Appendix 1: Key Players

Franz Ferdinand 1863–1914

Franz Ferdinand was born in Graz, Austria, on 18 December 1863, the eldest son of Karl Ludwig who was the younger brother of Franz Joseph, the Austro-Hungarian emperor. Ferdinand joined the Habsburg army as a 20-year-old and was quickly promoted through the ranks, becoming a general by the time he was thirty-three.

Franz Ferdinand had become the heir apparent to the Austro-Hungarian throne as a result of a number of personal tragedies that befell the emperor, Franz Joseph. In 1889, Franz Joseph’s son, the Crown Prince Rudolf, shot himself in an apparent suicide pact alongside his 17-year-old mistress. Franz Joseph’s wife was stabbed to death, while his brother, Ferdinand Maximilian, was executed in Mexico. His younger brother, Karl Ludwig, father to Franz Ferdinand, died of typhoid in 1896. Thus the succession passed to Franz Ferdinand, the emperor’s nephew.

In 1889, Franz Ferdinand fell in love with and declared his intention to marry Sophie, the Duchess of Hohenberg. The emperor, however, forbade the union on account that Sophie was a commoner. Various foreign dignitaries, including Pope Leo XIII, intervened on Ferdinand’s behalf. The emperor finally relented but on the condition that, as a non-royal, Sophie was barred from all royal events and, when the time came, prohibited from calling herself empress. Also, in the event of the couple bearing any children, the children were to be barred from becoming the monarch. Agreeing to the conditions, Franz Ferdinand married Sophie on 1 July 1900. Franz Joseph did not attend the wedding, nor any of his family. The couple had three children, all of whom were later interned by the Nazis in Dachau concentration camp from 1938 to their liberation in 1945.

Ferdinand was a keen traveller and obsessive hunter. One recent source cites the precise number of kills claimed by the archduke – an astonishing 274,889 animals, including, during a visit to Australia in 1883, a number of kangaroos and emus.

Ferdinand, considered a rather dull-witted man, was, nonetheless, quite progressive in his political views. He proposed replacing the dual Austro-Hungarian monarchy with a triple one, bringing in as an equal partner, the empire’s Slav element. Even more radical was his idea of forming a federal government consisting of sixteen states, the ‘United States of Greater Austria’. Neither idea enamoured him to his uncle nor came to fruition.

In 1913, Ferdinand was appointed inspector of the Austro-Hungarian army, and it was in that capacity he was invited to Sarajevo on 28 June 1914 to inspect his troops. Sophie may have been forbidden to accompany her husband on royal occasions but within his military capacity she was permitted to be at his side. Thus she was with her husband in their car when Gavrilo Princip appeared on the running board with a revolver in his hand. Franz Ferdinand was 50 years old, his wife 46.

Franz Ferdinand and Sophie are interred in Artstetten Castle. Franz Joseph did not attend the funeral.

Princip’s gun, the car in which the archduke and the duchess were riding, Franz Ferdinand’s blood-stained sky blue uniform with a bullet hole in the collar, his plumed cocked hat, and the chaise longue on which he died, are on permanent display in the Museum of Military History in Vienna.

Gavrilo Princip 1894–1918

Born to an impoverished family in Bosnia in 1894, Gavrilo Princip was one of nine children, six of whom died during infancy. Suffering from tuberculosis, the frail and slight Princip learnt to read, the first in his family to do so, and devoured the histories of the Serbs and their oppression at the hands of the Ottoman and Habsburg Empires.

In 1910, a friend of Princip’s, Bogdan Zerajic, had tried to assassinate the Austro-Hungarian governor of Bosnia. He failed and shot himself. But it provided the young Princip with an inspiration. He tried to enlist in various terrorist groups but was turned down because of his short stature.

Eventually he was accepted and tasked to join a group called the Black Hand. Its explicit purpose was the assassination of the heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, the Archduke Franz Ferdinand. Each member of the gang was given a vial of cyanide in order to kill themselves afterwards.

The plan to assassinate Franz Ferdinand was known to the Serbian prime minister. Although sympathetic, he feared the consequences and ordered the arrest of the Black Hand conspirators. His orders came too late.

