WWI: 26th July

On 26th July, the Russian Chargé d’Affaires at Berlin telegraphed to the Russian Minister for Foreign Affairs:

On the news reaching Berlin that the Austrian army had mobilised against Servia, a large crowd, in which the papers report the presence of an Austrian element, gave vent to a series of noisy demonstrations in favour of Austria Late in the evening the crowd several times collected before the Imperial Russian Embassy and some anti-Russian shouting occurred. Hardly any police were present and no precautions were taken.

No. 23.
Russian Minister for Foreign Affairs to Russian Ambassador at Rome.
St. Petersburg, July 13 (26), 1914.
(Telegram )

Italy might play a part of the first importance in favour of preserving peace, by bringing the necessary influence to bear upon Austria, and by adopting a definitely unfavourable attitude towards the dispute on the ground that it could not be localised. You should express your conviction that Russia cannot possibly avoid coming to the help of Servia.

No. 24.
Acting Russian Consul at Prague to Russian Minister for Foreign Affairs.
Prague, July 13 (26), 1914.
(Telegram.)

MOBILISATION has been ordered.

No. 25.
Russian Minister for Foreign Affairs to Russian Ambassador at Vienna.
St. Petersburg, July 13 (26), 1914.
(Telegram.)

I HAD a long and friendly conversation to-day with the Austro-Hungarian Ambassador. After discussing the ten demands addressed to Servia, I drew his attention to the fact that, quite apart from the clumsy form in which they were presented some of them were quite impracticable, even if the Servian Government agreed to accept them. Thus, for example, points 1 and 2 could not be carried out without recasting the Servian press law and associations law, and to that it might be difficult to obtain the consent of the Skupchtina. As for enforcing points 4 and 5, this might lead to most dangerous consequences, and even to the risk of acts of terrorism directed against the Royal Family and against Pashitch, which clearly could not be the intention of- Austria. With regard to the other points it seemed to me that, with certain changes of detail, it would not be difficult to find a basis of mutual agreement, if the accusations contained in them were confirmed by sufficient proof.

In the interest of the maintenance of peace, which, according to the statements of Szapary, is as much desired by Austria as by all the Powers, it was necessary to end the tension of the present moment as soon as possible. With this object in view it seemed to me most desirable that the Austro-Hungarian Ambassador should be authorised to enter into a private exchange of views in order to redraft certain articles of the Austrian note of the l0th (23rd) July in consultation with me. This method of procedure would perhaps enable us to find a formula which would prove acceptable to Servia, while giving satisfaction to Austria in respect of the chief of her demands. Please convey the substance of this telegram to the Minister for Foreign Affairs in a judicious and friendly manner.

Communicated to Russian Ambassadors in Germany, France, Great Britain, and Italy.

No. 26.
Russian Minister for Foreign Affairs to Russian Ambassador at Berlin.
St. Petersburg, July 13 (26), 1914.
(Telegram.)

PLEASE communicate the contents of my telegram to Vienna of to-day to the German Minister for Foreign Affairs, and express to him the hope that he, on his part, will be able to advise Vienna to meet Russia’s proposal in a friendly spirit.

No. 27.
Russian Chargé d’Affaires at Paris to Russian Minister for Foreign Affairs.
Paris, July 13 (26), 1914.
(Telegram.)

THE Director of the Political Department informs me that upon his informing the Austro-Hungarian Ambassador of the contents of the Servian reply to the ultimatum, the Ambassador did not conceal his surprise that it had failed to satisfy Giesl. In the opinion of the Director of the Political Department, Servia’s conciliatory attitude should produce the best impression in Europe.

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No. 5.

Comunication made on July 26, 1914, by the Austro-Hungarian Legation at Brussels to the Belgian Minister for Foreign Affairs.

M. Pashitch gave the reply of the Servian Government to the Austro-Hungarian note before 6 o’clock yesterday. This reply not having been considered satisfactory, diplomatic relations have been broken off and the Minister and staff of the Austrian Legation have left Belgrade. Servian mobilisation had already been ordered before 3 o’clock.

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No. 45.
M. Dumaine, French Ambassador at Vienna, to M. Bienvenu-Martin, Acting Minister for Foreign Affairs.
Vienna, July 26, 1914.

