June 28-July 1914: The Strategy of Hope
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"The tragedy which has recently occurred at Sarajevo will, I hope, not lead to any further complications..."[italics added]
Private, Foreign Office, June 30, 1914.
[telegram] to Sir G. Buchanan [British Ambassador to Russia]
Sir Arthur Nicolson [1910-1916 British Permanent Undersecretary of State for Foreign Affairs]

"There seemed to be good reason for the hope that, while treating the matter as one to be dealt with by Austria alone, they would handle it in such a way as not to involve Europe in the consequences."[italics added]
Former Foreign Secretary Edward Grey: Twenty-Five Years 1892-1916, Vol I, at 299.

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References  Page 2
Confusion Between Defensive/Offensive Military Preparations
Causes of World War I
Sir Edward Grey: Delayed Telegrams June-July 1914
British Foreign Secretary Sir Edward Grey on the Causes of World War I
Winston Churchill on the June 28-July 1914 Crisis
June 29th-July 1914, Wagons-Lits to the French Riviera

Post-June 28-July 1914/WWI:
July 16, 1945: Trinity
Effects of Atomic Detonations: Hiroshima, Nagasaki
Japan: Feasibility of Atomic Demonstration-Test in 1945
USAF Boeing B-52 Stratofortress

If WWI was known as the "Great War," then this period from June 28 through most of July 1914 should be referred to as the "Great Hope," or the "Great Prayer," or, more realistically, the "Great Fantasy." Starting Day-1, June 28, 1914, the rapid acceleration to World War I can be ripped apart by Lord Verulam famous observation:

"Hope is a good breakfast but a bad supper."

As if a line of standing dominos had tipped over in succession, a staggering number of European/British gov't officials reacted to the June 28th regicide as if carbon-copies of Sir Arthur Nicholson and Foreign Secretary Edward Grey.

The later historian Barbara Tuchman's famous "The Guns of August" is a well-polished mirror of the June 28-July 1914 strategy of hope. Apparently Ms. Tuchman herself was also so unnerved by the June 28th Sarajevo Crisis exploding into World War that she blacks out everything after the regicide by silently tiptoeing ahead five weeks, planting the start of her book in early August.

Ms Tuchman's book makes strenuous efforts to conceal - black out - 4 straight weeks of dithering/inaction by European/British gov't officials, all of whom had one thing in common: each Great Power was hoping the local Austria-Serbia crisis would not expand and drag them into it:

"...on 30 June, 2 days after the Sarajevo incident, the [Russian] General Staff, under pressure from Tsar Nicholas II, approved the dispatch of 120,000 three-line rifles, with 120 million rounds, to Serbia."(1)

Instead Ms. Tuchman jumps into describing post-July 1914 military maneuvers and sometimes gruesome battle statistics, the kind that might excite armchair sadists and industrial-scale undertakers.
Battle of the Somme

In 1918, after 4 years of fearsome slaughter on all sides, the iconic former British Foreign Secretary Edward Grey, momentarily paused bird-watching, fly-fishing, chasing women and billiards-at-Brooks to admit:

"...if as a result of this war men of all nations will desire in future to stamp out the first sign of war as they would a forest fire or the plague, then the world may have a peace and security that it has never yet known."(2)

That it took a World War and 15,000,000 dead for him to figure that out says something about Foreign Secretary Edward Grey's ability to promptly call the Great Powers' representatives together to arbitrate intense local crises before their shared ententes and alliances and "understandings" drag them in.

From June 28 throughout most of July 1914, however, what happened was each Great Power found itself strapped inside a straitjacket of hope/political inaction. Whatever action government officials took was taken with the greatest reluctance, akin to being forced to pay off an embarrasing gambling debt to a casino "collections agent."

During July 1914, facing a dynamite-filled wall of immense European/British industrial artillery and Maxim machine gun stockpiles, Austria hoped that if they invaded Serbia that Russia wouldn't intervene. Russia hoped that if it intervened on Serbia's behalf that Germany would not mobilize. Germany hoped that if it mobilized that Russia would see it as a purely defensive maneuver.
Battle of Passchendaele

France hoped that Russia wouldn't intervene because if they did, and Germany intervened, then France's alliance with Russia meant France would probably have to intervene. Britain hoped that Austria would moderate its demands on Serbia and that Russia wouldn't intervene. And so on all the way round and round and round.

