Central Power 's victory on the Eastern Front nullified by defeat
on the Western Front
* Fall of the German , Russian , Ottoman , and Austro-Hungarian
Russian Civil War and foundation of
* Formation of new countries in Europe and the Middle East
* Transfer of
German colonies and regions of the former Ottoman
Empire to other powers
* Establishment of the
League of Nations
League of Nations . (more... )
Russia (until 1917)
United States (1917–18)
COMMANDERS AND LEADERS
H. H. Asquith
David Lloyd George
David Lloyd George
Victor Emmanuel III
CENTRAL POWERS LEADERS
Franz Joseph I †
Mehmed V †
CASUALTIES AND LOSSES
22,477,500 KIA, WIA or MIA
...further details. MILITARY DEAD:
16,403,000 KIA, WIA or MIA
World War I
World War I
* Western Front
* Eastern Front
* Italian Front
Sinai and Palestine
* South Arabia
* South-West Africa
* East Africa
* North Africa
Asian and Pacific theatre Naval theaters
* Atlantic Ocean
EVENTS LEADING TO WORLD WAR I
Anglo-German naval arms race
First Moroccan Crisis
Assassination of Franz Ferdinand
WORLD WAR I (WWI or WW1), also known as the FIRST WORLD WAR, the
GREAT WAR, or the WAR TO END ALL WARS, was a global war originating in
Europe that lasted from 28 July 1914 to 11 November 1918. More than 70
million military personnel , including 60 million Europeans, were
mobilised in one of the largest wars in history. Over nine million
combatants and seven million civilians died as a result of the war
(including the victims of a number of genocides ), a casualty rate
exacerbated by the belligerents' technological and industrial
sophistication , and the tactical stalemate caused by gruelling trench
warfare . It was one of the deadliest conflicts in history , and paved
the way for major political changes, including revolutions in many of
the nations involved. Unresolved rivalries still extant at the end of
the conflict contributed to the start of the Second World War only
twenty-one years later.
The war drew in all the world's economic great powers , assembled in
two opposing alliances: the Allies (based on the
Triple Entente of the
Russian Empire , the
French Third Republic
French Third Republic , and the United Kingdom of
Great Britain and
Ireland ) versus the
Central Powers of Germany and
Austria-Hungary . Although
Italy was a member of the Triple Alliance
alongside Germany and Austria-Hungary, it did not join the Central
Austria-Hungary had taken the offensive against the terms
of the alliance. These alliances were reorganised and expanded as
more nations entered the war: Italy, Japan and the United States
joined the Allies, while the
Ottoman Empire and Bulgaria joined the
The trigger for the war was the assassination of Archduke Franz
Ferdinand of Austria , heir to the throne of Austria-Hungary, by
Gavrilo Princip in
Sarajevo on 28 June 1914. This
set off a diplomatic crisis when
Austria-Hungary delivered an
ultimatum to the
Kingdom of Serbia , and entangled international
alliances formed over the previous decades were invoked. Within weeks,
the major powers were at war and the conflict soon spread around the
On 25 July
Russia began mobilisation and on 28 July the
Austro-Hungarians declared war on Serbia. Germany presented an
Russia to demobilise, and when this was refused, declared
Russia on 1 August. Being outnumbered on the Eastern Front ,
Russia urged its
Triple Entente ally
France to open up a second front
in the west. Over forty years earlier in 1870, the Franco-Prussian War
had ended the
Second French Empire and
France had ceded the provinces
Alsace-Lorraine to a unified Germany. Bitterness over that defeat
and the determination to retake
Alsace-Lorraine made the acceptance of
Russia's plea for help an easy choice, so
France began full
mobilisation on 1 August and, on 3 August, Germany declared war on
France. The border between
France and Germany was heavily fortified on
both sides so, according to the
Schlieffen Plan , Germany then invaded
Luxembourg before moving towards
France from the
north, leading the United Kingdom to declare war on Germany on 4
August due to their violation of Belgian neutrality. After the
German march on Paris was halted in the
Battle of the Marne , what
became known as the Western Front settled into a battle of attrition ,
with a trench line that changed little until 1917. On the Eastern
Front , the Russian army led a successful campaign against the
Austro-Hungarians, but the Germans stopped its invasion of East
Prussia in the battles of Tannenberg and the Masurian Lakes. In
November 1914, the
Ottoman Empire joined the Central Powers, opening
fronts in the
Mesopotamia and the
Sinai . In 1915, Italy
joined the Allies and Bulgaria joined the Central Powers; Romania
joined the Allies in 1916, as did the
United States in 1917.
