Britain, Friday, 31st July
Early morning Report from Bertie says Poincaré believes the preservation of peace is in the hands of Britain. If Britain announces it would come to the aid of France in a conflict between France and Germany, Germany would modify her attitude, and there would be no war.
Crowe minutes the report saying though Britain is refusing to give France and Russia unconditional support so as to discourage them from choosing war, if it becomes certain they cannot avoid war then "British interests require us to take our place beside them as Allies" and to act immediately.
Morning Lichnowsky calls on Grey with the news that Berchtold has authorised resumption of talks between Vienna and St Petersburg. Grey assumes Berchtold is sincere.
Grey is delighted and adds if Germany can get Austria to agree to a reasonable proposal then Britain would support it in Paris and St Petersburg and "if Russia and France would not accept it His Majesty's Government would have nothing more to do with the consequences". Neither man knows about the Russian general mobilisation. [More]
11.00 A.M. Cabinet Meeting Grey tells the cabinet about Bethmann's proposal for British neutrality and his rejection of it. They agree Grey was right to reject the proposal but it does not change the minds of the cabinet members who think Britain should be neutral. Lloyd George warns that business is strongly against war.
They discuss what Grey should say to Paul Cambon. Grey admits that Britain is not bound by the same obligation of honour to France as binds France to Russia.
The general feeling is British opinion will be against joining a war in support of France though a violation of Belgian neutrality might alter public opinion.
In any case the cabinet cannot promise assistance without the assent of House of Commons. Harcourt is pleased and writes a note to sympathetic colleague "It is now clear that this Cabinet will not join the war". [More]
Afternoon Grey tells Paul Cambon the cabinet is unable to guarantee Britain will intervene in support of France at the present time. It could not pledge Parliament in advance. Further issues such as the preservation of the neutrality of Belgium might change attitudes.
Cambon says Britain has pledged its support and asks Grey to again put the matter to the cabinet. Cambon knows that Grey himself is very supportive of France.
4.30 P.M. News of the Russian general mobilisation reaches London.
Shortly before 5.00 P.M. A German embassy official delivers message that as Russia has declared general mobilisation Germany has declared "State of Imminent Danger of War" and that if Russia does not withdraw her mobilisation proclamation Germany will mobilise in her own defence. The message does not say for Germany mobilisation means war.
5.30 P.M. Grey wires Goschen in Berlin and Bertie in Paris saying in view of the existing treaties on Belgian neutrality, he wants pledges from France and Germany "to respect the neutrality of Belgium so long as no other Power violates it". He wants an early reply.
7.30 P.M. Grey telegrams Bertie rebutting Poincaré's view that Germany believes Britain will be neutral and this is a decisive factor. He says he has made it clear that Britain might not be neutral and Germany is not counting on British neutrality.
Evening General Wilson, the Director of Military Operations, has seen the news of Russian mobilisation and phones his contacts in the Conservative Party.
They should urgently recruit sympathetic Conservative leaders and newspaper editors to shock the government into action in support of France and Russia. Those Conservative leaders who have left London for the holiday weekend should be called back.
Evening Churchill privately on his own initiative has asked a conservative friend, F. E. Smith, if Bonar Law, can suggest conservatives who might replace Liberal cabinet ministers who resign. Smith tells Bonar Law. He is not ready to suggest names but agrees Smith should write to Churchill expressing Conservative Party support for the government in taking military action.
Very late evening Lichnowsky receives wire from Bethmann informing him of the German ultimatum to Russia to stop mobilising and if Germany has to mobilise it means war.
It mentions the enquiry in Paris asking what the French will do if Germany and Russia are at war.
Grey is unavailable and Lichnowsky gives a copy to Tyrrell.
Early hours next day Tyrrell takes it to Asquith and they prepare a message for King George to send to the Tsar appealing to him to stop Russian mobilisation. They drive to Buckingham Palace and get the King out of bed. He agrees to the message addressing it personally to "My Dear Nicky". It is wired to St Petersburg at 3.00 A.M.