Best-laid plans

31 July 2014 | by D.J. Taylor

Archive on 4: How Britain Went to War, BBC Radio 4

Peter HennessY’s analysis of the planning exercises undertaken by successive British governments in the lead-up to the Great War (26 July) began in the Downing Street Cabinet room. Here, on the evening of 4 August 1914, a select gathering of ministers sat awaiting the German response to their ultimatum. No one was especially confident of a climb-down, and at least one of those present – the First Lord of the Admiralty, Winston Churchill – seemed positively exalted by the prospect of war. Margot Asquith, the Prime Minister’s wife, remembered going to bed at 11 p.m. with the noise of the cheering crowds outside Buckingham Palace resounding in her ears.The Asquith conclave was not confined to politicians. In an anteroom lurked the highly significant figure of Colonel

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