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Monday, June 23, 2014

Sunday 28th June 1914


The photograph shows Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria and his wife descending  the steps of the City Hall, Sarajevo to their motor car, just a few moments before their assassination on Sunday 28th June 1914

There is a Hungarian language version of a newsreel of that day and the aftermath also on the website of the Imperial War Museum here


The event bears a slight resemblance to what happened in Dallas in 1963. But the events which followed on from the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria and his wife dwarfed those which followed in Dallas

In a recent lecture in London, Professor Vernon Bogdanor FBA CBE, Professor of Government at the University of Oxford, described the events of 28th June 2014 and explained why ‘Nations slithered over the brink into the boiling cauldron of war without any trace of apprehension or dismay’, (Lloyd George, 1934)

On August 1st 1914 war was declared and on August 9th the British sent an Expeditionary Force to France expecting to reach Berlin by Christmas. 

So began a period of four years of trench warfare during which the Allied trenches stretched for over 500 miles from the coast of France to the Swiss Border with similar entrenchments on the German side. 

More and more countries over the globe entered the conflict on opposing sides and for different reasons. It became literally a World War. The battlefields were land, sea and the air

The total number of deaths, military and civilian, is usually given as 16 million, 6 million civilian and 10 million military of which 4 million were Central Powers and 6 million Entente. 

What is generally agreed, however, is that of the 10 million military deaths, 6-7 million died in combat and 3-4 million died from infectious diseases,

Professor Francis Cox DSc, former Professor of Zoology and Professor of Parasite Immunology and Dean of Science in the University of London. delivered a recent lecture entitled The First World War: Disease, The Only Victor. 

In the lecture he said that the massive dislocation caused by War caused many millions more deaths

He said:
"One other circumstance that sways the figures towards deaths due to combat and away from those due to disease is the exclusion of ‘Spanish ‘flu’, or the H1N1 virus its proper name, from the statistics of war deaths. Never in modern times has there been a more important infectious disease, nor one more poorly understood or its origin and spread more poorly interpreted,  than  the 1918 influenza pandemic caused by the  H1N1 virus. ... 
Joining all the dots together the most likely scenario seems to be that it arose in China, was transported to Europe with American troops and began to spread in the winter of 1916 and by 1918 had been recorded not only in Europe but also in places as diverse as Kansas, Aldershot and Freetown.   
Influenza might have remained a significant health threat but an amazing act of folly created a catastrophe. Any epidemic requires not only an origin but also an epicentre.  
Professor John Oxford argues strongly that this epicentre was Étaples in North West France. 
The Allies’ camp at Étaples was massive and contained numerous medical facilities including 24 hospitals. At first these were  mainly concerned with getting the sick and wounded back into action and later returning casualties to the own countries. Altogether over 1 million troops passed though the camp and at any one time it accommodated up to 100,000. Care was taken to reduce the risks posed by the water-borne diseases, cholera and typhoid, which are easy to control, but little, if any, attention was given to communicable diseases that often required quarantine facilities. ... 
The net result is well known; some 500 million people were infected of whom 50 million died. ...
After the armistice in November 1918, Europe, both West and East, was in ruin, crops had failed and people were starving and water supplies were contaminated. This represented another ‘perfect’ storm for the spread of infectious diseases with the result that immediately following the war diseases in Europe and other places touched by the war were more prevalent than they had been at the beginning of the war in 1914.  
One aspect, particularly worthy of note was that many diseases virtually on  the fringe of control or eradication retuned with new vigour and this was most marked on the Eastern  Front  where tremendous progress had been made, for example in controlling smallpox. It is not possible to quantify the effects of all infectious diseases or to list them all but one, tuberculosis, has been particularly well documented.   
In England and Wales the incidence of tuberculosis was 135/100,000 in 1914 and 170/10,000 in 1918. Crude death rates are even more informative. In Germany there were 97, 000 deaths from tuberculosis in 1914 and 148,000 in 1918 (rounded figures). One more example, typhus killed three million people mainly in refugee camps before delousing could be employed and new clothing provided.  
Between 1914 and 1920, 800,000 people died of tuberculosis in Germany. In addition there were countless numbers who died in refugee and prisoner of war camps.  
Taking Spanish ‘Flu and all the other infectious diseases into account, the point I am making here is that counting the military dead is only part of the picture and the numbers of the dead should also include those who died as a direct result of the war. It is almost impossible to make any meaningful comparisons between the numbers of those who died in combat and those who died from disease as a direct result of combat."