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4 August, 1914

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4 August, 1914

Origin of the Term "A Scrap of Paper"

Sir E. Goschen, the British Ambassador in Berlin, called on Chancellor von Bethmann-Hollweg for a final interview. Goschen's report to Sir Edward Grey indicates the origin of the phrase, "a scrap of paper," which had an important effect on world public opinion.

In accordance with the instructions contained in your telegram of the 4th instant, I called upon the Secretary of State that afternoon and inquired, in the name of His Majesty's Government, whether the Imperial Government would refrain from violating Belgian neutrality. Herr von Jagow at once replied that he was sorry to say that his answer must be "No," as in consequence of the German troops having crossed the frontier that morning, Belgian neutrality had been already violated. Herr von Jagow again went into the reasons why the Imperial Government had been obliged to take this step, namely, that they had to advance into France by the quickest and easiest way, so as to be able to get well ahead with their operations and endeavor to strike some decisive blow as early as possible. It was a matter of life and death for them, as if they had gone by the more southern route they could not have hoped, in view of the paucity of roads and the strength of the fortresses, to have got through without formidable opposition entailing great loss of time. This loss of time would have meant time gained by the Russians for bringing up their troops to the German frontier. Rapidity of action was the great German asset, while that of Russia was an in exhaustible supply of troops. I pointed out to Herr von Jagow that this fait accompli of the violation of the Belgian frontier rendered, as he would readily understand, the situation exceedingly grave, and I asked him whether there was not still time to draw back and avoid possible consequences, which both he and I would deplore. He replied that, for the reasons he had given me, it was now impossible for them to draw back....

This interview took place at about 7 o'clock. In a short conversation which ensued Herr von Jagow expressed his poignant regret at the crumbling of his entire policy and that of the Chancellor, which had been to make friends with Great Britain, and then, through Great Britain, to get closer to France. I said that this sudden end to my work in Berlin was to me also a matter of deep regret and disappointment, but that he must understand that under the circumstances and in view of our engagements, His Majesty's Government could not possibly have acted otherwise than they had done.

I then said that I should like to go and see the Chancellor [von Bethmann-Hollweg], as it might be, perhaps, the last time I should have an opportunity of seeing him. He begged me to do so. I found the Chancellor very agitated. His Excellency at once began a harangue, which lasted for about twenty minutes. He said that the steps taken by His Majesty's Government was terrible to a degree; just for a word -- "neutrality," a word which in war time had so often been disregarded -- just for a scrap of paper Great Britain was going to make war on a kindred nation who desired nothing better than to be friends with her. All his efforts in that direction had been rendered useless by this last terrible step, and the policy to which, as I knew, he had devoted himself since his accession to office had tumbled down like a house of cards. What we had done was unthinkable; it was like striking a man from behind while he was fighting for his life against two assailants. He held Great Britain responsible for all the terrible events that might happen. I protested strongly against that statement, and said that, in the same way as he and Herr von Jagow wished me to understand that for strategical reasons it was a matter of life and death to Germany to advance through Belgium and violate the latter's neutrality, so I would wish him to understand that it was, so to speak, a matter of "life and death" for the honor of Great Britain that she should keep her solemn engagement to do her utmost to defend Belgium's neutrality if attacked. That solemn compact simply had to be kept, or what confidence could any one have in engagements given by Great Britain in the future? The Chancellor said, "But at what price will that compact have been kept? Has the British Government thought of that?" I hinted; to his Excellency as plainly as I could that fear of consequences could hardly be regarded as an excuse for breaking solemn engagements, but his Excellency was so excited, so evidently overcome by the news of our action, and so little disposed to hear reason that I refrained from adding fuel to the flame by further argument.

