Sunday, 6 July 2014

The Spark

One hundred years ago the world was teetering on the brink of war.

Crawley and the rest of England were basking in an extraordinarily hot summer. The Cook family building business was thriving and uncle Ted was busy making plans for the 4th Battalion Royal Sussex Regiments annual summer camp. On June 27th down in Brighton the school First Eleven slipped to a defeat V All Saints Peckham at Withdean. Eddie Cook, despite his promise, failed with both the bat and the ball.

The very next day the event that would change his and millions of other peoples lives forever took place hundreds of miles away in distant Sarajevo. At approximately 11:15am, June 28th 1914, the Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie were assassinated by Gavrilo Princip.

Princip was a member of “Young Bosnia” and part of a group of assassins organised by the “Black Hand,” a Serbian military secret society intent on creating greater Serbia through the annexation of the South Slav populated territory held by Austria-Hungary.

The group had already tried once that morning to attack the Archduke and his wife by throwing a grenade at their passing car, which had hit the bonnet and detonated far behind them. Whilst the Royal Couple were travelling to the hospital to see those who had been injured by the blast, Princip, who had given up the task, was eating a sandwich when he spotted the Archduke’s car backing up after taking a wrong turning. He simply walked up to the car and shot them both. Sophie died almost instantly and the Archduke was dead by the time the car arrived at the hospital.

For many years the boiling pot of European politics had simmered away in the background of people’s everyday lives. Now it was to explode in the most cataclysmic fashion possible. A Europe wide culture of militarism and nationalism, a complicated system of alliances and an arms race that was common knowledge would almost certainly have tipped the world into war eventually.

But this was the spark. 

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