Harry Wade


Photo: „Tygodnik Ilustrowany” nr 2/1919

British diplomat and ­military officer. He was born in Beijing, the fourth son of Sir Thomas Francis Wade (a diplomat) and Amelia Herschel. After returning to England, he continued his ­education at Harrow School, where his classmate was Winston Churchill. He joined the army in 1893 and served in Africa, taking part in the Nile expedition and the Second Boer War.

He left the army in 1911 and became editor of the Army ­Review magazine, receiving the rank of major early on. Together with his wife Kathleen Adelaide Wade – married in 1908 – he settled in London. With ­the outbreak of World War I, he was again in the army, serving in France, Ireland and as a military attaché in Denmark. In 1918, he was promoted to the rank of lieutenant colonel. In December of the same year, he was sent to ­Poland as a member of the British military mission accompanying Ignacy Jan Paderewski on his triumphant trip to a reborn Poland.

In 1921, he finally bade farewell to the army, taking up a job in the ­institutions of the ­League of Nations, including the Permanent Court of ­International­ Justice, ­where he remained until his retirement in 1937.With the outbreak of World War II, he again became involved in ­public activities, including within the Ministry of Information, the United Nations Commission for the Investigation ­of ­War Crimes (renamed later to the United Nations ­War Crimes Commission) ­and later taking part in the Nuremberg trials. As the most senior member of the Commission, he contributed significantly to the publication History of the United Nations War Crimes Commission and the Development of the Laws of War (1948).

The dramatic Vistula dispatches

Telegram to Esme Howard in Paris and the British Foreign Office

January 4, 1919

My immediately proceeding telegram Stop the conclusion is that if aid does not begin to come within five weeks Poland will be overwhelmed the last barrier between Western Europe and Bolshevism will be removed Stop Allies could prevent this with small expenditure of effort by sending some material and the advance guard of Haller’s army immediately and by opening up communication with Poland on North from Dantzig and on South from Budapest and by ordering Germans to cease their threats against Poland on East and West. The issues are too vital for action to be delayed whilst waiting for formal recognition of Polish government Stop Ends.

Telegram No. 26 to the British diplomatic representative in Bern

January 9, 1919

[…] Prime Minister [Jędrzej Moraczewski] and War Minister [Jan Wroczyński] whom I have seen to – day both entreated me to say if any prospect of Allies sending arms or ammunition Stop Lemberg is surrounded except along PREMYSL railway and water supply is cut off Stop German Poles are heavily engaged with Germans stop […] I again urge no question of legal status of present Government should delay action to relieve this very critical situation.

Letter from the General Staff of the Polish Army to Colonel Harry Wade

Warsaw, January 9, 1919

The position of the Polish Army that is fighting on the Western front with the Bolchevism is quite desperate owing to the lack of ammunition, cartridges, especially for fireman & also for Austrian rifles.

The General Staff of the Polish army, being quite aware of the great influence that you have begs you to ask His Britanic Majesty’s Government to hand over to us as quickly as possible 20 million cartridges of the supplies that you possess, mostly for German rifles and quick fighter guns as well as quick firing ribbons.

The General Staff of the Polish Army begs you to ask His Britanic Majesty’s Government and the to allow us to transport across the territory of Tchecho-Slavonic Republic supplies of arms and ammunition which the Polish Government has already bought, but which cannot be transported without the permission of the and that of the Tchecho-Slavonic Government.

Owing to the fact that it is of vital importance that we should obtain the ammunition as quickly as possible the General Staff of the Polish Army begs you to transfer by radio our request to His Britanic Majesty’s Government.

Dispatch No. 12 to the British Foreign Office

British Mission in Poland, January 9, 1919

[…] I am, of course, unaware of the causes which compel us to remain passives witness of the now almost inevitable destruction of this Nation. If there are such causes (which appears to me scarcely credible) I suggest that it would be better to inform the Poles at once that no aid, not even in the way of material, can be given them, and advise them to make the best terms they can with their enemies; but in that case the sending of the American Food Commission and, and the British Economic Mission to Warsaw can serve no useful purpose. If, on the other hand, it is intended to send aid later on, it is essential that I should be inform, so that I can encourage the General Staff to hold on. But I would add that time presses and unless help is sent at once it will come too late.

If the cause of our inaction is merely the non-recognition of the Polish Government by the Allies I submit that no such technical reason should prevent us from supporting the Polish people in in their struggle against Ukrainian and Russian Bolshevism. My impression is that there is little to choose between the Polish parties, and that so long as unemployment continues on the present scalene no “Bourgeois Party”, will be able to govern. I recommend that all opinions on Polish internal affairs coming from National Democrats or emigres (both of whom I believe , are largely represent on the Paris Committee) should be taken with reserve. […]

Dispatch No. 34 to Esme Howard

British Mission in Poland, Warsaw, March 1, 1919

[…] At my first interview with General Pilsudski the question o f a Coalition Cabinet was brought up. He declared it unworkable in Poland, owing to the lack of party discipline. He explained that, by governing with the Socialists, he divided the Left, and prevented the extremists from going into open opposition; while, on the other hand, none of the Right Parties could retain Office for a fortnight, owing to the critical internal situation caused by lack of food and employment. He especially emphasized the danger of internal disorder culminating in revolution, if means (i.e. rifles and ammunition) were not given him to keep the Bolshevik armies at a distance from the frontier.

I found the General so different from the portrait drawn of him by his opponents, who – I began to see – were a narrow and reactionary group, that I was inclined to accept his view. […] After the abortive Coup d’etat of 5/I/19 a series of Conferences took place between M. Paderewski and General Pilsudski re the possibility of forming a non-party Government of Socialists under M. Paderewski. All these projects broke upon the opposition of the Socialist party. […] Personally I doubt that the Left would ever allow these plans to succeed, and when I spoke to Mr Moraczewski on the importance of unity, he answered that Poland was heir to the irreconcilable antagonisms of two centuries ago.

source: The National Archives, London. We are grateful to prof. Dariusz Jeziorny for providing the documents.