Document Numbers 161 - 175

27 July 1914
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(33981) No. 161.
Sir R. Rodd to Sir Edward Grey. (Received July 27.)
(No. 276.) Confidential.
Rome, July 22, 1914.

I have the honour to report that the Minister for Foreign Affairs returned to Rome yesterday evening to attend a banquet given by the Persian Minister to celebrate the coronation of the Shah. As I was placed next to his Excellency, we had an opportunity for some conversation and he at once began to speak of the grave situation existing between Austria-Hungary and Servia. He was afraid a dangerous spirit of excitement and self-confidence existed at Belgrade. He however still had hopes that the known pacific aims of the Emperor would prevent the precipitation of a crisis. Should Servia, as she anticipated, be supported by Russia, there was no doubt that Germany would join Austria. This did not merely depend on her obligations as an ally, but Germany believed that it was a vital question for Austria if she was to maintain her position and prestige, to achieve a success, and it was Germany's interest to promote it. What, then, I asked, would Italy do and how far did her obligations bind her? He said the Triple Alliance was purely for defensive purposes. It remained to be seen in what direction events would move. Obviously nothing could be further from Italy's desire than to become a party in such a struggle.- I saw his Excellency again this morning and he then told me that he had every reason to fear that the communication which the Austro-Hungarian Government were about to make to Servia had been drafted in terms which Servia must regard as unacceptable.(1) There was just a hope that as Count Berchtold had been to Ischl, the Emperor might cause its terms to be somewhat modified. There was, however, a party in Austria the strongest party which aimed at taking this opportunity for crushing Servia. It was not of course Italy's interest that Servia should be crushed.

I said it was to be hoped that both our countries would be able to steer clear of any conflict. It was hardly conceivable that we should be drawn into a struggle where no direct interests of our own were involved, where, in fact, in the case of Italy, she would probably be siding against her own real interests.

The Marquis Di San Giuliano said that as our two nations were associated with groups which were by force of circumstances likely to be ranged in antagonism, it seemed quite conceivable that in the special circumstances of the case, we might arrange to "pair," like members of the British Parliament. We were of course only discussing hypotheses which it is earnestly to be hoped may never be realised, but this new form of counter-insurance seemed rather to commend itself to him.

An Austrian success which would extend her influence in the Adriatic or enable her to acquire any new position there would of course bring her into conflict with her ally, and Italy has now to contemplate the eventuality of being called upon indirectly to contribute to such a result. Under all the circumstances, in view of the far from satisfactory internal situation in this country and of the reaction which appears to be setting in against the gravitation towards Vienna which Italian foreign policy has assumed during the last two years, it is difficult for me to believe that some way will not be found here, if a conflict should arise, of evading the obligations of an alliance, the perils of which the present situation is calculated forcibly to illustrate.

In the ante-room I saw the Servian Chargé d'Affaires, who assured me that it was only the minor papers of no importance that were attacking Austria in his country. The general tone at Belgrade was calm. Unfortunately the Austrian press was making capital out of these second-rate newspapers and reproducing their articles as typical of Servian opinion.

I have, &c.

(I) Cf. Telegram No. 78.

(33982) No. 162.
Sir R. Rodd to Sir Edward Grey. (Received July 27.)
(No. 278.) Confidential.
Rome, July 28, 1914.

I have the honour to report that the Secretary General whom I saw this morning at the Italian Foreign Office spoke to me much in the same terms as I have reported in my despatch No. 276 of yesterday,(1) that the Minister for Foreign Affairs had spoken about the issue between Austria-Hungary and Servia. I gather that the Italian Government have been made cognisant of the terms of the communication which will be addressed to Servia. He also took the view that the gravity of the situation lay in the conviction of the Austro-Hungarian Government that it was absolutely necessary for their prestige, after the many disillusions which the turn of events in the Balkans has occasioned, to score a definite success. In view of the very grave consequences which may ensue, it is evident that the Italian Government are already preoccupied with studying the manner in which they can best find a plausible reason for not becoming involved.

I have, &c.

Published in BB No. 38 (parts omitted).

(1) No. 161.

(33986) No. 163.
Sir R. Rodd to Sir Edward Grey. (Received July 27.)
(No. 282.)
Rome, July 28, 1914.

