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Remembered Today:

28th July 1914


Guest AmericanDoughboy
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Guest AmericanDoughboy

Ninety years ago today, Austia-Hungary declared war on Serbia. This declaration of war occured exactly one month after the assassination of the heir to the Habsburg Throne, Archduke Franz Ferdinand. This declaration of war began the large breaking of chains in Europe under alliances which would lock them in what Charles Messenger has called: "An unpreventable catastrophe."

-Doughboy

Off To War! - (Below) Austrian Soldiers cheer in their train cars as they leave for the front 1914

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Guest Pete Wood

Sqn Cdr A Longmoor becomes the first military pilot to drop a standard 14 inch torpedo from an aeroplane - a Short Tractor Seaplane.

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The Luxembourg paper of 29 July said this of 28 July:

'Vienna 28 July: The "Official" in a special edition has published the text of the declaration of war, as follows: 'The Royal government of Serbia, not having replied in a satisfactory manner to the note which had been given to it by the minister of Austria-Hungary at Belgrade, on the date of 23 July 1914, the Imperial and Royal government finds itself with the necessity of safeguarding its rights and interests, and to have recourse, to this effect, to the force of arms. Austria-Hungary considers itself, therefore, from this moment, to be in a state of war with Serbia.

Vienna 28 July: The government publishes the text of the Serb reply to the Austrian note of the 15th of this month and it is accompanied by a commentary giving the reasons why it was turned down.

If the Serb government has come to see that since the declaration of 1909 there has been no attempt by the Serb government or any of its organs, to modify the position of Bosnia, the government is completely and arbitrarily falsifying the basis of the Austro-Hungarian Note. The grievances of Austria, on the contrary, are based on the fact that the Serb government, despite its solemn declaration, has failed to suppress the movement directed against the territorial integrity of the Monarchy, in the same way as it has not done anything to counter the societies which it knows direct their activities against the Monarchy.

The assertion of the Serb government, pretending to be sadly surprised that Serb subjects should have participated in the outrage in Sarajevo, is false.

The Serb government was fully informed of the suspicions existing against certain named personalities. The Serbian government has done nothing in this regard.

The Serb government changes the text of the statement which has to be published in the Official Journal at the demand of the Austrian Note and which should be that the Serb government condemns all propaganda directed against Austria-Hungary, whilst the Austro-Hungarian clause asks that the Serb government condemns all propaganda directed against Austria by similar societies is inadmissible, which is explained as a commitment which the Serb government enters into.

The modifications announced to the laws concerning the Press and societies are not means capable of satisfying the Austro-Hungarian demands. The assertion that there is no proof of acts committed by members of the NAROSNA ODBRANA society or similar societies is inadmissible, because the anti-Austrian propaganda of the NAROSNA ODBRANA and the affiliated societies goes through the whole of Serb public life. The Serb Cabinet keeps a complete silence on the demands relative to the suppression of the means of propaganda of these societies. This is why, adds the communiqué, there exists no guarantee that a definite end will be brought to anti-Austrian activity of the societies, above all of the NAROSNA ODBRANA, after the promised dissolutions. By the fact that the Serb government attaches the promise of the dismissal of officers and civil servants from military and civil service, to the circumstance that they are found guilty by legal process, restrains this promise to the case where a punishable crime according to criminal law is attributed to these people. Given that anti-Austria propaganda is not a punishable offence, this demand of Austria-Hungary is not complied with.

If the Serb government speaks of the participation of the organs of the Austro-Hungarian government in the drawing up of the case against these people, it has to be said that the Austro-Hungarian government will not have had its organs associated with the judicial enquiry. These organs should not only be associated with police enquiries.

Finally, the reply that Ciganovitch is missing, is false, because Ciganovitch, according to Austro-Hungarian enquiries, went on holiday three days after the outrage. He went, at the orders of the police, to Belgrade, to Ribari. It was the Prefect of Police of Belgrade himself, who told Ciganovitch to leave, and who, knowing his whereabouts, declared, in his interview, that no-one of that name lives in Belgrade.

In an editorial, the newspaper commented:

'The regular declaration of War which became known yesterday evening confirms the news which, up until now we refused to believe in or which, against all the evidence, we continued to hope was exaggerated. Austria has gone to war against Serbia despite the goodwill of the latter and despite the efforts of France, Great Britain and Italy. Immediately Russia mobilised 14 Corps on the Austrian frontier and warned Germany that she would speed up her mobilisation at the first sign of a German mobilisation. However, as we do not understand why the proposition of Sir Edward Grey did not stop the preparations for war, when this proposition which consisted, as we know, of a collective intervention by Britain, Germany, France and Italy to Russia and Austria, had given birth to so many hopes. St. Petersburg and Berlin have replied that this proposition arrived at the moment when St. Petersburg and Vienna had already made direct contact and, by consequence, could not have recourse to another type of discussion. The explanation will be accepted by those who want to accept it.