Winston Churchill himself admitted that the whole time everyone was going about their normal lives, 24-hrs a day European-British assembly lines were running, producing millions of weapons of war. Nonstop, around the clock, these weapons factories spewed millions of war weapons, machine-gun bullets and heavy artillery shells, morphing the background of 1910-1914 European/British reality into a dystopian science-fiction world.
Ypres, 1917

The reason for such willful inaction is not hard to find. All the Great Powers, especially France, Germany & Russia, knew they were taking a terrible collective risk with immense weapons' stockpiling, particularily Maxim machine-guns & heavy industrial-scale artillery. Each Great Power made up stories to itself regarding the unprecedented continent-wide military risk it was taking.

So immediately after the June 28th regicide they were all afraid to act. ALL the Great Powers sat on their hands, hoping the Crisis would blow over because they all knew if it didn't they had the greatest catastrophe on Earth in front of them.

And that's the reason for the Great Powers' June 28-July 1914 strategy of inaction. The only alternative to hope was coming to the table and admitting they had a gigantic armaments-in-proximity problem. But haughty Europe and Britain had far too many centuries of arguing, fighting & wars for them to mutually agree to come to a table and admit to anything.

No Great Power wanted to concede what was obvious to all: that a vast weapons-stockpile, an armed global military maritime fleet, or exact railroad timetables for prompt mobilization of 3 million armed soldiers to the Front might make a next-door Great Power uneasy.

And without the ability to admit the obvious, nothing is posssible. The Great Powers could not even agree on a common language for settling a tremendous military armaments problem that by 1914 had squeezed them closer together than a Siamese quintuplet.

In 1914 Europe/Britain it was easier to inactively let events slide into full-scale World War than to admit their industrial-scale military over-preparations might be making each other nervous. After a thousand years of fighting and wars, Europe and Britain had become quite incapable of sitting together at a table and discussing exactly what the hell they were going to do about it.
Ypres

Starting June 28, 1914, for the next 4 straight weeks the sheer expodential scale of armies, navy's, and vast industrial armament stockpiles, the largest in human history, temporarily froze the Great Powers into political inaction as effectively as a railroad boxcar of liquid nitrogen dumped on strutting science-fiction terminators.

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  • The June 28-July 1914 Crisis and the Strategy of Inaction:

"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."(3)

That was the description of Colonel House's June 27, 1914 meeting in London with King George V, British Prime Minister HH Asquith, Lloyd George and Foreign Secretary Edward Grey.
Ypres, 1917

"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."

"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."(Ibid)

"They had the utmost confidence in [both men]" "Both these men were regarded by the Foreign Office as guarantees against a German attack." That was June 27th. The next morning the Archduke was killed in Sarajevo & Squiff (British Prime Minster HH Asquith), L. George and E. Grey found themselves strapped inside a time warp headed from zero to World War in 5 weeks flat.

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In receipt of the June 28th news himself, Sir Eyre Crowe, British Assistant Undersecretary of State for Foreign Affairs, was unable to get a grip on the European situation for a solid month. His eyes fixed on the next-door Ulster Crisis in Ireland, Crowe waited until July 27th to send Grey a memo warning him about a potential "action-reaction" military 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 is an ancient problem that originated with the invention of nation-states and standing armies in proximity. The chief difficulty 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 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 the Assistant Undersecretary of State 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."(4)

Exactly right. The only problem is Undersecretary Crowe waited for an entire month before warning the foreign secretary about it. It was a capital blunder because by then the Austrian Ultimatum - a de facto declaration of war - had been sent already.

From the June 28th news onwards, the Foreign Secretary and the Undersecretary 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 and Germany to the June 28th news and Russia's reaction to Austria-Hungary's reaction.
Battle of Passchendaele

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The foreign secretary'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 highly influential publisher of the Daily Mail) also failed to react, 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...”(5)

Exactly right again. But Lord Northcliffe could not react for over a solid month before printing his warning, by then much too late to keep the Austria-Serbian Crisis localized. Reading his text, it is almost as if Lord 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 each seem paralyzed for a period stretching across 3 weeks to over a month.

