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

Source 3

Extract from a copy of a telegram from Churchill to Clement Attlee for the information of the War cabinet, 10 Feb 1945


CHAR 20/223/19-21

Simplified Transcript

2. After a prolonged struggle Foreign Secretary agreed with Americans and Russians on a very good draft about Poland last night. He is telegraphing this to you. Only remaining point is arrangement for supervising voting and also for our informing ourselves properly about what is going on in Poland. All the reality in this business depends on this point, which will be fought out today.

Original Transcript

After long and difficult talks all sides agreed a solution to the Polish issue last night. The last issue is to make sure that voting is fair and that we can know what is happening in Poland for certain. This is important and will be discussed today.

What is this source?

An extract from a telegram from Churchill in Yalta to the Deputy Prime Minister (Clement Attlee) on 10 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

Through the course of the conference, several rounds of talks took place between the Big Three, as well as additional meetings held by Foreign Secretaries and other delegates, to come to an agreement including arrangements for Poland. The telegram is explaining the result of these discussions in simple terms for the information of the War Cabinet.

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. Who are the people who came to the final agreement on Poland which Churchill is discussing in the telegram?
  2. What are the only barriers to this agreement being ratified by the Big Three?
  3. When does Churchill hope to finalise the agreement?

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 very pleased with the solution reached on Poland.

The agreement came easily when the Foreign Secretary met with the US and Russian delegates.

Churchill is confident of what is happening in Poland at the time.

There are no barriers to prevent this agreement being reached.

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Need help interpreting the source?

  • What does the source suggest about how far the Big Three were working well together at Yalta?
  • Britain was clearly wary of the motives of the USSR in Poland. Why might supervising voting be considered an important issue in the formation of the new Polish state after the war?
  • Churchill uses the terms ‘struggle’ and ‘fought’ in describing the process of coming to an agreement on Poland. To what extent does this give an insight into his feelings about the progress being made at the conference?
  • Churchill talks about being able to supervise what happens in Poland after Yalta to check on ‘All the reality in this business’, could Churchill be trying to signal to his War Cabinet that he is not being taken in by Stalin?

Explore the guide to interpreting telegrams

Source 4

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