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Tuesday, 29 July 2014

37 Day Count Down to War - Day 33

July 29th 1914
On July 29th, Austrians bombard Belgrade in afternoon.

Unsuccessful Austrian attempt to cross Danube between Belgrade and Gradishte (the first of 18 vain efforts prior to 12 August).
At home, the might of the Royal Navy is a reassuring sight, still congregated in the Channel after the Spithead review

Wilhelm sent a telegram to Nicholas stating “I think a direct understanding between your government and Vienna possible and desirable”. The Austrian General Staff sent a note to Jagow complaining about his statement that he did not regard a Russian partial mobilisation as a threat to Germany, and asked that Germany mobilise to deter Russia from supporting Serbia. In response to the Austrian message, Jagow told a Russian diplomat that “Germany was likewise obliged to mobilise [in response to Russian partial mobilisation]; there was therefore nothing left to be done and the diplomatists must now leave the talking to the cannon.”]
At a meeting in Potsdam, according to Admiral Tirpitz’s notes, Wilhelm “expressed himself without reserve regarding Bethmann’s incompetence” in foreign affairs. Bethmann Hollweg suggested that Germany sign a naval agreement with Britain limiting the size of the High Seas Fleet to keep Britain out of the war. Admiral Tirpitz went on to record: “The Kaiser informed the company that the Chancellor had proposed that in order to keep England neutral, we should sacrifice the German fleet for an agreement with England, which he, the Kaiser had refused.”
In order to ensure acceptance of his peace plan, Grey proposed a “Stop in Belgrade” offer, in which Austria would occupy Belgrade and go no further. Since this was the same proposal as Wilhelm had made, Bethmann Hollweg regarded this as a particular threat as it would have made it difficult for Germany to reject it. Bethmann Hollweg asked that Austria at least make an effort to show some interest in the British peace plan. In an effort to sabotage Bethmann Hollweg’s offer (which though not sincere was regarded as dangerous in case it might succeed), Moltke asked Vienna not to consider the British peace plan, and instead to order general mobilisation and activate War Plan R, the Austrian war plan for a war against Russia.
At a meeting with Bethmann Hollweg late on July 29th, both Falkenhayn and Moltke again demanded that Germany use Russian partial mobilisation as an excuse to go to war. Bethmann Hollweg again insisted that Germany must wait for Russian general mobilisation as it was the only way of ensuring that the German public and that Britain would remain neutral in the “imminent war” against France and Russia. In order to “make Russia appear the aggressor”, Moltke asked for Austrian mobilisation against Russia so as to provide a casus foederis for Germany to arise” and mobilise likewise. In the same message, Moltke expressed hope that the British peace plan would fail, and announced his belief that the only way of saving Austria-Hungary as a power was through a general European war. In the evening, Moltke repeated his request, and promised again that “Germany will mobilise” against Russia, were Austria to do the same. Count Szogyeny reported to Vienna that the German government “...regarded the possibility of a European conflict with the most complete calm”, and that the Germans were only concerned about the possibility of Italy not honouring the Triple Alliance.
In a meeting in London, Grey warned Prince Lichnowsky in veiled terms that if Germany attacked France, then Britain would consider going to war with Germany. Grey repeated his “Stop in Belgrade” peace plan, and strongly urged that Germany accept it. Grey ended his meeting with the warning that “unless Austria is willing to enter upon a discussion of the Serbian question a world war is inevitable. To support Grey’s warnings, the British government ordered a general alert for its armed forces. In Paris, Jean Jaures, the leader of the French Socialist Party and an outspoken pacifist was assassinated by a right-wing fanatic. In St. Petersburg, the French Ambassador Maurice Paleologue, upon learning belatedly on the night of July 29th–30th of Russian partial mobilisation, protested against the Russian move.
At another meeting with Goschen late on the night of the 29th, Bethmann Hollweg stated that Germany would soon be going to war against France and Russia, and sought to ensure British neutrality by promising him that Germany would not annex parts of metropolitan France (Bethmann Hollweg refused to make any promises about French colonies). During the same meeting, Bethmann Hollweg all but announced that Germany would soon violate Belgium’s neutrality, though Bethmann Hollweg said that, if Belgium did not resist, Germany would not annex that kingdom.
The Goschen-Bethmann Hollweg meeting did much to galvanize the British government into deciding to ally with France and Russia. Sir Eyre Crowe commented that Germany had “made up her mind” to go to war. Germany’s policy was to reveal to Britain her war aims in hope that a statement might be reached that would ensure British neutrality. Instead, Bethmann Hollweg’s move had the opposite effect, since it was now clear to London that Germany had no interest in peace.
After Goschen left the meeting, Bethmann Hollweg received a message from Prince Lichnowsky saying that Grey was most anxious for a four power conference, but that if Germany attacked France, then Britain would have no other choice but to intervene in the war. In response to the British warning, Bethmann Hollweg suddenly changed course. As he wrote to Prince Tschirschky: “If therefore, Austria should reject all mediation, we are faced with a conflagration in which Britain would be against us, Italy and Romania in all probability not with us. We should be two Powers against Four. With Britain an enemy, the weight of the operations would fall on Germany...Under these circumstances we must urgently and emphatically suggest to the Vienna Cabinet acceptance of mediation under the present honorable conditions. The responsibility falling on us and Austria for the consequences which would ensure in case of refusal would be uncommonly heavy.” Five minutes later, Bethmann Hollweg asked Vienna in a second message to stop “refusing any exchange of views with Russia”, and warned that we “...must refuse to allow Vienna to draw us into a world conflagration frivolously and without regard to our advice.” In another message, Bethmann Hollweg wrote “To avert a general catastrophe or in any case to put Russia in the wrong, we must urgently wish Vienna to begin and continue conversations with Russia.” As the historian Fritz Fischer noted, only when Bethmann Hollweg received a clear warning that Britain would intervene in a war did he begin to apply pressure on Austria for peace. Bethmann Hollweg’s advice was rejected by Austria as being too late. Count Berchtold told the German Ambassador that he would need a few days to think about the German offer, and until then, events would proceed.
The overall picture is deeply gloomy. A 'war cloud' is gathering over Europe, with Russia now appearing determined to act with Serbia

In Berlin, the feeling is much the same, with Russia's moves to mobilise making it certain that Germany will respond – and yet the Telegraph's correspondent detects that Germany 'is really drifting into war against her will'

The effect of war is already being felt on commodity markets. Wheat prices are rising, undoing hopes of a good harvest leading to prices dropping

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