THE Russian Chargé d’Affaires received instructions from his Government to ask for an extended time limit for the ultimatum to Servia at the very moment that Count Berchtold was leaving for Ischl, with the intention, according to the newspapers, of remaining there near the Emperor until the end of the crisis.

Prince Koudacheff informed him nevertheless of the démarche which he had to carry out, by means of two telegrams en clair, one addressed to him on his journey and the other at his destination. He does not expect any result.

Baron Macchio, General Secretary of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs to whom the Prince communicated the tenour of his instructions and of his telegrams, behaved with icy coldness when it was represented to him that to submit for consideration grievances with documentary proofs without leaving time for the dossier to be studied, was not consonant with international courtesy. Baron Macchio replied that one’s interests sometimes exempted one from being courteous.

The Austrian Government is determined to inflict humiliation on Servia: it will accept no intervention from any Power until the blow had been deIivered and received full in the face by Servia.

DUMAINE

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No. 50.
M. Bienvenu-Martin, Acting.Minister for Foreign Affairs, to the President of the Council (on board the “La France,”) and to the French Ambassadors at London, St. Petersburgh, Berlin, Vienna, Rome.
Paris, Judy 26, 1914.

The events of Saturday can be summed up as follows: — refusal of Austria to grant the extension of the time limit asked for by Russia, — departure of the Austrian Minister from Belgrade after receiving a reply from Servia which was considered insufficient although it reached the limit of any possible concession — order for mobilisation given in Servia whose Government retired to Kragoujewatz, where it was followed by the French and Russian Ministers.

The Italian Government, to whom the Austrian note had been communicated on Friday, without any request for support or even advice, could not, in the absence of the Marquis di San Giuliano, who does not return till Tuesday make any reply to the suggestion of the Russian Government proposing to press at Vienna for an extension of time. It appears from a confidential communication by the Italian Ambassador to M. Paléologue that at Vienna people still soothe themselves with the illuslon that Russia ” will not hold firm.” It must not be forgotten that Italy is only bound by the engagements of the Triple Alliance if she has been consulted beforehand.

From St. Petersburgh we learn that M. Sazonof has advised Servia to ask for British mediation. At the Council of Ministers on the 25th, which was held in presence of the Emperor, the mobilization of thirteen army corps intended eventually to operate against Austria was considered; this mobilization, however, would only be made effective if Austria were to bring armed pressure to bear upon Servia, and not till after notice had been given by the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon whom falls the duty of fixing the day, liberty being left to him to go on with negotiations even if Belgrade should be occupied. Russian opinion makes clear that it is both politicallv and morally impossible for Russia to allow Servia to be crushed.

In London the German démarche was made on the 25th in the same terms as those used by Baron von Schoen at Paris. Sir Edward Grey has replied to Prince Lichnowsky that if the war were to break out no Power in Europe could take up a detached attitude. He did not express himself more definitely and used very reserved language to the Servian Minister. The communication made on the evening of the 25th by the Austrian Ambassador makes Sir Edward Grey more optimistic; since the diplomatic rupture does not necessarily involve immediate military operations, the Secretary of State is still willing to hope that the Powers will have time to intervene.

At Berlin the language used by the Secretary of State to the Russian Chargé d’Affaires is unsatisfactory and dilatory; when the latter asked him to associate himself with a démarche at Vienna for an extension of the time limit, he replied that he had already taken action in this sense but that it was too late; to the request for an extension of the time limit before active measures were taken, he replied that this had to do with a domestic matter, and not with a war but with local operations. Herr von Jagouv pretends not to believe that the Austrian action could lead to general consequences.

A real explosion of chauvinism has taken place at Berlin. The German Emperor returns direct to Kiel. M. Jules Cambon thinks that, at the first military steps taken by Russia, Germany would immediately reply, and probably would not wait for a pretext before attacking us.

At Vienna, the French Ambassador has not had time to join in the démarche of his Russian colleague for obtaining an extension of the time limit fixed for Servia; he does not regret it, this démarche having been categorically rejected, and England not having had time to give instructions to her representative about it.

