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The Anglo-Polish military alliance refers to agreements reached between the United Kingdommarker and the Polish Second Republicmarker for mutual assistance in case of military invasion by "a European Power". According to the secret protocol added to the treaty the phrase "a European Power" used in the Agreement was to be understood as Germany.

British Guarantee to Poland

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 France to guarantee Polish independence.

On April 6, during a visit to Londonmarker by the Polish foreign minister, it was agreed to formalize the guarantee as an Anglo-Polish military alliance, pending negotiations.

This guarantee was extended on April 13 to Greecemarker and Romaniamarker following Italy's invasion of Albania.

Polish-British Common Defence Pact

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.

Because of the pact's signing, Hitler postponed his planned invasion of Poland from August 26 until September 1.


At the time Adolf Hitler was demanding the cession of the port of Danzigmarker, an extra-territorial highway (the Berlinka) 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."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 0415079055 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 Danzigmarker. 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 Parismarker 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 Londonmarker were continued. Also in May 1939, Poland signed a secret protocol to the 1921 Franco-Polish Military Alliance.

On September 17 the Soviet Unionmarker invaded Poland through the eastern Polish border. 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".However, Poland did not engage the Soviet troops in hostilities, did not declare war on the USSR, and did not acknowledge the existence of a state of war with the USSR; the Polish troops were ordered to withdraw and avoid confrontations with the Soviet army.The Polish ambassador in London, Raczyński, contacted the British Foreign Office demanding a declaration of war that Poland itself was not going to make. The Foreign Secretary Lord Halifax reminded him that it was Britain's decision whether to declare war on the Soviet Union.. Additionally, the text of the treaty had been supplemented by a secret protocol which defined "a European power" as Germany, so the government of the United Kingdom did not have an obligation to help Poland fight the Soviet Union. It is unknown whether ambassador Raczyński was aware of the secret protocol's existence at the time when he contacted secretary Wood.

See also


  1. Martin Collier, Philip Pedley. Germany, 1919-45
  2. Andrew J. Crozier. The Causes of the Second World War, pg. 151
  3. Michael G. Fry, Erik Goldstein, Richard Langhorne. Guide to International Relations and Diplomacy
  4. Jerzy Jan Lerski. Historical Dictionary of Poland, 966-1945, pg. 49
  5. Frank McDonough. Neville Chamberlain, Appeasement and the British Road to War, pg. 86
  6. Prazmowska, Anita J. (1995). Britain and Poland 1939–1943: The Betrayed Ally. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0521483859.

Further reading

  • Anita J. Prazmowska, Britain, Poland and the Eastern Front, 1939, Cambridge University Press, 1987, ISBN 0-521-33148-X

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