However, hope of localising the conflict has not been lost. The proof is to be found in an official announcement pasted up in Russia and which invites the population to keep calm and not to change patriotic enthusiasm and expressions Of Slav solidarity into provocations towards countries with which Russia wishes to keep peaceful relations. On the other hand, our Brussels correspondent, in a despatch which you can read in "Dernière Heure" , says that "we learn that this morning at the ministry of foreign affairs in Brussels, they had news which led them to believe that Russia would not intervene.

In any case, the military demonstration to which Austria is lending itself characterises the spirit of the dual monarchy.

During all of the Balkans campaign the military party and its head, the Archduke, was shaking with impatience .

Their worry of feeling themselves increase in importance in the victory of the panslavists was nothing alongside their regrets of not being able to in the hope of trying their method and their German material against the methods and material which the Serbs had received from France and Russia. For those who know Austria and the Austrian military party, the present events, so confused and so disconcerting, are only a crisis of bitter militarism, let loose by the death of the Archduke.

The Austrian military fever begins to win Europe; and it is the weakest nations, as the weakest individuals, which are the first to have their weapons in their hands and the first to use them. It is up to the strong to prevent them.

Also, we see now a single light in the dark cloud which bears down on Europe; the calm attitude of France and Britain, who are still keeping their arms crossed and their swords in their sheaths'."

This comment is best summed up by the old phrase, "violence is the first resort of the incompetent". Here for the first time, the editor begins to suspect that some countries want a war.

I find it interesting that the whole text of the declaration of war is printed. Although, admittedly it is short, it is not usual for such things or anything similar to be printed today. How many people today have ever seen the entire text of a UN resolution? People in 1914 were in many ways better informed than they are today. Certainly, the concept of the pre-digested sound bite meant for publication was totally unknown.

The newspaper also carries a long article commenting on the journey of M. Poincaré in connection with the Franco-Russian alliance describes how the Tsar passed his day, how he worked, his character, his tastes.

Well, it has existed for many years now, but the journey of the President of the Republic will re-cement once again the ties of friendship which unite these two great nations whose governments are going to align themselves to make their relationship as fruitful as possible and to cement the universal peace by opposing their forces, which are from day to day becoming more redoubtable, against those of the Triple Alliance.

In the near past, great festivities have taken place in Russia. Was it not the tercentenary of the Romanov dynasty, of that dynasty to which the homeland of Peter the Great and Catherine the Great owes its splendour.

The last century has, however, been fatal to the Emperors of Russia. In their turn Paul 1 and Alexander II were victims of lamentable attempts on their lives and very often in the course of the reign of Nicholas II, the present Tsar, the hand of the assassin has been raised against him. Why these regicides? It is because there is there a handful of revolutionary intellectuals who for a long time, from father to son one could say, have undertaken the manufacture of bombs and have taken their exercise in throwing them in the path of political persons.

But the entire Russian population, virtually with these exceptions, shows on the contrary a sincere and passionate affection for his sovereign. The enthusiasm which has presided over the festivities of the tercentenary of the Romanovs is the proof. Thus, as M. Serge Korovine write a little while ago, Russia recognises in its Emperor and carried to an exceptional degree, the most pure qualities of the race, energy, goodness, friendliness, simplicity: the country recognises itself in its leader, just as the Emperor on his side, understands the country, its aspirations and its tastes.

Many works have appeared about the Emperor Nicholas II, the most conscientious is that of Professor Etchaninow who notably draws a riveting tableau of the daily life of the Tsar.

The sovereign begins his day very early. He rises at 7 a.m. and as from 8 o'clock the life of the palace is working at full tilt. At 9 a.m. he finishes his simple and modest breakfast and goes to his office to read the newspapers, the despatches and résumés of reports of all sorts. Up until 10.30 a.m. His Majesty receives reports from his immediate entourage. Then begins the reception of different dignitaries and even simple folk. At 11 a.m. the Emperor takes a walk in the park alone or in company with the Tsarevitch, always followed by his favourite dogs. Then he returns and tastes the food of his personal Guards infantry regiment. That done, he receives the ministers and directors general until one o'clock., the moment fixed for his lunch which is copious but simple.