I have the honour to report that the Bulgarian Minister who has just returned to Rome after a visit to Bulgaria came to see me yesterday. M. Rizoff, as I have on several occasions pointed out, is a capable and very well-informed representative and I have generally found his information on Balkan matters to be correct. He was of course chiefly concerned to discuss the menacing situation between Austria-Hungary and Servia and the probable attitude of Russia in the event of a crisis. As conditions in Russia are always closely followed by Bulgaria it was interesting to hear his views on the subject. He was of opinion that the revolutionary spirit is very rife in Russia at the present time and is seriously preoccupying the Government. It had spread to even the country populations where the peasants assembled to hear books and newspapers read by anyone who possessed letters. Maxime Gorky was just now the name to conjure with in Russia. The whole movement was really agrarian and concerned with the ambition of the people to obtain possession of the land. Pan-slav movements were for the educated and the few. The pretext might be a useful one to employ, but he did not think it affected the mass of the people. It was a question now whether a war would not hasten the outbreak of a revolutionary movement. On the other hand there is always the possibility that a war may create a diversion and turn a dangerous spirit into a new channel. He was on the whole inclined to believe that internal conditions in Russia would give the Government pause and make them hesitate to accept the greater risk of war.

As regards his own country he felt assured that neutrality would be observed. Not that Bulgaria was in any way incapacitated by her recent disastrous experiences. Her state of preparedness was as high and probably better than before the Balkan campaign. The only war that the Bulgarian people would at the present time contemplate with any enthusiasm would be one against Roumania. But even of that he was persuaded that there was no danger. The obvious policy for Bulgaria was to keep out of any entanglements and to watch events and eventually perhaps she would find an opportunity in the misfortunes of others to recover something of what she had lost in the second Balkan struggle. His country people at the present time showed no great predilections for one or the other group of Powers. The only country to which they felt attracted was Great Britain, because the British people and press were the only ones in Europe that had shown impartiality and had condemned Roumania's attitude in taking advantage of the moment when Bulgaria stood with her back against the wall.

I have, &c.

Cf. No. 649.

No. 164.
Sir G. Buchanan to Sir Arthur Nicolson.
St. Petersburg, July 28, 1914.

My dear Nicolson,
I have seen but little of Sazonow during the past fortnight, as he only returned from the country on the eve of Poincar‚'s arrival and since then I have only met him once at a party. In the one regular conversation which I had with him last Saturday he discussed the Persian question in a very conciliatory spirit, and you will have seen from my telegram that both he and the Emperor have given the French President satisfactory assurances as to the instructions sent to the Russian consuls. I had, at Pal‚ologue's request, furnished Poincar‚ with an Aide-m‚moire respecting all the more important points which we have raised with regard to Persia; and both he and Viviani seem to have discussed the whole question at length with Sazonow and to have been quite satisfied with what he told them. They both spoke to me about the Trans-Persian Railway and expressed the hope that we would come to an agreement on the lines proposed by the Russian Government. I have telegraphed what Klemm said to me on the subject and I personally think that the Russian proposal is a reasonable one. The Russians are very anxious to begin the construction of the lines in the North before the Bagdad Railway nears completion and if we give them satisfaction on this point they will be the more disposed to listen to any proposals which we may put forward about the Persian question in general. The present is, I think, a propitious moment for trying to settle all those outstanding questions; but unfortunately there is very little time left for negotiations as Sazonow still talks of going away for a holiday about the middle of our August. If we allow the negotiations to drag on till the autumn he may not be in such an accommodating mood as he is at present.

Both he and Poincaré‚ are much perturbed about Austro-Servian relations. Sazonow takes a very reasonable view of the situation and will make no difficulties if Austria confines her action to asking for an official enquiry in the event of her being able to prove that the plot against the Arch Duke was hatched in Servia. If on the contrary she makes the Arch Duke's assassination a pretext for adopting an aggressive attitude towards Servia, Russia will sooner or later be forced to intervene in some way or another. Sazonow has spoken very strongly to Pourtalès on the subject and, while assuring him that the one thing Russia desires is to be left in peace in order that she may develop her internal resources, said that, though Russia was "pacifiste" she could not remain "passive" under provocation. Sazonow regards Tisza and Forgach as two very dangerous men and fears that the latter's influence at the Ball Platz is all powerful. I knew Forgach at Sofia and always regarded him with the greatest distrust. He is very intelligent and very ambitious but utterly unscrupulous.

