Document Numbers 626 - 650

4-5 August 1914

[NB: Document No. 643, Sir Edward Grey, Foreign Office, August 4, 1914, to the German Ambassador, contains the official British Statement of War. AJP]

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Go to Document Numbers 651-677

(35886) No. 626.
Sir F. Bertie to Sir Edward Grey.
Paris, August 4, 1914.
D. 3:25 P.M.
Tel. (No. 137.) Urgent. Confidential.
R. 7:20 P.M.

Holland Belgium Norway Sweden. I acted to-day at 1 P.M. on your urgent telegrams to Paris numbers 313,(1) 314,(2) 312(3) this morning.

Minister for Foreign Affairs will give me answers this evening.

(1) No. 578 (a).
(2) No. 578 (b).
(3) No. 576.

(35909) No. 627.
Mr. Howard to Sir Edward Grey.
Stockholm, August 4, 1914.
D. 4:30 P.M.
Tel. (No. 24.)
R. 7:50 P.M.

SWEDEN has this morning declared her complete neutrality during the present war between foreign Powers.

Cf. No. 633.

(35894) No. 628.
Sir E. Goschen to Sir Edward Grey.
Berlin, August 4, 1914.
D. 5:35 P.M.
Tel. (No. 135.) Urgent.
R. 7:50 P.M.

My French colleague protested against violation of French frontier by German troops, and in reply German Government communicated violations of their territory reported in my telegram of yesterday.

Presume details of events on French frontier have been communicated to you by French Government. My French colleague received his passports at 7 last night and leaves at 10 to-night for Vienna. He was first offered choice between Copenhagen and Constance and chose latter but was subsequently informed that he must go by Vienna. He protested until given a written assurance that he would be allowed to continue journey through Switzerland.

His telephone was cut off two days ago and his Vice-Consul and Embassy accountant were arrested in their beds this morning, but on protest were released after some little time. He and his staff have been warned not to show themselves in public for fear of insult.

(35913) No. 629.
Sir F. Villiers to Sir Edward Grey.
Brussels, August 4, 1914.
D. 6:29 P.M.
Tel. (No. 26.)
R. 8:50 P.M.

Minister of War, through his chief of staff, requested military attaché "officieusement" to inform His Majesty's Government that a very acceptable service would be rendered to Belgium if fleet would keep open the Scheldt and sea approaches to Antwerp for ships bringing supplies to Belgium.

(35912) No. 630.
Sir F. Villiers to Sir Edward Grey.
Brussels, August 4, 1914.
D. 6:38 P.M.
R. 9 P.M.

5 o'clock. Military Attaché just informed at War Office that firing is going on outside Liège.

No Germans have as yet crossed Meuse.

(35915) No. 631.
Sir F. Villiers to Sir Edward Grey.
Brussels, August 4, 1914.
D. 6:38 P.M.
Tel. (No. 28.)
R. 9:15 P.M.

The Minister for Foreign Affairs has just been to see me to tell me as a "matter of historical interest" what answer of the Belgian Government would have been if my communication had not been withdrawn.

The Council held at the Palace had decided to reply that they would accept offer of common action with "lively satisfaction."

Cf. No. 580.

(35916) No. 632.
Mr. Chilton to Sir Edward Grey.
The Hague, August 4, 1914.
Tel. (No. 35. )
R. 9:20 P.M.

Your telegram No. 24 of 4th August.(1)

I had already taken action on your telegram No. 23 of 4th August,(2) but have cancelled communication.

When I made communication, as instructed in your telegram No. 23, Minister for Foreign Affairs requested me to thank you for it, and to tell you that he has received a formal assurance from the German Government that they will not violate neutrality of Netherlands if Netherlands maintain their present neutral attitude.

I was unable to see Minister for Foreign Affairs when I received your telegram No. 24, but I saw chef de cabinet, who said he regretted communication must be cancelled, as it was an agreeable one. He would tell Minister for Foreign Affairs as soon as he could find him.

(1) No. 593.
(2) No. 580.

(35917) No. 633.
Mr. Howard to Sir Edward Grey.
Stockholm, August 4, 1914.
D. 3:30 P.M.
Tel. (No. 25.)
R. 9:30 P.M.

