37 Days (2014) s01e02 Episode Script

One Week in July

Is this it? This is it, Foreign Secretary.
Crowe's already here? He arrived 20 minutes ago, sir.
Oh, for God's sake.
Sorry your weekend has been ruined, sir.
Well, yours too, Alec.
Austria's mad.
I should issue a communique saying just that.
Good afternoon, Foreign Secretary.
"Britain says Austria mad.
Official!" I was embarrassed to read the Serb note.
It was like seeing a servant cringe.
It WAS submissive.
Serbia has agreed to practically every demand Austria makes of her.
And gets this in return! It's a grotesque diplomatic exchange, Foreign Secretary.
What does Austria want? I mean, what does she want? It is sometimes better to forget everything we think we know and look instead at what is, er, staring us in the face.
Austria doesn't want to talk.
She wants a war in the Balkans.
I want to speak to that idiot Mensdorff.
Get the Austrian Ambassador.
Yes, sir.
'I tell you, it's not often you see the Foreign Office in disarray 'but it was this day.
'Four weeks ago, we discovered that the Archduke Franz Ferdinand, 'heir to the Austrian throne, 'had been assassinated while on a visit to Sarajevo in Bosnia.
'The assassin, Gavrilo Princip, was a Serb nationalist 'who believed that acts of terror 'would drive the Austrians out of the Balkans.
'Butstudent fanatic? A nonentity?' Is this important enough to disturb the Foreign Secretary? No.
What position would Britain take if a conflict would break out between Austria and Serbia? 'Well, I suppose it doesn't take much to set the Balkans on fire.
'In Berlin, it was frantic too.
'Austria was our ally 'and Franz Ferdinand was a personal friend of our Kaiser.
' There's no crime greater.
'The Habsburg Empire had been crumbling for years 'and now the Kaiser said that had to stop.
' Serbia must learn to fear the Habsburgs again.
'The Kaiser told our Austrian friends to punish the Serbs.
'They sent a long list of demands instead.
' 'We got them in London.
What extreme demands they were.
' This is an astonishing ultimatum.
'It was obvious to everybody that Serbia could not meet those demands.
'That in fact, they were designed to be rejected.
'But then, Serbia DID meet them, 'only to find that the Austrians were still not satisfied.
'And that's why the Austrian ambassador had been 'summoned to the Foreign Office this morning.
' You ought to be wearing body armour.
I want an explanation.
Austria is unhappy with the Serbian response to our list of demands and therefore has issued an ultimatum.
I said I want an explanation, not a reiteration of the absurd sequence of events of the last 12 hours.
Austria is unhappy.
That IS the explanation.
Were you surprised by the compliance of the Serbian government? But we don't see it as a compliance.
They will extradite any government official you wish to charge in connection with the assassination.
Censor their newspapers, overhaul their school curriculum, punish anyone who denigrates your royal family.
Er, do you want me to go on? We see these things more likecosmetic.
But you asked for them! And you didn't expect them to comply, did you? Let me remind you of how post-Napoleonic diplomacy works.
Are you listening? I am all ears.
We statesmen, we occasionally conceal things from each other, we dissemble, we act hypocritically when consistency or sincerity would be either dangerous or hurtful.
We don't always tell the whole truth, but we don't exactly lie.
But what we've never done is pretend the other fellow is a fool.
Or that black is white when everyone can see that it isn't.
Because if we did that, the whole system, the concert that has kept the peace in Europe, kept even the superannuated Austrian Empire afloat would begin to break down.
We don't regard it as compliance.
You must have loved the Archduke Franz Ferdinand.
We did.
I mean, really loved him.
He was the heir to our throne.
Heir to the throne! He was despised in Vienna.
His poor Czech wife even more so.
They treated her like a waitress.
Look, I'm serious.
They did.
I thought you said the Serbs had bent over backwards.
Vienna wants humiliation.
And bending over backwards ISN'T humiliating? You should try it one day, Winston.
And if I were you, I'd start watching Russia now.
Humiliating little Serbia is one thing.
Humiliating her protector is quite another.
She's right about that.
Be careful of Winston.
He's smelling blood.
Why is Vienna suddenly unafraid of Russia? That is the question.
I disagree.
With what? I think it's the wrong question.
You don't want to hear my answer.
Oh, yes.