Having assassinated the archduke and his wife, Princip tried to shoot himself but was wrestled to the ground where again he tried to kill himself by swallowing his cyanide but the poison, so old, failed to work.

At the time of the assassination, Princip was a month short of his twentieth birthday. His age saved him from execution as Austro-Hungarian law decreed that the death penalty could not be applied to those aged under 20. Princip therefore was sentenced the maximum penalty of twenty years. While imprisoned at Theresienstadt, later used by the Nazis as a concentration camp, he suffered a resurgence of his tuberculosis and, because of the poor hygiene and his inadequate diet, had to have an arm amputated. His condition worsened and he died, aged 23, on 28 April 1918.

Horatio Kitchener 1850–1916

Lord Kitchener’s face and pointing finger proclaiming ‘Your country needs you’, often copied and mimicked, is one of the most recognizable posters of all time.

Born in County Kerry, Ireland, Kitchener first saw active service with the French army during the Franco-Prussian War of 1870–1 and, a decade later, with the British army during the occupation of Egypt. He was part of the force that tried, unsuccessfully, to relieve General Charles Gordon, besieged in Khartoum in 1885. The death of Gordon, at the hands of Mahdist forces, caused great anguish in Britain. As commander-in-chief of the Egyptian army, Kitchener led the campaign of reprisal into the Sudan, defeating the Mahdists at the Battle of Omdurman and reoccupying Khartoum in 1898. Kitchener had restored Britain’s pride.

His reputation took a dent, however, during the Second Boer War in South Africa, 1899–1902. Succeeding Lord Roberts as commander-in-chief, Kitchener resorted to a scorched-earth policy in order to defeat the guerrilla tactics of the Boers. Controversially, he also set up a system of concentration camps and interned Boer women and children and black Africans. Overcrowded, lacking hygiene and malnourished, over 25,000 died, for which Kitchener was heavily criticized.

The criticism, however, did not damage Kitchener’s career, becoming first commander-in-chief of India, promoted to field marshal, and, in 1911, consul-general of Egypt, responsible, in effect, for governing the whole country.

At the outbreak of hostilities in 1914, Kitchener was appointed secretary of state for war, the first soldier to hold the post, serving under Herbert Asquith’s Liberal government. Bleakly, he predicted a long war, a lone voice among the government and military elite, for which Britain would need an army far larger than the existing professional army in 1914, the British Expeditionary Force (BEF). So Kitchener spearheaded a recruitment drive, appearing himself on the famous poster. Hugely successful, Kitchener’s campaign had recruited 3 million volunteers by the time conscription was introduced in January 1916.

Popular with the public but less so with the government, the failure of the Gallipoli campaign of 1915 saw Kitchener’s prestige fall. In June 1916, Kitchener was sent on a diplomatic mission to Russia aboard the HMS Hampshire. On 5 June, the ship hit a German mine off the Orkney Islands and sank. Kitchener’s body was never found, leading to several conspiracy theories that he had become too much of an embarrassment and liability, and had been assassinated. That David Lloyd George, at the time the minister for munitions, was supposed to have been accompanying Kitchener but cancelled at the last minute merely added to the speculation.

Joseph Joffre 1852–1931

Born in the Pyrenees on 12 January 1852, Joseph Joffre, known affectionately as ‘Papa Joffre’, was the son of a cooper. He first saw action as a junior officer during the Siege of Paris in the Franco-Prussian War. He served in various French colonial outposts in Africa and Indochina, which included a daring attack on Timbuktu, until his appointment as chief of the French general staff in 1911. His promotion came as a surprise to observers as Joffre had never commanded an army. A great believer in armies acting on the offensive, his first act was to purge the higher command of those he considered to be overly defensive in attitude, replacing them with men of his own ilk.

In 1913, Joffre formulated his Plan XVII in the event of war. The plan was to retrieve the provinces of Alsace and Lorraine, lost to Germany in 1871, and push the Germans back to the Rhine before swinging north to intercept the anticipated German invasion through Belgium. Plan XVII floundered very quickly but Joffre managed to retrieve his reputation by transferring troops from eastern France to check the German advance at the Battle of the Marne. His success at Marne, the first time in more than a century that a French army had defeated the Germans, earned him much credit.

