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Certain Limitations That Affected

The Warsaw and Slovak Uprisings1


The Warsaw Rising broke out when Germany’s position was clearly becoming untenable.
On August 2, 1944, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill said in the House of Commons
that “at this moment throughout the world there is no theatre in which Allied mastery has not
become pronounced”,2 and a week after the Slovak rising began, the top Western intelligence
organization concluded that “German strategic situation deteriorated to such a degree that no
recovery is possible”.3
That, of course, brings up the question: “Why, then, were both risings militarily defeated?”
This study, however, does not address this question directly; it focuses mainly on some of the
limitations on the side of the Allies, which affected both risings and arose from strategic and
operational problems as well as political considerations. One can hope, however, that a higher
awareness of these impediments may become useful for an eventual close analysis of the
causes of the defeat.

A. General limitations
Risings initially played an important role in the British strategy. In May 1940, the British
were facing the loss of the French Army as the only Allied land army in Europe and could not
hope that they would be able any time soon to invade the Continent with sufficient forces.4
For the defense of the British Isles, they only had three and a half fully trained and mobilized
divisions, against some 70 German divisions. However, the British Chiefs of Staff5 believed
that they would defeat Germany, and that they had three weapons with which they could do it:
economic pressure (blockade), air attack on economic targets and German morale (bombing
offensive) and “the creation of wide-spread revolts in Germany’s conquered territories”.6
At their urging, Special Operations Executive (SOE) was set up in July 1940 – a group of
gentlemen from all walks of life whose job was to fight the enemy by ungentlemanlike

The author deals here also with some questions already examined in his paper Slovenské národné povstanie
v britských a amerických archívoch presented at a conference about the Slovak National Uprising in Banska
Bystrica in 2004. He does not make any direct references to this earlier work because at the time of writing this
study the proceedings from the conference have not yet been published. However, he wants to bring it to reader’s
attention. The author has placed the authorized text of that paper on <>.
Hansard, vol. 402 cc1459-1568 (1460), 2 Aug. 1944, Debate in the House of Commons,
The National Archives of the UK (TNA): Public Record Office (PRO), Records of the Cabinet Office (CAB)
81/125, CIC 47/5, 9 Sept. 1944, Combined Intelligence Committee.
David Stafford: The Detonator Concept: British Strategy, SOE and European Resistance after the Fall of
France, Journal of Contemporary History, vol. 10, no. 2, (Apr. 1975), pp. 185-217.
Chiefs of Staff (Chiefs of Staff Committee), responsible for the military part of prosecuting the war.
TNA: PRO, CAB 66/7, COS(40)390, 25 May 1940, Chiefs of Staff.
Certain limitations that affected the Warsaw and Slovak uprisings

methods. SOE’s main function was “to promote dissatisfaction and if possible revolt or
guerilla warfare . . . [and] to hamper enemy’s war effort by sabotage and subversive warfare”.
SOE came under the Ministry of Economic Warfare but it was receiving directives from the
Chiefs of Staff on strategic objectives, and countries and areas to which they should give
priority, as well as guidance from the Foreign Office on objectives for underground political
activity.7 SOE served as a coordinating authority for all activities related to resistance
movements in occupied countries, to whom the Allied General Staff was expected to refer all
matters related to sabotage, and the organization of resistance and secret armies. Targets were
selected by SOE and other Departments or Commanders-in-Chief, “but no order to attack a
target was given by SOE until the proper authorities have authorised it, either the Chiefs of
Staff, Commanders-in-Chief, and/or the Foreign Office. Each of these in their own sphere
[had] also the power of veto”.8 The Chiefs of Staff reported to the Defense Committee and to
the War Cabinet, and in the matters of strategic importance to the highest Anglo-American
military organ – the Combined Chiefs of Staff.
The problem of manpower was eventually solved by the entry of the Soviet Union and, in
particular, of the United States into the war in 1941-42. This development, changes in the
military situation, priorities and operational experience necessitated the re-evaluation of the
role of resistance movements in military operations. Various factors had to be considered,
such as the degree of support by local populations, timing, the utility of secret armies, the
availability and effective use of resources, and the value of each particular resistance
movement for the Allied war effort. Limitations that arose had a profound impact on the
conduct and support of subversive activities.
Apathy was an enemy of resistance. So was the improvement in weapons which made the
task of controlling the people much easier for the Germans – resisters had “no chance against
a few tanks or dive bombers”.9 In addition, SOE found out that as the victory began to appear
inevitable, the people in occupied Europe were “reluctant to expedite [it]” by risking their
lives and those of their families. Moreover, their “dreary poverty, dangers, and privations”
were in a sharp contrast with exile governments’ “life of ease, comfort and plenty”. “We
delude ourselves,” wrote an SOE’s official, “if we imagine any country, except perhaps
Poland, is likely to undertake revolutionary action on mere instruction from the émigré
Government here.”10
Another problem was timing. The Chiefs of Staff warned against premature outbreaks as
early as 1940 and the British Government as well as exile Governments had adopted this
policy. Political Warfare Executive expressed it succinctly: “Problem is of exact timing. A
premature revolt would be easily crushed and retribution would be so terrible that it could
never be staged again.”11 Besides, risings were a long-term proposition. It was unlikely that
they would break out before Germany was on her knees. What was needed, however, was
immediate, increasing, and continuous aggression, but not too strong to provoke severe
reprisals. Thus, sabotage and subversive activities became a priority, at the expense of secret
armies and risings. In March 1943, for instance, the Chiefs of Staff ruled on Poland and

TNA: PRO, Records of the Air Ministry (AIR) 19/815, 24 Nov. 1943, memo: “The Special Operations Execu-
tive”, enclosure to memo from Lord Selborne to War Cabinet.
TNA: PRO, CAB 69/9, F.1507/138/18, memo, 11 Jan. 1944, Selborne.
TNA: PRO, AIR 19/815, memo, 6 June 1942, Political Warfare Executive.
TNA: PRO, Records of Special Operations Executive (HS) 4/143, memo, 2 Nov. 1942, MX.
TNA: PRO, AIR 19/815, memo, 6 June 1942, Political Warfare Executive.


Czechoslovakia that although the preparation of forces for a rising “when German hold is
weakened has great political importance in these countries”, the supply of arms for them
“should not interfere to too great an extent with the provision of material for sabotage which
can be carried out now”.12
As to secret armies, SOE had big hopes for them, mainly for those in Poland and the Pro-
tectorate. However, secret armies could only be effective when backed by fully equipped
regular forces. Otherwise, they would be crushed. The Chiefs of Staff ruled, therefore, that
“their organization should be limited only to those areas where our offensive is possible”,
which was across the English Channel.13
The biggest limitations, however, were those related to geography and air transport. In
1941-42, the British established several important principles that remained valid until the end
of the war:
1) Any airborne invasion of Poland or Czechoslovakia, including the dispatch to Poland of
a Polish airborne force at the time of a rising, was impossible;
2) Support must be limited to sabotage groups alone, as “the physical problem of trans-
porting material for a secret army in these countries was beyond solution without an unwar-
rantable diversion of bomber effort”;
3) On geographical grounds the supplies to those armies could best be provided by Russia;
4) “Much as the Poles fear Russian intervention, it is Russia which must eventually be a
controlling influence directing tactical action of such armies.”14
The Secretary of State for Air Sir Archibald Sinclair called his position “a most unhappy
one. On the one hand is a crowd of people who want to take my heavy bombers away from
me, some for other theatres, some for troop carrying, some for carrying mails, some for torpe-
do dropping, some for overseas reconnaissance; while . . . there are those who . . . appreciate
the importance of bombing, and who want us to bomb more targets than Bomber Command at
its present strength can effectively tackle.”15 The Air Ministry would agree to a diversion
from the bombing offensive and other essential duties only if strategically or politically vital
operations were involved. Such were those in the Balkans, where “the largest dividend [could]
be earned”,16 or those for supplying the Polish secret army in the spring of 1944. In addition,
there were enormous demands on the British and American air forces at the highest command
level. For 1943 and 1944, the Combined Chiefs of Staff ordered several large air campaigns:
the bomber offensive of the highest strategic priority against Germany (Pointblank), support
of ground operations (Overlord), and air supply of the Balkan and French guerillas.17
Thus SOE had only few aircraft at its disposal – by October 1943, it was 26.18 It could
meet just part of the demand – French resistance alone could take all deliveries, which these