I know your answer.
Which is that Austria is acting as if Russia doesn't exist, because she's already taken out an insurance policy in Berlin.
An insurance policy? You think Austria and Germany are in cahoots over this? Your evidence? Winston, I can see what Edward's getting at.
We don't yet know what the Germans think of this latest development and it's always been a point of principle in this country not to reduce everything to the workings of the alliances.
That way the logic of war always gets the upper hand.
It's my sense that Austria cannot see beyond her quarrel with Serbia.
It's what happens to great powers when they shrink.
The world shrinks with them and then they cease to think about consequences.
You don't believe that Austria's alliance with Germany means anything? Don't be obtuse, Winston.
No-one has said that.
I would like to propose a round-table conference here in London, to be attended by the ambassadors of the disinterested parties.
If we start talking, Austria will be forced to join the conversation.
How many days do we have before Austria actually declares war? Well, that depends on the state of their army and how well they've digested this year's conscripts.
Perhaps, well, four days, maybe a week.
It's crucial for Germany to be involved in any conference.
Unthinkable without her.
You can manage that? I believe so.
We have more than a few carrots to offer.
There should be a stick too.
You will discover tomorrow morning that Winston Churchill has ordered the entire fleet to remain at Spithead.
I see.
It's a precautionary thing.
I mean, the ships are there already for the Grand Naval Review, as you know.
They just haven't gone home.
You don't have to threaten us into a conference, Edward.
I know that.
Germany is open to the idea of a collective solution to the Balkan problem.
It is an opportunity, I think, for Britain and Germany to cooperate at last.
Hmm Austria will have to suspend its military operations first.
But ifWHEN that happens, I will be prepared to host a peace conference straightaway.
And I will inform my government straightaway.
Thank you.
I ought to say, Max, there is an opinion amongst us that a possible reason for Austria's reckless behaviour is the tacit support she enjoys from Germany.
I can see how the impression might have arisen amongst some of you.
Vienna may have got used to us backing them and perhaps that has made them as they are.
Your superior said so.
And I will admit that possibility, but of course, that is quite a different thing from saying she receives our encouragement.
What is it? I admire Prince Lichnowsky and I think he's sincere.
I know that sentence.
It's always followed by its opposite.
Oh, come on, Crowe.
Tell me why I shouldn't place my faith in Lichnowsky.
I'm not sure Berlin listens to him.
'He was listened to.
'Lichnowsky had Edward Grey's confidence, after all.
'But was he respected?' KNOCK AT DOOR Yes, please? Excuse me, sir 'Not by our Chancellor, Theobald von Bethmann-Hollweg.
' From our ambassador in London, sir.
This has just arrived? Yes, sir, seven minutes ago.
'They agreed on so little.
' Get me the Foreign Minister.
Yes, sir.
Of course, it's a perfectly reasonable proposal.
Grey is a reasonable man.
If I were in his position, I would propose an international tribunal, too.
Perhaps we should accept.
Say that again? We should accept.
Would you like to explain to the Kaiser when he gets back from his holiday tomorrow, what has happened to his plan? "Not a crashing military victory for our Austrian ally, Your Majesty, "but a diplomatic triumph for Sir Edward Grey and the British.
" No, I would not want to be the one to say that.
And that's why it will not be said.
We must therefore reject Edward Grey's offer.
Something to the effect that Austria would find it Insupportable? "Humiliating".
It would be humiliating for a great power like Austria to be subjected to the decisions of an international tribunal.
But what if the Austrians agree to Grey's proposal? They won't.
You seem very sure.
We won't let them.
But tell Lichnowsky we are sympathetic to the idea.
He'll want to cultivate it anyway.
We can use him to get the English off our backs for 48 hours or so.
And the Kaiser? There is no proposal from Britain.
There never has been.
'Kaiser Wilhelm knew nothing of the diplomatic events 'of the past two weeks.
'He'd been on his vacation' GUNSHOTS '.
looking at the Norwegian fjords.
' 'The world he expected to return to 'was one in which Serbia had been handsomely crushed by Austria 'while our most feared enemy, Russia, 'stood staring at a brilliant fait accompli.
'Of course, none of that had happened.
' Did you know that Norwegians read more than any other people in the world? I have heard something of the sort, Your Majesty.
Of course you have.
You know everything.
I didn't know it, though.
It was very disappointing.
Norway, Your Majesty? Norway? Why do you want to talk about Norway? Austria! That's disappointing.
The Austrian army is still not in Belgrade.
Completely disappointing! Not yet, Your Majesty.
"Not yet".
I am assured by the Austrian Ambassador In fact, they decided to mobilise their army yesterday so it's little wonder they're "not yet" in Belgrade.
The day before yesterday, Your Majesty, but very late indeed, sir.
Later than we expected.
Later than I wanted! GUNSHOTS What did I tell him, Jagow, before I took my vacation? You were there.
You said you wanted things to happen quickly.
A quick, clean war.
Over before the Russians know it's even begun.
Yes? Yes, you did say that, Your Majesty.
And now the Russians will get all agitated, which I think I expressly said I did not want.
And this morning I arrive back in Berlin to discover that the British have their navy on high alert.
Brilliant! I will resign.
No, you won't! You've cooked this broth.
You will eat it.
What is especially humiliating is that the Serbs are now laughing at us.
You've seen their reply to the Austrian note? I'd appreciate it if you left me to finish my breakfast.
'Now, in the days following Austria's rejection 'of the Serbian reply, we found ourselves asking, ' "What will Russia do? What will Russia do?" ' Foreign Secretary? Not now! What is it? And why have you not come to me? Ssh! 'Russia, our absolutist ally, was a perennial mystery to us.
'We'd been friends with Russia since 1907 'and that was a good thing in Asia.
'It stopped us bickering about India and Afghanistan.
'But in Europe?' Ready.
That's it, sir.
What is it? 'Well, it meant we were now underwriting 'the decisions of a very erratic ally.
' It's the Russian army.
The Tsar appears to have ordered a section of it to mobilise in the southern districts facing the Austrian Empire.
What in God's name has he done that for? I don't know.
It's, it's not been confirmed yet, of course.
Well, I just have to hope your sources are as wretched as they usually are.
It's a precautionary thing, I'm sure.
At any rate, it will take four weeks to come to fruition.
But they've just wrecked my peace conference.
Well, perhaps you won't need it.
Nothing will bring Austria to her senses quicker than Britain supporting its Russian ally.
How much more belligerent do you think the Tsar will become if he imagines the Royal Navy and a British Expeditionary Force are at his disposal? But, Foreign Secretary, it's the effect on Germany that's the relevant thing.
Germany wants to take part in my conference.
We don't need a conference.
The quickest way to influence Austria is to frighten Germany.
The best way to frighten Germany is to support Russia! The key to this problem is to cut across international rivalries, not reinforce them.
I'm seeing the Russian Ambassador in It's a quarter to six.
Right, well, now, in actual fact.
He's getting the deluxe treatment.
I'm taking him to see the Prime Minister.
Good! But I think you should know the man on the Russia desk is saying that you don't take their concerns seriously.
I'm not here to please the Russian desk.
They're turning into bloody Russians in there, by the way.
I'm an elected politician.
I know that.
And I answer to Parliament.
Of course.
But do not alienate Russia over this, sir.
If we fail to bend a little towards her here, she will make things difficult for us in India.
'Of course, the thing about our Russian alliance, the awkward thing, 'was that it tied us to this man - Tsar Nicholas II.
'No-one ever knew what he was going to say next.
'He was whimsical and unpredictable, as powerful men often are, 'answering only to God, 'but capable of acting like God, too.
'Now, the man in charge of his war machine was 'General Vladimir Sukhomlinov.
' Enfilade fire from this direction! 'Here he is, re-enacting the 1812 Battle of Borodino.
' And it was here that Kutuzov deployed the guards.
'All part of the young prince's tuition, you understand, 'and the royal family's general entertainment, 'and this woman, who hates the Battle of Borodino, 'is General Sukhomlinov's young wife.
' No, Alexei.
That's the infantry.
You never find horses in a trench.
'This man now had 13 army corps moving towards the Austrian Empire.
'And this was not a pleasant thought for us in London, 'for we are talking one million, one hundred thousand men.
' We had to show our support for the Serbs.
There would be a rebellion in Russia if we didn't.
Rubbish! We both know that's not true, Count Benckendorff.
Are you saying that the Russian does not care at all about his Serb brother? I'm saying most Russians will have more luck locating Serbia on a map, with a blindfold and a pin.
