Who started WW One?

Overview of Timeline

Reaction Overview: 29/06-22/07
Date Austria-Hungary Germany Serbia Russia Britain France
Week 1 Austria’s leaders believe Serbia is involved in the assassination and only military action will put a stop to Serbia’s trouble-making.

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

The Kaiser thinks it’s time to settle with the Serbs Serbia says it has nothing to do with the assassinations
Week 2 Now they have German support, the Austrians decide first to send Serbia an ultimatum making demands the Serbs are likely to reject. The Germans give their unqualified support to Austria in any action they choose to take against Serbia

The Kaiser thinks it likely Russia will stay out. A senior German official tells the Austrians there is a 90% probability of a European war.

The Austrian envoy unofficially says Austria wants to partition Serbia and give parts to its neighbours, Bulgaria and Albania

Diplomatic reports warn the Serbs of strong action by Austria German ambassador talks with British Foreign Secretary expressing general worries about potential conflict in Europe. The Germans are concerned about the Russians and ask the British to talk to them.
Week 3 Germany wants Austria to act quickly but discussions in Vienna on the ulitmatum and the steps to be taken after its likely rejection delay action. 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 that Austria plans to make unacceptable demands on Serbia.
Week 4 The ultimatum is finally agreed but is not to be given to the Serbs until after the French president on a three day state visit to Russia has left on the 23 July. The Germans start diplomatic efforts to keep a conflict between Austria and Serbia local Serbs continue to deny they had any involvement in the assassinations Russians say privately that anything like an ultimatum to Serbia might force them to take some precautionary military measures

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

The French President 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. Are they trying to calm the situation or not? French President and Prime Minister on State visit to Russia
Ultimatum Overview 23/07-27/07
Date Austria-Hungary Germany Serbia Russia Britain France
Thu 23 July At 6 P.M. Austrian minister in Belgrade gives ultimatum to the Serbs. They have 24hrs to reply

Serbs are shocked by severity of the ultimatum’s demands. Some impinge on Serb sovereignty

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

French and Russians send messages to Austria hoping nothing will be done to compromise Serbian independence

French Presidential party leaves Russia by ship for Sweden then home

British leaders give impression to Austrian and German contacts that Britain would be neutral if there was European war See Russia
Fri 24 July Austria tells Russia its objective is to stop Serbia supporting the Greater Serbia movement. It does not intend to seize Serbian territory. Germany says it had nothing to do with the ultimatum and knew nothing of its contents Serbs ask Russians for their advice

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!”

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

Britain says some of the demands in the ultimatum are fully justified

British Foreign Secretary suggests the four powers not directly involved, Germany, France, Britain and Italy, mediate if there is trouble between Austria and Russia over Serbia

In Paris stand-in French Foreign Minister gives impression to Austrian ambassador that Austria’s action is understandable, though senior official warns Russia may become involved
Sat 25 July Austria refuses to extend the time limit of the ultimatum

Following the unsatisfactory Serbian reply, the Emperor orders mobilisation against Serbia to begin on the 28th July

Germany claims the dispute between Austria and Serbia should not involve other countries

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

Initial Russian responses are cautious and neutral.

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

Serbs compose clever reply which appears to conform to Austrian demands but it is full of qualifications.

6 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 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

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

Russia tells Britain it should make it clear to Germany it will back Russia and France in any crisis

British Foreign Secretary tells German ambassador he thinks Russia will probably mobilise and that is when there should be four power mediation

Sun 26 July Austrians have the 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. German military prepare an ultimatum to Belgium in the event Germany has to attack France through Belgium Russian Foreign Minister tells Austrian ambassador the ultimatum to Serbia could be made acceptable and suggests Russia and Austria have direct talks to achieve that George V tells or gives the impression to the Kaiser’s brother England would remain neutral if continental war broke out

In light of the deepening crisis the British put forward the idea of an ambassadors’ conference in London to find a solution

Germany asks if France is willing to advise Russia to stay out of the conflict as Austria does not intend to annex any Serbian territory

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

Mon 27 July 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

Germany rejects British conference proposal

Germany forwards another British mediation idea to Austria saying it is only doing it to keep the British neutral and the proposal could be ignored.

Only now do the Germans see a copy of the Serbian reply to the ultimatum

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

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

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

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

French cabinet agrees precautionary military measures including recall of troops from Algeria

Mobilisation Overview 28/07-1/08
Date Austria-Hungary Germany Russia Britain France
Tue 28 July Austria declares war on Serbia

Austria rejects Russian proposal to have direct talks

Austria unresponsive to British mediation proposal forwarded by Germany which Berlin said could be ignored

The Kaiser thinks the Serbian reply is moral victory for Austria. There is no reason for war. He forwards his proposal for a peaceful solution to the German leaders in Berlin

The Kaiser’s brother reports on his meeting with George V who says Britain will try to keep out of any European conflict

The German leaders do not act on the Kaiser’s proposal until the end of the day and then forward it to Vienna making the qualification they do not want to hold the Austrians 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

Russians hear of Austria’s declaration of war on Serbia

The Admiralty orders the First Fleet to its war stations 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
Wed 29 July The Austrians start shelling Belgrade

In response to the Germans, Austria says it is willing to repeat to Russia that it will not annex any part of Serbia but it needs time to consider the latest German proposal

Austria tells Germany that if the Russian military preparations continue it will have to declare general mobilisation
It also says it will continue military action against Serbia inspite of diplomatic efforts to solve the crisis

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

German Chancellor learns that though Austria does not intend to annex Serbian territory it intends to give parts of the country to its neighbours

He hears from the German ambassador in London that Britain will join France and Russia if war breaks out

The Chancellor wires Vienna urging they talk with the Russians and consider the proposal to “halt in Belgrade” (which originated with the Kaiser and which the British have also suggested)

Russian Foreign Minister knows Austria is rejecting direct talks

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

German ambassador delivers message that further Russian military preparations will compel Germany to mobilise. This convinces the Russian 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 against Austria only.