A note from the British Embassy has been delivered to me: it gives an account of the conversation between the British Ambassador at St. Petersburgh and M. Sazonof and M. Paléologue. Sir Edward Grey thinks that the four Powers who are not directly interested ought to press both on Russia and Austria that their armies should not cross the frontier, and that they should give time to England, France, Germany and Italy to bring their mediation into play. If Germany accepts, the British Government has reason to think that Italy also would be glad to be associated in the joint action of England and France; the adherence of Getmany is essential, for neither Austria nor Russia would tolerate any intervention except that of impartial friends or allies.

BIENVENU-MARTIN .
No. 51.
M. Barrère, French Ambassador at Rome, to M. Bienvenu-Martin, Acting Minister for Foreign Affairs.
Rome, July 26, 1914.

A TELEGRAPH from Vienna which has just been received at the Consulta informs them that the diplomatic rupture between Austria and Servia has taken place, and that Austria is proceeding to military measures.

The Marquis di San Giuliano, who is at Fiuggi, will not return to Rome till the day after to-morrow.

To-day I had an interesting conversation with the President of the Council on the situation, the full gravity of which he recognizes. From the general drift of his remarks, I have carried away the impression that the Italian Government would he willing, in case of war, to keep out of it and to maintain an attitude of observation.

M. Salandra said to me on this subject: “We shall make the greatest efforts to prevent peace being broken; our situation is somewhat analogous to that of England. Perhaps we could do something in a pacific sense together with the English.” M. Salandra stated definitely to me that the Austrian note had been communicated to Rome at the last moment.

BARRÈRE.
No. 52.
M. Barrère, French Ambassador at Rome to M. Bienvenu-Martin, Acting Minister for Foreign Affairs.
Rome, July 26, 1914.

M. SAZONOF yesterday told the Italian Ambassador at St. Petersburgh that Russia would employ all diplomatic means to avoid a conflict, and that she did not give up hope that mediation might lead AustIia to a less uncompromising attitude; but that Russia could not be asked to allow Servia to be crushed.

I observe that the greater part of Italian public opinion is hostile to Austria in this serious business.

BARRÈRE.
No. 53.
M. Bienvenu-Martin, Acting Minister for Foreign Affairs, to M. de Fleuriau, Chargé d’Aftaires at London.
Paris, July 26, 1914.

M. Paléologue sends me the following telegram:

” M. Sazonof advises the Servian Government to ask for the mediation of the British Government.”

In concurrence with M. Paul Cambon, I think that the French Government can only say that they hope to see the British Government accept, if an offer of this kind is made to them. Be good enough to express yourself in this sense at the Foreign Office.

BIENVENU-MARTIN.
No. 54.
M. Paléologue, French Ambassador at St. Petersburgh, to M. Bienvenu-Martin, Acting Minister for Foreign Affairs.
St. Petersburgh, July 26,1914.

The Minister for Foreign Affairs continues with praiseworthy perseverance to seek means to bring about a peaceful solution. ” Up to the last moment,” he declared to me, ” I shall show myself ready to negotiate.”

It is in this spirit that he has just sent for Count Szapary to come to a “frank and loyal explanation.” M. Sazonof commented in his presence on the Austro-Hungarian ultimatum, article by article, making clear the insulting character of the principal clauses. ” The intention which inspired this document,” he said, ” is legitimate if you pursued no aim other than the protection of your territory against the intrigues of Servian anarchists; but the procedure to which you have had recourse is not defensible.” He concluded: “Take back your ultimatum, modify its form, and I will guarantee you the result.”

The Austro-Hungarian Ambassador showed himself moved by this language; however, while awaiting instructions, he reserves the opinion of his Government. Without being discouraged M. Sazonof has decided to propose this evening to Count Berchtold the opening of direct conversations between Vienna and St. Petersburgh on the changes to be introduced into the ultimatum.

This friendly and semi-oflicial interposition of Russia between Austria and Servia has the advantage of being expeditious. I therefore believe it to be preferable to any other procedure and likely to succeed.

PALÉOLOGUE.
No. 55.
M. Dumaine, French Ambassador at Vienna, to M. Bienvenu-Martin, Acting Minister for Foreign Affairs.
Vienna, July 26, 1914.