Count, let's not forget how we got here.
Austria's case against your Serb friends is that they provide a safe haven for Bosnian terrorists.
Well, we all deplore that, I think.
We do have a little difficulty understanding why Russia has felt it necessary to mobilise her army.
It's the same thing as you did yesterday with the Royal Navy! It's not the same thing at all! But it is! This is NOT a mobilisation.
In our administrative departments it is called "a period preparatory to war".
Are you impressed with those apostrophes, Edward? Edward is not impressed.
You see, Count, playing with the word cannot alter the fact that, quite soon, you will have over one million men at arms moving towards the Austrian frontier.
You object to us "mobilising" an army that will take ten days to assume a proper war footing? Not four weeks? There is an old idea, William Gladstone's idea.
It says that our two countries sit on the edges of Europe and if we should ever fall out The lands in between should fall under the dominion of Germany.
You need only affirm your friendship to Russia - tonight - and you will see the Austrians pull in their horns.
And the Germans, too.
We know also that our two empires are drawing ever closer together in Asia.
Soon, it is likely that our cartographers shall collide not far from the North West Frontier of India.
It would be a shame, would it not, if our grenadiers collided, too? When you are so close together, and you are not friends, it is very difficult to avoid friction.
Now that sounded almost like a threat.
Those were your Foreign Secretary's words to me, not five years ago.
Which is why we became friends.
And why now, we have to help each other! Foreign Secretary.
Prime Minister.
He said, "ten days".
'We in Berlin were shocked by the Russian mobilisation, too.
'That had not been in the Kaiser's plan.
'But his Chief of Staff, General Moltke? 'I don't think Moltke was shocked.
' The Tsar has mobilised his southern army districts.
That's technically 1.
1 million men, perhaps a little less, knowing Ivan.
You can always count on 10% being curled up in a ditch with the vodka bottle, huh? But big numbers, nonetheless.
More than Austria can handle.
So a stalemate? Well, that depends on what we do.
Think of it from my point of view.
I'm paid to be suspicious.
So, then, how am I meant to know that these Russian troops are destined for the Austrian border? How can I be sure that these troops aren't being sent here, or here, or here, to OUR borders? Well, I suppose in this I can't! So are we not entitled to mobilise an army, too? For defensive purposes? Well, I would rather think the Kaiser would wish to retain that prerogative.
It would be an excellent thing if Russia could be encouraged to move to a general mobilisation.
Get all her men in the field.
We will see it one day, whether we like it or not.
Rather it happens now than in five or ten years' time, when the scales tip towards Russia.
Think of all this double track railway line laid through Poland, coming our way.
Theirs is a partial mobilisation, Not a general one.
But a general one wouldn't be difficult to provoke, would it? I always expected to lose your magic powers when we deprive you of those.
We do! We are at your mercy now.
There can't be a powerful Russia and a powerful Germany on the same continent! One has to submit.
But let me give you a statistic.
Something that will reduce this monstrous Cossack to human size.
At the present moment the Russian Empire has possession of 4,000 machine guns.
The German Empire has 24,000.
We know why we have so many precious weapons of war.
Because we are industrious and we are prudent.
But why does Russia have so few? Once you know the answer to that question, you have stopped fearing the Cossack.
The reason why Russia lacks machine guns is that General Sukhomlinov's pretty young wife adores Faberge eggs.
Where is he going with this? I don't know.
So, old Sukhomlinov, who is famously uxorious, finds that to love his wife is to empty his wallet.
And that is why the old general took a back-hander from Vickers of England, to supply all of Russia's machine guns.
But Vickers' machine guns are three times the price of those produced in Moscow.
Here's another statistic.
We have 381 batteries of heavy artillery.
They have 60! And their forts? They are not forts.
They are museums! And don't tell me about the Russian "steam roller", gentlemen.
It doesn't exist! It's a fantasy.
But But be careful.
Eventually, old Suko will be put out to grass and will be replaced by a moderniser with a modest wife.
If that happens tomorrow, it is likely that, by 1917, Russia will have parity with us.
Imagine that! Imagine a Balkan crisis where they, not we, have the whip hand.
It's us or them.
The Teuton or the Slav.
We all know it.
Through no machinations of our own, we are now being offered the chance by very reasonable terms, to settle that account once and for ever.
