Originally Posted by Naddoður
In 1939 Britain and France signed a series of military agreements with Poland that contained very specific promises. The leaders of Poland understood very clearly that they had no chance against Germany alone.
British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain stated in the House of Commons on March 31, 1939.
"As the House is aware, certain consultations are now proceeding with other Governments. In order to make perfectly clear the position of His Majesty's Government in the meantime before those consultations are concluded, I now have to inform the House that during that period, 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 authorized me to make it plain that they stand in the same position in this matter as do His Majesty's Government."
Having secured a guarantee, the Poles now took steps toward coordinating their defensive preparations with the British. On April 4, 1939, Poland's Minister of Foreign Affairs, Józef Beck, visited London for talks with Prime Minister Chamberlain and Lord Halifax, the Foreign Secretary. The content of these talks was described in an official communiqué sent from London to Warsaw on April 6th:
"The conversations with M. Beck have covered a wide field and shown that the two Governments are in complete agreement upon certain general principles. It was agreed that the two countries were prepared to enter into an agreement of a permanent and reciprocal character to replace the present temporary and unilateral assurance given by His Majesty's Government to the Polish Government. Pending the completion of the permanent agreement, M. Beck gave His Majesty's Government an assurance that the Polish Government would consider themselves under an obligation to render assistance to His Majesty's Government under the same conditions as those contained in the temporary assurance already given by His Majesty's Government to Poland."
Shortly thereafter a formal agreement between Poland and Britain was signed which clearly stated "If Germany attacks Poland His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom will at once come to the help of Poland."
Whereas British support of Poland was a relatively recent diplomatic development, Poland's alliance with the French had a long history. The first French efforts to buttress Poland against Germany went back to 1921. In that year, Raymond Poincaré, soon to become president of the FrenchRepublic, had stated "Everything orders us to support Poland: The [Versailles] Treaty, the plebiscite, loyalty, the present and the future interest of France, and the permanence of peace."
To this end France had sealed a mutual assistance pact with Poland on February 21, 1921. According to Article One of this pact France and Poland agreed to "consult each other on all questions of foreign policy which concern both states." Furthermore, Article Three made it clear that "If, notwithstanding the sincerely peaceful views and intentions of the two contracting states, either or both of them should be attacked without giving provocation, “the two governments shall take concerted measures for the defense of their territory and the protection of their legitimate interests."
This agreement for mutual defense was then augmented on September 15, 1922 by a formal military alliance signed by Marshal Foch and General Sokoski. This agreement stated explicitly "In case of German aggression against either Poland or France, or both, the two nations would aid each other to the fullest extent."
Seventeen years later, Poland and France, facing growing tension with Germany, found it necessary to reaffirm the defensive alliance they had formed in the wake of World War I. In mid-May of 1939, Poland's Minister of War, General Tadeusz Kasprzycki, visited Paris for a series of talks. At issue for Kasprzycki was clarifying the terms under which France would assist Poland militarily. These talks resulted in the Franco-Polish Military Convention which, according to historian Richard Watt, stated that "on the outbreak of war between Germany and Poland, the French would immediately undertake air action against Germany. It was also agreed that on the third day of French mobilization its army would launch a diversionary offensive into German territory, which would be followed by a major military offensive of the full French army to take place no later than fifteen days after mobilization."
Unfortunately, when Germany attacked, Poland was almost totally and completely betrayed by its democratic "friends". While Britain and France did declare war, French troops made a brief advance toward the Siegfried Line on Germany's western frontier and immediately stopped upon meeting German resistance
This is very significant since Hitler had concentrated almost all German military forces in the east, and France had one of the strongest armies in the world. Had France attacked Germany in a serious way as promised, the results could have been very serious, if not disastrous for the Germans.
Instead, Hitler was able to win a complete victory over Poland and then mobilize his forces for a devastating offensive in the west in the next year.
The British and French betrayal of Poland in 1939 was not only dishonest, it was a military stupidity of truly monumental dimensions. Unfortunately, more betrayals would follow. Contrary to their assurances to the Poles Britain and France would agree to allow Russia to keep the parts of Poland seized as part of their deal with Hitler in 1939.
A crowning humiliation of the Poles was the refusal of their British "friends" to allow the free Polish army to march in the victory parade at the end of the war for fear of offending a Soviet puppet government in Lublin.