Britain, Tuesday, 4th August
9.30 A.M. Grey wires Goschen instructing him to tell the German government Britain is "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".
He is to ask for an immediate reply. The message is in the form of a request, not an ultimatum, and does not say what the British government will do if the request is ignored.
11.00 A.M. The Belgian legation gets news that Germany has warned Belgium she will use armed force. Confirmation of this from the British Minister in Brussels follows shortly after.
11.30 A.M. Cabinet Meeting Grey gives the latest news from Belgium and reads out the draft of another telegram he is going to send to Goschen in Berlin requiring an answer by midnight.
Midday Lichnowsky passes the Foreign Office a message from Jagow. It repeats the German assurance that in the case of armed conflict with Belgium, Germany will not annex any Belgian territory. It claims that Germany is compelled to invade Belgium to forestall a French attack on Germany through Belgium.
2.00 P.M. Asquith and Grey telegram Goschen asking for a reply to the message sent to him at 9.30 A.M. If Germany does not reply by midnight he is instructed to "ask for your passports and to say that His Majesty's Government feel bound to take all steps in their power to uphold the neutrality of Belgium". Britain's request is now an ultimatum.
Afternoon Grey sees Mensdorff. He says there is no cause for Britain and Austria to quarrel as long as Austria does not go to war with France.
Evening Paul Cambon now knows Britain will support France. He asks Grey "How will you fight the war?". "Will you send your Expeditionary Force?" Grey replies "No". "We shall blockade the German ports. We have not yet considered sending a military force to the Continent".
Cambon says public opinion will force Britain to intervene on the continent and to be effective it must be immediate.
He uses a map of French army deployment to show Grey the need for British forces on the left of the French, as agreed by the British and French General Staffs, if France is attacked through Belgium. He asks Grey to tell Asquith and the cabinet of these considerations.
Shortly after 9.00 P.M. A small group of cabinet members, Asquith, Grey, Haldane, later joined by Lloyd George and McKenna, meet in the cabinet room.
There is no news from Berlin. Goschen's messages never get to London but the government learns from an intercepted message from Berlin to the German embassy he has asked for his passports. They decide to wait until 11.00 P.M. midnight Berlin time.
Shortly after 11.00 P.M. Midnight Berlin time. There is still no news from Berlin and Asquith and the cabinet ministers with him decide to send a declaration of war to Lichnowsky. [More]
Shortly after midnight The Foreign Office gets a message from Brussels saying the Belgium government has asked for military help.