becomes the first enemy
plane shot down over the British mainland

October 30, 1939

  • The R.A.F. make extensive reconnaissance’s of aerodromes in North Germany, obtaining information and photographs; one aeroplane fails to return. Two German aircraft attack British destroyers near the Dogger Bank but without hitting any vessel or doing any other damage.
  • The British Government informs the United States officially that the Athenia was not armed and carried no guns or other warlike equipment and no bullion or securities, and further that the evidence in its possession demonstrated that she was sunk by a submarine and not otherwise.

October 31, 1939

  • The Italian Government announces changes in the constitution of the Cabinet and among the Higher Command; certain ministers and officers of pronounced pro-Axis sympathies resign and their places are taken by others popularly supposed to be of more neutral hue. But the tone of the Press shows that at home the changes are not regarded as indicating a reorientation of Italian foreign policy which is likely to remain neither pro-Axis nor pro-Ally, but exclusively pro-Italian and calculated to further the aim of securing adjustment of the alleged inequalities that were the outcome of the Versailles Treaty.
  • M. Molotov makes a speech to the Soviet Supreme Council, the most important feature of which is a declaration that Russia is neutral and that nobody will be able to drag her into war. But while confirming Russia’s standpoint M. Molotov affects to regard the democracies as solely responsible for the continuation of hostilities for which there is now no reason and which can only result in economic ruin and utter misery for the toiling masses.
  • British fighters have their first meeting with German bombers over French territory. Two raiders are engaged and a Dornier is shot down.
  • The First Lord of the Admiralty visits ships of the Fleet in Scottish waters.
  • The British Government publishes a White Paper in which evidence is given of the appallingly brutal Nazi treatment of Jews and others in concentration camps and elsewhere,


November 1, 1939

  • Soviet Russia annexes that part of Poland which had been occupied by her troops.
  • The Government announces that butter and bacon will be rationed, four ounces of each being the weekly allowance.
  • R.A.F. units carry out successful reconnaissance’s over North-Western Germany in the course of which photographs are taken. All return safely. Some of these photographs are taken at a height of no more than two hundred feet despite a heavy and concentrated barrage of anti-aircraft gunfire. It is announced that in view of the increase in the number of British troops the formation of a third Army Corps is necessary.

November 2, 1939

  • The House of Representatives in the United States repeals the arms embargo by 242 votes to 181.
  • In his weekly review in the House of Commons the Prime Minister refers to M. Molotov’s speech. He reminds the House that in a speech on 31st May M. Molotov said: “We stand for the cause of peace and for the prevention of any sort of development of aggression,” and added, “That is also the position of His Majesty’s Government and I am not disposed to disturb myself over the flights of fancy in which M. Molotov indulged when describing the aims of the Allies.”
  • Speaking of war aims in the House of Lords, Lord Halifax says that the German Government who had destroyed confidence were the only people who could repair it. Assurances from the present German Government were not enough.
  • The King visits R.A.F. stations and decorates four officers and a sergeant for acts of gallantry.
  • The Italian and Greek Governments announce the exchange of letters confirming the withdrawal of troops from the common frontier and the desire of both countries for closer and active friendship.

November 3, 1939

  • The German Ambassador in Moscow arrives in Berlin for economic consultations to accelerate the Russo-German trade negotiations.
  • General Hertzog leaves the Head Committee of the United Party of South Africa which approves the policy of the Prime Minister by a substantial majority. In his subsequent public speech General Smuts says that “the choice had been between a gradual extension of Nazi domination in South Africa and remaining true to old and tried friends. South Africa would carry out its promise to defend British territories in Africa.”
  • The Finnish-Soviet negotiations are resumed.
  • The City of Flint is sighted by British warships steaming southwards inside Norwegian territorial waters. On arrival at Haugesund the Norwegian authorities order the German prize crew to leave her.
  • The Neutrality Bill passes both Senate and House of Representatives in the United States of America.

November 4, 1939

  • President Roosevelt signs the Neutrality Bill. In a simultaneous proclamation it is decreed that American nationals may not travel in the ships of belligerent nations and American ships may not enter the ports of belligerent countries or certain areas described as war zones.
  • The City of Flint arrives at Bergen under the American flag. The Norwegian Admiralty announces that as the ship had arrived in a neutral port without adequate reason the Government would intern the prize crew and release the ship.
  • The French Government announces substantial increases in pay and allowances for the fighting forces.

November 5, 1939

  • The First Lord of the Admiralty returns from a visit to France during which he had been engaged in conferences “to discuss the work of the British and French Navies who are carrying out their joint tasks in active co-operation”.
  • The Viceroy of India broadcasts to the country with regard to his conversations with representatives of the Congress and the Moslem League. He says that not - withstanding his disappointment at the lack of agreement he will not abandon efforts to adjust differences in India “to the end that we can continue to co-operate over the achievement of our common objectives”.

November 6, 1939

  • The greatest air battle of the war takes place on the French front. Nine French Curtiss P-36 Hawks attack a group of twenty-seven German Bf 109E fighters and shot down four of them in combat without loss to themselves. A further Bf 109E landed safely but was declared irreparable.
  • The French Minister of the Interior announces that the Government has decided to deal sternly with Communist propaganda. It would root out Communism from France because Hitler was using it to spread dissension and defeatism on the home front.