We have had a series of very bad strikes during the past week. They are entirely political in character; and the Secret Committee that organises them has seized the moment of the withdrawal of the troops from Petersburg to Krasnoe, for the review to be held to-day in Poincaré's honour, to try to intimidate the Government. They are the outcome of the reactionary policy of Maklakoff, the Minister of the Interior, and till he allows the workmen to have recognised organisations of their own, with whom the Government can deal in times of trouble Russian industry will be at the mercy of an unknown Secret Committee that enforces strikes by terroristic methods.

Ever yours,

(33902) No. 165.
Sir M. de Bunsen to Sir Edward Grey.
Vienna, July 26, 1914.
D. July 26, 12 midnight.
R. July 27.
Tel. (No. 107.)

Following from Military Attaché‚ for the D.M.O.:

* Following is confidential:

"Only units of 2nd Vienna corps affected are 44th and 99th regiments, which left without waiting for reservists last night. It is believed that they are to replace two Austro-Serb regiments of 13th corps. Reservists for 4th and 99th regiments are now being equipped and will follow in batches. First day of mobilisation is 28th July.

Mobilisation placards affecting 13th and 3rd corps (Trieste) are confirmed.

"At Semlin presence of three heavy howitzer batteries and complete monitor squadron is confirmed. Passage of troop trains through Maria Theresiopel is confirmed. Calculations as to time required to concentrate on three centres Serajevo, Peterwardein and Temesvar is as follows: 28th, 29th inclusive, mobilisation, 30th July to 4th August inclusive, transport of troops. 5th August considered earliest day on which general advance possible. Italian intelligence practically same as French, except that 3rd corps replaces 6th corps. Rumour that Chief of Staff has left Vienna is unconfirmed."

(33908) No. 166
Sir M. de Bunsen to Sir Edward Grey.
Vienna, July 26, 1914.
D. July 26, 12 midnight.
R. July 27, 9:30 A.M.
Tel. (No. 108.)

Military attaché's information is that mobilisation will be completed 31st July, and concentration near the Servian frontier about 5th August. Russian Ambassador, just returned from leave, does not propose to press for more time in sense of last paragraph of your telegram No. 153 of 25th July.(1) He thinks that the Austro-Hungarian Government are determined on war, and that Russia cannot possibly remain indifferent. French and Russian Ambassadors were with me when repetition of your telegram No. 232 of 26th July to Paris(2) arrived. I informed them of its content, with which they both expressed their great satisfaction, though doubting if either Austro-Hungarian Government or German Government would accept the principle that Russia is an interested party entitled to have a say in the settlement of a purely Austro-Servian dispute.

Italian Ambassador was also instructed to support Russian request for postponement of time limit, but too late to take any useful action. Italian Ambassador expressed to me in confidence his strong disapprobation of terms of ultimatum, and generally of Austro-Hungarian policy regarding Servia.

(Repeated to Embassies.)

Published in BB No. 40 (paraphrased and parts omitted).

(1) No. 118.
(2) No. 140.

(33964) No. 167.
Consul-General Roberts to Sir Edward Grey.
Odessa, July 27, 1914.
D. 12:45 P.M.
R. 12 noon.
Tel. (No. 9.)

Yesterday evening I saw telegram from Servian Government to the Consul General, calling up all their reservists.

South-western Railway here declared on war footing since midnight, all the officials on leave recalled. Twenty-seven trains left here for all parts of this military district.

Troops camping in the neighbourhood of Odessa ordered to return.

(34007) No. 168.
Mr. Findlay to Sir Edward Grey.
Christiania, July 27, 1914.
D. 11:15 P.M.
R. 12:15 P.M.
Tel. (No. 9.)

On the receipt of instructions men-of-war have all taken in considerable quantities of coal and are reported to be sailing at eight this morning.

Eleven ships reported still in Sognefiord at midday yesterday. Four reported proceeding south, thirty miles south of Stavanger, possibly escort of Emperor.

All German naval officers' families have been ordered to return to Stettin at once on a destroyer.

