Blogs Coffee House From the archive The Spectator at war

‘We believe Germany made the war’

3 August 2014

10:00 AM

3 August 2014

10:00 AM

The 1914 editions of The Spectator in the days surrounding the declaration of war give a sense of bewilderment. At first they couldn’t believe it would happen. After Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated by Serbian nationalists on 28th June 1914, Austria-Hungary’s handed Serbia a list of demands, which looked like a provocation of war:

It is hard to see how Servia could acquiesce in them without in effect making an admission of guiltiness which she must naturally feel it impossible to make.

But even now, on the 25th July 1914, the magazine was optimistic:

Though it is difficult to regard Austria-Hungary as politically a wise Power or to look upon the statesmen who control her destinies just now as men of foresight, we cannot think it possible that she is intent upon attacking Servia. Hostilities begun on these terms would be almost certain to involve first the rest of the Balkan peninsula and then Europe as a whole. No doubt nations sometimes go mad, but, distracted as Austria-Hungary no doubt is, both by her home and her foreign policy, there is no reason to think that insanity or anything approaching it has fallen on her…We cannot believe that the Emperor Francis Joseph, who, even if his statesmen are wanting in foresight and ability, has plenty of these qualities, will agree to so mad an adventure at the very end of his life. He may let his Government threaten the Servians with war, but we do not believe that he will let them go to war. Even if things look blacker than they do now, we shall feel confident that in the last resort he will intervene in favour of a peaceful solution. We shall not, then, believe in an Austro-Hungarian attack upon Servia, or in the likelihood of Austria-Hungary making diplomatic demands of a kind which the Servians could not possibly agree to, until such an attack and such demands have actually been made.

A week later, though, it seemed more sinister, because Austria Hungary’s demands seemed to be wholly endorsed by Germany.

We can hardly doubt that if the Germans were really taken by surprise by Austria-Hungary’s action, and were anxious for peace, they would long ago have acted as mediators and found some way of preventing Austria-Hungary from provoking Russia to mobilization, while at the same time saving the face of their ally…It is to be feared, however, that Germany was not taken by surprise, but had all along known Austria-Hungary’s intentions and endorsed them, and, further, that Germany believes that it is with her a case of “now or never,” and that she could not get the great war over under conditions more favourable to her than those which present themselves now. If that is Germany’s view, then there can be very little hope, unless, as we have already indicated, Germany can at the eleventh hour be made to feel through the action of Italy that this is not so favourable a time for war as she supposes.


Nevertheless The Spectator still thought war could be avoided, but the options were narrowing; Italy had to abandon its alliance with Germany and Austria-Hungary:

War can now be stopped only by force or the threat of force, and, by a strange irony, it is the least strong and least populous of the great European Powers which can exercise this force. If, even at the eleventh hour, Italy were to tell her two colleagues in the Triple Alliance that if they did not agree to a peaceful solution of the present crisis she will not only leave the Triple Alliance, but will pass over to the other side, ally herself with the Powers of the Triple Entente, and form with them a Quadruple Alliance in the interests of peace, we believe that Austria-Hungary must yield. In proof of this one has only to think what it would mean for Italy to throw in her lot with the Entente. It would mean that the Italians would move on the Brenner, the Trentino, the Austrian Tyrol, and Trieste, and that Austria-Hungary must either abandon these regions or else wage a war with three fronts—with Servia on her Eastern borders, with Italy on the south, with Russia on the north, while at the same time Roumania attacked Transylvania, and a Franco-British squadron overawed the ‘Arian and Dalmatian coasts. Such pressure Austria-Hungary could not resist.

