The Outbreak of War
the majority of people in Europe and certainly for the men and women of
Ulster who were gearing up to fight Home Rule and its minions of suppression,
war came as a surprise, but a complex sequence of events were to draw
the the United Kingdom and the people of Ulster and Ireland into the Great
War of 1914-1918.
Archduke Franz Ferinand, heir to the Austro-Hungarian imperial throne, was murdered during an official visit to Sarajevo, capital of the recently acquired province of Bosnia. Suspicion feel immediately at the feet of neighbouring Serbia, the state to which most Bosnians wished to belong. For Vienna this assassination was a unique opportunity to smash nationalism in the Balkans, which had long threatened the internal stability of the Empire. Austrias powerful ally, Germany, gave its blessing. But when Austria declared war on Serbia, the Russian Tsar, posing as protector of the Balkan people, ordered his own huge army to make ready. Russian mobilisation threatened German strategic plans to avoid war on two fronts : the Germans had long accepted that the Russians ally, France must be knocked out by an invasion through Belgium before the Russians moved West. There was now a panic in the German Imperial court. There might not be enough time to knock out France if Russia was in such an advanced state of readiness. While the Germans were still approaching Paris the Russians could be taking Berlin.
On the 26 July Astro-Hungry declared war. Four days later Russia mobilised its army and Germany demanded that they demobilise. When they refused the Germans declared war, first on Russia, then two days later on France. On Sunday 2 August Germany asked for free passage through Belgium and when they refused Von Moltke poured his troops into Belgium anyway.
Now it was time for Britain to take an interest in what was happening, because it was not only France’s ally but it was also treaty bound to protect the freedom of the Belgians. Besides, the worlds most extensive Empire and greatest naval power could not stand by and see the Jack boot of the Hun smash its way through the English Channel so on Tuesday 4 August, Britain declared War on Germany.
A depiction of the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferinand