A hundred years ago on June 28, a young man named Gavrilo Princip fired at Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria and his wife Sophie during their visit to Sarajevo. The assassination and ensuing instability precipitated what would become the Great War, the brutal conflict that would kill millions of people from all corners of the world.
That the death of the Archduke in a distant corner of Europe could end up throwing the entire global order into chaos is just one of the innumerable baffling aspects of World War I. As the globe marks the centennial of the conflict, The WorldPost presents a roundup of some of the crazier facts that will change the way that you think about the Great War.
1. The Man Who Assassinated The Archduke Has A Nephew Who's Still Alive.
In this Feb. 4, 2014 photo, Gavrilo Princip's nephew Nikola Princip, 79, left, and his grandson Novak Princip, 16, read inscriptions on the walls of a Serbian Orthodox Chapel located in St. Mark Cemetery in Sarajevo, Bosnia. AP Photo/Amel Emric)
When Gavrilo Princip carried out the assassination that would spark the Great War he was just over 19 years old. While we may think of the WWI era as a long distant memory, we're close enough to it that Princip's nephew is actually still alive. Nikola Princip, 81, lives in Sarajevo and as the Associated Press reports, he still pays tribute to his controversial uncle.
2. After Shooting The Archduke, Princip Was Captured But Not Given The Death Penalty.
The men accused of the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife are conducted into the court room. ( Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
Despite the severity of his crime, Princip was actually spared the death penalty due to his young age. As Britain's The Telegraph describes, the 19-year-old Serbian was less than 30 days shy of Hapsburg's age limit for the death penalty. This is not to say he got off lightly, as he faced harsh treatment while incarcerated and would eventually die of tuberculosis a few years later while still in prison.
3. British Forces Suffered 60,000 Casualties On A Single Day In 1916.
Poppies in the valley of the Somme, France. (Gettystock)
Remembered as one of the most terrible episodes of the war, the Battle of the Somme threw endless lines of men into the thresher during a months-long war of attrition. However, it was the first day of this assault that would prove the costliest. As the BBC notes, when British forces led a failed attempt to take German machine gun positions they were cut down en masse by live fire. By the end of the day, some 60,000 casualties were reported, with around 20,000 killed.
4. Millions Of Animals Fought And Died In The War.
Soldiers mounted on horseback in the desert during World War One, in Egypt, circa 1916. (Hulton Archive/Getty Images).
The war did not just bring man into conflict with man but consumed all manner of beast as well. Dog, horses, camels, birds and other animals were part of the war effort, to a devastating result. As The Atlantic explains, some estimate around 8 million horses may have died in World War I.
5. More People Died In The Flu Pandemic That Followed The War Than In All The Fighting.
Seattle police wearing protective masks during the influenza pandemic of 1918-19, in which 20 million people died.(Gettystock)
Researchers estimate that the Spanish flu of 1918 killed up to 50 million people and made 20 to 40 percent of the world population ill. This astronomical figure highlights just how pernicious the flu was, and how rapid its spread. Some people who felt fine in the morning were dead by the end of the day.
7. Dogs Played A Big Role In Warfare.
Dog trainer Major Richardson leaves Charing Cross Station with his bloodhounds, to assist the British Red Cross in locating wounded soldiers on the battlefields of World War I, 18th April 1914. (Topical Press Agency/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
Dogs served several functions during the Great War, from carrying messages along precarious battle lines to bringing medical assistance to the wounded. As the BBC explains, recently uncovered reports reveal that up to 20,000 dogs were trained for front-line duties and a War Dog School of Instruction was created for training.
8. France (Almost) Built A Second Paris.
A Frenchman cuts frozen ice with an ice-saw on the river Seine, Paris, during severe winter frosts in February 1917. (Photo by Topical Press Agency/Getty Images)
Before drones, intricate radar systems and digital mapping devices, militaries relied on sight to carry out air strikes. French military planners therefore decided to create a fake Paris north of the real city to confuse the German pilots flying over the country. The French committed wholeheartedly, recreating the city's most famous quartiers. However, the dummy version of the French capital never came to fruition. The German air raids came to an end before the fake was finished.