Who started WW One?

Reaction: 29 JUNE - 22 JULY
Week 1

Austria's leaders believe Serbia is involved in the Sarajevo assassinations.

Serbia is also the source of agitation for the breakaway of the Empire's Slavic provinces such as Bosnia, to be part of a Greater Serbia.

They decide only a military invasion will put a stop to Serbia's trouble-making.

They seek the support of Germany as an attack on Serbia might bring Russia to the defence of Serbia.

The Kaiser thinks it's time to settle with the Serbs.

German deputy Chief of the General Staff thinks the situation is very serious. Everything will depend on the attitude of Russia to the Austro-Serbian business.

Serbian official tells Austrian diplomat the investigation of a possible Serbian involvement in the assassinations is not the concern of the Serbian government.

Week 2

Now they have German backing the Austrians make plans to deal with Serbia.

So as not to jeopardise international support by launching an invasion without warning they decide to first send Serbia an ultimatum making demands the Serbs are almost bound to reject.

Germany wants Austria to act quickly but disagreement over the terms of the ultimatum, the steps to be taken after its likely rejection, and military unreadiness, rule out rapid action.

The Kaiser gives Germany's unqualified support to Austria-Hungary in any action it wishes to take against Serbia.

The Kaiser thinks it likely Russia will stay out. The Tsar will not take the part of regicides and Russia and its ally France are not prepared for war.

A senior German official tells the Austrian envoy he thinks there is a 90% probability of a European war. The envoy unofficially says Austria wants to partition Serbia and give parts to its neighbours, Bulgaria and Albania

The Kaiser departs on his annual summer North Sea cruise with the German fleet. Other German leaders take their holidays.

Serbian Prime Minister tells German diplomat of his horror at the crime in Sarajevo.

He also says a civilised government cannot be held responsible for the acts of troubled youths.

Austrian diplomat tells Russian Foreign Minister Austria might demand support of Serbian government in an investigation in Serbia. The Russian minister says they should drop this idea.

German ambassador tells the British Foreign Secretary growing Russian military strength makes Germany inclined not to restrain Austria. Trouble now would be better than trouble later. The Foreign Secretary says he will speak to the Russian ambassador.

Foreign Secretary sees the German ambassador again and says if Austria's actions are reasonable and don't excite pan-Slav feeling it should be easy to keep Russia calm.

Week 3

Germany stresses quick action is called for. A complicating factor is the visit of the French President to see the Tsar and the desirability of delivering the ultimatum when they are not together.

An Austrian investigation says "there is evidence suggesting elements in the Serbian government are responsible" for the crime in Sarajevo.

There is now agreement on the terms of the ultimatum.


Russian Foreign Minister denies Austrian press assertions that the assassinations are the result of a pan-Serb plot. It is unjust to hold the Serbian government responsible for the acts of a few youths.

Russian ambassador in Vienna passes on information from British ambassador regarding Austria's intention to make unacceptable demands on Serbia.

Retired Austrian diplomat tells the British ambassador in Vienna Austria plans to make extreme demands on Serbia. If these are not immediately accepted force will be used. Germany is in agreement with this.

Week 4

The final wording of the ultimatum is decided. The Emperor gives his approval. He thinks the demands made on Serbia are harsh and Russia cannot possibly tolerate it.

The ultimatum is to be presented to Serbia on 23 July after the French President has left St Petersburg.

A copy of the ultimatum is forwarded to Berlin.

Germans begin diplomatic efforts to keep a conflict between Austria and Serbia local.

"Intervention by another Power might in consequence of the various alliances bring incalculable consequences in its train".

Concern in Serbia that Austria might demand a mixed commission of enquiry and thus infringe Serbian sovereignty.

Serbia receives warning via foreign diplomats that Austria is planning to exert momentous pressure that might result in an armed attack.

Russian Foreign Minister tells German ambassador the problems that Austria has with its Serb subjects are the result of Austrian misgovernment.

He says privately that anything like an ultimatum to Serbia might force Russia to take precautionary military measures.

French President on a state visit to Russia confirms the importance of the Franco-Russian military alliance.

He warns the Austrian ambassador in St Petersburg that Serbia has a friend, Russia, and Russia has an ally, France.

Senior British official thinks it is difficult to understand the German position regarding Austria.

