May 13, 2003


FRANCE. Ha ha!

UPDATE. WWII researchmeister Antony Carr writes:

Great Britain, France and Australia all declared war on Germany on September 3, 1939: the British at 11am and the French six hours later at 5pm. Australia's declaration was announced one hour and 15 minutes after Britain's announcement, thus beating France to the punch by four hours.

Here's the sequence of events from an Australian perspective:

On the 24 August 1939, the Australian Government was informed officially that the British Government had written a letter dated 22 August to the German Chancellor informing him that Great Britain was determined to fulfill its obligations to Poland. The Australian Government's response was to set in train final preparations for war. A War Book was established, emergency regulations gazetted and steps taken to mobilise the armed forces.

On September 1 the German army crossed the Polish border and Britain issued an ultimatum to Hitler demanding that Germany withdraw. This ultimatum would expire at 11am, or 8pm Eastern Australian Time on September 3, 1939.

The Australian Prime Minister, Robert Menzies, and his ministers met at the government offices in Melbourne as the deadline approached. At 8pm, short-wave radio listeners throughout Australia heard the British Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain, announce that because Germany had persisted with its invasion of Poland, Great Britain had declared war upon her.

This wasn't quite as the War Book planners had envisaged. The official cable that was expected to set the machinery in motion had not been received and in fact did not arrive until 3am the following day, some seven hours after the event. However, a British Admiralty telegram announcing the commencement of hostilities against Germany was received by the Navy Office, Melbourne and was immediately passed on to the Prime Minister. The ministers decided this was confirmation enough. A prepared proclamation declaring a state of war to exist was approved immediately by the Executive Council and, at 9.15pm, just one hour and fifteen minutes after Chamberlain's broadcast began, the Australian Prime Minister announced in a broadcast carried by every national and commercial broadcasting station throughout the nation that Australia too was now at war.

Canada formally declared war on September 10, seven days later. The United States declared its neutrality on September 5 and did not formally enter the war until after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour on December 7, 1941.

This little bit of history illustrates the fact that once Australia has determined its national interest, it tends to act promptly. The next major war was the Korean War (1950-53) and 21 nations contributed armed forces to help the United States. Again Australia's response was prompt - indeed, it was the first nation in the world to announce its support for the USA, beating the UK by a few hours.

Posted by Tim Blair at May 13, 2003 06:34 PM