"We didn't win the Second World War" - Peter Hitchens

There's always a good question for the 'Polish Betrayal' lot I like to ask.

What would you have us do in 1939?

What normally follows is either some intense navel gazing, occasionally followed by the absolute master stroke of 'Invade Germany!', to which you ask: With what? and would you have use invade Holland and Belgium breaching their neutrality as well?
Most people like this aren't up to speed historically speaking and are unaware of the French Invasion of Germany as well. So pointing this out normally increasing the navel gazing period.

Best answer to date, and this is 'best' as in it gave me the best laugh, was an amphibious landing into Poland.
 
In fairness that probably had better prospects than the unmentionable sea mammal

The RN and British army did at least recognise the difference between Big river and the sea
 
Just digging around for a previous post I made on the subject. This is the Top Secret Foreign Office memo from August 1944 on the subject and its quite clear we meant Germany and not Russia. Releasing the terms of the 'Secret agreement' was felt to embarrass us to the Soviets. The Anglo-Polish Mutual Assistance Agreement of the 25th August, 1939 (clue in the title) is added as an Annex. We had told the French and onviously the movers and shakers in the Empire:

"During the negotiations which led up to the signature of the Agreement, it was understood between the Polish Government and His Majesty's Government that the Agreement only covered the case of aggression by Germany, and the Polish Government confirm that this is so."

The memo is a copy of a copy so it hasn't come across entirely without mistakes eg 10tk August
Full text of "1944 Memorandum On The Anglo Polish Agreement With Secret Protocol"

lOtk August, 1944.

WAR CABINET.

ANGLO-POLISH AGREEMENT OF 1939.

Memorandum by the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs.

AT the time of the conclusion of the Anglo-Polish Mutual Assistance Agree-
ment of the 25th August, 1939, a Secret Protocol was signed interpreting the
Agreement. This Protocol constituted an integral part of the Agreement, but
its terms, unlike those of the agreement itself, have never been published. The
texts of the Protocol and of the Agreement are annexed.

It will be seen that the object and effect of the Secret Protocol were not
to extend the obligations of the parties but to limit them by confining these
obligations, which in the Agreement were stated in general terms, to the particular
case of aggression by Germany. One object of the Protocol was to avoid any
obligation on our part to assist Poland against Russia. The reason for the
adoption of this procedure is to be found in the special emergencies of the time,
and was, of course, that, while the parties were in fact concluding an agreement
of mutual assistance against aggression by Germany, it was obviously undesirable
to state this in public.

The substance of the principal provision of the Protocol was made public
in a statement by the then Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign
Affairs in reply to a P.Q. on the 19th October, 1939, when he affirmed that the
references to aggression by a European Power in the Anglo-Polish Agreement
were not intended to cover the case of aggression by Powers other than Germany,
including Russia, and added: "During the negotiations which led up to the
signature of the Agreement, it was understood between the Polish Government -
and His Majesty's Government that the Agreement only covered the case of
aggression by Germany, and the Polish Government confirm that this is so."

The existence of the Secret Protocol was known at the time of its signature
to the French Government and a copy was communicated to the French Embassy
in London on the 9th September, 1939. I also informed the Dominion Prime
Ministers orally and in general terms of the provisions of the Protocol at the
time of their meeting in London in May of this year. Nothing has been said
to any other Governments, including the United States and Soviet Governments,
about the existence of the Protocol.

I am unhappy about this situation., particularly as I have repeatedly affirmed
that His Majesty's Government have made no secret agreements during this war.
This is literally true. Moreover, there is in present circumstances always the
risk of a leak. Although there is nothing in the Protocol in the nature of a major
secret commitment, knowledge of which if it leaked out would cause us serious
detriment, it would, nevertheless, be undesirable that our Soviet Allies should
first learn of the existence of the Protocol from some unauthorised source.

I have accordingly been considering the possibility of publishing the
Protocol. M!y conclusion is. however, that publication at 'the present juncture
would be untimely. Although the provisions of the Protocol commit His Majesty's
Government to no action vis-a-vis the U.S.S.R., their publication would very
probably provoke a disagreeable cross-examination by the Soviet Government oil
12465 [27981]

'2

their meaning. Such questions would probably centre particularly upon
Article 1 (b) and Article 2(6) and (c) of the Protocol, which contain references
to the Baltic States and especially to Lithuania, and upon Article 3, which has
a possible bearing upon Polish-Soviet territorial problems. We could not be
certain in advance of removing all suspicions which the Soviet Government might
conceive on these points and there would be a risk of disturbing the present
improved atmosphere of Anglo-Soviet relations. In addition, the publication
of the Protocol would almost certainly arouse public correspondence and
discussion, in the course of which awkward claims as regards the effect of the
Protocol mij'ht be made on behalf of the Poles, and things be written and said
which would involve a serious risk of destroying any chances that may still
exist of an improvement in Polish-Soviet relations.

