September 3rd 1939
Sunday September 3rd
We learned that Sir Nevile Henderson, the British Ambassador in Berlin, had been instructed to call upon Joachim Von Ribbentrop, German Foreign Minister, to ask for a reply to the British note. We were told at 10.00 am that the time limit fixed for an answer expired at 11.00 am and unless Germany replied we would be at war.
An hour! I thought it had long been inevitable – it was a horrible moment – it is like the last scene of Marlowe’s Dr Faustus – “Now Faustus thou hast one bare hour to live – half the hour is past twill all be past anon.” No one had any hope that there would be any reply, for the German Government had already had ample time to do so.
Since the time must pass we took refuge in whatever things we could find to do. Mother clattered crockery in the kitchen and turned out the store cupboard. I played Bach chorales, I suppose in the hope that there I could grasp something that was immortal and imperishable. It was what Cyrano de Bergerac would call a “panache”.
At 11.15 the Prime Minister spoke to the nation in a voice that sounded weary and heart-broken, and at 6.00 pm the King spoke to the Empire. France declared war at 5.00 pm.
It seems now that there is nothing more that can be said. What will be the end of it, no man knows. May God have mercy on us all.