Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

History John Sadler

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

History John Sadler

Article excerpt

AS a UN Resolution against ISIS is passed and our MPs finally permitted a stronger UK intervention, it might again be useful to consider historical precedents.

Actions have consequences.

Two shots triggered the (then) worst war in history.

On the morning of June 28, 1914, Franz Ferdinand, heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne and his morganatic wife the Duchess Sophie, set off on what was to be their final public engagement.

The royal couple travelled by train from the agreeable Ildiza Spa directly to Sarajevo. Governor Potiorek, with a gleaming motorcade, was in attendance at the station. Due to an early confusion the Archduke and Duchess were driven off in an open-topped Grief & Stift 28/32 tourer, a rather stylish sports saloon but without any close security. As it was a warm day the hood was down.

It is hard to imagine any modern head of state or VIP being permitted to motor in such unguarded style. The police escort were in the wrong car; just the governor and Lieutenant Colonel von Harrach rode with the celebrity pair. To avoid giving offence to any locals, the military presence was kept to a minimum; no troops on the streets, merely three-score local coppers. Sarajevo is an old city, with many narrow and congested streets, an assassin's dream as the motorcade could not and indeed did not intend to move at speed.

Three assassins, armed with a mix of firearms and bombs, were in waiting. Two lost their nerve but the third, Nedeljko Cabrinovic did chuck his homemade grenade.

So far Franz and Sophie were lucky. The device slithered off the folded hood of their car and then detonated under the next, trashing the vehicle, cratering the road and wounding nearly twenty onlookers.

The failed assassin attempted suicide by a hopeful mix of poison and drowning but was no more successful. The toxic capsule failed to take effect and as he leapt into the river, he found the water was only 13cm deep. He did get a good beating from the outraged crowd.

Another three would-be killers including Gavrilo Princip also bungled the initiative test. …

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