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christine liava'a

4th August 1914

Australia and New Zealand enter the war in support of Britain

The Governor General of Australia received from the Imperial authorities a cable which said

"If your Ministers desire and feel themselves able to seize German wireless stations at New Guinea, Yap in the Marshall Islands and Naru or Pleasant Island, we should feel that this was a great and urgent Imperial service. You will realise, however that any territory now occupied must at conclusion of war be at the disposal of Imperial Government for purposes of an ultimate settlement. Other Dominions are acting on the same understanding in a similar way, and, in particular, suggestion to New Zealand is being made with regard to Samoa.”

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What is even worse is that the 'scrap of paper' did not even exist.

The 1839 treaty required action by all guarantors in concert (that's what they told Luxembourg which had the same wording in their neutrality treaty) and the 1870 treaty expired in 1872!

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Guest AmericanDoughboy

On the fourth of August, 1914, the President of the United States of America, Woodrow Wilson, declared neutrality and peace terms with the allies and Central Powers. Wilson would soon be dragged into this "disasterous of all wars" under hostile conditions with the Imperial German Armies, but he did indeed "keep us out of the war" for quite a while. On August 19th, President Wilson adressed the nation:

"My fellow countrymen: I suppose that every thoughtful man in America has asked himself, during these last troubled weeks, what influence the European war may exert upon the United States, and I take the liberty of addressing a few words to you in order to point out that it is entirely within our own choice what its effects upon us will be and to urge very earnestly upon you the sort of speech and conduct which will best safeguard the Nation against distress and disaster.

The effect of the war upon the United States will depend upon what American citizens say and do. Every man who really loves America will act and speak in the true spirit of neutrality, which is the spirit of impartiality and fairness and friendliness to all concerned. The spirit of the Nation in this critical matter will be determined largely by what individuals and society and those gathered in public meetings do and say, upon what newspapers and magazines contain, upon what ministers utter in their pulpits, and men proclaim as their opinions on the street.

The people of the United States are drawn from many nations, and chiefly from the nations now at war. It is natural and inevitable that there should be the utmost variety of sympathy and desire among them with regard to the issues and circumstances of the conflict. Some will wish one nation, others another, to succeed in the momentous struggle. It will be easy to excite passion and difficult to allay it. Those responsible for exiting it will assume a heavy responsibility, responsibility for no less a thing than that the people of the United States, whose love of their country and whose loyalty to its Government should unite them as Americans all, bound in honor and affection to think first of her and her interests, may be divided in camps of hostile opinion, hot against each other, involved in the war itself in impulse and opinion if not in action.

Such divisions amongst us would be fatal to our peace of mind and might seriously stand in the way of the proper performance of our duty as the one great nation at peace, the one people holding itself ready to play a part of impartial mediation and speak the counsels of peace and accommodation, not as a partisan, but as a friend.

I venture, therefore, my fellow countrymen, to speak a solemn word of warning to you against that deepest, most subtle, most essential breach of neutrality which may spring out of partisanship, out of passionately taking sides. The United States must be neutral in fact as well as in name during these days that are to try men's souls. We must be impartial in thought as well as in action, must put a curb upon our sentiments as well as upon every transaction that might be construed as a preference of one party to the struggle before another.

My thought is of America. I am speaking, I feel sure, the earnest wish and purpose of every thoughtful American that this great country of ours, which is, of course, the first in our thoughts and in our hearts, should show herself in this time of peculiar trial a Nation fit beyond others to exhibit the fine poise of undisturbed judgment, the dignity of self-control, the efficiency of dispassionate action; a Nation that neither sits in judgment upon others nor is disturbed in her own counsels and which keeps herself fit and free to do what is honest and disinterested and truly serviceable for the peace of the world.

Shall we not resolve to put upon ourselves the restraints which will bring to our people the happiness and the great and lasting influence for peace we covet for them?"



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Kate Wills

The British ultimatum to Germany expired at midnight in Berlin, 11pm in London. Waiting for what he knew would be a negative response, Sir Edward Grey watches the darkness fall.

"The lamps are going out all over Europe. We shall not see them lit again in our lifetime".

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More diplomatic dispatches:

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 Edward Grey to Sir F. Bertie.


Foreign Office, August 4, 1914.

