In April 1914 the Serbian Civilian Government attempted to establish its authority over the Serbian Military.

The Military resisted. After several moves and counter moves, the Military, in alliance with the King of Serbia and parliamentary opposition forced the Serbian Civilian Government's resignation at the beginning of June. The Military's victory was shortlived as Russian Ambassador Hartwig intervened, the King reversed himself, reinstalled the old government, called new elections, and, drawing the appropriate conclusion, retired in favor of his second son, Prince Aleksandar.[3] It is in the midst of this political crisis that politically powerful members of the Serbian Military armed and trained three Bosnian students as assassins and sent them into AustriaHungary.[4] The assassins departed Belgrade on May 28. On June 28, 1914, Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria, heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, and his wife, Sophie, duchess of Hohenburg, were assassinated in Sarajevo, the capital of Bosnia, which Austria-Hungary had administered since 1878 and had annexed in 1908. They were shot by Gavrilo Princip, one of the three assassins sent from Belgrade. Princip was part of a group of six assassins (the three from Belgrade and three local recruits) under the coordination of Danilo Ilić. The assassins' goal was the violent separation of Bosnia-Herzegovina and possibly other provinces from Austria-Hungary and attachment to Serbia to form a Greater Serbia or a Yugoslavia. The assassins' goals and methods are consistent with the movement that later became known as Young Bosnia. Austria-Hungary immediately undertook a criminal investigation. Ilić and five of the assassins were promptly arrested and interviewed by an investigating judge. The three assassins who had come from Serbia told almost all they knew. Serbian Major Vojislav Tankosić had directly and indirectly given them six bombs (produced at the Serbian Arsenal), four pistols, training, money, suicide pills, a special map with the location of gendarmes marked, knowledge of an infiltration channel from Serbia to Sarajevo, and a card authorizing the use of that channel. In their training and on their way they were assisted by other members of the Serbian Military including three sergeants, two captains and a major who the assassins fingered in addition to Major Tankosić. The full extent of Serbia's role in the plot was obscured from the investigators by Ilić's silence regarding his contacts with the Chief of Serbian Military Intelligence and Montenegro and France suppressing the confession of the sixth assassin (who had escaped to Montenegro). While the investigators had not found the whole truth, what they had found warranted the interview of witnesses and the arrest of participants in Serbia. Initially, Germany and Austria-Hungary treated the assassination as largely a police and diplomatic matter that could be settled peacefully. On June 30, German Undersecretary for Foreign Affairs Zimmerman advised the Serbian Ambassador that Serbia should open a judicial inquiry into the complicity of individuals within Serbia’s borders. Zimmerman also spoke to the Russian Ambassador asking that Russia deliver the same message to Serbia. On that same day, the Austro-Hungarian Ambassador to Serbia advised Serbian Foreign Minister Gruic that Serbia should open a judicial inquiry, to which Gruic falsely replied "Nothing had been done so far and the matter did not concern the Serbian Government." after which "high words" were spoken on both sides.[5] On July 6th Count

Czernin, speaking for Austria-Hungary, brought the necessity of investigating the instigators of the assassination plot within the borders of Serbia to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Sazonov, but Sazonov cut him off.[6] It was Albertini’s conclusion that calls for a judicial investigation in Serbia were rebuffed despite the risk of a general European war because the investigation would have implicated many high ranking Serbs, and shown that the Prime Minister had monitored the progress of the plot. [7] Serbia’s refusal to agree to investigate, and Russia’s support for this refusal, made it easy for consensus in Germany and Austria to coalesce on coercive diplomacy to defeat Serbia diplomatically, or, failing that, militarily. Germany provided Austria-Hungary with its firm assurance that it would honor the terms of its alliance. This assurance became known as the "blank cheque". Obtaining Hungarian support, collecting criminal evidence, and the drafting of demands to place on Serbia took two weeks to complete. This was poor timing as the bi-annual Franco-Russian summit was about to begin. Austria-Hungary waited until the hour of the summit's conclusion and released its letter of demands on July 23 at 6PM Belgrade time. This letter of demands became known as the July Ultimatum. The demands were tough. Austria-Hungary made Serbia's March 1909 declaration to the Great Powers in which Serbia promised to respect Austria-Hungary's territorial integrity and maintain good neighborly relations the basis of legitimacy of its ten enumerated demands and several demands in the letter's preamble. These demands focused on the investigation and arrest of the Serbian Military conspirators fingered by the assassins, destruction of the terrorist infrastructure and means of propaganda, rooting out terrorists from the Serbian Military, and putting Serbia back on track to be a good neighbor. Serbia was required to admit misbehavior by its officers and allow Austro-Hungarian authorities to participate in the investigation in Serbia. All demands had to be agreed to within 48 hours or Austria-Hungary would withdraw its ambassador. The Serbian Government was unnerved. With the Russian abandonment of 1908-9 fresh in the minds of its ministers, Serbia began writing a response accepting the demands in total, while Serbia's diplomatic corps sought its allies' support. Having already discussed with France during the summit what action to take in response to such an AustroHungarian letter, Russia promptly sent a telegram offering full support and recommending against full acceptance of the demands and began taking steps preparatory to war. With Russia's words of support and tangible action in hand, Serbia drafted a response, conciliatory in tone, accepting demands #8 and #10, and partially accepting, finessing, disingenuously answering or outright rejecting the remaining enumerated demands and the demands in the preamble.[8] Serbia mobilized for war and issued its response on July 25th, within the 48-hour time limit. (The Serbian response was a public relations triumph for a careless read of it made it appear that Serbia had accepted almost all of AustriaHungary’s demands.) Austria-Hungary immediately followed through on its threat to

