THE ASSASSINATION OF THE ARCHDUKE Some time prior to the assassination, Bosnia had been taken from Turkey and given to Austria. Bosnians were Slavs who strongly resented being ruled by Austria. They wanted to be free. Some Bosnians formed a secret, nationalist group called The Black Hand – to fight for freedom. The Archduke Franz Ferdinand was nephew to the Emperor of Austria, Franz Joseph, and heir to the throne. He would be the next Emperor of Austria-Hungary.
On 28 June 1914, Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie, were in Sarejevo, in Bosnia. He was inspecting the troops on the Bosnian / Serbian border. It was a national holiday in Bosnia. The Black Hand wanted to mark the holiday by killing the Archduke. They gave weapons to a group of students so they could assassinate him. Although the police were worried for the safety of Ferdinand, there were only a few on duty. The army did not seem to be concerned.
It was a sunny day, so the Duke and Duchess drove in an open car. The Archduke wore a blue jacket with gold and red trim. Everyone stopped to look at him and the 5 other cars filled with important dignatories. Cabrinovic, a member of the Black Hand, asked the police which car was the Duke’s. The police pointed to it. Cabrinovic pulled out a small bomb and threw it at the car. 20 people were hurt but not the Archduke or his wife.
Later on, the Archduke wanted to visit one of the wounded men. The driver of his car went the wrong way. He braked and started to go back. The car was in front of a shop called ‘Schillers’. Was the driver part of the conspiracy to kill the Archduke? Then, Gavrilo Princip stepped forward and fired at the car occupants, at point blank range.
The first bullet hit the Duchess Sophie and she died immediately. The second bullet hit the Archduke in the neck. He died minutes later.
SO, HOW DID THIS LEAD TO THE WHOLE WORLD BEING AT WAR ?
STEP 1 (28 July) Austria blamed Serbia (Bosnia’s neighbour) for the deaths of the Duke and Duchess. Austria said the Serbian Slavs had given guns to the Black Hand. Austria decided to crush Serbia once and for all, and on 28 July 1914, declared war on Serbia.
STEP 2 (30 July Serbia and Russia were allies, so, on 30 July, Russia declared war on Austria and called on France for help (Russian/French alliance). STEP 3 (1 August) Germany was worried that Russia would also attack her, plus Germany was allied to Austria, so on 1 August, Germany declared war on Russia. STEP 4 (3 August) Germany was sure France would help Russia, so on 3 August, Germany declared war on France.
STEP 5 Germany didn’t want to fight on two fronts, France in the West & Russia in the East. She wanted to defeat France quickly, so took a short-cut through neutral Belgium.
STEP 6 (4 August) Britain had a treaty with Belgium: If Belgium was attacked, Britain would fight. Therefore, on 4 August, Britain declared war on Germany. STEP 7 The rest of the world – South Africa and other colonies like Australia and Canada – joined the war voluntarily. They did not have to fight but thousands of them did. When America joined the war – much later – this helped to force Germany to surrender.