The moves to defend vulnerable countries, such as the Anglo-French-Polish military alliance, were less about diplomacy than a scramble to join whatever countries looked the best prepared for war. By May, Mussolini signed the "Pact of Steel" with Germany to support each other in the war, and in August, Germany and the Soviet Union signed a non-aggression pact. The outbreak of a European war appeared virtually inevitable.
Whilst Hitler rallied support, the European powers concentrated on preparations for war. Even before the developments in Prague, the RAF had stepped up plane production to more than 400 aircraft a month, competing with Germany's 600. The Territorial Army was doubled; production of weapons, factories, camps and uniforms was stepped up. The most potent disruption was in the patterns of everyday life: more than 2 million children were evacuated, football games were cancelled as players were called up for service, and the Mediterranean and the Baltic were closed to British merchant shipping.
On 3 September, the British prime minister declared that "This country is now at war with Germany. We are ready." The expected blitz did not happen straightaway. and for a while the petty officialdom, regulations and posters exhorting people not to travel and not to spread rumours were like baubles in a shop window: merely an indication of things to come.
Photo 98 is a series of national events and exhibitions (for details, call 1484 559888. Or refer to www. photo98.com
Current exhibitions: `Lot 384', an installation by Marion Harrison, explores magic lantern slides, touching on their origins and historical significance. To 18 April, Batley Art Gallery, Market Place, Batley WF17 5DA (01924 326 090).Reuse content