On Tuesday, August 4th 1914 at 11pm, Great Britain declared war on Germany. In the preceding days, tension across Europe had been escalating and the heightened situation was followed closely by the local papers, reporting extensively on the mobilisation and outbreak of war between Germany, and Russia and France.
The Birmingham Post reported that diplomatic relations had broken down on Monday night between France and Germany. Baron von Schoen, the German Ambassador in France, had declared in an official letter that France had flown over German territory and that Germany considered this an act of war.
The article goes on to state:
Before his departure [from Paris] Baron von Schoen handed to M. Malvy a Note declaring that Germany considered a state of war existed between Germany and France.
When Germany demanded to send troops through Belgium into France, Britain protested and called for Germany to respect Belgian neutrality. The response from Germany was unsatisfactory and an official statement was issued announcing a state of war between Britain and Germany.
The need for more men to join the army was clear, and the Birmingham Daily Mail was quick to encourage patriotism amongst the inhabitants of Birmingham. They called for men to do their duty by publishing recruitment notices on their front page.
The mobilisation of British troops had already begun before the formal declaration of war was made, with Reservists and Territorials being called up for service. The Birmingham Mail reported the present mobilisation will make a very considerable demand upon the police forces, the fire brigade, railway employees, tramway servants, the Gas Department, postal officials and commissionaires while most of the manufacturers in Birmingham have Reservists or Territorials in their employ.
The minutes of the Gas Committee for 17th August 1914 (BCC 1/AY/1/1/25) show the effects of war were already starting to impact on the City. Several companies who the Committee had business with were being drawn into war work, not least affecting their supply of leather goods which were being diverted to the army and navy. Also of concern was the disposal of what was presumably the by-products of extracting gas, which had a market across Europe. Understandably these markets were becoming inaccessible, as was the valuable income earned from its sale. Their stocks of fluid for the mantles was shipped in from Germany. As with other departments across the Council, it was agreed that financial help be given to the families of its employees who joined the services. It was also agreed to keep their jobs open for them while on duty, however sadly not all of them would return.
Nicola Crews, Archivist