Monday 4 August 2014

War is Looming

French Artillerymen and a 75mm Canon [X344/163]

Tuesday 4th August 1914: A great European war now seems inevitable. Germany has declared war on Belgium in order to better attack France. This small, peaceful country has taken no part in the sabre-rattling of the last days since the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand on 28th June. It has remained self-effacing and neutral. Belgium’s neutrality was guaranteed on its creation in 1839 by all the great powers including this country. It seems inconceivable that we can now stand by whilst this peaceful neighbour is brutalised by the Bully of Europe and his hordes. An ultimatum has been delivered by our ambassador in Berlin to their chancellor, Theobald von Bethmann-Hollweg, that Germany must renounce its declaration against Belgium by midnight their time otherwise a state of war will exist between us.

It seems a strange thing that this country should be at war with our German cousins and should be allied with our natural enemies the French, but these are strange times. A kind of madness seems to have descended on Germany seeping down, it seems clear, from their Kaiser who, the world has long suspected, is mentally unstable.  A despotic empire such as Germany, wholly under the rule of one man, will always reflect that man’s virtues or vices.

We know how easily Germany defeated France in 1870 and 1871, in less than a year they forced the French to humiliating terms. Then Germany was content to merely take the French provinces of Alsace and Lorraine. What will Germany want if it wins the coming war? Belgium at the least we can see disappearing into their iron jaws and very likely more of France too. That will give them naval bases less than a hundred miles from London and more territory to exploit in terms both of physical resources and of manpower. This is another reason why this country must oppose Germany. It must help to stiffen French resolve and boost her armies with our own. Together we can prevent a repeat of 1871, alone France will almost surely fail once again.

Throughout this conflict we will report on the operations of our gallant regiment at the front. The Bedfordshire Regiment has two battalions for active service. The 1st Battalion is at Mullingar in Ireland and will, we understand, form part of the 15th Brigade of the 5th Division. The 2nd battalion is in far-away South Africa at Roberts Heights, just outside Pretoria, we do not yet know the division to which it will be assigned. It seems certain however that more battalions will be raised as the war progresses. Lord Kitchener has given his opinion that any European war will last at least three years. If that is the case Britain will need a far larger army than anything we have ever had in our history, an army numbering several millions rather than a few hundred thousand.

We can only hope that this war will be all over by Christmas.

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