On Russia, I have similar thoughts to you.
I've often said we overestimate their strength.
So it was like listening to my own voice in there.
I make no claims to originality.
But you failed to mention the French.
The French alliance with Russia.
Isn't that the key? A Russian entry into a Balkan war would mean a French entry into a Balkan war.
And at that point, we wouldn't be calling it "Balkan war" any more.
I've just told you why you shouldn't fear Russia.
I'm too in need of dinner right now to tell you why you shouldn't fear France.
It's not a question of fear, of course.
You will manage France, if the time comes.
I'm sure of that.
It is important we maintain the European equipoise.
You do agree with that? As you say.
'We have a political system in Germany 'where power is concentrated at the top.
'One of the tragedies of July 1914 was that the man at the very top 'always seemed to be reacting to yesterday's news.
' While Moltke's mind was turning towards a general war with Russia, 'the Kaiser was still trying to control 'Austria's local war with Serbia.
' Every cause for war has vanished.
Your Majesty? Every cause.
Gone! What do you call this? It's the Serb reply to the Austrian demands.
They agreed to everything.
A total capitulation! I thought you said What? What did I say? I was under the impression you had read the Serb reply before we met at breakfast yesterday.
Why on earth would you think that? It was in front of you on the breakfast table.
This whole thing wouldn't be such a mess if Austria had simplyif things had been done as I said they should be done! You've had the time, Bethmann.
Do we change course, Your Majesty? No.
Get Austria into Belgrade! They can hold the city until the Serbs do all those things they now say they are willing to do! Yes, sir.
But it must be done immediately! Yes, sir.
Message to Vienna.
Yes, sir.
I take the liberty of submitting for the consideration of Your Imperial Majesty No.
No, no, no, no.
The INDULGENCE of Your Imperial Majesty 'Franz Josef, the Austrian Emperor, 'signing a declaration of war against Serbia.
'Look at his face.
'He might be signing an ordinance to permit electric street-lighting 'in distant Budapest or lifting a ban on linen trading in Krakow.
'What he's actually doing is signing his own death warrant 'and that of his dynasty.
' CHEERING 'The Kaiser had finally got his little Balkan war.
'That evening the first Austrian bombs fell on Belgrade.
' BOMBS EXPLODE BELL TOLLS The Serbian government has left Belgrade, apparently.
To avoid capture.
I see.
Of course we're still waiting to hear officially from the Austrian embassy.
So the international conference It's dead.
Yes, I suppose so.
Can't imagine how that happened.
I thought we hadan agreement.
You've been played Edward.
And very clever play.
You have to admire Berlin.
Berlin? They've used Prince Lichnowsky like a sewer.
A conduit to send all their shit our way.
Don't feel sorry for yourself.
You've only lost one wicket.
The game's still trembling in the balance.
That's true.
Do remember that affability is not a strategy Edward.
Now's the time to put British power into the scales.
No more pretending we're just the umpire.
I'll see myself out.
You told me Berlin was going to put its weight behind a peace conference.
But, Edward, that was before we realised that the Russians were mobilising their army.
Against Austria, not Germany.
I'm told they have enough troops to worry us both.
They fear your mobilisation too, of course.
But Germany has not mobilised.
Yes, yes.
But they fear the speed with which you can Therefore they are obliged to act now for fear of being overwhelmed later.
I understand the point.
Crowe, could I have a moment alone with Prince Lichnowsky? You're shaken by this too.
I can tell.
What do we do, Max? I believe that once the Austrians have captured Belgrade the Kaiser will want diplomacy to take over.
I feel I have been misled once by Germany.
I can appreciate that.
But it's not by design.
Please believe me.
Very well.
Once Austria has crossed the Danube, let the Kaiser propose a plan for mediation.
You know, I am not jealous about my role in this or precious about ownership.
I know you're not.
No, we are happy to fall in with whatever he suggests.
We could call it 'The German Peace Plan'.
Oh, that would bevery helpful to His Majesty.
We are friends, aren't we? Most certainly we are friends.
So, I am telling you this because we are friends and I wouldn't want our intimacy to lead you astray.
If France is drawn into this conflict France? As Russia's ally, it is possible.
Unlikely, for a Balkan question.
But still possible.
And if France is drawn in, it may be difficult for Britain to stand aside.