TNA: PRO, CAB 121/305, COS(43)142(O), SOE Directive for 1943, 20 Mar. 1943, Chiefs of Staff.
That is, in northern France, Holland and Belgium. TNA:PRO, CAB 79/20, COS(41)287th Meeting, 14 Aug.
1941, and JP(41)649, 9 Aug. 1941; quote in CAB 121/305, COS(43)56th Meeting, 4 Mar. 1943.
TNA: PRO, CAB 79/20, JP(42)465, 1 May 1942, Joint Planning Staff (JPS).
TNA: PRO, AIR 19/815, 30 Mar. 1942, Sinclair to Eden.
TNA: PRO, Records of the Prime Minister’s Office (PREM) 3/408/3, DO(43)17, 2 Aug. 1943, Eden in
Defence Committee. The anti-Axis forces in Yugoslavia were containing about 33 Axis divisions there. See also
PREM 3/408/3, COS(43)135th Meeting (O), 23 June 1943.
TNA: PRO, CAB 88/16, CCS 319, Progress Report to the President and the Prime Minister, 19 Aug. 1943,
Combined Chiefs of Staff.
TNA: PRO, CAB 79/66, JP(43)356(Final), 16 Oct. 1943. Other sources show slightly different numbers.

Certain limitations that affected the Warsaw and Slovak uprisings

aircraft could supply. The Chiefs of Staff had, therefore, to allocate some of these aircraft for
the support of the resistance in Central Europe just to keep it alive. They based that allocation
on the results, which they hoped to achieve from the different countries, and their strategic
value. Poland received 20 %, Hungary and Czechoslovakia 5 %, remainder of Europe 75 %.19
In 1944, the situation improved. The 26 aircraft assigned to SOE and 32 aircraft earmarked
for the Balkans were put into a single pool. Later more aircraft were placed at SOE’s disposal.
Nevertheless, this was still far below SOE’s needs.20
The decisive factor determining the degree of SOE’s support was Chiefs of Staff’s
directives, which set priorities for individual countries or areas. The Chiefs of Staff based
them mainly on the conditions existing in the particular country and the country’s strategic
value. Former Czechoslovakia had low priority. Its spirit of resistance was broken, and “there
seemed no possibility of widespread resistance until Germany was about to collapse”.21 In
March 1943, the Chiefs of Staff set the following order of priorities: “1. The Italian Islands,
Corsica and Crete, 2. The Balkans, 3. France, 4. Poland and Czechoslovakia, 5. Norway and
the Low Countries, 6. Far East.”22 In November 1943, the order of priorities reflected the
capitulation of Italy: “1. The Balkans, 2. Enemy occupied Italy, 3. France, 4. The Aegean
Isles and Crete, 5. Poland, Hungary and Czechoslovakia, 6. Norway and the Low Countries,
7. Far East.”23 SOE’s air operations in 1943 also reflect the priorities and the relative value of
resistance movements: France 952 sorties, 1,307 operations, 723 successes; Poland 82-78-60;
Czechoslovakia 5-3-0.24

B. Operational experience
Operational experience influenced the support of resistance and deserves special attention.
SOE’s attitudes towards the Polish and Czech resistance25 diametrically differed for a great
part of the war. SOE respected the Poles for their reliability, utmost cooperation, and
determination to fight the Germans. The Foreign Office shared that view. SOE, however,
considered the Czechs unreliable, uncooperative, and unwilling to make a proper contribution
to the Allied cause. Moreover, SOE felt that the Czech Intelligence Service and underground
organization were in no way comparable to those of the Poles.26

TNA: PRO, CAB 79/66, COS(43)255th Meeting, 20 Oct. 1943.
TNA: PRO, PREM 3/408/3, 26 Jan. 1944, Selborne to Churchill. SOE was pressing for additional 128 aircraft.
TNA: PRO, CAB 121/305, Appreciation on SOE activities in 1943, COS(43)212(O), 24 Apr. 1943, SOE.
TNA: PRO, CAB 121/305, COS(43)142(O), SOE Directive for 1943, 20 Mar. 1943, Chiefs of Staff.
TNA: PRO, CAB 84/58, JP(43)397 Final, 18 Nov. 1943, JPS; CAB 121/305, COS(43)289th Meeting (O),
26 Nov. 1943, Chiefs of Staff.
Without the Balkans. TNA:PRO, CAB 69/6, 11 Jan. 1944, Selborne to Defence Committee.
The term “Czech or Czechs” used in this paper to denote the so-called Czechoslovak exile Government in
London is in conformity with American and British documents of that period. This usage is also justified by ex-
tensive documentary evidence, which shows that all major political and military decisions concerning Slovakia
or Slovak resistance, adopted in London, were made by Edvard Benes and Colonel Moravec, with an occasional
participation of General Ingr. No political or military official of Slovak origin had any say in these matters and
no Slovak was included even in a wider circle of military officials dealing with operational issues. Extensive evi-
dence also shows that the Czech politico-military leadership in London had the overall control of the planning,
preparation, and command of the Slovak uprising of 1944, including the all-important provisioning of military
aid from the Allies.
TNA: PRO, HS 4/4, comments on C’s letter to Cadogan, 1 May 1943, SOE.


The Foreign Office was aware of the Czech failings but often sided with the Czech organi-
zation in London against SOE, apparently fearing that a firmer policy towards the Czechs
might push them even deeper into Soviet embrace.
Czech leadership was aware of these views on SOE’s part. For instance, head of the Czech
Section Captain Keary told one of Beneš’s men, whom head of Czech military intelligence
Colonel Moravec sent to snoop around, that “speaking both of anti-German subversive
activities and of the use made of military facilities, we had given a free hand to both the Poles
and the Czechs. Whilst the Poles used their free hand in a manner most satisfactory to us, we
were most dissatisfied with the Czechs‘ lack of frankness and cooperation in the active war
The relations between SOE and the Czechs in London began to decline by early 1942. The
main cause was the growing awareness that the Czechs did not want their home organization
to be used for the benefit of the Allied war effort, but hoped to use it for their own aims, such
as “the final rectification of the frontiers by force, the settlement of the Slovakian and Sudeten
problems and the policing of Germany”. In other words, to use it for the “tasks that [had] little
to do with the actual problem of winning the war”.28
The assassination of Reinhard Heydrich, ordered by Edvard Beneš and Colonel Moravec,
apparently at the behest of British Secret Intelligence Service (MI6), marked the start of
further deterioration between the Czech Headquarters and SOE. After the Germans complete-
ly wiped out their home organization in a wave of reprisals, the Czechs in London did not
want to do anything that might produce further reprisals, for which the people at home might
later hold them accountable. Therefore, they did not want SOE to send any sabotage or orga-
nizational teams there. “[Czech] affairs here are landing for a crisis,” wrote a SOE official in
December 1942, “in that co-operation has been virtually nil, and all our attempts at activating
them have been smoothly but firmly sabotaged.”29 SOE officials tried in many ways, without
success, to bypass Moravec, who was running intelligence, subversion, and communications,
and who in SOE’s view were using his position to obstruct SOE's activities. SOE was so
distressed by the Czech reluctance to cooperate, or as much as share the information obtained
from the Protectorate,30 that some of its officials were at some moments considering closing
down the Czech Section and discrediting President Beneš in public.
Nevertheless, the British did act firmly against the Czech intelligence service after its
organs “smuggled out [of England] to the Protectorate a highly indiscreet letter of President
Benes, which subsequently fell into enemy hands”31 and, as a statement of Czech problems,32
became a godsend for German propaganda. Chief of Secret Intelligence Service Sir Stewart
Menzies informed the Foreign Office that he had “completely lost confidence in the good
faith of the Czech Intelligence Service” and decided to take away their ciphers – a privilege

