The beginning of August was tense and stressful for the major European powers.
You may have noticed we haven't talked a lot about Great Britain entering the war yet. With Russia and France gearing up to go to war against Germany and Austria-Hungary, what was Great Britain thinking? They were not a part of France and Russia's initial alliance, so how did they get involved at all?
By the night of Sunday August 2nd 1914:
Russia, France, Germany & Austria-Hungary had all mobilized
Russia and Germany had declared war on each other
Austria Hungary had declared war on Serbia
Russian troops had crossed the German border
German troops sweep through neutral Luxembourg with intentions to go through Belgium and down into France in an effort to surround the French army.
That same day, the German ambassador in Brussels delivered the Belgian Foreign Minister an ultimatum presenting false intelligence that the French were planning on violating Belgian neutrality to pass through and attack Germany. Therefore, Germany would need free passage into France for "self protection" purposes and demanded an answer within 12 hours. (Secretly, Belgium had been in constant contact with France so they were able to identify this as false)
The Prime Minister, Baron Charles de Broqueville and King Albert I, along with all other governmental ministers involved, voted unanimously to reject the ultimatum. not only that but to put up as much of a fight as possible against any incoming German forces. In response to the news, a German diplomat was heard saying:
"Oh, the poor fools! Why don't they just get out of the way of the steamroller." (MacMillan, 623)
It is the act of respecting Belgium's neutrality that was of grave concern to Great Britain. There were many in the government that were against war and against siding with France. But a quick turn of evens within 48 hours changed many of the governments' minds, coming to the conclusion that defense of Belgium's neutrality and preservation of its independence was a necessary task.
"Geography meant that, down through the centuries, Britain could never stand by unconcerned while another power took over the low countries with their crucial waterways by which goods and often armies funneled back and fourth from the continent to Britain." (MacMillan, 621)