|A Blank Cheque for War... by Peter Brookes
5 July 1914
The night train from Vienna pulls into Berlin. A passenger Alexander Hoyos, personal envoy of the Austrian foreign minister Berchtold, is carrying top secret letters for the German government. Austria-Hungary plans to attack Serbia. But will Germany support Vienna even if that brings war with Russia?
Over lunch at the Potsdam palace the Austrian ambassador gives the letter from Vienna to the Kaiser... At first Wilhelm is non-committal. The Ambassador later writes: ‘When I again called attention to the seriousness of the situation, the Kaiser authorised me to inform our gracious majesty that we might in this case as in all others rely upon Germany’s full support.’
This promise is later known as the Kaiser’s ‘blank cheque’… Germany will back its ally no matter what.
6 July 1914
With that settled, Wilhelm is off for his usual summer cruise in the North Sea. Before he boards his yacht he tells his friend, the arms manufacturer Gustav Krupp that he is determined to stand firm this time. Germany backed down from confrontation with Russia in the recent Balkan wars ‒ and his beloved soldiers were muttering about Wilhelm the Timid.