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August 20th, 1914

Kaili is a student of history and of WWI. She has researched BEF and Canadian battles and has visited WWI battle sites, including Gallipoli.

News traveled far more slowly in the days of WWI. It wasn’t really until the invasion of Kuwait in 1990 that we had instant updates directly from the battlefield. Fox News had reporters right there, reporting events as they unfolded.

Not so in WWI.

Have You Seen Any Germans Pass This Way?

A scouting party of French Dragoons on a Belgian Highway

A scouting party of French Dragoons on a Belgian Highway

News From WWI Battlefields

In 1914, the fastest way to get news from point to point was the telegraph. Much time was lost to telegraph operators and censors deciphering messages, clearing them and releasing them to an anxious public. The censors had to be certain that nothing made it to the newspapers of the day that might give away the position of an army, or any part of a strategic plan.

News tended to be presented in a far rosier manner in the early days of the war. After all, everyone had been told—and everyone believed—that the war would be over by Christmas. So, the headlines often made it sound as though the Germans were on the run.

Here are some headlines from August 20th, 1914 followed by the reality of what was happening on that date.

WWI Timeline

July 28th, 1914 - Austria declares war on Serbia.

August 1st, 1914 - Germany declares war on Russia. Russia defies Germany’s warning to halt mobilization of its troops, replying that the mobilization is only against Austria.

August 3rd, 1914 - France declares war on Germany and Germany declares war on France.

August 4th, 1914 - Germany’s invasion of Belgium causes Britain to formally declare war on Germany.

August 5th, 1914 - Montenegro declares war on the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

August 6th, 1914 - Austro-Hungarian Empire declares war on Russia.

August 7th, 1914 - The Battle of the Frontiers begins in Alsace.

August 11th, 1914 - France declares war on Austro-Hungarian Empire.

August 12th, 1914 - Britain declares war on Austro-Hungarian Empire.

August 16th, 1914 - Liège falls to the Germans.

August 19th, 1914 - Serbia scores a victory for the Allies when it defeats Austria at the Battle of Cer.

August 20th, 1914 - Brussels is occupied by German forces.

Headlines from Auburn NY Advertiser-Journal August 20, 1914


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World may soon learn of new Waterloo or New Sedan - Retreat May Be Forced

Rumors that Brussels has fallen into German hands were current in Paris, but not confirmed.

Reports were current in many European quarters today that Germany has decided not to comply with Japan's ultimatum calling for the German evacuation of Kiao-Chow and the abandonment of the eastern seas by German war vessels.

Gumbinnen, a German town 20 miles from the Russian frontier, has been occupied by the Russians.

Montenegrin troops have invaded Austrian territory in Herzogovinà where they have been incorporated as an army corps in the Servian army.

The small German and British forces stationed in the African colonies are carrying out raids in each other's territory.

The United States cruiser Tennessee which should have sailed at dawn on August 19th from Falmouth England for the Hook of Holland to retrieve stranded Americans in Europe did not depart.


Grief Over War Hastened End of His Holiness in His Eightieth Year

Headline Russia/Serbia

The Russians, in the meantime, were mobilizing a full week ahead of the German War Staff. On August 16th, a general advance of the Russian forces was made, and their pressure felt along the Austro-Hungarian and German borders.

To add to the difficulties of the German western armies, few reinforcements came from Austria. For the Austrians were wasting 400,000 on the side issue in Servia (Serbia), where on August 18th they were routed by the Serbs with a great loss.

From The War Illustrated Vol. 1 No. 2 Week ending August 29, 1914

Headline France

While the Germans were thus pushing on in search of food, and the cheap glory of winning an undefended capital, the French in Alsace and Lorraine were effecting an important advance against the southern wing of the Teutonic host. Advancing in a series of sharp, severe engagements amid the rocky, wooded spurs and flooded valleys of the Vosges, they drove a wedge between the two great fortress towns of Metz and Strasburg in Lorraine. Then they strengthened their position in Alsace by retaking Mulhouse.

