The Honourable Society of Cymmrodorion

Recognising the contribution of Wales in contemporary society

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home > Transactions > Volume 22 - 2016 > The Royal Welch Fusiliers and the Great Christmas Truce, 1914

The Royal Welch Fusiliers and the Great Christmas Truce, 1914

The summer crisis of 1914, which had begun on 28 June with the assassination of the Austro-Hungarian heir Franz Ferdinand, approached its climax on 2 August, the day on which the German government sent an ultimatum to Belgium demanding passage for its troops through Belgian territory in order to attack France. On 3 August, the Belgian government refused the German demands and Britain issued a guarantee of armed support to Belgium should Germany violate Belgian neutrality, in support of its position as a guarantor of Belgium’s neutrality under the Treaty of London in 1839. Germany immediately declared war on France and the British government ordered general mobilization. So we come to 4 August, the day that lies, as Barbara Tuchman put it, like an iron gate between us and the old world. That day, German troops crossed the Belgian frontier and attacked the fortress of Liège. In response, the British government sent an ultimatum to Germany demanding the withdrawal of German troops from neutral Belgium which, if it had not been accepted by 11pm London time, meant war. No such undertaking was received, and consequently Britain declared war on Germany.

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