My immediately preceding telegram.(1)

A friend who saw the King this morning told me His Majesty and the Swedish Government are fully determined to maintain their neutrality to the utmost. I strongly urged the Minister for Foreign Affairs to-day in no circumstances to take active part in the war even if Sweden could not resist possible violation of territory. He said that this was the firm intention of Sweden.

(1) No. 627.

(35918) No. 634.
Consul-General Barnham to Sir Edward Grey.
Smyrna, August 4, 1914.
D. 8:4 P.M.
Tel. (No. 12.)
R. 9:30 P.M.

General mobilisation still continuing steadily.

(35926) No. 635.
Mr. Erskine to Sir Edward Grey.
Athens, August 4, 1914.
D. 7:30 P.M.
Tel. (No. 135.)
R. 10:45 P.M.

Greek Government having informed Austrian Government that they will remain neutral unless Bulgaria intervenes, Austrian Government have replied that they have strongly urged Bulgaria to remain neutral, and that the latter has assured them that they will do so.

(Repeated to Sophia, Nish and Bucharest.)

(35921) No. 636.
Mr. Beaumont to Sir Edward Grey.
Constantinople, August 4, 1914.
D. 11 A.M.
Tel. (No. 480.)
R. 10:45 P.M.

Following from Military Attaché at Belgrade for the Director of Military Operations.

"Servian mobilization completed on July 50th. Concentration will be completed on the night of 4th and 5th August. Servians expect no decisive Austrian action for the present."

(35937) No. 637.
Sir C. Greene to Sir Edward Grey.
Tokyo, August 4, 1914.
D. 6 P.M.
Tel. (No. 61.)
R. 11:30 P.M.

Your telegram No. 36 of 3rd August t(1) was laid before the Cabinet this morning, and Minister for Foreign Affairs desires me to say that in the special eventualities referred to, namely:

An attack on Hong Kong and Wei-hai Wei or a similar concrete act of aggression the Imperial Government will be ready at once to support His Majesty's Government if called upon, as explained in my telegram No. 58. (2) In the hypothetical cases, such as a capture of a British merchant ship or a case involving, perhaps, a question of Chinese or Russian territorial waters, the Imperial Government would wish to have the opportunity of considering it and consulting with His Majesty's Government before taking definite action.


His Excellency tells me that 2nd battle fleet of four large cruisers, to which volunteer fleet may be added, is lying ready at Saseho for immediate action if required, while a cruiser has been stationed at each of the ports of Nagasaki, Fusan, and Chemulpo to meet possible eventualities.

The above secret paragraph for information of His Majesty's Government only.

(Repeated to St. Petersburg.)

(1) No. 549.
(2) No. 571.

(36530) No. 638.
Sir Edward Grey to Mr. Barclay (Manchester, Mass.).

(No. 435.) Foreign Office, August 4, 1914.

I told Mr. Page to-day of our ultimatum to Germany as to the maintenance of Belgian neutrality. I said to him that it was, in the first place, a matter of fulfilling a treaty obligation. If, after all that was said in 1870 about our obligations under the treaty guaranteeing the neutrality of Belgium, we had now done nothing to preserve that neutrality, and had simply looked on at the present deliberate and flagrant violation of the treaty, we should have lost all respect. The principle of the sanctity of treaty rights was really the test of the progress of civilisation, as compared with a state of force and lawlessness; it was the foundation of all confidence between nations. There were two sets of people in Germany: people like the German Chancellor, Herr von Bethmann Hollweg, and the German Ambassador here, Prince Lichnowsky, who dealt with all these things as we dealt with them; on the other hand, there was the military party of force, who had no respect at all for these things. I had information that Germany was putting pressure on at least one of the smaller European States to join her in this war, and the issue for us was that, if Germany won, she would dominate France; the independence of Belgium, Holland, Denmark, and perhaps of Norway and Sweden, would be a mere shadow: their separate existence as nations would really be a fiction; all their harbours would be at Germany's disposal; she would dominate the whole of Western Europe, and this would make our position quite impossible. We could not exist as a first-class State under such circumstances. I said that I asked nothing of the United States, except that they should comply with the ordinary rules of neutrality and that they should take charge of our Embassies in Berlin and Vienna, if need be. I should like Mr. Page to telegraph to the President what I had said to him.

