37 Days (2014) s01e03 Episode Script

One Long Weekend

- Your Majesty.
- Your Majesty.
French neutrality.
Guaranteed.
How did you manage that? I didn't, Your Majesty.
Well, the Kaiser thinks you did.
Did my cousin just dream it? It is likely a mistake was made during my telephone conversation with Prince Lichnowsky yesterday.
The German ambassador misheard you? Possibly.
Or you misled him? It hardly matters which, Your Majesty.
The point the Kaiser is now holding the wrong end of a very big stick.
One you handed to him.
Certainly, it has landed us all in a most awkward spot.
So, you would now like me to disabuse the Kaiser? We can arrange for a telegram to be sent to your cousin in the next 20 minutes.
Before that happens, let me just ask the obvious question.
We haven't, by some enormous stroke of luck, stumbled upon a formula that would actually keep the peace in western Europe? Not with the French being in complete ignorance of what is being offered.
And they? And they will never agree to neutrality while their Russian ally is being threatened by Germany.
I see.
I will tell the Kaiser there's been a misunderstanding.
"Misunderstanding.
" "Misunderstanding?!" What does that mean? It's such a British explanation.
You tell me what it means.
I It's Edward Grey isn't it? He's a deceitful cur! I forget sometimes that the English language doesn't distinguish between 'duplicity' and 'diplomacy.
' "Misunderstanding?" What, "We've changed our minds?!" I'm not sure that Get me Moltke! Sir, please Get me Moltke! I've been made a fool of.
And I am disgusted by that.
Shake my hand.
My good hand.
The English are liars.
Now you can do as you will.
Have you had breakfast, sir? I don't think so.
Might I arrange some for you? How long do you imagine the railway platforms are at Duern? An awful lot of German troop trains appear to be leaving Cologne .
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and heading towards Duern.
It makes no sense.
'For four weeks now, ever since the assassination of Franz Ferdinand' '.
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we, in Europe, have been living with the Balkan crisis.
'Serbia and its Russian ally raged against Austria and its German one.
'Now, "When isn't the Balkans in crisis?" you might think.
' It's Bosnia, Foreign Secretary.
I think THAT might wait.
'Rain is wet, 'the sun dries you out, 'and the Balkans is a trouble spot.
'These are facts of nature.
' 'In Berlin at first, 'our Kaiser had been keen to stoke the fires in the Balkans.
'He thought this might give our Russian neighbour a nasty burn.
' A quick, clean war, over before the Russians know it's even begun! 'So, it took the special genius of General Moltke to turn 'a local conflict into an international crisis.
'Moltke wasn't interested in a small war in the Balkans.
' Can't be a powerful Russia and a powerful Germany on the same continent.
One has to submit! 'He wanted something much bigger.
' He wants to declare war on France.
'And that was when things began to change in London.
'No longer were we bystanders.
'We had an alliance with France.
' Are you going to wait until France is violated before you act? 'The Cabinet had no appetite for war, though, 'and told the Foreign Secretary 'to make sure the Balkan crisis didn't spread to the West.
'And, so, Sir Edward used the telephone to broker some kind of 'agreement with the German ambassador.
' Sir Edward? 'But telephones, you know? 'Things get scrambled, don't they? And, therefore, last night' To England.
'.
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the Kaiser gratefully accepted a peace plan from London 'that didn't actually exist.
'Hence the misunderstanding.
'I won't deny it, there was a little bit of panic here 'in the Foreign Office, 'not least because the morning papers were reporting that a torrent 'of capital and gold had flowed out of the country 'over the last few days.
' Chin up, Muriel.
Come on, everyone.
Busy day.
'And that's why the Governor of the Bank of England, Sir Walter Cunliffe' Good to see you again.
'.
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along with Lloyd George, the Chancellor, 'had come to the Foreign Office 'to persuade Sir Edward that it would be fatal to join the fray.