What these bright but seriously pre-occupied gentlemen realized only too late was the danger of a potential upcoming Austrian mobilization began immediately upon telegram receipt of the June 28th news in Vienna, ≈ 11:30am Sunday morning. The British Foreign Secretary received the telegram at ≈ 16:00 and another at 18:00 that evening. And that was over a month before Lord Northcliffe's cogent editorial.
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Having been in receipt of the June 28th news for over a month, British King George V on August 1st makes an official announcement:

"The King, in view of the gravity of the situation, has definitely abandoned his visit to Cowes for the regatta."(6)

"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..."(7)

"George complained to his younger son that he’d had to cancel...his annual trip to Goodwood races, and was regretting the loss of his weekend sailing at Cowes."(8)

A peak leisure-class mentality was "..regretting the loss of his weekend sailing at Cowes." At receipt of the June 28th news all 3 Brits - including King George V - reacted for 4 straight weeks as if they had all fallen into quicksand. They simply could not believe what was happening on the Continent until it was too late to stop it.

This reaction appears remarkably similar to the total disorganization in the control room at Three Mile Island Unit II Atomic Reactor when over 50 separate alarms started blaring while an extremely dangerous Loss-of-Coolant Accident booted up without being detected. TMI control room operators absolutely could not believe what they were seeing on the giant intrument board at TMI Unit II's control room. The situation was so bad that one of Sandia Laboratories' top analysts concluding that in the first minute following a LOCA 9 out of every 10 decisions taken by reactor control-room operators would be wrong.

Again, this seems remarkably similar to the reaction of European/British gov't officials starting Day-1, June 28, 1914.

From June 28th through almost all of July 1914 British gov't officials, to a man, were all pre-occupied with Ulster, the sufferagettes, Parlimentary factionalism, offshore commercial consessions and their supremely important "playtime activities." Britain's famed "Splendid Isolation" seemed to be working in over-drive, only this time in reverse, effectively sealing Britain off from the Category-5 political/military hurricane actively booting up on the continent.
Ypres

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Upon receipt of the June 28th news, George Buchanan, the British Ambassador to Russia waits until July 23rd, the same day Austria issues the ultimatum - a declaration of war, actually - to Serbia, to write the following:

"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."(9)[italics added]

"...there seemed reason to hope..."
It's carrying coals to Newcastle to point out that what the British Ambassador to Russia was not being paid to do was conjure up out of thin air enough false hope so he could book an Edwardian-drenched holiday the same day Austria effectively declared war on Serbia.

There seemed reason to hope = the triple-distilled essence of British June 28-July 1914 foreign policy, as well as the defacto policy of every other Great Power.

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Starting from just before June 28th 1914, rifling the records of the British 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" [the fiery Austrian Army Chief of Staff, the Sisyphus of Preventative War who reportedly advocated such against Serbia ≈ 2 dozen times] into Hansard's search engine reveals "No returns."(10) Placing "Servia" (Serbia) into Hansard's search engine reveals nothing from July 1, 1914 until July 27, 1914, at the very end of the key month.(11)

Instead, 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, the sufferagettes, fierce faction battles in the Parliment, plus a thousand and one different ongoing commercial and domestic concerns, each clamoring loudly for attention.

From there one does not need a Sherlock Holmes to see how Britain's acclaimed "splendid isolation" did just that, only from June 28-July 1914 in reverse, effectively keeping the Foreign Office, 10 Downing and Parliment clamped off behind the Channel, in disbelief and in check, far away from Austria-Hungary's instantaneous serious reaction to the June 28th news, Germany' reaction, and Russia's reaction to Austria-Hungary's reaction. From there on it is more or less all downhill.

