The twenty years of Belgian history following the Franco-German War can be passed over without comment.
70 THE NEUTRALITY OF
eign, who thus, through personal union, was ruler of two entirely separate neutralized countries.
Five years later, King Leopold took the unusual step of bequeathing all his sovereign rights in the Congo Free State to his other country, viz., to Belgium, which, by a special convention, was granted the right of annexing that state within a period of ten years, expiring in 1901. Naturally, the Powers who were signatories of the International Congo Conference were much aroused by this very high-handed act of King Leopold's, which was, in more than one respect, in direct defiance to international law. No European Cabinet could be persuaded to give its consent to the proposed annexation, which thus dragged on through a number of years as one of the most important questions of colonial politics. It was then frequently commented upon and many prominent lawyers expressed the opinion that the annexation of the Congo State was quite incompatible with Belgium's status as a perpetually neutral country which absolutely depended on the limits clearly defined by the treaties based upon the Twenty-Four Articles, and pointed out that, if the said scheme really should be carried out, it would be tantamount to a de-facto abrogation of Belgium's perpetual neutrality.1
1 To quote here only a few expert
opinions on the subject: P. Fauchille wrote:
"The annexation of the
When the said convention expired in 1901, a bill
was passed by the Brussels Parliament reaffirming
incompatible with the neutrality of
came an increasingly serious problem for King Leopold, who, owing to his advanced age, wished to see it definitely settled as soon as possible.
Under those conditions, it created considerable
astonishment in Europe when, in 1907,1 it
was announced that Great Britain had finally consented to the absorption of the
Congo State by Belgium, a step which was entirely against British interests;
and it was generally rumored that doubtless the unexpected settlement of this
affair was a bargain between the two merchant-kings on European thrones—Edward
There is hardly any doubt now that at that time
The increasing tension in European politics,
caused by the late King Edward's "encircling" policy, had
1 The treaty of cession was
adopted by the Belgium Parliament by an act of legislation of
service and raised the war strength of her army to nearly half a million men,
the necessary funds for this undertaking being provided by a loan in
In this era of international compacts, open
alliances or secret conventions, it seems at first sight not unnatural that
"The perpetually neutral State renounces the right to make war, and, in consequence, the right to contract alliances, even purely defensive ones, because they would drag it into a war to succor an ally or would place it in a situation of political dependence toward such an ally if the neutral State's ally should promise it succor without exacting reciprocity."1
1 The Neutrality of
74 THE NEUTRALITY OF
military or other, which would insure her the rapid and effective support of her English friends."1
This, however, was
In an official communique to the North German Gazette of
It may be mentioned here in passing that neither the Belgian nor the British Government has attempted to challenge the authenticity of those documents, though both have tried to make the world
1 See page 60.
2 See page 200 and following.
believe that their contents were more or less innocent.1
The first of those documents, published in facsimile in the Appendix, is the draft of a report of the Chief of the Belgian Army Staff, Major-General Ducarne, to the Belgian Minister of War, completed in September, 1906, concerning a number of confidential conferences which he had had with the Military Attache of the British Legation in Brussels, Lieutenant-Colonel Barnardiston, with regard to the despatch of an English expeditionary force to Belgium, in case of an European conflict. It reads, in English translation, as follows:
"LETTER TO THE MINISTER
"CONCERNING THE CONFIDENTIAL CONVERSATIONS
"I have the honor to report to you briefly about the conversations which I had with Lieutenant-Colonel Barnardiston and which have already been the subject of my oral communications.
"The first visit took place in the middle of January. Mr. Barnardiston referred to the anxieties of the General Staff of his country with regard to the general political situation, and because of the possibility that war may soon
1 See pages 167-173.
break out. In case
"The Lieutenant-Colonel asked me how such a measure would be regarded by us. I answered him, that from a military point of view it could not be but favorable, but that this question of intervention was just as much a matter for the political authorities, and that, therefore, it was my duty to inform the Minister of War about it.
Barnardiston answered that his Minister in
proceeded in the following sense: The landing of the English troops would take place
at the French coast in the vicinity of
"This admitted, there would be several other points to consider, such as railway transportation, the question of requisitions which the English army could make, the question concerning the chief command of the allied forces.
"He inquired whether our preparations were sufficient to secure the defense of the country during the crossing and the transportation of the English troops—which he estimated to last about ten days.
answered him that the places
"After having expressed his full satisfaction with my explanations, my visitor laid emphasis on the following facts: (1) that our conversation was entirely confiden-
tial; (2) that it was not binding on his government; (3) that his Minister, the English General Staff, he and I were, up to the present, the only ones informed about the matter; (4) that he did not know whether the opinion of his Sovereign had been consulted.