He will warn his government.
Britain in earnest.
Mediation must succeed.
' "Britain in earnest.
" 'Of course that alarmed the Kaiser.
'He thought of his cousin, Tsar Nicholas of Russia.
' Knees up! 'And wondered if the two of them 'might not stop their respective military machines.
' Halt! 'What a sad dialogue they embarked on.
' Salute! Dear, Nicky, we have a common interest as sovereigns to ensure that all persons morally responsible for the murder Dear, Willy, the indignation in Russia, fully shared by me, is enormous.
I foresee a time when I shall be forced to take extreme measures which will lead to war.
Dear, Nicky, the whole weight of the decision lies solely on your shoulders now.
Dear, Willy, I shall be overwhelmed by pressure to go to war, I appeal to you to help me.
Dear, Nicky.
Dear, Willy.
Dear, Nicky.
'And on it went.
' Dear, Willy.
'Two sovereigns living in a world of make believe.
'That evening Russia moved to full mobilisation 'and all her reservists were called up.
'That night Moltke sent a cable to Vienna.
'Proceed to full mobilisation.
Do not fear Russia.
' 'But Bethmann sent one to the Austrians too.
'To open hostilities with Russia, he said, would be a serious error.
' Sincerely, so on and so on.
'Two conflicting voices.
Whose would be louder?' 'We knew nothing about those two telegrams, of course.
'But the full Russian mobilisation we did know about.
'We also knew that it meant France was now in danger of being 'drawn into the conflict.
' France has arrived! I always expect him to dance in.
I rather doubt he'll be in the mood for that.
'This was France in the shape of Ambassador Paul Cambon.
'Gallic on the surface.
'Gallic to the core.
'But there were many in the foreign office who joked that 'Monsieur Cambon was representing Russia too.
'For in 1892 the impossible had happened.
'Republican France, 'home to the Revolution, had signed a treaty with Tsarist Russia, 'the symbol of despotic tyranny.
'Why had they done this? 'Fear! 'Fear that they might be overwhelmed again by the German army.
' The foreign secretary will see you now, Your Excellency.
'So now, if Russia went to war 'it was likely that France would do so too.
' If France follows Russia into a Balkan war it will be difficult for Britain to follow France.
I know that sounds blunt.
But I think it's important to be clear.
So there's no room for misunderstanding later.
Germany, happily, will postpone its own mobilisation until we have absolutely exhausted efforts at mediation.
But in the light of Russia's actions, we are asking rather a lot of them I feel.
It does sound blunt.
Ah, for a moment there I thought you'd taken a vow of silence, Paul.
There is a war party in Germany.
He knows it.
I know it too.
But if France throws the fat in the fire by following Russia, it will simply encourage that war party.
Don't you think? How easy it is to be complacent about Germany when you are protected by the Channel.
My dear fellow, it's not the Channel that protects us.
It's the Navy.
Theirs is no ordinary mobilisation, of course.
The Russian railway system Is prehistoric.
It would be quicker to get their men to the front in horse and cart.
And therefore there is no need for us to panic.
Who panics here? I'm saying we should not be hasty.
The French will be.
It's their nature.
But France has not mobilised.
On the contrary, I received a piece of information today which I wish to share with you.
On an initiative from the French foreign ministry to eliminate potential sources of friction all French military personnel have retreated ten kilometres from the Franco-German frontier, as from this morning.
They're getting some practice in.
Shut up! The French have not mobilised.
Not yet.
So, you are asking us to threaten someone in advance of them possibly threatening us? Yes.
Yes, I am.
What are you planning? Either Germany fills her lungs or she dies.
This is the law of nations.
International life is a constant struggle to breathe.
You want to invade France? And then we'll deal with the Russians.
Is this vanity? It won't be like your uncle's day Moltke.
I thought as a military man you might have noticed the line of concrete forts they've built since 1870.
Toul, Moulainville, Douaumont Very good Bethmann.
You should set this to music.
Oui, oui, pas oublier Verdun.
Are we just to ignore these fortifications? Pretend they are not there? They do not exist? We could spare France, of course, and concentrate on Russia.
But Paris would have to agree to certain conditions.
Those, I've already outlined to our friends in London.
You're talking to London? They will receive my note tomorrow morning.
Quite incredible.
Germany is practically asking for the keys to France.