The British government was doing all it could to prevent Europe descending into war. Sir Edward Grey told the Commons that ‘It must be obvious to any person who reflects upon the situation that the moment the dispute ceases to be one between Austria-Hungary and Servia and becomes one in which another Great Power is involved, it can but end in the greatest catastrophe that has ever befallen the Continent of Europe at one blow; no one can say what would be the limit of the issues that might be raised by such a conflict; the consequences of it, direct and indirect, would be incalculable.’ When Austria-Hungary broke off relations with Serbia, he tried to convene a conference in London between Germany, France, Italy and Britain, but Germany wasn’t interested. He had done all he could, The Spectator said:

In England the Government have been doing the right thing in the right way, that is to say, they have done their very best to stop the war or to minimize its effect, but, at the same time, and with a minimum of provocative action, they have clearly indicated that we do not mean to play a selfish or a narrow part. If the worst comes to the worst we shall stand loyally by our friends and our virtual engagements – a policy dictated alike by honour and by self-interest. It cannot be necessary to add that if we are forced into war it will be no half-hearted effort upon our part, but war waged by land and sea with the utmost vigour, and also with that careful but determined initiative which is the secret of military success. Owing to the great review preliminary to the naval manoeuvres, practically our whole fleet is mobilized. We do not doubt that if a Russian land mobilization is followed by a German mobilization, and that, again, by a French mobilization, our Reserves will also be called out and the Territorial Force embodied, and, further, that an expeditionary force will be equipped and sent to North-Eastern France to co-operate with the French Field Army.

If the great struggle is to come no man can predict its result, but at least we can feel in this country that we have done nothing to provoke the strife and that we shall be fighting in self-preservation and fighting with honour and honesty. We can also feel, though we do not care to dwell upon such a point, that so far as we are concerned the moment is favourable. The Fleet actually mobilized is, we believe, capable of fulfilling all the requirements of the nation. It never was in better heart. The Army is sound and well equipped, if small. It is, indeed, not too much to say that for quality, both of officers and men, it is now the best in the world. The harvest, which is being reaped, is a very bountiful one, and thus if war comes it will find us with our food supplies at the maximum and not the minimum point. August is our high-water mark as June is our low-water mark.

Even before war was declared, it was clear it would be all-out war:

The object of war is to beat the enemy —to win. You cannot have war with a limited liability. You cannot hope for a half-success in war. If you strike at all you must strike with all your strength, whether of heart or hand. You must remember that the half- blow will enrage your enemy just as much as the blow that crushes. Keep out of a quarrel as long as you possibly can, but once at war put every man, every shilling, and every ounce of strength you possess into the fray. Such whole measures may shorten war very materially or may even stop war, a feat which half-hearted blows, like other half-measures, can never achieve.

‘We have no quarrel with Austria-Hungary. We have never in our history been at war with her; we respect her, and the last thing in the world that we desire is that she should commit suicide because Germany has—alas, for the peace of the world—got it into her head that it is a case of “now or never.” That, after all, is why we are on the brink of what may well prove the most appalling war in the history of the world.

It was Britain’s duty to take a hard line, but as an editorial argued, it was also in our interests.

Neither from the point of view of honour and good faith nor from that of national safety is it possible for us to stand out of war if war comes. We will go further and say that, though things look very black as we write, the one chance of peace lies in Germany and Austria-Hungary being made to understand that we are going to stand by Russia and France absolutely and without restriction. At present they do not believe that, but think that we can be cajoled or bullied out of doing our duty. If it is known that there is no chance of such cajolery or bullying being effective, then there is a chance, even at the eleventh hour, that Germany may say to Austria-Hungary: “You have done enough to vindicate your honour and to humiliate Servia—you must withdraw before the final catastrophe. Armageddon is too uncertain to be worth fighting—just now.“’

And by the time the next edition was printed, on the 8th August, the First World War had begun. It was beginning to look like it wasn’t something Europe had muddled its way into, but something that Germany had deliberately created.

We believe Germany made the war, and made it because she feared that unless war came now she might have to give up her strongest national aspiration – the aspiration to be a great World Power, dominant in Europe, with vast dependencies abroad, and able to command the sea…that is what she thinks it worthwhile to have set the world in flames to get. We fully admit that, put out in cold blood, the view we have given of the origin of the war seems incredible. Our defence of it is that at least it does supply the only explanation that has yet been suggested, except that of pure panic, which will meet the facts. Germany does not think of war of a crime, though of course she thinks it a misfortune, and, still further, she thinks of it as an instrument of policy, and not merely as the last resort in a conflict of wills.