From The War Illustrated Vol. 1 No. 2 Week ending August 29, 1914

Headline Belgium

The Belgians fought their last delaying battle at Aerschot, near Diest, on Wednesday. August 19th. After being repulsed on the previous day, the Germans resumed the attack with an outnumbering mass of infantry, supported by machine guns…But at last they were compelled to retreat on Louvain, leaving the road to Brussels open to the invader.

From The War Illustrated Vol. 1 No. 2 Week ending August 29, 1914

Events of August 20, 1914 as they actually unfolded

The reality...

August 20, 1914 Serbia

Remember Serbia? They were part of the Entente Allies in WWI. Austria had declared war on them, kicking off the Serbian Campaign. From the first volleys fired across the river from Belgrade, the war on this front had started before war began on the Western Front.

The Battle of Cer in Serbia was all but over by August 20th, and handed the Entente Allies their first victory in WWI. The Austro-Hungarian Empire suffered huge losses, with an estimated 6,000 to 10,000 men killed.

Serbian Campaign in WWI


August 20, 1914 France (Alsace)

The Battle of the Frontiers was well underway. This defining series of battles had begun on August 7th, with the French scoring a short-lived victory during the Battle of Mulhouse (Battle of Alsace), an offensive that saw them gain, lose and regain ground.

By the evening of August 19th, the French had regained Mulhouse, taking 3,000 German prisoners as well as guns and supplies.

Battle of the Frontiers: Lorraine, The Ardennes and Belgium August 1914


August 20, 1914 Belgium

The Belgian Government had finally fled the city of Brussels on August 18th, two days after the fall of the last fort in Liège. The Germans had begun advancing their right wing in a sweep across Belgium. So incensed were the Germans, including their General von Kluck, by the “extremely aggressive guerrilla warfare” encountered in Belgium, that they began taking out their frustrations on the civilian population. The crime of the Belgian people? They had blown up bridges and railways that hampered the German supply lines and held up the implementation of the Schlieffen Plan.

On August 20th, Brussels was an occupied city. The German flag was raised over the ancient Town Hall.

The Germans had Antwerp (Anvers) firmly in their sights.

German Troops in Antwerp


  • The War Illustrated Vol. 1 No. 2, week ending August 29, 1914
  • Auburn NY Advertiser-Journal August 20, 1914
  • Tuchman, Barbara. (1962) The Guns of August. New York NY: Macmillan Company

© 2014 Kaili Bisson


Kaili Bisson (author) from Canada on August 27, 2014:

Hi Deb and thank you! Always fascinating to read what was in the papers. Sometimes they knew the truth but didn't want to report it.

Deb Hirt from Stillwater, OK on August 26, 2014:

Thewre was a lot of propaganda in those days, and ever more so by the time WW II rolled around. As always, excellent material.

Kaili Bisson (author) from Canada on August 21, 2014:

Hi midget and thank you for reading and commenting :-)

Michelle Liew from Singapore on August 21, 2014:

Thanks for sharing with us about the power of the media during this time!

Kaili Bisson (author) from Canada on August 20, 2014:

Hi DrBill and thank you. Lots of source material from which to generate WW1 hubs, that's for sure.

William Leverne Smith from Hollister, MO on August 20, 2014:

Outstanding article. Very useful. We all need to know more about this period. Thanks for sharing. Looking forward to your future offerings. ;-)

Kaili Bisson (author) from Canada on August 20, 2014:

Hi's your summer? So glad you are enjoying these...lots more to come.

Kaili Bisson (author) from Canada on August 20, 2014:

Hi billybuc and thank you! Things were moving pretty fast in August 1914 on all fronts. I thought this would be a good way to try to sum it up.

CJ Baker from Parts Unknown on August 20, 2014:

Just stopping by to let you know that I continue to enjoy your series of Hubs on WWI. I always seem to learn something new. Thanks for sharing this informative read.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on August 20, 2014:

I have read a great many articles about WWII, but few about WWI...that's one reason why I find this article so interesting. Thanks for increasing my knowledge with a fine article.

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