Mr. Page said that he felt that what was happening in Europe would cause in the United States a grief that would be only less than if they themselves were involved in the war. He would telegraph to the President what I had said. He expressed great sympathy, and said that the United States Government would feel it a pleasure to do all in their power, consistent with the obligations of neutrality, to be of use to us.

He was authorised to say that the American Embassy at Berlin, and at Vienna, if necessary, would readily take charge of our interests there.

I am, &c.

. Cf. Nos. 573 and 594.

(36527) No. 639.
Sir Edw ard Grey to Mr. Chilton.
(No. 97.)
Foreign Office. August 4. 1914.

I had a conversation with the Netherlands Minister to-day.

He informed me that Germany had given a most satisfactory assurance as regards Dutch neutrality, and he thought that his Government would probably appeal to us and France to give a similar assurance.

I said that I had thought of making a proposal to them, in case Germany should put pressure upon them to depart from an attitude of neutrality. As this contingency had not arisen, I need say nothing more at present.

I am, &c.

(36528) No. 640.
Sir Edward Grey to Sir R. Rodd.

(No. 226.) Foreign Office, August 4, 1914

I expressed my most cordial appreciation to the Italian Ambassador to-day of what the Italian Minister for Foreign Affairs had said to your Excellency, as described in your telegram No. 160 of the 3rd instant. (1) I said that I entirely reciprocated his feeling towards us.

The Ambassador said that he feared that Italy might be drawn into this war. Austria was almost sure to do something that would make even the stones in Italy rise up.

I am. &c

(1) No. 579.

(36531) No. 641.
Sir Edward Grey to Sir C. Greene (Tokyo).
(No. 122.)
Foreign Office, August 4, 1914.

I asked the Japanese Ambassador to-day to thank Baron Kato most cordially for his generous offer of assistance.(1)

I told the Ambassador how much I had been impressed by the way in which Japan, during the Russo-Japanese war, demanded nothing of us under our alliance with her except what was strictly in accord with the Treaty of Alliance; indeed, he had asked almost less than at one time it seemed she might have been entitled to have from us. I had thought that a fine attitude of good faith and restraint; and now we in turn should avoid, if we could, drawing Japan into any trouble. But, should a case arise in which we needed her help, we would gladly ask for it and be grateful for it.

I am, &c.

(1) No. 637.

(36529) No 642.
Sir Edward Grey to Mr. Howard (Stockholm).
(No. 43.)
Foreign Office, August 4, 1914.

The Swedish Minister came to inform me to-day that it was Sweden's settled desire to maintain her neutrality; but he was to add that, were she forced into the impending European war, it would be impossible for her to take the side of Russia, owing to all the distrust that had been created in Sweden by Russian spying.

I expressed satisfaction at hearing that Sweden intended to maintain her neutrality; and I said that, if she did so, it would be my object to get Russia and France to join with us in a guarantee to respect the independence and integrity of Sweden.

I am, &c.

No. 643.
Sir Edward Grey to the German Ambassador.
Foreign Office, August 4, 1914.

Your Excellency,
The result of the communication made at Berlin having been that His Majesty's Ambassador has had to ask for his passports, I have the honour to inform your Excellency that in accordance with the terms of the notification made to the German Government to-day His Majesty's Government consider that a state of war exists between the two countries as from to-day at 11 o'clock P.M.

I have the honour to enclose passports for your Excellency, your Excellency's family and staff.

I have, &c.

(36026) No. 644.
Sir G. Barclay to Sir Edward Grey. (Received August 5.)
(No. 62.)
Bucharest. July 28, 1914.

. I have the honour to enclose, extracted from the Government organ, "L'Indépendance Roumaine " of to-day, a communiqué defining Roumania's attitude in the Austro-Servian conflict.

I understand that it was only with great difficulty that the Prime Minister was able to obtain the King's approval for this declaration of policy which contains what amounts to a warning to Austria against interference with the Treaty of Bucharest.

