By David Lloyd George, Prime Minister of Britain
Review by David T. Jones
In June 1917—almost three years into the war—British Prime Minister David Lloyd George felt compelled to issue a defense of English participation in the war.
At that point in the fighting (he noted the “terrible bloodshed,”) there was obviously more than a bit of war weariness and with no end in sight.
Consequently, in a short 467 word address (which one might compare in purpose to Lincoln’s 272-word Gettysburg address in rallying a war-battered citizenry), Lloyd George bluntly refuted those claiming (at home and abroad) that England had started the war for its own nefarious purposes. He emphasized that “no share of the responsibility for these events rests on [England].” He stressed that it was “a foolish travesty of the actual facts” to claim Britain was at fault for the war.
In rebutting these charges, Lloyd George briefly reviewed the circumstances leading to the war, noting that England had proposed a Conference to avoid war—which Germany rejected. He recalled that London had warned (“begged”) Berlin not to attack Belgium, citing the Britain-Germany treaty pledging to resist any aggression against Belgium. Britain had tried to avoid war, but Germany ignored possible options for peace.
He concluded with the classic summation that Germany “expected to find a lamb and found a lion.”
Great Britain endured but the costs were brutal: over 700,000 dead and 1.6 million wounded.