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First World War centenary: how the events of August 3 1914 unfolded

Britain went to war on August 4 1914. In the third part of a four-day series, we document the dramatic events leading up to the declaration of war as they happened, hour-by-hour

up to the declaration of war as they happened, hour-by-hour Crowds in the streets of Berlin

Crowds in the streets of Berlin following the declaration of war against Russia

By Richard Preston

7:30AM BST 03 Aug 2014

7am: The Belgian Council of State had broken from its deliberations at 4am. Viscomte Julien Davignon, the Foreign Minister, gave his political secretary, Baron de Gaiffier, Belgium's reply to Germany's ultimatum of the evening before, which he handed to Walter von Below- Saleske at the German Legation. Germany's proposed attack on Belgium's independence, it said, 'constitutes a flagrant violation of international law'.

The Belgian government, if it were to accept the proposals submitted, would sacrifice the honour

The Belgian government, if it were to accept the proposals submitted, would sacrifice the honour of the nation and betray at the same time their duties towards Europe. Belgian reply to the German ultimatum

In the streets of Brussels, Belgians celebrated their defiance in the face of German threats.

Oh, the poor the way of the hurt them, but if they ground into the dirt. legation in Brussels, legation in Brussels,

11am: In London, the progress of the day ministers on the verge of intervention - John Beauchamp and John three hours over the (pictured above, right), when he addressed the afternoon.

(pictured above, right), when he addressed the afternoon. The Cabinet was fools. Why don’t they get

The Cabinet was

right), when he addressed the afternoon. The Cabinet was fools. Why don’t they get out of

fools. Why don’t they get out of steamroller? We don't want to stand in our way, they will be A counsellor at the German watching the scene in the streets

Asquith's Cabinet met. Despite before, there were now four resigning over Britain's possible Burns, John Simon, Lord Morley. Discussion continued for statement that Sir Edward Grey Foreign Secretary, would make House of Commons that

very moving. Most of us could

hardly speak at all for emotion. Herbert Samuel, President of the Local Government Board

2pm: Grey found Prince Lichnowsky, the German ambassador, waiting for him at the Foreign Office, anxious to know if the Cabinet had decided on a declaration of war. Grey told him they had a 'statement of conditions'.

In the House, the Speaker took his chair at 2.45pm. Sir Edward Grey ’slipped in almost unnoticed a few moments afterwards’, according to The Daily Telegraph's report the next day. 'Although there were 76 questions on the Order paper only two, and these of minor importance, were answered. As each member whose name stood against a question was called upon, he simply rose and said "Postponed".'

The bank rate had soared in previous days and there had been queues of people wanting to exchange paper notes for gold. Lloyd George, Chancellor of the Exchequer, began the business of the day by introducing a Bill to suspend temporarily 'the payment of bills of exchange and payments in pursuance of other obligations’. He then said the City had asked for the bank holiday to be extended by three days. He agreed and said an Order in Council to that effect would be issued that afternoon.

Shortly after, Asquith entered the chamber to cheers and explained that the bank holiday applied only to banks and not to other industries.

Then it was then Grey’s moment. He began by explaining the background to the crisis, a dispute between Austria and Serbia in which France had become involved because of its alliance with Russia. Britain had a friendship with France - the Entente Cordiale conceived in 1904.

because of its alliance with Russia. Britain had a friendship with France - the Entente Cordiale
A crowd gathers in Westminster during the escalating international crisis Grey had told the French

A crowd gathers in Westminster during the escalating international crisis

Grey had told the French ambassador, he explained to the House, that if there were an attack on France's coast, she would have the support of the Royal Navy. He explained, too, that Britain had asked both France and Germany whether they would respect Belgian neutrality, in accordance with the Treaty of London of 1839; France had said yes, Germany had declined to answer. And now Belgium was threatened with an ultimatum by Germany, and Britain had

'great and vital interests in the independence

of Belgium'.

4.30pm: Grey had spoken for almost an hour, and was nearing his conclusion:

spoken for almost an hour, and was nearing his conclusion: We are going to suffer, I

We are going to suffer, I am afraid, terribly in this war, whether we are in it or

whether we stand aside

It may be said, I suppose, that we might stand aside, husband our

strength, and, whatever happened in the course of this war, at the end of it intervene with effect to put things right and to adjust them to our point of view. If, in a crisis like this, we run away from those obligations of honour and interest as regards the Belgian treaty, I doubt whether, whatever material force, we might have at the end, it would be of very much value in face of the respect that we should have lost – [cheers] – and I do not believe, whether a Great Power stands outside this war or not, it is going to be in a position at the end of this war to exert its material strength [Hear, hear].

Sir Edward Grey, addressing the House of Commons

This was, by all accounts, the most successful speech of Grey's political career - no

This was, by all accounts, the most successful speech of Grey's political career - no one who reads it today can fail to be impressed by the way in which he, in the beguilingly hesitant, gentlemanly style that was his trademark, established the moral credentials of the imperialist position. Christopher Clark, The Sleepwalkers: How Europe Went to War in 1914

Clark, The Sleepwalkers: How Europe Went to War in 1914 4.40pm: Other members rose to speak

4.40pm: Other members rose to speak after Grey. Predictably, some Liberal and Labour MPs spoke against intervention, Conservatives were mostly in favour. But the previously anti- interventionist Liberal Christopher Addison noted that Grey's speech 'satisfied, I think, all the House, with perhaps three or four exceptions, that we were compelled to participate'.

'satisfied, I think, all the House, with perhaps three or four exceptions, that we were compelled

5pm: Grey returned to the Foreign Office and was cheered by his staff. But in his office, Sir Arthur Nicolson, Permanent Under-Secretary of State, found Grey morose. 'I hate war, I hate war,' he said, banging his fists on his desk.

Prince Lichnowsky, took Grey's speech to be hoped to remain neutral.

6pm: After alleging that German territory and neutrality, Germany sent Schoen, to deliver a premier Rene Viviani

Germany sent Schoen, to deliver a premier Rene Viviani It is a hundred to declare war

It is a hundred to declare war Germany, fully should be forced to France had declared would have become and spirit [would have have been obliged by the France. in his diary

[would have have been obliged by the France. in his diary German ambassador in London, an
[would have have been obliged by the France. in his diary German ambassador in London, an

German ambassador in London, an indication that Britain still

the French had crossed into had also violated Belgian its ambassador in Paris, Baron declaration of war to the French

times better that we were not led

ourselves

responsible for the aggression, admit her interests publicly. If war, the alliance with Russia controversial and French unity been] broken, and Italy might Triple Alliance to come in against

President Raymond Poincaré,

It was imperative that

A declaration and a mobilisation: how The Daily Telegraph reported the latest developments

7.30pm: The Cabinet met again in London and agreed that Germany must withdraw its ultimatum to Belgium. Afterwards, Grey told Paul Cambon, the French ambassador, that if the Germans did not back down, 'it will be war'.

Later that evening, Grey looked out of his window on to St James's Park, where the gas lamps were being lit. Though he could not recall saying the words later, he made his famous remark:

recall saying the words later, he made his famous remark: The lamps are going out all

The lamps are going out all over Europe; we shall not see them lit again in our lifetime. Sir Edward Grey, Foreign Secretary

Join us again tomorrow, August 4, for hour by hour coverage of the day when Britain went to war

Grey, Foreign Secretary Join us again tomorrow, August 4, for hour by hour coverage of the