Document Numbers 176 - 190

27 July 1914
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(34245) No. 176.
Sir Edward Grey to Sir E. Goschen.
Foreign Office, July 27, 1914.
Tel. (No. 208.)
D. 3 P.M.

German Ambassador has informed me that German Government accept in principle mediation between Austria and Russia by the four Powers, reserving, of course, their right as an ally to help Austria if attacked. He has also been instructed to request me to use influence in St. Petersburg to localise the war and to keep up the peace of Europe.

I have replied that the Servian reply went further than could have been expected to meet the Austrian demands. German Minister for Foreign Affairs has himself said that there were some things in the Austrian note that Servia could hardly be expected to accept. I assumed that Servian reply could not have gone as far as it did unless Russia had exercised conciliatory influence at Belgrade, and it was really at Vienna that moderating influence was now required. If Austria put the Servian reply aside as being worth nothing and marched into Servia, it meant that she was determined to crush Servia at all costs, being reckless of the consequences that might be involved. Servian reply should at least be treated as a basis for discussion and pause. I said German Government should urge this at Vienna.

I recalled what German Government had said as to the gravity of the situation if the war could not be localised, and observed that if Germany assisted Austria against Russia it would be because, without any reference to the merits of the dispute, Germany could not afford to see Austria crushed. Just so other issues might be raised that would supersede the dispute between Austria and Servia, and would bring other Powers in, and the war would be the biggest ever known; but as long as Germany would work to keep the peace I would keep closely in touch. I repeated that after the Servian reply it was at Vienna that some moderation must be urged.

(Repeated to Paris No. 241/2; Vienna No. 165/6; Rome No. 202/3; and St. Petersburg No. 375/6: "You should inform M.F.A."

Published in BB No. 46.
For Prince Lichnowsky's account of this conversation see DD No. 258.

(34246) No. 177.
Sir Edward Grey to Sir G. Buchanan.
Foreign Office, July 27, 1914.
Tel. (No. 377.)
D. 3:30 P.M.

My telegram No. 208 of to-day to Sir E. Goschen.(1)

Russian Ambassador tells me that impression prevails in German and Austrian circles that we shall stand aside in any event, and deplored effect of this impression.

I have pointed out that orders we have given to First Fleet, which happens to be concentrated at Portland, not to disperse for manoeuvre leave ought to dispel this impression, though Russian Ambassador must not take my reference to it as meaning that we promised anything more than diplomatic action.

I also observed that we hear from German and Austrian sources that they believe that so long as Austria agrees not to take Servian territory Russia will not take any action. I added that it would be absurd for us to appear at Berlin and Vienna to be more Servian than the Russians are.

(Repeated to Paris No. 243/4: "You may inform M.F.A.")
Published in BB No. 47 (paraphrased).

(1) No. 176.

(34210) No. 178.
Consul Bosanquet to Sir Edward Grey.
Riga, July 27, 1914.
D. 2:55 P.M.
R. 3:30 P.M.

Mines have been laid down at Bolderaa and no vessels are allowed in or out.

Reported all troops in camp in this neighbourhood have been ordered to the frontier. Bolderaa is reported to be on a war footing. Please acknowledge.

(Repeated to Embassy.)

Cf. No. 228.

(34212) No. 179.
Sir G. Buchanan to Sir Edward Grey.
St. Petersburg, July 27, 1914.
D. 2:13 P.M.
R. 3:45 P.M.
Tel. (No. 174.)
French Ambassador informs me that since my conversation with Minister for Foreign Affairs, reported in my immediately preceding telegram of to-day(1) his Excellency has decided to propose direct conversation between Vienna and St. Petersburg as to modifications to be introduced into Austrian demands.

(Repeated to Embassies and Nish.)

Published in BB No. 45 (paraphrased).
Cf. No. 205.


This is confusing. In three consecutive days M. Sazonof has made one suggestion and two proposals all differing from each other.

1. The suggestion. If Servia were to appeal to the Powers, Russia would stand aside and leave question in hands of England, France, Italy and Germany (July 25).(2)

2. July 26. Proposal to Austrian Ambassador that England and Italy should collaborate with Austria with a view to putting an end to present tension.(1)

3. July 27. Proposal that Russia will converse directly with Vienna.

One really does not know where one is with M. Sazonof and I told Count Benckendorff so this afternoon. A. N.

Cf. Letter No. 239.

(1) No. 170.
(2) No. 125.

(34214) No. 180.
Mr. Findlay to Sir Edward Grey.
Christiania, July 27, 1914.
D. 3:25 P.M.
R. 4 P.M.
Tel. (No. 16.)

French President has put off his visit to King of Norway.

(34213) No. 181.
Sir F. Villiers to Sir Edward Grey.
Brussels, July 27, 1914.
D. 2:35 P..
R. 4 P.M.
Tel. (No. 2.)