They are in the best position to influence Austria. He thinks Germany knows what Austria intends and has given its support.

French President and Prime Minister on state visit to Russia. See Russia.

Ultimatum: 23 JULY - 27 JULY
Thu 23rd July  

At 6.00 P.M. Austrian minister in Belgrade gives ultimatum to the Serbs. They have 24hrs to reply.

Serbian cabinet is shocked by severity of the ultimatum's demands. Some infringe Serbian sovereignty.

They tell Serbian foreign legations "no Serbian government could accept them in their entirety".

The Tsar and the French President watch a military review of 70,000 troops.

French and Russians each send a message to Austria cordially but firmly warning of the dangerous consequences of making demands unacceptable Serbia.

French Presidential party leaves Russia by ship for state visits to Sweden, Denmark and Norway.

British Foreign Secretary tells the Austrian ambassador it would be terrible if the four great powers - Austria-Hungary, Germany, Russia and France - were involved in war.

Naming just these four powers implies Britain will remain neutral in a European war.

French President and Prime Minister on state visit to Russia. See Russia.

Fri 24th July

Austria tells Russia its objective is to stop Serbia supporting the Greater Serbia movement and to be able to check that this support has stopped.

It has no intention of taking territory from Serbia. Austria is willing to risk armed conflict.

Italian Foreign Minister tells the German ambassador in Rome that Italy is not obliged to support Austria-Hungary under the Triple Alliance. It will keep its options open.

In response to opinion in Paris and London that Germany is behind the Austro-Hungarian ultimatum Germany says it had nothing to do with the ultimatum and knew nothing of its contents.

Serbs decide not to do anything until they know what Russia thinks. They ask their ambassador in St Petersburg to ascertain the views of the Russian government.

Serbian Crown Prince also makes a direct appeal to the Tsar saying Serbia will accept whatever he advises.

Serbs begin to compose reply conforming as best as possible to Austrian demands.

On learning the details of the Austrian ultimatum the Russian Foreign Minister declares angrily "C'est La guerre Européenne!"

The French ambassador tells him France will give Russia its full support and fulfil its alliance obligations. The British ambassador says Britain has no direct interest in Serbia.

Russian Council of Ministers decides to ask Tsar to approve mobilisation against Austria if it takes action against Serbia.

Russian Foreign Minister tells German ambassador the issue between Austria and Serbia cannot be localised. There should be some form of international arbitration.

British Foreign Secretary says the ultimatum is "the most formidable document that was ever addressed from one state to another" but he says some of the demands in the ultimatum are fully justified.

He sees the German ambassador and proposes if there is trouble between Austria and Russia over Serbia, the four powers not directly involved - Germany, Italy, Britain and France - mediate between them.

He again comments on the dangers of war between four great powers and doesn't mention Britain.

German ambassador calls on French Minister of Justice (who is acting for Foreign Minister while on state visit) to tell him Germany believes the conflict between Austria-Hungary and Serbia must be kept local. In view of the alliances any intervention would have "incalculable consequences".

French Minister of Justice tells the ambassador he thinks Austria can make legitimate demands on Serbia and he also wishes the conflict to remain localised. A senior French official warns the ambassador that Russia may not be able to resist the pressure to defend Serbia.

Sat 25th July

Austria refuses Russia's request to extend the time limit of the ultimatum.

Following the unsatisfactory Serbian reply and the breaking of diplomatic relations, the Emperor orders mobilisation Plan Balkans, that is in the south, against Serbia, to begin on the 28th July.

There is it be no military deployment on the frontier with Russia.

German Foreign Minister tells newspaper editor neither Russia nor France nor England want war but war is likely to come in the future when Russia would be stronger.

Germans tell the Austrian ambassador Austria should start military operations against Serbia immediately it receives an unsatisfactory response to the ultimatum.

Germany tells Britain that it would take part in four-power mediation proposed by Britain if there is a confrontation between Austria and Russia.

The Kaiser decides to return from his summer cruise.

Initial Russian response is cautious. Serbia should accept as much of the ultimatum as possible and not resist if invaded and appeal for international support.

Later the Serbs hear that the Russian Council of Ministers is prepared to take strong action including mobilisation.

Serbs compose clever reply which appears to conform to all the Austrian demands except one and it sounds conciliatory, but it is full of qualifications.

