The First Great War


The rising military and economic power of the German Reich altered the balance of power in Europe which worried the British elites. British Prime Minister, Benjamin Disraeli observed: You have a new world, new influences at work...The balance of powers has been entirely destroyed.”190 The establishment of the German colonies in the sub-Saharan Africa interfered with the British spheres of interests. There was also a struggle to control the new source of energy - the oil. The British were concerned with the financing by the Deutsche Bank of the Berlin-Baghdad railway project which started in 1903, and which completion would give Germany access to suspected oil fields in Mesopotamia, as well as a connection to the port of Basra on the Persian Gulf. The railway would also give Germans access to the German colonies avoiding the Suez Canal, controlled by the British-French interests. Thus in early twenty century Milner's Group, the successors of Rhodes' Secret Society, embarked on a secret plan to create an anti-German coalition. They drew into their secret scheme King Edward VII, who contrary to his mother, Queen Victoria, had no German sentiments, in part due to the influence of his wife, Princess Alexandra of Denmark, who developed a hatred of the German Reich after Denmark lost the territories of Schleswig-Holstein to it. King Edward VII was used by the British elites as an intermediary in the formation of a new alliance with France, so called Entente Cordiale. The alliance, formed in 1904, had formalized the modus vivendi – the colonial and financial co-operation - that existed between the two states since the end of Napoleonic Wars. Then, taking advantage of a dynastic alliance between Saxe-Coburg and Gotha and the Romanovs, the British merchant elites signed a Treaty with Tsarist Russia in 1907 delineating their spheres of influence in Persia, securing Britain's influence over Afghanistan and stipulating that neither country would interfere in Tibet's internal affairs. The formation of this Triple Entante was grounded in France's drive to regain Alsace-Lorraine lost in Franco-Prussian war in 1871, Russia's ambition to gain the Straits of Constantinople and Britain's master plan to suppress the rising power of the German Reich.191

Lord Rothschild, chief banker in the City of London, whose family came from Germany, and who financed German unification, was against the anti-German coalition. The Rothschilds still remembered the fruitful alliance of the City of London and Prussia in Napoleonic times and hoped the two could form a common front to counter the ambitions of the Imperial Russia. In one of his essays published in 1912, in a collection entitled England and Germany he asked: “What have we...not got in common with Germany? Nothing perhaps except their army and our navy. But a combination of the most powerful military nation with the most powerful naval nation ought to be such as to command the respect of the whole world, and ensure universal peace.”192 Yet even Lord Rothschild could not be ignorant of other vital factors at play. The French banks and bondholders, who took over Berlin's job of serving Russia after 1887, had put too much into Russia to risk the collapse of the currency and devaluation of their own investments. And London and Paris Rothschilds were closely connected, shaping together the monetary policy and stabilising the financial markets. Lord Rothschild also knew of the extension of the anti-German zeal amongst the British Elite who in turn did not fail to notice that Rothschild's agenda did not always overlap with what they perceived where the best interests of the British Empire. Thus, when Rothschild began to put pressure on The Times not to be too anti-German, The Times correspondent Saunders wrote to his editor: 'I know the power of German influence dynastic, racial & c., including the Rothschilds. It is not business. It is dining, shooting, toasts, finance, honours, marriages, dynastic friendships. It is not hard steel, like Joe Chamberlain or even Lansdowne. Its is not English....I regret that you told Alfred Rothschild that you would give him your decision in writing...What you write will go to the Emperor. He wants to explore your counsels...They want to bind both England and you.”193

Meanwhile, the British elites pursued their anti-German agenda with great determination. In order to vilify the German Reich in the eyes of the British public, 'The Times' foreign correspondents, who were under control of the Milner's Group, began to draft anti-German articles and threaten with the German battle fleet. Consequently, the allocation towards naval spending in Britain was increased in 1909 by £2,823,200 to £35,142,700.194 To finance the building up of the Royal Navy, Chancellor of Exchequer, David Lloyd George, introduced in 1909 a radical budget that targeted the pockets of the rich landowners. Lord Rothschild naturally opposed it and so did the House of Lords, and to circumvent the opposition from the Lords, in 1910, British Prime Minister, Herbert Asquith, Oxford-educated lawyer, announced a plan to limit the Lord's power. The resulting Parliament Act that passed in August 1911, ended the Lords' veto over financial legislation passed by the House of Commons. The subsequent rise in naval and military spending benefited the shareholders of the five British armaments companies: Vickers Ltd, Armstrong, Whitworth and Co. Ltd, John Brown and Co. Ltd, Cammell, Laird and Co, and the Nobel Dynamite Trust.195 These British companies were in partnership agreements with, or held shares in other foreign armament firms: Krupp and Dillingen of the German Reich, Bethlehem Steel Company of the United States, Schneider & co. of Creusot in France, and Vickers-Terni and Armstrong-Pozzouli of Italy, forming the so called “ARMAMENTS TRUST.”196 Vickers and Armstrong Companies were the two main armament companies in Britain. In 1897, Edward Vickers purchased, with financial support of Lord Rothschild, Maxim-Nordenfelt and took over the Naval Construction and Armaments Company, thus consolidating the armaments capital and changing name to Vickers, Sons and Maxim. Vickers and Krupp traded in weapons from 1902. Vickers was allowed to use the Krupp patent for shell fuzes, no. 80 and no. 82, and for fuze-related machinery in 1908, and obliged to pay patent royalties for 15 years for each contract and communicate any improvements in design and manufacture to Krupp.197 In effect, British armaments company Vickers, which was closely associated with Lord Rothschild, had been funding the re-armament of the German Reich via royalty payments.198 Vickers' rival company, Armstrong, which too was part of the “armament trust”, was founded in 1847 by an engineer William George Armstrong, who began with production of hydraulic machinery, cranes and bridges, and soon followed by artillery. Notably, the Armstrong breechloading gun re-equipped the British Army after the Crimean War. In 1882, the company merged with the shipbuilding firm of Charles Mitchell and merged again with the engineering firm of Joseph Whitworth in 1897, to become Armstrong Whitworth Co. Armstrong produced a number of battleship for the British Empire but also for Spain, Chile or Japan. Both Vickers and Armstrong had shares in Whitehead & Co, a torpedo manufacturer in Fiume, then in Hungary, which supplied the Austrian Navy.

