A Popular History of The Great War/Volume 1/Page 48

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THE FATEFUL THIRTEEN DAYS


with sealed orders, was sent to take command in place of Sir George Callaghan. During the morning Sir Edward Grey saw the French ambassador and gave him the following undertaking:

I am authorised to give the assurance that if the German fleet comes into the Channel or through the North Sea to undertake hostile operations against the French coast or shipping the British fleet will give all the protection in its power.

Immediately afterwards Mr. Churchill and the French naval attaché in London prepared a plan for the mutual cooperation of the two navies. The effect of these anxious hours on the mind is well described by Sir Edward Grey in his book, "Twenty-Five Years."

The strain for every member of the Cabinet must have been intense. In addition to Cabinets, I had the strain of holding conversations of great moment with ambassadors, of dictating after each the summary of it that appeared eventually as a telegram or dispatch to the British ambassador at Berlin or Paris, or elsewhere. Some telegrams were not dictated, but were written with my own hand. Communications vitally important at this moment were daily being received through foreign ambassadors in London, verbally, or through British ambassadors abroad by telegram. These, however critical, had to be considered and dealt with promptly, for every hour mattered.

Equally exciting was the day in Paris, where ministers had just informed Russia that France was prepared to fulfill her obligations under the alliance. During the night or early in the morning German soldiers entered French territory and French airmen flew over German and Belgian soil, at least so it was asserted. A French corporal was killed by a German, and there were other incidents. The German chancellor, Bethmann-Hollweg, made the most of these happenings, and describing them as "the most serious violation of neutrality imaginable," he prepared, between one and two p.m., a declaration of war which was delivered in Paris at six p.m., and was couched in the following terms:

The German administrative and military authorities have established a number of flagrantly hostile acts committed on German territory by French military aviators. Several of these have openly violated the neutrality of Belgium by flying over the territory of that country. One has attempted to destroy buildings near Wesel; others have been seen in the district of the Eifel, one has thrown bombs on the railway near Karlsruhe and Nurnberg. I am instructed, and I have the honour to inform your Excellency that, in the presence of these acts of aggression, the German empire considers itself in a state of war with France in consequence of the acts of this latter Power.
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