Tel. (No. 318.)

D. 10:30 A.M.

His Majesty's Government are informing the Norwegian, Netherlands and Belgian Governments that if pressure is applied to them by Germany to induce them to depart from neutrality, His Majesty's Government expect that they will resist by any means in their power, and His Majesty's Government will support them in offering such resistance, and that His Majesty's Government in this event are prepared to join Russia and France, if desired, in offering to the Norwegian, Netherlands, and Belgian Governments at once common action for the purpose of resisting use of force by Germany against them, and a guarantee to maintain their independence and integrity in future years.

Sir M. de Bunsen to Sir Edward Grey.

Vienna, August 3, 1914.

D. August 3, 3:50 P.M.

Tel. (No. 152.)

R. August 4, 11 A .M.

Notwithstanding news of violation of French territory at two points by German troops, French Ambassador has not heard officially that France is at war with Germany. He does not know whether Franco-German war necessarily entails a state of war between France and Austria. He fears, however, that circumstances may compel him to leave Vienna at any moment, and he proposes in that case to ask United States Ambassador to take charge of French Embassy. I have hesitated as yet to ask United States Ambassador to do us this service in case of need, as I feel in doubt as to whether possible contingency of war between England and Germany would cause me to be immediately withdrawn from Vienna, and I do not wish to give impression that this Embassy may be shortly withdrawn.

Should my withdrawal become necessary after United States Embassy have taken charge of French Embassy, I would suggest that this would not prevent my asking United States Ambassador to help us in the same way. Otherwise I could only ask representative of a smaller Power, e.g., Netherlands, Belgium, or Sweden, whose representatives are all men of considerable standing here. Russian Embassy will be left in charge of Spanish Ambassador.

Sir F. Villiers to Sir Edward Grey.

Brussels, August 4, 1914.

D. 9:40 A.M.

Tel. (No. 18.)

R. 11:20 A.M.

German Minister has this morning addressed note to Minister for Foreign Affairs stating that, as Belgian Government have declined the well-intentioned proposals submitted to them by the Imperial Government, the latter will, deeply to their regret, be compelled to carry out, if necessary by force of arms, the measures considered indispensable in view of the French menaces.

Sir Edward Grey to Sir E. Goschen.

Foreign Office, August 4, 1914.

Tel. (No. 268.)

D. 11:30 A.M.

I continue to receive numerous complaints from British firms as to the detention of their ships at Hamburg, Cuxhaven and other German ports. This action on the part of the German authorities is totally unjustifiable. It is in direct contravention of international law and of the assurances given to Your Excellency by the Imperial Chancellor. You should demand the immediate release of all British ships if such release has not yet been given

Communicated by German Ambassador, August 4, 12 noon.

Herr von Jagow to Prince Lichnowsky.

Tel. (No. 226.) En clair.

Berlin, August 4, 1914.

Please dispel any mistrust that may subsist on the part of the British Government with regard to our intentions, by repeating mot positively formal assurance that, even in the case of armed conflict with Belgium, Germany will, under no pretence whatever, annex Belgian territory. Sincerity of this declaration is borne out by fact that we solemnly pledged our word to Holland strictly to respect her neutrality. It is obvious that we could not profitably annex Belgian territory without making at the same time territorial acquisitions at expense of Holland. Please impress upon Sir E. Grey that German army could not be exposed to French attack across Belgium, which was planned according to absolutely unimpeachable information. Germany had consequently to disregard Belgian neutrality, it being for her a question of life or death to prevent French advance.

Sir Edward Grey to Mr. Beaumont.

Foreign Office, August 4, 1914.

Tel. (No. 334.)

D. 12:15 P.M.

Your telegram No. 468 of 3rd August.(1)

You should earnestly impress upon Grand Vizier that Turkish interest would best be served by maintaining a strict neutrality. If Turkey were to be drawn into the war as an ally of Germany and Austria the gravest consequences would follow.