If France agrees to remain neutral in the event of a German-Russian war it gets as its reward from Germany, what? The German occupation of the fortresses of Verdun and Toul for the duration of that war! They don't seem to know the difference between a threat and a bribe.
It's intended to provoke a French mobilisation.
Not convinced.
It is, Edward.
It would be like them telling us "We won't attack you, but Winston "here must allow German sailors to take command of the Royal Navy.
" You all keep saying "they" or "them".
How do you know it's not the work of just one man? And rogues have loud voices.
Doesn't mean they speak for everyone.
HE GRUMBLES I beg your pardon? I think we must share this with the Cabinet.
They will be waiting, Winston.
The German proposal is inept.
Of course it is.
But the principle But the principle behind it is not a bad one.
What is this principle, Mr Chancellor? That we stuff our ally? Very good, Winston.
But the principle that Mr Burns here is talking about is one of separating any war in the east from any likely conflict in the west.
Building a cavity wall between the two.
The sensible thing would be to send France a signal that we do not share her enthusiasm for war.
That we rein her in.
Or leave her high and dry? France is our, ourour ally, we do have certain obligations.
We have an "understanding" with her.
That's putting it rather mildly, Lord Morley.
It is an "understanding".
That's the way the Foreign Secretary described the Entente Cordiale when it was first dreamt up.
But exactly what this "understanding" entails we around this table don't quite know.
There's nothing that you're concealing from us is there, Sir Edward? Please Sir Edward is still in cabinet.
But I could have some tea brought for you.
Thank you.
HE LAUGHS Have you been waiting long? Oh, only since 1870.
For two years, Your Majesty, if we all adjust our diet a little.
That's with grain from our own fields.
We may acquire fields elsewhere, of course.
You mean in Russia.
He's talking about France.
I wonder, Your Majesty, do you know how many ministers of war the French Republic has had in the last 43 years? I will not guess.
But I am sure my chancellor here will know the answer.
That is correct.
42 ministers of war in 43 years.
And they wonder why their army is a rabble.
But it isn't.
Bethmann Hollweg the soldier.
Your Majesty, he wants to declare war on France! I don't want to.
But I think a war between us is bound to happen.
He wants to.
And I will tell you this - Britain will not stay neutral in a war that takes in France! Britain is not capable of getting involved.
She cannot spare the troops.
He means Ireland.
She will risk how many divisions on the Continent? Four? Five? They would get swept up in the general rout.
This is irresponsible talk.
Gentlemen, it's a beautiful summer's evening and I think we deserve some refreshments.
You have to say it would teach the British a thing or two.
Well, if you insist on making war on the Continent then don't just send a few outriders, do it properly.
I would ask the Cabinet for authorisation to move to a full mobilisation of the Royal Navy.
Do that and I go! Oh, John I'm sorry, Prime Minister, but that is gunboat diplomacy.
Any fool can make an heroic gesture, but let's not confuse that with, with a bid for peace.
Hear, hear.
Liberalism's has got to mean something more intelligent than pulling the gun out every time you're in a quarrel.
It's an accompaniment, John, to what I'm doing.
We'll keep on talking.
I would offer my resignation, too, Prime Minister.
And I.
Prime Minister, you will not take the Liberal Party with you into a European war.
But can I suggest this? We have evidently lost control of what is taking place between Austria and Russia.
But we are still capable of influencing what is happening between Germany and France.
That is where our peacemaking efforts should now be.
Sir Edward? I should like to make a telephone call to the German Ambassador.
Your Excellency, Sir Edward is on the Number Ten telephone and would like to speak with you.
You must promise not to attack France.
That is key in the event of a Russian-German conflict breaking out.
PHONES RINGING Do you understand? And we will undertake to guarantee .
that Britain and France will not attack Germany in return.
The French have agreed to this? What? July.
The French have? Oh, that is correct.
Then I will take responsibility for saying now that the German government will respond positively, pleasurably to your initiative.
Sir Edward? Um Sir Edward Grey's proposal is to be commended for guaranteeing the security .
of our border with France.
What did you say to Germany? You have sold us, I can tell.
Crowe, please, will you join us? I have not sold you.
It is simply this.
The Cabinet feels Britain has no interest in what is essentially an Austro-Russian dispute in the east.