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As late as July 28th the British Prime Minister HH Asquith - although exactly what it is he's prime ministering remains unclear - finally weighs in. He also seems strikingly unable to come to grips with a very dangerous sequence of events taking place across the channel vis-a-vis Austria-Hungary, Serbia, Germany 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."(12)[italics added]
"[B]ut we can hope..." June 28-July 1914 British foreign policy.
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As for what the British Foreign Secretary was doing during the single most important political month of the last 2,000 years, on July 10th he leisurely strolls over to the House of Commons and throws out the following remark:

"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."(13)

If British Foreign Secretary 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 really should have known by then that if another crisis breaks out on the continent it may have a zero percentage chance of following the same template as the previous crises he almost single-handedly successfully resolved.

The nature of the crisis might make it easier, or vastly more intractable for settling. And depending upon the temper (read: short) of the various Great Powers at that moment, instead of taking 5 or 9 months or a year to resolve it might have to be arbitrated much quicker.

Instead, the Foreign Secretary's July 10th speech continues with a very long description of Britain's manifold offshore commercial activities. Meanwhile, across the channel, the Austria-Serbia Crisis was already ramping up into a Category-3 Scale political-military hurricane threatening to make landfall.

"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."(14)

In his 1925 memoirs, the Foreign Secretary describes his reaction to the June 28th regicide:

"There seemed to be good reason for the hope that, while treating the matter as one to be dealt with by Austria alone, they would handle it in such a way as not to involve Europe in the consequences."[italics added]
Sir Edward Grey: Twenty-Five Years 1892-1916, Vol I, at 299.

"There seemed to be good reason for the hope..." June 28-July 1914 British foreign policy, as well as the policy of the other Great Powers.

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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."

"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."[italics added]

July 24, 1914:

"When the discussion was over the Cabinet rose, but the Foreign Secretary [Edward Grey] asked us to remain behind for a few more minutes as he had something to impart to us about the situation in Europe. When we resumed our seats he told us, for the first time, that he thought the position was very grave, but he was hopeful that the conversations which were proceeding between Austria and Russia might lead to a pacific settlement."

"...but he was hopeful..." British Foreign Policy June 28-July 1914.

" So we separated upon that assurance. On Saturday Sir Edward Grey left for his fishing lodge in Hampshire, and all other Ministers followed his example and left town."[italics added](15)

And:

"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."(16)

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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.(17)

There is a complete blank from May 1st until July 27th. The Marquess of Landsdowne:

"We notice that it is stated that Servia has accepted no fewer than ten out of the twelve demands formulated by Austria-Hungary. That in itself has to a certain extent a hopeful appearance." [italics added]

To a certain extent a hopeful appearance. June 28th-July 1914 British foreign policy.

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  • Austria-Serbia Crisis: The Speed of Electric Telegrams Can Quickly Involve Russia and/or Germany:

The Lord Privy Seal and Secretary of State for (The Marquess of Crewe):

"I have no direct information of what is happening in Austria or in Servia beyond what is familiar to your Lordships through the usual channels..."

"After receiving the text of the communication made by Austria-Hungary to Servia Sir Edward Grey saw several of the Ambassadors, and pointed out that so far as the matter at issue remained one between Austria-Hungary and Servia we had no direct concern in it, but that the moment there was any risk of its spreading further it would naturally become a matter of grave concern to us as well as to other Powers."

Both the Lord Privy Seal and the Foreign Secretary are mistaken on that point. Somebody should have explained to the LOrd Privy Seal and Foreign Secretary Grey that electric telegram stations were already set up between the offended parties and their giant allies. The official statement that "...the moment there was any risk of its spreading further..." was as intrinsic - and as imminent - as the speed of one electric telegram from Austria>>Germany and back. Or one electric telegram from Serbia>>Russia and back.

It is an irremovable fact is that an electric telegram could have been sent out the afternoon/evening of June 28th at the drop of a hat. And at any moment thereafter.

Thus, the Lord Privy Seal and the Foreign Secretary cannot pretend they did not know Russia was a KNOWN ally of Serbia.

Balkans.1914.Feb.02 "Tsar Nicholas tells the visiting Serbian Premier Pašić 'For Serbia, we shall do everything.'"