‘…If the Germans win, there will be no place left in the world for the little independent nations. They know that they will always have genuine friends and protectors in Britain, not out of policy, but out of the British creed that they have a right to live. Quite apart from our own safety, we ardently desire that they shall continue to exist, because we hold that both in the matter of liberty and moral and intellectual progress they are of the greatest possible use to mankind. We have no desire to see the earth monopolized by some three or four great nations. Free competition is as good in the political as in the economic world….The English view and the German view of war and of world policy, of national independence, and of the maintenance of the system of independent States, have now come into violent conflict. We shall not make any boastful prophecies, but we firmly believe not only that we are in the right, but that we have the power and the will to defend the right, and that in this sign we shall conquer. At any rate, we enter the battle as a nation with a perfectly clear conscience. We are not striving for dominion, nor to deprive any other Power of its just rights or of its independence. We are fighting the good fight of freedom.’

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  • Dean Jackson

    In one of the many senseless campaigns fought on the Western Front, the Cambrai campaign (20 November 1917 – 7 December 1917) witnessed more than 44,000 casualties, including 7,000 servicemen of the United Kingdom and South Africa dying for zero ground claimed. That 44,000 casualty figure should have been used instead for the more critical campaign against the Bolsheviks in Petrograd, resulting in the re-entry of Russia into the war, thereby sparing the exhausted Allies the prospect of facing (1) thirty German divisions previously deployed against Russia on the Eastern Front; (2) Austro-Hungarian divisions freed from the Russian Western Front; and (3) Ottoman divisions freed from the Caucasus Campaign. In fact, a 60,000 strong Allied military unit was already in Russia (the Ukraine) at the time–the Czechoslovak Legion–and could have been used to overthrow the Bolsheviks if the Allied powers so wished. Instead, the Czechoslovak Legion was sent on a 6,000 mile odyssey across Russia, its destination Vladivostok on the Pacific coast for passage back to Europe and the war, instead of sending the legion 700 miles due north to Petrograd and collapse the Bolshevik coup. The politicians of the West were doing all they could to (1) protect the fledgling Bolshevik regime in Petrograd; while (2) sabotaging every opportunity to immediately get Russia back into the war before the Bolshevik position had strengthened throughout Russia. Only when the position of the Bolsheviks was relatively secure would the Allied powers mount campaigns to supposedly overthrow the Bolsheviks (North Russia Intervention and Siberian Intervention), campaigns that were sure to fail due to the lackluster number of soldiers assigned to both missions (though the Japanese contingent of 70,000 soldiers deployed to the the Siberian Intervention is a minimum number one would expect from the combined American, British and French contingent, whose actual total complement registered an anemic 10,250 soldiers up against 600,000 Bolsheviks) and the remote locations for the soldiers’ landings–Archangel (British, French, Italian and American), Murmansk (British, French, Italian and American) and Vladivostok (American, British, French, Canadian, Italian, Polish, Chinese and Japanese)–far from the Bolshevik’s Command and Control center located in Petrograd (Saint Petersburg), where too the Bolshevik’s leadership (Central Committee) is located.

    The following is a discovery I made in May regarding the fake collapse of the USSR, and what that fraudulent collapse proves about the institutions of the West…

    When Soviet citizens were liberated from up to 74 years of horrific Marxist oppression on December 26, 1991 there were ZERO celebrations throughout the USSR, proving (1) the ‘collapse’ of the USSR was a strategic ruse; and (2) the political parties of the West were already co-opted by Marxists,* otherwise the USSR (and East Bloc nations) couldn’t have gotten away with the ruse.

    ZERO celebrations, as the The Atlantic article inadvertently informs us…

    For more on this discovery see my blog…


    The West will form new political parties where candidates are vetted for Marxist ideology, the use of the polygraph to be an important tool for such vetting. Then the West can finally liberate the globe of vanguard Communism.


    * The failed socialist inspired and controlled pan-European revolutions that swept the continent in 1848(1) thought Marxists and socialists a powerful lesson, that lesson being they couldn’t win overtly,(2) so they adopted the tactic of infiltration of the West’s political parties/institutions. In the case of the United States…(continue reading at DNotice)…

    Now you know why not one political party in the West requested verification of the collapse of the USSR, and the media failed to alert your attention to this fact, including the “alternative” media. When determining whether the “former” USSR is complying with arms control treaties, what does the United States do to confirm compliance? Right, the United States sends into the “former” USSR investigative teams to VERIFY compliance, yet when it’s the fate of the West that’s at stake should the collapse of the USSR be a ruse, what does the United States do to confirm the collapse? Nothing!