6.00 P.M. The Serbs give their reply to the Austrian minister. He says it is unsatisfactory. He breaks off diplomatic relations and returns to Vienna.

The Tsar agrees that partial mobilisation against Austria can be ordered if necessary.

The Council also decides the Army should immediately implement preparatory military measures along the entire Russian European border including the border with Germany as well as Austria.

French ambassador repeats that France stands with Russia.

Russian Foreign Minister tells British ambassador Germany is gambling on British neutrality. If Britain takes a stand with Russia and France there will be no war.

German military representative notices Russian military activities and wires Berlin saying he believes mobilisation against Austria is underway.

British Foreign Secretary tells German ambassador he expects Russia to mobilise in response to an Austro-Hungarian mobilisation but there will be a delay before military operations start. This will provide the opportunity for the four power mediation that he has proposed.

Russian ambassador calls on the Foreign Secretary to reinforce the Russian view that Britain should make it clear to Germany it will back Russia and France in any crisis. He thinks the mediation proposal gives the impression that Britain is detached from Russia.

French Presidential party in Stockholm. They get report Germany is insisting the dispute between Austria-Hungary and Serbia is localised.

They decide to continue with the Swedish visit.

Sun 26th July

Austrians see report from their ambassador in Berlin that the German authorities believe Austria should declare war on Serbia and pre-empt diplomatic efforts to solve the crisis.

No decision is made but preparations are put in hand for a declaration of war.

German military prepare an ultimatum to Belgium in the event Germany has to attack France through Belgium.

German Chancellor warns Russia that any Russian preparatory military measures directed at Germany will force Germany to mobilise and mobilisation means war.


German ambassador suggests to the Russian Foreign Minister that he has direct talks with Austria-Hungary. The Minister says Russia cannot tolerate the reduction of Serbia to a vassal state of Austria.

He takes up the German ambassador's suggestion of direct talks and sees the Austrian ambassador.

After going through the ultimatum with the Austrian he says he thinks with minor modifications it could be made acceptable to Serbia and suggests Russia and Austria have direct talks to achieve that.

Prince Henry, the Kaiser's brother, calls on George V. The King says Britain has no quarrel with anyone and hopes the country will be neutral but could be drawn in. This is misreported to Berlin as Britain will be neutral in a European war.

In light of the deepening crisis the British put forward another proposal; an ambassadors' conference in London should decide how matters are resolved between Austria-Hungary and Serbia.

German ambassador asks if France is willing to advise Russia to stay out of the conflict as Austria does not intend to annex any Serbian territory. French Minister of Justice says he personally is willing to do this but he must consult the Prime Minister.

Senior official tells German ambassador he thinks Austria is acting with German approval and Germany is not trying to moderate Austria's stance.

Paris advises Presidential party to abandon state visits and return to France as soon as possible. The journey home will take two days.

Mon 27th July

The Austrian Foreign Minister has optimistic reports; Britain and France working to restrain Russia, Britain likely to be neutral. Russian reservists have not been called up.

Austria decides to declare war on Serbia.

Austria's military chief wants Germany to tell Russia that it will mobilise if Russia comes to the defence of Serbia.

French ambassador tells the German Foreign Minister Britain will stand by France and Russia if there is a war. He says Germany believes Britain will be neutral.

Germany rejects the British ambassadors' conference proposal. It is too close to summoning Austria before a European court of justice in her case with Serbia.

Germany forwards the latest British mediation proposal (given to the German ambassador in London that morning) to Austria at the same time saying to the Austrians it is only doing this to keep the British neutral and the proposal can be ignored.

Only now do the Germans see a copy of the Serbian reply to the ultimatum and a copy is forwarded to the Kaiser in Potsdam.

There is no prospect of Serbia changing course and unconditionally accepting the Austro-Hungarian ultimatum.

The Serbian Prime Minister believes too much has been conceded and he would not have gone as far as he has if had been sure of Russian support earlier.

Russia prefers direct talks with Austria rather than the British conference proposal but it is willing to pursue any mediation supported by other European Powers.

Russian Foreign Minister tells German ambassador it must be possible to give Serbia a well-merited lesson while respecting her sovereignty.

Russia tells Germany only purely preparatory military measures are being taken.

Russian military now believe partial mobilisation is a bad idea. It would compromise a full mobilisation if that was later needed. The choice is between full mobilisation or no mobilisation.