You must, however, be careful to give to your communication the character of good advice from Turkey's oldest friend, and avoid anything to give rise to an impression that we are threatening.

Sir Edward Grey to Sir E. Goschen.

Foreign Office, August 4, 1914.

Tel (No. 270.)

D. 2 P.M.

We hear that Germany has addressed note to Belgian Minister for Foreign Affairs stating that German Government will be compelled to carry out, if necessary by force of arms, the measures considered indispensable.

We are also informed that Belgian territory has been violated at Gemmenich.

In these circumstances, and in view of the fact that Germany declined to give the same assurance respecting Belgium as France gave last week in reply to our request made simultaneously at Berlin and Paris, we must repeat that request, and ask that a satisfactory reply to it and to my telegram No. 266 of this morning(1) be received here by 12 o'clock to-night. If not, you are instructed to ask for your passports and to say that His Majesty's Government felt bound to take all steps in their power to uphold the neutrality of Belgium and the observance of a Treaty to which Germany is as much a party as ourselves.

Sir Edward Grey to Sir M. de Bunsen.

Foreign Office, August 4, 1914.

Tel. (No. 206.)

D. 2:30 P.M.

Your telegram No. 152 of 3rd August.(l)

If your Excellency is eventually withdrawn, you should ask American Ambassador to take charge of British interests as arranged.

Mr. Carnegie to Sir Edward Grey.

Lisbon, August 4, 1914.

D. 10:45 A.M.

Tel. (No. 30.)

R. 8:10 P.M.

Yesterday evening Prime Minister speaking in name of President of the Republic and of Government requested me to assure His Majesty's Government of Portugal's intention and desire to act in complete co-operation with Great Britain in whatever course latter may adopt.

Sir F. Villiers to Sir Edward Grey.

Brussels, August 4, 1914.

D. 1:1 P.M.

Tel. (No. 19.)

R. 8:12 P.M.

Special Session of Chambers opened this morning by the King in person who delivered patriotic speech. His Majesty and the Queen were given a great ovation. Prime Minister read correspondence with German Minister upon which he said no comment was required. Immense enthusiasm prevailed.

Sir F. Bertie to Sir Edward Grey.

Paris, August 4, 1914.

D. 1:3 P.M.

Tel. (No. 18.) En clair.

R. 3:55 P.M.

With reference to your telegram No. 310 of yesterday,(1) military attaché reports French War Office inform him that: Firstly, it has no information of any French patrol having crossed the frontier even a few yards. It would appear impossible by reason of the strict orders issued. Secondly, it is correct that a military aviator lost his way on 3rd August in Alsace. He landed by mistake in the suburbs of Mulhaus, and left again, arriving at Belfort without harm. Thirdly, no person, male or female, has received instructions to blow up the tunnel of Cochem or any other tunnel. It is unaware of any attempt of this nature. Fourthly, it has not received any information reporting crossing of the Alsatian frontier by French infantry.

Communication from German Embassy, August 4, 1914.

Foreign Office.

Herr v. Wesendonk of the German Embassy called to say that the Ambassador had received a further telegram from his Government (dated 2:30 P.M. saying that it is absolutely untrue that a single German soldier had crossed the French frontier.

Sir F. Villiers to Sir Edward Grey.

Brussels, August 4, 1914.

D. l P.M.

Tel (No. 22.)

R. 4:20 P.M.

Military attaché has been informed at War Office that German troops, have now undoubtedly entered Belgian territory, and that Liège has been summoned to surrender by small party of Germans, who, however, were repulsed. War Office states that mobilisation has taken place without a hitch, and that army is at this moment concentrated as intended. Dutch Limburg has not been occupied by Germans. French military attaché has been informed that German troops are now concentrating at Aix-la-Chapelle.

German Foreign Office to German Ambassador, London.

D. August 4, 4:38 P.M.

R. in London at 4:17 P.M.

Tel. (No. 1545.)

Sent out for delivery at 4:25 P.M.

