The Darkest Days: The Truth Behind Britain's Rush to War, 1914

The Darkest Days: The Truth Behind Britain's Rush to War, 1914

Douglas Newton

Language: English

Pages: 416

ISBN: 1781688168

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

The centenary of the outbreak of the First World War may be commemorated by some as a great moment of national history. But the standard history of Britain’s choice for war is far from the truth. Using a wide range of sources, including the personal papers of many of the key figures, some for the first time, historian Douglas Newton presents a new, dramatic narrative. He interleaves the story of those pressing for a choice for war with the story of those resisting Britain’s descent into calamity. He shows how the decision to go to war was rushed, in the face of vehement opposition, in the Cabinet and Parliament, in the Liberal and Labour press, and in the streets. There was no democratic decision for war.

The history of this opposition has been largely erased from the record, yet it was crucial to what actually happened in August 1914. Two days before the declaration of war four members of the Cabinet resigned in protest at the war party’s manipulation of the crisis. The government almost disintegrated. Meanwhile large crowds gathered in Trafalgar Square to hear the case for neutrality and peace. Yet this cry was ignored by the government. Meanwhile, elements of the press, the Foreign Office, and the Tory Opposition sought to browbeat the government into a quick decision. Belgium had little to do with it.

The key decision to enter the war was made before Belgium was invaded. Those bellowing for hostilities were eager for Britain to enter any war in solidarity with Russia and France – for the future safety of the British Empire. In particular Newton shows how Prime Minister H. H. Asquith, Foreign Minister Sir Edward Grey, and First Lord of the Admiralty Winston Churchill colluded to pre-empt the decisions of Cabinet, to manipulate the parliament, and to hurry the nation toward intervention by any means necessary.

From the Hardcover edition.

Ellen Wilkinson: From Red Suffragist to Government Minister (Revolutionary Lives)

Look Back in Anger: The Miners' Strike in Nottinghamshire 30 Years on

Hurrah for the Blackshirts!: Fascists and Fascism in Britain Between the Wars

Yorkshire Dales (Collins New Naturalist Library, Volume 130)

Franklin and Winston: An Intimate Portrait of an Epic Friendship













And Italy had negotiated their way through the tensions arising from the two Balkan Wars of 1912–13. Lichnowsky reported this interview optimistically to Berlin, noting Grey’s assurances about muzzling Russia. But even by 15 July, Lichnowsky was more anxious, reporting that Grey might not be able to hold Russia back. He noted that Grey had again specified that ‘everything would depend on what kind of intervention was contemplated by Austria and that under no circumstances ought Serbia to be.

In order to dissuade Russia; the Russians were urging Britain to declare unconditional ‘solidarity’, and threatened to declare Britain’s friendship ‘valueless’ unless she did so. Under Grey’s policy of deliberate ambiguity, Britain would do neither thing. Asquith explained also that this Cabinet had decided to postpone any discussion of ‘our precise obligations in regard to the neutrality of Belgium’.66 It was clever, and expedient. The politically safer course at home, preserving Cabinet unity,.

Of ambassadors in London.11 Grey was still not angry. On that same day, he told Lichnowsky that a conference between the Austrian ambassador and the Russian officials in St Petersburg was ‘the best possible solution’.12 By this time, of course, the news of the Russian response to the Austrian ultimatum, Russia’s partial mobilisation, followed by the Austrian declaration of war against Serbia about midday on Tuesday 28 July, had severely disabled any prospect of the Austro-Russian talks bearing.

Implacable: he was convinced that Britain must intervene in a European conflict, based ultimately on loyalty to the Entente, whether or not Belgium was invaded. Projecting an inscrutable diplomacy might hold the Cabinet together – but not if diplomacy collapsed. The ‘Warning Telegram’, Wednesday 29 July Next the discussion in Cabinet turned to military preparations. Here the Cabinet made a decision scarcely reconcilable with ‘apparent indecision’ – it decided that the official ‘Warning.

Known to be wavering. A small group of these dissenting ministers, some mulling over their own resignations, made their way to the home of Earl Beauchamp, Halkyn House in Belgrave Square, to debate their next move over lunch.6 Soon the marchers, accompanied by large banners and a band, joined the throng already filling Trafalgar Square. When Keir Hardie was assisted onto the plinth of Nelson’s column and the rally for peace and neutrality began at 4 p.m., the crowd was estimated at between.

Download sample