Did Britain and France tell Poland that they are not going to provide relief to it?

Futurist

Ad Honoris
May 2014
24,587
SoCal
Before the start of World War II, did Britain and France tell Poland that they are not going to provide relief to it in the event of a Nazi German invasion and that it will be a year or more before they actually launch any meaningful offensives against Nazi Germany?

Basically, Britain and France declared war on Nazi Germany after its invasion of Poland (as they promised Poland they would), but I wonder if Polish officials actually expected Britain and France to do as little as they actually did afterwards. Indeed, did Britain and France give Poland the impression (before the war, that is) that they were going to do more for it in the event of a war with Nazi Germany? Or were the Poles already aware even before the war that, even in the best-case scenario, their country is going to have to endure a long period of occupation by Nazi Germany before it is going to get liberated?
 
Nov 2015
1,747
Bye, bye
The two French and British governments made a clear and official commitment in the spring of 1939.
The British government concluded with the Polish government a provisional mutual assistance agreement defined in two public declarations on 31 March and 6 April 1939.
The invasion of Albania by Italy on 7 April 1939 determined the French and British governments to accept new assistance obligations.
On April 13,1939 Great Britain and France publicly confirm their commitments in the event of aggression against Poland and Greece and Romania.
It is a diplomatic agreement of mutual assistance.
Responding to the demands of Polish head of state Beck, President Daladier said:" France and Poland immediately guaranteed themselves against any direct or indirect threats that would harm their vital interests".
This agreement was definitively confirmed on 2 May 1939.
 

Futurist

Ad Honoris
May 2014
24,587
SoCal
The two French and British governments made a clear and official commitment in the spring of 1939.
The British government concluded with the Polish government a provisional mutual assistance agreement defined in two public declarations on 31 March and 6 April 1939.
The invasion of Albania by Italy on 7 April 1939 determined the French and British governments to accept new assistance obligations.
On April 13,1939 Great Britain and France publicly confirm their commitments in the event of aggression against Poland and Greece and Romania.
It is a diplomatic agreement of mutual assistance.
Responding to the demands of Polish head of state Beck, President Daladier said:" France and Poland immediately guaranteed themselves against any direct or indirect threats that would harm their vital interests".
This agreement was definitively confirmed on 2 May 1939.
Yes, I get all of this. However, did Britain and/or France promise to launch an offensive after war was declared in order to ease the pressure on Poland? Or were the Poles told that Britain and France will declare war but otherwise stay on the defense (as opposed to launching offensives and trying to aid Poland)?
 

Chlodio

Forum Staff
Aug 2016
5,101
Dispargum
I have picked up a few hints in my readings that French politicians in the 1930s were quite clueless about the capabilities of the French Army. In the mind of a French politician, the Maginot Line solved all military problems. No one really considered alternate military scenarios such as an offensive into Germany.
 
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Pendennis

Ad Honorem
Mar 2013
3,386
Kirkcaldy, Scotland
Despite the fact that France had, on paper, had more tanks than Nazi Germany, France was infected by an almost universal lack of enthusiam for aggreesive offensives post Sepr 1939 because they believed that the the Maginot line of in-depth defences on the FRANCO-GERMAN BORDER were too tough a nut for Germany to crack.
The weakness of thi assumption was exposed when Nazi armour burst through the Ardennes forests (supposed to be inpenetrable-a myth ] ouflanking the Maginot line which proved a white elephant for the French.
Thus between Sept 3 1939 and May 10 1940 you had what became known as the 'Phoney war' were both sides did little offensive actions against each other as the Nazis conquered Poland in six weeks..
A single French bomber did however,, bomb Berlin during this 'Phoney War period (France-not the British RAF- were the first to bomb Berlin-albeit a token one plane raid- but even that did not prompt mass Luftwaffe attacks on France in this period.
Britain and France did not have any means of helping Poland on ther grouind in 1939.
In fact, after the Nazis blitzed Warsaw and conquered the country they made a newsreel which featured a camera plane trackng slowly over the ruins of Warsaw and a rasping, gloating,, Nazi voice asking on the soundtrack, 'Is this what you meant by assisting Poland MR. Chamberlain?
 
