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Remembered Today:

1914 August 3

Guest AmericanDoughboy

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Guest AmericanDoughboy

On this day, ninety years ago, the Imperial powers of Germany declared war on France. France's patriotism is filled with joy and excitement to finally recover Alsace and Lorraine...but does it really unfold in such a fashion? We shall see...


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Just curious... I posted this question in another thread, but thought it was worth asking again. In 'Dare Call it Treason', the author argues that unlike the other capitals Paris was not particularly enthusiastic about going to war. He says there were few cheering crowds or limited number of women throwing flowers as the soldiers marched off to the front.




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On this day, 3rd August 1914:

Two nearly completed Turkish battleships, the ‘Sultan Osman I’ being built at Armstrong’s shipyard on the Tyne and the ‘Reshadieh’ being built at Vickers, were appropriated by the British Navy. Turkey had already been paid a colossal £7,500,000 for these ships and had raised this sum by passing collection boxes throughout the land. There was hardly a Turk who had not contributed and who now did not feel the insult and the injustice. These feelings were exploited by the German ambassador, Baron von Wangenheim, who even took over a local newspaper ‘Ikdam’ to further his propaganda efforts. The British ambassador, Sir Louis Mallet [described by one historian as a ‘nonentity’] remained on holiday until 18th August

The whole affair was ineptly handled by Britain, who could have easily offered compensation or even two older warships as replacements. Speaking at the Gallipoli Memorial Lecture in 1991, the former Turkish Foreign Minister, Osman Olcay, quoted Barbara Tuchman: “Under the cumulative effect of the ‘Sick Man’ and ‘Wrong Horse’ concepts, England had come to regard the entire Ottoman Empire as of less account than two extra warships.”

Also at a GML [1999] Admiral of the Fleet Sir Julian Oswald pointed out what might have been done instead: “A subtler way could surely have been found. In 1956 an Egyptian destroyer refitting in the UK was allowed to sail shortly before the outbreak of the Suez Canal hostilities. By a regrettable oversight she sailed with a full outfit of 4.5 inch ammunition for her 4.7 inch guns!”

The two Turkish ships became the British Navy’s HMS Agincourt and HMS Erin which served in the Grand Fleet for the rest of the war.

Also on 3rd August 1914, two German warships the ‘Goeben’ and the ‘Breslau’ appeared “off the coast of French North Africa to bombard key ports” [Hickey ‘Gallipoli’]

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Sorry Bob H,

Just now seen your post on the Turkish ships under 2nd August

Apologies for the repeat of information previously posted by you

Hickey agrees with the date being 2nd, however everyone else that I have read say 3rd

I wonder exactly were the confusion arose?


Michael D.R.

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And on this date in 1914, young men and women were out enjoying the Bank Holiday, bathing at the seaside, walking the piers of Brighton or Herne Bay or Blackpool, and thinking about a future that seemed bright. Just a few little clouds on the horizon in Europe, but 'nothing to do with us,' as many of them probably thought.

We will remember them.


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Diplomatic messages:

Germany's Ultimatum to Belgium (Exchange Company's special Telegram).

Brussels, August 3, 1914.

The Belgian Government has received an ultimatum from Germany offering an entente if Belgium is willing to facilitate the movements of German troops.

The Cabinet is now sitting to discuss the answer which had to be given at 7 o'clock this morning.

The German troops are in operation to the north of Liége in Belgium.

Sir F. Villiers to Sir Edward Grey.

Brussels, August 3, 1914.

D. 10:6 A.M.

Tel. (No. 12.)

R. 10:50 A.M.

Colonel Fairholme, who with difficulty got here from Marienbad yesterday, observed no troop and little military activity on railway between Cologne and Herbesthal. Tunnels and bridges guarded by parties of men in civilian clothes with arm-bands and rifles.

Railway communication interrupted between Herbesthal and Welkenrädt, whence Belgian rolling-stock has been withdrawn.

Sir F. Villiers to Sir Edward Grey.

Brussels, August 3, 1914.

D. 9:31 A.M.

Tel. (No. 11.)

R. 10:55 A.M.

French Minister reports that German massed force at Sittard and Trois Ponts and along the frontier prepared to invade Belgium.

