Historical story

We will never forget it. The British Prime Minister tried to sell Poland in 1920

David Cameron wants to get rid of Poles from Great Britain. No wonder - such an attitude has a long tradition in the UK. One of Cameron's predecessors, David Lloyd George, also strove for a radical solution to the Polish problem. And for his own convenience, he wanted to hand over the Commonwealth into the hands of the Reds.

The turn of July and August 1920 is actually one great series of successes for the Red Army, which relentlessly pressed westward.

It seemed that nothing would stop the Bolshevik onslaught and any day soon the Polish resistance would be broken, and Tukhachevsky's troops would triumphantly enter Warsaw.

Peacemaker or supporter of the Bolsheviks?

In this situation, British Prime Minister David Lloyd George decided that it was he who should have been involved in negotiating a truce. The problem, however, was that the French were not willing to endorse such an agreement and had plans to continue supporting the Polish resistance. The British politician therefore had to do something to convince the government circles on the Seine that it was high time to abandon the former ally and sit down with the Bolsheviks at the negotiating table.

An ideal opportunity for this quickly emerged, because at the beginning of August Soviet delegates in the person of Lev Kamenev and Leonid Krasin arrived in London. They had been talking for some time about signing a trade agreement with the islanders, which the head of the British government was very keen on.

Lev Kamenev was one of Lenin's closest associates. It is not surprising then that he was the one who fell to the negotiations with the British. In the photo taken in May 1919, from the left:Lew Trotsky, Włodzimierz Lenin and Kamenev (source:public domain).

No wonder then that - as he emphasizes in his book "West's first betrayal. 1920 - the forgotten appeasement ”prof. Andrzej Nowak - David Lloyd George waited only:

even seemingly prefers a compromise on the part of Kamenev or Krasin to convince the French that the idea of ​​talks with Soviet Russia in London has no alternative.

It must be clearly said that in order to gain the aforementioned appearances, the British politician went further and further:from the position of an interlocutor in an international conflict towards the role of the spokesman of the Kremlin's interests.

Marshal Henry Wilson was genuinely shocked by the attitude of the British Prime Minister (public domain).

The best proof of what it looked like is - quoted in the book by prof. Nowak - notes from the field marshal Henry Wilson. On August 6, he took part in a meeting with Kamieniew and Krasin, or - as he aptly put it - a scoundrel couple of scoundrels. During it he was literally:

terrified of the way L [loyd] G [eorge] spoke of the French and referred to them before these thugs. And also with the almost servile attitude with which he strove for Russian interests and was hostile to Poles ...

A whole tone of L.G. it shocked me to the highest degree. He was on p r z y j a c i e l s k i e j stop [emphasis in original] with Kamenev and Krasin . [ ] It was quite clear to me that all three were assuming, and that L.G. approved the occupation of Warsaw by the Bolsheviks.

A Bolshevik poster from 1920, encouraging a crackdown on Polish "masters" (source:public domain).

It is worth emphasizing that these words were never written by a friend of Poland. Marshal Wilson was very critical of Polish efforts to independently establish the border in the East, as he believed that the great powers should decide on this issue. However, he did not lose his sober view of reality, which cannot be said about the British prime minister.

Poland served to the Bolsheviks on a tray

At the meeting described above, Lloyd George led to the adoption of a draft ceasefire to come into force on the night of August 9-10, which - as Prof. Nowak:

would keep both armies in their positions - the Red Army attacking Warsaw and the Polish Army defending the capital. This ten-day truce would enable the commencement of Polish-Soviet negotiations in Minsk, on which the demarcation line and the preliminary conditions for peace would be established.

The head of the government, His Majesty, undertook that during the ceasefire, Great Britain would suspend all aid for Poland, including the transport of war equipment through Gdańsk . The islanders were also supposed to persuade France to do a similar thing and stop the Poles from any strengthening of their front .

As if that was not enough, the Bolsheviks were to be given the possibility of unlimited control of the Gdańsk port and […] of all Polish rail connections with foreign countries . Of course - as emphasized by prof. Nowak - the note given to Kamieniew did not include a similar request to the Soviet side.

In this way, Great Britain guaranteed that Poland would wait idly for what Lenin decided to do with her. The latter, in turn, could dictate a humiliating peace to Warsaw or - using the aforementioned 10 days - strengthen Tukhachevsky's forces and finally finish his victim.

David Lloyd George really wanted Józef Piłsudski to cease to be the commander-in-chief of the Polish Army. The picture shows a painting by Wojciech Kossak (source:public domain).

The Soviets are moving west

In the end, the Bolsheviks had no intention of taking advantage of the British prime minister's generosity, even though he served them Poland on a plate. Confident of victories, they did not think to interrupt the offensive against Warsaw. When on August 9, David Lloyd George realized that he was mediated by him, he did not change his attitude at all and offered:

taking the high command from Józef Piłsudski , preparing the last orders to defend the capital, and handing over the sovereignty over the Polish Army to General Weygand.

If the Poles agreed to this and showed the fighting spirit of at least 22 of their divisions, France and England would exert pressure on the Bolsheviks, so that these would respect Polish independence . No, this is not a mistake, the British Prime Minister did not intend to hand over guns, planes or soldiers to "adventurous" Poland. In his opinion, "putting pressure" was enough support.

Saving independence in 1920 was possible only thanks to the extraordinary generosity of the citizens of the young Second Polish Republic (source:public domain).

Fortunately, Lloyd George's plans collapsed when a few days later the troops led by Józef Piłsudski launched a successful counteroffensive from the Wieprz River, defeating the entire Red Army against the entire fleet.

However, it is worth remembering that almost a quarter of a century before Yalta, the head of the British government had no objections to Poland being in the Soviet sphere of influence.


Trivia is the essence of our website. Short materials devoted to interesting anecdotes, surprising details from the past, strange news from the old press. Reading that will take you no more than 3 minutes, based on single sources. This particular material is based on:

  • Andrzej Nowak, The West's first betrayal. 1920 - the forgotten appeasement , Wydawnictwo Literackie, Krakow 2015.