1/8/1914 Britain makes Germany an astonishing offer

In the morning, German ambassador Lichnowsky meets with William Tyrrell, Grey’s private secretary. Tyrrell suggests that if Germany did not attack France then Britain would not just remain neutral, it would also guarantee French neutrality. Grey then telephones to confirm this stunning offer, which Lichnowsky telegrams back to Berlin forthwith.

It is Saturday, yet the cabinet is meeting. This is most unusual. The cabinet is still avoiding a decision on what to do if a European war breaks out. Churchill, however, has sounded out the Conservative opposition and obtained their support for British intervention, which may come in handy if the cabinet’s divisions cause the government to fall.

The question of Belgium is a key one, with the importance of its neutrality being respected something almost everyone can agree on. Germany has not responded to inquiries as to whether it will leave Belgium alone. Grey is authorised to send another note to Lichnowsky, the German ambassador, asking again as to Germany’s intentions towards Belgium and warning of serious consequences if it does not provide assurances.

Dramatis Personae

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