The violent tone of the Austrian note of the 23rd instant and Baron Giessl's hasty rejection of the liberal satisfaction offered by the Servian Government in its reply of the 25th instant have, so far as I can gather, aroused general indignation in Bucharest though little unfavourable comment has so far appeared in the Roumanian press, only one of the leading papers, so far as I know and that a paper which I believe to be under French influence having really attacked Austria. The moderation noticeable in the press is doubtless due to a mot d'ordre from the Roumanian Government who, in common with the Court are, as usual, evidently anxious to avoid giving offence to Austria.

I have, &c.

Enclosure in No. 644.

Extract from "L'Indépendance Roumaine" of July 28, 1914.


Contrairement à ce qui a été publié dans certains journaux, le Gouvernement roumain n'a remis aucune note aux Puissances relativement à son attitude dans le conflit austro-serbe. Il n'y a eu à ce sujet que des conversations diplomatiques entre les Ministres étrangers accrédités auprès de notre Gouvernement et M. Jean Bratiano, président du conseil. à Sinaïa, ou M. Emmanuel Porumbaro, Ministre des Affaires Étrangères, à Bucarest.

Le point de vue de la Roumanie peut être formulé dans les deux idées directrices suivantes:

1. La Roumanie n'a aucun motif de s'immiscer dans le conflit spécial survenu entre l'Autriche-Hongrie et la Serbie au sujet de l'attentat de Serajevo et de la propagande nationaliste en Bosnie et Herzégovine.

2. La Roumanie est préoccupée d'une chose essentielle, à savoir qu'il ne soit porté atteinte en aucune façon à l'équilibre balkanique établi par le traité de Bucarest.

Sur ce point les États balkaniques sont solidaires.

Cette solidarité a été affirmée récemment à Sofia par les représentants de la Serbie et de la Roumanie à l'occasion des conflits de frontière entre la Bulgarie et notre pays qui sont à l'heure actuelle en voie d'aplanissement; elle se manifeste aujourd'hui entre la Grèce et la Roumanie à l'occasion des événements austro-serbes.

(36027) No. 645.
Sir G. Barclay to Sir Edward Grey. (Received August 5.)
(No. 63.)
Bucharest, July 28, 1914.

The Servian Chargé d'Affaires who has just visited me to inform me that Austria-Hungary has now formally declared war against Servia, expressed to me the earnest hope that Great Britain which had always been Servia's friend would not abandon her in this critical moment. Servia had always been grateful to Great Britain but she would be more than ever so for her support in the present crisis.

My Servian colleague, whom I asked whether Servia had already made a communication at London in the above sense, told me that he thought she had but he begged me to convey his words to you.

I have, &c.

(36029) No. 646.
Sir H. Lowther to Sir Edward Grey. (Received August 5.)
(No. 51.) Confidential.
Copenhagen, July 29, 1914.
I had the honour to report by telegraph on the 27th instant (1) that the French President, who was expected at Copenhagen that day, had at the last moment cancelled his visit. It was surmised that he might think it advisable to do so in order to return at once to Paris when the news first reached Copenhagen of impending trouble, but, no intimation of the fact having been received up to the morning of the 27th instant, the city was in gala in anticipation of his arrival, and some disappointment was felt at the tardy decision to abandon the visit. This moreover created the impression that the outlook was more serious than it had been a few hours previously, which at that moment, so far as is known here, was not the case.

My French and Russian colleagues have enquired of me whether I am in receipt of any communication from His Majesty's Government which I could impart to them touching the political situation.

They on their part were equally unable to give me any information from authentic official sources.

I was received by the Minister for Foreign Affairs to-day, and his Excellency informed me that whatever turn events might take, the attitude of Denmark would be one of strict neutrality. His Excellency said that the attitude of Great Britain was of paramount importance to this country, and, provided that the strict neutrality of Great Britain were assured, he did not anticipate trouble for Denmark in the event of a European war.

Were the contrary the case the geographical position of Denmark would bring her within the danger zone, which caused some feeling of apprehension while the political outlook was uncertain.