Last night at 7:30 German Minister presented ultimatum to Belgium asking whether she is prepared to assume attitude of benevolent neutrality towards German military operations in Belgium. Belgium has refused categorically. German Minister will probably leave Belgium at once. French military attach‚ states that France has five army corps ready to enter Belgium to oppose German advance, but will not do so until Belgium gives permission.

Lights of three airships, probably dirigibles, were observed over Brussels between 2 and 4 this morning.

Mr. Beaumont to Sir Edward Grey.

Constantinople, August 3, 1914.

D. 9:30 A.M..

Tel. (No. 468.)

R. 12:15 P.M.

Following from military attaché for Director of Military Operations:

"Within the last forty-eight hours certain classes of recruits have been called to the colours. Classes vary according to district, but general effect is to raise battalions in first ten army corps to strength of 600 men.

"To-day it is reported on good authority that orders will be given for immediate general mobilisation. A meeting of German mission took place last night, and it has been decided that members of mission shall remain in this country, and that those officers employed in the instructional establishment shall take up forthwith active posts in the field army. I believe that efforts are being made to bring Turkey to the side of the Triple Alliance, and Minister of War and majority of officers incline to this view."

Consul-General Sir C. Hertslet to Sir Edward Grey.

Antwerp, August 3, 1914.

D. 11:25 A.M.


R. 12:30 P.M.

Received reliable information that advanced guard of German troops crossed Belgian frontier and occupied Tongres without opposition. Dutch territory also violated.

Consul-General Sir C. Herslet to Sir Edward Grey.

Antwerp, August 3, 1914.

D. 11:31 A.M.

Tel. (No. 19.)

R. 12:30 P.M.

Mayor informed me that state of siege proclaimed at Antwerp.

Mr. Chilton to Sir Edward Grey.

The Hague, August 3, 1914.

D. 10:4 A.M.

Tel. (No. 27.)

R. 1:10 P.M.

Queen's Aide-de-Camp told me last night what information had been received that Germans are marching south from Wesel. Report current here that one hundred thousand men are in the Grand Duchy of Luxemburg on French frontier, that they have also crossed French frontier near Longwy and been repulsed by French, and that they have also crossed the frontier to Cirey about 40 miles west of Strasbourg. As telegraphic communication with Germany and Luxembourg is cut off it is difficult to obtain confirmation.

Strong censorship here respecting movements of troops and press have agreed not to publish anything on this subject but I learn on good authority that all available troops are being moved to province of Limburg.

Communication from German Embassy.

Foreign Office, August 3, 1914.

Herr von Wesendonk of the German Embassy called to confirm on behalf of the German Government the undertaking given by Prince Lichnowsky this morning that Germany would in no way menace the North Coast of France as long as England remains neutral.

He further said that they had received a despatch from Berlin confirming the statements made this morning in regard to the violation of the German frontier by France.

The French reports as to German troops having passed the French frontier are pure inventions.

French detachments yesterday passed the German frontier to the West of Colmar. The French troops were the first to open fire. Bombs have been dropped by French airships on the Kaiserbrücke at Mainz, and French airships have been sighted in other parts of Germany.

Communicated by War Office (August 3, 1914).

Viâ Germany.

Etienne Vienna.

German High Sea Fleet is said to have passed through the Kiel Canal steaming westwards. A French fleet passed Gibraltar yesterday steaming eastwards. According to French semi-official sources German troops crossed the French frontier at four points; first, in the neighbourhood of the French fort Manonoillez. (sic ? Manonviller) near Lun‚ville whence they reached Cirey-les-forges; second, near Longwy on the Belgium frontier; third, German troops crossed frontier in direction from Muelhausen reached Delle, Petit Croix and fired on French Custom guards; fourth, two German Cavalry officers sent out on reconnaissance were killed 10 kilometres within French territory by the French troops.

Sir Edward Grey to Sir F. Bertie.

Foreign Office, August 3, 1914.

Tel. (No. 810.) En clair.

D. 3 P.M.

German Government informed His Majesty's Government on 2nd August that, firstly, a patrol of French cavalry passed the frontier that morning near Alt Munsterol in Alsatia; secondly, a French aviator had been shot whilst flying over German territory; thirdly, two Frenchmen have been shot whilst attempting to blow up the tunnel near Cochem on the Moselle Railway; fourthly, French infantry have passed the Alsatian frontier and have opened fire.

