Germany strikes at Belgium and Britain declares war
Today an apology from Germany’s president
Special to The Great War Project
(4 August) On this day a century ago, Germany invades Belgium.
Germany insists the Belgian government refrain from destroying bridges and railways along the invasion route.
And the Germans demand that Belgium open a fortress at Liege that blocks the way. Backed by assurances from Britain, Belgium refuses.
Germany’s attack on Belgium ignores an ultimatum from Britain earlier in the day threatening war if Germany violates Belgium’s neutrality.
Germany launches its invasion seven hours before Britain’s ultimatum to Germany is set to expire. The invasion is met with unexpected resistance from the Belgian army.
The Belgians refuse to give up the fortress. That is not in the German war plans.
Now a fateful decision confronts the British government.
That Tuesday night, anxious crowds gather at Buckingham Palace in London.
At 11:00 pm precisely a century ago, Britain declares war on Germany. King George V, the queen, and their son appear on the palace balcony. The cheering is terrific, notes one observer.
The war for Europe now becomes a world war.
In Berlin, crowds appear quickly at the British Embassy, throwing stones and smashing windows.
By midnight this date a century ago, historians note that five empires are at war, Austria-Hungary against Serbia; Germany against France, Britain and Russia; Russia against Germany and Austria-Hungary; and Britain and France against Germany.
Today, this very day a century after these events, the president of Germany, speaking at an event held in Liège to mark the start of the First World War, said Germany’s invasion of Belgium was “completely unjustifiable”.
The event, at the Cointe Allies War Memorial, was attended by fifty heads of state, including King Philippe, the current king of Belgium.
During the event, Germany’s Federal President Joachim Gauck said that the First World War had begun with what he described as “Germany’s completely unjustifiable invasion of neutral Belgium.”