July 1914, Sir Edward Grey and World War I
HomeReferences (Continued from Page 2)
Immense Stockpiles of Maxim machine guns and artillery in France, Germany and Russia:
Another massive military change for 1914 was the exponential increase in armament stockpiles in France, Germany, Russia and Britain since 1900. Winston Churchill makes the all-important point that non-stop/24 hours-a-day/we-never-close industrial-military assembly lines were running. While people were sleeping these assembly lines were running at top speed making machine guns & artillery. If war did break out it could be vastly much more destructive than generally assumed.Did Grey visit the British Vickers armament factories and ask to see the massive stockpiles of Maxim machine guns, among with other war factories stockpiling artillery/shells et. al.? Did Grey test-fire the Maxim/Vickers machine guns to experience the phenomenal increase in sheer killing power? For example, July 1, 1916, the first day of the Somme Offensive, was the single worst day in British military history. While Edward Grey was fly-fishing the Itchen Abbas in Hampshire that month, over 55,000 attacking British troops were mowed down en masse, about 40% from German machine guns such as the Maschinengewehr 08. And that's just the first day. By the Somme's end 4 months later there's over 400,000 British casualties, the combined British, French and German losses were over a million casualties - from one battle!
"World War 1 was the proving ground for many-a-new war implement and the Maxim 08 was no exception...the machine gun was utilized to create maximum amounts of carnage and at the same time could deliver such a spsychological effect on enemy troops that its appearance in the conflict could never be understated. "At its core, the Maschinengewehr 08 offered up impressive performance statistics of 400 to 450 rounds-per-minute, firing off 7.92x57mm Mauser caliber via a revolutionary short-recoil system that featured an integrated toggle lock... The ammunition was fed via a cloth-type fabric belt issued as a 250-round strip...Maximum range was approximated between 2,000 and 4,000 yards. "In an age prior, where cavalry was king of the battlefield, a horse-led charge could easily rout formations of foot soldiers. World War 1 changed the face of warfare by making such charges near suicide."(41)And:"We were very surprised to see them walking. We had never seen that before. The officers went in front. I noticed one of them walking calmly, carrying a walking stick. When we started firing we just had to load and reload. They went down in their hundreds. You didn't have to aim. We just fired into them."[German soldier in his diary, after the Battle of Loos, September 1915]
That walking to the enemy line sounds like something the British Redcoats tried against the Americans in the 1770's Revolutionary War. There aren't many reports that it worked back then either. The Somme cost Britain 400,000 casualties to gain approximately 1 mile at the narrowest to 9 miles at the widest, an average advance of about 5 miles. Britain lost some 45 dead/injured British soldiers per yard of French soil. That's about 1 dead or wounded British soldier per inch, the worst crusade against the Maxim machine gun ever.
______________________________________________________ Artillery the big killer in World War I:
The great killer of the First World War was artillery, and according to one source accounting for up to 70% of the casualties. Did Grey ask for live demonstations of the latest British artillery, using realistic heavy targets to shell?
For example, reportedly almost 30% of the British artillery shells fired at the Battle of the Somme were duds. Couldn't the tennis champ, if he wasn't too busy fly-fishing and chasing skirts(42), have inquired this long before? Who was responsible for seeing to it the British artillery shells were built to specifications?
If you test-fire 100 artillery shells, and 20 or 30 are duds, how would that not be a problem, especially when a percent of the duds detonated prematurely? July 1916 was 2 years into the war. How were these dud shells assembled without inspection and delivered to the Front? It was to a great extent due to the the ineffectiveness of British artillery at the Somme that British soldiers strolling across no-man's land, to their more or less complete surprise, were mowed down by largely intact, lethal German Maxim machine gun crews.
Did the tennis champ at least try and wrap his mind around the scale of destructiveness then being accumulated by the Great Powers so he would have an idea of the consequences should a Great Power Crisis break out? Just like with women, not everything can be learned from fishing along the Itchen Abbas, making clever speeches in the House of Commons that offend nobody and listening to birds sing. In his address to the Harvard Union in 1919 Grey says he takes pleasure in reading books. As British Foreign Secretary, had Grey taught himself about the American Civil War experience in 1861-65 and the wholesale slaughter enabled by the just-invented Gatling Gun?
