Friday, 1 August 2014

War Ilustrated

I inherited a box of bound volumes of The War Illustrated which once belonged to my paternal grandparents. This was a collection of the weekly magazine issued throughout World War One being mostly photographs and drawings with the occasional articles and news items, notably the first issue (published for the week ending 22nd August 1914) had an article by the author HG Wells.  As a child that latter fact went over my head as it was the drawings and photographs that fascinated me. As you would expect the journals took on a patriotic tone with sensationalist headlines but this would alter from 1916 onwards as the weariness of a interminable war dragged on.

The binding of the volume calls it "the conflict of nations" and of course we all know that it was also called the war to end all wars but the mentality of mankind made that statement wildly untrue and the same publishers produced a record of the Second World War in a similar format.  I thought I would revisit the Great War volumes and perhaps pick out some of the pictures I find historically or socially interesting as time goes on.

At the end of Volume One of War Illustrated they produced a list - "Our Diary of the War" starting from the date of June 28 "Assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife at Sarajevo".  The intrigues and machinations of countries vying for power all added to the inevitability of the disaster to come but this is how it appears in the volume with chilling simplicity:

July 23 - Austro-Hungarian 48 hour ultimatum to Serbia 
July 24 - The Russian Cabinet considers Austrian action a challenge to Russia
July 27 - Sir Edward Grey proposes conference, to which France and Italy agree
July 28 - Austria-Hungary declares war against Serbia
July 29 - Austrians bombard Belgrade. Tsar appeals to Kaiser to restrain Austria.
July 30 - Russia mobilises sixteen army corps. Bombardment of Belgrade
July 31 - State of war declared in Germany.  General mobilisation ordered in Russia. London Stock Exchange closed. Jean Jaurès assassinated.

A quote by Jaurès who was assassinated in the Parisian café, Le Croissant, and who wished to prevent war, the voice of reason...
"What will the future be like, when the billions now thrown away in preparation for war are spent on useful things to increase the well-being of people, on the construction of decent houses for workers, on improving transportation, on reclaiming the land? The fever of imperialism has become a sickness. It is the disease of a badly run society which does not know how to use its energies at home."-- Jean Jaurès
Which brings us to today 100 years ago and the War Illustrated note of the day

August 1 - Germany sends 12 hours' ultimatum to Russia to stop mobilising and declares war.  Mobilisation in Austria, France, Belgium and Holland.  Italy declares neutrality.  Sir John French appointed Inspector-General of the Forces. British Naval Reserves called up.  Bank Rate 10 per cent. Theophile Delcasse French War Minister. Montenegro identifies herself with Serbia. 

An extract from the Liberal Prime Minster Herbert Asquith's diary for the 1st August shows how things unravelled
"A long message from Berlin to the effect that the German Ambassador's efforts for peace have been suddenly arrested and frustrated by teh Czar's decree for complete Russian mobilisation. We all set to work to draft a personal appeal from the King to the Czar. When we had settled it, I called a taxi and, in company with Tyrrell,  (I presume this refers to Sir William Tyrrell, Sir Edward Grey's private secretary) drove to Buckingham Palace by about 1.30 am. The king was hauled out of his bed and one of my strangest experiences was sitting with him, clad in a dressing gown while I read the message from Berlin and the proposed answer The text was as follows: 'I cannot help thinking that some great misunderstanding has produced this deadlock.  I am most anxious not to miss any possibility of avoiding the terrible calamity which at present threatens the whole world. I therefore make a personal appeal to you'

The czar promptly replied:

"I would have gladly accepted your proposal had not the German Ambassador this afternoon presented a note to my Government declaring war". 
 Forces had been set in motion which nobody could stop.

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