    The fraudulent ‘collapse’ of the USSR (and East Bloc) couldn’t have been pulled off until both political parties in the United States (and political parties elsewhere in the West) were co-opted by Marxists, which explains why verification of the ‘collapse’ was never undertaken by the West, such verification being (1) a natural administrative procedure (since the USSR wasn’t occupied by Western military forces); and (2) necessary for the survival of the West. Recall President Reagan’s favorite phrase, “Trust, but verify”.

    It gets worse–the “freed” Soviets and West also never (1) de-Communized the Soviet Armed Forces of its Communist Party officer corps, which was 90% officered by Communist Party members; and (2) arrested/de-mobilized the 6-million vigilantes that assisted the Soviet Union’s Ministry of the Interior and police control the populations of the larger cities during the period of “Perestroika” (1986-1991)!

    There can be no collapse of the USSR (or East Bloc nations) without…

    Verification, De-Communization and De-mobilization.

    The West never verified the collapse of the USSR because no collapse occurred, since if a real collapse had occurred the West would have verified it, since the survival of the West depends on verification. Conversely, this proves that the political parties of the West were co-opted by Marxists long before the fraudulent collapse of the USSR, since the survival of the West depends on verification.

    The above means that the so-called “War on Terror” is an operation being carried out by the Marxist co-opted governments of the West in alliance with the USSR and other Communist nations, the purpose being to (1) destroy the prominence of the West in the eyes of the world, where the West is seen (i) invading nations without cause; (ii) causing chaos around the globe; and (iii) killing over one-million civilians and boasting of torture; (2) close off non-Russian supplies of oil for export, thereby increasing the price of oil, the higher price allowing oil exporting Russia to maintain economic stability while she modernizes and increases her military forces; (3) destroy the United States Armed Forces via the never-ending “War on Terror”; the ultimate purpose of the aforementioned to (4) bring about the demise of the United States in the world, opening up a political void to be filled by a new pan-national entity composed of Europe and Russia (replacing the European Union), a union “From the Atlantic to Vladivostok”; which will (5) see the end of NATO.

    Now you know how Bolshevik Russia survived in 1917; how the West “lost” China to the Communists in 1949; why the Eisenhower administration turned a deaf ear to the anti-Communist Hungarian uprising in 1956; why the Eisenhower administration in 1959 was indifferent to the Castro brothers’ Communist fidelity, actually used the CIA to overthrow the Batista government; why the Nixon administration abandoned Taiwan for Communist China, and signed treaties/provided economic aid to the USSR; why the Nixon administration refused to tell the American People that over 50% of North Vietnamese NVA regiments were actually Chinese People’s Liberation Army soldiers (attired in NVA uniforms, and proving that the Sino/Soviet Split was a ruse, as KGB defector Major Anatoliy Golitsyn told the West back in 1962), thereby (1) ensuring the Vietnam War would be lost; (2) destroying the prominence of the United States abroad and at home; (3) breeding distrust between the American people and their government; and (4) securing Communist victories in Southeast Asia. Working in the background within the political parties of the United States and Great Britain were Marxist agents doing their best to (1) ensure the survival of Communist nations when they popped up; and (2) sabotage any policies that would bring down a Communist nation. That’s why after the fake collapses of the East Bloc nations and USSR there was no mandatory Western verification process to ensure the Communists weren’t still in control.

  • Terry Field

    ”The object of war is to beat the enemy —to win. You cannot have war with a limited liability. You cannot hope for a half-success in war. If you strike at all you must strike with all your strength, whether of heart or hand. You must remember that the half- blow will enrage your enemy just as much as the blow that crushes. Keep out of a quarrel as long as you possibly can, but once at war put every man, every shilling, and every ounce of strength you possess into the fray. Such whole measures may shorten war very materially or may even stop war, a feat which half-hearted blows, like other half-measures, can never achieve.”