TNA: PRO, HS 4/9, 17 Aug. 1943, memo by Keary on his conversation with Radakovič.
TNA: PRO, HS 4/5, MX/CZ/822, 12 June 1942, MX to M.
TNA: PRO, HS 4/201, MPX/PD/25, 17 Dec. 1942, MPX to MX1.
“We are never given concrete information about the state of their underground organisation as discovered by
newly arrived SOE agents . . . Signalled information useful to the preparation and carrying-out of future ope-
rations is never disclosed to us,” etc. TNA:PRO, HS 4/5, 30 Apr. 1943, memo by SOE.
TNA: PRO, HS 4/4, 14 May 1943, CSO(T) to CSS, CSO(T)554, and CSO(T)554/A (Secret Intelligence
Moravec told the leader of the Antimony team, who took the letter to Bohemia, that Beneš would tell him in
person “how he wants to solve our problems, such as Germans, Fascists, Communists, Slovaks, Poles, etc.”
Archiv bezpečnostních složek, Praha: 302-154-7, record of a meeting, 5 Oct. 1942.

Certain limitations that affected the Warsaw and Slovak uprisings

that only the Poles and the Czechs had among the ‘minor’ Allies. In addition, the Secret
Service wanted the codes because it had to wage “a constant struggle to get reports from the
Czechs” and could not verify the sources of information and assess its value. That created
“strong presumption that much of their information is written up in London”.33 The initiative
of the British Secret Service, backed by SOE, was approved.34
Czech sabotage of British efforts, however, continued. In March 1944, SOE’s head Gene-
ral Gubbins expressed his “[profound disillusionment] regarding the Czechs and any possible
subversive warfare that can be organised there or ever put into action . . . The whole business
is run by Dr. Beneš, using Colonel Moravec as his agent, and their combined efforts are
directed solely towards political matters (such as keeping sweet with the Soviet).”35
As an armed action in Slovakia was drawing near, Captain Keary suggested again to close
down SOE’s Czech section. He then offered this appraisal of the relations between the Czech
organization in London and SOE: “The Czechs have deliberately disappointed our unstinted
efforts to raise them to the level of real Allies.”36

A. Air transport
It seems that the leaders of the Polish and Czech resistance in London, deeply engrossed in
their plans, were unable to accept fully the realities of their position. They were overlooking
the fact that their liberation was completely in the hands of others. Before the outbreak of the
Second World War, the British General Staff concluded that “the fate of Poland [would] de-
pend upon ultimate outcome of the war” and proposed that the overriding priority for Britain
should be to ensure British ability to cause a defeat of Germany and not the ability to relieve
pressure on Poland.37 The same conclusion, of course, applied also to former Czechoslovakia.
The key result of the lost war was that neither the Poles nor the Czechs had an army in
their occupied countries; they only had an underground organization of doubtful strength and
value that was not an effective tool for conducting military operations. Therefore, any mean-
ingful resistance activities and eventual large-scale risings entirely depended on financial,
material, and organizational assistance from the outside.
In this regard, however, both the Poles and Czechs in London were ignoring real condi-
tions and possibilities in air transport. In March 1942, a Czech plan for arming its secret army
in the Protectorate assumed 3,125 sorties.38 In SOE’s opinion, an operation like that would
immobilize a large part of British heavy bombers for 6 weeks. Two months later, the Polish
command presented a plan, which included a request to supply the secret army of about
100,000 men. That task would have required about 1,800 sorties.39 The Poles and the Czechs
made these requests without regard to severe limitations of weather and aircraft availability.

TNA: PRO, HS 4/9, C/3098, 27 Apr. 1943, C to Cadogan.
TNA: PRO, HS 4/9, C/4129, 10 Aug. 1943, C to Cadogan. For SOE‘s position see for instance note 26.
TNA: PRO, HS 4/2, CD/6742, 10 Mar. 1944, CD to AD/H.
TNA: PRO, HS 4/4, MY/2211, 6 July 1944, MY to MP.
TNA: PRO, CAB 66/1, DP(P.)63(Revise), 18 July 1939, Committee of Imperial Defense.
TNA: PRO, HS 4/16, MYA/CZ/276, 18 Mar. 1942, MYA.
TNA: PRO, CAB 79/20, JP(43)465, 1 May 1942, JPS.


(At that time, SOE had only five aircraft capable of reaching Poland.)40 In June 1943, the
Poles submitted to the Combined Chiefs of Staff a plan involving the arming the secret army
(500 flights to carry about 750 tons), and the transfer of the Polish Parachute Brigade and
Polish Air Force to Poland, (720 sorties initially plus daily transportation of 600-700 tons of
equipment and maintenance for 20 days).41 Three months later, the Poles turned to the British:
500 ton of arms, or 600 sorties, before the start of the rising, then further 2,000 tons to equip
50 battalions, and additional 1,100 tons of ammunition per day.42 In May 1944, they asked the
Combined Chiefs of Staff for arms involving 500 flights. Should the Allies agree to support a
rising in Poland, further 1,300 flights would be needed.43
The Allies rejected all these requests. SOE noted that “the Poles now fully realize that
[their] ambitious plans . . . for an enormous air lift . . . involving hundreds of aircraft [and] the
transport of the whole Polish Parachute Brigade . . . will never be realised”.44 Yet, the Polish
exile government continued to make impracticable demands. Shortly before, and right after
the start of the rising, it requested again the items already rejected – transfer of the Polish Air
Force and Paratroop units to Poland. It did so against the advice of SOE who thought that the
Poles would stand a better chance had they chosen a more realistic goal, for instance, an
increase in arms deliveries to Warsaw.

B. Conditions for success

First, a question should be asked: What were the key aims of planned risings? Along with
shared aims, such as the restoration of independence of their countries, and the making a
contribution to the defeat of Germany, the Poles and the Czechs had their specific goals. The
Poles wished to show the Soviets who the masters of Poland were, whereas the Czechs
desired to expiate the humiliation of Munich and bring Slovakia back to Czechoslovakia.
However, Slovakia presented a special problem. Czech leadership in London was basing
its plans and preparations for a general rising on the belief that Germany would collapse
before the fronts have reached the former Czechoslovak territories. That belief, and different
conditions in the Protectorate, occupied by the Germans, and in Slovakia, unoccupied, were
forcing the Czechs “to prepare two different actions”:45 in the Protectorate, a rising, in Slova-
kia, a coup d’état.46 Of course, it was going to be a coup sui generis: its purpose was not just
the overthrow of the government but above all the elimination of Slovakia as a national entity.
It this regard, the leaders of the pro-Czechoslovak resistance received orders to liquidate the
government, declare the Czechoslovak republic, declare the Slovak Army part of the Czecho-
slovak military forces, and remove the leaders hostile to the Czechoslovak idea.47 By early

TNA: PRO, AIR 19/815, DO(42)29, 14 Mar. 1942, and DO(42)9th Meeting, 26 Mar. 1943, Defence
TNA: PRO, CAB 88/13, CCS 267, 30 June 1943, Colonel Mitkiewicz to Combined Chiefs of Staff.
TNA: PRO, Foreign Office (FO) 371/34557/C11274, memo, 28 Sept. 1943, the Polish Government.
TNA: PRO, FO 371/39426/C8488, record of a Special Meeting, 12 June 1944, Combined Chiefs of Staff.
TNA: PRO, HS 4/161, memo: Polish resistance movement, 11 May 44, SOE.
Vojenský historický archiv, Praha (VHA), 37-306-3, 10 Aug. 1943, [Miroslav] to Barry, not sent.
Coup d’état: A sudden decisive excercise of force in politics: the violent overthrow or alteration of an existing
government by a small group. Merriam-Webster’s Online Dictionary, 2009, <http://www.merriam- d’etat>.
The quantity and scope of orders given by the Czech command to the leaders of pro-Czechoslovak resistance
in Slovakia between November 28, 1943 and August 18, 1944 can be seen from a list divided into 40 groups.
VHA, 20-2-4, n.d.

