Churchill Archive for Schools - Themes_Key questions_Yalta Conference

How united were the Big Three at the Yalta Conference in 1945?

Source 1

Copy of a telegram from Churchill to Clement Attlee, 7 February 1945


CHAR 20/223/7

Simplified Transcript

2. It is difficult here. Sorting out the Polish issue will be tough. The Conference will go until 11 February which Stalin suggested. We are all getting on really well.

Original Transcript

2. We are having a hard time here. Poland will be very difficult. Conference is prolonged at least till the end of the eleventh. Stalin himself proposed this. Personal relations are excellent.

What is this source?

This is an extract from a telegram from Churchill in Yalta to the Deputy Prime Minister (Clement Attlee) on 7 February 1945 marked "From: Argonaut" – the code name given to the Yalta Conference. The telegram is feeding back the day’s progress from the meetings to the British government in London.

Background to this source

Churchill recognised that his objectives for Poland were different to that of the USSR and that he would need to negotiate well to come to an agreement he would be happy with. He was also very wary of the character of Stalin and was unsure whether to trust him.

How can we use this source in the investigation?

Remember we are hoping that this source can be useful to us in investigating how far the Yalta Conference showed unity between the Big Three on the future of Poland. Sources usually help historians in two ways:

Surface level: details, facts and figures

  1. How much is Churchill enjoying the conference so far?
  2. What does he mean when he says ‘Poland will be very difficult’?
  3. Why is important that personal relations at the conference are considered ‘excellent’?

Deeper level: inferences and using the source as evidence

Which of the inferences below can be made from this source?

On a scale of 1-5 how far do you agree that this source supports this inference? Which extract(s) from the source support your argument?
Churchill is feeling positive about the outcome of the conference.

Negotiations are going well.

Relationships between the Big Three are strained.

Churchill believed that personal relations between the leaders of countries were important.

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Need help interpreting the source?

  • The Big Three had different aims for Poland’s post war situation. To what extent could an agreement be expected to please all parties?
  • Each of the three leaders had strong characters and were not accustomed to sharing the limelight. How might this affect the relationships between them?

Explore the guide to interpreting telegrams

Source 2

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