France, of course has her alliance with Russia, the provisions of which we know nothing about and we cannot allow ourselves to be the tail to Russia's comet.
You have sold us! We haven't.
Each day we delay our mobilisation we lose the equivalent of 25km of French territory if war does break about.
Well, I appreciate France's restraint and would urge her to continue on that course.
How many French lives will it take to get each of those 25km back? Paul Are you going to wait until France is violated before you act? You must make your own decision and not reckon on British assistance.
We, for our part, will continue to explore peace initiatives with Germany.
This evening the word "honour" will be struck from the English dictionary.
I thought he would be a little more pliable.
He's distraught, of course.
I think the French will back down.
I think they'll see sense.
Can I ask you, sir what precisely did you say to Prince Lichnowsky on the telephone? I, um, I told him I'm not entirely sure, Crowe.
That's rather awkward.
Everyone thinks I have the power to invent new facts when the old ones become dangerous.
They think if they tell me their predicament, it will disappear.
To them you are Great Britain.
You hold immense power.
I am also just Edward Grey.
'The Kaiser ordered the mobilisation of our army 'against Russia that evening.
' 'And then, France also mobilised.
' If the iron dice roll, may God help us.
Trains must leave every 90 seconds.
No delays.
No excuses.
'A million of our soldiers would soon be on the move.
'And I would be one of them.
' We think we are good at this.
Let us prove it.
'But then suddenly, out of the clear blue sky, 'came Edward Grey's peace plan.
'The one he proposed on the telephone to Prince Lichnowsky.
'It arrived in Berlin just 23 minutes 'after the Kaiser had signed our mobilisation papers.
' Open those doors and bring champagne.
What is it? The best champagne.
What is it? Gentleman, I just received word from Prince Lichnowsky in London.
"French and" Chancellor, you represent the civilian arm of Germany.
You read it.
"French and British neutrality guaranteed "if Germany refrains from attacking France.
" Only Russia is left in the field.
I have 25,000 trains in motion.
Will Russia back down now also? She might well do that.
25,000 trains are moving westwards.
They don't have brakes? Our forward units are about to enter Luxembourg.
Then stop them, Moltke, and deploy the entire army to the east! I can't, it's too late.
It's a command, you half-wit.
Stop them and turn the army to the east.
Let's go! To England.
To Sir Edward Grey.
It will be complete chaos! The whole world will be thrown into chaos! CLOCK CHIMES The army.
You said the whole world.
It's just the army.
It is simple, Moltke.
Applaud this man's superb diplomacy .
and then begin shifting your men to the east.
We'll discuss reservations once you've finished.
Well, on with it, mobilise yourself first.
This isn't leadership.
You might start by getting those Luxembourg patrols back before they do some damage.
It isn't.
Even with that absurd marshal's batten in your hand.
Moltke! Your one good hand.
'When do wars start? 'When a declaration is signed? Or when an embassy is closed? 'Or do we delude ourselves that these formalities 'are what count?' 'I know this.
'Our fellows were not meant to be in Luxembourg on August 1st.
'We had not declared an argument with that country, 'let alone declared a war.
'Yet, at seven in the evening 'a detachment of the 69th Infantry Regiment 'crossed over into Luxembourg.
' MAN GROANS 'They were under the command of a Lieutenant Feldmann, 'who'd been told to seize the town's telegraph office.
' 'No casualties were suffered that day 'unless you count Private Mayer with his sprained ankle.
' 'But this strange little engagement was the curtain-raiser 'to an all-out war on the Western Front.
' 'Or it would have been, had Sir Edward Grey's peace plan 'not reached Berlin just in time.
' 'Feldmann was told to come home.
'The war in the west had been cancelled.
' Scheisse.
Dear Georgie, having just received the glorious communication from your Government offering French neutrality under guarantee of Great Britain, I am delighted to convey my own government's enthusiasm for the proposal.
How does an army of several million men defeat another army of several million men? I will likely resign from the government if we enter this war.
For God's sake, state the conditions under which Britain will remain neutral.
That you do not go to war with France.
They could have saved us.
Those German railway platforms are now half a mile long.
German troops are heading towards the Belgian border.
You'll be told there isn't a better time to be young and that you are the envy of those too old to fight.
I've never seen myself as a soldier.
The immense expense of blood will, in the end, be for nothing.
It is you who can stop it.