News / 100 years ago today: Great Britain declared war on Germany

100 years ago today: Great Britain declared war on Germany

Today marks 100 years since the announcement on 4 August 1914 that England and Germany were at war, marking the onset of World War 1 for Great Britain.

On that day, 4 August 1914, the British Foreign Office released the following announcement:

“Owing to the summary rejection by the German government of the request made by his Majesty’s Government for assurances that the neutrality of Belgium would be respected, his Majesty’s ambassador in Berlin has received his passports, and his Majesty’s government has declared to the German government that a state of war exists between Great Britain and Germany as from 11p.m on 4 Aug.

Learn more in our World War 1 records

The Birmingham Gazette reported on that day:

“It was in view of the knowledge that the German reply to the British ultimatum was unsatisfactory that ministers who had been summoned to a Cabinet meeting at midnight assembled at 10, Downing-street at at earlier hour, where the king signed documents which naturally follow the existence of a state of war.

Great Britain’s ultimatum followed Germany’s declaration of war on France and Belgium, and the receipt of the news of the invasion of Belgian territory.

  • By dawn on Tuesday 4 August 1914, Germany had declared war on Russia and France, and Austria-Hungary was at war with Serbia.
  • The Germans had given Belgium an ultimatum, demanding that their troops be allowed to enter Belgian territory in order to defend themselves against France. Belgium rejected that ultimatum.
  • Britain gave Germany an ultimatum, insisting that Belgian’s neutrality be respected, and that the German fleet not bombard defenseless French towns.
  • Germany gave Britain no satisfactory assurance that this request would be met. As a result, and in light of the  1839 Treaty of London, guaranteeing to protect Belgian neutrality (of which Britain was a signatory), Britain declared war on Germany.

Read more in our historic newspapers

The Daily Herald 4th August 1914