M. Schebeko has returned hastily from a journey to Russia; he had only undertaken it after he had received an assurance from Count Berchtold that the demands on Servia would be thoroughly acceptable.

The Austro-Hungarian Ambassador at St. Petersburgh spoke in the same sense to M.Sazonof the evening before the delivery of the note. This procedure, which is quite usual in the diplomacy of the Monarchy, and which Baron Macchio has also employed towards me, seems to have greatly added to the irritation of the Russian Government.

M. Schebeko will make an effort, however, to profit by the delay which is indispensable for mobilization, in order to make a proposal for an arrangement, which will at least have the advantage of allowing us to measure the value of the pacific declarations of Germany. While we were talking over the situation this evening, in company with Sir M. de Bunsen, the latter received instructions from the Foreign Office with reference to the démarche to be attempted by the representatives of the four Powers less directly interested. I am expectinmg, therefore, that we may have to consult to-morrow with the Duke d’Avarna and with M. Tschirseky, who, in order to refuse his concurrence, will almost certainly entrench himself behind the principle of localizing the conflict.

My impression is that the Austro-Hungarian Government although surprised and perhaps regretting the vigour with which they have been inspired, will believe themselves obliged to commence military action.

DUMAINE.
NO. 56.
M. Bienvenu-Martin, Acting Minister for Foreig Affairs, to the President of the Council (on board the “La France,”) and to the French Ambassadors at London, St. Petersburgh, Berlin, Vienna, Rome.
Paris, July 26, 1914.

The summary of the Sevian reply to the Austrian note only reached us after twenty hours delay. Although the Servian Government had given way on all points, with the exception of two small reservations, the Austro-Hungarian Minister has broken off relations, thus proving the determined wish of his Government to proceed to execution on Servia.

According to a telegram from M. Jules Cambon, the British Ambassador thinks that there is a slight yielding; when he observed to Herr von Jagow that Sir Edward Grey did not ask him to intervene between Austria and Servia, but, as this question ceased to be localised, to intervene with England, France and Italy at Vienna and St. Petersbrrgh; the Secretary of State declared that he would do his best to maintain peace.

In the course of an interview between M. Barrère and the General Secretary of the Italian Ministry for Foreign Affairs, the latter indicated that probably the Italian Government would hot have approved the Austrian note; but as it was not communicated to them beforehand, the Government consider themselves by this fact relieved of all responsibility in the grave step taken by Austria.

The German Ambassador came this afternoon to make a communication to me relating to an intervention by France with Russia in a pacific sense. “Austria,” he said to me, ” has declared to Russia that she was not pursuing any territorial aggrandizement nor any attack on the integrity of the Kingdom of Servia; her only intention is to ensure her own tranquillity and to take police measures. The prevention of war depends on the decision of Russia; Germany feels herself identified with France in the ardent desire that peace may be maintained, and has the firm hope that Franec will use her influence in this sense at St. Petersburgh.”

I replied to this suggestion that Russia was moderate, that she had not committed any act which allowed any doubt as to her moderation, and that we were in agreement with her in seeking a peaceful solution of the dispute. It therefore appeared to us that Germany on her side ought to act at Vienna, where her action would certainly be effective, with a view to avoiding military operations leading to the occupation of Servia.

The Ambassador having observed to me that this could not be reconciled with the position taken up by Germany ” that the question concerned only Austria and Servia,” I told him that the mediation at Vienna and St. Petersburgh could be the act of the four other Powers less interested in the question.

Herr von Schoen then entrenched himself behind his lack of instructions in this respect, and I told him that in these conditions I did not feel myself in a position to take any action at St. Petersburgh alone.

The conversation ended by the renewed assurances of the Ambassador of the peaceful intention of Germany, whom he declared to be on this point identified with France.

BIENVENU-MARTIN.
No. 57.
Note for the Minister.
Paris, Sunday evening, July 26, 1914.

After the visit which he paid to the Minister at 5 o’clock in the afternoon, Baron von Schoen went this evening at 7 o’clock to the Direction Politique, to ask that in order to avoid the appearance in the newspapers of comments intended to influence public opinion, such as that in the Echo de Paris of the evening before, and in order to define exactly the sense of this démarches of the German Govermnent, a brief statement should be communicated to the press on the interview between the German Ambassador and the Minister for Foreign Affairs.