November 7, 1939

  • The Queen of Holland and the King of Belgium, after conferences attended by their Foreign Ministers, issue an appeal to King George, the French President and the German Chancellor to consider the opening of negotiations for peace, offering their good offices as neutrals enjoying good relations with all parties. The suddenness of the meetings between the two sovereigns and their subsequent appeal creates the impression that they must have some strong and impelling motive for their action which can only be fear of some attack by Germany on the neutrality of one or other and possibly both.
  • In the House of Commons Sir John Simon announces that the Government intends to set up a Select Committee on National Expenditure; it is to have the same powers and function on the same lines as the Select Committee in the war of 1914 - 1918.
  • There is considerable aerial activity. In the southern part of the North Sea British naval forces, including two Polish destroyers, are in contact with German aircraft but without result on either side, so far as is known. An enemy machine approaches the Shetlands but is driven off by anti-aircraft fire and chased out to sea by British aircraft.
  • In the United States certain shipping lines take steps to transfer their vessels to Panama registry with a view to escaping the obligations of the neutrality legislation. Mr. Cordell Hull, the United States Secretary of State, expresses an opinion adverse to this procedure.

November 8, 1939

  • Shortly after Hitler leaves the Bürgerbräu beer-cellar at Munich there is a violent explosion which brings down the ceiling and causes many deaths, but all the Nazi leaders escape.
  • Hitler had made a fierce attack on Great Britain in his speech to celebrate the anniversary of the putsch of 1923. He said that he had made the greatest efforts to come to an understanding with the British, though in their 300 years’ fight for “justice” God had given them “40,000,000 square kilometres and 480,000,000 subjects to dominate”. She had taken away their colonies and their navy and claimed the right to be the world’s policeman. They hated Germany and did not want peace.
  • Mr. Churchill gives an account of the war at sea in in the House of Commons. He would not have an outside enquiry into the loss of the H.M.S. Royal Oak, but admitted that it had been due to over-confidence and the lesson would be learned. The submarine campaign was being definitely overcome and their losses were between two and four per week. One, possibly two, of the German pocket battleships had recently been in the Atlantic.
  • In an air duel over the North Sea one enemy aircraft out of three engaged is seen to crash and sink, and a second falls partially out of control.

November 9, 1939

  • Nazi newspapers unanimously accuse the Secret Service of Great Britain of planning the plot to kill Hitler and his leaders by the bomb explosion in the Bürgerbräu beer-cellar.
  • Two Britons, accompanied by a Dutch officer, are kidnapped by German police at Venloo on the Dutch frontier.
  • The Prime Minister is laid up with an attack of gout.
  • As the coal position is satisfactory, the Government raises the coal ration from 75 per cent to 100 per cent of the previous year’s requirements.

November 10, 1939

  • The Dutch take active measures to resist any attempted invasion by Germany. Army leave is cancelled and preparations are continued to flood large areas. The Dutch also enquire into the circumstances of the Venloo kidnapping and publish an interim communique.
  • The Belgians (who have partially mobilised) also strengthen their frontier guard.
  • H.M.S. Rover, a small auxiliary vessel, is reported as considerably overdue and to be presumed lost.
  • The Finnish reply to the latest Soviet proposals is rejected by the Russians. It is believed that the main Russian objection is to the existence of a Finnish fortified line so close to the city of Leningrad.
  • A Dornier seaplane is forced down and sunk in the North Sea. Enemy aircraft are also active off the coasts trying to carry out reconnaissance.
  • The Nazis offer enormous rewards both at home and abroad for information leading to the arrest of those responsible for the bomb explosion in Munich.

November 11, 1939

  • The Colonial Secretary accompanies the representatives of the Dominion Governments to British General Headquarters in France and they are present at the Armistice Day ceremonies.
  • The German Government informs the Dutch Foreign Minister that the Dutch and Belgian offer of mediation is to receive careful consideration. The Dutch continue their military preparations to resist invasion.
  • An official Soviet agency reports that the Finns have made no concessions, but are still stiff-necked in their opposition to Russia’s reasonable demands; the Finnish frontier force has been largely reinforced, a proof that the Finns are intent on war (sic).
  • The victims of the Munich bomb explosion are given a state funeral. Hitler and Hess are present. An announcement is made in which a description is given of the “wanted man”.
  • H.M. the Queen broadcasts “a message of hope and encouragement” to the women of the Empire. “We, no less than men, have real and vital work to do. To us also is given the proud privilege of serving our country in her hour of need.”
Her Majesty the Queen broadcasting a message of hope and encouragement on Armistice Day.
Her Majesty the Queen broadcasting a message of hope and encouragement
to the women of the Empire on Armistice Day.

November 12, 1939

  • As Armistice Day falls on a Saturday the Remembrance Day commemorations are moved to the following day to avoid disrupting war production. This begins the new tradition of commemorating Remembrance Day on the Sunday closest to 11th November.
  • King George replies to the mediation offer of the Queen of Holland and the King of the Belgians.
  • President Lebrun’s answer is even more explicit. “A lasting peace can only be reached by righting the injustices inflicted on Austria, Czechoslovakia and Poland.”
  • The Soviet Press attacks Finland and says that means will be found to compel her to yield if she proves obdurate.

November 13, 1939

  • The Dutch Prime Minister, in a broadcast speech to the nation, deprecates the rumours of impending disaster which have so alarmed the country in the last few days. There was no reason to be alarmed, as the Dutch defensive measures were purely precautionary.
  • The Germans officially reaffirm their intention to respect the neutrality of Holland and Belgium so long as their opponents do so and they prove their ability to maintain strict neutrality themselves.
  • The destroyers HMS Adventure and HMS Blanche hit mines laid during the night in the mouth of the Thames by German destroyers. HMS Blanche capsises during rescue, thus becoming the first British destroyer lost to enemy action. Two merchant vessels SS Ponzano and SS Matro were also sunk by these mines.
  • Two German air raids are made on the Shetland Islands in the course of which bombs are dropped—the first bombs to be dropped on British soil—but without doing any damage.
  • The Finnish-Soviet negotiations break down and the Finnish delegation leaves for home.