British Foreign Secretary tells German ambassador the Serbian reply meets Austria's demands. If Austria now invades it proves she all along intended to provoke a military conflict.

He tells the ambassador Germany should 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.

German ambassador advises Berlin that Germany should not count on British neutrality.

Foreign Secretary tells the cabinet he is making Britain's position as a mediator as strong as possible by keeping the opposing powers uncertain as to what Britain will do if mediation fails and there is a war.

French Presidential party at sea sends message to St Petersburg saying France will support Russia. French Prime Minister adds "…. in the interests of peace".

French cabinet agree precautionary military measures including recall of troops from Algeria.

French military remind their Russian counterparts if war breaks out Russia must give priority to attacking Germany and draw German troops away from their attack on France.

Mobilisation: 28 JULY - 1 AUGUST
Tue 28th July

Austria-Hungary begins its Balkan mobilisation. Two-fifths of the army is to be deployed in the south along the border with Serbia.

Austria declares war on Serbia.

Austria rejects Russian proposal to have direct talks.

Late in the day the German ambassador forwards the latest British mediation proposal Berlin has already told Vienna can be ignored. The Austrian Foreign Minister says he thinks the proposal comes too late. He claims Serbia has opened hostilities.

The Kaiser thinks the Serbian reply is moral victory for Austria. Every cause for war drops away. Austria should take Belgrade as a guarantee until the Serbs carry out their promises. This becomes known as "halt in Belgrade". He forwards his proposal to the German leaders in Berlin.

The Kaiser gets letter from Prince Henry reporting his meeting with George V who he reports to have said Britain will try to keep out of any European conflict.

German Chancellor does not act on the Kaiser's proposal until the end of the day and then forwards it to Vienna making the qualification Germany does not want to hold Austria back.

Austria has not responded to the proposal to have direct talks with Russia

Russian Foreign Minister tells German ambassador he thinks Germany is in a plot with Austria to provoke war

Foreign Minister tells British ambassador the only way to avert war is for Britain to say it will side with Russia and France. This would have the necessary deterrent effect.

Russians hear of Austria's declaration of war on Serbia.

They decide to prepare orders for partial and general mobilisation and to announce immediately that Russia will proclaim partial mobilisation the next day, 29 July. This is mobilisation on the border with Austria only. It does not directly threaten Germany.

The Admiralty orders the Royal Navy First Fleet to move to its war stations.

Explanation received from British ambassador in Berlin of Germany's rejection of Britain's ambassadors' conference proposal. "Conference" sounds too much like a "tribunal".

British Foreign Secretary has already sent wire to the ambassador saying he believes best way forward now is direct exchange of views between Austria-Hungary and Russia.

Italian Foreign Minister tells British ambassador in Rome the Austro-Hungarian ultimatum is a deliberate provocation to war or "le triomphe de l'imbecilite". Italy supports Britain's mediation proposals.

French Prime Minister wires Paris his approval of the British proposal for an ambassadors' conference.

Wed 29th July

The Austrians start shelling Belgrade.

Late in the day the German ambassador puts forward the "halt in Belgrade" proposal. The Austro-Hungarian Foreign Minister says Austria is willing to repeat to Russia that it will not annex any part of Serbia but it needs time to consider the "halt in Belgrade" idea.

The Austro-Hungarian Foreign Minister has news of the Russian partial mobilisation. He tells Germany that if the Russian military preparations continue Austria-Hungary will have to declare general mobilisation.

He also says Austria-Hungary will continue military action against Serbia even though there are diplomatic efforts to solve the crisis.

German Chief of the General Staff warns the Chancellor Russian and French military preparations are putting Germany at a disadvantage. Given Germany's alliance with Austria-Hungary German mobilisation is inevitable.

Germany tells Russia further military preparations will force Germany to mobilise and a European war could scarcely be prevented.

Germany gets the news of Russian partial mobilisation.

German Chancellor sees the British ambassador and asks if Britain would agree to be neutral if Germany promised not to annex any part of France. The ambassador says he thinks Britain will want to keep its options open. He transmits the offer to London.

Following this the Chancellor gets the clear indication from the German ambassador in London that Britain will join France and Russia if war breaks out.

In response to the bad news the Chancellor sends a series of wires to Vienna. He urges they talk with the Russians and also consider the "halt in Belgrade" proposal (which the British have also suggested).