Herr von Schoen, in order to define what he had in his mind, suggested the following terms, which the Acting Political Director took down at his dictation: ” During the afternoon the ” German Ambassador and the Minister for Foreign Affairs had a fresh interview, in the course of which, in the most amicable spirit, and acting in an identical spirit of peaceful co-operation (sentiment de solidarité pacifique), they examined the means which might be employed to maintain general peace.”

The Acting Political Director replied at once, “Then, in your opinion, every thing is settled, and you bring us the assurance that Austria accepts the Servian note or will enter into conversations with the Powers on this matter?” The Ambassador having appeared surprised and having vigorously denied the suggestion, it was explained to him that if there was no modification in Germany’s negative attitude, the terms of the suggested “note to the press” were exaggerated, and of a nature to give a false security to French opinion by creating illusion on the real situation, the dangers of which were only too evident.

To the assurances lavished by the German Ambassador as to the optimistic impressions which he had formed, the Acting Political Director replied by asking if he might speak to him in a manner quite personal and private, as man to man, quite freely and without regard to their respective functions. Baron von Schoen asked him to do so.

M. Berthelot then said that to any simple mind Germany’s attitude was inexplicable if it did not aim at war; a purely objective analysis of the facts and the psychology of the Austro- German relations led logically to this conclusion. In the face of the repeated statement that Germany was ignorant of the contents of the Austrian note, it was no longer permissible to raise any doubt on that point; but was it probable that Germany would have arrayed herself on the side of Austria in such an adventure with her eyes closed? Did the psychology of all the past relations of Vienna and Berlin allow one to admit that Austria could have taken up a position without any possible retreat, before having weighed with her ally all the consequences of her uncompromising attitude? How surprising appeared the refusal by Germany to exercise mediating influence at Vienna now that she knew the extraordinary test of the Austrian note! What responsibility was the German Government assuming and what suspicions would rest upon them if they persisted in interposing between Austria and the Powers, after what might be called the absolute submission of Servia, and when the slightest advice given by them to Vienna would put an end to the nightmare which weighed on Europe!

The breaking off of diplomatic relations by Austria, her threats of war, and the mobilisation which she was undertaking make peculiarly urgent pacific action on the part of Germany, for from the day when Austrian troops crossed the Servian frontier, one would be faced by an act which without doubt would oblige the St. Petersburgh Cabinet to intervene, and would risk the unloosing of a war which Germany declares that she wishes to avoid.

Herr von Schoen, who listened smiling, once more affirmed that Germany had been ignorant of the text of the Austrian note1 and had only approved it after its delivery; she thought, however, that Servia had need of a lesson severe enough for her not to be able to forget it, and that Austria owed it to herself to put an end to a situation which was dangerous and intolerable for a great Power. He declared besides that he did not know the text of the Servian reply, and showed his personal surprise that it had not satisfied Austria, if indeed it was such as the papers, which are often ill informed, represented it to be.

He insisted again on Germany’s peaceful intentions and gave his impressions as to the effect that might arise from good advice given, for instance at Vienna, by England in a friendly tone. According to him Austria was not uncompromising; what she rejects is the idea of a formal mediation, the “spectre” of a conference: a peaceful word coming from St. Petersburgh, good words said in a conciliatory tone by the Powers of the Triple Entente, would have a chance of being well received. He added, finally, that he did not say that Germany on her side would not give some advice at Vienna.

In these conditions the Political Director announced that he would ask the Minister if it appeared to him opportune to communicate to the press a short note in a moderate tone.


1: Cf. No. 21, p. 153. Letter from the French Minister in Munich stating that the Bavarian President of the Council said, on July 23, that he had read the Austrian note to Servia.

Cf. also the British Diplomatic Correspondence, No. 95, page 74, in which Sir M. de Bunsen, British Ambassador at Vienna, states :–

“Although I am not able to verify it, I have Private information that the German Ambassador knew the text of the Austrian ultimatum to Servia before it was despatched and telegraphed it to the German Emperor. I know from the German Ambassador himself that he endorses every line of it.”
No. 58.
M. Chevalley, French Minister at Christiania, to M. Bienvenu-Martin, Aeting Minister for Foreign Affairs.
Christiania, July 26, 1914.

