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On 28th June 1914, Franz Ferdinand and his pregnant wife (Sophia)-were killed by a Serb nationalist, Gavrilo Princip, while on formal visit to Sarajevo (capital of Bosnia/Herzegovina). He and his wife were there to inspect the Austro-Hungarian troops.
A Serbian terrorist group (named the Black Hand) had heard about the news of the Archduke’s visit and had planned several attacks to end his life. All seven young men of the group were specially trained in marksmanship and bomb throwing. Each was stationed along the route that the Archduke’s car would go. The first two terrorists were unable to throw there bombs because the street was too crowded, and the car was traveling quite fast. The third terrorist threw a grenade which exploded on the car after the Archduke’s. Although the archduke and his wife were unhurt, some of his attendants were injured and had to be taken to hospital. The Archduke insisted on visiting them at the hospital. But on the way there, the driver took a wrong turn and had to reverse. Gavrilo decided to take this chance and fired two bullets through the window. The first hit the pregnant Sophia in the stomach, which she died almost instantly.
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Gavrilo was arrested and not executed because he was under 20. So he was sentenced to prison for 20 years.
When Austria Hungary had heard about this news, they were furious and devastated for the loss of there greatly beloved emperor. And so they opted to take the opportunity to stamp it’s authority on Serbia. In other words, they would demand Serbia to give them the members of the Black Hand. Austria Hungary expected that Serbia would reject this and so they would be able to launch a limited war on Serbia and claim/rule another country.
However Serbia had an alliance to Russia (one of the most powerful countries at the time), this meant that, when Austria Hungary had declared war, the Russians, would defend Serbia. Hearing this, Germany viewed this as an act of war against Austria Hungary, so they declared war on Russia, on 1 August. Bound by the alliance, France found herself at war with Germany
and Austria-Hungary due to Germany’s declaration on August 3rd. Due to the Franco-Prussian War in 1870; Germany decided to march up to Paris, through invading neutral Belgium and attack, because it was the shortest possible route. Britain, allied to France found herself declaring war on Germany on August 4th. Not mainly because of the planned attack to France, but because of the 75 year old treaty to defend Belgium. Like France, Britain also found herself, by extension also at war with Austria Hungary.
With Britain’s entry to war, her colonies and dominions offered military and financial help. This included Australia, Canada, India, New Zealand and the Union of South Africa.
In the short term, Italy was allied with Austria-Hungary and Germany, obliged to help defend both countries, but later argued that there actions were offensive, decided to join the other side, Triple Entente.