November 14, 1939

  • General Sikorski, the new Polish Premier, arrives in England on a visit.
  • The Admiralty announces the loss of a British destroyer through striking a German mine. A British trawler rescues the survivors of the Norwegian tanker Arne Kjode, which had also been mined.

November 15, 1939

  • Herr von Ribbentrop informs the Dutch and Belgian Ministers in Berlin that in view of the British and French declarations the German Government had nothing further to say regarding their offer of mediation.
  • The Soviet Press indulges in violent abuse of the Finns for rejecting some of the Russian terms and foreshadows drastic action.
  • The German steamer Leander is captured and brought into port. She is masquerading as Russian and has the letters U.S.S.R. painted on her sides.
  • The Polish Prime Minister. General Sikorski, visits H.M. the King at Buckingham Palace.

November 16, 1939

  • The German Press, furious at the allied rejection of the mediation offer of the Dutch and Belgian monarchs, promise Britain death and damnation. The war would not end before British “domination” was finally destroyed.
  • It is announced in South Africa that a German raider had sunk the British steamer M.V. Africa Shell off Portuguese East Africa. From the circumstances it is believed in some quarters that the raider is a German pocket battleship.
  • After great anti-German demonstrations in Prague, German police and military raid the Charles University and many students’ clubs and meeting-places. Vast numbers of students are arrested, many of whom are at once executed, while the rest are transported.

November 17, 1939

  • An enemy plane, apparently a Heinkel reconnaissance machine, flies over Lancashire and Cheshire and is detected by the Royal Air Force Observer Corps. No bombs are dropped and it is driven off.
  • The War Office announces that 20,000 men between 35 and 50 are wanted for Home Defence battalions and that the A.T.S. is to be doubled.
  • The Minister for War goes to France to visit the French and British armies.
  • A meeting of the Supreme War Council is held in London, France being represented by the Premier, Generals Gamelin and Vuillemin and Admiral Darlan. In addition, the two Governments announce that the arrangements already put into effect have now been strengthened and completed in such a way as to ensure common action in the following fields: air, munitions and raw materials, oil, food, shipping, economic warfare.
  • In the elections for the Senate in South Africa. General Smuts obtains a majority.
  • A German aeroplane flies over the Shetlands.

November 18, 1939

  • The Germans make further arrests in Prague, to the number of at least 2,000. The German Government announces that though the methods of repression may seem severe they are necessitated by the fact that Germany is at war!
  • The Germans compel M. Hacha, President of the Czechoslovakian “Protectorate,” to broadcast to the Czech nation to the effect that the disturbances “seriously imperil the status conferred by the Fuehrer and that the agitation has been provoked by enemy propaganda.”
  • The Dutch liner Simon Bolivar is sunk by a German mine off the East Coast of England, “a further example of the utter disregard of international law and the dictates of humanity shown by the present German Government” in the words of the Admiralty. Many lives are lost. The mines have been laid without any notification in the channel followed by merchant shipping, both British and neutral, and there is no doubt that they were laid for the specific purpose of destroying such shipping. Three other ships, including one Italian and one Swedish, are lost from the same cause during the week-end.
  • Queen Mary opens the “Queen Mary Red Cross House,” a new British Red Cross centre in Bristol.
  • Unidentified aircraft appear over the Firth of Forth.

November 19, 1939

November 20, 1939

  • General Sikorski leaves for Paris on the conclusion of his visit to England.
  • A German aeroplane flying over Holland is attacked by Dutch planes and shot down, the pilot being killed. In the North Sea a German plane makes an unsuccessful bombing attack on a destroyer.
  • The German Press, referring to the loss of the Simon Bolivar, say that the liner was sunk by a British mine.
  • The Italian Government denies that it has intervened with the German Government in the interests of the preservation of the neutrality of Belgium.

November 21, 1939

  • The Japanese steamer Terukuni Maru sinks off the east coast of England as a result of striking one of the mines laid by the Germans in their new and ruthless onslaught on all shipping, neutral as well as enemy.
  • The Prime Minister refers in the House of Commons to this fresh campaign. “The House will be aware that during the last three days upwards of 10 ships, six of which were neutrals, were sunk with very serious loss of life by German mines. The Hague Convention, to which Germany is a party, and which she announced her intention of observing as recently as 17th September last, provides that when anchored mines are used every possible precaution must be taken for the security of peaceful navigation…. The fresh outrage is only the culmination of a series of violations of agreements to which Germany had set her hand.” The Government had decided to retaliate by following the course adopted in like circumstances in the last war, i.e., making exports of German origin or ownership subject to seizure on the high seas.
  • German aircraft are observed on the East Coast shortly after dark. They are engaged by anti-aircraft batteries and fighter planes but the result is not known.
  • A Dornier bomber is shot down into the sea while engaged in reconnaissance off the coast of Kent.
  • The Germans announce that they have made an arrest in connection with the Munich bomb explosion, and that the man concerned has made a full confession, including an admission that the British Intelligence Service hatched the plot more than a year ago.

November 22, 1939

  • Germany drops the pretence that the recent heavy losses among neutral merchant ships is none of her doing and boasts that the unrestricted mine warfare is her answer to the British blockade.
  • The French report that one of their destroyers has sunk two German submarines within three days.
  • A period of great tribulation for the German Air Force begins with the loss of seven machines at the hands of allied fighters and anti-aircraft guns on the Western Front.