The whole German fleet in Norway has received orders to put to sea, The German authorities at Bergen declare that it is to make straight for Germany. German ships scattered in the Fjords to the north of Bergen were to join those which are in the neighbourhood of Stavanger.

CHEVALLEY.
No. 59.
M. d’Annoville, French Chargé d’Affaires at Luxemburg, to M. Bienvenu-Martin, Acting Minister for Foreign Affairs.
Luxemburg, July 26, 1914.

According to information which I have just received from Thionville, the four last classes set at liberty have been ordered to hold themselves at the disposition of the Kommandatur at any moment.

Without being completely mobilised the reservists are forbidden to go away from their place of residence.

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No. 28.
Count Szápáry to Count Berchtold.
(Telegraphic.) St. Petersburgh, July 26, 1914.

As the result of reports about measures taken for mobilisation.of Russian troops, Count Pourtalès has called the Russian Minister’s attention in the most serious manner to the fact that nowadays measures of mobilization would be a highly dangerous form of diplomatic pressure. For, in that event, the purely military consideration of the question by the general staffs would find expression, and if that button were once touched in Germany, the situation would get out of control.

M. Sazonof assured the German Ambassador on his word of honour that the reports on the subject were incorrect; that up to that time not a single horse and not a single reservist had been called up and that all the measures that were being taken were merely measures of preparation in the military districts of Kieff, Odessa, and perhaps Kasan and Moscow.

Immediately afterwards the Imperial German Military Attaché received by courier late in the evening an invitation from Suchomlinof, the Minister for War, who explained that Count Pourtalès had spoken with the Foreign Minister about the Russian military preparations, and as the Ambassador might have misunderstood certain military details, he was taking the opportunity of giving him more detailed information. In the following telegram from Count Pourtalès to Berlin which has been placed at my disposal, the pertinent communications from Major von Eggeling are collected:

“The Military Attaché reports with regard to a conversation with the Russian Minister of War: M. Sazonof had asked him to make the military position clear to me. The Minister for War gave me his word of honour that as yet no orders for mobilization of any kind had been issued. For the present merely preparatorv measures would be taken, not a horse would be taken, not a reservist called up. If Austria crossed the Servian frontier, the military districts of Kieff, Odessa, Moscow and Kasan, which face Austria, would be mobilized. In no circumstances will mobilization take place on the German front, Warsaw, Vilna and St. Petersburgh. Peace with Germany is earnestly desired. My question what was the object of the mobilization against Austria, was met with a shrug of the shoulders and a reference to the diplomatists. I gave the Minister for War to understand that his friendly intentions would be appreciated by us, but that we should also consider mobilization against Austria to be in itself extremely threatening. The Minister emphasized repeatedly and with great stress Russia’s urgent need of and earnest wish for peace.”
No. 29.
Count Berchtold to Count Mensdorff at London.
(Telegraphic.) Vienna, July 26, 1914.

Herr von Tschirschky informed me to-day in pursuance of his instructions that, according to a telegram from Prince Lichnowsky which had been despatched in London on the 25th of July at 3 p.m., Sir E. Grey had transmitted to the latter the sketch of an answer from Servia, and had remarked in the private letter accompanying it, that he hoped that the Berlin Cabinet in view of the conciliatory tenour of this answer would support its acceptance in Vienna.

I consider it desirable that your Excellency should again approach the matter with the Secretary of State, and call his attention to the fact that almost simultaneously with the transmission by him of this letter to Prince Lichnowsky, namely at 3 p.m. yesterday, Servia had ahready ordered the general mobilization of her army, which proves that no inclination for a peaceful solution existed in Belgrade. It was not till six o’clock, after mobilisation had been proclaimed, that the answer, which had apparently been previously telegraphed to London and the contents of which were not reconcilable with our demands, was delivered to the Imperial and Royal Minister at Belgrade.
No. 30.
Count Berchtold to the Imperial and Royal Ambassadors at Berlin, Rome, London, Paris, and St. Petersburgh.
(Telegraphic.) Vienna, July 26, 1914.

