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Covering the villages of Wilsden and Harecroft
11th August - 17th August 1914

This Week in 1914

As German troops advance across Belgium, driving waves of Belgian civilians before them, the British army, only 160,000 strong, makes preparations to deploy to Europe. Recruiting to the army skyrockets – at the start of 1914, recruiting was around one hundred men per day; after the outbreak of war, it rose to over 1500 per day.

August 12thThe British Expeditionary Force (BEF) begins to cross the English Channel. In ten days, 120,000 men, 4 full divisions, were transported to France, without the loss of a single man. The operation was so successful, and undertaken in such secrecy, that even after ten days of continuous movement the German High Command doubted whether any serious numbers of British troops had arrived in France.

- Britain and France both declare war on Austro-Hungary, despite protests from diplomats of all three countries that there was no cause for quarrel between those nations. Two naval blockades are put into place, by the British to prevent cargo being shipped to Germany’s North Sea ports, and by the French to prevent trade to Austria’s Adriatic ports.

“The British change the whole situation – an obstinate nation. They will keep up the war. It cannot end soon”

- Kaiser Wilhelm, upon being assured that German troops would soon enter Paris and end the war, 11th August 1914


Sources

Gilbert, M First World War

4th August - 10th August 1914

This Week in 1914

“The lamps are going out all over Europe. We shall not see them lit again in our lifetime” – Sir Edward Grey, British Foreign Secretary
“Average men and women were delighted at the prospect of war” – Bertrand Russell, British philosopher


The Outbreak of War

At 11pm GMT, on Tuesday 4th August 1914, the British imposed deadline for German forces to withdraw from Belgium expired. Britain was now formally at war with Germany. Outside Buckingham Palace, one of the largest crowds ever to assemble in London shouted and cheered, and sang the National anthem as the King and Queen waved from their balcony.

The declaration of war was the culmination of escalating tensions between the Central Powers of Germany and Austro-Hungary, and the Triple Entente of Britain, France and Russia. Exacerbated by nationalist movements in Eastern Europe, military expansion in Western Europe, and fears over German attempts to gain territory in the Middle East and Africa, the war can be seen to have been triggered in part by the assassination in Belgrade of the successor to the Austro-Hungarian throne, Archduke Franz Ferdinand, by Gavrilo Princip, a member of a Serbian separatist group. Austro-Hungary declared war on Serbia – dragging in Russia, as allies of Serbia, and Germany, with her own expansionist aims, allied to Austro-Hungary. Old treaties and agreements pulled in France to the European conflict, and Germany responded by forcibly occupying Belgium in order to attack the French frontier. Britain, allied to Belgium since 1839, issued an ultimatum – which was ignored. Mobilisation of the British Expeditionary force had already begun, and by the middle of August 80,000 soldiers had been shipped to the continent.

 4th August - 10th August 1914

- Keighley News, 1st August 1914


“The worst has happened, and this country, along with the rest of the Great Powers of Europe, is involved in the common calamity of war. Events have moved with a terrifying rapidity. A fortnight ago this awful catastrophe of a Europe in arms and engaged in actual fighting on sea and land would have been regarded as unimaginable … However; the die has been cast, and it rests with all of us to bear ourselves with calm and united front in face of the terrible situation that has arisen…

- Keighley News, 8th August 1914



Sources

Gilbert, M First World War

Keighley News Archives (accessed via Bradford libraries website)

Askwith, R (ed.) A History of the Great War in 100 Moments