Declaration Bethmann Reichstag to-day. We are in self-defence and needs must. Our troops have occupied Luxemburg and perhaps have already entered Belgian territory. This is an infraction to International Law. Though the French Government have declared in Brussels to be willing to respect Belgium's neutrality as long as the adversary would respect it, we knew that France was ready for invasion. France was able to wait, we were not. A French aggression into our flank on the lower Rhine would have been disastrous. We were therefore compelled to overrule the legitimate protest of the Luxemburg and Belgian Governments. We shall repair the wrong which we are doing, as soon as our military aims have been reached. Anybody threatened as we are and fighting for his most sacred goods must on think of pulling through. As to the attitude of England, the statement made by Sir Edward Grey in the House of Commons has clearly laid down the point of view taken by the British Government that as long as England will keep neutral our fleet would not attack the Northern Coast of France and that we would not touch the territorial integrity and the independence of Belgium. I herewith repeat this declaration publicly before the whole world and I may add that as long as England keeps neutral we would be willing in case of reciprocity not to undertake any hostile operations against the French commercial navigation.


[NOTE. This telegram was communicated to the Foreign Office by the Censor. It as sent en clair and in English, obviously with the intention that it should be intercepted (DD No. 829). Punctuation as in the original.]

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And more;

Sir F. Bertie to Sir Edward Grey.

Paris, August 4, 1914.

D. 1:15 P.M.

Tel. (No. 132.)

R. 5 P.M.

Following from Military Attaché:

"French War Office information: German dispositions: general situation much the same.

"Duchy of Luxemburg: Greater portion of 8th corps with advance parties of 16th division on the French border; also probably one division of cavalry of which 7th Uhlans and 7th Chevaux Legers form part between Luxemburg and Longwy.

"Lorraine; movements of the 21st corps signalled near Chateau Salins and of the 18th corps towards Sarrebourg.

"Vosges to the Swiss frontier: Situation unchanged. French dispositions: troops on the frontier no change; other troops in France in their garrisons and expect to move forward about August 6th.

"It is hoped to bring from Algeria a force of about 20,000; at present it is not deemed advisable to commence transportation across Mediterranean owing to presence of German warships; probable time for transportation 12 days; probable destination neighbourhood of Belfort.

"Secrecy essential as regards all movements and position of French troops which are for information of British War Office."

Sir Edward Grey to Sir E. Goschen.

Foreign Office, August 4, 1914.

Tel. (No. 271.)

D. 5 P.M.

Please acknowledge as soon as possible receipt of my telegram Nos. 266 and 270 of 4th August.(1)

We will let you know without loss of time whether any reply, satisfactory or otherwise, has been received here by midnight. United States Government cordially agree to take charge of embassy

Sir Edward Grey to Sir M. de Bunsen.

Foreign Office, August 4, 1914.

Tel. (No. 207.)

D. 5:30 P.M.

We shall presumably be at war with Germany to-morrow, as the latter has violated and will apparently not engage to respect the Belgian Treaty.

But I understand Austria not at present to be at war with Russia or with France, and I do not therefore contemplate instructing you to ask for your passports or to address any communication to the Austrian Government. I have said this to Austrian Ambassador, but have added that we should of course expect Austrian Government not to commit any act of war against us without first making some communication to us in accord with diplomatic usage.

Sir F. Villiers to Sir Edward Grey.

Brussels, August 4, 1914.

D. 4:26 P.M.

Tel (No 23.)

R. 6:30 P.M.

French Military Attaché states that German troops have appeared this morning at Marieange, Martelange, Bastogne and along Liège, Stavelot Luxemburg railway.

German dispositions appear to be: On extreme right seventh Army Corps debouching from Aix, next 16th then 4th and an army corps number unknown (possibly 12th) on extreme left. Saxon Cavalry accompanies cavalry of 7th corps and 8th Cuirassiers.

Russian military attaché states that Germans have entered Belgium from Eupen and Aix and at Stavelot

Sir F. Bertie to Sir Edward Grey

Paris, August 4, 1914.