Sir E. Bertie to Sir Edward Grey.

Paris, August 3, 1914.

D. 11:40 A.M. Tel. (No. 122.)

R. 3 P.M.

Your telegram of yesterday(1) respecting alleged breach of neutrality by French officers.

French Government categorically deny statement made by German Ambassador. Political Director went on to say that until yesterday afternoon, no French soldier was within 8 kilom. of the whole length of their frontier. In the face of German incursions it has now become impossible to keep this distance from the frontier.

Political Director stated that this report was a deliberate fabrication of the German Government with a view to influencing British public opinion on the eve of declaration to be made in Parliament. Political Director stated that German Government had addressed a diplomatic note to the Government of Luxemburg stating that German army would invade Luxemburg territory, as they had certain knowledge that a large French army was about to deliver an attack through Luxemburg. This statement was quite untrue, and was another instance of prearranged misstatements having been prepared in Berlin.

Mr. Chilton to Sir Edward Grey.

The Hague, August 3, 1914.

D. 12:23 P.M.

Tel. (No. 28.)

R. 4:25 P.M.

German Minister has informed Netherlands Minister for Foreign Affairs that his Government have sent an ultimatum to Belgium stating that they wish to occupy Liège, and asking whether Belgian Government will allow them to do so peaceably or not. Answer to be returned in twelve hours.

Belgian Minister has just come from Ministry for Foreign Affairs, and tells me that there is no question that Belgians will fire on Germans immediately. He also says that he believes that German troops have already crossed Meuse.

Sir Edward Grey to Sir C. Greene (Tokyo).

Foreign Office, August 3, 1914.

Tel. (No. 36.)

D. 4 52 P.M.

At present moment, when war with Germany is a possibility, it might be well for you to warn Japanese Government that, if hostilities spread to Far East, and an attack on Hong Kong or Wei-hai Wei were to take place, we should rely on their support.

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More diplomatic messages:

Sir F. Villiers to Sir Edward Grey.

Brussels, August 3, 1914.

D. 4:34 P.M.

Tel. (No. 14.)

R. 5:20 P.M.

My telegram No. 11 of 3rd August .(1)

Offer of support by five French army corps was made to Belgian Government through military attaché. Following reply was given to-day by Belgian Minister for Foreign Affairs to French Minister:—

"We thank the French Government sincerely for their offer of eventual support, but in actual circumstances we are not appealing to guarantee of the Powers. Belgian Government will determine later on action which it may, be necessary to take."

Sir E. Goschen to Sir Edward Grey.

Berlin, August 3, 1914.

D. 4:10 P.M.

Tel. (No. 131.)

R. 6:30 P.M.

Chancellor has made the following communication to me in writing, which he begs me to bring to your immediate notice:—

"The German troops have as yet received orders scrupulously to respect French frontier, and these orders have been everywhere strictly carried out. French news to the contrary is absolutely false. Up to this morning at 10 o'clock no German soldier has been on French territory. On the other hand, in spite of French agreement to 10 kilom. zone, already yesterday French troops crossed German frontier at Altmunsterol, in Alsace, and by way of Schlucht Pass in Vosges, and are still at this moment on German territory. French aviator who must also have flown over Belgian territory was shot down yesterday during attempt to destroy railway at Wesel. It was established without doubt that several other French aviators flew over the Eifel yesterday; these aircraft also have flown over Belgian territory. French aviators yesterday threw bombs on railways in neighbourhood of Carlsruhe and Nuremberg. We must accordingly state it as an undeniable fact that yesterday there have been breaches of peace on the part of French. Latter has likewise violated Belgian neutrality."

The official who brought me this communication informed me verbally at the request of the Chancellor that in some cases as necessary measures of precaution German patrols had crossed German frontier. He added that news of French aviators having been shot down had not been confirmed.

Colonial Office to the Governors, &c., of all British Dominions, Colonies, &c.

Tel. (Paraphrase.) D. August 3, 7-7:10 P.M.

In view of the strained relations with Germany you should be on your guard against the possibility of attack in advance of any formal declaration of war. This is not the war telegram please clearly understand.

Sir F. Bertie to Sir Edward Grey.


Paris, August 3, 1914.

D. 4:45 P.M.

Tel. (No. 126.)