' It's important the Foreign Secretary knows that if he gets us involved in a continental war, it WILL wreck the British economy.
There will be a degree of commercial disruption, of course.
The economy will be wrecked.
That's your opinion.
It's the opinion of the Bank of England.
And the whole of the City.
There, David.
The whole of the City! Over £1 million worth of gold left London on Thursday! To be fair, Walter, that's the German financial houses repatriating their capital.
But we are vulnerable to that.
This is the whole point, we are a trading nation.
We are? Our best policy would be to let the French and Germans go to war, if they need to.
We could stay out and be the honest broker, literally.
You want us to be the honest broker? You're making it sound like a crime, Sir Edward.
Do you know Eyre Crowe here? Yes, of course you do.
So you know he's an exceptionally knowledgeable fellow, and he tells me that in the entire history of mankind, there is not a single instance where financiers have not panicked at the prospect of a war.
Isn't that so, Crowe? The Peloponnesian War Yes, apart from the Peloponnesian War.
So, you see, Sir Walter, I have this odd situation.
Up in Trafalgar Square right now, I'm being told by Keir Hardie and the Socialists that a European war would mark the end of civilisation.
And here I have a great banker of Threadneedle Street telling me - the same thing.
- I didn't mention civilisation.
True enough, you didn't.
I suppose that's where the Socialists have the moral edge.
But I am not a hopeless dreamer like they are, so, excuse me if I take offence at that.
I am giving you some practical common sense.
So, you'd like me to announce to the world that Great Britain can't afford to fight? That's your common sense? Now you're twisting Nothing would more readily put an end to our great power status than me saying that.
Have you ever seen Keir Hardie? Are you asking me because I'm Scottish? No, I saw him once when I was a wee boy.
My father took me to see him speak in Kirkcudbright.
Is your father a socialist? You'll have to ask him yourself, Muriel.
'Of course, in Britain, 'the socialist movement was very small, still.
'But that wasn't true here in Germany.
'Here they counted.
' The Chancellor is running a little late this morning.
- I could organise some refreshments.
- No, thank you.
'They had power in the Reichstag.
'If the socialist deputies decide to vote against 'the Imperial War Budget, 'there'll be no war because there'll be no money to fight one.
' Why don't you just arrest all these Socialists? The Kaiser wouldn't mind.
The Kaiser has personally never met a socialist, which is a miraculous thing in itself, given that there are six million of them in this country.
Even so.
Even so? Remove their leaders and the rest will do as you want them to do.
The days of running Germany like a house of correction are over, Moltke.
These men outside are not our slaves.
They're the cream of their class, and, as inconceivable as you may find it, they will vote for your war credits if you reason with them.
I doubt it.
They fear and detest the Tsar, as all their kind do.
But they are not German patriots.
They will be when you tell them about the Cossacks.
Half of them are Jewish, after all.
Tell me, because I really don't understand.
Tell you what? I know you don't want a war with France.
You could use these socialists to stop one.
Why don't you? Because the cure would be worse than the disease.
Can you imagine what would happen to Imperial Germany-- to me, not just you-- if word got out that the Socialist Democratic Party had a veto on our ability to make war? I hate them, every bit as much as you hate them.
More, probably, because I know them.
They are disloyal, they are selfish, and they are dangerous.
But a war will tame them.
Eventually, with some luck, it will exterminate socialism in Germany forever.
Thank you so much for coming, gentlemen.
Ambassador.
How many of your countrymen know that you secretly committed them to defending the French channel ports from naval attack by Germany? What you have there is, of course, rather awkward for me at the present moment.
Yes, it is.
But it is in no sense a binding contract.
Just an informal arrangement we once had.
An informal arrangement we once had? I cannot go one inch beyond what the Cabinet authorises.
If I do, I am gone, and that document means nothing.
If you do not act on our confidential agreement, you will have the German Navy in the English Channel by the end of the week.
And you will have to explain to your people why there is no French Navy there to oppose them.