Tel. (No. 138.) Confidential.

D. 3:25 P.M.

Minister for Foreign Affairs informs me that Belgian Minister has communicated to him a telegram from his Government to the effect that German soldiers have crossed the Belgian frontier at Gemmenich in the region of Verviers.

Sir E. Goschen to Sir Edward Grey.

Berlin, August 4, 1914.

D. 5:35 P.M.

Tel. (No. 135.) Urgent.

R. 7:50 P.M.

My French colleague protested against violation of French frontier by German troops, and in reply German Government communicated violations of their territory reported in my telegram of yesterday.

Presume details of events on French frontier have been communicated to you by French Government. My French colleague received his passports at 7 last night and leaves at 10 to-night for Vienna. He was first offered choice between Copenhagen and Constance and chose latter but was subsequently informed that he must go by Vienna. He protested until given a written assurance that he would be allowed to continue journey through Switzerland.

His telephone was cut off two days ago and his Vice-Consul and Embassy accountant were arrested in their beds this morning, but on protest were released after some little time. He and his staff have been warned not to show themselves in public for fear of insult.

Sir F. Villiers to Sir Edward Grey.

Brussels, August 4, 1914.

D. 6:38 P.M.

R. 9 P.M.

5 o'clock. Military Attaché just informed at War Office that firing is going on outside Liège.

No Germans have as yet crossed Meuse.

Mr. Erskine to Sir Edward Grey.

Athens, August 4, 1914.

D. 7:30 P.M.

Tel. (No. 135.)

R. 10:45 P.M.

Greek Government having informed Austrian Government that they will remain neutral unless Bulgaria intervenes, Austrian Government have replied that they have strongly urged Bulgaria to remain neutral, and that the latter has assured them that they will do so.

Sir Edward Grey to Mr. Barclay (Manchester, Mass.).

(No. 435.) Foreign Office, August 4, 1914.


I told Mr. Page to-day of our ultimatum to Germany as to the maintenance of Belgian neutrality. I said to him that it was, in the first place, a matter of fulfilling a treaty obligation. If, after all that was said in 1870 about our obligations under the treaty guaranteeing the neutrality of Belgium, we had now done nothing to preserve that neutrality, and had simply looked on at the present deliberate and flagrant violation of the treaty, we should have lost all respect. The principle of the sanctity of treaty rights was really the test of the progress of civilisation, as compared with a state of force and lawlessness; it was the foundation of all confidence between nations. There were two sets of people in Germany: people like the German Chancellor, Herr von Bethmann Hollweg, and the German Ambassador here, Prince Lichnowsky, who dealt with all these things as we dealt with them; on the other hand, there was the military party of force, who had no respect at all for these things. I had information that Germany was putting pressure on at least one of the smaller European States to join her in this war, and the issue for us was that, if Germany won, she would dominate France; the independence of Belgium, Holland, Denmark, and perhaps of Norway and Sweden, would be a mere shadow: their separate existence as nations would really be a fiction; all their harbours would be at Germany's disposal; she would dominate the whole of Western Europe, and this would make our position quite impossible. We could not exist as a first-class State under such circumstances. I said that I asked nothing of the United States, except that they should comply with the ordinary rules of neutrality and that they should take charge of our Embassies in Berlin and Vienna, if need be. I should like Mr. Page to telegraph to the President what I had said to him.

Mr. Page said that he felt that what was happening in Europe would cause in the United States a grief that would be only less than if they themselves were involved in the war. He would telegraph to the President what I had said. He expressed great sympathy, and said that the United States Government would feel it a pleasure to do all in their power, consistent with the obligations of neutrality, to be of use to us.

He was authorised to say that the American Embassy at Berlin, and at Vienna, if necessary, would readily take charge of our interests there.

I am, &c.


Sir Edward Grey to Sir R. Rodd.