break diplomatic relations. Serbia began evacuating its government and military from Belgrade. On July 26th, Serbian reservist soldiers on tramp steamers apparently accidentally crossed onto the Austro-Hungarian half of the river near Temes-Kubin. Shots were fired into the air to warn them off. Kaiser Franz-Joseph was persuaded by exaggerated reports of the incident to declare war and mobilize against Serbia on July 28th. Belgrade was bombarded with artillery on July 29, on the same day Russian mobilization was ordered although Austria had not mobilized against Russia. (The Czar believed he had ordered mobilization against only Austria-Hungary, but in fact general mobilization was executed as Russia had no plans for partial mobilization). On July 31, Austria-Hungary ordered general mobilization of its army in response to the Russian mobilization. During this period, Britain promoted a conference to settle the matter; a conference where Austria-Hungary and Germany would be isolated. Austrian and German diplomatic efforts on the other hand were initially focused on localizing the conflict to one strictly between Serbia and Austria-Hungary. This of course would lead to complete Serbian defeat. When it became clear to Germany that Russia, France and probably Britain would back Serbia, Germany began advocating a “Stop in Belgrade” approach, meaning that Austria-Hungary would occupy Belgrade, which Serbia had already withdrawn from, and then a negotiating conference could be held regarding Austria-Hungary’s original demands. With Austria-Hungary, Serbia and Russia bent on war and inelastic mobilization schedules underway, this effort was ineffective and only given an audience because Russia needed more time for its mobilization and Austria-Hungary could not afford to snub its ally. Having got wind of Russia's mobilization, Germany issued Russia an ultimatum on July 31, demanding a halt to mobilisation within 12 hours. On August 1, with the ultimatum expired, the German ambassador to Russia formally declared war. The terms of the Franco-Russian Alliance known as the Secret Treaty of 1892 required both Russia and France to mobilize and commence action if Austria-Hungary or Germany mobilized. Germany and France mobilized nearly simultaneously on August 1. On August 2, Germany occupied Luxembourg as a preliminary step to the invasion of Belgium and implementation of the Schlieffen Plan (which was rapidly going awry because the Germans had not intended to be at war with a mobilized Russia so quickly). Yet another ultimatum was delivered to Belgium on August 2, requesting free passage for the German army on the way to France. The Belgians refused. At the very last moment, Kaiser Wilhelm II asked Moltke, the German Chief of General Staff, to cancel the invasion of France in the hope this would keep Great Britain out of the war. Moltke refused on the grounds that it would be impossible to change the rail schedule—“once settled, it cannot be altered”.[9] On August 3, Germany declared war on France and invaded Belgium on August 4. This act violated Belgian neutrality, the status to which Germany, France, and Britain were all

committed by treaty. It was inconceivable that Great Britain would remain neutral if Germany declared war on France; German violation of Belgian neutrality provided the casus belli that the British government sought. German Chancellor Bethmann Hollweg told the Reichstag that the German invasions of Belgium and Luxembourg were in violation of international law, but he argued that Germany was "in a state of necessity, and necessity knows no law." Later that same day, in a conversation with the British ambassador Sir Edward Goschen, Bethmann Hollweg expressed astonishment that the British would go to war with Germany over the 1839 treaty guaranteeing the neutrality of Belgium, referring to the treaty dismissively as a "scrap of paper," a statement that outraged public opinion in Britain and the United States.[10] Britain's guarantee to Belgium prompted Britain, which had been neutral, to declare war on Germany on August 4. The British government expected a limited war, in which it would primarily use its great naval strength.[11