R. 7:30 P.M.

Military attaché reports at 5:30 P.M. that the Belgian military attaché informs him that he has just had an interview with General Joffre relative to Belgian situation. Belgian military attaché stated that in the event of German troops crossing Belgian territory Belgian troops actually on the frontier would protest and retire on Meuse defences, from whence, he was convinced, Belgians would oppose German flank march.

Paris, August 3, 1914.

D. 11:20 A.M.

Tel. (No. 121.)

R. 7:40 P.M.

French Government have learnt from French Minister at Brussels that German Government have presented ultimatum to Belgian Government to the effect that latter should permit passage of German troops through Belgian territory.

Belgian Government have replied that any incursion of German troops will be resisted by force of arms, since the Kingdom of Prussia was one of the guarantors of Belgian neutrality.

Sir F. Villiers to Sir Edward Grey.

Brussels, August 3, 1914.

D. 5:46 P.M.

Tel. (No. 15.)

R. 9 P.M.

Your telegram No. 10 of to-day (1) Belgian neutrality.

German ultimatum states that German Government have received definite information that France intends to invade Germany through Belgium. Germany fears that Belgium will be unable to repel French attack without assistance, and she therefore is obliged to declare as follows:—

1. If Belgium will adopt attitude of benevolent neutrality towards Germany in coming war, Germany will on conclusion of peace guarantee Belgium and Belgian possessions.

2. Subject to above condition, Germany engages to evacuate Belgian territory on conclusion of peace.

3. If Belgium adopts friendly attitude, Germany will pay ready money for all necessaries of war and indemnify all losses caused in Belgium.

4. If Belgium adopts hostile attitude, and especially if Belgium opposes German advance by means of the Meuse fortifications or by destruction of roads, railways, &c., Germany will be compelled to consider Belgium as an enemy country, will take no engagements towards her, and will leave relations between the two States to be settled by arms. If Belgian Government comply, relations of friendship between the two nations will become more close and durable.

Belgian Government, after expressing profound and pained surprise, have replied that intentions attributed to France in German ultimatum are in contradiction to formal declarations made to Belgium by France on 1st August. Moreover, if France were to violate Belgian neutrality, Belgium would fulfil international duty and offer most vigorous resistance.

Treaties of 1839 and 1870 ensure independence and neutrality of Belgium under guarantee of the Powers, including Prussia. Belgium has always been faithful to international obligations, and has spared no effort to maintain her neutrality. Attack on independence now threatened by Germany would be flagrant violation of international law, which could not be justified by any strategical considerations.

If German proposals were accepted, attack(2) would both sacrifice national honour and betray duty towards Europe. She refuses to believe her independence can only be preserved by violation of neutrality, and she is firmly resolved to repel by every means in her power all attacks on her rights.

Sir F. Villiers to Sir Edward Grey.

Brussels, August 3, 1914.

D. 7:2 P.M.

Tel. (No. 16.)

R. 9:40 P.M.

My telegram No. 14 of 3rd August :(1) Belgian neutrality.

Although the Belgian Government have so far declined offer of military support made by French Minister here, and although their reply contains only vague and unsatisfactory allusion to measures which might ultimately be adopted, French military attaché has been assured on authority which he considers reliable that if Germany actually invades Belgium in force Belgian Government will appeal at once not only to France but also to England for military aid. They will not do this so long as Belgian soil is not violated by formidable bodies of German troops. At present it appears that there are only German patrols on Belgian soil.

Military attaché also says that France is avoiding a premature advance in case Germans should be luring them into putting themselves in the wrong by being the first seriously to violate Belgian neutrality.

Sir H. Bax-Ironside to Sir Edward Grey.

Sophia, August 3, 1914.

D. 1 P.M.

Tel. (No. 38.)

R. 10:45 P.M.

A colleague informs me that he has heard from sure source that German Government are using all their influence to persuade Ottoman Government to join forces with Triple Alliance and attack Russia on Asiatic frontier.

German Ambassador at Constantinople informed Grand Vizier that Sweden would also be found on their side.

Mr. Howard to Sir Edward Grey.

Stockholm, August 8, 1914.

D. August B, 7:45 P.M.

Tel. (No. 21.)

R. August 4, 2:30 A.M.

My telegram No. 17 of 2nd August :(1) Swedish neutrality.

