Anglo-Polish military alliance
The military alliance between the United Kingdom and Poland was formalised by the Anglo-Polish Agreement in 1939 and subsequent addenda of 1940 and 1944, for mutual assistance in case of military invasion from Germany, as specified in a secret protocol.
Britain makes assurance to Poland
On 31 March 1939, in response to Nazi Germany's defiance of the Munich Agreement and occupation of Czechoslovakia, the United Kingdom pledged the support of itself and France to assure Polish independence (probable statement).
... in the event of any action which clearly threatened Polish independence, and which the Polish Government accordingly considered it vital to resist with their national forces, His Majesty's Government would feel themselves bound at once to lend the Polish Government all support in their power. They have given the Polish Government an assurance to this effect.
I may add that the French Government have authorised me to make it plain that they stand in the same position in this matter as do His Majesty's Government.
Polish–British common defence pact
On 25 August, two days after the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact, the Agreement of Mutual Assistance between the United Kingdom and Poland was signed. The agreement contained promises of mutual military assistance between the nations in the event either was attacked by some "European country". The United Kingdom, sensing a trend of German expansionism, sought to discourage German aggression by this show of solidarity. In a secret protocol of the pact, the United Kingdom offered assistance in the case of an attack on Poland specifically by Germany, while in the case of attack by other countries the parties were required to "consult together on measures to be taken in common". Both the United Kingdom and Poland were bound not to enter agreements with any other third countries which were a threat to the other. Because of the pact's signing, Hitler postponed his planned invasion of Poland from 26 August until 1 September.
Franco-British failed alliance with Moscow
After the German occupation of Prague in March 1939, in violation of the Munich agreement, the Chamberlain government in Britain sought Soviet and French support for a Peace Front. The goal was to deter further Nazi aggression by guaranteeing the independence of Poland and Romania. However Stalin refused to pledge Soviet support for these guarantees unless Britain and France first concluded a military alliance with the USSR. In London the cabinet decided to seek such an alliance. However the western negotiators in Moscow in August 1939 lacked urgency. The talks were poorly conducted at a slow pace by diplomats with little authority, such as William Strang, an assistant under-secretary. Stalin also insisted on British and French guarantees to Finland, the Baltic states, Poland, and Romania against indirect German aggression. Those countries, however, became fearful that Moscow wanted to control them. Although Hitler was escalating threats against Poland, it refused under any circumstances to allow Soviet troops to cross its borders. Historian Michael Jabara Carley argues that the British were too committed to anti-communism to trust Stalin. Meanwhile Stalin simultaneously was secretly negotiating with the Germans. He was attracted to a much better deal by Hitler--control of most of Eastern Europe and decided to sign the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact.
Polish–British Naval Agreement, November 1939
After being sent to Britain in mid-1939 by General Sikorski, the Polish Navy had remained in British waters. In November 1939, after the Invasion of Poland, the Polish-British Naval agreement was signed. The agreement allowed for Polish sailors to wear their Polish uniforms and to have commanding officers on board who were Polish, though the ships were of British make. The agreement would later be changed to fit a revised one on August 5, 1940, which encompassed all Polish units.
Anglo-Polish Agreement Respecting Polish Land and Air Forces
On August 5, 1940, an agreement was signed which stated that "the Polish Armed Forces (comprising Land, Sea, and Air Forces) shall be organized and employed under British Command," though they would be "subject to Polish military law and disciplinary ruling, and they [would] be tried in Polish military courts". The only change came on 11 October 1940, when the Polish Air Force was made an exception, and would be subject to British discipline and laws.
The alliance committed Britain, for the first time in history, to fight on behalf of a European country other than France or Belgium. At the time Adolf Hitler was demanding the cession of the Free City of Danzig, an extraterritorial highway (the Reichsautobahn Berlin-Königsberg) across the Polish Corridor, and special privileges for the ethnic German minority within Poland. By the terms of the military alliance, each party (i.e., Poland and Britain) was free to decide whether to oppose with force any territorial encroachment, as the pact did not include any statement of either party's commitment to the defence of the other party's territorial integrity. The Pact did contain provisions regarding "indirect threats" and attempts to undermine either party's independence by means of "economic penetration", a clear reference to the peculiar status of Danzig. Fearing all-out German invasion no matter what, Poland rejected the German demands.