What was Grey's knowledge of trench warfare? The US Civil War went for 4 long years in no small part due to trench warfare. The Siege of Petersburg lasted from June 9, 1864, to March 25, 1865, over 9 months long. That single American Civil War battle alone could have smashed outdated assumptions colonial-minded gov't officials had about a "Home by Xmas" war. The tennis champ had decades to educate himself about trench warfare before July 1914.
And speaking about ruining obsolete assumptions before too many thousands of dead British soldiers start to clog the cemeteries:This was at the exact same time Whitehall was stockpiling Maxim-Vickers machine guns and millions of artillery shells. Reportedly the French were the first of the Great Powers to issue metal helmets to its soldiers. The assumption seemed to be if the British soldiers got home by Xmas then wool caps were probably all they needed.
"A second illusion of those who marched proudly into battle in 1914 was that they would be shooting at the enemy, but that he would not be shooting back, or at least not effectively. How else to explain that most soldiers on both sides had no metal helmets?"(43)
- Henry Ford and his Hyland Park Assembly-Line Plant, April 1913:And back across the Atlantic Henry Ford and his team at Highland Park (500 separate departments) invented the first assembly line in April, 1913, drastically compressing the time required to put a car together. [7 years later "..the plant turned out a car every minute, and one out of every two automobiles in the world was a Model T."(44)] Ford: "The idea came in a general way from the overhead trolley that the Chicago packers use in dressing beef."(45) The tennis champ probably could have learned about Ford's 1913 revolutionary assembly-line by reading the New York Times, traveled to America in 5 days(46) and met Henry Ford. He could have gotten himself up to speed as to Ford's unrivaled assembly-line method, especially if adapted to turning out machine guns, artillery etc. in a European war.
- 11:30 AM June 28, 1914 - the Crisis takes off:That is, if Grey could have seen the dark war clouds already over Europe. What July 1914 proves beyond all shadow of a doubt is that somebody in a very high gov't place - in Britain and/or in Europe - was insufficiently aware of the staggering military risk then in place. When the crisis took off on Sunday morning, June 28th, Grey's profound isolation from the continent, especially regarding Austria-Hungary and Russia, saw to it that he couldn't make even the slightest original moves to meet it. The Archduke was dead by 11:30AM. Just after 12 noon Sunday the Austrian Army Chief of Staff von Hotzendorf was alerted.
In Austria the reaction was intense, as quoted above. Yet for 3.5 straight weeks the tennis champ's dilemma was analogous to those Arnold Schwarzenegger terminator movies, where an immobilized terminator looks down and to his astonishment sees critical pieces of his anatomy frozen in liquid nitrogen or missing, making all forward motion impossible.Grey had fashioned himself as a kind of On-Walden-Pond British Thoreau, the original Birdman of Whitehall who coincidentally just happened to find himself at the head of the British Foreign Office in 1914, even though he had no special training for the position. On June 28th the bill arrived. Those paying attention across the channel could see immediately the June 28th crisis was unlike previous ones. Not so Grey. Although Aristotle said that the cook is not the best judge of a meal, London advertises itself as a world center of finance and business. Yet Britain's seat of government, Whitehall, had as foreign secretary somebody who didn't like foreign countries and didn't want to learn any foreign languages. Considering the wholesale slaughter of nearly 1 million British people in WWI, how businesslike was that? No requirement to learn even basic French, German or Russian?