Statements appear in the Belgian newspapers this morning with regard to partial mobilisation and other military preparations, but I have ascertained that these are unfounded. No measures of the kind have so far been taken by the Belgian Government.

Cf. despatch No. 243.

(34215) No. 182.
Mr. Max Muller to Sir Edward Grey.
Budapest, July 27, 1914.
D. 12:30 P.M.
R. 4:5 P.M.
Tel. (No. 5.)

My telegram No. 4 of July 26th.(1)

Chief of Servian General Staff released last night and sent by special train to Servian frontier.

Popular demonstrations in favour of war continue.

(Sent to Vienna.)


The release was a wise measure. E. A. C. July 27.

(1) No. 152.

(34227) No. 183
Sir F. Bertie to Sir Edward Grey.
Paris, July 27, 1914.
D. 2:45 P.M.
R. 4:45 P.M.
Tel. (No. 88.)

Your telegrams Nos. 232 and 234 of yesterday :(1) Austria and Servia.

French Government accept your proposal and have sent instructions accordingly to French Ambassador in London, who returns there this evening. French Ambassador in Berlin instructed to concert with British Ambassador as to advisability of joining him in speaking to the German Government. French representatives at Vienna, St. Petersburg and Belgrade have also received necessary instructions, but Ministry for Foreign Affairs thinks that it would be dangerous for Entente Ambassadors to speak at Vienna until it is known that Germans have done so with some success.

Ministry for Foreign Affairs gathers from German Ambassador that Austrians are particularly suspicious of words "intervention," "mediation" and "conference" and suggests therefore that care should be taken to speak of conversations, moderating advice, &c.

(Repeated to Embassies and Nish.)

Published in BB No. 42 (paraphrased and part omitted).
Cf. No. 194.

(1) Nos. 140, 143.

(34228) No. 184.
Sir F. Bertie to Sir Edward Grey.
Paris, July 27, 1914.
D. 3:42 P.M.
R. 6 P.M.
Tel. (No 89.)

My telegram No. 82 of 25th July (1) Austria and Servia.

German Ambassador has had several further interviews with Acting Minister for Foreign Affairs and Acting Political Director and persuaded them to insert a communiqu‚ in order to allay press campaign against Germany. Following communiqu‚ appeared this morning:

"German Ambassador and Acting President of the Council have had a fresh conversation, in the course of which they considered what measures could be taken by Powers for maintenance of peace."

German Ambassador is much dissatisfied, and has expressed his desire for stronger wording and for phrase indicating "solidarity" between the Powers and for description of conversation as "very friendly." Ministry for Foreign Affairs propose to do no more.

German Ambassador constantly repeats that all depends on Russia, and Ministry for Foreign Affairs look upon this as a bad sign.

I think we ought to urge French Government to issue notice suggested by German Ambassador.

See despatch No. 193, also Nos. 174 and 204, and F No. 62, R No. 35 and R II.

(1) No. 123


There is probably more behind all this than meets the eye. The German hardly concealed endeavour is to get all the Powers to declare that the quarrel between Austria and Servia in no way concerns any third parties. This no doubt is what M. de Schoen means by the "solidarity " of all the Powers. I imagine the French are afraid that if they agree to such an announcement of "solidarity," this will be exploited at Berlin and used at St. Petersburg to prove to Russia that France is a lukewarm supporter.

There may of course be some other explanation of the difference between the Acting French M.F.A. and the German Ambassador. But whatever the explanation is, I doubt whether we should be wise in mixing ourselves up in this journalistic controversy or giving unpalatable advice to the French Government in a matter in which it is at present difficult to see clear, but which cannot, I think, be of really great importance. E. A. C. July 27.

We cannot suggest to the French Government how they should word their "communiqués" of conversations in which we had no part. We certainly had far better not interfere in these matters A. N.

(34231) No. 185.
Sir E. Goschen to Sir Edward Grey.
Berlin, July 27, 1914.
D. 6:17 P.M.
R. 9 P.M.
Tel. (No. 96.)

Your telegram No. 232 of 26th July to Paris.(1)

Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs says that conference you suggest would practically amount to a court of arbitration and could not, in his opinion, be called together except at the request of Austria and Russia. He could not therefore, desirous though he was to co-operate for the maintenance of peace, fall in with your suggestion. I said I was sure that your idea had nothing to do with arbitration, but meant that representatives of the four nations not directly interested should discuss and suggest means for avoiding a dangerous situation. He maintained, however, that such a conference as you proposed was not practicable. He added that news he had just received from St. Petersburg showed that there was an intention on the part of M. Sazonof to exchange views with Count Berchtold. He thought that this method of procedure might lead to a satisfactory result, and that it would be best, before doing anything else, to await outcome of the exchange of views between the Austrian and Russian Governments.

