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Sunday, 27 July 2014

37 Day Count Down to War - Day 31

July 27th 1914
On July 27th, Grey sent another peace proposal through Prince Lichnowsky asking for Germany to use its influence on Austria-Hungary to save the peace. Grey warned Lichnowsky that if Austria continued with its aggression against Serbia, and Germany with its policy of supporting Austria, then Britain would have no other choice but to side with France and Russia. The French Foreign Minister informed the German Ambassador in Paris, von Schoen, that France was anxious to find a peaceful solution, and was prepared to do his utmost with his influence in St. Petersburg if Germany should “counsel moderation in Vienna, since Serbia had fulfilled nearly every point”.
On the 27th, Wilhelm ended his cruise in the North Sea and returned to Germany. Wilhelm landed at Cuxhaven (Kiel) departing on July 25 at 6 p.m. over the objections of his chancellor. The next afternoon, the order to disperse the British Fleet and dismiss British reservists was rescinded, putting the British Navy on a war footing.
When Wilhelm arrived at the Potsdam station late in the evening of July 26, he was met by a pale, agitated, and somewhat fearful Chancellor. Von Bethmann-Hollweg's apprehension stemmed not from the dangers of the looming war, but rather from his fear of the Kaiser's wrath when the extent of his deceptions were revealed. The Kaiser's first words to him were suitably brusque: "How did it all happen?" Rather than attempt to explain, the Chancellor offered his resignation by way of apology. Wilhelm refused to accept it, muttering furiously, "You've made this stew, Now you're going to eat it!"
Later, on July 27th, Austria-Hungary started to complete the preparations for war. That same day, Jagow informed Szogyeny that he was only pretending to take up the British offers of mediation in order to ensure British neutrality, but had no intention of stopping the war. Szogyeny reported “in order to avoid a misunderstanding” that Jagow had promised him that: “the German government assured Austria in the most binding fashion that it in no way identifies itself with the proposal [Grey’s mediation offer] which may very shortly be brought to Your Excellency’s [ Berchtold ] notice by the German government: it is, on the contrary decidedly opposed to consideration of them, and is only passing them on out of deference to the British request” (emphasis in the original). Jagow went on to state he was “absolutely against taking account of the British wish”, because “the German government point of view was that it was at the moment of the highest importance to prevent Britain from making common cause with Russia and France. We must therefore avoid any action which might cut the line, which has so far worked so well, between Germany and Britain”. Szogyeny ended his telegram that “If Germany candidly told Sir E Grey that it refused to communicate England’s peace plan, that objective [ensuring British neutrality in the coming war] might not be achieved.” Bethmann Hollweg, in a message to Prince Tschirschky, wrote on the 27th of July: “As we have already rejected one British proposal for a conference, it is not possible for us to refuse this suggestion also a limine. If we rejected every attempt at mediation, the whole world would hold us responsible for the conflagration and represent us as the real war-mongers. That would also make our position impossible here in Germany, where we have got to appear as though the war had been forced on us. Our position is the more difficult because Serbia seems to have given way very extensively. We cannot therefore reject the role of mediator; we have to pass on the British proposal to Vienna for consideration, especially since London and Paris are continuously using their influence on St. Petersburg.” In passing on Grey’s message, Bethmann Hollweg deleted the last line which read: ”Also, the whole world here is convinced, and I hear from my colleagues that the key to the situation lies in Berlin, and that if Berlin seriously wants peace, it will prevent Vienna from following a foolhardy policy. In his reply to London, Bethmann Hollweg pretended that: “We have immediately initiated mediation in Vienna in the sense desired by Sir Edward Grey.” Jagow sent Grey’s offer to Tschirschky, his ambassador in Vienna, but ordered him to not show it to any Austrian official in case they might accept it. At the same time, Bethmann Hollweg sent a distorted account of Grey’s offer to Wilhelm.
The French Chief of Staff, Joffre, and the French War Minister, Adolphe Messimy, express their hopes through the military attache in St. Petersburg that should war break out, the Russians would immediately take the offencive in East Prussia.
The French issue standby mobilisation orders.
In London, Grey told a meeting of the British Cabinet that they now had to decide whether to choose neutrality if war did come, or to enter the conflict. While the Cabinet was still undecided about what course to choose, Churchill put the British fleet on alert.

Winston Churchill with the Naval Wing of the Royal Flying Corps, 1914
His order read: "Secret. European political situation makes war between Triple Alliance and Triple Entente by no means impossible. This is not the Warning Telegram, but be prepared to shadow possible hostile men of war... Measure is purely precautionary.” The Austrian Ambassador in Paris, Count Nikolaus Szecsen von Temerin, reported to Vienna: “The far-reaching compliance of Serbia, which was not regarded as possible here, has made a strong impression. Our attitude gives rise to the opinion that we want war at any price.” A Russian diplomat in London criticised Grey for putting too much faith in Germany as a force for peace. The British were warned that “War is inevitable and by the fault of England; that if England had at once declared her solidarity with Russia and France and her intention to fight if necessary, Germany and Austria would have hesitated.” In Berlin, Admiral von Muller wrote in his diary that “Germany should remain calm to allow Russia to put herself in the wrong, but then not to shrink from war if it were inevitable.” Bethmann Hollweg told Wilhelm that “In all events Russia must ruthlessly be put in the wrong.”

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