Friday, 25 July 2014

Countdown to War, Day 28. 25 July: Austria-Hungary pressurises Serbia; Alliance and Entente manoeuvre

One hundred years ago today, on Saturday 25 July 1914, the Manchester Guardian would have added further fuel to the fears the previous day had woken in Martin, our young railwayman. 

A leader, baldly headlined “The European Crisis” considered Austria-Hungary's demands of Serbia, contained in its Diplomatic Note:

The Austrian Note to Servia is very stiff in its terms, but would not any country be angry which believed that the heir to its throne had been assassinated by a conspiracy of army officers in a neighbouring country and in furtherance of a design to detach one of its provinces from its allegiance?

The leader writer set out to take a balanced of the two states, pointing out that:

The strictly correct course for Austria would have been to send copies of the depositions of the Sarayevo inquiry to Belgrade, to ask the Government to try and punish the incriminated officials in accordance with her law, and, further, to take steps to fulfil the promises [of good neighbourliness it had made in 1909]. She has not asked her to inquire into and punish the offences of her subjects, but to apologise at once and inquire afterwards.

For these reasons, Serbia had a right to be aggrieved, and say so. But:

On all other grounds Servia would be well advised, on political grounds, not to press the legal objections to Austria’s Note, but to promise once more to be a good neighbour, to take the necessary disciplinary steps, to express regret for any unlawful actions of her subjects, and to undertake to try all officers and civil servants against whom Austria makes out a prima facie case.

So far so good, even if it was all a bit pious, a bit too much like wishful thinking. Concessions by Serbia might save the peace, but would she make them? Would Austria-Hungary accept them as sufficient if they were offered?

“Don’t be silly,” said the Cynic, “Austria-Hungary wants war. King Peter could crawl on his belly to Vienna and still they’d want war.”

“But why?” asked one of the other railwaymen, the very question Martin wanted answered,
 “Why would anyone want war for something they could get without one?”

“Because their little mates in Berlin are calling the shots. And the Germans want to tempt the Russians to over-reach so they can stitch 
em up. And the French.”

Franz Joseph I of Austria-Hungary with Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany
Who really holds the reins? Who's leading the way?
The very next words in the article seemed to confirm his view.

We deeply regret that Russia has decided to encourage Servia in resistance to Austria.

Russia? He’d already felt a couple of times over the last week that Russia’s name was cropping up in the news a little too often, in contexts where, it seemed to him, nothing was happening that was in any sense their business. Now it looked as though the Tsar was indeed testing his reach. And what made that most worrying was all the talk of that Dual Alliance Russia had with France which might involve her in any conflict and, as a result of her Entente with both powers, Britain too.

The leader writer concluded on just that point.

Our Ambassador in St Petersburg seems to have been consulted by the Russian Government in the course of yesterday. But we hope that he gave no sort of encouragement to Russian policy, and in any case it will be [Foreign Secretary] Sir Edward Grey’s task not to destroy our influence for good in Europe by marching us into the camp of the Dual Alliance, or for that matter into any camp.

President Poincaré of France with Tsar Nicholas II of Russia
Would they expect Britain to join them if it came to war?
“Good God, no,” said Martin, “None of this has anything to do with Britain. Why would we get involved? I’m sorry that the Archduke and his wife were murdered, but it isn’t our quarrel. What do we need to do except send condolences?”

“Wait and see,” said the Cynic.

Meanwhile, in other areas business continued as usual. 

A cargo of arms had been intercepted off Queenstown, the port of Dublin. 

As war loomed, Manchester was planning to celebrate peace and had set up a special committee to organise festivities for the centenary of peace between Britain and America. A good antidote to all the sabre rattling on the Continent.

And Middlesex had lost its first match of the entire season. Now that was a turn up for the books. Not that it was likely to do much good for Lancashire, which had made a bad start against Yorkshire in “some dull cricket” in Hull.

Finally, it seemed that “the second annual open tournament in connection with Bowden Croquet Club, which has proved highly successful, concludes to-day.”

Really? Were there people genuinely interested in that kind of stuff, he wondered? With war on the horizon and Lancashire doing so badly in the County Championship?


Anonymous said...

An eventful day.



David Beeson said...

The snowball's gathering mass...