From the moment Germany and/or Russia were in telegram receipt of the June 28th regicide on, at any moment either side, concerned that the other might intervene, might offer to intervene. Within 5 minutes in receipt of a single telegram to that effect, the ambience in the Foreign Office/10 Downing would go from a strategy of hope - total indifference - to a 140dB air-raid siren in the hallway.

The Lord Privy Seal:

"Sir Edward Grey had no information as to how the situation was regarded by the Russian Government..."(18)

Why wasn't the Foreign Secretary knocking the doors down trying to find out if Russia was either supporting Serbia, moving against Austria, or both? 72 hours after the Lord Privy Seal's remarks to the House of Commons, the Tzar of Russia write in his diary:

"After lunch I received Sazonov and Tatistchev. I went for a walk by myself. The weather was hot. At 6 I received Count Frederiks with Voiekov and then Nilov. Had a delightful bathe in the sea."(19)

July 30th is the same day the Russian Tsar told Sasanov to give the order to mobilize the entire Russian Army. Mobilization of the Russian Steamroller had to be one of Britain's greatest fears, as Russian mobilization might well alarm Germany into mobilizing as well, as the Assistant Undersecretary of State Crowe correctly notes. The Russian Tsar did not bother to record the mobilization order in his diary.

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  • June 28-June 29: The Tremendous Danger of German and/or Russian Involvement Is Immediate:

By July 27th the British Foreign Secretary 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."(20)[italics added]

The Foreign Secretary gave this speech on July 27th. British Foreign Secretary Grey would be making a fool out of himself if he really believed the danger of another Great Power becoming involved began July 27th. The immense danger began a solid month before, at ≈ 11:30am on June 28th, when the telegram of the news of the regicide was received in Vienna. Foreign Secretary Grey had made two major mistakes: He had seriously underestimated by orders of magnitude how pissed-off Vienna was, and how terrified Belgrade was.

In the near real-time it takes to send/receive 1 electric-telegram the conflict could instantly expand into a gigantic mushroom cloud covering all Europe/Britain by dragging in Austria-Hungary's protector, the vast German army and/or Serbia's protector, the equally vast Russian army.

To illustrate how unprepared the 1914 Great Powers were, the land powers Germany and Russia literally shared a common border. The order for millions of men to mobilize and march to the German-Russian border might commence at the drop of hat. Worse, Edward Grey himself stated "[T]he Tzar was not strong, and the Kaiser was not steady, and in each country there was a military element." Yet there was no pre-set arrangement between Germany and Russia for promptly settling local crises.

It's basic logistics: in the early afternoon of June 28th suppose a very angry Austrian Foreign Minister telegramed Berlin asking for Germany backing Austria in a dispute with Serbia, and Berlin cabled back ok. And suppose that same early afternoon a very frightened Serbian foreign minister in Belgrade had also telegramed St. Petersburg asking the Russian Foreign Minister Sasanov the same thing and he consulted and cabled back ok.

By late afternoon/early evening of June 28th or June 29th Austria, Serbia, Germany and Russia could all be involved. And at that lightning speed, the chances the British Foreign Secretary Edward Grey would have found out about it were effectively zero. And because the Foreign Secretary almost certainly did not then have Vienna-Berlin or Serbia-Russia telegrams intercepted and de-encrypted, he and all the above-listed officials, as if in a dramatic Shakespearean stage play, continued to pretend to themselves the vast danger of one of the other Great Powers becoming involved hadn't actually started yet!

Not unti 4 weeks later did the British Foreign Secretary and all the above listed officials finally admit the obvious: the profound danger had beeen staring all Europe/Britain in the face right from Day-1, ≈ 11:30am on June 28th.

Sir Edward Grey was Foreign Secretary when Britain signed an Entente with Russia in 1907. Of all people, he really should have known how dangerous Britain's situation might become vis-a-vis a hyper-kinetic German War Machine if Russia mobilized its infamous Steamroller (what was then likely the world's biggest land army).

Because of Britain's high-risk entente with politically unstable Russia, The Foreign Secretary could have been knocking the doors down in St. Petersburg immediately upon telegram receipt of the terrible regicide. Early diplomatic action seems better than a dangerous strategy of waiting and hoping.