    This can no longer be done by the West – gutless, weak, feminised populations undermined by a value-free media stop it in its tracks.
    Only people like Putin and the Chinese are posessed of the freedom of action, the support of the people, and the self-belief to do such things now.
    We are finished – and that is one of the reasons why.

    • Kathleen Walsh-White

      ‘feminised populatons’ ?? really, you think that is a worthy remark? Again, insulting anything that has to do with the ‘female’ view of the world which is not usually about the endless cycle of killing and revenge. Is that what you mean? Perhaps a re-think of such a remark is in order. Especially since when men continue to create war(s) who is left to clean up the mess, or run the country while the boys are off killing and plundering the world? Get a grip; stop the the misogyny. You insult yourself more than you insult the life-enhancing attitudes among our specie; whether those attitudes come from males or females, they are likely to be ‘tagged’ as less worthy. ‘A billion less would hardly matter?’ And, you…among them, perhaps. So, you don’t matter either..then: what does?

  • global city

    We should turn our backs on these crazy continentals and restore our global links, through the Anglosphere and the Commonwealth.

    Here is a good article on how we can also help some of the poorer countries in the Commonwealth, if we can wriggle free of the EU’s CET!

  • Span Ows

    Great piece and unfortunately we see reflected in current history-making the same aims are clear… ‘…If the Germans win, there will be no place left in the world for the little independent nations. They know that they will always have genuine friends and protectors in Britain, not out of policy, but out of the British creed that they have a right to live. Quite apart from our own safety, we ardently desire that they shall continue to exist, because we hold that both in the matter of liberty and moral and intellectual progress they are of the greatest possible use to mankind. We have no desire to see the earth monopolized by some three or four great nations.

    BUT the difference being that now Britain – no longer a world power – is complicit in helping the merging of independent nations into amorphous blobs of land that certainly are not ‘great nations’.

  • grutchyngfysch

    In many ways marvellous, timely stuff, thank you Spectator for publishing these – but if a world led by men of conviction, sense and moral purpose could nevertheless fall into a century that has proved to be one of the blackest in history then it does not speak of much hope, a century on, that our feckless, inconstant and ill-inclined masters will carve out a better future in the forthcoming one.

  • Roger Hudson

    The clarity of the Spectator in 1914 is very good, the extracts above are a great history lesson that betters many later history texts. If only the current problems in Europe ,Islam, Russia, EU were dealt with as soberly and with insight and not by chatting on a sofa.

  • Ron Todd

    Austria-Hungry started a small war Germany and Russia turned it into a big war.

    • davidofkent

      Serbia started a small war – again – unless you believe, against some evidence, that the Serbian government had absolutely no knowledge of the plot to assassinate the Archduke.

      • Ron Todd

        Even if they knew of the plot and even if they initiated the plot I do not believe the intention would be to start a war. The Austro-Hungarians though did want to start a war.

        • Kathleen Walsh-White

          Austria – Hungary was already falling apart; decaying from its own corruption and unwillingness to create a viable society. Lost in the imbalances we see now…folly again ‘reigns’

      • Jonathan

        It had British finger prints all over it. Britain was desperate for a war with Germany. The German economy was fast becoming the strongest economy in the world and was replacing Britain as a world leader. The whole purpose of this engineered war was to destroy Germany as a world power.

        • Wessex Man

          What ignorant idiotic uneducated nonsense!

          Were there British fingerprints all over The German War Aims? Dids the British Force Ludendorff to draw up plans for Provinces in the West to replace France and the Low Countries and to remove the ‘inferior’ races to the East to provide Living space as he and the Pan German League termed it Leberaum, later all taken up in the warped head of Hitler.

          You should be ashamed of yourself.

          • Jonathan

            You know you would have been far more credible without the personal insults. It’s you who should be ashamed of yourself!!!

            • Wessex Man

              Don’t care if you think I’m credible or not, you are wrong and insult the memory of all our people who gave their lives in both world wars and those who have had to live with terrible injuries and further insult my country because, well because you probably think it clever to.

