Britain declares war on Germany
Angry Germans attack the British Embassy in Berlin on the evening of 4 August after learning of the British declaration of war. Photo: Illustrated London News [London, England], 15 Aug 1914

Britain declares war on Germany

Redmond pledges Irish Volunteers to Ireland's defence

Published: 4 August 1914

Britain has declared war on Germany.

At 11pm tonight an official statement released by the British government read: ‘Owing to the summary rejection by the German Government of the request made by His Majesty’s Government that the neutrality of Belgium will be respected, His Majesty’s Ambassador at Berlin has received his passport, and his Majesty’s Government has declared to the German Government that a state of war exists between Great Britain and Germany as from 11pm on August 4.’

The leader of the opposition, Andrew Bonar Law, assured the government that it had his party’s unhesitating support.

The leader of the Labour Party, Ramsay Macdonald, said that the government was making a mistake and that the verdict of history would be that they were wrong.

Mr. Macdonald concluded that the country should have stayed neutral. 

The caption of this cartoon from Irish Life has Mr Redmond saying to Sergeant Bull: 'If we'd be of any use to you, sir, you're welcome.' Click to enlarge. (Image: Irish Life, 7 August 1914. Full collection of Irish Life available from the National Library of Ireland)

The leader of the Irish Parliamentary Party John Redmond has pledged that the Irish Volunteers will defend Ireland from any invading army.

‘I say to the government that they may withdraw every one of their troops from Ireland. I say that the coasts of Ireland will be defended from foreign invasion by her armed sons, and for this purpose the armed nationalist Catholic will be only too glad to join arms with the armed Protestant Ulsterman in the north,’ said Mr. Redmond.

‘We make this offer to the government. They may take their troops away and if it is allowed to us in comradeship with our brothers in the north, we will ourselves defend the coasts of Ireland,’ he continued.

Left: letter from John J Bell to Lord Aberdeen complaining at the number of catholics who have been appointed as Justices of the Peace, an action Mr Bell believes will result in 'ill feeling amongst His Majesty's subjects'.
Right: a resolution passed by the Carrick-on-Shannon corps of the National Volunteers supporting John Redmond's decision to offer the services of the Volunteers in the defence of Ireland. Click to enlarge. (Images: National Archives of Ireland)

Mr. Redmond had been speaking in the House of Commons after the British Foreign Secretary Lord Edward Grey had said that the country was obliged to stand firm: ‘In a crisis like this we ran away from those obligations of honour and interest as regard Belgium, I doubt whether, whatever material force we might have, at the end it would be of much value in face of the respect that we should have lost.’

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