The next four years will see national commemorations of all aspects of the First World War to mark its 100th anniversary. Over the coming few months we hope to bring reflections of this turbulent time in history to mark significant events in the conflict. This won’t be an attempt to analyse these events, there are those more expert in the field than us, focussing instead on a local perspective.
28th June 2014 marks the 100th anniversary of the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife in Sarajevo. This was to set in motion a chain of events that tested the intricate web of alliances in place across Europe and would eventually lead to the outbreak of a type of war never before witnessed.
At the time, world affairs were not reported on the front few pages of newspapers – these were reserved for advertisements, notices and classifieds, followed by local news stories and sports. The Birmingham Post carried the news of the assassination on June 29th 1914 as their leading article (on page 6) with the simple headline of The Austrian Tragedy. The report describes how one assassin threw a bomb at the carriage the Archduke and his wife, the Duchess of Hohenburg, were travelling in. When this exploded, neither were hurt. The second assassin was ‘unhappily successful’.
The Archduke was described as someone who on the one hand would stave off the influences of the Kaiser, but who equally spread alarm through his military enthusiasm. The Post comments that the assassination must certainly have a serious political influence however it seemed to suggest the impact would only be felt by Austria-Hungary and its Empire.
The next article to appear was news of the visit of the British Fleet to Kiel, which held a luncheon in honour of the senior officers.
The proceedings were marked by the greatest good fellowship. The Burgomaster, in a speech, said the British and German seamen were filled with the same spirit of mutual respect and esteem, and he hoped the British and German people would meet only in peaceful rivalry….. Admiral von Koester …..was pleased the relations between the British and German bluejackets were the best imaginable.
The thought that history is not without its sense of irony has never rung so true.