On 2 August 1914 Germany invaded Luxembourg, and delivered an ultimatum to
the Belgian King. They demanded passage through Belgium for the vast German
Army that was in the process of carrying out a sweeping engulfment of the
French Army - the von Schlieffen Plan.
Two days later following King Albert the First's refusal, Germany invaded
Belgium. That same day - 4 August 1914 - Britain declared war on Germany.
What in the space of just 24 years had brought these two erstwhile
industrial partners (whose monarchs were related through Britains Queen
Victoria) to such a state of affairs?
In looking into this subject it is vitally important to have at least a
general grasp of European affairs outside the purely British German sphere, and
for this reason I have drawn in parts of the tangled web that made up European
politics at this time.
On 18 March 1890 Kaiser Wilhelm II of the recently united (Under Prussia)
Germany dismissed his Chancellor - Otto von Bismarck. A famous cartoon of the
time depicts the Kaiser leaning over the side of a ship as Bismarck steps off
the boat. The caption runs - Letting off the Pilot.
Bismarck was in many ways the true founder of the new Germany and his
departure would unleash attitudes and aspirations within the Kaiser and the
militaristic society that dominated German life.
Wilhelm II had two over riding ambitions - an overseas empire befitting his
country's wealth and status (that is his own status) and a navy that would
rival Britain's. At this period in time Britannia truly ruled the waves
throughout the world - allowing it to dabble in what was euphemistically called