Britain, Monday, 3rd August
Morning Lichnowsky gives Grey an assurance from Berlin that "a threat to the French north coast on our part will not take place as long as England remains neutral". He also assures Grey that Germany will maintain the "integrity" of Belgium after the war.
Morning Shortly after Grey sees Lichnowsky, the British Foreign Office learns Germany has sent an ultimatum to Belgium.
9.30 A.M. Bonar Law and Lord Lansdowne call on Asquith. They fear he is trying to find a reason for Britain not to intervene. On talking to him they conclude he supports Grey and Churchill but is trying to find a way to keep the cabinet together.
10.00 A.M. Cabinet Meeting Grey reports the latest information. He tells the cabinet about the unconfirmed German demand for passage of its troops through Belgium. He mentions Lichnowsky's promise that Germany will not attack the French coast if Britain is neutral but he doubts that Lichnowsky is authorised to say this.
Asquith announces he has overnight authorised the mobilisation of the British Army for home defence.
They discuss the statement Grey is to make to the House of Commons in the afternoon and agree the principle points.
Asquith now has resignation letters from three cabinet members and another announces he will resign. The meeting is very emotional. Asquith says in other circumstances he would resign but there would be no government with a majority in the House of Commons. He thinks coalitions are bad for the country.
Lloyd George makes a strong appeal for them not to go or delay and sit in their usual places when Grey speaks in the Commons, and the Government appears united. The Liberal Party members in the Commons are not aware of the cabinet resignations when Grey makes his statement. Later two members withdraw their resignations. [More]
Early afternoon King George receives a personal telegram from King Albert of Belgium referring to the King's friendship and Britain's support of Belgium in 1870. King Albert makes a supreme appeal for "the Diplomatic intervention of your Majesty's government to safeguard the integrity of Belgium".
3.00 P.M. Grey makes a statement to a packed House of Commons. He explains that Britain has no alliance or binding military agreements with France.
As a result of the strong friendship France has with Britain her fleet has concentrated in the Mediterranean and Britain has now promised France the Royal Navy will protect the Channel and western coasts of France.
He goes on to talk about Belgium as a problem becoming worse by the hour. He tells the House it appears an ultimatum has been given to Belgium by Germany offering friendly relations if she facilitates the passage of German troops. He does not yet know if this news is accurate. He mentions King Albert's appeal to Britain for diplomatic intervention.
He says Britain cannot stand aside and see Belgium lose her neutrality and France defeated. It would mean the whole of the continent falling under the control of a single power. Britain has always opposed such aggrandisement.
Grey says Britain, with its powerful Fleet, will suffer little more in war than if she stands aside. Trade will cease and Britain will suffer terribly whether or not she is in the war.
On the Conservative benches the cheering and clapping show overwhelming support for Grey. On the Liberal side the reaction is much less enthusiastic especially below the gangway. [More]
About 4.30 P.M. Following Grey the leader of each main political party makes a brief statement. Bonar Law for the Conservatives again gives the government "unhesitating support".
Redmond, the leader of the Irish Parliamentary Party, to great surprise, is wholeheartedly behind the government's policy.
MacDonald, the leader of the Labour Party, says he believes the government is wrong and Britain should remain neutral. The Speaker then suspends further debate until 7.00 P.M.
After the last speeches A meeting of the Liberal Foreign Affairs Group attracts 27 MPs. The majority of them disagree with Grey and they issue a press release calling for the government to continue negotiations with Germany with a view to Britain remaining neutral.
6.00 P.M. Cabinet Meeting The cabinet meets again and agrees that a message is sent the next day to Berlin asking the German government to withdraw its ultimatum to Belgium. [More]
7.00 P.M. Grey returns to the Commons and reads a note he has just received from the Belgian legation. It summarises the German ultimatum and declares that Belgium has rejected the ultimatum and is resolved to repel aggression by all possible means. He and Asquith leave the House.
Even though Grey had the support of most MPs, the great majority or at least three-quarters by some estimates, the three hour evening adjournment debate that follows produces mainly speakers against the government's policy, and no cabinet members take part. [More]
Evening While looking out of his office window watching the lamps being lit in St James Park, Grey makes the remark "The lamps are going out all over Europe; we shall not see them lit again in our lifetime".
Brief The cabinet resignations