This period of WW2 began with the declaration of war with Germany by the British Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain, on the 3rd of September 1939. Its is considered to have ended with the German invasion of France in May 1940. Germany attacked Poland on the 1st of September 1939 using its tactic of ‘blitzkrieg’ and Poland fell to the axis in 18 days.
It is the period from then that the ‘inactivity’ in Western Europe, until May 10th 1940, was given the name ‘The Phoney War’.
So little ‘activity’ was happening in the UK that many children that had been evacuated from their homes in the main cities were returned to their families. The British public were not really kept up to date by the Government with events abroad and even when Uboat 47 sunk the battleship HMS Royal Oak, many heard this first from Lord Haw Haw on his “Germany Calling” German propaganda radio show.
The Germans called this period the ‘Sitzkrieg’, the ‘sitting war’ and Winston Churchill called it the ‘Twilight War’.
Around this time also, some of the RAF raids over Germany carried no bombs but paper propaganda leaflets.
It all changed from September 1940 for the British as this month brought the London Blitz, this period of bombing lasted right up until the following May. The Blitz caused enormous destruction and heavy civilian casualties and it is reported that over 40,000 were killed with over 130,000 wounded.
September 1940 also brought those now famous dogfights in the skies of the Battle of Britain.
This brought home the reality of war to the British civilian population.