During 1915, Joffre launched major attacks against the Germans in Champagne and Artois, which, although costly in terms of casualties, brought no gain. A resolute man, and calm under pressure, Joffre always refused to be told how many casualties his men had suffered, for it would only ‘distract him’.

In early 1916, Joffre was slow to respond to the anticipated German attack on the French town of Verdun. The exasperated French prime minister, Aristide Briand, paid a night-time visit to Joffre, waking him from his slumber, and insisting that Joffre take the situation more seriously: ‘You may not think losing Verdun a defeat but everyone else will.’ French casualties at Verdun were severe and on 13 December 1916 Joffre was replaced as chief-of-staff by Robert Nivelle. As compensation, Joffre was awarded the ceremonious title of Marshal of France but his role for the rest of the war was restricted to a series of sinecure posts.

In 1920, Joffre was invited to Barcelona to preside over a Catalan celebration called Jocs Florals, which involved floristry and poetry.

Joseph Joffre died in Paris on 3 January 1931, aged 78. His two-volume memoir was published the following year.

Helmuth von Moltke 1848–1916

Helmuth von Moltke was the nephew of a Prussian field marshal with the same name (hence the two men are usually differentiated by being referred to as the elder and the younger).

Helmuth von Moltke the Elder, who died in 1891, is generally considered to have been a military genius, Helmuth von Moltke the Younger less so.

Born 23 May 1848, the young Moltke was named after his famous uncle. Like many of his German, and French, contemporaries, he first saw action during the Franco-Prussian War where he won an Iron Cross. From 1882, he served as a personal adjutant (military assistant) to his uncle who was, then, chief-of-staff. Following the death of Moltke the Elder, Moltke the Younger was appointed as an aide-de-camp to the German Kaiser, Wilhelm II.

In 1906, Moltke succeeded Alfred von Schlieffen, the originator of the Schlieffen Plan, as the army’s chief-of-staff. Moltke, with limited command experience, was considered a curious choice for such a vital position, accused of having secured the appointment purely by dint of having such an illustrious name.

With the outbreak of war, Moltke immediately put Schlieffen’s plan into action. But as August turned into September, Moltke had to modify the plan. That, and his failure to keep contact with his field commanders as they pressed further into France, was cited as the primary reason for Germany’s failure to win the war in 1914. An inability to maintain authority during the Battle of the Marne, which saw the German advance degenerate into a retreat, lost Moltke his nerve and effectively cost him his job.

On 14 September 1914, Wilhelm II replaced Moltke as chief-of-staff with Erich von Falkenhayn. Moltke, by now a broken man and with failing health, took retirement. Moltke died in Berlin on 18 June 1916 while attending a memorial service for a colleague.

John French 1852–1925

John French spent much of his early military career, like many of his contemporaries, in Africa and India. He was part of the failed 1884–5 mission to relieve General Gordon in the Sudan, and from 1891 served in India. In India, French first met his future rival, Douglas Haig, then a captain. Indeed, Haig later lent French a large sum of money to help the latter stave off bankruptcy. While in India, French had an affair with the wife of a fellow officer. The scandal almost ended his career. He survived and went on to serve with distinction as a cavalry officer during the Second Boer War where, most notably, in 1900 he lead the force that relieved the British garrison besieged in the town of Kimberley.

French was appointed Britain’s army chief-of-staff in 1911 and given command of the British Expeditionary Force and, in 1913, promoted to the rank of field marshal.

With the outbreak of war, the BEF crossed the Channel, landing on the Continent on 7 August. French’s orders, from Lord Kitchener, minister for war, were to work alongside the French but not to take orders from them. The BEF first saw action during the Battle of Mons on 23 August 1914.

Following the Allies’ Retreat from Mons and with the Germans advancing on Paris, Joseph Joffre, the French commander-in-chief, decided to counterattack, aided by the British. But French, concerned for his exhausted men, even at the cost of French soldiers, instead contemplated a complete withdrawal. On 1 September French received a visit in person from Kitchener who ordered him to obey Joffre’s commands.