(No. 226.) Foreign Office, August 4, 1914


I expressed my most cordial appreciation to the Italian Ambassador to-day of what the Italian Minister for Foreign Affairs had said to your Excellency, as described in your telegram No. 160 of the 3rd instant. (1) I said that I entirely reciprocated his feeling towards us.

The Ambassador said that he feared that Italy might be drawn into this war. Austria was almost sure to do something that would make even the stones in Italy rise up.

I am. &c


Sir F. Villiers to Sir Edward Grey.

Brussels, August 4, 1914.

D. August 4, 4 P.M.

Tel. (No. 29.)

R. August 5, 12:50 A.M.

I have just received from Minister for Foreign Affairs a note of which following is a literal translation:

"Belgian Government regret to have to inform His Majesty's Government that this morning armed forces of Germany penetrated into Belgian territory in violation of engagements assumed by treaty. Belgian Government are firmly resolved to resist by all means in their power. Belgium appeals to Great Britain and France and Russia to co-operate, as guarantors, in defence of her territory.

"There would be concerted and common action with the object of resisting the forcible measures employed by Germany against Belgium and at the same time of guarding the maintenance for future of the independence and integrity of Belgium.

"Belgium is happy to be able to declare that she will assume defence of her fortified places."

Sir E. Goschen to Sir Edward Grey. (Received August 13.)

Tel. (No. 136.)

Berlin, August 4, 1914.

Your telegram No. 266 of 4th August. (1)

Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs regrets that he cannot give assurance demanded as German troops passed Belgian frontier this morning.

He begs me to assure you that this was military necessity and matter of life and death for Empire; every other line of attack would have taken too long and enabled Russia to concentrate. They had been ready to give, and had in fact given, assurances to Belgium that every compensation would be given to her after the war, and that her neutrality in every other way except as regards passage of troops would be respected. Belgium, he admitted, had acted quite naturally and very loyally in this matter.

Sir Edward Grey to the German Ambassador.

Foreign Office, August 4, 1914.

Your Excellency,

The result of the communication made at Berlin having been that His Majesty's Ambassador has had to ask for his passports, I have the honour to inform your Excellency that in accordance with the terms of the notification made to the German Government to-day His Majesty's Government consider that a state of war exists between the two countries as from to-day at 11 o'clock P.M.

I have the honour to enclose passports for your Excellency, your Excellency's family and staff.

I have, &c.



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Stuart Brown

The inside of a small greetings card found with some Great War ephemera.


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St Helens answers the call...

Crowds begin to gather in the town centre, around the post office, and especially about the two Territorial Halls, (Engineers and Volunteers).

From early in the afternoon til late in the evening the approache to the halls were thronged with people, and the crowds soon became so dense that it was no easy matter for the police who were on duty to keep the way clear...Church Street was alive with people and a group of Territorials, uniformed and carrying rifles, caused a feeling of mild excitement to run through the crowd...From the time of the mobilisation summons was received until these men were marching to the station could not have been many minutes. Yet they were ready.

[Reporter, 4.8.14]

Regular Reserves made their way to the Post Office in Church St, where they collected their 3/5 'subsistence' before taking trains to their various regimental depots around the country.

Rumours spread that the local Territorials, part of the 55th (West Lancashire) Division, will head for Ireland to relieve Regular troops bound for France and Belgium. The 1/5 battalion South Lancs are ordered to parade at 0900 on Wednesday morning.

Local enterprise:

A Church St cobbler was one of the first to recognise the potential business opportunities offered by the conflict, taking out a new advertisment: 'Scales & Sons - Boots for Peace or War.'

However, the news was not all good for trade. Pilkingtons glass firm - a major employer in St Helens - express concern about the dislocation of exports.

Messrs Balshaw Bros, of Bridge St, start the war in rather more promising fashion. The 1/5 South Lancs order for 2,000 pairs of socks, 2,000 shirts, 2,000 pairs of pants and a variety of other kit. This hints at fortunes to be made by those fortunate enough to receive contracts from the armed forces for the forseeable future.

[Newpaper & Advertiser, 4.8.14]


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