German ambassador tells Russian Foreign Minister Berlin is still pushing Vienna to talk. Foreign Minister says there is no sign Vienna wants to talk.

While talking with the Austrian ambassador the Foreign Minister hears of the Austrian shelling of Belgrade and assumes the invasion of Serbia has begun. He tells ambassador there can be no more discussion.

German ambassador delivers message that further Russian military preparations will compel Germany to mobilise. This convinces the Russians that Germany is behind Austria's actions.

Russian leaders decide war is inevitable and the only course for them is to declare general mobilisation. The Tsar approves.

Tsar gets message from the Kaiser saying he is still trying to mediate. The Tsar changes general mobilisation to partial mobilisation.

British cabinet discuss what to do if Germany attacks France through neutral Belgium. Britain signed the 1839 Treaty that created neutral Belgium. They decide British action will be based on policy rather than treaty obligations.

Cabinet decides the Foreign Secretary continues his ambiguous stance with France and Germany. Tell the French not to count on Britain coming in, tell the Germans not to count on Britain staying out.

Liberal MP's Foreign Affairs Group tells Foreign Secretary Britain should tell Russia and France that "Great Britain in no conceivable circumstances will depart from a position of strict neutrality".

British Foreign Secretary tells French ambassador that Britain has not yet decided what it would do.

He sees the German ambassador and puts forward another idea for a solution to the crisis similar to the Kaiser's "halt in Belgrade".

He also tells the ambassador privately that Britain could not stand aside if France and Germany were involved in a conflict.

French Presidential party returns to France.

Russian ambassador informs the French that Russia is about to announce partial mobilisation.

Russian ambassador wires Russian Foreign Minister. The French press is very pro-Russia and the President has received a very warm welcome on his return to France.

French Chief of the General Staff asks for authorisation for French covering forces to take up positions facing Germany and Luxembourg.

Thu 30th July

From the tone of the Chancellors latest wires the Austrians realise he really is trying to change Austrian policy. They should talk with the Russians and consider the latest proposal to "halt in Belgrade".

They tell the Austrian ambassador in St Petersburg to explain the ultimatum to the Russians. This isn't what the Russians want. They want to discuss changing it to make it acceptable to Serbia.

Another of the German Chancellor's wires arrives. He warns "....we should be two against four great powers. We urgently recommend mediation....".

In spite of the latest German recommendations the Austrian leadership agree that Serbia must meet the demands of the ultimatum in full and that Austria should proceed to general mobilisation.

Germans get confirmation of Russian partial mobilisation.

German Chief of the General Staff is greatly alarmed Austria's main army deployment is in the south against Serbia. He wires his Austrian counterpart saying mobilise at once against Russia. Germany will mobilise.

Chancellor tells Prussian cabinet it is of the greatest importance that Russia is seen as the guilty party.

Chancellor makes one more effort to influence Vienna. He wires Vienna saying if they decline everything they will be blamed for the war and Russia will be free of all responsibility.

Chief of the General Staff and the War Minister believe mediation will fail. They want to proclaim "State of Imminent Danger of War" immediately. The Chancellor promises to make a decision by noon the next day.

In response to question from German ambassador Russian Foreign Minister says Russia would suspend military preparations if Austria was ready to eliminate the points in its ultimatum that infringe on Serbia's sovereignty.

Russian civil and military leaders are still strongly in favour of general mobilisation.

Russian Foreign Minister sees the Tsar and talks at length. He tells him there is no hope of peace. Finally, the Tsar gives way and agrees to general mobilisation.

Russia issues the orders for general mobilisation.

Labour Party adopts resolution if there is a European war Britain should remain neutral in all circumstances.

British turn down German proposal for British neutrality. Foreign Office official comments "these astounding proposals ... reflect discredit on the statesman who makes them".

French ambassador reminds the Foreign Secretary of the 1912 agreement that Britain and France would immediately discuss whether they should act together if either country or the general peace was threatened. France was now threatened. Foreign Secretary says he will get a response from the cabinet the next day.

Liberal MP's Foreign Affairs Group writes to the Prime Minister saying they will withdraw their support from the government if Britain goes to war. The letter claims nine tenths of the Liberal Party supports the group's stand.