* * *
"In a following discussion Lieutenant-Colonel Barnardiston assured me that he had never received confidential reports of the other military attaches about our army. He then gave the exact numerical data of the English forces; we could depend on it, that in 12 or 13 days two army corps, 4 cavalry brigades and 2 brigades of horse infantry would be landed.
"He asked me to study the question of the transport of these forces to that part of the country where they would be useful, and he promised to give me for this purpose details about the composition of the landing army.
reverted to the question concerning the effective strength of our field army,
and he emphasized that no detachments should be sent from this army to
"He asked me to direct my attention to the necessity of granting the English army the advantages which the regulations concerning the military requisitions provided for. Finally he insisted upon the question of the chief command.
"I answered him that I could say nothing with reference to this last point and promised him that I would study the other questions carefully.
* * *
"Later on the English Military Attache confirmed his former calculations: 12 days would at least be necessary to carry out the landing at the French coast. It would
take a considerably longer time (1 to
2-1/2 months) to land 100,000
"Upon my objection that it would be unnecessary to await the end of the landing in order to begin with the railway transportations, and that it would be better to proceed with these, as when the troops arrived at the coast, Lieutenant-Colonel Barnardiston promised to give me exact data as to the number of troops that could be landed daily.
"As regards the military requisitions, I told my visitor that this question could be easily regulated.
* * *
"The further the plans of the English General Staff progressed, the clearer became the details of the problem. The Colonel assured me that one-half of the English army could be landed within eight days; the rest at the conclusion of the 12th or 13th day, with the exception of the Horse Infantry, which could not be counted upon until later.
"In spite of this I thought I had to insist again upon the necessity of knowing the exact number of the daily shipments, in order to regulate the railway transportation for every day.
"The English Military Attache conversed with me about several other questions, namely:
"(I) The necessity of keeping the operations secret and of demanding strict secrecy from the Press;
"(2) The advantages, which would accrue from giving one Belgian officer to each English General Staff, one interpreter to each commanding officer, and gendarmes to each unit of troops, in order to assist the British police troops.
* * *
"In the course of another interview Lieutenant-Colonel
Barnardiston and I studied the combined operations to take place in the event of a
German offensive with
"In this question, the Colonel said he quite agreed with the plan which I had submitted to him, and he assured me also of the approval of General Grierson, Chief of the English General Staff.
"Other secondary questions which were likewise settled, had particular reference to intermediary officers, interpreters, gendarmes, maps, photographs of the uniforms, special copies, translated into English, of some Belgian regulations, the regulations concerning the import duties on English provisions, to the accommodation of the wounded of the allied armies, etc. Nothing was resolved on as regards the activity which the Government or the military authorities might exert on the Press.
* * *
"During the final meetings
which I had with the British Attache, he informed me about
the numbers of troops which would be daily disembarked at
"I again, for a last time, and as emphatically as I could, insisted on the necessity of hastening the sea-transports so that the English troops could be with us between the 11th and 12th day. The happiest and most favorable
80 THE NEUTRALITY OF
results can be reached by a convergent and simultaneous action of the allied forces. But if that co-operation should not take place, the failure would be most serious. Colonel Barnardiston assured me that everything serving to this end would be done.
* * *
the course of our conversations, I had occasion to convince the British Military
Attache that we were willing, so far as possible, to
thwart the movements of the enemy and not to take refuge in
Barnardiston on his part told me that, at the time,
he had little hope for any support or intervention on the part of
* * *
all our conversations the Colonel regularly informed me about the secret news
which he had concerning the military circumstances and the situation of our
Eastern neighbors, etc. At the same time he emphasized that
"MAJOR-GENERAL, CHIEF OF THE GENERAL STAFF.
(Initials of Gen. Ducarne.)
"Note.—When I met General Grierson at Compiegne, during the Manceuvres of 1906, he assured me the result of the re-organization of the English army would be that the landing of 150,000 would be assured and, that, moreover, they would stand ready for action in a shorter time than has been assumed above.
"Completed September, 1906."
(Initials of General Ducarne.)
is not claimed, of course, that this
document itself is anything like a formal treaty between the two respective
governments. It is not within the domain of Military Attaches to conclude
engagements of a political character. At his first meeting with Col. Barnardiston, General Ducarne
made a hint in that direction; however, the British officer replied that his
Minister Plenipotentiary at
In consequence, the conference between the two officers assumed a more and more intimate character, both sides mutually revealing military secrets
82 THE NEUTRALITY OF
which, in this day and generation, are only exchanged
between the representatives of "allied armies," under which
description, indeed, the combined military forces of both countries—probably
including those of
There can be no doubt
that, by April, 1906, the plans of the General Army Staffs of
The British Government has attempted to minimize the importance of the Ducarne-Barnardiston
1 That marginal note, clearly visible as such in the facsimile reproduction of the document (plate after page 220), is inserted in parenthesis, in the above translation, page 76.
conversations by giving out that they were of a merely "academical"
character. However, even if those conversations had only taken place in view of
a particular political crisis and were afterwards abandoned, they would,
according to the correct opinion of The Times,1 already constitute a
serious violation of Belgium's duties as a neutralized country. But, in
reality, they were by no means confined to a certain critical period of the
year 1906. They went on for years, and were most certainly followed up and
confirmed by a political agreement between
This is fully borne out by
the official despatch of the former Belgian Minister
1 See page 60.
have come to his knowledge at all. The experienced diplomat criticises
the military arrangements between
French side danger threatens not only in
the south of
"Evidently the project of an
outflanking movement from the north forms part of the scheme of the 'Entente Cordiale.'