We have broken off diplomatic relations with Servia after she had refused the demands we had addressed to her. I beg your Excellency now to proceed at once to the Foreign Minister or his deputy, and to express yourself to him approximately to the following effect:

The Royal Servian Government have refused to accept the demands which we were forced to address to them in order to secure permanently our most vital interests which were menaced by them, and have thereby made it clear that they do not intend to abandon their subversive aims, tending towards continuous disorder in some of our frontier provinces and their final disruption from the Monarchy.

Reluctantly, therefore, and very much against our wish, we find ourselves obliged to compel Servia by the sharpest measures to make a fundamental change in the attitude of enmity she has up to now pursued.

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WWI: Letter of ultimatum

Thursday 23rd July 1914 was the day the Austro-Hungarian ministers had decided on for delivering their ultimatum to Serbia – with 48 hours to reply. On that day, Count von Berchtold, the Austro-Hungarian foreign minister, telegraphed to Count Albert von Mensdorff-Pouilly-Dietrichstein, the Austro-Hungarian ambassador at London:

As among the Entente Powers, Great Britain might be most easily led to form an impartial judgment on the step which we are to-day taking at Belgrade, I request Your Excellency in the conversation which you will have on the 24th instant on the occasion when you hand in our circular note at the Foreign Office, to point out among other matters that it would have been within the power of Servia to render less acute the serious steps which she must expect from us, by spontaneously doing what is necessary in order to start an inquiry on Servian soil against the Servian accomplices in the crime of 28th June, and by bringing to light the threads, which, as has. been proved, lead from Belgrade to Servia.

Up to the present time, although a number of notorious indications point to Belgrade, the Servian Government have not taken any steps in this direction; on the contrary, they have attempted to wipe out the existing traces.

Thus, from a telegraphic despatch from our Legation at Belgrade, it is to be gathered that the Servian civil servant Ciganovic, who is compromised by the independent testimony of the affidavits of both criminals, on the day of the outrage was still in Belgrade, and three days afterwards, when his name was mentioned in the papers, had already left the town. As is well known also, the director of the Servian press declared that Ciganovic is completely unknown in Belgrade.

With regard to the short time-limit attached to our demand, this must be attributed to our long experience of the dilatory arts of Servia.

The requirements which we demand that Servia should fulfil, and which indeed contain nothing which is not a matter of course in the intercourse between States which are to live in peace and friendship, cannot be made the subject of negotiations and compromise; and, having regard to our economic interests, we cannot take the risk of a method of political action by which it would be open to Servia at pleasure to prolong the crisis which has arisen.

At six in the evening, Baron Giesl von Gieslingen, the Austro-Hungarian Minister at Belgrade, handed this note – attached to the Austro-Hungarian ultimatum to Serbia – to Doctor Laza Patchou, the Acting Prime Minister of Serbia and Minister for Foreign Affairs:

Sir,

I have the honour to transmit to Your Excellency herewith the enclosed Note which I have received from my Government, addressed to the Royal Serbian Government.

Doctor Laza Patchou then telegraphed all the Serbian Legations abroad:

The Austro-Hungarian Minister handed me this afternoon at 6 p.m. a note in regard to the Serajevo outrage embodying the demands of the Austro-Hungarian Government, and insisting on a reply from the Serbian Government within two days, i.e., by Saturday, at 6 p.m. He informed me orally that he and his staff would leave Belgrade unless a favourable answer were forthcoming within the stipulated time.

Some of the Ministers being absent from Belgrade the Serbian Government have not as yet come to any decision, but I am in a position to state now that the demands are such that no Serbian Government could accept them in their entirety.

On that day the Russian Chargé d’Affaires at Belgrade telegraphed to Sergei Sazonov, the Russian Minister for Foreign Affairs:

The Austrian Minister, at 6 o’clock this evening, presented an ultimatum from his Government to the Minister of Finance, Patchou, in the absence of Pashitch [Nikola Pašić, the Serbian Prime Minister], requiring the acceptance of the demands contained therein within forty-eight hours. Giesl added verbally that, in the event of failure to accept the note integrally within forty-eight hours, he was under instructions to leave Belgrade with the staff of the legation. Pashitch and the other Ministers, who are away electioneering, have been recalled and are expected at Belgrade to-morrow, Friday, at 10 A.M. Patchou, who communicated to me the contents of the note, solicits the help of Russia and declares that no Servian Government could accept the demands of Austria.

