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The World is a Stage

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And so it began. On July 28, 1914, World War One began. But why?

Most people have no idea. Some people recall it was caused by the assassination of Duke Franz Ferdinand of Austria-Hungary. Well, it didn’t cause it, but it did start it.

Europe looked quite different prior to WWI than it did after, although fairly similar to what we have now. There were many tensions building between the powers in central Europe and Serbia wanted independence from the Austria-Hungary Empire. The match that lit the fuse was when a Serbian- Bosnian nationalist called Gavrilo Princip, seemingly on his own, killed the Austro-Hungarian Duke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo. Austria-Hungary threatened Serbia to give Princip up or they would retaliate, but the official Serbians didn't know who had killed Franz and so could do nothing and war was declared July 28, 1914.

Russia was Serbia’s ally and supported their bid for independence, so they began to mobilize against Austro-Hungary. Germany didn’t like that, as they were allied to Austro-Hungary, so they declared war Russia on August 1st. This triggered the domino falling effect as much of the world allied themselves for or against. France was bound to Russia so, on Aug 3rd Germany declared war on them.

Even though the royal families of Britain and Germany were related, Britain was under a “moral obligation” through a treaty to defend France, so they declare war against Germany on August 4th. That same day Germany invaded neutral Belgium, so they could reach Paris by the shortest route. Belgium’s King petitioned Britain for help, which she was obligated to by an 1839 treaty, and so Britain committed herself to Belgium’s defense. That of course spread the war across two oceans and brought Canada, Australia, India, New Zealand and South Africa into the conflict.

It became even more worldwide when Japan, an ally of Britain, declared war on Germany on August 23rd.

Italy did not enter the fight until May 1915. They were allied to both Germany and Austria-Hungry but only in the event of a defensive war, not the offensive conflict that had started and so they declared neutrality. When they joined it was against them and with our allies.

The last country to enter the conflict was the United States, who had declared neutrality. It wasn’t until 1917 when Germany’s submarine warfare policy changed and they began destroying vessels of every kind and flag, whether passenger, cargo or even hospital ships without warning or assistance to those on board, that they entered the fray on August 6th, for the last year of the war.

Did you notice that it started with the Austria-Hungary Empire, but quickly changed to war with Germany? When it ended on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918 and the Treaty of Versailles was signed, the fault of the far was pretty much laid on Germany.

This war changed the world more than any other conflict. Most likely, the most far reaching change happened to women, who previously had been devoted to home and family but suddenly had to go to work to replace the men who went to fight. They liked the independence earning a wage gave them. It was the end of the Age of Innocence.

Annandale National Historic Site, other museums, library historical societies, groups and individuals in Oxford County will commemorate the 100th Anniversary of the five years of World War I, with 100 events.

“These events will be hosted in five areas of the County. The areas that will participate reflect the four Companies of the 168th Battalion - Oxford’s Own, which was formed during the First World War. These four Companies include Company A - Woodstock, Company B – Ingersoll, Company C – Tillsonburg, and Company D – Tavistock, along with Norwich which has been added to reflect the unique Quaker history of the area and the story of the conscientious objector.”

Here in Tillsonburg you can view the special exhibit of “Oxford in the Age of Innocence” which examines what life was like here before the Great War. It will give everyone the chance to see the changes this war would bring. The exhibit is here until August 22nd. Also coming up in town will be For King and Country-Patriotic Garden Party at Annandale House on August 6 at 7 p.m. (more on that next week).

The Last Trench Fighter is Robin Barker-James' live open air theatre where the audience will move to view different areas of the first year of the war on Sept. 4-7 & 11-14. Robin also has Family and Community Open Trench Event, Oct. 5-24.

There is a special Lunch and Learn at Annandale NHS with a talk by Patricia Phelps our curator on ‘I’m Doing My Big - Tillsonburg’s Reaction to the outbreak of War.’

There are many more events around the county which you can find in a free brochure at Annandale NHS, Cup and Cake and other business about town. You can also see it all at www.oxfordremembers.ca. If you are interested in a good website on WWI, try www.firstworldwar.com.

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