After lunch, until 3 or 4 o'clock different receptions take place. Sometimes he sees entire corporations which come and ask for an audience. From 3 or 4 o'clock the Tsar takes a second walk, then at 5 or 6 o'clock, he takes tea with his family and profits from the moment to talk business and read aloud, which he often likes to do as he has a rare way of interpretation. His favourite works are the Russian classics. He has a particular predilection for the great humorist, Gogol. From 6 o'clock until dinner at 8 o'clock, the Emperor works once more, either alone or with his ministers. Family dinner and the intimate talk which accompanies it, lasts for one and half hours. Then His Majesty returns to his office and it is not until around midnight that he takes his rest.

His energy is immense. He never complains of fatigue. His joy is to finish his work as early as possible and to find the Empress. He then reads or recounts his day. They take tea together and the day of labour finishes as it begins, with prayers.

The Emperor has no secretaries; they are replaced up to a certain point by palace dignitaries and people of his suite.

He likes to receive all those who present themselves to him, and thus, on some days he sees several hundred visitors., deputations, civil servants. He has the gift of penetrating very quickly the personality of the person speaking to him. He receives them all with a calm full of dignity the condescensions and good wishes. His speeches are always short and precise. When he receives ambassadors, he speaks to them in the language of their country and directs the conversation. But a practised and attentive eye can nevertheless pick out nuances in the way in which the sovereign treats the representatives of each Power, depending on the state of relations between them and Russia.

The Emperor is exact and methodical. Everything begins and finishes at the moment laid down. His walks vary, sometimes he goes out on foot, sometimes on horseback or bicycle, and, in summer, at Peterhof on the Gulf of Finland, he goes sailing, in a type called a baidarka. He rows perfectly.

He has an absolute repugnance for the telephone. He prefers to communicate by means of rapid, incisive and concise notes. Sports, manual work, above all carpentry, with the small Tsarevitch, hunting and, above all, walking are his favourite distractions. The Emperor is indefatigable when on a walk and only two of his aides, General Komaroff and Colonel Dreutch can keep up with him right to the end.

He accepts great dinners and gala receptions as a bad necessity, says Serge Korovine, but on the other hand he likes small evening, and waltzing. One detail to note is that he never plays cards, but is a tyro at billiards.

The Tsar is the richest of all the sovereigns. His annual revenue is not less than 150 millions cash. He saves 25 millions each year and it is said that the total savings amount to over 300 millions. His most sumptuous gala clothes are valued at several millions. His palace at Peterhof has, in the garden, a golden staircase.

Of course this article was written because M. Poincaré was on his way to Russia on a state visit, and is rather over the top, but it does not give a portrait of an overbearing tyrant, rather that of a hardworking man.

The remainder of the front page has many short despatches from all the other capitals. It is interesting to see the contrast.

Berlin 28 July: The Gazette de Voss announced from Vienna that fighting has been taking place along the Drina, the river which marks the Serb-Austrian frontier. Serb volunteers have forced the passage of the river at several points. Austrian frontier troops have returned fire.

The despatch adds that the mobilisation of the Serb army was very quick. Important troop movements have been signalled from the area of Novi-Bazar.

It is hardly surprising that the following despatch could be sent from Strasbourg:

Strasbourg 27 July: Following the alarming news a real panic broke out amongst the population which raced to the cash desks of the Caisse d' Epargne to draw out all their money.

Even the following despatches can hardly have calmed the signs of panic in various places across Europe. It was becoming evident that events were leaving the diplomats and politicians behind.

Berlin 28 July On the subject of the British proposition, the Berliner Tageblatt says, "As relations between St. Petersburg and Vienna have not been broken off, it is not seen why the other Great Powers should not accept Sir Edward Grey's idea of a mediation between Russia and Austria, but there does not seem to be much hope in this proposition.

The other newspapers which comment on Sir Edward Grey's proposition hope that it will find a favourable welcome among the Powers, but they doubt very much whether Austria would accept suspending its military operations during the conference.

Berlin 28 July: The Berliner Tageblatt published a despatch from Zoppot saying that three trains of Russians have left, full of Russians returning to Russia.

Berlin 28 July: An official announcement states that parades and demonstrations which , in view of the current political situation have been authorised over the past days, are forbidden today because of the traffic problems.

Socialist circles are saying that this has really only been taken to prevent socialist meetings against the war which , it had been announced would take place this evening.

Paris 28 July: M. Bienvenu-Martin the French interim Foreign Affairs Minister, this morning met M. Levosky, Russian Ambassador in London.

Paris 28 July: M. Bienvenu-Martin the French interim Foreign Affairs Minister this morning met, at the Quai d' Orsay, a further interview with M. de Schoen, the German Ambassador in Paris. A Cabinet meeting will take place this evening at 4.30 at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Paris 28 July: The unified Socialist group met this morning to examine the external situation and decided to produce a declaration which will be communicated later, and mandated its officers to go to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to ask for information about the external situation and to ask if, in the circumstances, it would not be advisable to recall Parliament.

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