Start of the First World War

by Ann Sylph on

Sir Edward Grey, 1st Viscount Grey of Fallodon, (1862-1933)  was a noted ornithologist, a Fellow of ZSL and a member of Council (a trustee of ZSL) from 1921-1926 and 1928-1933, and Vice-President of ZSL. He was the UK’s Foreign Secretary from 1905 until 1916, the longest continuous time anyone has devoted to that role.

On the afternoon of Sunday 2 August 1914 he visited the birds at ZSL London Zoo as he often did when he was anxious. In his book The charm of birds p. 238  he stated `So when feeling is raised to an unusual height by contemplation of natural beauty, by something that quickens while it soothes and calms’.

Title page of `Charm of birds' by Viscount Grey of Fallodon with a woodcut illustration by Robin Gibbings, published 1927
Title page of `Charm of birds' by Viscount Grey of Fallodon with a woodcut illustration by Robin Gibbings, published 1927

For weeks Grey had been trying to avoid committing Britain to war but on Monday 3 August it all came to a head and his view changed, he realised war had become unavoidable. On that day the Belgian King appealed to George V to defend his country. Sir Edward Grey spoke in Parliament for about an hour, delivering a bleak message, European war was inevitable. On the evening of this speech he looked out from his office and delivered his now famous, sad sentence "The lamps are going out all over Europe, we shall not see them lit again in our life-time".

On Tuesday 4 August 1914 Britain declared war on Germany.

Today birders and ornithologists are familiar with his name as the Edward Grey Institute of Field Ornithology is named in his honour.

Further reading :-

The charm of birds / by Viscount Grey of Fallodon ; woodcuts by Robert Gibbings, London : Hodder & Stoughton, 1927

Edward Grey of Fallodon and his birds / by Seton Gordon, London : Country Life, 1937

Fallodon papers / by Viscount Grey of Fallodon ; woodcuts by Robert Gibbings, London : Constable, 1927

Great Britain’s great war / Jeremy Paxman, London : Viking, 2013

Grey of Fallodon being the life of Sir Edward Grey afterwards Viscount Grey of Fallodon / by George Macaulay Trevelyan, London : Longmans, Green and Co., 1937.

Sir Edward Grey : a biography of Lord Grey of Fallodon / Keith Robbins, London : Cassell, 1971.

Twenty-five years 1892-1916 / by Viscount Grey of Fallodon, K.G., London : Hodder & Stoughton, 1925.

Heading of Chapter XII Taming birds p. 191 in `Charm of Birds'  by Viscount Grey of Fallodon with a woodcut illustration by Robin Gibbings, published 1927.
Heading of Chapter XII Taming birds p. 191 in `Charm of Birds' by Viscount Grey of Fallodon with a woodcut illustration by Robin Gibbings, published 1927.
 

This is the first of our `artefacts’ remembering the events of the First World War.

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