The evening newspaper placards in London following the announcement of Germany’s invasion of Poland, 1 September 1939
After the German army rolled across the Polish border, British and French ambassadors in Berlin delivered identical messages to the German Foreign Ministry. These declared that if Germany did not withdraw her troops, Britain and France would “fulfil their obligations to Poland without hesitation”.
Britain had given Germany a deadline for her withdrawal from Poland—09:00 hours on 3 September. Two hours after the deadline passed, Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain declared war. At midday, the French ambassador in Berlin called the German Foreign Minister, Joachim von Ribbentrop, who told him that Germany refused to halt her invasion. In turn, France declared war on Germany at 17:00 hours. As it was, there was little Britain and France could do to help Poland despite the promises made in 1918. The French Army had been prepared for defense; not attack, and there were no British forces on the Continent until the first part of the BEF took its place in the line at Lille, in France and that wouldn’t come until 3 October.
Nevertheless, the French did attack Germany on 7 September along the narrow frontier between the Rhine and the Moselle rivers. The Germans held the high ground and salients (outward bulges in the line of fortification) into French territory, and if to make matters worse for the French, the Germans had booby-trapped houses and laid anti-tank and anti-personnel mines in well chosen locations across the fields.
The French stood no chance—they didn’t even possess mine detectors.
September 01, 2012, 1:57pm / 55