In 20 minutes, there is a meeting of the Cabinet.
I will endeavour to describe - Your obligation to France.
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the French predicament.
They've just voted.
We have a majority .
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in favour of the war credits.
Madness.
They could have saved us.
John.
Winston.
Lord Morley.
What bombs are you young gentlemen going to throw at us today? 'When you think of the great Cabinet meetings of the 20th century, 'those that have been, those which are yet to come, 'can there ever have been one so fraught with meaning as this one?' 'Viscount Morley had first seen office in 1886 'under his hero William Gladstone.
'And because he opposed anything which strengthened the state 'against the individual, he opposed war.
'So did John Burns, on pacifist grounds.
'Burns, hero of the London Dock strike of '89, 'was the first working man ever to take a seat at the Cabinet table.
'Was he conscious of the fact?' So, I told him, "I'm not the decorator, I am a legislator.
" 'Was he conscious of anything else? 'And then there was David Lloyd George.
'Lloyd George was the prize.
' Did you get any sense this morning of which way David is moving? None at all.
'A man who made his name opposing our last war 'against the Boers in South Africa.
' We want to play this carefully.
We don't want to antagonise him.
'He was a politician who was loved by millions of people.
' We have, as you know, because I have never concealed this from the Cabinet, certain obligations towards our French ally.
Now, these obligations do not commit us to war simply because one of the parties to the agreement has taken up arms.
Should France, say, find itself in a war with Spain, we would not be obliged to follow.
Do not treat us like fools, Sir Edward.
You can say Germany.
Yes, yes, well, in this specific instance, of course we're talking about Germany.
But my general point is that Parliament need not be fettered by a clause in a treaty she had no hand in making.
- And nor will it.
- Hear, hear.
But I will tell this Cabinet now, because now for the first time it has become relevant, that our 1912 agreement with France 1904.
No, Chancellor, the Foreign Secretary is referring to its renewal in 1912.
It was minuted at the time and mentioned in this room.
The 1912 renewal is a document I drew up with Monsieur Cambon, which allowed us to divide certain operational responsibilities between the French and Royal Navies.
In this agreement, the French were assigned the Mediterranean, and we agreed to secure the Channel.
The advantage of this agreement is obvious, but the disadvantage, as Monsieur Cambon is now very anxious to point out, is that it leaves the Atlantic and Channel coasts of France completely unprotected by battleships.
Or would do so if we failed to join in a war that Germany was waging on France.
You mean the French are relying on us to protect their ports? In a sense, yes.
There's no escaping it.
It is an unfortunate situation.
Our agreement with France has all the obligations of a formal alliance.
- No, it doesn't! - But it does, gentlemen.
Think of it from the point of honour.
Edward Grey's honour! Not ours! I hope they are the same.
The French agreement has all the obligations of a formal alliance, but none of its advantages.
That is to say it contains no deterrent to any power thinking of attacking France.
How could it? The agreement was secret.
If only the Germans had known about this promise of yours - to Ambassador Cambon! - They probably do.
It's just us poor devils that have been kept in the dark.
Well, in fairness we've done well out of the agreement, too.
It certainly doesn't feel that way.
Oh, it has released us from having to patrol the Mediterranean, David.
No, the PM is right.
I could have asked for money for more dreadnoughts to patrol - the Mediterranean ourselves - Hear, hear.
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and not leave it to the French, but I know what John Burns here - would have said to that.
- I know your game.
You can't play it, though.
Since Sir Edward has been Foreign Secretary he has assured Parliament on several occasions that this government has incurred no firm commitments to France.
Indeed he has been proud, as we all have, that Great Britain has avoided those entanglements with foreign powers which could lead us, almost blind-folded, into war.
Now he appears to be telling us that we do not possess the full liberty of our own decision-making after all, and that is a very serious thing.
One could almost say he has misled us.
You have misled yourselves.
You all knew where the Anglo-French agreement was heading but none of you opened a conversation around this table.
