Last year of peace was far from harmonious

Ninety-nine years ago, on June 28, 1914, an event that would change the world forever and alter the balance of power and influence across the globe was recorded.

Just another example of disaffection in Austria-Hungary, in a small part of the former Ottoman Empire – at Sarajevo in Bosnia. In a month the world would be plunged into conflict.

However, the common view over many years of a Britain at that time set in a serene position of peace and harmony at home with a dutiful collection of Dominions and colonies overseas is far from the truth of the immediate pre-war years.

In reality, the notion of a long period of Edwardian prosperity and social peace is not supported by the facts of the period.

The government of the Liberal Party had to force through legislation to contain the power of the House of Lords to frustrate the Commons (1911).

Trades unions had engaged in bitter and protracted industrial disputes between 1910 and 1913, while constitutional issues of Irish Home Rule and a possible insurrection in Ireland (formation of the UVF and Ulster Covenant), were troubling the Asquith’s government.

So when the crisis in Europe loomed, ending in the declaration of war by Britain against Germany for her invasion and breach of Belgian neutrality, the government and population plunged headlong into a war many had long foreseen as inevitable at some point.

The incident in a faraway corner of south east Europe developed into a stand-off between the great power blocs of Europe, with Serbia on one side supported by Russia and therefore involving France as Russia’s treaty ally, set against Austria- Hungary and Germany (the Central powers – with Italy, who did not join in the conflict immediately and then later only on the Allied side).

By July 28, 1914, Serbia had acceded to all but one of Austria’s demands in response to the assassination of the heir to the Austrian Empire, Arch Duke Ferdinand and his wife in Sarajevo a month before, by Bosnian nationalists and allegedly supported by Serbia.

Austria, encouraged by a militarist administration and army in Germany, saw this as the lever to begin a long-planned war to counter perceived threats from the Russian and French power in Europe.

War was declared by Austria against Serbia and within days the nations of Europe were mobilising. Britain followed on August 4 after German troops entered Belgium.

The Tynemouth project will mark the centenary in 2014 of the start of the war and its effects on the population.

Anyone with information on this week’s casualties or anyone killed or died as a result of the war is asked to contact the project.

The project workroom at Room B9 Linskill Community Centre, Trevor Terrace, North Shields is open from 10am to 4pm each weekday for visitors and for anyone interested to learn more.

This week’s casualty list gives details of men from the former Tynemouth Borough who were killed or died in July 1916.

Angus, John Collingwood, age 24, Private, 28th Battalion Australian Infantry, DOW, wounded June 4, left leg amputated 19th, died No. 4 General Hospital, 6th, son of Thomas and Jane, of 65 Howdon Road – enlisted Pingelly, Western Australia.

Beales, Thomas Carmichael, age 20, Corporal Ist Battalion NF, died 23rd, son of Catherine and late William, served Salonika and France, buried Caterpillar Valley Cemetery.

Bolam, John, age 24,Private,11th Battalion, NF, DOW, 12th, 9 Waldo Street, son of John and Mary (nee Bagnall), Heilly Station Cemetery, Mericourt l’Abbe.

Brinck, Robert, age 23, Private, 12th Battalion, died 12th, 7 Walker place, son of Charles and Mary (nee Stephens), wounded Suvla Bay, Dardanelles, August 1915, died Somme, Thiepval Memorial.

Chambers, Robert, age 22, AB, RNVR, Anson Battalion, RND, KIA, 30th, 52 Blyth Street, miner, East Holywell, son of Matthew and Mary Ellen, killed whilst attached to Divisional Engineers – Dug Out Company.

Visit, e-mail or write to Tynemouth World War 1 Commemoration Project, c/o Essell, 29 Howard Street, North Shields, NE30 1AR.