From the Monitor archives: Britain declares war on Germany in WWI
Britain's declaration of war on Germany, 100 years ago today, finished drawing the battle lines for the initial days of the war. The Christian Science Monitor reported as it happened.
This article originally ran in The Christian Science Monitor on Aug. 5, 1914. The British declaration was the last in Europe's initial, rapid escalation into World War I. Germany had already declared war on Russia and France, both British allies, and had sent its troops into neutral Belgium in an effort to flank French forces. Austria, Germany's ally, was mobilizing against Russia in the east. The United States had declared itself neutral in the conflict on Aug. 3.
BRITAIN DECLARES WAR AS GERMANY REFUSES DEMANDS
Berlin Fails to Give Assurance of Respect for Belgian Neutrality and England Acts at Once
TURKISH IRONCLADS ARE TAKEN
Special Cable to the Monitor from its European Bureau
LONDON (9 a.m., Wednesday) – Shortly after midnight the government issued a statement to the effect that Germany, having refused the necessary assurance with respect to the neutrality of Belgium, war between her and the United Kingdom had been declared at 11 p.m.
Lord Morley and John Burns, not being able to support the government's view of the case, have retired from the cabinet. The government announced that they had taken over from the builders the two ironclads which were building for the Turkish navy, one already completed and the other just approaching completion. The control of the railways in the United Kingdom has also been taken over.
The command of the fleet has been given to one of the most distinguished admirals, Sir John Jellicoe. The command of an expeditionary force which will probably be sent to the continent after completion of mobilization, will be given to Sir John French.
The King has issued a message to the fleet expressing his confidence in its power to protect the country and another to the overseas dominions, expressing to them the gratitude of the country for their spontaneous assurances of fullest support.
All reports as to naval and military engagements of any description may be dismissed as purely imaginary. Beyond the fact already cabled that the Germans have entered Poland on the east and Luxembourg on the west nothing is known.
Ultimatum to Germany
Tuesday, 10 p.m. – This afternoon [British Prime Minister Herbert Henry] Asquith informed the House of Commons that his majesty’s government had been informed by the King of Belgium that Germany had demanded the free passage for troops through that country; also that it had undertaken in consideration of this to guarantee its independence at the close of warlike operations. Premier Asquith added, amidst loud cheers, that he was informed that the Belgium government had refused this demand and had applied to the law of nations. In consequence of this and in support of the statement made yesterday by [British Foreign Secretary] Sir Edward Grey the government had addressed an ultimatum to Berlin demanding that the neutrality of Belgium should he guaranteed by midnight.
The prime minister added that the Belgian general staff announced that Germany had already crossed the frontier in the direction of Verviers. Furthermore Mr. Asquith said that the German ambassador had been directed to inform the British government that in no case, even in the event of armed conflict with Belgium, would Germany annex Belgian territory under any pretext whatever, but that in view of information received that the French government contemplated launching an attack through Belgium on the German flank it was absolutely necessary that she should protect herself by entering Belgium.
Reply Not Satisfactory
The British government, Mr. Asquith declared, had informed Germany that it was impossible to accept such a reply as satisfactory and that the government must demand an acknowledgment that Belgian neutrality would be respected in as definite a form as that already received from France.
The absolute unanimity of the House of Commons in support of the government was shown by the passage without question of votes in supply of £104,000,000 for government purposes. That the whole country is solid in support of the government is shown by the speech of so advanced a labor member as [Labour Party politician] Will Crooks who announced today to a meeting of Woolwich workmen that the government having exhausted every effort to maintain peace it would be the duty of workingmen to support them loyally in the prosecution of war. Simultaneously comes the news from Ireland of support for the government in the present crises.