Wasn't the first rule of government to protect it's people? It's unimaginable. The country deGaulle christened a nation of shopkeepers would in 5 weeks do an about face and set fire to the country's treasury to pay for a war across the channel. And in no small degree that was because in July 1914 Whitehall had a Foreign Office that, apart from the Ulster Crisis, was a Potemkin Village.The tennis champ evidently never saw the scale of the danger coming. The Archduke was a firm bulwark in preventing Austria-Hungarian aggression against Serbia. Grey really should have instantly realized that the June 28th death of the Archduke and the sudden rise of the Austrian Army Chief of Staff von Hotzendorf presented a serious danger to stability on the Continent, given Russia's known interest in protecting Serbia. If Russia decided to protect Serbia from Austrian military aggression by pre-mobilizing the Russian Steamroller, what then was Germany supposed to do? Just sit there and wait for a potentially overwhelming Cossack onslaught? Hope for a partial Russian mobilization? Grey was too idealistic about Germany's position vis a vis Russia. Hotzendorf had advocated preventative war against Serbia many, many times from 1912-1914. Couldn't Grey have learned that from The London Times? Wasn't the Times delivered daily to the Foreign Office? Didn't Britain have an ambassador to Austria-Hungary? This was not isotope-dilution mass-spectrometric analysis of Greenland pre-Cambrian ice-sheet cores for lead aerosols or peer-reviewing The Journal of the American Chemical Society. Without the Archduke Franz Ferdinand in position to restrain Hotzendorf, just what the hell else was Grey and Whitehall thinking could have happened?
"...(Franz Josef I) expected not to live much longer [and] stood firmly against the 'war party' in Vienna, believing that launching a war against Serbia would be madness. Had Princip not gotten his second chance on 28 June 1914 after the initial bombing attempt failed, the Archduke would have cursed Serbia and Serbs once he had learned details of the plot. But then he already despised Serbs, which had not prevented him from developing an almost religious aversion to the idea of war with Serbia. It is said that the Austrian chief of army staff, Conrad von Hoetzendorff, had advocated going to war with Serbia some 25 times in 1913 alone -- but was blocked every single time by Franz Ferdinand. Had the Archduke lived, he would almost certainly have blocked Conrad again."(46a)
- British Reaction Constrained:Britain, to protect itself from Germany, had in 1907 made an entente with Russia even while knowing that Russia had interests in the Balkans, and in protecting Serbia. So when the Archduke was killed in Sarajevo, Britain's alliance with Russia constrained it from reacting properly. This was to a great degree concealed by intense confusion and uncertainty surrounding Britain's July 1914 serious domestic problems [detailed below]. Much has been made of Germany's alliance with Austria-Hungary. But neither Germany nor Austria-Hungary were involved in plotting and carrying out a regicide. Serbia was, and it's protector was Russia.
In any conflict between Austria-Hungary and Russia, Britain had to take Russia's side. This meant that on the morning of June 28, 1914, the day of the regicide in Sarajevo, Britain unwittingly found itself more or less on the side of Serbia. Britain, because of it's fear of rising German commercial, industrial and military prowess, and it's decision to involve itself with Russia, was unable to react properly to Vienna's outrage over the regicide. The previous alliance between Britain and Russia had created, on June 28, 1914, a stupendous liability. Grave misunderstandings across Europe grew by the hour.
- Austrian Ultimatum to Serbia:The ultimatum that Austria-Hungary presented to Serbia on 23 July 1914 was, in effect, an announcement of a preventative war, exactly what the tireless von Hotzendorf, Sisyphus incarnate, had been pushing, pushing for all along. Foreign Secretary Grey himself said the Austrian ultimatum was "The most formidable document I have ever seen addressed by one state to another that was independent."(47) The British National Archives said: "This document, perhaps more than any other, set Europe on course for war in 1914." It was crafted so as to be unacceptable and thus give Hotzendorf exactly the preventative war against Serbia he had waited years to commence. "It laid out a series of Austrian demands of Serbia, and gave them only 48 hours to respond."(48) 48 hours to reply? It was a de facto announcement of a preventative war against Serbia. This possibility leads straight to an important point: the British Foreign Office’s actual window of opportunity for an offer to arbitrate the crisis was more likely compressed down from June 28 until July 23rd at 6pm.
- Ulster Crisis/Civil War versus risk of Austria-Serbia crisis sliding out of control:The capital blunder of the tennis champ (and all his advisors) was that he sat around in London working on the Irish situation and a thousand commercial opportunities - and playing in the sprawling British countryside - from June 28th until after the July 23rd 6:PM Austrian ultimatum (the announcement of a preventative war against Serbia) before suggesting a meeting of the Great Powers. Ireland is west of Britain, which, if somebody at Whitehall on June 28th could find a map, would have shown that Edward Grey, the British Prime Minister HH Asquith, Kig George V, the Daily Mail Publisher Northcliffe and most of Whitehall were staring fixedly in exactly the wrong direction.
