CBC Digital Archives

Vincent Massey's Dominion Day message

"Germany has invaded Poland." With those words spoken on Sept. 1, 1939 on CBC Radio, listeners knew the Second World War had begun. While this was distressing news for worried Canadians, it wasn't a surprise. For more than a year, it had become increasingly clear that war was on the horizon. CBC Digital Archives presents several radio broadcasts chronicling the coming of the Second World War, from Neville Chamberlain's hopes for peace in 1938 to Canadian troops departing for Europe in December 1939.

"I'm afraid we cannot yet see very much blue sky on the international horizon," says Vincent Massey in this July 1, 1939 radio speech from London. As High Commissioner for Canada, Massey is delivering his annual Dominion Day message to Canadians. This year's speech is solemnly focused on England's war preparations. "To a casual observer, London might seem to be following its normal summer routine," he says. But things are far from normal. "Air raid shelters, large and small, are evidence of this widespread preparedness."
• Toronto-born Vincent Massey was High Commissioner for Canada from 1935 until 1946. As head diplomat for Canada in England, his full title was High Commissioner to the United Kingdom for His Majesty's Government in Canada.
  • Massey went on to become Canada's 18th Governor General, serving from 1952 until 1959. He passed away in 1967 at age 80.

• By July 1939, two months before the Second World War broke out, it was becoming increasingly apparent that war was inevitable. The front page of the July 1, 1939 issue of the Globe and Mail was dominated by stories of the situation in Europe, with one report stating, "Warsaw made it known last night that it was alive to the Fuehrer's (Hitler's) scheme. Encouraged by the speeches of Lord Halifax (of England) and Premier Daladier (of France), spokesmen declared that any act of aggression within or without Danzig would be cause for war."

• Previously part of Germany, Danzig was made a "free city" in the 1919 Treaty of Versailles, which meant it didn't politically belong to any country. Poland had, however, been given special administrative and economic authority over Danzig.

• In 1939, Hitler demanded the return of Danzig to Germany. In March of that same year, Britain and France pledged to defend Poland's autonomy if it was threatened. So when the Globe and Mail article quoted above used the phrase "within or without Danzig," it meant that an attack on Danzig would be considered an attack on Poland, and war would begin.

• (Note: The photo shown here is of Vincent Massey and his wife, Alice Massey, taken during the 1930s.)

Medium: Radio
Program: CBC Radio Special
Broadcast Date: July 1, 1939
Speaker: Vincent Massey
Duration: 10:01
Photo: Photo of Vincent Massey and his wife, Alice Massey, taken during the 1930s, courtesy of Library and Archives Canada / e002282945

Last updated: April 25, 2012

Page consulted on March 20, 2013

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