On August 4, in the early hours, Britain declared a state of war would exist, if the German troops would not withdraw from Belgium. This ultimatum went without reply and thus, war was declared changing the Anglo-German relations in the 20th century beyond recognition.
After the most of July 1914 passes relatively quiet, the tension increased and eventually led to declarations of war on various scenes. Russia mobilized its troops and a few days later, Germany declared war on Russia. At the beginning of August France also announced to get its army ready for conflict. The German sculptress Käthe Kollwitz quoted a friend of her feeling relieved that the orders have now come to mobilize the armies as the tension of the previous has become unbearable. The French reacted aghast. Georges Clemenceau noted:
There was no joy of the masses, just determination.
And Marc Bloch later remembered that people were not overjoyed but determined which he considered to be a better trait to go into war than celebration. Conflict began in all seriousness on August 3 when German troops invaded Belgium and France. This in return triggered the declaration of war from Britain on Germany on August 4. A commentator to The Times offered his view about ‘the war madness:’
A nation’s first duty is to its own people. We are asked to intervene in the Continental war because unless we do we shall be ‘isolated’. The isolation which will mean result for us if we keep out of this war is that, while other nations are torn and weakened by war, we shall not be, and by that fact might conceivably for a long time be the strongest Power in Europe, and, by virtue of our strength and isolation, its arbiter, perhaps, to useful ends […] We can best serve civilization, Europe – including France – and ourselves by remaining the one Power in Europe that has not yielded to the war madness.
Against all this, Britain nonetheless was forced to declare war on Germany as the Emperor’s armies invaded Belgium, a country that remained neutral. Prime Minister H. H. Asquith meanwhile spoke of Winston Churchill, who held the position of First Lord of Admiralty as being
‘in tearing spirits at the prospect of a war, which to me shows a lack of imagination.’
The date brought about a war that was avoidable. Moreover it is the point after which the Anglo-German relations were unrecognizable for most of the 20th century. It ended the amical relations between Britain and Germany. It paved the way for phrases such as the name of this blog Do Not Mention The War or Two World Wars and One World Cup among others. The Great War as it known in Britain is thus a watershed moment in Anglo-German relations that set the pattern for the following conflict just 20 years after it ended.
The war might have begun 4 days earlier but the Anglo-German relations that seemed to define the era until 1914, developed in a negative direction after this date. Generally speaking, the lamps went out all over Europe, as British Foreign Secretary Sir Edward Grey stated soon after the conflict started. They stayed out for a while but the shape of Europe was distinctively altered once they were back on. As were the Anglo-German relations for the remainder of the 20th century.