On this day in history… 1st August 1914

The summer of 1914 was momentous as world events go, as it saw the start of the First World War, a conflict that was to last for nearly four years and take millions of lives. 1st August was an important day on the timeline for the First World War, as this was the day on which Germany declared war on Russia.

The series of events that ended in the 1st August declaration of war began with the assassination of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand, who was shot along with his wife during a state visit to Serbia. In response to the killing, Austria-Hungary began to position itself to launch a military attack on Serbia and the country turned to its key ally Germany. During the weeks that followed there were various attempts made by other European countries, notable among them Britain and France, to try and forge a peaceful solution but Germany in particular was keen to avoid this.

Towards the end of July secret plans were being made to invade Serbia and at this stage Serbia’s big, powerful ally, Russia, became awake to the threat. At this point Austria-Hungary was considering issuing Serbia with an ultimatum, the terms of which included that any anti Austria-Hungary propaganda in Serbia should be suppressed and Austria-Hungary should be able to investigate the assassination of the Archduke itself. At this stage Russia made it clear that such an ultimatum directed at its ally would not be acceptable.

On 28th July Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia, despite numerous attempts by other countries to try to keep the peace. The Russian Tsar then agreed to mobilise the Russian army against Austria-Hungary and although the troop mobilisation was momentarily stalled, in the end it went ahead. At this point Germany believed that Britain, Russia and France would use the conflict to surround Germany and then destroy it. As a result, Germany issued Russia with an ultimatum that unless the troop mobilisation was stopped war would be declared.

On 1st August at 5pm Germany declared war on Russia. When the declaration was delivered the German ambassador asked the Russian foreign minister three times if he would back down but the answer was always no. As a result, Germany also began to mobilise its troops and the wheels of war began to turn – this was the day on which a war in Europe became an inevitability.

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