In the course of a short conversation Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs said that as yet Austria was only partially mobilising, but that if Russia mobilised against Germany latter would have to follow suit. I asked him what he meant by "mobilising against Germany." He said that if Russia only mobilised in south Germany would not mobilise, but if she mobilised in north Germany would have to do so too, and Russian system of mobilisation was so complicated that it might be difficult exactly to locate her mobilisation. Germany would therefore have to be very careful not to be taken by surprise.

Finally, Secretary of State said that news from St. Petersburg had caused him to take more hopeful view of the general situation.

(Repeated to Embassies and Nish.)

Published in BB No. 43.
Cf. No. 218.

(1) No. 140.


So far as we know, the German Government has up to now said not a single word at Vienna in the direction of restraint or moderation. If a word had been said, we may be certain that the German Government would claim credit for having spoken at all. The inference is not reassuring as to Germany's goodwill.

At the same time the rapid succession of fresh proposals and suggestions coming from St. Petersburg made it easier for Germany to find fresh excuses for her inactivity. E. A. C. July 28.

(34229) No. 186.
Sir F Bertie to Sir Edward Grey.
Paris, July 27, 1914,
D. 8 P.M.
R. 9:30 P.M.
Tel (No. 90.) En clair.

The President of the Republic will reach Dunkirk with the Prime Minister on the morning of 29th July.

(34179) No. 187.
Sir Edward Grey to Sir M. de Bunsen.
Foreign Office, July 27, 1914.
D. 11 P.M.
Tel. (No. 171.)

My telegram No. 208 to Sir E. Goschen to-day,(1) repeated to you, will show .you the line to take. I have spoken to Austrian Ambassador in the same sense.(2)

(1) No. 176.
(2) No. 188.

(34608) No. 188.
Sir Edward Grey to Sir M. de Bunsen.
(No. 124.)
Foreign Office, July 27, 1914.

Count Mensdorff told me by instruction to-day that the Servian Government had not accepted the demands which the Austrian Government were obliged to address to them in order to secure permanently the most vital Austrian interests. Servia showed that she did not intend to abandon her subversive aims, tending toward continuous disorder in the Austrian frontier territories and their final disruption from the Austrian Monarchy. Very reluctantly, and against their wish, the Austrian Government were compelled to take more severe measures to enforce a fundamental change of the attitude of enmity pursued up to now by Servia. As the British Government knew, the Austrian Government had for many years endeavoured to find a way to get on with their turbulent neighbour, though this had been made very difficult for them by the continuous provocations of Servia. The Serajevo murder had made clear to everyone what appalling consequences the Servian propaganda had already produced, and what a permanent threat to Austria it involved. We would understand that the Austrian Government must consider that the moment had arrived to obtain, by means of the strongest pressure, guarantees for the definite suppression of the Servian aspirations and for the security of peace and order on the southeastern frontier of Austria. As the peaceable means to this effect were exhausted, the Austrian Government must at last appeal to force. They had not taken this decision without reluctance. Their action, which had no sort of aggressive tendency, could not be represented otherwise than as an act of self-defence. Also they thought that they would serve a European interest if they prevented Servia from being henceforth an element of general unrest such as she had been for the last ten years. The high sense of justice of the British nation and of British statesmen could not blame the Austrian Government if the latter defended by the sword what was theirs, and cleared up their position with a country whose hostile policy had forced upon them for years measures so costly as to have gravely injured Austrian national prosperity. Finally, the Austrian Government, confiding in their amicable relations with us, felt that they could count on our sympathy in a fight that was forced on them, and on our assistance in localising the fight, if necessary.

Count Mensdorff added on his own account that, as long as Servia was confronted with Turkey, Austria never took very severe measures because of her adherence to the policy of the free development of the Balkan States. Now that Servia had doubled her territory and population without any Austrian interference, the repression of Servian subversive aims was a matter of self-defence and self-preservation on Austria's part. He reiterated that Austria had no intention of taking Servian territory or aggressive designs against Servian territory.

I said that I could not understand the construction put by the Austrian Government upon the Servian reply, and I told Count Mensdorff the substance of the conversation that I had had with the German Ambassador this morning about that reply.(1)

Count Mensdorff admitted that, on paper, the Servian reply might seem to be satisfactory; but the Servians had refused the one thing the co-operation of Austrian officials and police which would be a real guarantee that in practice the Servians would not carry on their subversive campaign against Austria.

