Thetford man to ring the bells of the church in which Franz Ferdinand worshipped
PUBLISHED: 11:53 29 October 2018 | UPDATED: 11:53 29 October 2018
A Thetford man will ring the bells on Armistice Day at the church Archduke Franz Ferdinand worshipped at before he was assassinated, plunging Europe into the First World War.
Peter Dunn, 58, has lived in Chlum u Trebone in the Czech Republic, close to the Austrian border, for seven years after his wife’s family house was left to them following her grandfather’s death.
The town is also home to a hunting lodge often visited by the Archduke, and the town’s church, the Church of the Assumption, was a regular spot for the royal family to worship.
Mr Dunn, originally from Thetford and who has family in St John’s Way, was given permission by the church’s priest to ring the bells to take part in the commemoration events across the UK.
He said: “I am very proud, it is a weird feeling because up until I met my wife and we were left the house I didn’t even know about the town or the significance of Franz Ferdinand.
“The three bells are just normally rung to tell people to come to the service and just being allowed to do it and signify the great sadness that came out of the death of the Archduke makes me proud.”
Mr Dunn will ring the bells at 11am Czech time, an hour ahead of the UK, before the church’s priest leads a service for the town’s war dead, memorialising the lost men of the First and Second World Wars, and the Jewish people murdered by the Nazis.
He said: “When you go into the church you realise the significance of the Archduke and he was the person whose death started the First World War. It is very moving.
“We are hoping that there are other people in the area who might join in as well and unify to show that we are a Europe and we can symoblise peace. It is a big honour for me.”
He added: “I am very lucky that the local priest, who is friends with my wife, understands the meaning of ringing the bells and he has put in the village news what is going on.
“It is not just celebrating the loss of life from the British, it is a special event for all.”
The assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the heir presumptive to the Austro-Hungarian empire, in Sarajevo sparked the start of the First World War, one of the deadliest wars in history.
Prior to his death, however, he spent time in his hunting lodge near the town of Chlum u Tribone, which was built in 1813.
His children, Sophie, Maximilian, and Ernst, were all in the town’s church, the Church of the Assumption, when its priest informed them of their parents’ deaths.
The great grandparents of Peter Dunn’s wife, Iveta, were likely the last people in the village to see the Archduke as they opened the gate to the forest to allow the party to travel to Sarajevo.
Killed by Gavrilo Princip, a Serbian nationalist, the assassination is considered by many western historians to have started the chain reaction of events which led to the First World War.
The war left 17 million dead and 20 million wounded, of which around 700,000 were British.