I informed his Excellency that I had received no communication from His Majesty's Government on the political situation, but pointed out that your initiative in the interests of peace on a former occasion, as well as in the present crisis, was a guarantee that His Majesty's Government would do whatever might be possible to prevent untoward events.

So far as is known no orders for the mobilisation or for the strengthening of forts have been issued by the Danish Government. This has given rise to sarcastic comment by the Opposition press, who point out that Holland, Belgium and even Sweden are taking defensive precautions, and it asks if it is sufficient for the Danish Government to put up notices at Nybor, Korsör, and Köge Bay inscribed "No admittance permitted," in Russian, German, and English, in order to protect Denmark's neutrality.

I have, &c.

(1) No. 169.

(36042) No. 647.
Sir F. Bertie to Sir Edward Grey. (Received August 5.)
(No. 388.)
Paris, August 2, 1914.

The attitude of the population of Paris during the last five or six days has been admirable. Some papers, particularly the "Temps" and the Nationalist papers, began towards the middle of last week to publish very provocative articles but the population has remained calm. The assassination of M. Jaurès, the leader of Socialist party, who was shot by a young and apparently insane patriot," as he was dining in a café on the evening of the 31st ultimo, has been the only regrettable incident to be recorded.

The return of the President of the Republic about mid-day on the 29th was the occasion for a most enthusiastic welcome; he was received by enormous crowds who cheered lustily the cries being chiefly "Vive la France!" "Vive l'Alliance!" "Vive la Russie!" and "Vive l'Angleterre!" and some cries of "A Berlin!"

In the afternoon of the 1st instant there was a small demonstration outside His Majesty's Embassy, when British flags were waved and cheers given for England.

The financial situation, on which I reported in my despatch No. 381 of the 1st ultimo,(1) remains in the same state. The issue of 20 fr. and 5 fr. notes which as announced, seems to have had no effect whatever and small change is still almost impossible to obtain.

The general mobilisation was ordered at 3:40 P.M. yesterday, and was responded to with alacrity; a state of siege was proclaimed to-day in France and Algeria, and the Chambers have been convoked for to-morrow.

I have the honour to transmit to you, herewith, copies of the proclamation which has been addressed to the French people by the President of the Republic(2) and which was published in this morning's papers.

I have, &c.

(1) [NOTE. Not printed. This refers to the want of small change and the demand for specie; the request for a moratorium has not been granted; difficulties of the Allard Bank; the Bank of France had refused assistance to it on account of its German connection.]

(2) Not printed.

(36020) No. 648.
Sir R. Rodd to Sir Edward Grey. (Received August 5.)
(No. 286.) Confidential.
Rome, July 27, 1914.

When the Marquis di San Giuliano first expressed to me on the 22nd and 23rd instants his fears that the Austrian note to Servia would prove quite inacceptable, I had the impression that the Italian Government must have been made aware of its contents.(1) I have now ascertained that this was not the case. His Excellency's anticipations were simply based on what he gathered from the Austrian representative here would be the general lines of the communication. He has told me, and it has also come to me from the President of the Council, that the Austrian note was only communicated to the Italian Government simultaneously with its communication to the other powers. This is from their point of view most fortunate, as, not having been asked to approve it or consent to it beforehand, they consider that they are not engaged by the action of Austria-Hungary.

Further the Minister for Foreign Affairs has assured me that he has expressed no views of any kind to Austria on the action she has taken.

His opinion at the same time, as expressed to myself, is very definite, as I gather is that of his Prime Minister.. He considers that if the note was seriously meant in the sense which its text implies, it is a monument of absurdity. It might have been drawn up by a policeman. Does the Austrian Government, he asked, still seriously think that racial instincts and national movements can be extinguished by police measures? If on the other hand it was simply meant as a declaration of war then it is unnecessary to criticise it.

After such an admission of his views on the subject, I asked him how it was that the "Popolo Romano," a paper often used for government communications here, had this morning published a telegram, dated from Vienna, announcing that the declaration made by the Italian Government to the Austro-Hungarian Government had produced an excellent impression at Vienna and Budapest, while it had also published leading articles supporting the action of Austria. His Excellency said that there was no foundation whatever for the alleged telegram from Vienna, the origin of which he apprehended might be traced to gulden or rather kronen, which were he believed the present denomination.(2) At the same time he instructed his Secretary in my presence to let the editor of the "Popolo Romano" know that he had better put some water in his wine.