[NOTE. A further telegram (No. 17) from Mr. Findlay despatched July 27, 10 30 P.M., and received July 28, 8 A.M., reads: British vice-consul at Molde has reported departure at 3 P.M., 26th July, of the following German ships: "Hannover," "Schleswig-Holstein." "Moltke," "Deutschland," "Pommern," "Seydlitz" and "Stralsund."]

(34060) No. 169.
Sir H. Lowther to Sir Edward Grey.
Copenhagen, July 27, 1914.
D. 11:55 A.M.
R. 12:55 P.M.
Tel. (No. 17.) En clair.

President of French Republic who was expected in Copenhagen to-day has cancelled his official visit at the last moment.

Cf. despatch No. 646.

(34092) No. 170.
Sir G. Buchanan to Sir Edward Grey.
St. Petersburg, July 27, 1914.
D. 10:6 A.M.
R. 1:15 P.M.
Tel. (No. 173.)

Minister for Foreign Affairs had yesterday a long conversation with Austrian Ambassador, in which latter tried to explain away objectionable features of Austria's recent action.(1) Minister for Foreign Affairs said that he perfectly understood Austria's motives, but ultimatum had been drafted in such a form as to render it impossible for Servia to accept it as a whole. While some of demands were reasonable enough, others were not only incompatible with Servia's dignity as an independent State, but could not possibly be put into immediate execution, as they entailed revision of her existing laws. Russia, his Excellency added, was object of such suspicion in Austria that it would be useless for her to offer her good offices at Belgrade. He thought, however, England and Italy might be willing to collaborate with Austria with a view to putting an end to present tension. Ambassador promised to inform his Government of what his Excellency had said.

In reply to question Minister for Foreign Affairs addressed to me, I said that I had in conversation, reported in my telegram No. 166 of 24th July,(2) correctly defined attitude of His Majesty's Government, and that you could not promise to do more. His Excellency was wrong in believing that we should promote cause of peace by telling Germany if she supported Austria by force of arms she would have us to deal with as well as France and Russia. Such a menace would but stiffen her attitude, and it was only by approaching her as a friend anxious to preserve peace that we could induce her to use her influence at Vienna to avert war. If, however, we were to succeed, his Excellency must do nothing to precipitate a conflict, and I therefore trusted that mobilisation ukase would be deferred as long as possible, and that when it was issued troops would not be allowed to cross frontier.

Minister for Foreign Affairs replied that he did not believe that. we should succeed in winning over Germany to cause of peace unless we publicly proclaimed our solidarity with France and Russia. No effective steps towards mobilisation could be taken until Imperial ukase was issued, and if it was deferred too long Austria would profit by delay to make her military preparations complete, while Russia could do nothing. Order to mobilise might perhaps be accompanied by a statement that troops would be retained on this side of the frontier. He could not tell me when ukase would be issued, but spoke of day on which Austrian army entered Servia as a likely date.

His Excellency strongly condemned arrest of Servian General Poutnik in Hungary as likely to aggravate present tension.

(Repeated to Paris.)

Published in BB No. 44 (paraphrased and parts omitted.


Sir G. Buchanan spoke well.

I am afraid that the real difficulty to be overcome will be found in the question of mobilisation. Austria is already mobilising. This, if the war does come, is a serious menace to Russia who cannot be expected to delay her own mobilisation, which, as it is, can only become effective in something like double the time required by Austria and by Germany.

If Russia mobilises, we have been warned Germany will do the same, and as German mobilisation is directed almost entirely against France, the latter cannot possibly delay her own mobilisation for even the fraction of a day.

From Sir M. de Bunsen's telegram No. 109 (3) just come in, it seems certain that Austria is going to war because that was from the beginning her intention.

If that view proves correct, it would be neither possible nor just and wise to make any move to restrain Russia from mobilising.

This however means that within 24 hours His Majesty's Government will be faced with the question whether, in a quarrel so imposed by Austria on an unwilling France, Great Britain will stand idly aside, or take sides. The question is a momentous one, which it is not for a departmental minute to elaborate.

It is difficult not to remember the position of Prussia in 1805, when she insisted on keeping out of the war which she could not prevent from breaking out between the other Powers over questions not, on their face, of direct interest to Prussia.

The war was waged without Prussia in 1805. But in 1806 she fell a victim to the Power that had won in 1805, and no one was ready either to help her or to prevent her political ruin and partition. E. A. C. July 27.