I am therefore of the opinion that publication of the Secret Protocol would
best be postponed until we can see more clearly than at present the position in
regard to Polish-Soviet relations, our own relations with Poland and the future
of the An^lo-Polish Agreement of 1939.

A. E.

Foreign Office. 10M A tioust. 1044.
 

Wordsmith

LE
Book Reviewer
Lindermyer it is you that are wrong. The U.K. had a treaty to preserve the sovereignty of Poland and that is why we declared war on Germany at 10:00 03/09/39. Of course defeating nazism and Hitler was part of the process but not the end game which was never achieved.
You can only make treaties in the light of what is known or suspected.
  • The hope was the treaty would deter Hitler from attacking Poland. It was a reasonable attempt to try and prevent war breaking out by giving Hitler pause for thought. It didn't.
  • Had Russian not (a) occupied half of Poland in 1939 and (b) overrun Poland in 1944 and imposed a communist regime on it, the UK and France might have restored an independent Poland.
Castigating them for not achieving that when the above points were not known at the time the treaty was signed is deploying 20/20 hindsight.

Wordsmith
 
As you correctly noted, that was the French, not the British. So what would you have the British do?
We did as far as I can tell what we were supposed to... deploy our navy, and support the French army and air force...
The French army was supposed to deliver the Mjolnir like hammer blow...
 

Wordsmith

LE
Book Reviewer
We did as far as I can tell what we were supposed to... deploy our navy, and support the French army and air force...
The French army was supposed to deliver the Mjolnir like hammer blow...
Neither the British Army nor the RAF competent were really fit for war. They were more interested in remedying their deficiencies in equipment and training than taking to the offensive.

I can't comment on the French Army, but I know their air force had made a major strategic blunder. When they started rearming, they did so with the obsolescent aircraft that were available. (The RAF waited a couple of years until more modern aircraft were in the pipeline before starting to ramp up their numbers), As such, the French air force was well outmatched by the Luftwaffe at the start of the war, and not keen to initiate hostilities.

Wordsmith
 

Wordsmith

LE
Book Reviewer
Some of the French aircraft are of indescribable quality..... many of them can e seen in the Most Ugly Aircraft thread... but then we went to war with the Fairey Battle...
Aircraft technology changed at a monumental pace between 1918 and 1939. Some errors in procurement were inevitable - you could add the Defiant into the same bucket as the Battle. The Hampden and Whitley were adequate bombers, the Wellington one of the best in its class in 1939. The Hurricane and Spitfire were also among the best fighters in the world at the out break of war.

Even the 'stopgap' aircraft found their users. The Anson was soon relegated training duties and soldiered on for many years in that role. Even aircraft such as the Harrow and Bombay found useful employment as transports.

We ought to give senior RAF commanders some credit for getting it right. Something thrown into sharp focus by the demonstrated ability of the French air force to get it very wrong...

Wordsmith
 

Wordsmith

LE
Book Reviewer
But the only army in 1939 that could be fairly described as fully motorised would be? And the Luftwaffe wasn't really fit for war either, certainly not for the war it ended up fighting...
The Luftwaffe of 1939 was well prepared for a short war. It wasn't prepared for a long one and suffered serious deficiencies both in providing a steadily expanding pipeline of trained aircrew and continually improving aircraft.

Unfortunately for the Luftwaffe, the one person with the vision to address issues such as that - Walther Wever - killed himself in an air crash in 1936. Had he lived, the Luftwaffe would have been a distinctly more formidable force in 1939.

Walther Wever (general) - Wikipedia

Wordsmith
 
Some errors in procurement were inevitable - you could add the Defiant into the same bucket as the Battle
The Defiant would've been OK had France not fallen - the idea was that bomber formations would be attacked by half- or complete squadrons of Defiants, bringing 24/48 machine guns to bear on an individual bomber at a time; I forget the exact figure, but a squadron of Defiants was believed capable of giving incoming bombers a very bloody nose indeed.

