Thomas Mac Laithimh recalls the tragic loss of 7,000 Irish lives in one day during the Battle of the Somme
It is a century now since the outbreak of the First World War. It would never have been imagined that decisions made in Vienna, Berlin, Paris and London on the last week of July and the first week of August, 1914, would decide the fate of one hundred and sixty million people, most of whom were to suffer a most gruesome terrible death.
The arms race in Europe, which began at the turn of the 20th century, was the beginning of an unstoppable journey to what became known as the Great War.
The assassination on the 8th of June, 1914, of the Archduke Ferdinand by a Serbian national led Austria to declare war on Serbia on the 28th of July, 1914. The Archduke was heir to the throne of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
The decision by Austria, led Russia, an ally of Serbia, to mobilize its army along the East German Border.
The decision by Russia provoked Germany to declare war on Russia. At six pm. on the 1st of August 1914 France an ally of Russia, followed suit and mobilized its army on the same day.
On the evening of the 2nd of August, 1914, Germany issued an ultimatum to Belgium, demanding a passage for its armies to invade France and on the 3rd of August, 1914, Germany declared war on France. German troops crossed the Belgian border on the morning of the 4th of August, 1914.
A British ultimatum demanding their withdrawal was ignored and at 11pm on the 4th of August, 1914, Britain declared war on Germany.
And so began a war everyone was told would be over by Christmas, but it dragged on for four more years finally ending on the 11th of November, 1918, by the signing of the Armistice Agreement.