It is true that Ulster (in Northern Ireland) had mounted a serious challenge to British "Home Rule." However, in the opposite direction, across the English Channel, the tectonic plates of Austria-Hungary/Serbia/Russia were already pressing against each other. In July 1914 London was headed straight into two separate wars on two opposite fronts, but - unlike the Germans - they didn't know it or denied the possibility. This British maneuver proved to be a capital blunder that within several decades would not only cost it the empire but security-wise reduce the island kingdom to a defacto vassal state.Ulster was a very serious problem. But apparently unbeknownst to Grey, Asquith et. al, of the two serious political problems Britain faced from June 28th onwards, it was the tiny one."Solomon hath pronounced, that in counsel is stability. Things will have their first, or second agitation: if they be not tossed upon the arguments of counsel, they will be tossed upon the waves of fortune; and be full of inconstancy, doing and undoing, like the reeling of a drunken man."
Francis Bacon, The Essays
If across the channel Russia backed Serbia, and Germany backed Austria-Hungary, then France and even Britain could get dragged in. Then Britain would have a 10,000X bigger problem than tiny Ulster:
"In 1914 Germany was recognised as having the most efficient army in the world...Within a week of mobilization some 3.8 million men were under arms."(49)Seriously, how concerned should Whitehall have been about Irish artillery?The timing of the Ulster Crisis was uncanny, almost as if it was a elaborate and well-armed marionette show designed to keep Grey, Asquith, King George V and nearly everybody else in Whitehall in disbelief and in check, far away from the 300-foot tall tsunami building up across the channel. Which, whatever it was, it certainly did:
"The Krupp family was a German dynasty of industrialists. The Krupps started the first major steel-works in Germany in 1811, and their enterprise expanded rapidly to become one of the world's largest companies and Germany's leading supplier of armaments.
"Acceptance of the steel cannon was initially hesitant, and only after the astounding performance of his guns in the Franco-Prussian War (1870-1871) did the rapid boost in gun sales begin.
"The field gun 'Big Bertha,' introduced in 1909, played a vital role in the German advance in 1914 and at Verdun in 1916. In 1918 a new cannon, the 'Paris Gun,' shelled Paris from a 75 mile distance."(50)"With the meeting of an Ulster Provisional Government in Belfast on July 10th, 1914, the armed defiance of a separatist Ulster was now the greatest political and constitutional crisis any British government had faced for more than 200 years. Ulster militarisation – with its drilling, public reviews and threats of violent resistance – was firmly in the driving seat of democratic politics, and it was seen to be working."(51)Whitehall was likely focusing almost exclusively on the Ulster Crisis because it was right next door. Ireland was in the UK. Logistically, Ulster was a piece of cake for the British military. And in the opposite direction, a long, long way away, was Sarajevo, a foreign city in a foreign country.
"Winston Churchill, then a member of Asquith's government as First Lord of the Admiralty, came to Belfast in February 1912 to speak in favour of Home Rule. If Churchill was in any doubt as to the strength of unionist opposition to the proposal, he was given a pointed demonstration as a jeering crowd attempted to overturn his car as it left his hotel."In January 1913, Carson and Craig [two Irish leaders] demonstrated that the pledge to use 'all means that may be found necessary' was not mere wordplay. They formally established the Ulster Volunteer Force, a militia made up of 100,000 men who had signed the Covenant months earlier. "Fred Crawford, a man so committed to the cause he is said to have signed the Ulster Covenant in his own blood, masterminded the smuggling of 25,000 rifles and three million rounds of ammunition from Hamburg in April 1914. The Irish Volunteers followed suit three months later, landing 1,000 rifles of their own into Dublin in broad daylight. "Asquith reacted furiously to the militarization of the Unionist cause, ordering the Royal Navy to patrol the coasts of Antrim and Down in order to prevent further UVF arms hauls. Even King George V got involved, inviting Carson and Redmond to what might today be known as 'all-party talks' at Buckingham Palace. The talks failed. With no solution in sight, the United Kingdom was on the brink of civil war."(52) "In welcoming the various parties to the palace, the King said he had called the conference because of the gravity of the situation and because of his ‘deep misgivings’ of what was unfolding...His Highness continued: ‘We have in the past endeavoured to act as a civilising example to the world, and to me it is unthinkable, and it must be to you, that we should be brought to the brink of fratricidal strife upon issues apparently so capable of adjustment as those you are now asked to consider, if handled in a spirit of generous compromise.’ By the end of the second day, it was apparent that no party was willing to cede ground and, instead, there was a virtual breakdown...A deepening feeling of pessimism settled on the conference and it broke up just after noon without agreement being reached."(53)
Without a motivated Foreign Secretary, Ulster was easier and much more convenient to face than the Continent's post-June 28th Austria/Serbia/Russian/German political crisis rapidly gaining strength behind them across the channel. Britain was used to local disputes, it was a large part of their history, they felt comfortable facing them, so naturally they turned their attention to Ulster.