Unless they were escorted by fighters, in which case...

As I think I've said before, had Dowding - who had his doubts about the Defiant - simply made 141 and 264 Squadrons permanent members of 13 Group, we'd probably regard it as a great little niche aircraft, famed for its contribution to the killing Lutflotte 5 bombers (while the few Me110s were sorted out by accompanying Hurricanes/Spitfires) on 15 August 1940 [20% of German fighters lost; 30% of the bombers]. Circumstance meant that Dowding felt obliged to use them in the battle over Kent (and initial combats went well, with considerable over-claiming giving a false impression).

And the Battle, of course, continued to be built because Fairey refused to build anyone else's design and couldn't be compelled to do so until wartime legislation kicked in - leaving the RAF with the option of buying more of them to keep the factory going, or seeing Fairey's shed jobs with the skilled workers going elsewhere with the risk of reduction to aircraft output.
 

Wordsmith

LE
Book Reviewer
And the Battle, of course, continued to be built because Fairey refused to build anyone else's design and couldn't be compelled to do so until wartime legislation kicked in - leaving the RAF with the option of buying more of them to keep the factory going, or seeing Fairey's shed jobs with the skilled workers going elsewhere with the risk of reduction to aircraft output.
That's my understanding too. The RAF was also in the numbers game in the run up to WW2. The Battle - if not really fit for purpose - still boosted the apparent front line strength of the RAF. I still find it slightly amazing that in 1939, the Battle was rated as a medium bomber by the RAF. (The heavy's being the Hampden, Whitley and Wellington),

In late 1938/early 1939, the RAF stopped playing the numbers games, at least as far as bombers were concerned. Instead, they started looking at the total bomb tonnage that could be delivered. Which was a driver for the four engined aircraft intended to come into service in 1942.

Wordsmith
 
Lindermyer it is you that are wrong. The U.K. had a treaty to preserve the sovereignty of Poland and that is why we declared war on Germany at 10:00 03/09/39. Of course defeating nazism and Hitler was part of the process but not the end game which was never achieved.
It would help if you would quote the specific clauses of the treaty which you feel support your claim. So far you have offered no evidence at all for anything you've said.
 

overopensights

ADC
Book Reviewer
Mine does. These were ordinary blokes and civvies like you and i, to see that kind of waste on that kind of scale is unimaginable.
I agree, we spen
It a pile of steaming horse manure. For example,


Britain was not actively seeking war in 1939, it was actively trying to deter Germany from starting one. Both Britain and it's main ally France thought themselves militarily weaker than Germany and unlikely to match her military strength until 1942 at the earliest. Not the best of reasons to go to war in 1939.


Britain began rearming in 1934, alarmed by the rise of the dictatorships. Progress was slow because the UK was well behind the research curve. The RAF (for example) realised there were no modern aircraft in immediate prospect, so started to rearm with the obsolescent Hawker Hart and Hind. They didn't want to build anything else in large numbers because they didn't want to clutter up the RAF with outdated aircraft. The bomber force didn't start to seriously rearm until 1936, when the Blenheim, Battle and Whitley came along. And even they they were regarded as a deterrent force force, intended to threaten Germany with mass bombing of its cities if the Germans started doing it to UK cities. And the fighter force didn't start to rearm until 1938, when the Spitfire and Hurricane came along.

By 1938, the RAF had realised that the Whitleys, Hampdens and Wellingtons in service were not capable of delivering a knockout blow to Germany - that would not be possible until the planned 1942 generation of bombers came into service. And Fighter Command/radar showed increasing signs of being able to blunt a German attack.

Which goes back to Myth 1 - the RAF was not equipped, trained or with the numerical strength to fight an offensive war in 1939.

Wordsmith
True! But I like 'Bomber Harris's quote when the first German bombs fell on London in 1940 "They've sown the wind, but they will reap a 'whirl wind" .... and they did!
 
The bottom line is the UK went to war in 1939 because Poland had been invaded. In 1945 Poland was still in an "invaded" state all be it by Russia rather than Germany at that point. So had a sovereign and democratic Poland been restored? No. War aim achieved? No.
 
The bottom line is the UK went to war in 1939 because Poland had been invaded. In 1945 Poland was still in an "invaded" state all be it by Russia rather than Germany at that point. So had a sovereign and democratic Poland been restored? No. War aim achieved? No.
Well this was hardly the fault of the UK was it?
 

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