Though Germany had declared war on Russia, and made obvious moves threaten France (including an invasion of the border country Luxemburg), France and Germany were not yet officially at war. This changed on August 3, when the German ambassador to France handed the French President a declaration of war. The note claimed that this was a consequence of French actions against Belgium, but only the most foolish would be mislead by this accusation.
British foreign secretary Edward Grey forecasted the immensity of the war in his remarks to the editor of the Westminster Gazette that evening: “The lamps are going out all over Europe, and we shall not see them lit again in our lifetime.”
Below follows the text of the German declaration of war.
Presented by the German Ambassador to Paris
M. Le President,
The German administrative and military authorities have established a certain number of flagrantly hostile acts committed on German territory by French military aviators.
Several of these have openly violated the neutrality of Belgium by flying over the territory of that country; one has attempted to destroy buildings near Wesel; others have been seen in the district of the Eifel; one has thrown bombs on the railway near Carlsruhe and Nuremberg.
I am instructed, and I have the honour to inform your Excellency, that in the presence of these acts of aggression the German Empire considers itself in a state of war with France in consequence of the acts of this latter Power.
At the same time, I have the honour to bring to the knowledge of your Excellency that the German authorities will retain French mercantile vessels in German ports, but they will release them if, within forty-eight hours, they are assured of complete reciprocity.
My diplomatic mission having thus come to an end, it only remains for me to request your Excellency to be good enough to furnish me with my passports, and to take the steps you consider suitable to assure my return to Germany, with the staff of the Embassy, as well as, with the Staff of the Bavarian Legation and of the German Consulate General in Paris.
Be good enough, M. le President, to receive the assurances of my deepest respect.