              • Jonathan

                This has absolutely nothing to do with insulting the memory of our war-dead or your country. I just stated that Britain had it’s own vested interest in WW1. Remember it was Britain that declared war on Germany not the other way around. I would suggest you do a little more research on the funding of the Serbian Nationalist’s.

                • Wessex Man

                  I suggest you learn a little more History, Britain in the 1839 Treaty of London guaranteed Belgium’s neutarlity. When Germany invaded Belgium we were bound by that Treaty to offer Germany an ulitmatum, which Germany ignored, we then had no choice other than to declare war!

                  I don’t need to do any more research that is a simple fact, Britain in the shape of our Foreign Secretary spent the early summer of 1914 desperately trying to find an accommadation.

                  I suggest you visit the National Archives, learn a few things and stop accusing my country of such deeds!

                • Jonathan

                  You know we are both looking at this subject from different perspectives. I think we better just agree to disagree.

                • lgrundy

                  There’s a rather timely post by Peter Hitchens over at his blog in which he summarises a number of arguments made by Douglas Newton in his recent book ‘The Darkest Days: The Truth Behind Britain’s Rush to War in 1914’. It’s quite supportive of the point which I think you’re trying to make.

                • Jonathan

                  Thank you. Having read the article with interest it does rather support my point. Clearly the Treaty of London 1839 was used by the British warmongers in government to get Britain into a war with Germany. When in reality the treaty could have been totally ignored.

                • Wessex Man

                  You forget to say that Peter Hitchen’s summary was less than enthusiastic of Newtons book!

                • Peter Hitchens

                  Really? I am quite enthusiastic about it, as it happens. I just recognise that it is not wholly dispassionate on the subject. nor am I.

                • Wessex Man

                  No you can’t get away with that give me your references to documentary proof the British involvement in the Serbian assassinations.

          •!/profile.php?id=100002981043131&sk=info Johann von Kriegsdorf

            You’re just another victim of the decadent educational system. Each government wishes for citizens with intellectual capabilities like yours, just tell him something simple, make him to feel good and would do everything you’re wishing for.

            • Wessex Man

              OK wonder boy tell me where I’ve misquoted or used any misleading material. By your name you are either a very thick wind-up merchant or a German by descent or a flaming nutjob.

              •!/profile.php?id=100002981043131&sk=info Johann von Kriegsdorf

                “Dids the British Force Ludendorff to draw up plans for Provinces in the
                West to replace France and the Low Countries and to remove the
                ‘inferior’ races to the East”

                Did you ever wonder why the sun never set upon the British Empire ? Perhaps you think because of the spread of the idea of self-determination based on democratic principles ?

                And no, I am not “German of descent” but German from bottom to the top. Alles klar ?!!

                • Wessex Man

                  And you have inherited all the wonderful traits and prove me correct by your reply.

                  We could get into a conversation about Empires and their native peoples but I expect people are already bored. No, lets, in German South West Africa between 1904 and 1907 in what classified by the later studies of the UN the mass extermination of two races was attempted by the German ‘Empire’ with 100,000 Hereros and 10,000 Namaqua murdered.

                •!/profile.php?id=100002981043131&sk=info Johann von Kriegsdorf

                  Pot, Kettle, Black 😉

                • Wessex Man

                  Ludendorff, Hitler, Himmler;-)

        • Ron Todd

          Why was Germany building more railway lines toward Belgium than it would ever need for civilian use long before there was any immediate prospect of a war? If the purpose was to destroy Germany why did we agree an armistice and not keep going?

        • Kathleen Walsh-White

          Britain was not ‘desperate for a war with Germany’..where are you getting such ideas?

    • Jonathan

      No mate, Britain and France turned it into a big war. Russia was manipulated.

      • Wessex Man

        Where do you get your facts from, please giver references and links.

        Russia mobilized because the Austro-Hungarians did as they prepared for war with Serbia, Germany mobilized because the Russians had, France and the United Kingdom also mobilzed. Would you rather that the Austro-hungarian Empire and Germany had taken all of Europe with extreme hostility?

      • Kathleen Walsh-White

        Read the Schleiffen Plan; Germany was determined to take over the world..starting with Europe and Russia. Best to know the facts before one speaks