3.9.39. (Greenwich) « THE ORWELL PRIZE: Have again been traveling etc. Shall close this diary today, & it will as it stands serve as a diary of events leading up to the war.
We have apparently been in a state of war since 11 am. this morning. No reply was received from the German gov.t to the demand to evacuate Polish territory. The Italian gov.t made some kind of last-minute appeal for a conference to settle differences peacefully, which made some of the papers as late as this morning show a faint doubt as to whether war would actually break out. Daladier made grateful reference to the “noble effort” of Italy which may be taken as meaning that Italy’s neutrality is to be respected.
No definite news yet as to what military operations are actually taking place. The Germans have taken Danzig & are attacking the corridor from 4 points north & south. Otherwise only the usual claims & counterclaims about air-raids, numbers of aeroplanes shot down etc. From reports in Sunday Express & elsewhere it seems clear that the first attempted raid on Warsaw failed to get as far as the town itself. It is rumoured that there is already a British force in France. Bodies of troops with full kits constantly leaving from Waterloo, but not in enormous numbers at any one moment. Air-raid practice this morning immediately after the proclamation of state of war. Seems to have gone off satisfactorily though believed by many people to be real raid. There are now great numbers of public air-raid shelters, though most of them will take another day or two to complete. Gasmasks° being handed out free, & the public appears to take them seriously. Voluntary fire-brigades etc. all active & look quite efficient. Police from now on wear steel helmets. No panic, on the other hand no enthusiasm, & in fact not much interest. Balloon barrage completely covers London & would evidently make low-flying quite impossible. Black-out at nights fairly complete but they are instituting very stringent penalties for infringement. Evacuation involving 3 m. people (over 1 m. from London alone) going on rapidly. Train service somewhat disorganized in consequence.
Churchill & Eden are coming into the cabinet. Labour are refusing office for the time being. Labour MPs. in the house make violent protestations of loyalty but tone of the left press very sour as they evidently realize the wind has been taken out of their sails. Controversy about the Russo-German pact continues to some extent. All the letters printed in Reynolds’s extol the pact but have shifted the emphasis from this being a “peace move” to its being a self-protecting move by U.S.S.R. “Action” of 220.127.116.11. still agitating against the war. No atrocity stories or violent propaganda posters as yet. M[ilitary].T[raining]. Act extended to all men between 18-41. It is however clear that they do not as yet want large numbers of men but are passing the act in order to be able to pick on anyone they choose, & for purpose of later enforcing industrial conscription.