If that were not the case, then the plan of fortifying
which were just as perfidious as they
were naive, have shown us plainly the true meaning of things. When it became
evident that we would not allow ourselves to be frightened by the pretended
danger of the closing of the
"The revelations of Captain Faber, which were denied as little as
the newspaper reports by which they were confirmed or completed in several
respects, also testify to this. This British army, at
is therefore of necessity to prepare a plan of battle for the Belgian army also
for that possibility. This is necessary in the interest of our military defense
as well as for the sake of the direction of our foreign policy, in case of war
These words of warning against King
Albert's Government following in the same dangerous path which King Leopold's
Government had been persuaded by
86 THE NEUTRALITY OF
ernment as outspokenly as even an official in his exalted
position may allow himself to do, that it violated the duties of
However, the Belgian Government was already too deeply committed and entangled in the English schemes to be able to lend an ear to Baron Greindl's warnings. The conversations between the Belgian General Army Staff and the British General Army Staff went on, being now conducted between the successor to Col. Barnardiston, Col. Bridges, and General Ducarne's successor in office, General Jungbluth. This is shown by the third document, published in facsimile, being the minutes of a meeting of the two officers, which, according to certain indications, must have taken place in 1912. It reads, in English translation:
"The British Military Attache asked to see General Jungbluth. The two gentlemen met on April 23rd.
"Lieutenant-Colonel Bridges told the General that
the Continent, composed of six divisions of infantry and eight brigades of cavalry—together 160,000 troops. She has also everything which is necessary for her to defend her insular territory. Everything is ready.
"At the time of the recent
events, the British Government would have immediately effected a disembarkment in
"The General objected that for that our consent was necessary.
"The Military Attache answered that he knew this, but that—since we were not
able to prevent the Germans from passing through our country—
"As for the place of landing, the Military Attache did not make a precise statement; he said that the coast was rather long, but the General knows that Mr. Bridges, during Easter, has paid daily visits to Zeebrugge from Ostende.
"The General added that we were, besides, perfectly able to prevent the Germans from passing through."
This document, which was found in the Department of Foreign Affairs in Brussels and is marked "Confidentielle" in the handwriting of Count van der Straten, a councillor of the said department, proves that in 1912 the same topics were discussed between the Chief of the Belgian General Army Staff and the British Military Attache as by their predecessors in 1906 and, very likely, during the intervening years. Only England had, in the meantime, become a great deal more explicit as to her
88 THE NEUTRALITY OF
intentions. Whilst in 1906 it had been pointed out that the
landing of the English forces would take place only after a hypothetical German
violation of Belgium's neutrality, in 1912 the Briton does not hesitate to
declare, in the coolest possible manner: during the recent political
crisis—probably the Morocco Crisis of 1911—England would have despatched troops to Belgium at once, even if Belgium
had not asked for English assistance.
It is thus evident that the British Government intended to enter Belgium immediately on the out-break of a Franco-German war, that is to say, Great Britain intended to disregard Belgium's neutrality and to do the very same thing which, when Germany, in her position of legitimate defense, got ahead of her in doing, she took as a pretext to declare war upon Germany.
The bold assertion of
Colonel Bridges that
not manned by panic mongers, yet for many autumn nights our Home Fleet lay in
Cromarty Firth with torpedo nettings down. . . . Our expeditionary force was held
in equal readiness instantly to embark for
When these words were
uttered, the world had to suppose that such an undertaking of the English army
would have met with the resistance of the Belgian forces. At present it is
sufficiently clear that
How far the illicit
intimacy between the British and the Belgian military authorities went is
evident from certain secret military handbooks for the use of commanders of
British troops within
1 The British Review, Vol.
with this point, appeared in the North German Gazette of
Another official communique, published by the same organ on
the 15th of the same month and also reproduced in the Appendix,2
deals with certain important papers found in the possession of a British
secretary of legation, named Grant-Watson, who was arrested in Brussels—papers
which furnish additional proof of the Anglo-Belgian complicity, if that be
needed. They contain the most detailed information about the Belgian plans for
general mobilization and for the defense of
Moreover, among them, a
note was discovered which states that
Of such intimacy was
1 See pages 221-224.
2 See pages 225-227.