As late as June 27, 1914, US President Woodrow Wilson's emissary, Colonel Edward House, seriously concerned about the possibility of a European War, had come all the way from America to meet with Sir Edward Grey, HH Asquith and others in London:"The political situation in Great Britain was almost as confused as that in Paris. The country was in a state approaching civil war on the question of Home Rule for Ireland; the suffragettes were threatening to dynamite the Houses of Parliament; and the eternal struggle between the Liberal and the Conservative elements was raging with unprecedented virulence.
"A European war was far from everybody's mind. It was this utter inability to grasp the realities of the European situation which proved the main impediment to Colonel House's work in England.
"He met all the important people---Mr. Asquith, Mr. Lloyd George, Sir Edward Grey, and others. With them he discussed his 'pact' proposal in great detail.
"Naturally, ideas of this sort were listened to sympathetically by statesmen of the stamp of Asquith, Grey, and Lloyd George. The difficulty, however, was that none of these men apprehended an immediate war. They saw no necessity of hurrying about the matter. They had the utmost confidence in Prince Lichnowsky, the German Ambassador in London, and Von Bethmann-Hollweg, the German Chancellor.
"Both these men were regarded by the Foreign Office as guarantees against a German attack; their continuance in their office was looked upon as an assurance that Germany entertained no immediately aggressive plans.
"Though the British statesmen did not say so definitely, the impression was conveyed that the mission on which Colonel House was engaged was an unnecessary one---a preparation against a danger that did not exist."(54) [italics added]
The next day the Archduke was killed in Sarajevo.
"On Monday 29 June the Sarajevo outrage was front-page news in London, reported with all the verve and gusto one expected of Fleet Street... By Monday afternoon, however, the City of London had recovered it's footing. On Tuesday, even the globally minded Times had shunted Sarajevo back to page 7. The Balkan drama did merit an editorial that day [writing] ..it should not unduly concern anyone in Britain, where 'our own affairs must be addressed.' By the following Monday, a Times editorial wrote off the Sarajevo incident as old history: it was no longer a matter 'of European significance.' By 'our own affairs,' the Times meant Ireland..."(55)
Is it any wonder how a distracted British Foreign Office was so taken by surprise by how quickly events ramped up across the channel? Did Whitehall need its own British Schlieffen Plan? The key point is while the mandarins in Whitehall determinedly faced west struggling to manage a rapidly growing militant Ulster Crisis threatening to become a Civil War, that behind their backs - in the opposite direction across the channel the June 28th news from Sarajevo quickly created what became a vastly more dangerous Krakatoa-sized European political volcano whose core pressure expanded at a furious pace, hour by hour, until it exploded sky-high in late July 1914.
- Constrained Reaction of British Newspapers:
As mentioned, Britain's alliance with Russia constrained it in that in any conflict between Austria-Hungary and Russia, Britain had to take Russia's side. So after the June 28th regicide carried out by Serbia, Britain had to try and figure out some way to stay allied with Russia by not taking Austria's side. The Manchester Guardian, 29 June 1914:
"A character sketch. The Archduke was a simple and amiable man, but very passionate, and, in anger, incalculable.
"...in anger, incalculable." Obviously true of the assassin.
"He was more than strong-willed; he was extremely obstinate and resolved to have his own way at any cost."(56)
Obviously true of the assassin.
That was like throwing gasoline on a fire. Weren't those the character traits the assassin would have to have to carry out a killing? Meanwhile the Guardian described the assassin as a "...student..."