It is remarkable that the only two organs here which have given open support to the action of Austria are the "Popolo Romano" and a very trumpery paper published in French called the "Italie," both of which are well known to open their columns to those who pay for insertion. The semi-official press maintains reserve, and the independent press is growing daily stronger in its criticisms. The Milanese "Corriere della Sera" of this morning, for instance, says " it is impossible not to recognise the enormous responsibility which Austria has assumed, by a gesture of premeditated violence, by a step which indicates her determination for war at any cost, by a precipitation the consequences of which she could not ignore," and it goes on to assert that her action is opposed to the public opinion of all civilised countries.

It is significant that the opinions expressed by the "Popolo Romano" have been, as I am informed, the only ones reproduced in the German press, as representing the view held in Italy.

I have, &c.

(1) See No. 78.
(2) See DD Nos. 44, 47, 59 which refer to the provision of the money required for influencing the Italian Press.

(36021) No. 649.
Sir R. Rodd to Sir Edward Grey. (Received August 5.)
(No. 289.) Rome, July 30, 1914.

With reference to my despatch No. 282 of the 23rd instant (1) I find that the Roumanian Minister takes a very opposite view of what the attitude of Bulgaria will be to that which the Bulgarian Minister foreshadowed. He is convinced that Bulgaria has an understanding with Austria-Hungary and will avail herself of the opportunity which coming events may afford, to endeavour to recover a portion of that section of Macedonia which has fallen to Servia. She would, he said, be as ready to disregard the cause of Slavism as she has been to disregard the common interests of the Balkan States, and would probably not hesitate to bargain with Turkey in her ambition to recover Macedonia. Her action would probably not be direct. Comitadgis would be organised in the new Servian areas; the Servians would be provoked to massacres of Bulgarians, and then she would proclaim the necessity of intervention.

I have, &c.

(1) No. 163.

(36022) No. 650.
Sir R. Rodd to Sir Edward Grey. (Received August 5.)
(No. 290.)
Rome, July 30, 1914.

I have the honour to report that as was to be anticipated at this critical moment the parties of the Left in this country are taking a very definite line as to what the attitude of Italy must be.

The official socialist group adopted an order of the day at Milan to the effect that "the proletariat of Italy must not be compelled to take up arms in the service of her ally to crush a free people." This represents the extreme view which is also indicated by a caricature in the socialist organ the "Avanti" representing a gigantic personification of this proletariat giving orders to a diminutive figure indicating the Monarchy, that there must be no recourse to arms.

The less extreme view is ably put forward by the independent socialist deputy Signor Bissolati, who was invited to join the last Giolitti Ministry. It is summed up in the following passage. After pointing out that by Italy's abstention from accumulating troops on her eastern frontier, Austria is rendered free from all preoccupations in that quarter, he writes:

"Everyone recognises the immense value to Austria and Germany of this loyal attitude of Italy. If Austria were compelled to mobilise a sufficient force to keep Italy under observation, at a moment when she requires her very last man to carry on the difficult war in the mountains of Servia and to face the Russian menace, she might be confronted with the possibility of a defeat. Italy, therefore, by abstaining from any movement of troops on the Austrian frontier, renders her allies the greatest possible service she could render them. We say the 'greatest' because an active participation in the conflict, or even a simple menace on the eastern frontier, in the event of France being drawn into the war, would not be sanctioned by the Italian people .... The neutrality of to-day may place Italy in a better position to preserve her forces intact in order to co-operate in the future in securing a happier era for the peoples of Europe."

These words of Signor Bissolati represent, in my opinion, the views of the majority at the present stage of the European crisis.

The obligations of alliance it is here contended depend upon circumstances, and the interpretation which is given will no doubt be influenced in the first instance by self-interest. From what is known of the engagements with France entered into in 1902 it should not be difficult to interpret them in a sense which would preclude that conflict on the eastern frontier of Italy to which Signor Bissolati asserts the Italian people would never consent.

I have, &c.