GREAT WAR CENTENARY: From one superpower to another
Broome Manor man's unique memorabilia reveals how the Kaiser lost his rag...
A RETIRED railway worker and businessman has a remarkable piece of World War One memorabilia.
On August 10, 1914, Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany hand wrote a telegram for President Woodrow Wilson of the United States, accusing Britain of going back on a promise to stay out of any European War.
A copy of the document is in the hands of Peter Cook, 76, who lives in Broome Manor, Swindon.
Mr Cook, who is married to Joan and is a father and grandfather, had several relatives who served in both world wars.
He said: “My mother gave me this because I’m very interested in the First World War and the Second World War – we’ve been to the Dunkirk beaches, which we found fascinating.
“It’s 100 old, this document, and I haven’t heard much about it. It’s a letter which the Kaiser wrote to the American president. I think it’s a copy. .
“It’s been in the family for a long time. It must have been my father’s father, probably, who bought it as a sort of keepsake.
“It was just before the outbreak of the war.
“I put it aside for many, many years but then I got it out because of the anniversary.”
The document, running to five and a half pages, reads:
1. H. R. H. Prince Henry was received by his Majesty King George V in London, who empowered him to transmit to me verbally, that England would remain neutral if war broke out on the Continent involving Germany and France, Austria and Russia. This message was telegraphed to me by my brother from London after his conversation with H. M. the King, and repeated verbally on the twenty-ninth of July.
2. My Ambassador in London transmitted a message from Sir E. Grey to Berlin saying that only in case France was likely to be crushed England would interfere.
3. On the thirtieth my Ambassador in London reported that Sir Edward Grey in course of a “private” conversation told him that if the conflict remained localized between Russia – not Serbia – and Austria, England would not move, but if we “mixed” in the fray she would take quick decisions and grave measures; ie; if I left my ally Austria in the lurch to fight alone England would not touch me.
4. This communication being directly counter to the King’s message to me, I telegraphed to H. M. on the twenty-ninth or thirtieth, thanking him for kind messages through my brother and begging him to use all his power to keep France and Russia-his Allies-from making any war-like preparations calculated to disturb my work of mediation, stating that I was in constant communication with H. M. the Czar. In the evening the King kindly answered that he had ordered his Government to use every possible influence with his Allies to refrain from taking any provocative military measures. At the same time H. M. asked me if I would transmit to Vienna the British proposal that Austria was to take Belgrade and a few other Serbian towns and a strip of country as a “main-mise” to make sure that the Serbian promises on paper should be fulfilled in reality. This proposal was in the same moment telegraphed to me from Vienna for London, quite in conjunction with the British proposal; besides, I had telegraphed to H. M. the Czar the same as an idea of mine, before I received the two communications from Vienna and London, as both were of the same opinion.
5. I immediately transmitted the telegrams vice versa to Vienna and London. I felt that I was able to tide the question over and was happy at the peaceful outlook.
6. While I was preparing a note to H. M. the Czar the next morning, to inform him that Vienna, London and Berlin were agreed about the treatment of affairs, I received the telephones from H. E. the Chancellor that in the night before the Czar had given the order to mobilize the whole of the Russian army, which was, of course, also meant against Germany; whereas up till then the southern armies had been mobilized against Austria.
7. In a telegram from London my Ambassador informed me he understood the British Government would guarantee neutrality of France and wished to know whether Germany would refrain from attack. I telegraphed to H. M. the King personally that mobilization being already carried out could not be stopped, but if H. M. could guarantee with his armed forces the neutrality of France I would refrain from attacking her, leave her alone and employ my troops elsewhere. H. M. answered that he thought my offer was based on a misunderstanding; and, as far as I can make out, Sir E. Grey never took my offer into serious consideration. He never answered it. Instead, he declared England had to defend Belgian neutrality, which had to be violated by Germany on strategical grounds, news having been received that France was already preparing to enter Belgium, and the King of Belgians having refused my petition for a free passage under guarantee of his country’s freedom. I am most grateful for the President's message.