"Assassination at Sarajevo.
"Austro-Hungarian empire in 1914:
1. Sarajevo was in Bosnia, the province that - to Serbia's anger - had been annexed by Austria-Hungary in 1908.
"That day - 28 June 1914 - was also Serbia's National Day. Franz Ferdinand's visit was a direct insult to the Serbs."(57)
The BBC may have managed to appease the Russian alliance, but was less convincing at condemming the regicide. Why did British newspapers fancy that sort of coverage would help maintain a European peace? By writing in a somewhat distaff and inflammatory way, Britain may have avoided angering Russia, but at the risk of angering Austria instead. And Germany was Austria-Hungary's ally. So how clever was that?
British newspaper coverage may have angered Germany as well. It was one of Britain's worst mistakes at the very beginning of the July 1914 Crisis. To hope to avoid angering an ally by mightly struggling to avoid condemming a regicide put a chokehold on British credibility/claims of impartiality. It was almost as if Britain had given Russia a "blank check" to do whatever it or it's protectorate state Serbia wanted.
The British newspaper, the Telegraph, to its everlasting credit, wrote, “We can only say that in this country we are all united in a common feeling of sorrow for the bereaved sufferers and of detestation for a cowardly murder which has shocked the conscience of the whole world.”
However, on June 29, 2014 the Telegraph notes:
"Yet, despite some fears - 'the consequences of the outrage may, it is feared here, be many and perilous' comes the report from Paris - there is little in the Telegraph’s extensive coverage...to suggest this might be the outcome."(58)
The strategy of the British newspapers seemed to be to loudly but very briefly condemm the regicide, and then, to avoid angering Russia, consign the story to the middle or back pages. It was London's way of trying to localize the effects of the regicide. By the end of July even London was beginning to realize that attempting to appease Russia at the expense of angering Austria-Hungary and Germany was not exactly its "finest hour."
- Delayed reaction of British gov't officials to the June 28th regicide:In receipt of the June 28th news, Sir Eyre Crowe, British Assistant Undersecretary of State for Foreign Affairs, found himself unable to get a grip on the European situation for a solid month. His eyes fixed on next-door Ulster, Crowe waited until July 27th to send Grey a memo warning him about a "action-reaction" mobilization cycle across the channel. An action reaction cycle is when one side mobilizes its military and as a defensive response the other side mobilizes it's military. This action-reaction cycle has been a problem since the invention of nation states and standing armies in proximity. The problem is that offensive mobilizations can appear virtually identical to defensive mobilizations. Then one side (or more) can say their mobilization is purely defensive when in fact they are mobilizing to attack. The more sober-minded mandarins at Whitehall really should have known decades before, if not centuries before, that mobilization action-reaction cycles were a present and permanent danger anywhere there are 2 or more opposed states with standing armies in proximity. Instead Crowe tries to characterize it as something intrinsic to Austria, as if he was hoping he would not be seen as waking up a month too late to the danger:"I am afraid that the real difficulty to be overcome will be found in the question of mobilization. Austria is already mobilizing. This, if the war does come, is a serious menace to Russia, who cannot be expected to delay her own mobilization which, as it is, can only become effective in something like double the time required by Austria and Germany. "If Russia mobilizes, we have been warned that Germany will do the same, and as German mobilization is directed almost entirely against France, the latter cannot possibly delay her own mobilization even for the fraction of a day. This however means that within 24 hours His Majesty's Government will be faced with the question whether, in a quarrel so imposed by Austria on an unwilling France, Great Britain will stand idly aside, or take sides."(59)Exactly right. The only problem is Eyre Crowe waited for an entire month before warning the tennis champ about it. It was a capital blunder because by then the Austrian Ultimatum - a declaration of preventative war - had been sent already. From the June 28th news onwards, Grey and Crowe were men struggling to awaken from a very bad dream. The origin of the bad dream was Britain's insulation from the big reaction of Austria-Hungary to the June 28th news, and Russia's reaction to Austria-Hungary's reaction.