November 23, 1939

  • This afternoon the armed merchant cruiser Rawalpindi was surprised by the German pocket battleship Deutschland in the vicinity of Iceland. Having no armour and only 6-inch guns against her adversary’s 11 -inch she attempted to escape but was soon over-hauled and sunk, her end being hastened by the arrival of a second German warship. Even when all her guns were out of action and she was on fire there was no question of surrender and nearly all her crew went down with the ship.
  • The R.A.F. follows up yesterday’s triumph by bringing down seven enemy bombers in France. The British Hurricane fighters make short work of the Dornier DO. 17 ’s and Heinkel III’s.
  • The Rumanian Government resigns. The new Prime Minister is M. Tatarescu, who is considered friendly to the Allies, but the cause of the change is dissension over the German-Rumanian trade position and it is not anticipated that it will have any effect on foreign policy.
  • The loss of six more ships, British and neutral victims of the new Nazi methods, is reported.

November 24, 1939

  • The Italian Foreign Minister discusses the new Franco-British measures against German exports with the French and British representatives in Rome and makes certain representations as to their possible effect on Italian trade.
  • The German Press ridicules the idea that the two Englishmen kidnapped at the Dutch frontier were there in connection with secret peace negotiations and persists that they are British Intelligence agents connected with the Munich bomb plot.
  • The British steamer S.S Mangalore is mined off the East coast.
  • The French report that the Amiral Monchez has sunk a German submarine.
  • The British War Office issues a statement that Germany has indulged in another direct violation of international law by forcing large numbers of Polish prisoners of war to fight in her army.

November 25, 1939

  • Important naval bases in North-West Germany, including Heligoland, are visited by aircraft of the Royal Air Force. The machines succeed in reaching their objectives and completing their tasks though intense anti-aircraft fire is encountered and British flying men make further acquaintance with “flaming onions”.
  • Two bombing attacks by German aircraft are made on British ships in the North Sea. Many bombs are dropped but no hits are obtained and there are no casualties.
  • The Swedish oil tanker Guslaf E. Renter strikes a mine in the North Sea; some of her crew are rescued.

November 26, 1939

  • The Russians announce that Finnish guns have fired across the frontier and killed or wounded several officers and men in their army. The Finns officially deny the Russian charges and it is universally believed that the story has been trumped up to afford the Soviet government some excuse for commencing military operations.
  • The Polish liner Pilsudski, a fine modern vessel of 14,294 tons, is torpedoed or mined in British waters.
  • The Japanese Government issue a protest against the new allied measures against German exports. It maintains that they go beyond what is permitted by inter-national law, even as reprisals for the German unrestricted mine warfare, and is contrary to a specific undertaking given to it by the British Government.
  • The Prime Minister broadcasts to the nation. One point in his speech is that there need be no fear of the success of Germany’s attempt by the new barbarous methods to cut off our supplies from oversea and so squeeze or starve us into submission. “Already we know the secrets of the magnetic mine, and we shall soon master the magnetic mine as we have already mastered the U-boat.”
  • He goes on to visualise the Europe which must be aimed at when the war has been won, a Europe in which “fear of aggression would have ceased to exist and such adjustments of boundaries as would be necessary would be thrashed out between neighbours sitting on equal terms round a table with the help of disinterested third parties if it were desired.”

November 27, 1939

  • The Dutch liner S.S Spaarndam is mined in the North Sea.
  • The Russian Press indulges in a campaign of violent abuse of the Finns and insists that the time for parleys has come to an end and decisive measures should be taken to compel Finland to accept the demands made upon her. The alleged killing or wounding of Soviet soldiers by Finnish artillery fire is widely proclaimed to be a casus belli.
  • At the end of the day the Russian Government makes this trumped-up incident the excuse for denouncing the Non-Aggression Treaty with Finland.
  • The British Admiralty announces that two German ships have been captured. One of them, the Borkum, was being brought into harbour when she was sighted and shelled by a German submarine.

November 28, 1939

  • A long-range fighter patrol, which has been sent out to search for enemy mine-laying seaplanes, reconnoitres the seaplane base at Borkum and finds and attacks with machine-gun fire three of these seaplanes. In spite of heavy anti-aircraft fire all the units engaged return safely.
  • The Minister of Food announces that food rationing will begin on the 8th January.

November 29, 1939

  • A German bomber, reconnoitring off the north-east coast of England, is shot down by a British machine.
  • The Chancellor of the Exchequer states in the House of Commons that at the present rate the war is costing £2,400,000.000 a year.
  • The German Government announces that Germany’s answer to the Franco-British declaration that all German exports will be treated as contraband will be the enforcement of a blockade of Great Britain which will prevent all ships, enemy and neutral, from approaching her harbours. As this is merely a re-affirmation of the policy of indiscriminate mine-sowing which has been in operation for some time, no great impression is made.
  • The Soviet Government announces that it has broken off diplomatic relations with Finland.

November 30, 1939

  • M. Daladier, addressing the French Chamber of Deputies, gives a summary of the principal events of the war - including the fact that at sea the navies of the Allies have paralysed the German submarine campaign - and referring to peace aims says that it is premature to postulate them as the war must first be won. If Germany resorts to methods of terrorism France will give back blow for blow.
  • Russian armies invade Finland and Finnish cities and ports are attacked from the sea and air. Neutral opinion everywhere save in Germany is horrified, and Mr. Chamberlain tells the House of Commons that “the attitude of the Finnish Government was from the outset unprovocative though governed by their determination to do nothing which would impair their country’s sovereign status”.
  • A damaged British submarine enters Stavanger harbour for repair.


December 1, 1939

  • The Russians continue air raids on Helsinki in which loss of civilian lives is occasioned. President Roosevelt says that “all peace-loving peoples, those nations that are still hoping for a continuance of relations throughout the world on the basis of law and order, will unanimously condemn this new resort to military force as the arbiter of international differences”.

