On 2 August 1914 the German army invaded Luxembourg. On the same day the Belgian government was presented with an ultimatum demanding the free passage of German troops. The German government insisted that these were not hostile acts, but necessary military manoeuvres. The government of Luxembourg maintained a policy of ‘strict neutrality’, meaning it co-operated with the forces of occupation but under formal protest of duress. A number of Luxembourgers abroad enlisted in the French Foreign Legion. The invasion of Belgium (which had rejected the ultimatum) began on 4 August. This infringement of Belgian neutrality, which had been guaranteed by all the Great Powers, was the deciding issue that brought Britain into the war – much to the surprise of the Kaiser, who had thought the British unlikely to fight for a ‘scrap of paper’. Despite desperately fierce fighting, the fortifications of Liège and Namur proved no match for German artillery. A zeppelin attack on Liège was the first aerial bombardment of a city.
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