You did not want to know because you did not want the responsibility.
You left Sir Edward with all of that, which might be called good judgment, but to bemoan it now is a kind of cowardice.
How dare you! Some of what Winston says may be true.
Even a blunderbuss does occasionally hit its target.
But that does not answer the wider question of why we should follow France into a war brought about because her Russian allies decided to mobilise its entire army against such feeble Austrian opposition of all things.
There's no sense of proportion there.
The boy bloody scouts could defeat the Austrian army.
That's a ridiculous comment.
No, well, John comes from Battersea and they have some pretty ferocious boy scouts down there.
But Russia? Gentlemen, please, are we to be led into a war by the Tsar? Let us not forget we are talking about the land of the pogrom - of the Siberian exile.
- It's rhetoric.
Rhetoric! 10 days ago, over 100 working men were cut down on the streets of St Petersburg for the crime of joining a trade union.
Wouldn't you be better off in Trafalgar Square with the Labour lot, howling this rot from an upturned soap box? You should get back to the Tory party.
That is quite enough! We are here to talk about the French predicament.
And what this government intends to do about it.
I will say this, Prime Minister-- I will accept some of the Cabinet's misgivings about the way the French negotiations have been handled .
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by me.
They were done in good faith, I assure you, but I will resign from the Cabinet this afternoon if it prevents me from signalling Britain's intentions to protect French ports in the event of a German naval attack on the Channel.
If that happens, this government will be at an end.
Why? Because I, and I suspect, some others, will resign with him.
And then you'll have the Tories in.
Rubbish.
They'll too busy gunrunning to Ulster.
No, John, I assure you they will be able to form a government and they will have no qualms about taking this country - into a European war.
- With conscription.
Those are the stakes, gentlemen.
Please think upon them when you answer this question.
Does Sir Edward have your authorisation to inform Monsieur Cambon that we will honour our naval agreement with the French? Those who say yes? Those who say no? And one abstention Sir Edward, you may proceed.
In that case, Prime Minister, I tender my resignation.
I implore you to reconsider, John.
I'm from the people, Edward, and I must speak for them because their voices are never heard in the counsels of government.
That is why you should stay with us.
But the people don't want war.
That's why I'm having no part in taking us into one.
But most people aren't like you.
They're more like Winston.
I don't think that's true.
But it's a pity if it is.
Well, it's held for now, Edward, but if we push them any further the Cabinet will divide.
I know.
And if that happens the nation will divide, too.
What are you going to David? You're the most important man amongst us.
No, you are.
The millions of our fellow countrymen who wait to hear what David Lloyd George says before they make up their own minds.
- I don't yet know.
- You will have to decide, and quickly.
I'm not sure I have the stomach for another peace campaign.
No-one will ask you to mount those platforms again.
You did your bit over South Africa, let the younger men take up the burden this time.
But I tell you this, it will be a glorious thing for them to know that Lloyd George is on their side.
We have been mislead, David.
The whole country has.
It certainly looks that way.
Grey has run this nation's foreign policy without a single reference to parliament, and now he expects us to pull his chestnuts out of the fire.
I will likely resign from the government if we enter this war.
Is the Fatherland in danger? It is.
- Can we fight on two fronts? - Easier than on one.
Say that again.
It is easier for us to fight on two fronts than on one.
This is what I hate in you, Moltke, your sophistry.
Keep it simple, Moltke, hm? If we fight on one front against Russia, we must improvise and that is always bad.
And all the time we will be watching over our shoulder for France.
If we fight on two fronts, we enact a plan we have been working on for nine years.
The Schlieffen Plan.
Yes.
I thought the dust had settled on that.
We just keep blowing it away.
The Schlieffen Plan is always being updated, Your Majesty.
90% of our army will be thrown at France, according to a strict timetable, while the rest hold the Russians off, a relatively easy task in the first six weeks of war.