December 2, 1939

  • The United States Government issues an official intimation that in its view American producers of war material will not give any assistance to nations responsible for unprovoked bombing and machine-gunning of civilians from the air. It is generally understood that the reference is to Soviet Russia.
  • A machine of the South African Air Force discovers the German liner Walussi, 9,251 tons, which had slipped out of Mozambique harbour. Finding escape impossible, the passengers and crew take to the boats and the ship is scuttled to prevent her falling into British hands.
  • The British steamer Eskdene is sunk by striking a German mine.
  • A large crowd of sympathisers with Finland demonstrates before the Russian Embassy in Rome.

December 3, 1939

  • A strong formation of Royal Air Force bombers carry out an attack on German warships in the vicinity of Heligoland. Direct hits are obtained with heavy bombs. Anti-aircraft fire is met and a Messerschmitt fighter, the only enemy fighter encountered, is shot down. A coastal reconnaissance plane attacks a hostile submarine which is surprised on the surface and destroys it with bombs.
  • A number of U-boat prisoners, taken in other naval operations, are landed at a Scottish port. The German prisoners were the crew of U-35 brought to the surface by a concerted depth charge attack by the destroyers HMS Kingston, HMS Icarus and HMS Kashmir. The crew scuttled the submarine before abandoning it. After landing they were held initially in the Tower of London before transfer to POW Camps.
  • The Swedish steamer Rudolf is sunk by mine or submarine off the British coast.

December 4, 1939

  • Admiral Sir Reginald Plunket-Ernle-Erle-Drax is appointed Commander-in-Chief, the Nore, in the place of Admiral Sir Studholme Brownrigg.
  • The Soviet Government announces that the Soviet Union will decline to take part if the Council of the League of Nations meets on the summons of the Finnish delegate to consider the position between Russia and Finland. M. Molotov has the audacity to say that “the Soviet Government is not at war with Finland; it has merely. accepted the invitation of the ‘People’s Democratic Government’ to avert the danger of war into which the former Finnish Government has brought the country”.
  • The Admiralty announces that the British steamer S.S Doric Star has been attacked and presumably sunk by a German raider.
  • HMS Salmon spots U-36 (on a scouting mission to Murmansk) on the surface off the coast of Norway and sinks her with one torpedo.
  • H.M. the King arrives in France on a visit to the British army.
  • Sir John Simon, broadcasting from Paris to the French nation, says that Britain knows that to defend the rampart of the Maginot Line France has mobilised 5,000,000 men of whom 3,500,000 are under arms, and in the name of all his countrymen conveyed their gratitude and admiration.
  • The steamer Horsted is torpedoed off the East Coast. Of the crew of eighteen, three men are killed and two are missing.

December 5, 1939

  • The Prime Minister announces that there will be a secret sitting of the House of Commons the following week.
  • In the House of Lords, Lord Halifax refers to the Russian attack on Finland. He says that it seemed to be a direct consequence of German policy. By the agreement which he thought would give him a free hand to attack Poland it would seem that Herr Hitler bartered what was not his to barter - the liberties of the Baltic peoples. “I think that events have shown that the judgment and instinct of His Majesty’s Government in refusing agreement with the Soviet Government on terms of formulas covering cases of indirect aggression in the Baltic States were right.” As regards war aims, he repeats that Britain’s intentions are that people who have been deprived of their independence shall recover their liberties and that Europe shall be redeemed from this constant fear of German aggression.
  • Lord Nuffield makes a gift of 1,000,000 Ordinary shares of Morris Motors Limited as the nucleus of a central fund for the provinces from which a means may be provided for financing a scheme of hospital regionalisation.
  • H.M. the King spends the day with his army in France. He visits the line and sees troops at work.

December 6, 1939

  • The Germans issue notes to the neutrals demanding that they should actively resist British measures to search their ships for goods which are exports from Germany. They hint that submission to such measures will be regarded by Germany as an unneutral act. The note is clearly a blackmailing attempt to make the neutrals serve Germany’s purpose of frustrating to some extent the effects of the British blockade.
  • The R.A.F. carries out a successful flight over Germany. The Germans say that Danish neutrality was violated in the course of this flight, but this is officially denied by the Air Ministry.
  • The wreckage of a German aircraft and the body of a German airman are recovered on the coast of East Anglia.
  • H.M. the King continues his tour of the Front.

December 7, 1939

  • A British destroyer, H.M.S. Jersey, is damaged by a torpedo fired from a submarine, the casualties being 10 missing and 12 injured.
  • The British steamer S.S. Thomas Walton sinks in a Norwegian fjord after an explosion which is believed to be the result of torpedo attack.
  • The Dutch motor-ship M.V. Tajandoen is sunk in the Channel by, a German submarine.
  • Eight enemy aircraft approach the coast in the Firth of Forth but are intercepted and driven off. No bombs are dropped. Before this engagement two hostile machines are detected off the North-East Coast by R.A.F. fighters. They immediately turn back and are pursued out to sea. One of them is seen to be hit.
  • In the House of Commons there is a vigorous debate in which the Government’s approach to the problem of maintaining exports, and the restrictions imposed upon the export trade, are subjected to strong criticism. In replying, Mr. Oliver Stanley says that the November figures will show a great improvement in exports and also show that we have practically recovered the position obtaining immediately before the war.

December 8, 1939

  • Two German submarines are attacked by aircraft of the Coastal Command. Both are bombed. In each case there are the usual indications that the vessel has been destroyed.
  • Enemy aircraft are reported off the East Coast during the night. R.A.F. fighters are sent up to intercept them. One enemy aircraft approaches the Thames estuary and is driven off by anti-aircraft fire.
  • The British delegates leave for Geneva for the special meeting of the Council of the League of Nations which has been convened to consider the Finnish complaint of aggression by Soviet Russia and appeal for help in their struggle.
  • The Russians announce a blockade of the Finnish coast. They claim that their invasion of Finland is progressing at various points.
  • H.M. the King begins a tour of the zone of the French army.

