Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria and his wife celebrated their fourteenth wedding anniversary on 28th June 1914, combining it with an inspection of Austro-Hungarian troops in Bosnia. This Balkan state and its neighbour, Hercegovia, had been taken into the Austro-Hungarian Empire from Turkey and many Serbs and Croats resented an annexation which flouted their nationalist aspirations and their racial ties with independent Serbia. Their rancour was played upon by "The Black Hand", a secret group of Serbian officers who wished to defy the Hapsburg Emperor Franz Josef more resolutely than their nervous government would allow.
|Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife moments before|
the assassin struck.
28th June was also Serbia's national day. The Black Hand supplied a group of students with weapons for an assassination attempt to mark the occasion. When the Archduke's open car stopped at a corner on its way out of the town of Sarajevo, young Gavrilio Princip, standing only a few feet away, saw his chance. He drew his revolver and killed both Franz Ferdinand and his wife.
|Kaiser Wilhelm of Germany|
Austria accused Serbia of complicity in the murders and refused all attempts to discuss the matter. It was the excuse to seize the country that she had been waiting for. On 28 July Austria declared war. None of the other great powers had envisaged a major war at this time. They were drawn into by the events. Russia was pledged to aid Serbia, but the Germans did not really believe they would mobilise. Kaiser Wilhem urged restraint but when Russia mobilised, Germany followed suit. Russia called on France to honour a treaty of neutrality. France rejected Germany's request and prepared for war. Germany declared war on Russia on 1 August and on France two days later. Great Britain said it would only intervene if Germany attacked French ports or infringed Belgian neutrality. Germany invaded Belgium in an attempt to by-pass French fortifications. Great Britain issued an ultimatum which was ignored and on 4 August declared war on Germany. France and Belgium fought back gallantly with appalling loss of life, halting the German advance at the Marne river. A British expeditionary force of 130,000 men advanced from the northern French coast to a position near the Belgian town of Mons, where the German army met them head on. Both sides had been confident that the war would "be over by Christmas". Instead men were digging themselves into trenches which would stretch from the Flanders coast to the Swiss border. For the next four years they fought over a shell-torn morass and achieved no more than the exchange of a few muddy miles each way. It was the most horrific slaughter the world had seen. Click this link to see the Casualty Figures for The Great War.
Like many of my generation and, I presume, the generations after me, with no particular interest in , long time ago subject I felt that The Great War was something that happened a long, long time ago that really had very little to do with me. As I researched our family history this began to change. My mother had told me that my grandfather, Herbert Bayliss, had "been a professional soldier", had joined up "before the war" and "had been buried on Armistice Day 1918" but none of these things turned out to be correct. My was seven when the war broke out and eleven when it ended so her mis-remembering can easily be forgiven. As we have seen in earlier posts Herbert had been a soldier, as a teenager, in South Africa during the Boer War but he had returned to civilian life and married. Civilian life probably seemed dull after the adventure and camaraderie of army life. By the time war was declared Herbert was a family man, responsible for a wife and six children. I am uncertain as to where the family was living in August 1914 but I suspect it was in a house in Cottenham Road (now Sussex Way). It is possible that the family moved again as my mother recalls her "Uncle Wally" (this was Walter Huggins, husband of Daisy Abbotts) visiting her mother in a "tenement" in Nicholay Road. Given that, as we have seen, children do mis-remember, I wonder if the tenement may have been Wally and Daisy's home rather than Esther's. Either way, at sometime between late 1915 and early 1917 the Bayliss family - with or without Herbert moved into 5 Windermere Road, Upper Holloway. The house is still there, as is the whole street - little changed except the building at the end of the cul-de-sac that
once housed a dairy is now a wood cutting business. The wall rings that once tethered the dairy's horses in their stalls and the position of the feeding troughs can still be seen inside, as I discovered a couple of years ago when I was lucky enough to be shown over the building by the present owner.
|Windermere Road, photographed in 2009. The Bayliss home|
at No.5 is the third door from the left.
There was no official call-up in the early years of the war as the country relied on a rush of patriotic volunteers, but recruiting drives were common. It was during such a recruiting drive by The Royal Field Artillery in North London that Herbert Bayliss volunteered for war service. It would seem no coincidence that he went into the Royal Field Artillery - given his love of horses. His skills, acquired during his previous service and subsequently during his time as a groom and driver for Beavis would have made such a move obvious for him. Healthy young men were increasingly coming under pressure to volunteer - both from their peers and society in general. Was Herbert genuinely patriotic? Did he feel trapped by family life? or was he simply carried along with his mates? Certainly with his Boer War service behind him he would not be joining blind to the horrors of warfare. We'll never know but whatever it was on August 25th 1915 Herbert Bayliss found himself a gunner in the 185th Brigade of The Royal Field Artillery.
|Could Herbert have been attracted by such|
To Be Continued.......