Certain limitations that affected the Warsaw and Slovak uprisings

1944, with Germany still fighting and the fronts getting closer to Slovakia, the original plan of
an action in Slovakia was changed from a coup to a combination of a coup and a defensive
action against German intervention.
Czech leaders initially intended to bring about the coup by own military forces. That is
also apparent from Beneš’s statements made at a conference with his military advisers in
January 1943: “Our first task will be to occupy at least one or a few districts in Slovakia in
order to document carefully Czechoslovakia before the world.” Beneš cautioned, however,
against the occupation of Bratislava: should the Slovak Army fight to defend independence,
“we shall not try to take Bratislava, but we shall besiege it”.48 Beneš also warned the Slovaks
that should they oppose the re-attachment of Slovakia to the Czech Lands, they would not
succeed and would face a “political, financial, and economic revenge”.49 Later, the execution
of the coup was assigned to the Slovak Army. In the event of German intervention, the
Czechs promised their supporters in Slovakia military assistance, but conditioned it by the
execution of the coup.50
What were the conditions for success? The Polish Government-in-exile held strong views
about that: “Only well organized, coordinated, and directed rising would have a chance of
success.” A premature rising, “uncoordinated with other Allied operations, deprived of exter-
nal help,” would soon be quelled by the Germans, who would then massacre the whole popu-
lation.51 British military experts shared these views but pointed out that it was unlikely to
secure the necessary degree of collaboration with the Soviets. In such circumstances, they
thought it impossible to advise the Poles on the timing of the rising.52
With the advance of the Soviet armies through Polish territory, the political position of the
Polish Government was getting worse. The Government was gradually relaxing these rules as
well as others until it dropped them all.
As to the Czech military and political leaders in London, they initially assumed that a
rising in the Protectorate would be set off by the secret army. After the Heydrich affair, how-
ever, that option became unfeasible. The Czechs eventually admitted that their “communica-
tions are bad, [their] organization is broken . . . there is no central direction . . . no leaders.
There are no arms,” and switched to the concept of a spontaneous rising, with a maximum
support from the outside. The idea was to “wait until something happens somewhere and then
drop arms and the people there”.53
The Czech leaders apparently did not want to be responsible for a failed rising in the
Protectorate. But there was one additional reason – a desire to create a period of lawlessness,54
use it to “create terror” to make the German minority run55 and kill enemies and traitors, while
bypassing the courts. Under the circumstances, conditions for success were discussed mostly
in general terms. For instance, a rising was supposed to begin only if there was a 99 percent

VHA, 20-1-4, 22 Jan. 1943, record of a meeting.
TNA: PRO, FO 371/34336/C2188, 2 Mar. 1943, telegram (tel.) 158, Beneš to Gringo through British Embassy
in Stockholm.
VHA, 22-12-12, 292/taj.3A-44, 5 Jan. 1944. See also Národní archiv, Praha (NAP), 1499, inv. c. 95,
61-19-9, 25 Nov. 1943, War Diary.
TNA: PRO, CAB 121/454, 126/44, 25 Feb. 1944, Mitkiewicz to Combined Chiefs of Staff.
TNA: PRO, CAB 79/74, JIC(44)204(O)(Final), Joint Intelligence Sub-Committee, 18 May 1944.
NAP, 1499, 61-19-9, War Diary, 29 Mar. 1943, Ingr at a meeting.
VHA, ŠVBM-Londýn, inv. c. 9/1, 103/taj.-1.odd., note on a meeting of 2nd Aug 1943, 3 Aug. 1943, Miroslav.
VHA, ŠVBM-Londýn, inv. c. 8, 104 Taj./3.oddel., 2 Aug. 1943, Beneš at a meeting.


chance of success; failure was not allowed because that would be ascribed to incompetence
and military helplessness.56 However, no hard rules were set.
No specific rules were set for Slovakia, either. Success meant the execution of a coup
d’état. Unlike in Poland, military victory was not contemplated; on the contrary – in the event
of German intervention, the Czech leadership estimated that organized resistance in Slovakia
would last only a few days.57

C. Arms and politics

a) The Poles
Polish attempts to obtain arms from their Western Allies had been influenced by various
obstacles of strategic and operational nature:
• military situation
• heavy operational requirements of active theaters
• high-altitude bombers used by the U.S.Army Air Force not suitable and available for
night operations in the support of resistance groups
• priorities for the use of aircraft in the support of resistance groups in other areas
• lack of suitable aircraft for the delivery of large quantities of supplies
• unfavorable geographic position.58
In addition, certain political aspects were also involved. Top officials of the U.S. and
British intelligence services thought that equipping a secret army in Poland would produce a
violently hostile Soviet reaction: the Soviet Union might think that the aims of such action on
the part of the United States and Great Britain was to oppose the Red Army in its advance
beyond the 1939 frontier. They were convinced that the secret army would fight the Germans,
but were also certain that should the question of the Eastern frontier of Poland remain un-
solved, the secret army would be disposed to resist the Soviets troops. Therefore, they felt that
arming the secret army would be “liable to create serious trouble between the United States
and British Governments on the one hand and the Soviet Government on the other”.59
However, in considering the scope and kind of assistance to the Polish underground by the
Chiefs of Staff, the military factors played the primary role.
On that basis, the Western Allies approved increased supplies for sabotage and intelligence
activities but did not approve the full scale arming of the Secret Army.60
The Foreign Office and the War Cabinet desired a strong underground army in Poland, of
course, up to the point. The Soviet advance was raising concerns: the British feared that the
Russians might break it up and kill its leaders, “thus facilitating any designs they may have of
running Poland in their own way”.61 The Poles in London feared that if the Russians began to
victimize the underground, the population would “attack the Russians”.62 For the British
Government, therefore, it was essential to ensure that no armed conflict between the Poles and
NAP, 1499, 61-19-19, War Diary, 11 Feb. 1943, Miroslav at a meeting.
A report by the Czech H.Q. states that “right from the beginning, the prospects of the Slovak rising were
thought to be very pessimistic and its duration was estimated to be a few days”, Vilém Prečan, ed., Slovenské
národné povstanie: Dokumenty (Bratislava: Vydavateľstvo politickej literatúry, 1965), 822-831 (830).
TNA: PRO, CAB 88/13, CCS 267-267/7, 3 June 1943 - 21 January 1944, Combined Chiefs of Staff.
TNA: PRO, CAB 88/13, CCS 267/3, 17 Sept. 1943.
TNA: PRO, CAB 88/13, CCS 267/3; CCS 267/4, 23 Sept. 43, Combined Chiefs of Staff to Mitkiewicz.
TNA: PRO, FO 371/34557/C11658, memo WP(43)439, 5 Oct. 1943, Eden to War Cabinet.
TNA: PRO, FO 371/34587/C11782, dispatch (d.) 327, 6 Oct. 1943, Eden to O’Malley.