December 9, 1939

  • General Gamelin, Commander-in-Chief of the allied armies, conducts the King round a sector of the Maginot Line; in the course of his tour His Majesty inspects units of the R.A.F. and British troops in contact with the enemy.

December 10, 1939

  • H.M. the King returns to England from the Front.
  • The drifter H.M.T. Ray of Hope is sunk by a mine with the loss of four men killed and five missing.
  • The Committee of the League of Nations gives further consideration to the appeal of Finland. The Dutch Government makes it known that it will not associate itself with any sanctions against any power found to be the aggressor because the League is not in a position to enforce its decisions.
  • Dr. Funk, the German Minister of Economic Affairs, makes a bombastic speech in which he asserts that in the economic sphere time is on the German side; Germany is becoming less and less dependent on outside sources for essential war materials.
  • In South Africa, the Opposition element, led by General Hertzog, forms a new “Transvaal People’s Party,” advocating a republic and separation from the British Commonwealth of Nations.

December 11, 1939

  • It is announced that the steamers S.S. Ashlea, S.S. Newton Beech, S.S. Huntsman and M.V. Trevanion, being long overdue, must be considered lost.
  • The League of Nations Committee invites Russia to suspend hostilities and submit her dispute with Finland to the League for arbitration. As regards the question of expelling Russia from the League, France and Britain say that that course will have their backing if it is recommended by the majority.
  • The Finnish White Book is published, showing that the principal obstacle to the success of the negotiations was Russian insistence upon the use and control of the naval base at Hango and her demand that Finland should give up the fortified Mannerheim Line which the Soviet alleges is too close to Leningrad for the latter’s security.
  • The Australian Minister for Defence announces that the second Australian Imperial Force will soon be leaving for Europe.
  • The King issues a special message to the British Expeditionary Force in which he says: “I am satisfied from all points of view that the British soldier is at least the equal of his predecessor both in efficiency and spirit.”

December 12, 1939

  • The German liner Bremen, which escaped from New York to the Russian port of Murmansk in the first days of the war, reaches a German port. She is seen by a British submarine within easy torpedo range. The latter takes no action as, in the Admiralty’s words, she “was, of course, precluded by the rules of sea warfare from torpedoing the Bremen without warning.”
  • In a debate in the House of Lords on the Ministry of Information, the Censorship Bureau is bitterly attacked. Lord Macmillan, in a vigorous defence, denies that there are too many men with too little to do.
  • The British steamer M.V. King Egbert is sunk as a result of enemy action.

December 13, 1939

  • A German raider, the pocket battleship Admiral Graf Spee, is caught off the coast of South America by a British cruiser force, consisting of the Exeter, Ajax and Achilles. The action opens with a duel between the German ship and the Exeter, in which the latter suffers heavily, but does considerable damage to her opponent. The Graf Spee then flees to the shelter of a neutral port pursued by the Ajax and Achilles, which, by the most audacious seamanship, inflict damage on the Graf Spee such as its commander cannot hope effectively to repair in the time allowed him as an alternative to internment.
  • Active steps are being taken to deal with the new German campaign of sowing magnetic mines. The Air Ministry announces that Royal Air Force security patrols were continuously maintained on Tuesday night over German minelaying aircraft bases in the Heligoland Bight. In spite of considerable anti-aircraft opposition, the operations were successfully performed.
  • The House of Commons meets for a secret sitting.
  • The Finns stem the Russian invasion and recover vital ground at some points of the 750-mile front. The British submarine Salmon sights the German fleet proceeding to sea on one of their rare excursions. She hits one 6,000-ton cruiser with one torpedo, and another of equal size with two torpedoes. The German squadron promptly turns tail and runs for home. One of the torpedoed cruisers probably got back to port, but it is almost certain that the second did not.
HMS Exeter damaged during action with the German Cruiser 'Graf Spee' 1939
HMS Exeter damaged during action with the German Cruiser 'Graf Spee' on 13th Dec 1939

December 14, 1939

  • Considerable forces of the R.A.F. conduct a wide search over the North Sea for enemy surface-craft and submarines, and reconnoitre the estuaries and fortified islands of North-West Germany. Strong hostile fighter forces are encountered; four Messerschmitt’s and three British aircraft are shot down.
  • The British submarine Ursula sinks a German cruiser of the Koeln class off the mouth of the Elbe, in spite of the fact that the German ship was escorted by six destroyers as an anti-submarine screen. As she was a comparatively modern ship of 6,000 tons, had a speed of 32 knots, and carried nine 5.9-inch guns, the success was an important one in view of Germany’s lack of cruisers.
  • Russia is expelled from the League of Nations.
  • The Admiral Graf Spee remains in Montevideo Harbour carrying out repairs and refuelling. The British Government makes representations to the Uruguayan Government, urging that she should not be allowed more than 24 hours, but the latter decide to grant her 72.

December 15, 1939

  • The Prime Minister goes to France on a visit to the British Expeditionary Force.
  • The Admiral Graf Spee is still at Montevideo, apparently preparing to put to sea. The British squadron waiting for her to come out again is said to have been reinforced by the French battleship Dunkerque.