I said that it seemed to me as if the Austrian Government believed that, even after the Servian reply, they could make war upon Servia anyhow, without risk of bringing Russia into the dispute. If they could make war on Servia and at the same time satisfy Russia, well and good; but, if not, the consequences would be incalculable. I pointed out to him that I quoted this phrase from an expression of the views of the German Government. I feared that it would be expected in St. Petersburg that the Servian reply would diminish the tension, and now, when Russia found that there was increased tension, the situation would become increasingly serious. Already the effect on Europe was one of anxiety. I pointed out that our fleet was to have dispersed to-day, but we had felt unable to let it disperse. We should not think of calling up reserves at this moment, and there was no menace in what we had done about our fleet; but, owing to the possibility of a European conflagration, it was impossible for us to disperse our forces at this moment. I gave this as an illustration of the anxiety that was felt. It seemed to me that the Servian reply already involved the greatest humiliation to Servia that I had ever seen a country undergo, and it was very disappointing to me that the reply was treated by the Austrian Government as if it were as unsatisfactory as a blank negative.

I am, &c.

Published in BB No. 48.
For Count Mensdorff's account of this conversation see A II No. 72.

(1) No. 176.

(34517) No. 189.
Communicated by the Italian Ambassador.
July 27, 1914.

Sir Edward Grey,
The Italian Ambassador informs me that the Italian M.F.A. entirely agrees with you as to a Conference à quatre here. As to question of asking Russia, Austria and Servia to suspend military operations pending results of the Conference he would recommend it warmly to Berlin and he will enquire of the Cabinet of Berlin as to the procedure to be followed at Vienna.

A. N.

This was communicated to Sir Rennell Rodd as a despatch (see BB No. 49).

(34850) No. 190.
Parliamentary Debates, House of Commons, July 27, 1914.

Mr. Bonar Law: I rise to ask the Foreign Secretary a question of which I have given him notice: whether he would communicate any information to the House as to the situation which exits between Austria and Servia?

The Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Sir E. Grey): The House will, of course, be aware, through the public Press of what the nature of the situation in Europe is at this moment. I think that it is due to the House that I should give in short narrative form the position which His Majesty's Government have so far taken up.

Last Friday morning I received from the Austro-Hungarian Ambassador the text of the communication made by the Austro-Hungarian Government to the Powers, which has appeared in the Press, and which included textually the demand made by the Austro- Hungarian Government upon Servia.

In the afternoon I saw other Ambassadors, and expressed the view that, as long as the dispute was one between Austria-Hungary and Servia alone, I felt that we had no title to interfere, but that, if the relations between Austria-Hungary and Russia became threatening, the question would then be one of the peace of Europe: a matter that concerned us all.

I did not then know what view the Russian Government had taken of the situation, and without knowing how things were likely to develop I could not make any immediate proposition, but I said that, if relations between Austria-Hungary and Russia did become threatening, the only chance of peace appeared to me to be that the four Powers Germany, France, Italy, and Great Britain, who were not directly interested in the Servian question should work together both in St. Petersburg and Vienna simultaneously to get both Austria-Hungary and Russia to suspend military operations while the four Powers endeavoured to arrange settlement.

After I had heard that Austria-Hungary had broken off diplomatic relation with Servia, I made by telegraph yesterday afternoon the following proposal, as a practical method of applying the views that I had already expressed:

I instructed His Majesty's Ambassadors in Paris, Berlin and Rome to ask the Governments to which they were accredited whether they would be willing to arrange that the French, German and Italian Ambassadors in London should meet me in a Conference to be held in London immediately to endeavour to find a means of arranging the present difficulties. At the same time, I instructed His Majesty's Ambassadors to ask those Governments to authorise their representatives in Vienna, St. Petersburg and Belgrade to inform the Governments there of the proposed Conference and to ask them to suspend all active military operations pending the result of the Conference.

To that I have not yet received complete replies, and it is, of course, a proposal in which the co-operation of all four Powers is essential. In a crisis so grave as this, the efforts of one Power alone to preserve the peace must be quite ineffective.

The time allowed in this matter has been so short that I have had to take the risk of making a proposal without the usual preliminary steps of trying to ascertain whether it would be well received. But, where matters are so grave and the time so short, the risk of proposing something that is unwelcome or ineffective cannot be avoided. I cannot but feel, however, assuming that the text of the Servian reply as published this morning in the Press is accurate, as I believe it to be, that it should at least provide a basis on which a friendly and impartial group of Powers, including Powers who are equally in the confidence of Austria-Hungary and of Russia, should be able to arrange a settlement that would be generally acceptable.

It must be obvious to any person who reflects upon the situation that the moment the dispute ceases to be one between Austria-Hungary and Servia and becomes one in which another Great Power is involved, it can but end in the greatest catastrophe that has ever befallen the Continent of Europe at one blow: no one can say what would be the limit of the issues that might be raised by such a conflict, the consequences of it, direct and indirect would be incalculable.

Mr. Harry Lawson: May I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether it is true that this morning the German Emperor accepted the principle of mediation which he has proposed

Sir E. Grey: I understand that the German Government are favourable to the idea of mediation in principle as between Austria-Hungary and Russia, but that as to the particular proposal of applying that principle by means of a Conference which I have described to the House, the reply of the German Government has not yet been received.