Nineteen fifteen, a year of continuous stalemate and the disastrous Battle of Loos, did little for the failing reputation of French, whose mood swung from one extreme to another. In December 1915, he was told to resign and was replaced as commander-in-chief by his deputy, Sir Douglas Haig.

By way of compensation, French was showered with various titles and awards, and given command of the British Home Forces until 1918, during which time he had to deal with the 1916 Easter Rising in Ireland.

French, resentful that he had been usurped by his former deputy, devoted much energy to criticizing Haig, to the point he was summoned to Buckingham Palace and told in person, by the king, to desist.

John French died in 1925.

His older sister, Charlotte Despard, was a constant embarrassment to John French. She was, at various times, a suffragette, a Labour Party candidate, a pacifist, an Irish republican, a member of Sinn Féin, a vegetarian, a fan of Mahatma Gandhi, a communist and an admirer of the Soviet Union. One thing that remained constant in her life was Despard’s animosity towards her famous brother.

Karl Lody 1877–1914

Karl Lody was a German spy and the first to be executed in Britain during the First World War.

Born 20 January 1877, Lody spoke perfect English with an American accent, having been married to an American and having lived in Nebraska. Having obtained a US passport under the name Charles A. Inglis, which allowed him to travel freely, Lody arrived in Edinburgh on 27 August 1914. Staying in a hotel, he cycled each day to the docks at the Firth of Forth and Rosyth’s naval base, both of strategic importance during the war, in order to observe and take notes.

MI5, who had been monitoring letters sent abroad, intercepted Lody’s very first message back to Germany. The address in Stockholm that Lody had used was well known to MI5, which instantly aroused their suspicion. But they did not arrest him immediately, preferring, instead, to monitor his activities. Lody’s letters were usually signed ‘Nazi’, an abbreviation of the name Ignatz, the German form of Ignatius, and nothing to do with Adolf Hitler’s Nazi party which did not come into existence until after the war. ‘Nazi’ was also a generic term for an Austro-Hungarian soldier, akin to ‘Tommy’ for a British soldier or ‘Fritz’ for a German one.

Many of Lody’s letters, some of which were coded, contained misleading information, which MI5 were more than happy to allow through. One example was Lody’s assertion that thousands of Russian troops had landed in Scotland on their way to the Western Front, which may have led to the infamous ‘snow on their boots’ rumour.

On 29 September, fearing his cover was about to be blown, Lody moved to Dublin. He travelled via Liverpool and while there made notes describing the Liverpool docks and the ships he saw. This letter, sent without coding, revealed pertinent information. It was at this point that MI5 decided Lody had to be stopped.

He was arrested on 2 October in Killarney, County Kerry, and charged with two offences under the Defence of the Realm Act. Initially, Lody tried to pass himself off as an American citizen but police found a trove of incriminating evidence in his hotel bedroom, including drafts of his letters and telegrams.

Tried in public at London’s Old Bailey, unlike later spying trials, the case was widely reported in the national press. Lody was declared responsible for the sinking of a British cruiser whose movements were known to Berlin thanks to his information. Lody tried to argue that he was an unwilling spy but evidence showed that he had voluntarily signed an agreement with the German admiralty. He refused to name his contact in Berlin: ‘that name I cannot say as I have given my word of honour’. His activities, he said, would ‘hopefully save my country, but probably not me’. Lody’s gentlemanly conduct in court won him much admiration in Britain but it came as no surprise when he was found guilty and sentenced to death.

Karl Lody was executed on the morning of 6 November 1914. When the warder came to take him from his cell, Lody asked him, ‘I suppose you will not care to shake hands with a German spy?’ to which the officer replied, ‘No. But I will shake hands with a brave man.’

‘To the very end,’ wrote the Daily Mail, ‘Lody maintained the calm imperturbability which characterized him throughout the three days’ trial.’ A warder, describing Lody’s walk to face execution, wrote that the condemned man seemed ‘unconcerned as though he was going to a tea party’. Refusing to be blindfolded, Lody sat down on the wooden chair, folded his arms and crossed his legs. He was executed by an eight-man firing squad.

Karl Lody was the first of eleven German spies to be executed in Britain during the war, and the first person to be executed at the Tower of London since 1747, 167 years before.

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