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The risk of catastrophic war was greater than any of the Great Powers were willing to admit, either to each other or to themselves. That's the bedrock of the post-June 28th strategy of inaction.

Here's A. Adonis quoting the British Prime Minister HH Asquith writing his girlfriend:

"As late as 24 July, at the end of a letter mostly about the Ulster crisis, Asquith simply notes: “Happily there seems to be no reason why we should be anything more than spectators [in any European conflict].” (21)

"Happily there seems to be no reason why we should be anything more than spectators...": This is the British Prime Minister's strategy of inaction, the strategy of hope.

Spectators indeed. July 1914 was the last summer of the British Empire. More like the Last Supper.

By July 29 Serbia had mobilized, von Hotzendorf had received orders for a partial Austrian mobilization, Austria-Hungary had declared war on Serbia. Bombardment of Belgrade began; the Russian Steamroller mobilised on the Austrian frontier. On July 31st Austria-Hungary ordered general mobilisation and Germany moved to a ‘state of imminent threat of war.'

August 1st Germany declared war on Russia, and hours later France declared war on Germany. That evening, Whitehall's Foreign Secretary, former tennis champ Edward Grey showed up to play billiards at Brooks.(22)

Adonis continues:

"It is evident that Asquith did not appreciate the magnitude of the European crisis until 1 August, three days before the German invasion of Belgium. Until the day before, he had been planning to attend a weekend house party with Stanley in Anglesey. Grey was also at his country house for weekends in July."(23)

August 1, 1914 The Daily Telegraph reports:
"Mr. Asquith cancelled his week-end visit to Chester..."(24)

August 2 France declares a state of siege.
Not to be distracted, Asquith writes his mistress Venetia Stanley:

"I got no letter from you this morning," he said, “which is the saddest blank in my day."(25)

"Herbert Henry Asquith’s weekend has been ruined. The 62 year old prime minister had planned to go away with Miss Venetia Stanley [age 26], but the crisis is keeping him in London."(26)

August 2: Not to be outdone, Grey "...went off to London zoo to look at the birds."(27)

August 3rd at 5:45pm Germany declares war on France.
Undaunted, Secretary Grey steps on the train at Waterloo Station & traveled back to his fishing hut in Hampshire for flyfishing, where he stayed the night.

"The village [Itchen Abbas] is the site of Sir Edward Grey's fishing hut, where he spent the night of 3 August 1914..."(28)

Or, as the Foreign Secretay's superior put it:

"...she despatched a letter to Mr. Delane, the editor of The Times, asking him if he would 'frequently WRITE articles pointing out the IMMENSE danger and evil of the wretched frivolity and levity of the views and lives of the Higher Classes.'"[emphasis in orignal]
QUEEN VICTORIA, By Lytton Strachey, 1921, Chapter IX.

As mentioned elsewhere, it's obvious what had happened: the fierce leisure-class reaction to a thousand years of non-stop European/British fighting, warfare, religious superstition & plagues had became overwhelming among the masses and especially the upper classes, and by 1914 the fantasy of timeless leisure had deeply infected and gripped a number of the highest gov't officials calmly but oh-so-firmly in its talons.

