Monday, 12 October 2009
I've recently been teaching the causes of the First World War to my year 9 classes at Great Wyrley. Every time I teach the assassination of Franz Ferdinand it always amazes me as the assassination, although intended, was a comedy of errors and really should not have been able to come about!
It's the 28th June and the Arch Duke Franz Ferdinand is on a tour of Sarajevo, Bosnia, representing the Austro-Hungarian empire as heir. With him is his pregnant wife, Sophie, who, because of her low birth status, would not normally accompany the arch duke on an official outing but is this time as a special anniversary treat. Franz insists on riding in an open top limousine and refuses to have any army present to protect him, even though he knows his reception may be hostile. Instead, only 120 policemen line the arch duke's entire route-certainly not enough to give any kind of protection.
A small group of terrorists from Serbia, called the Black Hand, are in Sarajevo too-armed with pistols and hand grenades with orders to assassinate the arch duke (Serbia has a severe dislike of the Austro-Hungarian empire and thinks Austria-Hungary wants Serbia as part of their empire). The terrorists take their places along the route the arch duke intends to travel-known as the route had been published in the newspapers. One of the terrorists even asks which car the arch duke will be in and a policeman tells him that Franz will be in the third car in the procession.
Now, the errors are not just on the part of the Austro-Hungarians but also on the terrorists themselves. Firstly, when the arch duke's car passes the first of the terrorists he freezes and does not act. Secondly, as the arch duke's procession passes the next would be assassin, he throws his grenade towards the arch duke's car but it misses. To top it off, the assassin had forgotten that the grenade had a 10 second delay and so by the time the grenade goes off, Franz is well away in his car. This failed would be assassin sticks to the plan and downs his cyanide, intending to end his life. His cyanide, however, is very old and the most effect it has is to make the terrorist sick. Realising the cyanide isn't working the terrorist throws himself into the nearby river with the hope of drowning. This did not work either as the river was only 4 inches deep. The would be assassin is then apprehended.
The two would be assassins next in line to try to kill the arch duke heard the grenade go off. Expecting the arch duke to be dead, when they see the procession coming passed them they are surprised to see that Franz is still alive and are too shocked to act.
Meanwhile, Gavrilo Princip has momentarily left his spot on the route to get a sandwich. This, as well as the arch duke's driver taking a wrong turn off the intended route, means that Princip and the arch duke meet in a back street-a place neither were ever meant to be. After taking the wrong turn, the arch duke's driver is ordered to reverse and go back. As the driver attempts this his gear jams, giving Princip ample time to not only consider how lucky he is but to also fire two shots directly at the arch duke. One bullet hits Franz directly in his throat whilst the other strikes his poor wife Sophie in the stomach (and she wasn't even meant to be there!). Both bleed to death.
This event is what finally 'sparked' off the First World War. It is the story of the one bullet that killed over 9 million people.