British Guarantee to PolandEdit
On March 31, 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 Franceto guarantee Polish independence. ... 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.On April 6, during a visit to London by the Polish foreign minister, it was agreed to formalize the guarantee as an Anglo-Polish military alliance, pending negotiations.
Polish-British Common Defense PactEdit
On August 25, two days after the Nazi-Soviet Pact, the Polish-British Common Defence Pact was signed. The treaty contained promises of mutual military assistance between the nations in the event either was attacked by another European country. The United Kingdom, sensing a dangerous trend of German expansionism, sought to prevent German aggression by this show of solidarity. In a secret protocol of the pact, the United Kingdom only actually offered assistance in the case of an attack on Poland specifically by Germany, though both the United Kingdom and Poland were bound not to enter agreements with any other third countries which were a threat to the other.
At the time Adolf Hitler was demanding the cession of the port of Danzig, an extra-territorial highway (the Reichsautobahn Berlin-Königsberg) across the Polish Corridor, and special privileges for the 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 defense 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.
The British and French governments had plans other than fulfilling their treaties with Poland. On May 4, a meeting was held in Paris at which it was decided that "the fate of Poland depends on the final outcome of the war, which will depend on our ability to defeat Germany rather than to aid Poland at the beginning." Poland's government was not notified of this decision, and the Polish-British talks in London were continued. Also in May 1939, Poland signed a secret protocol to the 1921 Franco-Polish Military Alliance.
On September 17 the Soviet Union invaded Poland through the eastern Polish border. According to the Polish-British Common Defense 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 it was Britain's decision whether to declare war on the Soviet Union.
- ^ Martin Collier, Philip Pedley. Germany, 1919-45
- ^ 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
- ^ Michael G. Fry, Erik Goldstein, Richard Langhorne. Guide to International Relations and Diplomacy
- ^ Jerzy Jan Lerski. Historical Dictionary of Poland, 966-1945, pg. 49
- ^ Frank McDonough. Neville Chamberlain, Appeasement and the British Road to War, pg. 86
- ^ "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
- ^ Prazmowska, Anita J. (1995). Britain and Poland 1939–1943: The Betrayed Ally. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-48385-9.
- Agreement of Mutual Assistance Between the United Kingdom and Poland.-London, August 25, 1939.
- (English) Count Edward Raczyński (1948). The British-Polish Alliance; Its Origin and Meaning. London: Mellville Press.