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Top

References:
(1)Sean McMeekin: July 1914: Countdown to War: 2013, at 59.
(2) The Right Honorable Viscount Grey: The Conflict for Freedom, 1918.
(3) (70) The Life and Letters of Walter H. Page, Volume I: Burton Jesse Hendrick, 1922.
http://www.gutenberg.org/files/17017/17017-h/17017-h.htm#CHAPTER_IX
(4) Edward Grey. Sir Eyre Crowe, memo to Sir Edward Grey, 27 July 1914.
http://spartacus-educational.com/FWWgrey.htm
(5) The Daily Mail, 31 July, 1914.
http://spartacus-educational.com/BUharmsworth.htm
(6) At Home: Daily Telegraph, 1 Aug. 1914, at 8.
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/ww1-archive/11004044/Daily-Telegraph-August-1-1914.html
(7) King and the Crisis. Daily Telegraph 1 Aug.1914, at 9.
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/ww1-archive/11004044/Daily-Telegraph-August-1-1914.html
(8) (quoted in) George, Nicholas and Wilhelm: Three Royal Cousins and the Road to World War I: Miranda Carter. Ch 17
(9) Sir George Buchanan: My Mission to Russia and Other Diplomatic Memories, 1923, at 189.
https://archive.org/stream/mymissiontorussi01buchuoft/mymissiontorussi01buchuoft_djvu.txt
(10) http://hansard.millbanksystems. com/search/hotzendorf
(11) http://hansard.millbanksystems.com/search/servia?month=1914-7
(12) Austria and Servia 28 July 1914
http://hansard.millbanksystems.com/commons/1914/jul/28/austria-and-servia
(13) E. Grey. FOREIGN OFFICE.—(Class II.), HC Deb 10 July 1914
http://hansard.millbanksystems.com/commons/1914/jul/10/foreign-office-class-ii#column_1440
(14) River retreat of the man who took Britain to war: The Telegraph, Joe Shute, 02 Aug 2014.
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/history/world-war-one/11006046/River-retreat-of-the-man-who-took-Britain-to-war.html
(15) Lloyd George: War Memoirs Volume I, 1933.
https://archive.org/stream/warmemoirsvolume035284mbp/warmemoirsvolume035284mbp_djvu.txt
(16) Frank Owen, Tempestuous Journey: Lloyd George and his Life and Times, 1954, at 261.
http://spartacus-educational.com/PRgeorge.htm
(17) http://hansard.millbanksystems. com/sittings/1914/jul/20#lords
(18) Austria-Hungary and Servia, 27 July 1914.
http://hansard.millbanksystems.com/lords/1914/jul/27/austria-hungary-and-servia
See also: http://hansard.millbanksystems.com/sittings/1914/jun/
http://hansard.millbanksystems.com/sittings/1914/jul/
(19) Luigi Albertini, Origins of the War of 1914; Sean McMeekin, July 1914 (cited in ) Czar Nicholas II Orders Russian General Mobilization: Today in World War I
And see: George, Nicholas and Wilhelm: Three Royal Cousins and the Road to World War I: Miranda Carter. Ch 17
(20) AUSTRIA AND SERVIA., HC Deb 27 July 1914. The SECRETARY of STATE for FOREIGN AFFAIRS (Sir E. Grey)
(21) A. Adonis: Reviewed: Edwardian Requiem - a Life of Sir Edward Grey by Michael Waterhouse, May 2, 2013.
http://www.newstatesman.com/politics/2013/05/reviewed-edwardian-requiem-life-sir-edward-grey-michael-waterhouse
(22) Niall Ferguson: The Pity of War, 1999 at 160.
See also: "While Europe burned, responsibility for foreign affairs was transferred to the War Office. Grey, by and large, fished. His records show him on the [River] Itchen for much of the season in 2015, and 2016 when Lloyd George replaced Asquith’s cabinet."
River retreat of the man who took Britain to war: The Telegraph, Joe Shute, 02 Aug 2014.
(23) A. Adonis: Reviewed: Edwardian Requiem - a Life of Sir Edward Grey by Michael Waterhouse, May 2, 2013
http://www.newstatesman.com/politics/2013/05/reviewed-edwardian-requiem-life-sir-edward-grey-michael-waterhouse
(24) King and the Crisis: Daily Telegraph 1 Aug.1914, at 9.
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/ww1-archive/11004044/Daily-Telegraph-August-1-1914.html
(25) Niall Ferguson: The Pity of War, 1999 at 163.
(26) 2/8/1914 Britain will defend Belgium and the French coast
See also: April 27, 2012: The priapic PM who wrote love letters to his mistress as he sent a generation off to die in the trenches.
(27) The Guardian: In Europe 1914 every leading player had his hand on a smoking gun: Richard Norton-Taylor, July 31, 2014.
https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/jul/31/europe-1914-leading-player-britain-first-world-war
(28) Itchen Abbas

Jpgs: http://www.politicsplus.org/blog/tag/wwi/
For understanding action-reaction cycles in military operations there is no more concise work than TC Schelling's The Strategy of Conflict

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