Certain limitations that affected the Warsaw and Slovak uprisings

the Soviets occurred, and that a settlement of the frontier question was reached.63 In addition,
the British thought that a strong secret army achieving results against the Germans could help
convince the Soviets about the necessity of reaching an agreement with the Poles. And since
the results were largely dependent on the extent of air support, the Foreign Office was press-
ing for the maximum air support possible for sabotage activities.64 At Churchill’s insistence,
the British Government agreed in February 1944 to treble deliveries to Poland.65 As a result,
SOE was able to drop 172.5 tons of stores in April and May of 1944, twice the weight deliv-
ered during the three previous years.66 During that time, SOE made its own contribution to the
Polish cause by violating the Chiefs of Staff directive, which permitted SOE to supply prima-
rily sabotage material to Poland. SOE, however, deliberately changed the ratio of sabotage
material to arms in favor of arms.67
Expectations that the Poles and the British may have had from the Polish Home Army,
were destroyed by the Soviet offensive Bagration of June and July 1944. The Soviet armies
covered almost 600 kilometers in about five weeks, without needing help from the secret
army, and by the end of July came close to the gates of Warsaw. By that time, the hopes of
Prime Minister Mikolajczyk for a reasonable agreement with Stalin as well as the chances of
his government to return to Poland had virtually disappeared. On August 23, 1944, Mikolaj-
czyk yielded to Churchill’s pressure and agreed to go to Moscow to negotiate with Stalin and
a “bunch of usurpers, nobodies, turncoats, and Communists”68 which was calling itself the
only legitimate representative of the Polish people.
The next day the Polish Government passed onto its Delegate in Warsaw the authority to
call a rising. A few days later, the Poles asked the British for help to improve Mikolajczyk’s
“weak hand” at his talks in Moscow by getting “all British publicity agencies to play up the
achievements of the Underground Army”.69 The Poles were just about to play their last trump
card – the rising in Warsaw.

b) The Czechs
Strategic and operational factors, applicable to the Poles, also applied to the Czechs.
Unlike the Poles, the Czechs faced no political obstacles but suffered from grave flaws in
their organization, planning, and attitude. The Czechs could not provide any information as to
the size or disposition of their organization in the Protectorate. They eventually admitted that
their secret army did not exist, yet kept pressing for arms. Their final plan of July 1943 was
based on a spontaneous rising, which SOE found impossible to support. SOE told General
Miroslav bluntly that “the Chiefs of Staff would not keep aircraft standing by, waiting to
support a spontaneous Czech rising”.70 In SOE’s view, a rising dependent on assistance from
Great Britain was “doomed to failure unless it [was] initiated from this country.”71

TNA: PRO, CAB 65/45, WM(44)16th Conclusions, 7 Feb. 1944, War Cabinet.
TNA: PRO, FO 371/34558/C14358, 30 Dec. 1943, Roberts to General Hollis.
TNA: PRO, FO 371/39422/C1885, DO(44)4th Meeting, 3 Feb. 1944, Defence Committee.
TNA: PRO, HS 7/183: Polish Section History, n.d.
TNA: PRO, HS 4/146, 29 May 1944, MP.21 to MP.1.
National Archives at College Park, College Park, MD, USA (NACP), General Records of the Department of
State, Record Group (RG) 59, 103.918/7-2944, R&A 1113.70, Office of Strategic Services (OSS), 29 July 1944,
Ambassador Ciechanowski on the Committee of National Liberation.
TNA: PRO, FO 371/39406/C9958, 27 July 1944, report on a conversation with Grabski, O’Malley.
TNA: PRO, HS 4/2, PLANS/415/797, 15 July 1943, record of a meeting.
TNA: PRO, HS 4/4, MP/CD/4350, 17 July 1943, MP to V/CD.


Unable to secure a commitment from the British, the Czech leadership turned to the
Soviets who promised to meet all its requirements. Later, however, it turned out that that was
not a binding commitment.

c) Blocking American arms for Slovakia

In the spring of 1944, the American Office of Strategic Services (OSS) proposed to the
Czech military circles in London to send a special team to Slovakia with the task of intel-
ligence gathering and organization of arms deliveries. Nevertheless, long negotiations by the
OSS with Moravec’s Department and British Secret Intelligence Service brought no results. It
turned out that neither the Czech politico-military leadership nor British secret services
wanted the OSS to operate in former Czechoslovakia.
The things took a new turn on July 1, when General Sergěj Ingr received from head of the
OSS General William Donovan a proposal to send a supply mission to Slovakia. The mis-
sion’s purpose was to arrange delivery of arms in larger quantities to the Slovak resistance.
Ingr responded by informing an OSS official in London Captain Katek, who had passed this
offer to him, that he had just asked the British for arms and already received their preliminary
approval72 – in other words, the problem of arms had been solved. General Miroslav spoke in
a similar vein.
That was not true, though. No recent request, let alone approval, existed. At that time,
Ingr’s staff had only been waiting for Lt. Col. Golian, commander of a military organization
in Slovakia subordinated to the London Headquarters, to send them his requests. Those
arrived piecemeal, the last one on July 7. Only then Miroslav informed Gubbins of SOE that
“materials were required to be dropped to two reserve Slovak Infantry Divisions in the area of
Banska Bystrica” and that “the requisite arms and stores had been promised to the Czechs by
a senior USA officer in London”. It seemed to SOE that “Miroslav’s account of these offers,
and of the plan for use in connection with any Slovak military revolt were rather vague”.73 A
week later, Miroslav was able to provide SOE more information in writing, giving the type
and amounts of arms, and the dropping points. He also mentioned the purpose of the action
intended: the task of the reserve units was to support two well-equipped divisions, which were
supposed in cooperation with the Soviet High Command “to help Soviet Forces to cross the
Lieutenant Colonel Perkins of SOE and F. K. Roberts of the Foreign Office, who discussed
the matter, considered it odd that the Czechs “passed this request to us rather than to the Rus-
sians, with whom these Slovak Divisions were intending to co-operate”. Yet, both agreed the
arms requested were worth it, “if thereby we can obtain the revolt of a group in Czechoslo-
vakia”.75 Since there was a risk that “these arms would be used against the Russians if by any
chance the Slovak divisions did not desert and fought with the Germans”, the Foreign Office
considered it essential “to consult the Russians before agreeing to this Czech request”.76
War Diary, SI Branch, OSS London, vol. 7, p. 57, microfilm, (Frederick, PA: University Publications of
America, 1985). In response, Katek suggested to Ingr that “even if [the Czechs] did obtain British approval, they
should attempt to obtain the greatest help possible from whatever quarter offered”, ibid.
TNA: PRO, HS 4/27, encl. to MP/CZ/6144, 11 July 1944, record of conversation of 8 July 1944 with
Miroslav, MP.
TNA: PRO, HS 4/9, 536/Taj.3.A.odd.1943, 13 July 1944, Miroslav to Perkins.
TNA: PRO, HS 4/9, MP/CZ/6160, 14 July 1944, MP to CD.
TNA: PRO, FO 371/38927/C9782, minute, 19 July 1944, Roberts. For Foreign Office instructions to
Ambassador Kerr see ibid., tel. 2329, 31 July 1944.

Certain limitations that affected the Warsaw and Slovak uprisings

The British intervention77 took the Soviets by surprise as well. “It is understandable,”
Ambassador Fierlinger cabled to London, “the British would be surprised themselves, should,
for instance, General de Gaulle approach Moscow with an analogous request.”78 The Soviet
Government informed the British Ambassador in Moscow that they could not pass a decision
on the British request until they had examined the plan concerning the Slovak divisions.79 The
Soviets, however, had never formally replied to the British despite the latter’s further inqui-
ries, thus de facto having blocked the dispatch of British arms to Slovakia.
The Czech request did not make any military sense. Its purpose was political – to prevent
the arrival of American arms and specialists to Slovakia. The Czechs in London only used
SOE so that they would not have to reject the American offer directly. They apparently acted
under the influence of Katek’s warning that “should General Donovan’s plan be given the
cold shoulder by both the British and the Czechs, the result would probably be either a com-
plete indifference to Czech matters by our organization, and, therefore, by the Americans, or
absolutely independent operations which would have nothing to do with either the British or
the Czechs”. 80 It was clear to the Czechs after this admonition that they would not be able to
prevent OSS activities in Slovakia. Therefore, they tried to convince the OSS that the British
had taken care of the arms, and to re-direct it to the type of activities which would not be con-
nected with supplying arms and war material. First, Moravec’s deputy Lt. Col. Strankmüller
advised Cpt. Katek on August 10 that “SOE was about to send material to the underground
and was negotiating for clearance with Moscow”, although the Soviets had halted the British
delivery four days earlier. Then Moravec and Strankmüller convinced Katek that in Slovakia,
“where an almost perfect intelligence organization has been built by the [Czech Intelligence
Service] as a consequence of Slovakia’s relative independence from Germany . . . any further
military or economic intelligence operations . . . would be superfluous”. Finally, they
succeeded in directing Katek and the OSS to “purely political intelligence, for which there
was an ample room in Slovakia”.81
The Czech exile government may have had several reasons why it acted this way. For
instance, a fear that the presence of American special services in Slovakia providing delivery
of American arms would generate Soviet displeasure, as well as a desire to divert precious
resources from Slovakia to the Protectorate. One way or the other, it managed to arouse
Soviet distrust towards what seemed to the Soviets to be a conspiracy with the British.