Russians tell the French they can't agree to the German request to stop military preparations and as war is likely the best thing is to speed up armaments. They thank the French for their support under the Franco-Russian alliance.

French Prime Minister thinks the Russian Foreign Minister is giving a very wide meaning to the assurances the French ambassador may have given him. He wires St Petersburg that France is resolved to meet its obligations but in the interests of peace Russia should not give Germany a pretext for mobilising.

French cabinet agree covering troops take up positions but on condition they approach no closer than ten kilometres to the frontier so as to avoid contact between German and French patrols.

Wire is sent to the French ambassador in London saying the reason for leaving part of French territory undefended is to show the British government that France will not fire the first shot.

Fri 31st July

Austrians now have message from the German Chief of the General Staff urging Austrian general mobilisation. They note how it contradicts the messages from the Chancellor.

Austrians believe mediation would work against them. They are intent on destroying the Serbian army to avoid another problem arising in a few years time.

The Emperor signs the orders for general mobilisation. He sends a message to the Kaiser saying he is doing this because of Russian mobilisation. The latest mediation proposals come too late. Operations against Serbia cannot be interrupted.

Germany has confirmation of Russian general mobilisation.

British ambassador informs the Chancellor Britain rejects his proposal for British neutrality.

The Kaiser joins the civil and military leaders in Berlin.

German military are pleased with developments. Russia can be blamed for the outbreak of war.

Germany instructs its ambassador in St Petersburg to tell the Russian government German mobilisation will follow unless it stops its mobilisation within 12 hours. Germany proclaims "State of Imminent Danger of War".

German ambassador in Paris is told to ask the French if they will remain neutral in a Russo-German war. They must reply by 4.00 P.M. the next day.

The Kaiser telegrams the Austrian Emperor saying Germany will fulfil its alliance obligations. Austria must direct its chief force against Russia not Serbia.

Russian red mobilisation notices appear throughout St Petersburg and other parts of the country.

German ambassador protests to the Russian Foreign Minister. Vienna has agreed to talks. The Foreign Minister says Russia's military measures are entirely precautionary. The ambassador asks to see the Tsar.

The ambassador tells the Tsar that Russian mobilisation will have a terrible impact. The Tsar says he is sending a message to the Kaiser saying Russian troops will not make any hostile moves.

At midnight the German ambassador delivers the ultimatum that Russia must start to demobilise by noon the next day otherwise Germany will mobilise.

British ambassador in Paris says French President believes if Britain announced it would come to the aid of France, Germany would modify her attitude and there would be no war. The Foreign Secretary says he has made it clear that Britain might not be neutral.

Cabinet discuss what to say to the French ambassador. The general feeling is the British public will be against joining a war in support of France but German violation of Belgium neutrality might change public opinion.

Foreign Secretary tells the French ambassador that Britain is unable to guarantee it will intervene in support of France at the present time. The ambassador says Britain has pledged its support and asks Grey to again put the matter to the cabinet.

Britain asks both France and Germany to give a pledge that it will respect the neutrality of Belgium as long as no other power violates it.

French Chief of the General Staff tells French Minister of War that every 24 hour delay in mobilising means a 10 to 12 km loss of French territory. He says Germany is secretly mobilising. (This is not true).

German ambassador tells the French Prime Minister of the German warning to Russia that if doesn't stop mobilising Germany will mobilise and for Germany mobilisation means war.

He wants to know if France will remain neutral in a Russo-German conflict. He wants an answer within 18 hours.

French cabinet discuss the Chief of the General Staff's views and agree to wait until the 4.00 P.M. next day to decide on mobilising.

Sat 1st August

Austria has to abandon its attack on Serbia and in support of Germany direct its efforts at Russia. The Austrian Chief of the General Staff assures his German counterpart Austria-Hungary will now "employ the main weight of our strength in the north".

There is no reply to the ultimatum to Russia.

Germans send declaration of war to Russia. The Kaiser signs the German mobilisation order.


Late evening German infantry company seizes the railway station and telegraph office.

The Tsar sends message to the Kaiser. He understands why he is mobilising but wishes to have the same guarantee from the Kaiser that he has given the Kaiser, that mobilisation does not mean war.


French reply they will respect the neutrality of Belgium.

Germans refuse to reply saying it would disclose their intentions.