(1) See A II No. 73.
(2) No. 101.
(3) No. 175

(34332) No. 171.
Communication by the Servian Minister.
July 27, 1914.

Sir Edward Grey,
The Servian Minister this morning gave me the text of the Servian reply to read, he will send me a copy this afternoon ) So far as I could gather from a simple perusal it practically concedes all the Austrian demands, and it is difficult to see how Austria can honestly proceed to hostile operations when Servia has yielded so much. I am glad to see that our military attach‚ at Vienna reports that mobilization will not be finished till Friday and concentration near Servian frontier completed by Wednesday week, so we have a few days ahead of us.

The Servian Minister was instructed to say that his Government hoped that after reading the reply H.M. Government would be ready to assist Servia towards a pacific issue. I told him I would transmit his message to you, and that he could understand that we were anxious to see a peaceful solution.

A. N.


A careful comparison of the Austrian Note and the Servian reply shows that the latter has been read at Vienna with a fixed determination to find it unsatisfactory, for it swallows nearly all the Austrian demands "en bloc," and it is difficult not to consider such reservations as are made quite reasonable.

The differences are as follows:

In the notice to be published in the "Journal Officiel" and in Army Orders, the Servian Government condemn "all" or "any" instead of "the" propaganda directed against Austria.

In undertaking 2, the Servian Government do not bind themselves to prevent the "Narodna Odbrana" and other such societies from continuing their activity under other names and forms. This has been seized upon by Austria as a cause for dissatisfaction, though there is nothing to show that Servia would not be willing to dissolve any new societies or clubs against whom evidence was brought.

In undertaking 3, the Servians do not specifically mention "le corps enseignant" and ask for proofs of the propaganda fomented by public instruction.

In 4, Servia will comply, on proof.

As regards 5, Servia asks for a more precise definition of what is wanted.

Point 6 contains the only direct refusal, namely, to admit Austrian participation in a criminal enquiry on Servian soil, for reasons which are at least good arguments.

And on point 9, Servia asks for instances.

Otherwise, with the addition of a plea for reference to the Hague or the Powers, the Servian note meets Austria's demands. G. R. C. July 28, 1914.

The answer is reasonable. If Austria demands absolute compliance with her ultimatum it can only mean that she wants a war. For she knows perfectly well that some of the demands are such as no State can accept, as they are tantamount to accepting a protectorate. E. A. C. July 28.

(1) Printed, with Austrian comments, in Appendix B.

(34891) No. 172.
Communication by the Swiss Minister.
July 27, 1914.

Sir Edward Grey,
The Swiss Minister called to say that His Government had telegraphed in regard to the situation, being extremely anxious as to the position of Switzerland in the event of the European conflict. I told him that I had still hopes that a conflict might be averted so long as no active military operations were undertaken, and hitherto none had been undertaken. Every day that passed was a day gained in favour of the efforts of those who were working for a pacific solution. M. Carlin observed that the Servian Government seemed to have conceded practically all the Austrian demands. I said that so it appeared to me, and this fact strengthened my hope of peace.


(34568) No. 173.
Communication from the French Embassy.
Sir A. Nicolson,
M. de Fleuriau asked me to note that the Italian Ambassador at St. Petersburg had told his French colleague that opinion in Vienna was convinced that "la Russie ne tiendrait pas le coup."

Russia has decided to mobilize "en principe" 18 army corps, but the mobilization is only to become effective if Austria employs force against Servia.

M. Cambon returns at 11 this evening.


(34569) No. 174.
Communication from the French Embassy.

M. de Fleuriau, finding Sir A. Nicolson engaged this morning, asked me to take a note of the following information:

Yesterday (Sunday) afternoon, the German Ambassador in Paris asked the Acting Minister for Foreign Affairs that the French Government should urge moderation in St. Petersburg. M. Bienvenu-Martin replied that such a step depended on similar action being taken by Germany at Vienna, to which Herr von Schoen answered that this would not be in conformity with the attitude taken up by Germany vis-à-vis of Austria and Servia. The acting Minister for Foreign Affairs then suggested that the four non-interested Powers should offer their intervention: the Ambassador had no instructions.

