A British diplomat reports on Anglo-German tensions (1914)


In January 1914 Vincent Corbett, a British diplomat stationed in Bavaria, reported on the state of Anglo-German tensions:


Munich
January 13th 1914

The Chancellor of the Exchequer’s energetically phrased denunciation of the “organised insanity” of modern armaments has excited intense interest in Germany. Every paper has reported his words, and also the comments of the British press thereon.

The Prime Ministers of Bavaria and Wurtemberg, have spoken to me on the subject, and both asked if Mr. Lloyd George’s words implied a split in the Cabinet. I replied in both instances to the effect that England was the country of free discussions, that the Cabinet was a large one, and that without doubt differences of view must occasionally arise between Ministers charged with different functions…. We had, I reminded their Excellencies, for the last ten years been in favour of calling a halt in naval expenditure, and Mr. Churchill had even made concrete proposals in that sense…

At a time when the statesmen of England and Germany have done so much to bring about a more friendly feeling between the two countries, when not only the German taxpayer but the various Federal Governments are beginning to feel the pinch of increased taxation; when, moreover, the Zabern incident has brought the military and civil, or in other words the aristocratic and democratic, elements in the Empire into sharp conflict… it would be deeply to be regretted if the speeches of politicians or newspaper controversies in Great Britain should lead the Germans to believe that the British Government were wavering in their determination to maintain at all costs armaments adequate to guarantee the safety of our possessions and our trade.

As I have already had the honour to report, no specifically hostile feeling to Great Britain exists, or has ever existed, in South Germany… The conviction has been brought home both to the well-to-do classes, who are our trade rivals, and to the finance ministers of the various States that some limit must be put to naval and military expenditure. This view is not shared by naval and military men… the class in this country, which I believe to be diminishing, but which is unhappily still [very influential], that sees in the British Empire an opponent to German development with whom an armed struggle is sooner or later inevitable.

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