A. Warsaw
In the last week of July, the Polish Government asked the British through diplomatic and
military channels for military assistance for the “forthcoming final and decisive struggle with
the Germans”.82 The Foreign Office turned their request down.83 The Poles in London did not

TNA: PRO, FO 371/39841/C11068, 1 Aug. 1944, Kerr to Vyshinsky.
Prečan, Dokumenty, pp. 286-288 (288), 9 Aug. 1944, Fierlinger to Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
TNA: PRO, FO 371/39841/C11068, 6 Aug. 1944, Vyshinsky to Kerr. Kerr cabled Foreign Office on 7 Aug.
NACP, OSS, RG 226, Entry 210, Sources and Methods Files, 4 July 1944, conversation with Miroslav.
War Diary, SI Branch, OSS London, pp. 61-63.
TNA: PRO, FO 371/39428/C10645, COS(44)670, 29 July 1944, General Kukiel to General Ismay.


wait for a refusal of help by the Chiefs of Staff84 but let their people in Warsaw set off the
rising. It seems they expected that – should things go wrong – the killing of the civilians in
Warsaw would force the British to reverse their decision.
Alas, the rising did go wrong. After an exceptional advance, the Soviet offensive ran out of
steam before reaching Warsaw, and the Germans in “desperate counter-attacks”85 began
driving the Soviets back. The Poles “from President downward” began bringing “constant
pressure for assistance”.86 The British Air Staff complained that the Poles were making
“violent protests to highest quarters” and that the pressure was “becoming more and more
violent”.87 They considered Polish reproaches unjustified and thought that the Poles were
trying to blame them for the failures caused by the decision to launch the rising prematurely.
At one point, the Foreign Office decided that the Poles had crossed the line and reminded
them that they had started the rising without prior consultation and that the assistance Britain
could give was “severely limited by the insuperable fact of geography”.88 SOE also thought
that the Poles “passed all sort of promises to General Bor” and when their promises were not
being fulfilled, they were “blaming the British in order to cover themselves”.89
At any rate, the operational realities were inescapable: the Soviets were in the best position
to help Warsaw.90 Out of heavy bombers available to the Allies, only the 8th U.S. Strategic
Air Force based in England could fly to Warsaw, provided its planes would land at Soviet
bases. That, however, required Soviet approval. Air Force units in Italy, equipped by special
aircraft and used for the supply of resistance groups, were also considered. Their commanding
officers, however, did not regard supply flights to Warsaw an operation of war; they were
convinced that they would suffer heavy losses, and achieve “practically nothing”.91 In spite of
that, the British Government was firmly determined that utmost should be done to help the
Poles in Warsaw for political reasons. The operations from Italy were seen as “Warsaw’s only
hope” until the Soviets have started sending aid.92 Nevertheless, despite the best intentions
and efforts, the losses kept mounting, and it became clear that a big American operation was
the only way of getting needed supplies to Warsaw.
By that time, the Polish-Soviet relations sank to a new low. The Poles were blaming the
Soviets for deliberately withdrawing their aid, and the Soviets reciprocated by doing exactly
so. They rejected the American request to allow their planes to land on Soviet bases, arguing
that the rising was “a purely adventuristic action”, which the Soviet Government could not

TNA: PRO, FO 371/39406/C9937, 28 July 1944, Cadogan to Raczyński; FO 371/39406/C10018, minute,
28 July 1944, Cadogan.
TNA: PRO, CAB 121/309, COS(44)256th Meeting, 2 Aug. 1944. The decision was negative.
“Red Army Slowed by German Blows.” 9 Aug. 1944, The New York Times (Associated Press.) In the view of
the OSS, “it was this attack that proved that the Warsaw uprising, at first apparently well-timed, was in fact
disastrously premature.” NACP, RG 59, 103.918/8-1944, 19 Aug. 1944, R&A 1785.24, OSS.
TNA: PRO, FO 371/39428/C10670, tel. 2049, 6 Aug. 1944, Eden to Kerr.
TNA: PRO, CAB 121/309, (tel. Punch 123), 5 Aug. 1944, and (tel. unnumbered), 7 Aug. 1944, CAS to Air
Marshal Slessor.
TNA: PRO, Records of the War Office (WO) 216/98, 17 Aug. 1944, Eden to Rackiewicz.
TNA: PRO, HS 4/157, MP/PD/6199, 17 Aug. 1944, MP to CD. Judging from some angry messages from
Warsaw, the Poles in London must have had serious reasons to be afraid.
For instance, TNA: PRO, CAB 121/309, COS (44) 267th Meeting (O), 9 Aug. 1944.
TNA: PRO, CAB 121/309, tel. F79096, 4 Aug. 44, General Wilson and Slessor to Chiefs of Staff.
TNA: PRO, CAB 121/309, tel. Punch 128, 11 Aug. 1944, CAS to Slessor.

Certain limitations that affected the Warsaw and Slovak uprisings

support.93 Stalin advised Mikolajczyk that Polish calumnies forced him to change his mind
about the motives and spirit of the rising, and that for that reason he “had finished with any
idea of giving any assistance to Warsaw”.94 The Soviet officials held their ground regardless
of arguments and appeals made by Franklin D. Roosevelt and Winston Churchill, and by their
Ambassadors in Moscow.95 To the U.S. Ambassador Averell Harriman, the Soviet attitude
came as a shock and a warning: “These men are bloated with power and expect that they can
force their will on us and all countries to accept their decisions without questions.”96
On August 20, 1944, Roosevelt and Churchill asked Stalin to “[think] of the world opinion
if the anti-Nazis in Warsaw are in effect abandoned”. They proposed to him that all three of
them should do their utmost to save as many there as possible and asked him to drop supplies
and munitions or agree to let their planes do so.97 In reply, Stalin attacked the organizers of
the rising as “the group of criminals, who have embarked on the Warsaw adventure in order to
seize power . . . throwing many almost unarmed people against German guns, tanks, and
aircraft”.98 Churchill refused to accept to the Soviet rejection. On August 25, he proposed to
Roosevelt that the U.S. aircraft should “gate crash” at the Soviet airfields,99 that is, to break in
there without Soviet approval, regardless of risks involved. At the beginning of September, he
repeated his proposal with an addendum that “we will, of course, share full responsibility with
you for any action taken by your Air Force”.100 However, Roosevelt did not want go that far.

