A Popular History of The Great War/Volume 1/Page 43
The British government, which had been carefully watching the march of events, was foremost in seeking to keep the peace, or at least to localise the dispute. Sir Edward Grey, then foreign minister, proposed to Germany, France and Italy that a conference should be held, but Germany refused on the ground that Russia and Austria were intending to negotiate. Thus two precious days, the 26th and 27th, passed. On the 29th Austrian troops began to bombard Belgrade, and on the 30th the position was definitely worse. Russia and Belgium started to mobilize their armies; Britain and Germany took steps to have their fleets in readiness for action. Negotiations went on during the day, but the results were negative. Britain refused to consider the informal German proposal that she should remain neutral on condition that, a successful war being assumed, Germany made no conquests in Europe at the expense of France, and undertook to respect Belgian integrity if she did not side against Germany. Equally Britain refused to give the French ambassador in London a definite understanding to fight for France and Russia.
The position on the morning of July 31 was summarised in a telegram sent by Sir Edward Grey to Sir Edward Goschen, the British ambassador in Berlin. This diplomatic extract, like several others that are mentioned in this chapter, is taken from the official white paper.
- I hope that the conversations which are now proceeding between Austria and Russia may lead to a satisfactory result. The stumbling block hitherto has been Austrian mistrust of Servian assurances, and Russian mistrust of Austrian intentions with regard to the independence and integrity of Servia. It has occurred to me that, in the event of this mistrust preventing a solution being found by Vienna and St. Petersburg, Germany might sound Vienna, and I would undertake to sound St. Petersburg, whether it would be possible for the four disinterested Powers to offer to Austria that they would undertake to see that she obtained full satisfaction of her demands on Servia, provided that they did not impair Servian sovereignty and the integrity of Servian territory. As your Excellency is aware, Austria has already declared her willingness to respect them. Russia might be informed by the four Powers that they would undertake to prevent Austrian demands going the length of impairing Servian sovereignty and integrity. All Powers would, of course, suspend further military operations or preparations. You may sound the secretary of state about this proposal.