From Confederation to the Great War




If I had influence over the minds of the people of Canada, any power over their intellect, I would leave them this legacy: ‘Whatever you do, adhere to the Union. We are a great country, and shall become one of the greatest in the universe if we preserve it; we shall sink into insignificance and adversity if we suffer it to be broken.

Sir John A. Macdonald

Canada is a very unique country in that we are pretty much alone in the fact that we have never seen War on Canadian soil. There have been close calls such as the Fenian Raids in 1866-1871 and the Russian submarines in the St Lawrence between 1942 and 19



The True Shot Heard around the World


At the end of the 1800’s and the early years of the 1900’s, there was a time of great instability in Europe. Many of the countries were looking for a chance for small localized conflicts to expand their territories. What happened next was the spark that caused a global explosion.

The Archduke of Austria-Hungary was Franz Ferdinand of the royal family the Hapsburgs.  He was cold, impersonal, and short tempered and the rumor was he was insane because of inbreeding in the Hapsburg family. As crazy as he might have been he knew that the empire was falling apart and something had to be done.

Franz Ferdinand accepted an invitation from Bosnia’s governor, General Oskar Potoirek, to inspect the army exercises being held outside Sarajevo. The Archduke’s role as Inspector General of the Army made the visit sensible. It had also been four years since a highly placed Hapsburg had made a goodwill visit to Bosnia.                                                           When it was learned that the Archduke was scheduled to visit Sarajevo in June of 1914, the Black Hand decided to assassinate him. Three young Bosnians were recruited, trained and equipped: Gavrilo Princip, Nedjelko Cabrinovic and Trifko Grabez.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Because of its many government and army members, the Black Hand’s activities were well known to the Serbian government. When Prime Minister Pasic learned of the assassination plot, he had a problem on his hands. If he stayed quite, and did nothing, and the plan succeeded, the Black Hand’s involvement would come to light. The workings between the Black Hand and the Serbian government would put Serbia in a very bad position. It could even bring on war with Austria. And if he warned the Austrians of the plan, he would be seen as a traitor. He would also be admitting to knowing anti-Austrian actions in Serbia.

A cursory attempt was made to stop the assassins at the border. When that failed, Pasic decided that he would try to warn the Austrians in carefully obscure ways that would not expose his involvement with the Black Hand.

The visit would also roughly match up with his 14th wedding anniversary. While his wife Sophie, not being of royal blood, was not allowed to ride in the same car as her royal husband back in Vienna, the same prejudices did not apply to provincial cities like Sarajevo. During the visit, Sophie would be able to ride beside her husband — a thoughtful anniversary gift.

Security during the visit was not tight. Franz Ferdinand was a brave man and hated the idea of secret service men being nearby. And did not like the idea of soldiers between the crowd and himself. For the most part, Franz Ferdinand was welcomed warmly by the Bosnians. Sarajevo was not seen as hostile territory. Arrangements were not based on the possibility that the streets were lined with assassins. As it was, only Sarajevo’s hundred and twenty policemen were at work that day.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    They were in a six car motorcade for the official reception at city hall. At approximately 10:10 am on July 28 1914, they passed the central police station, Nedjeliko Cabrinovic, a member of the Black Hand, the terrorist group, tossed a grenade at the Archdukes car. When the driver seen this, he sped up and the grenade exploded under the next car. Ferdinand yelled at the officials ” So, you welcome your guests with bombs? What is the good of your speeches? I come to Sarajevo on a visit and I get bombs thrown at me. It is outrageous.” 

Later that day, they were on the way to visit the officer injured in the attack. The Archduke’s driver took a wrong turn. As the car backed up to turn around, Gavrilo Princip, a member of the Black Hand’s splinter group, Mlada Bosna, (Young Bosnia) seen his opportunity and approached the car firing his gun, hitting Sophie in the abdomen and Ferdinand in the neck, both died on the way to the hospital.

     After the deaths of Archduke Ferdinand and his wife, Austria-Hungary took action against Serbia. In July the situation worsened, and after demanding impossible compensations, (there were demands they knew Serbia could never accept) Austria- Hungary declared war. And as expected, because of the various alliances, Russia declared war on Austria- Hungary. Then Germany declared war on Russia and then France and England declared war on Germany and Austria- Hungary. Just like falling dominos. 

Now the world was at war.