"Age shall not weary them,
nor the years contemn."
THE GREAT WAR 1914-1918
"IN FLANDERS FIELD VIDEO"
The smoking gun of Gavrilo Princip is often quoted as the catalyst for the beginning of the Great War, this neatly packaged account of events conveniently allows the finger of blame to be pointed at the German, Austro-Hungarian, alliance as the instigator for the thirty two million casualties spread across the globe in five years of unparalleled slaughter.
This convenient truth validates article 231 of the treaty of Versailles that identifies Germany as solely responsible for the war and diminishes the political manoeuvring and national ambitions of the other antagonists.
The French had been plotting revenge against Germany ever since the defeat and the loss of the province of Alsace-Lorraine to the Prussians in 1871. She sought a political and military alliance with Russia and in 1893 a mutual agreement treaty was signed towards the objective of Russia gaining free access to the Mediterranean sea through the black sea and for France to reoccupy Alsace-Lorraine. In order to fulfil these aspirations both nations needed to join together in a military conflict with Germany and both began to build up their respective armies and navies, in anticipation of the “great moment”.
The United Kingdom extracted herself from the political infighting of Europe (splendid isolation) to concentrate in aggressively expanding her empire. France was the first nation to challenge Britain’s determination towards global dominance when she sent a military presence to Fashoda, Sudan in 1898, Britain’s intransigence in demanding French withdrawal or face the military consequence immediately lead to a French retreat.
Great Britain’s reaction shocked the French into realizing the fragility of Anglo-Franco relations. The French knew they could ill afford a hostile relationship with Britain and so made political overtures until in 1904 the friendly treaty (Entente cordiale) was entered into. The treaty enabled the two nations to carve up global interests with out fear of conflict but the British saw the Entente as nothing more than a frame of mind, while the French saw it as an alliance.
Germany recognizing that France if given the opportunity would retaliate over the annexation of Alsace-Lorraine, embarked on a political campaign that they hoped would keep the French isolated and maintain peace in Europe by firstly forming an alliance with their mutual ally Austria-Hungary, then in 1873 with Russia and finally in 1881 Italy.
It was not until 1877 when Russia quit the alliance was France given the opportunity to break free of her political isolation, opportunistically the French courted first the Russians forming a mutual alliance in 1893 then with the Italians in 1902.