Britain, Monday, 27th July
Late morning Grey sees Lichnowsky. He tells him he thinks the Serbian reply agrees with the Austro-Hungarian demands "to an extent such as he would never have believed possible". It is the result of Russia's conciliatory influence at Belgrade. Moderation is now needed in Vienna.
If Austria-Hungary now invades it proves it intended all along to crush Serbia. This is a challenge to Russia and it will lead to the most terrible war Europe has ever seen.
Grey thinks that Germany can settle the matter and he appeals to Germany to use its influence in Vienna to have the Serbian reply regarded either as satisfactory or as a basis for negotiation. This is Britain's third mediation proposal. [More]
Afternoon Lichnowsky reports Grey’s proposal and comments and his interpretation of them in a series of telegrams to Berlin. He notes that it is the first time he has found Grey annoyed.
If war comes now Germany can no longer count on British support since the Austrian action would be regarded as showing a lack of goodwill.
The whole Serbian question is becoming a trial of strength between the Central Powers (Germany and Austria) and the Triple Entente (France, Russia and Britain). If war comes in these conditions we shall have England against us".
Afternoon Crowe writes "If Russia mobilises, we have been warned Germany will do the same, and as German mobilisation is directed almost entirely against France, the latter cannot possibly delay her own mobilisation for even the fraction of a day". ".... within twenty-four hours His Majesty's Government will be faced with the question" of whether to "stand idly aside, or take sides".
Afternoon Grey sees Mensdorff and summarises what he has said to Lichnowsky.
In a stark indication of his opinion of Serbia Grey goes on to say "If they [Austria-Hungary] could make war on Serbia and at the same time satisfy Russia, well and good; but, if not, the consequences would be incalculable".
He tells Mensdorff owing to the possibility of a European conflagration Britain has not dispersed its fleet. News of this is in the newspapers.
Afternoon Grey tells Benckendorff about his conversation with Lichnowsky. Benckendorff says he hopes Grey's warnings will open the eyes of the German government, who appear to believe Britain will in all circumstances remain neutral. Grey thinks he has been sufficiently frank with Lichnowsky to dispel German confidence in British neutrality.
Afternoon In answer to a parliamentary question from the leader of the opposition, Grey tells parliament about his four-power mediation proposal, and the latest proposal for an ambassadors' conference in London.
He explains that as matters are so grave and urgent he has to take the risk of making proposals that might not be accepted. He also warns that if another great power becomes involved in the Austro-Serbian dispute, it will be the greatest catastrophe ever to befall Europe in one blow.
5.30 P.M. Cabinet Meeting Grey explains his policy to the cabinet. He wants to keep Britain's position as a mediator as strong as possible. He is doing this by keeping opposing groups of powers in the dispute uncertain as to what Britain will do if mediation fails and there is a war.
Germany wants Britain to be neutral, and Russia and France both want Britain to declare it will support them. The cabinet endorse Grey’s policy of deliberate ambiguity.
This approach has the great advantage that the cabinet which is deeply divided between those who support Britain's Entente partners and those who would be neutral, does not for the moment have to decide what Britain will do.
The cabinet also approves the decision already taken to keep the fleet at full strength and agrees to discuss Britain's obligation to Belgium at their next meeting. [More]
After cabinet meeting Several cabinet members meet in Harcourt's room. They are worried by what is happening and talk about forming a "peace party" that Harcourt thinks could be of some 11 cabinet members, to break up the cabinet if necessary in the interests of abstention.
After cabinet meeting Churchill sends a secret telegram to all navy commanders. It says it is not the warning telegram but "the European political situation makes war between the Triple Entente and Triple Alliance powers by no means impossible". Purely as a precautionary measure commanders should consider positioning their ships so they can shadow hostile men-of-war if necessary.
Brief The divided cabinet [More]
Brief Grey's policy [More]