Writing from notes made on Foreign Office telegrams, Harcourt reports that John Simon and Lord Beauchamp remain in the Cabinet ‘pro tem.’
Britain will fire upon the German dreadnought The Goeben ‘in the Mediterranean if it tries to stop French transports: we are to stop her getting out to prey on our commerce in the Atlantic.’ The Cabinet decided that The Goeben ‘will be warned that if she shoots at French transports we shall sink her.’
The Cabinet is ‘sending an ultimatum to Germany & to have the answer by midnight.’ Harcourt writes that ‘Germany has informed Belgium that her territory will be violated by force of arms.’
The Cabinet discussed the seizure of German colonies. Harcourt advised the Cabinet that it was better to wait and that he was ‘holding back Dominion Exped[itionary] forces for the present & they approved.’
Germany has declared war on France. Harcourt insisted to the Cabinet, with the agreemtent of the Prime Minister, ‘that orders sh[oul]d be sent to our Mediterranean Fleet not to fire on Goeben till we have become at war with Germany. Winston [Churchill] was compelled to send these orders & at once.’
Harcourt writes that ‘there are many German spies here now & have been for a long time: we have full evidence against them & shall seize them at once.’
The Foreign Secretary, Sir Edward Grey, read out to the Cabinet the ultimatum being sent to Germany: ‘we must have an assurance from Germany – similar to that from France last week – as to the neutrality of Belgium.’ Harcourt reports that Germany is ‘said to have sent an ulitmatum to Sweden & may do so to Norway.’
Foreign Secretary Grey informed the Cabinet of his desire to ‘offer Holland & Norway (as well as Belgium) a guarantee of future integrity if they will remain neutral now.’
The Cabinet received news of a telegram received by the French embassy reporting that German forces are said to ‘have penetrated to Verviers between Liege and German frontier.’
After the meeting of the Cabinet, Harcourt attended a meeting of ‘commerical men’ with the Chancellor of the Exchequer, David Lloyd George.
We shall be publishing the second part of Harcourt’s entry for 4 August 1914 to commemorate the centenary of the British declaration of war at 23:00 GMT.
Harcourt’s political journal features in the Bodleian Libraries exhibition The Great War: From Downing Street to the Trenches.