- Six weeks? - Yes, six weeks.
The time it will take to knock out France.
Then everything will be turned towards Russia.
The trains have already been ordered.
Six weeks to defeat France? Our scouting parties will first see Paris 40 days into the war.
Imagine those fortunate few.
I know what you're going to say next You're planning to go through Belgium.
Isn't that so? - A lovely idea, Your Majesty.
- Lovely? Your Majesty, the great powers guarantee Belgium independence not because we love each other, but because we fear each other.
- That's natural, of course.
- Natural? - It's also efficient.
Respecting Belgian neutrality is what keeps us and the French from garrotting each other.
And I am custodian of a treaty with the King of Belgium.
Which, tragically, you shall have to break.
Either Belgium steps aside or she is annihilated.
Or, we keep our treaty with Belgium and expose Germany to annihilation.
Success alone will justify what we do.
How would we begin to explain our violation of Belgian independence? Something has already been arranged on that.
Five days before, our ambassador in Brussels had received a mysterious package from Berlin.
"Do not open this telegram", an accompanying note said, "and only open it if, and when, you receive a further instruction "from Berlin.
" Can you get me a whiskey, please? They have all been considerably lengthened in the last five years.
I'm sorry.
Are you finishing a conversation with someone else or starting one with me? Those north-western German railway platforms - that you mentioned this morning.
- I mentioned those to you? Well, you were thinking out loud, I was there.
So, I asked a friend at the Board of Trade to check his files.
The station platforms at Dueren are now half a mile long.
That's an awful lot of German holidaymakers suddenly very keen to see the delights of Belgium.
Well Done.
Belgium.
Prepare for the deluge.
We have guaranteed Belgium's neutrality.
Well done.
In perpetuity with Britain and France.
Haven't you seen how things are working here? That treaty is just a scrap of paper.
'The last ever battle in history to be fought in Belgium 'would be Waterloo.
'That was the epic idea contained in the treaty 'signed by the Great Powers in 1839.
' 'But, evidently, it was not an idea that meant much to General Moltke.
' Now is the time! - Sir Edward.
- I know.
Ah! Yes, the German ambassador arrived some time ago.
And the French ambassador is also here.
Any more? And I must have a moment with you also.
Later.
Sir Edward, forgive me for barging in like this, but Yes, indeed.
Unexpected.
I do apologise, Prince Lichnowsky, but I feel I should fulfil my appointment with the French ambassador.
You've done the right thing.
And what of a British expeditionary force? Just two divisions on their way to France would have a tremendous moral effect on our people.
Paul! And a deterrent effect on Germany too.
Yeah, I know that's not a serious suggestion.
But it is.
Germany will declare war on France in the next 24 hours.
All France knows it.
The one thing that might stop them is you.
You credit Britain with too much power, Paul, and it has made you irresponsible.
It is you who can stop it.
You alone.
The power is yours.
Whom did I say was next? Sir, before you see Prince Lichnowsky, you must see this.
Please.
Are you sure? I'm 100% sure about the recent lengthening of the railway platforms, and I'm 95% sure that German troops are heading towards the Belgian border.
But can we be certain they intend to cross into Belgium? Might there not be an innocent explanation for all this activity? Certainly there might.
I can't think what it would be.
But Well, why don't I just ask him? Of course, after last night, we can't afford a second misunderstanding.
I take full responsibility for that.
Please don't.
I rather think we egged each other on.
The damn telephone, too.
The thing was invented to make fools of us.
It's not created difficulties for you? Hmm, none.
- Yourself? - I don't know.
No, I don't think so.
May I ask you an awkward question? If I may reserve the option of pretending I didn't hear it.
What would you say if I told you I have certain reasons to believe that someone in Germany .
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someone in a high command, is contemplating an invasion of Belgium? I would say that is impossible.
We have a treaty with Belgium, as you do.
But Belgium is a back door to Paris.
Belgium is a sovereign country.
Mm-hmm.
