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The Great War (1914-1918) Forum

Remembered Today:

Closure of Borders


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Hello all. Would anyone know when Germany closed it's borders in 1914? Would July 31 or August 1 be a good guess? Am asking because my great Aunt, having ditched her German watchers, allegedly caught one of the last trains out of Germany. Trying to pin down a date. Many thanks in advance.

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I'm not sure Germany actually 'closed its borders', certainly not to visitors from neutral countries, although according to one newspaper account they did so in June 1916 after martial law was announced in certain provinces.  The reason given was to prevent intelligence concerning poor morale at home being circulated to their enemies.


Diplomatically the Ambassadors were recalled to their respective countries, the German Ambassador left London on the 7th August. The British in Germany were regarded as 'enemy aliens' and potential 'spies'.  The poet Charles Sorley has left an account of his incarceration and subsequent release a few hours later and journey home.


Page 214 et seq


The main problem for those who needed to get home, and there were many was the lack of funds to make the journey.  The American Ambassador who had taken over diplomatic duties as far as British citizens and interests were concerned appealed to the Government for help.  The route out was apparently through Switzerland and Italy.  It appears every experience was different.


The plight of British citizens abroad was discussed in Parliament at some length on the 5th August


where it was noted Calais was already closed but 'seven trains had arrived at Charing Cross that morning with several more on the way from Folkestone.' The objective was to get to neutral Holland and there are pictures of thousands of Belgian Refugees arriving there, presumably along with British Nationals. As Germany had violated Belgium's neutrality many of the latter were caught by surprise.


The following day special trains from Berne to France were mentioned by the parliamentarians



A couple of days later the American Ambassador expressed concern at the 'hundreds' of British citizens, mainly women and girls stranded in Berlin, where there had been anti-British riots.  The men, presumably had either escaped like Sorley or were interned.  There was mention of a reciprocal arrangement for German women in Britain, but I don't know if this occurred. We do know German women or 'German wives' were treated very poorly by the British.







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9 hours ago, roguegrafix said:

Am asking because my great Aunt, having ditched her German watchers, allegedly caught one of the last trains out of Germany.


Do you have a name you could share - from my limited experience with the local British newspapers they seemed to be awash with detailed accounts from those who had managed to get out, with a wide variety of experiences recounted of their treatment by the general German population and even officialdom. It may be that somewhere there is a similar interview with your Great Aunt.




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Hi all. Thanks for the observations. My Great Aunt was Lucy Wilson from Cumbria although later she settled in Australia. She was governess to a wealthy Jewish Australian girl and was chaperoning her at the time. Family legend has it that she was being followed by the German authorities and ducked into a department store. Lost her followers, exited at the back of the store onto a railway station and jumped on the leaving train--one of the last to get out of Germany so goes the story. It's a great tale and I do not really want to destroy it with facts as often is the case with family legends. However, I am curious if there is a shred of evidence to support it. I will read up the links you supplied Ken. Once again, many thanks.

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