Head of the Black Hand is Executed
Apis (right) in a more playful moment before the war.
June 26 1917, Salonika–The Black Hand, the Serbian secret society that had provided the spark for war, was still very much active in the Serbian military even in exile. Prime Minister Pasic and Regent Alexander were increasingly concerned about the Black Hand’s influence, and in late 1916 decided to arrest Dragutin Dimitrijević (codename Apis), for a supposed assassination plot against the Regent. Much of early 1917 was spent rooting out the Black Hand within the army; one in every thirty officers was removed from the front and sent to Tunisia. The officers of the Third Army had such a high proportion of Black Hand members that the whole army had to be broken up just weeks before a planned offensive.
Apis’ trial was largely a sham; it was revealed in the 1950′s that the testimony against him regarding the assassination plot was entirely fabricated. On June 26, he and two other leading Black Hand members were executed by a firing squad. The Allies were somewhat concerned by all this, worrying that it was a prelude to negotiations with Austria (very belatedly satisfying the original ultimatum), but there is little hard evidence to suggest that this was the case.
Sources include: Alan Palmer, The Gardeners of Salonika.