British cabinet discusses what Britain would do if Germany attacked France through neutral Belgium.

Cabinet decides ambiguous stance is best. Tell the French not to count on Britain coming in, tell the Germans not to count on Britain staying out

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

He puts forward another idea for a solution to the crisis (similar to the Kaiser’s) to the German ambassador. He also says Britain could not stand aside if France and Germany were involved in a conflict

The French presidential party returns to France

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

French covering forces ordered to take up positions facing Germany and Luxembourg. They are to remain 10km back from the border so as not to provoke an incident

Thu 30 July The Austrians now realise the German Chancellor 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 ulitmatum to the Russians. This isn’t what the Russians want. They want to discuss changing it to make it acceptable to Serbia

In spite of the latest German recommendations the Austrian leadership agree that Serbia must meet the demands of the ulitimatum in full and that general mobilisation will be ordered

Germans get confirmation of Russian partial mobilisation

German Chief of Staff is greatly alarmed that Austria is concentrating its efforts 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

Germans hear Austria is rejecting the Chancellor’s proposals of the evening before

The Chancellor wires Vienna saying if they decline everything they will be blamed for the war and Russia will be free of all responsibility

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 tells him there is no hope of peace and persuades him to change his mind again and order general mobilisation

Labour party and Liberal politicians make clear they want Britain to be neutral

British turn down German proposal for British neutrality made through the British ambassador in Berlin

British tell Austrian ambassador they can’t influence St Petersburg unless Austria gives them something to offer

Russians tell French they can’t agree to the German wish 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 tells Russians that France is resolved to meet its obligations but in the interests of peace Russia should not give Germany a pretext for mobilising

Fri 31 July The Austrians now have message from German Chief of Staff urging mobilisation

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 are to continue

Germany has confirmation of Russian general mobilisation

The Kaiser joins the civil and military leaders in Berlin. They agree to send an ultimatum to Russia to stop its mobilisation

German military are pleased with developments. Russia can be blamed for the outbreak 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 P.M. the next day

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

The German 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

Cabinet thinks public will be against joining a war in support of France but German violation of Belgium might change that view

French ambassador says Britain has pledged its support to France in exchanges made under the Anglo-French Entente

Britain asks France and Germany if each will respect Belgium’s neutrality

French Chief of Staff tells French Minister of War Germany is secretly mobilising. (This is not true)

German ambassador delivers warning that if Russia doesn’t stop mobilising Germany will mobilise and it will mean war

He wants to know if France will remain neutral in a Russo-German conflict. He will return the next day for an answer

French cabinet agree to wait until the 4 P.M. next day to decide on mobilising

Sat 1 August Austria has to abandon its attack on Serbia and in support of Germany direct its efforts at Russia There is no reply to the ultimatum to Russia

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

Just after midnight the German ambassador delivers the ultimatum that Russia must cease all military preparations by noon

Early in the evening the ambasador sees the Russian Foreign Minister who says Russian orders cannot be changed

German ambassador hands over the declaration of war on Russia

French reply that they will respect Belgium’s neutrality

Germans refuse to reply saying it would disclose their intentions

The Cabinet discuses the responses but is still divided and uncertain what to do

British Foreign Secretary tells French ambassador France must make her own decision without reckoning on British help

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

French Prime Minister tells German ambassador that France will look after its own interests in a Russo-German conflict.

The French order general mobilisation (one hour before Germany)

Invasion Overview 2/08-4/08
Date Austria-Hungary Germany Britain France Belgium
Sun 2 August Germany asks Austria to declare war on Russia. Austria agrees to do this by the 5 August Just after dawn German troops invade and occupy Luxembourg

German minister in Brussels instructed to give ultimatum to Belgium 7 P.M. local time. It is in the envelop he received from Berlin on 29 July

Foreign Secretary says he will resign if Britain does not support France. Conservatives say they would suport France.

Eventually majority of cabinet agree that a serious infringement of Belgium neutrality would warrant a British military response

French declare a state of emergency German minister delivers ultimatum to Belgium. Belgian 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 all agree to resist a German invasion

Mon 3 August 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 British learn of the German ultimatum to Belgium and its rejection

Foreign Secretary tells the House of Commons Britain cannot stand aside and see Belgium occupied and France defeated

German ambassador delivers declaration of war on France Belgium rejects the German ultimatum

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

Tue 4 August Russia, France and Britain are at war with Germany. Austria-Hungary, the country that started the crisis with its ultimatum to Serbia, is at war only with Serbia 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

German Chancellor makes clear Germany will not agree to this

Belgian legation confirm Belgium has been invaded

The deadline has passed and there is no response from Germany concerning Belgium

Britain declares war on Germany

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.