It is the back door to Paris.
It is also a back door to Berlin.
Belgium makes us all honest.
It makes the French honest, it makes Germany honest.
To violate Belgian sovereignty would be madness.
We have received reports in the last 24 hours of French troops along the Givet-Namur road .
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and therefore, in the light of this violation of your territory, and of the 1839 treaty, we are obliged to request of the Belgian government free access for our own troops to engage the French.
You have 12 hours to respond.
- This will be our casus belli.
- It might be.
It's an immaculate one, too.
No oil reserves, no coaling stations, no gold fields.
Just poor little Belgium at the mercy of the German juggernaut.
Even the radicals will be filled with indignation.
If Germany invades.
The legal situation is not altogether clear.
We would probably still need an official request for assistance from the Belgian government to avoid breaching the same treaty.
We cannot be more Belgian than the Belgians.
- Surely they will ask for our help.
- I have no idea.
It's possible the Belgian army will simply fire a token shot and then line the roads while the German army passes through.
"If we are to be crushed" said the Belgian King, "let us be crushed gloriously.
" That night his Government had resolved "to repel every attack on its right.
" And King Albert himself composed a personal appeal to the Kaiser, translated by his German wife.
But there was no cry for help directed to London.
Not yet.
And I'll be honest with you.
Not one man here wanted it to come.
What would they say if they truly knew what was happening to their world? Tell me, Winston, what does it take to lead a democracy into war? I do not know.
It's never been done before.
We would be the first, in Europe at any rate.
It means seeking the approval of those who are going to die in it, I suppose.
Our forebears never had that problem.
And we record their names now.
Of those who fall, I mean.
It makes it so personal.
Have you told your parents? I haven't had the time.
You ought to.
I'm their only son, Muriel.
They'd be horrified if they knew that I was thinking of volunteering.
But they'll have to know eventually.
No, not necessarily.
It may still blow over.
It might not come to war.
So, Germany has requested free movement of her troops across Belgium and so far, Belgium has refused to give it, and has not asked for our assistance and may never do so.
So, we are where we were.
Except one power has signalled its intention to break a venerable treaty.
What was that shrug for? Do these things not matter? Words on paper, composed long ago.
Words have to mean something.
Otherwise, all that remains is the cannon.
And let us think of France.
I know you don't want to, but consider her position.
Cowardice won't save her now.
She is about to be overwhelmed by the might of the German Army, whether she fights or not.
Words do have to mean something, of course they do.
But let us not pretend that our own ill-chosen words would not have awesome consequences for millions of our countrymen.
We can fill this room with noble thoughts about treaties honoured and solemn promises kept.
We can flatter ourselves that we are the custodians of international law and that Germany is a nation of brigands.
But think, think, gentlemen, think of the consequences that would flow from such high-mindedness.
We have not fought a European war for several generations and, necessarily, we've forgotten what it is like to do so, and this makes us brave and frivolous.
How does an army of several million men defeat another army of several million men with all the metal they have these days at their disposal? None of us knows, not even the generals, although they pretend to.
If the European nations come to blows tonight, or in the next few days, I foresee a calamity lasting years.
It will be a war without victors, which is the worst war imaginable, because the immense expense of blood will, in the end, be for nothing.
Edward? That's why I understand the temptation of neutrality.
We're human beings and therefore, the temptation's almost irresistible.
But our friend here talks as though there will be no calamity if we stood aside and let Belgian pleas for help, should they come, fall on deaf ears.
Well what about the political calamity? And what about the moral calamity? What would happen to our good name? Who would ever trust us again? We would have sacrificed every friend and every interest simply to preserve ourselves.
And what would lay before us when that European war had ended? A scarred continent, to be sure, with all the human destruction our friend has foretold-- not Englishmen, it is true, but our neighbours.
And this too-- we would face a continent under the dominion of a solitary power.
And that a military one, dedicated to blood and iron.
