In 1904, enroute to the Far East the Russian Baltic Fleet mistook British trawlers at Dogger Bank for an Imperial Japanese Navy force. In the confusion they opened fire killing three British fishermen and also a Russian Sailor and Priest. Within weeks, this incident had created further confusion and tragedy by escalating into a general European conflict.
Dogger Bank Incident leads to WarThe Central Powers had been drifting towards war with France and Russia ever since the Imperial Government of Kaiser Friedrich had offered Great Britain an alliance in return for a Naval Treaty. And intervention in the Russo-Japanese War presented an unmissable opportunity to strike at a moment when the Dual Entente Powers were particularly weak. At least, that was the considered view of Tirpitz and the Younger Bismarch rather than their seventeen year old monarch. He had ascended to the throne in November 1899 under circumstances which would have been considered bizarre had they not involved his erratic father Wilhem II.
In November 1899 Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show had visited Berlin. One of the star's was Annie Oakley who, as part of her act, would shoot the ash off the end of a cigar. The usual routine was for to ask for a volunteer from the audience (as a joke). When nobody would take up the offer her husband (Francis Butler) would then step forwards and do the honours. However, on this occassion the Kaiser stood up and vaulted out of the royal box. Before anybody could stop him he'd taken a cigar out of his gold cigar case, lit it up, and offered himself as the "volunteer". Annie Oakley took careful aim with her Colt .45, wished she had not drunk her usual amount of whiskey before the show, pulled the trigger and blew his head off.
This post is a reboot of Richard Roper's article Russo-Japanese War - The Dogger Bank Incident Goes Wrong, The Great War Of 1904.