Alexander Pepys’ War Diary – July 1914

JULY 1914

Although the sun shines strongly over the sea as it has done for evenings past, now her rays strike cold upon our English earth .  Not that we are out of favour with her, perhaps our European empires have upset her.  The Austrian has just declared war on her Balkan neighbour to revenge the murder.

Internal memos have given more urgency to complete our rail plans.  Though I think we should keep out of the quarrels of the quarrelsome European tribes I am not the Foreign Secretary .  So after an intense few days in the Ministry  our Minister was able to report to Cabinet the rail plans are ready for putting into practice.  I suspect the German Empire has had such plans ready for years since Bismarck saw the advantages of moving it troops and horses by train – after occupying Paris in 1871.

My mother has written to me in anguish about her Russian cousins.  Are the threatening hostilities in the Balkans likely to spread like a contagion over eastern Europe and infect Holy Russia ?  She still feels affinity to their country even though they rarely came to summer on the Riviera.  Her Papa Onegin loves living in Surenes with Mere Marie and their ghastly poodles

I wrote back yesterday I could not reassure her, had she contacted Boris – after he might still have contacts in the Russian military ever since he served on the Tsar’s staff until captured in the Crimea when his horse was shot.  Also I could not reveal the extent of decisions being made along our Government’s corridors.

Knowing my Minister’s barracking, the wife pleased me greatly by driving to the station each evening so I did not have to walk wearily up the hill.  So we had time to enjoy a glass of wine before John served us dinner, prepared as usual by Cook Flora.  Sitting afterwards on the verandah before bed I outlined to my family why I felt chilled by the sun.

Alexander Pepys’ War Diary – June 1914

JUNE 1914

From my study window I can glimpse the sea in the estuary beyond the marsh.  It is glistening as the evening sunlight plays on its surface.  June has been hot.  Rain has held off letting us enjoy our runs in the country in my Vauxhall tourer.  But sailing our ketch has resulted in flapping sails as light winds have prevailed.

Work in the Ministry has accelerated especially in my section because of international events.  This was before a report came in the other day of the murder of the Austrian Emperor’s heir.  We have been liaising with the railway companies to upgrade the plans for the movements of our military and naval personnel and supplies.  This has required many meetings as, naturally, the companies want to charge for providing these:  simultaneously they do not want the movements to interfere with their schedules for carrying their passengers and for the goods trains.

Our Minister is of the ‘old school’.  He prefers to ride his favourite horse whenever he can and keeps him in the Barracks – so he can leave the House and exercise him when not required there.  Fortunately the Opposition is quite docile about his Ministry’ activities so he is rarely taken to task.  I have prepared only seventeen written answers to Parliamentary Questions since Christmas.

After the report about the murder, a day later the news came that the Arch-Duke’s wife was also shot.  Strange how her death was first seen by our contacts in Austria as unimportant to report. What will be the fall-out of these events I cannot say – but disturbing as we know the Balkans. Phoned Gunter to hear his view on the murders, very non-committal – unlike his normal effusive self.

The wife returned from her choir practice: good idea to teach her to drive – it avoids me having to always take and fetch her.  After drinks we retired to bed.