The Russian Chargé d’Affaires at Belgrade sent the Serbian Letter of Ultimatum to Sergei Sazonov, the Russian Minister for Foreign Affairs, with this header:

TEXT of the note presented to the Servian Government by the Austro-Hungarian Minister to-day. [Here follows the text of the note]

Jean-Baptist Bienvenu-Martin, Minister for Justice and Acting Minister for Foreign Affairs, wrote to London, Berlin, St. Petersburgh, and Rome that evening:

According to information collected by the French Ambassador at Vienna, the first intention of the Austro-Hungarian Government been to proceed with the greatest severity against Servia while keeping eight army corps ready to start operations.

The disposition at this moment was more conciliatory; in answer to a question put to him by M. Dumaine, whom I instructed to call the attention of the Austro-Hungarian Government to the anxiety aroused in Europe, Baron Macchio stated to our Ambassador that the tone of the Austrian note, and the demands which would be formulated in it, allow us to count on a peaceful result. In view of the customary procedure of the Imperial Chancery I do not know what confidence ought to be placed in these assurances.
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WWI: a military expedition to be concluded by a speedy occupation

Serbian troops retreat through Albania, 1915In the House of Commons on 20th July, the Conservative MP for Plymouth, Shirley Benn, asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, “whether the Servians are now advancing upon Elbasan“?

The Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, Sir Francis Dyke Acland, Liberal MP for Camborne, replied:

A report has reached me that they have crossed the Albanian frontier, but I have no confirmation of it.

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WWI: the idea of a conflict of widespread dimensions

Alfred Dumaine - authorAlfred Dumaine, the French Ambassador at Vienna, wrote to René Viviani, the French Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs, on 19th July 1914:

The Chancellor of the Consulate, who has sent me his half-yearly report, in which he sums up the various economic facts which have been the subject of his study since the beginning of the year, has added a section containing political information emanating from a trustworthy source.

I asked him briefly to sum up the information which he has obtained regarding the impending presentation of the Austrian note to Servia, which the papers have for some days been persistently announcing.

You will find the text of this memorandum interesting on account of the accurate information which it contains.

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WWI: Aviation section

On 18th July 2014, Dr. M. Spalaikovitch, the Serbian Minister at St Petersburg, telegraphed to: Nikola Pašić, Serbian Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs (presumably, in response to the Prime Minister’s long telegram to all the legations abroad on 14th July):

I have spoken to the Assistant Minister for Foreign Affairs on the subject of the provocative attitude of the Korrespondenzbureau and the Vienna press.

M. Sazonof told me a few days ago that he wondered why the Austrian Government were doing nothing to put a stop to the futile agitation on the part of the press in Vienna which, after all, frightened nobody, and was only doing harm to Austria herself.

On 18th July 1914, the U.S. Congress formed the Aviation Section, U.S. Signal Corps, giving official status to aircraft within the U.S. Army for the first time.

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WWI: Italy neutral, London silent

On Friday 17th July 1914, M. M. S. Boskovitch, the Serbian Minister at London, telegraphed to Nikola Pašić, Serbian Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs:

The Austrian Embassy is making very great efforts to win over the English press against us, and to induce it to favour the idea that Austria must give a good lesson to Serbia. The Embassy is submitting to the news editors cuttings from our newspapers as a proof of the views expressed in our press. The situation may become more acute during the next few weeks. No reliance should be placed in the ostensibly peaceable statements of Austro-Hungarian official circles, as the way is being prepared for diplomatic pressure upon Serbia, which may develop into an armed attack. It is probable that as soon as Austria-Hungary has taken action at Belgrade she will change her attitude and will seek to humiliate Serbia.

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WII: “Energetically suppressed”

On Thursday 16th July 1914, Dr. M. Yovanovitch, Serbian Chargé d’Affaires at Berlin, telegraphed to Nikola Pašić, Serbian Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs:

The Secretary of State has informed me that the reports of the German Minister at Belgrade point to the existence of a Great Serbian propaganda, which should be energetically suppressed by the [Serbian] Government in the interest of good relations with Austria-Hungary.

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