A FORMER soldier from Burton has urged people to remember the fallen of the First World War on the date the countdown to conflict began.
Tomorrow – June 28 – marks 100 years since the death of Austro-Hungarian heir Archduke Franz Ferdinand was shot, paving the way to ‘the war to end all wars’.
Former Army captain Jon Wheale, who is the prospective parliamentary candidate for Labour in Burton and Uttoxeter, said he believed people should use this time – and the coming years – to remember and reflect on the conflict.
Mr Wheale, who has visited the battlefields of northern France, where much of the fighting took place, said: “It’s humbling to remember the young men and women lying there, who were led into the most difficult circumstances but who, despite this, gave their all - including their lives.
“I believe that we can never do enough to honour those who served and made the ultimate sacrifice. That’s why this year is an important one for the country and particularly for who have served in the Armed Forces, their families and friends. I believe we must remember their tremendous commitment that they and their families have shown towards preserving the freedoms which all of us have come to enjoy.”
One June 28, 1914, the archduke and his wife were on an official visit to Sarajevo, amid tensions among European countries, when a terrorist opposed to the dynasty behind the heir shot at the royal couple and killed them both.
It followed a failed attempt to assassinate the pair earlier in the day.
The couple’s death was just the excuse needed by Austrian powers to force arms onto Serbia and begin the countdown to war.
Burton historian Malcolm Goode, who has a passion for the First World War, said: “Although this tragedy did not start the First World War, it did start a chain of events that did.
“It did sent the war planners all over the European continent into a frenzy. Europe was just 37 days away from catastrophe,”