Later in the evening the German Ambassador again saw the acting Minister for Foreign Affairs and proposed a communiqué‚ to the press to the effect that, during their conversations, M. Bienvenu-Martin and Herr v. Schoen had endeavoured to find a way whereby the Powers could ensure peace.

The Ambassador expressed his personal surprise that Austria was not satisfied with the Servian reply. He insisted on the desire of the German Government for peace, and said that if we (the British Government) were to give good advice at St. Petersburg it would be helpful. He thought that Austria would decline formal mediation or a conference, but that the sound of a pacific note from St. Petersburg and conciliatory advice from the Powers would be well received.

M. Bienvenu-Martin replied that Germany was in the best position to speak with effect at Vienna, especially now that Servia has practically accepted all the Austrian conditions. The rupture of diplomatic relations and mobilization by Austria made any intervention urgent, as the day the Austrian forces entered Servia, the situation would oblige Russia to declare herself and would precipitate the war which Germany wished to avoid.

Herr v. Schoen agreed and observed that he did not say that Germany would not give advice at Vienna.


Cf. No. 184; also F Nos. 56, 57, and R Il.

The German attitude is, to my mind, an untenable one if Germany really, as she so profusely professes, desires peace. She declines to take or evades taking any action at Vienna and one would imagine that Russia was the aggressive and provocative part and was to be restrained while Austria dealt with Servia. A long telegram from Vienna by Dr. Dillon in to-day's D.T. is worth reading.

Dr. Dillon is an intimate friend of Count Berchtold and he is evidently stating Austrian case with a naked simplicity which is notable. He avows that the Servian "question" is merely a pretext for an endeavour, in conjunction with Germany, to re-establish Austria's position in the Balkans and to displace Russia and it is stated that no intervention or mediation will be allowed. We are witnessing a most cynical and desperate measure and Germany should, for her own reputation, show facts that she is not willing to associate herself with it or in any case will assist in mitigating its effects and limit its scope. A. N.

(34179) No. 175.
Vienna, July 27, 1914.
D. 1 P.M.
R. 2:45 P.M.
Tel. (No. 109.)
Sir M. de Bunsen to Sir Edward Grey.

After conversations with all my colleagues of the Great Powers, I believe that Austria- Hungary is fully determined on war with Servia, that she believes her position as a Great Power is at stake, that her note was drawn up so as to make war inevitable, and that she is unlikely to listen to proposals for mediation until punishment has been inflicted on Servia. If Russian Ambassador is rightly informed, effort of Germany to isolate conflict must fail, as he believes that Russia will be compelled to act. Postponement or prevention of war with Servia would undoubtedly be a great disappointment in this country, which has gone wild with joy at prospect of war. Italian Ambassador is greatly concerned, and is casting about for a means of circumscribing conflict which he regards as inevitable. He asked me this morning if I thought following might be usefully proposed:

Austria to repeat to Powers in form of positive engagement promise already made to Russia to the effect that she desires neither to annex any territory nor to crush Servia, nor to deprive her of her independence, but merely to obtain guarantees for future.

His Excellency thought that possibly Russia might consent to keep quiet. He would think it over and perhaps communicate with Italian Minister for Foreign Affairs as to terms of possible formula. He begged that his name might not be mentioned as having thrown out this suggestion, which was still in a very crude form.

I informed his Excellency of proposal you are making for a conference of less interested Powers in London. He spoke gratefully of your efforts for peace, which had been so useful before, but feared that proposed inclusion of Russia among the directly interested Powers would be obstacle to acceptance.

Minister for Foreign Affairs cannot receive me till 11 A.M. to-morrow. Unless you have any special directions to send me, I propose to express hope of His Majesty' Government that war may yet be avoided, and to ask whether his Excellency cannot suggest even now way out.(1)

(Repeated to Paris No. 245; Berlin No. 209; Rome No. 204; St. Petersburg No. 378; Belgrade (Nish) No. 22.)

Published in B No. 41 (paraphrased and parts omitted).


The suggestion of the Italian Ambassador seems to me too vague for any practical purpose. If Austria proposes neither to annex nor to crush Servia nor to deprive her of her independence, then it is difficult to know what meaning to attach to the alternative of "obtaining guarantees for the future."

The outlook is bad. All now depends on what line Germany may be prepared to take. E. A. C. July 27.

(1) No. 187.