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The Tragedy of Sarajevo

One Hundred Years On: Churchill’s Account

WWI_Centenary“The 28th of June, 1914, was to the great majority of those whose lives it changed, a day like any other.” So wrote Winston Churchill in the News of the World on 30 May, 1937. “Yet, for years past, the current of European affairs had been flowing towards the abyss.” There followed a slightly revised version of Churchill’s account of the assasination of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand that he originally published in The Eastern Front, the final volume of his First World War memoirs published in 1931:
“On the afternoon of June 28 the Archduke and his wife entered Sarajevo. The murder had been carefully planned. At least seven assassins had taken their stations at various points along the probably royal route.”

“The first attempt was made on the way to the Town Hall; but the bomb slid off the back of the [royal] motor-car and its explosion only wounded two officers of the suite. After the miscreant had been caught the Archduke proceeded to the Town Hall and received in a mood of natural indignation the address of welcome. The police precautions had seemed to be lax, and the owner of the motor-car, Count Harrach . . . accosted the Governor: ‘Has not Your Excellency arranged for a military guard to protect His Imperial Highness?’ to which the Governor replied impatiently, ‘Do you think Sarajevo is full of assassins?'”

“The Archduke proposed to alter the return route and to visit the Hospital to which the wounded officers had been taken. When told that the bomb-thrower had been captured, he is said to have remarked, ‘Hang him as quickly as possible or Vienna will give him a decoration.’ A strangely bitter saying! Almost his last! Count Harrach wished to stand on the left footboard to protect the Archduke. ‘Don’t make a fool of yourself,’ said Franz Ferdinand.”

“The four cars moved out into the dense crowds in the original order, but at a faster pace. At the entrance to Franz Joseph Street the crowd, uncontrolled by the police, made a lane and by a fatal error the cars turned back to the original route. The [royal] car slowed down and came close to the right-hand pavement. A young man fired two shots at three yards’ range. The Archduke continued to sit upright; his wife sank upon his breast. A few murmured words passed between them.”

“For a few moments no one realized they had been shot. But the Archduke had been pierced through the artery of his neck and the Duchess through the abdomen. Both sank into unconciousness and expired within a quarter of an hour. The assassin, a Serbian named Princep, was seized by the crowd. He died in prison, and a monument erected in recent years by his fellow-countrymen records his infamy, and their own. Such was the tragedy of Sarajevo.”assassination-of-franz-ferdinand

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