We have an obligation to France, unwritten perhaps, also to Belgium - very much written.
Does that not mean something? Let every man here search his own heart and decide for himself whether he feels the pull of those obligations.
I do.
I will presently go to the House of Commons and make the case for supporting our allies if it should come to war.
Then I should resign.
What can I expect if I stay on? Everlasting quarrels with Winston, certainly, but also, with respect .
.
I would be putting my name to a policy that is fundamentally wrong.
It's sad, but .
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this government is folding.
Now I have four resignations.
Beauchamp and Simon joined John Burns earlier this morning.
David Lloyd George.
What is your policy? I would impress on Germany the importance of Belgian neutrality.
And if Germany is not impressed? And Belgium fails to ask for our help, would you commit to war for the sake of France? No.
You'll need half an hour to yourself, Edward? Uh? - Before you address the House.
- Ah, yes, I would appreciate that.
Sir Edward! Sir Edward! I have just been instructed by my government to inform you that the German fleet will not operate in the English Channel if Britain remains neutral.
Isn't that encouraging? Is there not something there for you? Not really.
What if Germany were to abide by her treaty obligations to Belgium? Would Britain then agree to neutrality? No.
No?! Max, I have no idea if you were authorised to ask that question, I rather suspect you were not, but even if you were, I would still be required to say, "No".
But that is irrational.
My dear friend, I rather think it is you who is no longer seeing things clearly.
I'm offering you a formula to save us.
You're asking Britain to reward Germany with a free hand against France merely for fulfilling its legal and moral obligations to Belgium.
I cannot do that.
Anyway, how do I know you will abide by your agreement? I No, no, no, not you-- your chiefs.
They could still march through Belgium tomorrow and wreck Britain's relations with France forever by publishing the text of some agreement struck between you and me.
Then, for God's sake, state the conditions under which Britain will remain neutral.
I will not do that either.
Please help me.
There must be something you can insist on.
That you do not go to war with France.
Germany will declare war on France this afternoon.
Will you go through Belgium? I don't know.
Perhaps a corner will be clipped, I don't know.
You'll excuse me.
I have an address to make to the House of Commons.
'Soon after Grey's address, Germany declared war on France.
'Some pretext was invented-- 'a French aerial attack on Nuremberg, I think.
'It wasn't true-- certainly, nobody in Nuremberg saw it.
' Sir, I've the latest despatches from Berlin and Brussels.
Come here for a moment, and look at this.
I've always loved this sight on a summer's evening.
I find it inexpressibly consoling.
And I want it to last forever.
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.
Perhaps that's true.
Perhaps.
You know, the lamps are going out all over Europe.
We may not see them lit again in our lifetime.
'By mid-morning, our 34th Brigade 'had crossed the border into Belgium.
' 'And King Albert of Belgium asked his parliament, '"Are we still committed to our independence?" '"Yes, yes!", came the reply.
' 'The King of the Belgians then made his appeal 'to all the guarantors of Belgian neutrality.
' These are the translations, two copies of each, please, Muriel.
Is this it, do you think? 'We heard it at midday.
' David.
Prime Minister.
I do not think that we are prepared for war.
The Governor of the Bank of England assures me that we will be very quickly bankrupt as a nation if we take up arms against Germany.
And although he exaggerates somewhat, he is undoubtedly correct in saying that, as a mercantile nation, we shall suffer more than most because of the agonies to international trade.
I believe also there are some people in this country, possibly even around this table, who will have been delighted by the Kaiser's decision to violate Belgian sovereignty this morning for the simple reason that it coats their own selfish enthusiasm for war with a moral gloss.
However .
.
I differ from my now departed colleagues.
I am genuinely frightened by the prospect of a rampant Germany sitting in Brussels and Paris and on the Channel coast.
Do I care for Belgium? I fear for her, certainly.
She is a small nation like my own-- and she has rights, which cannot be eradicated just because the eradicator is strong.