B. Slovakia
In the context of problems connected with the rising in Warsaw, the situation in the last
decade of August was by no means favorable for an armed action in Slovakia. It was clear to
the Czechs in London that a) Slovakia would not get an effective aid from the West, b) the
Germans would handle brutally a revolt in their rear, c) there was a major crisis in the Allied
camp and, d) the Red Army was too far away to give effective help. In this situation, prudence
and responsibility dictated to postpone an action for later.
At that time, however, the Czech leaders were greatly disturbed by the developments that
might jeopardize their plans for a coup in Slovakia. An emissary of the Slovak Minister of
National Defense General Čatloš was in Moscow to arrange cooperation with the Soviets.
London had already received on the August 10 a warning from their agent in Slovakia,
assigned the task of organizing a coup, that a separatist movement headed by Čatloš and
Tiso101 was “reaching dangerous levels[. I]f we fail to eliminate it”, he warned, “and if they
are granted mercy by Moscow, from where they are waiting a return of their delegation, Čat-

Foreign Relations of the United States (FRUS), 1944, 3:1374-76 (1374), tel. 3000, 15 Aug. 1944, Harriman
for Roosevelt and Stettinius.
TNA: PRO, FO 371/39492/C11123, tel. to Mikołajczyk, 16 Aug. 1944, read to O’Malley by Romer and
recorded by O’Malley, 18 Aug. 1944.
Averell Harriman and Archibald Clark-Kerr.
FRUS, 1944, 3:1389, n. 11, tel. 3049, 17 Aug. 1944, Harriman for Roosevelt and Hull.
TNA: PRO, PREM 3/352/12, tel. 2602, 20 Aug. 1944, Roosevelt and Churchill to Stalin through Kerr. The
telegram was sent on Roosevelt’s initiative.
FRUS, 1944, 3:1385-6 (1385), 22 Aug. 1944, Stalin to Churchill and Roosevelt.
TNA: PRO, PREM 3/352/12, tel .769, 25 Aug. 1944, Churchill to Roosevelt.
TNA: PRO, PREM 3/352/12, tel. 779, 4 Sept. 1944, Churchill to Roosevelt.
The author did no find any direct proof that Tiso had known of or supported Čatloš’s intentions.


loš would execute a coup d’état with Moscow’s help.”102 Moreover, Romania was expected
any moment to go over to the Allies, which she did on August 23, and Tiso’s Slovakia might
follow her lead.
The highest Czech officials were afraid that the Slovak ‘offenders’ would try to deceive
“the Czechoslovak-faithful Slovaks, the Czechs as well the Soviet Russia herself . . . They
will go over to the Soviet side and sue for peace, and will also be willing to cooperate milita-
rily against the Germans. They will event[ually] offer to execute a coup and form a new
government in Bratislava, which would not include the present culprits. Their condition will
be to be recognized as an independent factor, and to be negotiated with independently of us
. . . In the event that these attempts would actually occur, it would amount to one of the worst
acts of the Slovak quisling scum.”103 In short, there was a risk that Slovakia would capitulate
as an independent State to the Soviets before it could surrender her independence into the
Czech hands.
Political interests had apparently priority over military considerations because on August
21, Beneš ordered the Slovak resistance forces to oppose an eventual German invasion at all
costs,104 in conformity with the so-called defensive variant.105 On August 30, after London
received a report that the German intervention had begun, he issued another, definitive
order.106 To order a rising in Slovakia in view of the circumstances in which the Warsaw
rising was taking place, without prior coordination with the Allies, was to demonstrate ruth-
lessness towards the fighters and civilian population. It also exposed the Czechs to the risk
that they would face charges similar to those that the Poles had to face. Yet, the Czechs took
that risk.
Shortly after the fighting started, therefore, Beneš and his close associates begun damage
control. Part of it was a false declaration that the rising took place “in full consultation with
the major Allied Governments”.107 The heart of their initiative, however, was to assure the
Soviets that “there would be no second case of Warsaw”: the rising was allegedly a political
inevitability, but the help they expected from the Soviets now should be “without the change
of their strategic dispositions and without reproaches and recriminations”.108 It was also clear
that they would not press the western Allies to supply arms to Slovakia, which might deepen
the rift among the Allies.
Czech policy on obtaining arms for Slovakia was, apparently, an expression of the key
Czech priority – not to do anything that might antagonize the Soviet Union. The requests that
the Czechs military and political officials presented to the Western Allies in the first days of
the rising seem formalities. The Czechs asked for British military assistance in the form of
arms and bombing directly from the General Staff, Air Ministry, and SOE, but they asked for

VHA: 37-107-1, tel. (Leo) 569-06, 10 Aug. 1944, [Krátký] to London. Stalin told Beneš in December 1943
that Slovak separatism cannot be permitted –“it would be an absurd stupidity”. Beneš, however, could not be
sure that Stalin did not change his mind. See notes on the meeting of 18 Dec. 1943. Archiv Ústavu T. G.
Masaryka, Praha (A UTGM), EBII, V186/62A-C/6.
Prečan, Dokumenty, pp. 324-325, 26 Aug. 1944, Beneš and Masaryk to Fierlinger.
VHA, 37-102-2/241, tel. (Oto) 20272-75, 21 Aug. 1944, Beneš to Golian.
Political and military leaders of resistance in Slovakia agreed with this variant.
VHA, 37-102-2/248, tel. (Oto) 20280-82, 30 Aug. 1944, message to Golian from Beneš and his Government.
In the meantime, on 29 Aug. 1944 Golian implemented the military part of the coup and ordered the army to
fight the Germans entering Slovakia.
Jan Masaryk at a press conference. NACP, 860F.01/9-744, d. 175, 6 Sept. 1944, Schoenfeld to Hull.
A UTGM, EBII, 38-22, 5 Sept. 1944, Beneš’s record of conversation with Lebedev.

Certain limitations that affected the Warsaw and Slovak uprisings

American military assistance only through the U.S. Military Attaché in London. They did not
ask the Americans for arms, just for the bombardment of selected targets. In addition, they
asked both Allies for granting combatant rights to the Slovak rebels. As to the requests
addressed to the U.S. Government, the Czech officials were approaching it with ostensible
laxity: the British Ambassador to Washington cabled to the Foreign Office with apparent
incredulity that the State Department had no indication as to what steps the Czechoslovak
Government had taken regarding the bombing, that Minister Jan “Masaryk did not make any
request to [U.S. Ambassador to London] Mr. Winant regarding supplies of arms”, and that the
Czechoslovak proposals were discussed [with the State Department] “at a junior (repeat
junior) level”.109
Unlike the Poles, the Czechs did not approach the U.S. political and military officials, and
organizations, such as President Roosevelt, Joint Chiefs of Staff, or Command of the 8th U.S.
Air Force stationed in the United Kingdom. Nor did they approach Allied organizations with
American participation – the Combined Chiefs of Staff and the Supreme Headquarters of the
American Expeditionary Force, commanded by General Eisenhower. It is apparent from the
documents examined that for the Czech politico-military leadership in London the American
assistance to the Slovak rebels was neither desirable nor welcome.
The Czech leadership in London did not even try to make use of opportunities available.
For instance, when the Soviets were holding up delivery of British arms, the Czechs did not
approach the OSS, which had tried to force arms for the Slovak underground upon them since
the spring of 1944. On the contrary, they complained to SOE against the OSS, after the latter
brought to Slovakia in September 1944 without Czech knowledge two planeloads of arms and
several liaison officers with support personnel.110
The Czech leaders had even tried to dissuade the Allies directly from helping Slovakia.
Beneš provided an example of such approach when the Warsaw crisis had reached its peak.
On September 4, the British War Cabinet in a de facto ultimatum asked the Soviets again for
permission to use Soviet airfields and warned them that if they refused to help, and Warsaw
were overwhelmed by the Germans, “the shock to the public opinion . . . would be incalcu-
lable”.111 The Soviets did not respond and no one knew what would happen next. Concerned
that in these circumstances eventual British urging the Soviets to approve sending arms to
Slovakia could put him in trouble with Stalin, Beneš could not take the pressure, and told the
British Ambassador Nichols on September 7 that “it was not the Czech intention to make
trouble in any way”. He said that the rising was likely to peter out, but it had already fulfilled
its political and military role – the rebels declared loyalty to the Czechoslovak Republic and
to the Government of which he is the head. He would understand if the British found it
difficult, after consulting with the Russians, to give him much direct aid. Nichols noted, that
Beneš “repeated more than once that he would never reproach us on this point”.112 Thus right
at the beginning of the rising the British Government had received a clear signal from Beneš
that they did not have to worry about providing military help for the Slovaks.

TNA: PRO, FO 371/38942/C11949, tel. 4866, 8 Sept. 1944, Earl of Halifax to Foreign Office.
TNA: PRO, FO 371/38942/C12497, minute, 22 Sept. 1944, by Allen. Released under the Freedom of
Information request made by the author. Also, FO 371/38942/C12929, HBP/CZ/6320, 22 Sept. 1944, Perkins to
TNA: PRO, PREM 3/352/12, tel. 2855, 4 Sept. 1944, War Cabinet to Molotov through Kerr.
TNA: PRO, FO 371/38942/C12076, d. 132, 7 Sept. 1944, Nichols to Eden.