The tennis champ's inaction until the very end of July all but destroyed any chances Britain may have had of offering to arbitrate the situation to keep the crisis localized. Upon receipt of the June 28th news, Lord Northcliffe (the influential publisher of the Daily Mail) also froze, waiting until the very last day in July to print:"The Austrian onslaught... will, it is to be feared, draw Russia into the field... in turn this will be followed by German action. Germany's entrance will compel France...”(60)Exactly right again. But Northcliffe was was frozen in place for over a month before printing his warning, by then too late to keep the Austria-Serbian Crisis localized. Reading his text, it is almost as if Northcliffe knew he waited too long to sound the alarm and was in part trying to cover his month of paralysis. All these men seem to have the exact same problem: upon receipt of the June 28th news they are unable to react for a period stretching across 3 weeks to over a month. After which point they sound a bit like a newly-formed chorus club. The danger of a potential upcoming Austrian mobilization may have began immediately upon receipt of the June 28th news in Vienna. That was over a month before. Considering Northcliffe's political connections, if he'd realized it earlier he should have immediately gone to see Asquith and Grey and discussed his fears. That might have helped spur Grey to Paris quickly enough to offer to arrange a meeting so as to delay or prevent what became the Austrian Ultimatum on July 23rd.
Having been in receipt of the June 28th news for over a month, British King George V on August 1st makes an official announcement:At receipt of the June 28th news all 3 Brits - including King George V - reacted as if they had fallen into deep quicksand. They could not believe what was happening on the Continent until it was too late to stop it. To a man, they were pre-occupied with Britain's domestic affairs, the serious Ulster Crisis and overseas commercial business opportunities - not to mention their multifarious "non-London" essential playtime activities.
"The King, in view of the gravity of the situation, has definitely abandoned his visit to Cowes for the regatta."(61)
"King and the Crisis"
"Cowes Visit Abandoned""Before the present crisis arose his Majesty had arranged to go to Cowes to-day, remaining there until Monday week. This engagement, it is officially announced, will not now be fulfilled..."(62)
________________________________________________________________Upon receipt of the June 28th news, George Buchanan, the British Ambassador to Russia, by his own admission, seems amazingly out of touch with events in Russia until as late as July 23rd, the same day Austria issues the ultimatum to Serbia:
"As several weeks had elapsed since the assassination of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand without any move on Austria's part, there seemed reason to hope that she had renounced the idea of any punitive action. I had myself been granted leave of absence and had already taken tickets for our journey to England."(63)
__________________________Starting from just before June 28th 1914, rifling the records of the House of Commons shows virtually no discussion of the Austria-Serbia Crisis until the end of July. Condolences by the Prime Minister Asquith are noted on June 29th, as well as several very brief remarks on the Austrian "occupation" problem in the Balkans. And then there is a complete blank.
Even placing "Hotzendorf" into Hansard's search engine reveals "No returns."(64) Placing "Servia" (Serbia) into Hansard's search engine reveals nothing from July 1, 1914 until July 27, 1914, the key month.(65) Is it any wonder Whitehall was so taken by surprise when the Austria-Serbian Crisis blew up?The records of the House of Commons in July 1914 show a Parliament more or less overwhelmed with the prospect of a Civil War in Ireland plus a thousand different ongoing business and domestic situations clamoring for attention. From there it is easy to see how Britain's acclaimed "splendid isolation" did just that, only this time in reverse, effectively clamping the Foreign Office off behind the Channel, far away from Austria-Hungary's instantaneous serious reaction to the June 28th news, and Russia's reaction to Austria-Hungary's reaction. From there on it is more or less all downhill.
