During his visit to Sarajevo, Bosnia, on Sunday 28th of June, 1914, the Archduke and heir to the throne of Austria, Franz Ferdinand, was killed in company of his wife, Sophie. The one to blame was Princip, member of a terrorist group, which planned the assassination. For this, the Austrian government blamed Serbia and sent an ultimatum.
Before the Serbian government could think of something to answer back, Austria declared war to Serbia the 28th of July. Not only these countries were involved, but most of the European forces, and within some days, all of these countries were part of this bloody war.Although there were previous events to the war which inclined countries to the war, the Sarajevo murders indeed “lit the fire” to start it. In 1914, the six powerful forces of Europe divided themselves into two powerful opposing alliances: the Central Powers or Triple Alliance (Germany, Austria-Hungary and Italy), united in 1882, and the Triple Entente (Britain, France and Russia), formed in 1907.
Both were similarly equipped with weapons and naval force. All the six countries were ready to confront any other enemy attack.Germany was concerned of what she called “encirclement” which consisted of an attempt by France and Russia to surround and threaten her. There was also and old resentment with France, since Germany had been compensated with the important industrial area of Alsace and Lorraine after beating France in the Franco-Prussian.
As well as the other countries, Germany was building itself a vast army. The main issue that troubled the Austrian-Hungarian Empire was the problem with the nationalities.People in the empire had its own customs and language and sought for independence. There was certainly no nationalism or patriotism.
It also feared the support that Russia gave to the Serbs, but relied on its allies. The last country that formed the Central Powers, Italy, was not as strong as the others, and was not fully trusted by his allies. She joined the alliance mainly to fulfil her desire of colonies. As regards the countries belonging to the Triple Entente, Britain controlled the sea with her navy.
Before the alliance, Britain feared France and Russia.She knew those were the most dangerous rivals. However, in 1904 she agreed with France in things related to colonies in North Africa. She also knew that Russia came from a war (Russo-Japanese War in 1904) and that she was weakened.
In spite of this, Britain was very concerned about Germany. The German Kaiser wanted Germany to have a strong navy, which would later threaten Britain’s own empire and navy. When the Kaiser Wilhelm announced that he wanted Germany to have a large navy to protect its growing trade, Britain felt threatened.She was very suspicious of the German warships concentrated in the North Sea.
She didn’t believe Germany was just expanding her navy with peaceful intentions. For this, Britain began a naval race with Germany. She launched the first HMS Dreadnought in 1906. Germany also built her own Dreadnoughts.
Both countries spent millions during the race, and in the end, Britain outnumbered Germany’s ships. France was mostly concerned about Germany. She had resentment for being beaten in the Franco-Prussian war, and having lost the industrial region of Alsace and Lorraine.She had developed an army and industries to stand against Germany, as well as keeping a close relationship with Russia.
Russia was the largest power of the six. It shared French concern about the growing power of Germany. She backed Serbia mainly because she had and old rivalry with Austria-Hungary and shared the Slav race with Serbia. After the Russo-Japanese War, Russia started to build up a large army in case she needed it in the future.
Many countries knew the war was “bound to come”.For this, all of the six powers began to think up of detailed plans for the future war. Germany knew that if the war broke out, she would have to stand against both France and Russia. For this, she came up with the Schlieffen Plan.
Under this, she would quickly attack and defeat France, then, she would centre her troops on Russia. Austria-Hungary relied completely in Germany’s plan, and after Germany had beaten France, she would join with her against Russia. The Russian army was huge but it wasn’t well trained or equipped (quality not quantity).Given time, the Tsar would place one million soldiers in the battle field, and its plan was to outnumber the enemies’ armies.
France had a large and well equipped army. Its plan was known as the Plan 17. By this, French troops would deeply attack Germany. Britain thought up of a plan in company of France.
The BEF (British Expeditionary Force) highly trained and well-equipped professional soldiers would assist France in the battlefield. Although there were previous events which didn’t “lit the fire” to the Warm, these events certainly rose the temperature in Europe.One of these events, were the Moroccan crisis. These started in 1905, when the Kaiser visited Morocco in North Africa.
He intended to show that Germany was a powerful force in Africa as well. The French had intentions of getting control of Morocco, so the Kaiser made a speech to support Moroccan independence. With this, France was furious; she made a conference to humiliate the Kaiser for interfering in her affairs. This also united Britain and France even more than what they were and made the Kaiser’s views rejected.
In 191 1, Morocco saw another crisis when the Kaiser sent a gunboat to Agadir. Both France and Britain suspected intentions in the Kaiser to set up a naval base in Agadir, and they didn’t want German ships in “their” territory. Germany was put down by an international cooperation, and got territories in central Africa while France kept Morocco. The other event which could have started the war was the Balkan wars.
It was an unstable area composed by different nationalities. It had been ruled by Turkey, but now, Turkish people were losing control. The first Balkan crisis was in 1908.Austria took over Bosnia and Herzegovina.
This provoked Russian and Serbian protest but German support made them recant. Neither Russia nor Serbia was ready to fight a war just because of this issue in the Balkans. From 1912 to 1913, the Balkans faced a series of local wars. Serbia emerged from these, as the most powerful force.
This made Austria worried, so she intended to find a good excuse to crush the powers of Serbia. Finally, when the Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie were murdered, Austria found the perfect excuse to declare war on Serbia.First, she sent an ultimatum, and without waiting for response, she declared war on Serbia on the 28th July 1914. According to all the events previous to the war, it is supposed that they weren’t a great deal to Europe to “lit the fire” to the war, since they didn’t last for many years or produced a big opposition between countries.
Also, things like Balance of Powers, which intended to prevent both sides from starting the war, made it difficult. However, it is known that these events began to incline countries to war, and made them prepare their selves for it.Certainly, if all the arms race, and the plans of war hadn’t take place, the countries wouldn’t have been provoked to start the war, so if all the previous events to the war hadn’t taken place, the war wouldn’t have started at all. Although the Sarajevo murders were the perfect excuse for Austria to start the war, all the tension produced before and the crisis in Morocco and The Balkans which “rose the temperature” and “sparked to lit the bonfire” contributed to its decision, and were the main factors, as well as the murders, which made Austria decided herself to fight.