Cabinet discuss the responses but is still divided and uncertain what to do. The neutralists in the cabinet get the cabinet to agree even if Germany invades Belgium Britain will not send an Expeditionary force to the continent.

British Foreign Secretary tells French ambassador of the cabinet decision. He says it does not mean Britain under no circumstances would assist France but France must make her own decision without reckoning on British help.

The ambassador thinks the British are going to abandon France. The senior Foreign Office official says angrily to the Foreign Secretary "you will render us a by-word among nations".

French Chief of the General Staff threatens to resign if mobilisation is not ordered.

In response to his question of the previous day the French Prime Minister tells the German ambassador that France will look after its own interests in a Russo-German conflict.

French order general mobilisation (one hour before Germany).

Invasion: 2 AUGUST - 4 AUGUST
Sun 2nd August

Germany asks Austria to declare war on Russia. The Austrians are reluctant to do this until their troops can be returned from the Serbian front but they agree to declare war on Russia by the 5 August.

Just after dawn German troops invade and occupy all of Luxembourg.

German minister in Brussels instructed to give ultimatum to Belgium 7.00 P.M. local time. It is in the envelop he received from Berlin on 29 July.

Conservative Party leaders write to the Prime Minister saying "... it would be fatal to the honour and security of the United Kingdom to hesitate in supporting France and Russia".

Foreign Secretary reminds the cabinet of the 1912 agreement with France whereby the French fleet is concentrated in the Mediterranean and the British in the Channel and North Sea. The French coast is open to attack. He says he will resign if Britain does not support France. The cabinet eventually agree Britain will not allow German warships to enter the Channel.

Cabinet know if the government collapses its successor will be either a coalition or a Conservative minority government in favour of war.

Cabinet meet again and agree a substantial violation of the neutrality of Belgium would compel Britain to take action. If Belgium resists an invasion most in the cabinet now believe Britain must enter the war.

French declare a state of emergency.

German minister delivers ultimatum to Belgian Foreign Minister. It claims the French are about to attack Germany through Belgium and the Germans must be allowed to come through Belgium to repel this attack.

The Foreign Minister is angry. He does not believe the German claim that France is about to attack Germany through Belgium.

King Albert calls a Crown Council. They unanimously agree to resist a German invasion.

Mon 3rd August 

German government receives news Belgium has rejected the ultimatum. They don’t declare war on Belgium hoping the Belgians will offer only token resistance to the German army.

German ambassador in Paris instructed to deliver the German declaration of war on France at 6.00 P.M. It contains accusations of French bombing raids on Germany. There have been no bombing raids.

Cabinet discuss what the Foreign Secretary is going to say to the House of Commons. Four cabinet members have announced their resignations.

Foreign Secretary tells the House of Commons 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.

A note from the Belgian legation summarises the German ultimatum and declares that Belgium has rejected the ultimatum and is resolved to repel aggression by all possible means.


Belgium delivers its rejection of the German ultimatum to the German legation.

It includes the statement "Were Belgium to accept the proposals laid before it, the Belgian Government would sacrifice the nation's honour while being false to its duties towards Europe".

To clear its invasion route to France, the German army starts the invasion of Belgium by attacking the forts at Liège.

Tue 4th August

Germany is at war with Russia, France and Britain. Austria-Hungary, the country that started the crisis with its ultimatum to Serbia, is at war with only Serbia.

Chancellor addresses the Reichstag. He admits the invasions of Luxembourg and Belgium are breaches of international law but says "necessity knows no law".

British ambassador tells German leaders unless Germany halts its invasion of Belgium the British government will do all in its power to uphold the neutrality of Belgium. He must have this assurance by midnight.

German Chancellor makes clear Germany will not agree to this. It is "intolerable" that when Germany is trying to save itself Britain "should fall upon them just for sake of the neutrality of Belgium".

Foreign Secretary sends instructions to the British ambassador in Berlin on what to say to the German government about Belgium. A reply is required by midnight.

The deadline has passed and there is no response from Germany


French President writes to King George requesting him to send British troops to cover the French left flank as the Germans attack through Belgium.

President's speech to the National Assembly stresses the defensive nature of French policy and calls for a "union sacrée".

Red Text: Indicates the most critical of the events that made the crisis worse, or war more likely, or brought about war.
Green Text: Indicates events that offered a way out of the crisis or the hope of avoiding war.