________________________________________________________________As late as July 28th the British Prime Minister HH Asquith - although exactly what he prime minister of remains unclear - finally weighs in. He also seems strikingly unable to come to grips with with is happening across the channel vis-a-vis Austria-Hungary and Russia:"Mr. Bonar Law: I wish to ask the Prime Minister if he has any information he can communicate on the European situation. The Prime Minister [HH Asquith]: There are no new developments sufficiently definite to enable any further statements to be made, but we can hope that no unfavorable inference will be drawn from this. I cannot say more. Lord Hugh Cecil: Can the right hon. Gentleman say if hostilities have broken out? The Prime Minister: We have no definite information about that."(66) ________________________________________________________________As for what the tennis champ was doing during this most important political month in the history of the human race, on July 10th he leisurely strolls over to the House of Commons and throws out the following remark:If Grey was trying to give an excuse for why he was not paying greater attention to the extant Austria-Serbia Crisis, all that can be said is he should really have known by then that if another crisis breaks out on the continent it may be markedly different from all the previous crises he helped successfully resolve. And it might also be markedly more difficult to settle. And depending upon the mood of the various Great Powers at the moment it might have to be arbitrated much quicker. Grey continues with a very long speech describing Britain's manifold offshore commercial activities. Considering that at that exact moment the Austria-Serbia Crisis was blowing up, the Foreign Office should have formed its responsibilities into 2 tiers, with security concerns (assuming the physical survival of the British people is at least as important as "obtaining commercial consessions") addressed prior to commercial opportunities available across the moat:
"But I would ask anyone to put himself in the place of the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs...We are told we are to promote British commerce all over the world. That, of course, is one of the first duties of the Foreign Office..."It is not merely that we are to encourage and protect trade which exists, but we are to open up other avenues of trade, and in each particular corner, whether it is Asia Minor, Persia, or China, where we obtain a concession we are to achieve more and greater success than any other country in the world. That is a very considerable task."(67)
"Late on Friday evenings he would rush from the Foreign Office to Waterloo station and catch the train to the cathedral city....This Hampshire riverbank was the private idyll of the Foreign Secretary...On July 18... a note in spidery fountain pen from his Itchen log records that he caught three fish with a total weight of 3lb1oz, and six more weighing under a pound which he released back."(68)
____________________________________________________As for what the British Cabinet was doing throughout July, the then-Chancellor of the Exchequer, David Lloyd George [British Prime Minister 1916-1922] weighs in:"I cannot recall any discussion on the subject [the June 28th regicide] in the Cabinet until the Friday evening before the final declaration of war by Germany."And see:
"We were much more concerned with the threat of imminent civil war in the North of Ireland. The situation there absorbed our thoughts, and constituted the subject-matter for the major part of our deliberations.
"A Cabinet which was compelled by political and economic exigencies to concentrate its energies on domestic problems left the whole field of foreign affairs to Sir Edward Grey."(69)
"The assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand did not immediately cause a reaction in Britain. David Lloyd George admitted that he heard the news he suspected that it would result in a war in the Balkans but did not believe such a conflict would involve Britain.
"He also pointed out that the Cabinet, although it was meeting twice a day, because of the crisis in Ireland, they did not even discuss the issue of Serbia and the assassination for another three weeks."(70) [italics added]
________________________________________________________________As for the House of Lords, they were on what must have started as an enjoyable holiday, the Hansard record indicating closed May 1914, closed June 1914, and closed July 1st to July 19th. Even as late as on July 20th, the first day the House of Lords was back at work, there was no discussion of the Austria/Serbian/Russian Crisis.(71)
There is a complete blank from May 1st until July 27th, when the Lord Privy Seal and Secretary of State for (The Marquess of Crewe) stated:
"Sir Edward Grey had no information as to how the situation was regarded by the Russian Government..."(72)
That is almost impossible to believe, considering Russia was Serbia's most powerful ally, as well as being Britain's ally.
________________________________________________________________By July 27th the tennis champ was only beginning to wake up to the gravity of the situation across the channel:
"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."(73)
"..it can but end in the greatest catastrophe that has ever befallen the Continent of Europe at one blow..."
Grey seemed not to realize for an entire month that any conflict between Austria-Hungary and Serbia could suddenly involve Serbia's protector Russia. The danger of a Great Power - Russia - becoming involved began on the morning of the regicide, on June 28th.
Britain was perfectly aware how incredibly unstable Russia's ally Serbia was. For Britain to ally itself with Russia in 1907 indicates just how desperate and terrified Britain must have been of Germany's expanding military/industrial power.
The position of this website is that the possibility of the July 1914 Austria-Serbian Crisis quickly expanding if Russia backs Serbia, and Germany backs Austria, which could mean risking France, and then possibly dragging the British Empire into a major European war (including risking destruction of all the major civilizations/aristocracies on the continent) is what should have pushed Grey instantly to Paris/Vienna upon receipt of the June 28th news.