December 16, 1939

  • The battleship Renown and the aircraft-carrier Ark Royal arrive at Rio de Janeiro.
  • Count Ciano makes an important speech in Rome. Referring to the military alliance between Italy and Germany, he said that it had been agreed in the summer that no war should be provoked for at least three years as neither participant would be ready until then. Italy had told Germany that France and Britain would intervene if she attacked Poland, but her warning had been disregarded. Signor Mussolini had made three attempts to avert war by putting forward various suggestions for a peaceful solution.
  • British troops fighting with the French in the Maginot Line establish contact with the enemy; the first casualties are reported. The Prime Minister makes a tour of the British areas.
HMS Ark Royal as she lay dockside at Rio de Janeiro in 1939
Between the decks of HMS Ark Royal as she lay dockside at Rio de Janeiro on December 1939.

December 17, 1939

  • In the evening the Admiral Graf Spee transfers the bulk of her crew to an attendant German merchant ship, the Tacoma, sails out a little way into the estuary of the River Plate, and is there scuttled in the fairway, much to the indignation of the Uruguayan Government and people. It subsequently transpired that the captain and officers of the vessel had been most anxious to sally forth and take the chance of flight or destruction, and that the order to scuttle her had come from Hitler himself.
  • The casualties in the Exeter are announced as 61 killed and 23 wounded. Commodore Harwood is promoted to rear-admiral, and made K.C.B.
  • The first division of the Canadian Army arrives in England for a period of training before going to the Western Front.

December 18, 1939

  • Twenty-two RAF Wellington’s from 9, 37 and 149 Squadrons are sent on a daylight mission to reconnoitre the Heligoland Bight area with the object of attacking any enemy warships found at sea. Returning home, they are attacked by about fifty Messerschmitts. Ten Wellingtons are shot down, two are forced to ditch in the sea and three crash on landing. Two Messerschmitts are also shot down. Following the losses, the R.A.F. suspends any further daylight raids.
  • The First Lord of the Admiralty broadcasts on recent naval happenings. He refers to the exploits of the Exeter, Ajax and Achilles in settling the fate of the Admiral Graf Spee; of the Ursula, and of another submarine, Salmon, which “blew to pieces by a volley of torpedoes one of the larger German U-boats which was going out upon a raiding foray” in addition to her successful attack upon two enemy cruisers. Mr. Churchill adds that “the Nazi Navy and Air Force are venting their wrath for these heavy blows by redoubling their efforts to sink the fishing-smacks and drown the fishermen in the North Sea.”
  • Mr. Chamberlain makes a tour of a section of the Maginot Line escorted by the French Commander-in-Chief.
RAF bomber crews leave aircraft after Heligoland Bight raid 18th December 1939
RAF bomber crews leave aircraft after Heligoland Bight raid 18th December 1939

December 19, 1939

  • The 32,000-ton German liner Columbus is scuttled off the American coast to avoid capture by British naval vessels.
  • A meeting of the Supreme War Council is held in Paris.
  • The Prime Minister returns after his visit to the Western Front.
  • The Germans improve on their lying version of the recent aerial battle in the Heligoland Bight. It is now claimed that at least 40 of the British bombers were disposed of; the German officer in command of their fighters is awarded the Iron Cross.

December 20, 1939

  • Captain Langsdorff, the gallant commander of the Admiral Graf Spee, commits suicide in Buenos Aires, after writing a letter to the German Ambassador, from which it is clear that he had protested vigorously against home orders to scuttle the ship and the disregard of his earnest desire to renew the action with the British squadron.
  • The German propaganda department publishes a lying and infamous communique to the effect that at the funeral of the German sailors killed in the action members of British crews had spat on the coffins and jeered.
  • The Australian Prime Minister broadcasts a speech in which he emphasises that the great Commonwealth is not a “benevolent neutral” but a “belligerent partner. In truth Australia is not only furnishing Great Britain with material supplies but is in course of providing for active service thousands of airmen and soldiers and thousands of sailors.”

December 21, 1939

  • The French Government publishes its “Yellow Book” containing documents illustrating the course of events and French policy towards them in the year preceding the outbreak of war. The most significant are those recording Germany’s solemn promises to respect the independence of Austria, Czechoslovakia and other small nations, and Hitler’s assurances that “he had no more territorial claims in Europe.”
  • The Ministry of Economic Warfare announces that 870,000 tons of goods suspected of being intended for Germany have been detained by the Allied Contraband Control since the outbreak of war.
  • The Russians suffer a heavy reverse in the Salla region and are driven back in their attempt to cut the country in two at its “waist” between the Gulf of Bothnia and the Gulf of Archangel. They give vent to their irritation by bombing many open towns.

December 22, 1939

  • Hostile aircraft appear off the Firth of Forth. Fighter aircraft are sent up to intercept them and a Heinkel III is attacked and pursued until it is lost in cloud. On the Western Front four Messerschmitt 109 fighters attacked a British fighter patrol of three machines. Two British machines and one German machine are shot down and a second Messerschmitt is driven down.
  • In the morning a very serious railway accident (the sixth since the outbreak of war) occurs in Germany, at Genthin. In the evening an almost equally serious smash occurs near Marksdorf. The frequency of these disasters and the measures adopted by the authorities seem to leave little doubt that they are the result of sabotage. The Germans officially give the number of persons killed in these two catastrophes as 132 and 99.
  • Admiral Darlan, head of the French Navy, returns to France after a visit to Great Britain.
  • M. Daladier, the French Prime Minister, makes an important speech in the French Chamber of Deputies. After saying that the Maginot Line was being extended and a vast network of reserve positions was being established, he gives the number of French deaths in action to date as 1,136 in the Army, 256 in the Navy and 42 in the Air Force, forcibly contrasting these with the 1914 figures of 450,000.
  • Two large British ships which had been mined are refloated and successfully brought into port.