Fearing some misapprehension as to Minister for Foreign Affairs' communication of yesterday, I submitted in writing substance of it as reported in my telegram, and asked if it was correct. He has requested me to transmit it in following rather milder form:—

1. If England did not go to war, he was positive that Sweden's neutrality could be maintained.

2. If England did go to war, he feared that extreme circumstances might arise which would force Sweden to choose one side or the other, and it was his private opinion, considering public opinion here, that it was impossible for Sweden to fight on same side as Russia.

Sir C. Greene to Sir Edward Grey.

Tokyo, August 3, 1914.

D. August 3, 6 P.M.

Tel. (No. 58.)

R. August 4, 8:45 A.M.

Your telegram No. 35 of 1st August. (1)

Minister for Foreign Affairs desires me to thank you and to say that the Imperial Government will await an intimation from His Majesty's Government as to what action they have decided to take before defining their own attitude, which will be based thereon.

Japan has no interest in a European conflict, and his Excellency notes what you say as to the Anglo-Japanese Alliance, but, if British interests in Eastern Asia should be placed in jeopardy—say, for instance, by a German attack on Hong Kong or by any other aggressive act—His Majesty's Government may count upon Japan at once coming to assistance of her ally with all her strength, if called on to do so, leaving it entirely to His Majesty's Government to formulate the reason for, and nature of, the assistance required.

Minister for Foreign Affairs tells me that he has spoken in above sense to the German Ambassador, who called upon him to-day, but who repudiated any idea of aggressive action of the nature suggested.(2) His Excellency is to see the French and Russian Ambassadors to-morrow, and will hold similar language to them.

Sir G. Barclay to Sir Edward Grey.

Bucharest, August 4, 1914.

D. 10 A .M.

Tel. (No. 29.)

R. 7:30 A.M.

St. Petersburg telegram No. 195 of 1st August.(1)

Probable prospect of attack on Servia by Turkey and Bulgaria seems to me the one development which would be the most likely to bring King Charles to consent to war with Austria. Presumably Austria will make every effort to keep Turkey and Bulgaria quiet.

Sir Edw ard Grey to Sir E. Goschen.


Foreign Office, August 4, 1914.

Tel. (No. 266.)

D. 9 30 A.M.

The King of the Belgians has made an appeal to His Majesty the King for diplomatic intervention on behalf of Belgium.

His Majesty's Government are also informed that the German Government has delivered to the Belgium Government a note proposing friendly neutrality entailing free passage through Belgian territory and promising to maintain the independence and integrity of the kingdom and its possessions at the conclusion of peace, threatening in case of refusal to treat Belgium a an enemy. An answer was requested within twelve hours.

We also understand that Belgium has categorically refused this as a flagrant violation of the law of nations.

His Majesty's Government are bound to protest against this violation of a treaty to which Germany is a party in common with themselves, and must request an assurance that the demand made upon Belgium will not be proceeded with, and that her neutrality will be respected by Germany. You should ask for an immediate reply.

Sir E. Goschen to Sir Edward Grey.

Berlin, August 3, 1914.

D. August 3, 11:42 P.M.

Tel. (No. 132.)

R. August 4, 10:30 A.M.

Military intelligence for to-day: In eastern theatre German cruiser "Augsburg" bombarded Libau, and German troops have occupied Kalish, Czentochen and Bendzin. In western theatre, according to German reports, French troops have crossed Vosges, occupying Gottestal, Metzeral, Markirch and Schlucht Pass. This is considered in Germany as a breach of international law, war not having been declared yet. It is officially stated here that German troops occupied Luxemburg this morning.

Communicated by German Embassy, August 4, 1914.

Berlin, August 3, 1914 (11:50 P.M.).


To the Imperial (German) Ambassador,

Since France has, since the 1st August, made repeated military attacks on Imperial territory, Germany is now in a state of war with France. Please inform the Government to which you are accredited.

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I got the date of the seizure from the book ‘THE BIG BATTLESHIP’ by Richard Hough, which is about HMS Agincourt.

In the book is this quote from Churchill:

“…The Turkish battleships were vital for us. With a margin of only seven Dreadnoughts we could not afford to do without these two fine ships. Still less could we afford to see them fall into bad hands and used against us.”


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