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Historical Insights Great Britain Enters World War I

At 11:20 p.m. British military forces were sent a telegram with just three words: “War. Germany. Act.” Within days, two-thirds of Britain’s army had landed on the shores of France. August 4, 1914, Britain. Credit: Culture Club/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Great Britain Enters World War I

As summer came to a close in 1914, Great Britain was thrust into a bloody conflict that would come to be known as The Great War—World War I.

The deadline was 11:00 p.m. on August 4, 1914. If Germany did not remove their troops from Belgium, Great Britain would declare war. As Big Ben struck the hour across the Thames that night, Chancellor David Lloyd George wrote, “The big clock echoes in our ears like the hammer of destiny.” Germany had remained silent and Great Britain was at war. The days that followed were a flurry of activity. Thousands of young men rushed to the recruitment stations and the Army increased by 25,000 in just one month. Home front preparations began in earnest with the possibility of invasion eminent. Trenches were dug in the hills along the southwestern coast and some cities even put up barricades in the streets. As soldiers boarded ships and headed toward the Western Front, women, children, and men unable to serve hunkered down for the duration, determined to withstand “the war to end all wars.”