December 23, 1939

  • The German Commander-in-Chief, General von Brauchitsch, visits the troops in the Siegfried Line and makes a speech in which he adopts the latest turn of Nazi propaganda in declaring that peaceful, honest and hard-working Germany was driven into war because England and France were set upon the destruction of the German nation and its culture.
  • President Roosevelt sends letters to the leaders of the Protestant Churches and Jewish organisations inviting them to confer with him. He also sends a letter to the Pope, informing him that he would like to send a personal representative to the Vatican for the purpose of co-operating in the cause of peace.

December 24, 1939

  • Rudolf Hess broadcasts to the German nation from a destroyer. He gives a highly mendacious description of the war aims of Germany’s enemies. He alleges that they include the dismemberment of the Reich and its return to an enfeebled conglomeration of small independent states.
  • The Pope speaks bitterly of Germany and Russia in a Christmas message. Referring to the war, he says that it was begun with an act of premeditated aggression against a small and peaceful nation, the excuse being a threat which was not only non-existent but wholly impossible.

December 25, 1939

  • H.M. the King broadcasts to the Empire. In the course of his talk (speech is too formal and unimaginative a word) he says that “true peace is in the hearts of men and it is the tragedy of this time that there are powerful countries whose whole direction and policy are based on aggression and the suppression of all that we hold dear for mankind. We feel in our hearts that we are fighting against wickedness, and this conviction will give us strength from day to day to persevere until victory is assured.”
  • The British steamer Stanholme is sunk by two torpedoes with a loss of 14 of her crew.
  • As an answer to the latest German policy of bombing and machine-gunning British fishing vessels, the R.A.F. continues its patrols in the North Sea, as well as attacking enemy patrol ships off the German coast. In addition to these measures, it is announced that a new mine barrage will be laid off nearly the full length of the East Coast, leaving a space between the barrage and the coast for navigation.
  • Hitler spends Christmas Day at the front, visiting air force units and his old regiment.
British soldiers celebrating Christmas on Western Front 1939
British soldiers celebrating Christmas at Western Front gun-post - 25th December 1939

December 26, 1939

  • The first contingent of the Royal Australian Air Force come on duty in the U.K. Members of 10 Squadron RAAF, who had been training in the UK for several weeks, arrived at RAF Pembroke Dock to fly Sunderland flying boats. In a message to the unit the Australian Air Minister says: “A great responsibility rests on you as members of the first Australian Air Squadron to come on active service in this country. You will be comrades in a great and just campaign with the men of the R.A.F., and Australia is confident that you will play your part in whatever sphere you may be called upon to serve.”

December 27, 1939

  • It is announced that 6,824 tons of contraband, believed to be intended for Germany, has been taken from various ships. Nearly 5,000 tons represents petroleum and petroleum products.
  • The Germans report that the number of those killed in the Genthin railway accident is 196.
  • The French war communique reports that two German submarines have been disposed of by patrol units in the last three weeks. The destroyer Siroco has sunk three submarines in the past four weeks.
  • A great earthquake in Turkey causes enormous havoc and terrible casualties in several towns, particularly Erzingan and Sivas.

December 28, 1939

  • The Ministry of Food announces that sugar will be rationed as from the 8th January, and meat from a date to be fixed. Mr. Morrison, the Food Minister, says that the rationing scheme “gives ordinary citizens a chance of joining in the good work being done by the Navy and the Mercantile Marine. It will release both foreign exchange and shipping space for the importation of armaments and raw materials.”
  • The Admiralty announces that H.M. Trawler Loch Doon is overdue, and must be presumed lost.
  • The French Finance Minister brings in a budget which shows that France, no less than Britain, will shrink from no efforts or sacrifices in the common cause; it aims to limit the national expenditure on unnecessary purchases to the utmost.
  • The R.A.F. carry out successful reconnaissance’s of North-West Germany. One of our aircraft fails to return.

December 29, 1939

  • HMS Barham was hit by a torpedo from U-30 before being chased off by the battleship’s escort. There were only four casualties from the crew but HMS Barham was out of action for several months whilst undergoing repairs. Earlier in the day U-30 had attacked and sunk the anti-submarine trawler HMS Barbara Robertson.
  • In a rousing speech to the French Senate, M. Daladier repeats that France will fight on until she has actual and practical guarantees for her security.

December 30, 1939

  • In pursuance of the agreement between Italy and Germany, this day marks the conclusion of the period within which the German-speaking Italians must decide whether they will migrate to Germany or be removed to southern Italy. It is said that the great majority chose the former alternative.

December 31, 1939

  • The German merchant ship Tacoma leaves Montevideo on the orders of the Uruguayan Government, based on the fact that she has been demonstrated to be a naval vessel.
  • Hitler issues a New Year message to the German Nation in which, after reviewing the main events of the war, he states Germany’s war aims as being the “release of Europe from the force and continuous threats emanating from England as she used to be and ever remains.”
  • Goering issues a proclamation in a similar vein, but adds that enormous and most formidable tasks lie ahead of the German people in the year to come. Fresh sacrifices would be inevitable, but their motto remained: “If the Fuehrer commands, we will follow.”
  • Further news from Turkey shows that the devastating earthquake has been followed by terrible floods, causing great havoc in Anatolia.
  • In a message to the British Expeditionary Force after his recent visit the Prime Minister says that he was particularly impressed by the great progress made in so short a time with the construction of defences, by the smart appearance of the troops, by the good humour with which they were facing the conditions of active service in the winter weather, and by the alertness of the officers and men of the R.A.F.
  • The second contingent of the Canadian Expeditionary Force arrives in England.


Various sources have been used to create this timeline but a large proportion have come from ‘Hutchinson’s Pictorial History of the War’ within the Forces War Records Document Library

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