Mar 2011
47
Chamberlain was no Churchill, and neither Britain nor France had the heart for returning to war after only 20 years, and neither had an answer to the Blitzkrieg.
 
Sep 2016
651
天下
Polish defense plans relied entirely on French forcing Germans to move as many of divisons as possible from Poland to western border. The plan was to orderly retreat into the country to reach more defensible position (as the border with Germany too long and impossible to defend without overstreching resources) and await allied help.
 
Apr 2017
765
Lemuria
The French developed a defensive mindset. France usually did better as the aggressor. They made a mistake with the Maginot line as well. They didn't complete it as completing it would seal off Belgium, making it the battlefield. Political pressure from the Belgians prevented this. This should have been an obvious flaw.
 
Nov 2015
1,747
Bye, bye
Yes, I get all of this. However, did Britain and/or France promise to launch an offensive after war was declared in order to ease the pressure on Poland? Or were the Poles told that Britain and France will declare war but otherwise stay on the defense (as opposed to launching offensives and trying to aid Poland)?
As far as the British are concerned, they are a bit vague; the government of his majesty intends to intervene but the deadlines are not specified and the question of Dantzig is barely addressed in March by Eden.

For the French:
There was a military agreement signed on 17 May 1939 between General Gamelin and the Polish War Minister General Kasprzycki.
Technically, the technical conditions for military assistance would hitherto refer to the 1921 agreements, which were aimed mainly at Bolshevik Russia, whereas in 1939 the USSR alliance was sought.
This military agreement was signed before a more in-depth political agreement was developed, particularly on the question of Dantzig.
Here are the main points of this military agreement:
" - As soon as part of the French forces are ready (around the third day after the initial day of general mobilization), France will progressively trigger" offensive actions with limited objectives".
- As soon as the main German effort on Poland intensifies, France will launch an offensive action against Germany with most of its forces from the fifteenth day after the initial day of general mobilization
".
The head of Polish government Beck is satisfied; he says that the most important point is France's commitment to make a major offensive from the fifteenth day.

On the French side, General Gamelin is criticized for having made a military commitment without deep consultation with the political authorities, which had not yet negotiated all the modalities of the agreements on military assistance with Poland, particularly as regards the Dantzig question.
This is seen by politicians as a mandatory precondition for a military agreement.
Perhaps these criticisms tempered General Gamelin, who stated in August 1939 that:"the mobilization will bring some relief to Poland itself, keeping a large number of German units in front of our borders".
This suggests that the idea of a general offensive is no longer considered from the fifteenth day onwards.
Indeed, he asserts that the Polish army will oppose "an honourable resistance" which will delay the Germans and that they will still resist the Germans in the spring of 1940.
This will give the French time to mobilize and then concentrate their forces and the British time to land a substantial BEF.

The French government is divided about Dantzig; it is not hostile to a negotiation with Germany on this subject and supports the idea of a border readjustment in favour of it.
Moreover, it is important to note that some members of the French government are in favour of not intervening in favour of Poland as early as 1939.
The rearmament will not be sufficient for a war with Germany until 1941 and the French government wants to put pressure on Poland to force it to accept direct Soviet intervention in its territory.

The Minister of Foreign Affairs Bonnet did not appreciate the German-Polish rapprochement of 1934, nor a certain contempt tinged with Polish hostility (Beck, Pilsudski) towards the French during this period, the Polish participation in the dismantling of Czechoslovakia (Teschen territory) and even a Polish claim on Madagascar.
The French government is not unanimous; however, the majority is convinced that too much has been ceded to Hitler and that since, finally, the British decided to join France, it is time to intervene.
The French have been waiting for this since 1936!
 
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stevev

Ad Honorem
Apr 2017
3,813
Las Vegas, NV USA
Any possibility of direct British or French help ended with the Soviet invasion beginning Sept 17. Poland had mobilized 2 million men and it was expected they could hold out for up to 60 days against Germany alone. The blitzkreig and Soviet invasion were not expected.