29 Apr

From Will R. Bird:

Early in the war a very dutiful British officer in charge of a post deep in the heart of Africa received a wireless message from his chief.

“War declared.  Arrest all enemy aliens in your district.”

A few days later the chief received this communication:

“Have arrested seven Germans, three Belgians, four Spaniards, five Frenchmen, two Swedes and an American.  Please inform me with whom we are at war.”

The circumstances leading up to the Great War’s beginning were such that this kind of uncertainty really might have been possible.  If we were to put the matter at its most complicated, the assassination in Bosnia of an Austro-Hungarian prince at the hands of a Serb led to such a mobilization of the Russian army that Germany was obliged to invade Belgium in a bid to pre-emptively conquer France, thus leading to the British declaration of war.  Where the hapless Swedes would fit in to this is anyone’s guess, but the officer above may still be commended for covering his bases.


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