On 17 September the Soviet Union invaded Poland through the eastern Polish border. This was in keeping with the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact's secret protocol specifying the division of Poland. According to the Polish-British Common Defence Pact, the United Kingdom should give Poland "all the support and assistance in its power" if Poland was "engaged in hostilities with a European Power in consequence of aggression by the latter". The Polish ambassador in London, Raczyński, contacted the British Foreign Office pointing out that clause 1(b) of the agreement which concerned an "aggression by a European power" on Poland, should apply to the Soviet invasion. The Foreign Secretary Lord Halifax responded that the obligation of British Government towards Poland arising out of the Anglo-Polish Agreement, was restricted to Germany, according to the first clause of the secret protocol.
Polish historian Paweł Wieczorkiewicz wrote: "Polish leaders were not aware of the fact that England and France were not ready for war. They needed time to catch up with the Third Reich, and were determined to gain the time at any price." Publicist Stanisław Mackiewicz stated in the late 1940s: "To accept London's guarantees was one of the most tragic dates in the history of Poland. It was a mental aberration and madness." On the same day when Britain pledged her support of Poland, Lord Halifax stated: "We do not think this guarantee will be binding." Other British diplomat, Alexander Cadogan wrote in his diary: "Naturally, our guarantee does not give any help to Poland. It can be said that it was cruel to Poland, even cynical."
Polish - British military negotiations, carried out in London, ended up in fiasco. After lengthy talks, the British reluctantly pledged to bomb German military and installations if the Germans carried out attacks of this kind in Poland. Polish military leaders failed to obtain any more promises. At the same time, the Polish side negotiated a military loan. The Polish ambassador to Britain, Edward Raczyński, called these negotiations "a never-ending nightmare". Józef Beck in his memoirs wrote: "The negotiations, carried out in London by Colonel Adam Koc, immediately turned into theoretical discussion about our financial system. It was clear that Sir John Simon and Frederick Leith-Ross did not realize the gravity of the situation. They negotiated in purely financial terms, without consideration for the rules of the wartime alliance. As a result, the English offer gave us no grounds for quick reinforcement of our army."
On 2 August 1939 Great Britain finally agreed to grant Poland a military loan of £9 million, which was less than Turkey received at the same time. Poland had asked for a loan of £60 million.
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- Statement by the Prime Minister in the House of Commons on March 31, 1939.
- Andrew J. Crozier. The Causes of the Second World War, pg. 151
- Anglo-Polish communiqué issued on April 6, 1939 (full text)
- Michael G. Fry, Erik Goldstein, Richard Langhorne. Guide to International Relations and Diplomacy
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- Donald Cameron Watt, How War Came: The Immediate Origins of the Second World War, 1938-1939 (1989) pp 362-84.
- G. Bruce Strang, "John Bull in Search of a Suitable Russia: British Foreign Policy and the Failure of the Anglo-French-Soviet Alliance Negotiations, 1939." Canadian Journal of History 41.1 (2006): 47-84.
- Michael Jabara Carley, 1939: The Alliance That Never Was and the Coming of World War II (2009)
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- Olson, Lynne, & Stanley Cloud (2003). A Question of Honour. New York: Alfred A Knopf. p. 98.
- Gunther, John (1940). Inside Europe. New York: Harper & Brothers. p. 133.
- "On 31 March 1939 the British government guaranteed the independence (though not the territorial integrity) of Poland, in which they were joined by France."
Paul M. Hayes, 'Themes in Modern European History, 1890-1945', Routledge (1992), ISBN 0-415-07905-5
- and http://avalon.law.yale.edu/wwii/blbk19.asp Agreement of Mutual Assistance Between the United Kingdom and Poland.-London, August 25, 1939.
- (in English) Count Edward Raczyński (1948). The British-Polish Alliance; Its Origin and Meaning. London: Mellville Press.
- Piotr Zychowicz, Pakt Ribbentrop - Beck. Dom Wydawniczy Rebis, Poznań 2012. ISBN 978-83-7510-921-4</ref>