One thing worth mentioning is a difference in attitude of the Polish and Czech Govern-
ments towards the people they were supposed to represent. That difference can be quantified.
In the first month of the rising, the Poles submitted to the western Allies over 100 pleas/re-
quests, in writing or in person. The Czechs did fewer than 15. On the Polish side, the highest
political and military officials repeatedly, with passion and full engagement, were asking for
help for their people fighting in Warsaw. From the Czech side, a couple of requests came after
the start of the rising, mainly from the military. A follow-up as well as political support were
missing. In the first month of the rising, Polish President and Premier presented around 15
requests to the British King and to the Prime Minister, while President Beneš and Premier
Šrámek did not even submit one. Overall, the Czechoslovak Government-in-exile was making
it clear that after the successful execution of the coup the question of help to the fighting
Slovakia was at best just a perfunctory formality. In view of its policy on this question, one
can state that the Czechoslovak Government in London was not a legitimate government of
the Czechs and of the Slovaks.
The lack of activity in the pursuit of arms for Slovakia sharply contrasts with the energy
that the Czechs expended for the exploitation of the Slovak rising for their political goals,
primarily as a proof that the Slovaks themselves rejected independence. Just between August
30 and September 1, 1944, the Czechoslovak Press Agency cabled the equivalent of 60,000
words, and distributed throughout the world bulletins, personal explanations, and articles
emphasizing the loyalty of the Slovaks to the Czechoslovak Republic and Beneš.113

On September 9, 1944, the Soviet Government gave in and offered their bases for the U.S.
flight to Warsaw. Due to bad weather, the flight took place nine days later: 108 high-altitude
bombers dropped 130 tons of arms, ammunition and foodstuffs but only a small proportion
fell into the Polish hands.114 The operation boosted the morale in Warsaw for a while, but
made no difference militarily, except, perhaps, to the Germans. For instance, some members
of the Dirlewanger SS Brigade, transferred from Warsaw to Slovakia, were equipped with
American weapons.
As to the assistance to the Slovak rebels, the only systematic help came from the Soviet
Union in the form of dropping supplies and of a major offensive through the Carpathians,
which necessitated a change of Soviet strategic plans. The Soviet decision to help the Slovaks
had certainly been influenced by the Warsaw events. As the Soviets were losing the fight for
public opinion, helping Slovakia offered them a chance to show the world that they were
willing to assist liberation forces, military situation permitting. Their help turned out, how-
ever, insufficient; neither the rebels nor their High Command in London were satisfied with it.
The rising and the Dukla offensive did not seem to meet Soviet expectations and the Soviets,
although committed to support the rising, did not want to use up for it too many resources,
which could have been used more efficiently elsewhere.
No regular support came from the West. Apart from the lack of air resources, other impor-
tant factors were also involved:

NAP, AHR, 1.47.2-2, box 179, report, 15 Jan. 1945, Information Service of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
TNA: PRO, CAB 121/310, situation report no. 7, 21 Sept. 1944; tel. 5270, 15 Sept 1944.; report, 22 Sept.
1944. In comparison, the operations from Italy totaled 145 tons of supplies, in 181 sorties over five weeks.

Certain limitations that affected the Warsaw and Slovak uprisings

1) Insufficient preparations: Right from the start, both SOE and the Foreign Office com-
plained that they were not prepared for the rising, because “the Czechs have never worked out
anything in advance with SOE, despite the latter’s insistent requests, or co-ordinated this
rising in any way”.115
2) Czech signals to the British and the Americans that the arms for the Protectorate had
3) Czech appeasement of the Soviets: At the start of the rising, the British were waiting for
Soviet approval to drop arms to the Slovaks. They suggested to General Ingr that in view of
the close Czech-Soviet relations, the Czech exile government should press the Soviets for
it.116 Ingr’s interventions, however, were too timid; he seemed afraid to press the issue. As the
Warsaw crisis was topping, the Czechs became afraid of even approaching the Soviets
directly, and asked the British for doing it for them.117
4) The shadow of Warsaw: Being exposed to the complications and troubles caused by the
rising in Warsaw, the British were trying hard to “avoid the Polish pitfalls”. That meant doing
nothing that the Soviets would not approve. Otherwise, they would “find themselves again
committed to support [the rising] in impossible conditions”.118 When considering the Czech
request for military aid for Slovakia, the Chiefs of Staff agreed with the view of the Foreign
Office to proceed with caution “especially as we were in no way consulted or even informed
when the decision to issue orders for this rising was taken”.119 In view of the proximity of the
Soviet forces to Slovakia, they decided that all air support operations in Slovakia should be
conducted by the Soviets.120 The Joint Chiefs of Staff (U.S.) agreed with that view and recom-
mended that nothing should be done until the Foreign Office ascertained Soviet intentions in
this regard. However, the Soviets never replied directly to its inquiries.
By the end October, the position of the rebel army got rapidly worse. Desperate pleas by
its commanders for help prompted the Czech officials in London to request emergency help
from all three Allies. The Chiefs of Staff refused to go along: the main reason was the lack of
available resources.121 The Foreign Office was in favor of at least token assistance, to earn
“some political kudos”122 with the Czechs, but the Chiefs of Staff were unwilling to get “once
again involved in abortive token operations in support of distant risings which only the Rus-
sians can effectively assist”.123 In the end, the Foreign Office accepted the military reasons as
decisive. In addition, it concluded that “our help would be ineffective. We should get no
thanks for it but would merely incur a share of responsibility for this premature rising, about
which we were not consulted.”124

TNA: PRO, FO 371/38941/C11772, minute, 31 Aug. 1944, Roberts.
TNA: PRO, WO 216/99, 2 Sept. 1944, record of conversation between General Nye and Ingr.
Ripka’s personal intervention. TNA: PRO, FO 371/38942/C12078, 122/17/44, 11 Sept. 1944, Nichols to
TNA: PRO, FO 371/38941/C11772, minute, 31 Aug. 1944, Harvey.
TNA: PRO, FO 371/38942/C12068, COS 1551/4, 5 Sept. 1944, Earle to Roberts.
TNA: PRO, FO 371/38942/C12068, tel. COS(W)312, 6 Sept. 1944, Chiefs of Staff to Joint Staff Mission.
TNA: PRO, FO 371/38943/C14863, COS 1786/4, 27 Oct. 1944, Earle to Roberts.
TNA: PRO, FO 371/38943/C14863, minute, 29 Oct. 1944, Harrison.
TNA: PRO, FO 371/38943/C14863, COS 1786/4, 27 Oct. 1944, Earle to Roberts.
TNA: PRO, FO 371/38943/C14863, PM 44/672, 31 Oct. 1944, Cadogan to Churchill.


The goal of this study was to examine certain limitations, which affected the risings in
Warsaw and Slovakia, in the hope of contributing to a better understanding of these two major
events of European resistance. Documents examined show that the awareness of the forces
and events related to the Warsaw Uprising can be especially useful for a greater comprehen-
sion of the Slovak National Uprising.
The author wanted to focus on the facts and leave the reader to make his conclusions. One
observation, however, seems appropriate: A distinction should be made between the ‘ordina-
ry’ people who are willing to take up arms to defend their land and a small group of ‘leaders’
who pursue primarily their personal or group interests. That might seem to be an exceptional
problem; in reality, it is a timeless, recurring challenge.

This is the original English version of a study presented at the conference The Warsaw Uprising and the
Slovak &ational Uprising, Similarities and Differences, held in Banská Bystrica, Slovakia, on 14-15
October 2008: “Niektoré obmedzenia, ktoré ovplyvnili Varšavské a slovenské povstanie“, Marek Syrný,
ed., Varšavské povstanie a Slovenské národné povstanie, podobnosti a rozdiely, (Banská Bystrica: Múzeum
Slovenského národného povstania, 2009), s. 153-175.