Apart from Vickers and Armstrong, there was also Noble Dynamite Trust. It was an Anglo-German cartel which originated with the Swedish family of Nobel. Immanuel Noble was an engineer and inventor who built bridges and buildings in Stockholm often experimenting with different techniques for blasting rocks. He went bankrupt in 1833 and few years later he moved to St Petersburg where he served Russian Tsar, equipping Russian army during Crimean War. Whilst on training in Paris, his son Alfred Nobel met young Italian chemist Ascanio Sobrero who, three years earlier, had invented nitroglycerin, a highly explosive liquid. Subsequently, Alfred and his father began performing experiments to develop nitroglycerine as a commercially useful explosive.199 After his brother and several other people were killed in the course of Alfred's experiments, the Swedish authorities banned further development of his work. He then moved to the German Reich where he quickly found business partners establishing in 1865 a company called Dynamite Nobel AG near Hamburg. The company exported a liquid combination of nitroglycerin and gunpowder known as "Blasting Oil" but it was extremely unstable and difficult to transport resulting in numerous catastrophes. Alfred eventually discovered that addition of one part diatomaceous earth to three parts nitroglycerin improved the stability of nitroglycerin, allowing it to be handled and transported safely.200 He patented his invention in England in 1867 under the name dynamite, from the Ancient Greek word δύναμις dýnamis, meaning "power”, and began to export nitroglycerine explosives to other countries in Europe, America and Australia, and established branch companies. In 1886, Dynamitaktiengesellschaft (DAG) merged with Nobel's Explosives Company in Britain to form Nobel-Dynamite Trust Co, a holding company comprised of three British and four German explosives companies, one of the first multinational corporations. Alfred's secretary and friend, Bertha von Suttner, warned him that dynamite assisted the spiral of the arms race, so to calm his consciousness, prior to his death in 1896, he requested in his Last Will to set up a Prize in Physics, Chemistry, Physiology or Medicine, Literature, and most surprisingly in Peace. Prime Minister Asquith's wife, Margo, was among those members of the British establishment who held a controlling stake in the Nobel-Dynamite Trust Co. In Britain, the shareholders in the “Armaments Trust”, included nobility, senior politicians, admirals, generals, bishops of the Anglican Church and other members of the British Establishment.201 Lord Welby lamented: “We are in the hands of an organization of crooks. They are politicians, generals, manufacturers of armaments and journalists. All of them are anxious for unlimited expenditure, and go on inventing scares to terrify the public and to terrify the ministers of the Crown.”202

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190 John Lowe, The Great Powers, Imperialism, and the German Problem 1865-1925 (London, 1994), p. 41 »

191 Docherty and MacGregor, Hidden History: The Secret Origins of the First World War, p. 130 »

192 Ibid., p. 430 »

193 Ibid., p. 392 »

194 G. H. Perris, The War Traders: An Exposure (London: National Peace London Council, 2013), p. 29 quoted in Docherty and MacGregor, Hidden History, p. 137 »

195 Docherty & MacGregor, Hidden History, p. 139 »

196 H. Robertson Murray, Krupps and the International Armaments Ring (London: Holden & Hardingham, 1915), p. 3, quoted in Dochery & MacGregor, Hidden History, p. 140 »

197 See website 'Arming All Sides, Vickers and Krupp, A Debacles Over Royalty Payments or »

198 Ibid. »

199 Nils Ringerz, 'Alfred Nobel – His Life and Work', »

200 '145 years of Dynamite', ChemistryViews, 28 November 2012 »

201 G. Docherty and J. MacGregor, Hidden History, pp. 137-143 »

202 Francis Neilson, How Diplomats Make War (New York: Bibliolife, 1923), p. 328; quoted in G. Docherty and J. MacGregor, Hidden History, p. 139 »