Do I care for the principle that international law ought to mean something? Yes, I do.
There ought to be more of it, not less.
The German invasion of Belgium has changed everything for me.
The only sensible thing now is for this government to send an ultimatum to the aggressors in Berlin.
Is there anyone who disagrees with that last sentence? Well, there will be no opposition from the Conservatives or the Irish Nationalists, I very much hope there will no opposition from our own people.
- Just one thing, Prime Minister.
- Yes.
Do you not think we ought to consult the Dominion governments before we issue an ultimatum? The Australians and the Canadians will have their own thoughts on this, I'm quite certain.
There is no constitutional need.
They will see it as we see it.
'You did the right thing.
' None of us will survive this war.
Politically, I mean.
'Within the hour, the British government had drafted its ultimatum 'to the Kaiser demanding the complete withdrawal 'of all German troops from Belgium by midnight.
' 'That was midnight, Berlin time.
'But the mind of our government was made up.
' What we are doing to Belgium, we have been forced to do.
Necessity knows no law.
Good-- necessity knows no law.
That is right.
If we think like magistrates, we are dead.
The British think like magistrates.
Legalism, not justice.
They care nothing for Belgium or the treaty.
They only care for power.
And how they hate it when we show our appetite to be equal with theirs.
What do you say, Bethmann? Our army must hack its way through Belgium.
'I believe it was Rousseau who said, '"It is a sort of folly to remain wise '"in the midst of those who are mad.
"' 'And on those 37 days, Germany was short of that kind of folly.
' Can you take it next door? I hear you've decided to join the Royal Field Artillery.
I have, sir.
I think I'll be losing a lot of my young men.
Thank you.
Have you received orders to report to your regiment yet? Not yet, sir.
But you will.
I expect so, sir, yes.
It's not a bad life, the soldiering life.
Yes, sir.
But I don't think you'll fall in love with it.
I've never seen myself as a soldier, like some boys do.
I always hoped that, under my stewardship, we would see Germany turn into a state with an army, rather than the other way around.
The Prime Minister is in there.
And Winston Of course.
You carry this burden alone.
Yes.
You once criticised me for that.
"Too many secrets," you said.
It's how the game is played, I understand that.
But it is too punishing for one man.
All your successes-- we know virtually nothing about, they must remain private.
Otherwise, they are not successes at all.
But your failures they become common property, they belong to the world.
There is surely no hiding place from all the scorn and vilification that follow.
I suppose that there comes a time in a war diplomacy when nothing is left standing except principle? Perhaps I should have travelled more.
Officially, you mean? Officially, personally, both.
I've never once set foot in Germany.
I don't think that matters.
I could have taken my own measure of the place.
That's what the Foreign Office is for.
The world dissected by experts in every field, its vital organs displayed and explained.
Now, all those organs are failing.
What will it be like, do you think? I haven't given it much thought.
Not the military side of things.
Well, you've lacked the time.
I've lacked the experience too.
We all lack that.
Except Winston.
Did he ever told you about his charge with the 21st Lancers at the Battle of Omdurman? I think he did tell me about it once.
What? I think perhaps this war will be a little different.
'Ours became the war of the spade.
'The first trenches were dug in the Marne Valley 'at the end of August 1914.
' There was no '40-day war'.
No triumphant gallop to Paris, just a murderous and terrifying stalemate.
And, of course, the war spread.
It spread to the Middle East, to Asia, to Africa - and beyond.
It became the First World War.
By 1918, four Empires were in ruins and four royal dynasties ended.
The face of our continent was changed by revolution.
And death, it seemed, could never claim too many.
It was always hungry for more.
'10 million died.
' It's too many for the mind to conceive.
Every single one of them mourned by people who loved them and missed them, with grief consuming half the world.
Here's a funny thing.
Austria and Russia, whose quarrel in the Balkans had taken everybody else to the edge, they were the last to declare war on each other.
And when they did .
.
nobody really noticed.