The Russian government collapsed in March 1917 , and a revolution in
November followed by a further military defeat brought the Russians to
terms with the
Central Powers via the
Treaty of Brest Litovsk , which
granted the Germans a significant victory. After a stunning German
offensive along the Western Front in the spring of 1918, the Allies
rallied and drove back the Germans in a series of successful
offensives . On 4 November 1918 , the Austro-Hungarian empire agreed
to an armistice, and Germany, which had its own trouble with
revolutionaries , agreed to an armistice on 11 November 1918, ending
the war in victory for the Allies.
By the end of the war or soon after, the German Empire, Russian
Austro-Hungarian Empire and the
Ottoman Empire ceased to
exist. National borders were redrawn, with several independent nations
restored or created, and Germany\'s colonies were parceled out among
the victors. During the Paris Peace Conference of 1919 , the Big Four
(Britain, France, the
United States and Italy) imposed their terms in
a series of treaties. The
League of Nations
League of Nations was formed with the aim of
preventing any repetition of such a conflict. This effort failed, and
economic depression, renewed nationalism, weakened successor states,
and feelings of humiliation (particularly in Germany) eventually
contributed to the start of
World War II
World War II .
* 1 Names
* 2 Background
* 2.1 Political and military alliances
* 2.2 Arms race
* 2.3 Conflicts in the
* 3 Prelude
* 4 Progress of the war
* 4.1 Opening hostilities
* 4.1.1 Confusion among the
* 4.1.2 Serbian campaign
* 4.1.3 German forces in
* 4.1.4 Asia and the Pacific
* 4.1.5 African campaigns
* 4.1.6 Indian support for the Allies
* 4.2 Western Front
Trench warfare begins
* 4.2.2 Continuation of trench warfare
* 4.3 Naval war
* 4.4 Southern theatres
* 4.4.1 War in the
* 4.4.3 Italian participation
* 4.4.4 Romanian participation
* 4.5 Eastern Front
* 4.5.1 Initial actions
Central Powers peace overtures
* 4.7 1917–1918
* 4.7.1 Developments in 1917
Ottoman Empire conflict, 1917–1918
* 4.7.3 Entry of the
* 4.7.4 German
Spring Offensive of 1918
* 4.7.5 New states under war zone
* 4.8 Allied victory: summer 1918 onwards
Hundred Days Offensive
* 4.8.2 Armistices and capitulations
* 5 Aftermath
* 5.1 Formal end of the war
* 5.2 Peace treaties and national boundaries
* 5.3 National identities
* 5.4 Health effects
* 6 Technology
* 6.1 Ground warfare
* 6.2 Naval
* 6.3 Aviation
* 7 War crimes
* 7.2 Torpedoing of
HMHS Llandovery Castle
HMHS Llandovery Castle
* 7.3 Chemical weapons in warfare
Genocide and ethnic cleansing
* 7.5 Rape of
* 8 Soldiers\' experiences
Prisoners of war
* 8.2 Military attachés and war correspondents
* 9 Support and opposition to the war
* 9.1 Support
* 9.2 Opposition
Conscription in Canada
Conscription in Britain
* 9.3 Diplomacy
* 10 Legacy and memory
* 10.1 Historiography
* 10.2 Memorials
* 10.3 Cultural memory
* 10.4 Social trauma
* 10.5 Discontent in Germany
* 10.6 Economic effects
* 11 See also
* 12 Footnotes
* 13 References
* 14 Bibliography
* 14.1 Primary sources
* 14.2 Historiography and memory
* 15 External links
* 15.1 Animated maps
* 15.2 Library guides
From the time of its start until the approach of
World War II
World War II , the
First World War was called simply the WORLD WAR or the GREAT WAR and
thereafter the First World War or World War I. At the time, it was
also sometimes called "the war to end war " or "the war to end all
wars" due to its then-unparalleled scale and devastation.
In Canada, Maclean\'s magazine in October 1914 wrote, "Some wars name
themselves. This is the Great War." During the interwar period
(1918–1939), the war was most often called the World War and the
Great War in English-speaking countries.
The term "First World War" was first used in September 1914 by the
German biologist and philosopher
Ernst Haeckel , who claimed that
"there is no doubt that the course and character of the feared
'European War' ... will become the first world war in the full sense
of the word," citing a wire service report in The Indianapolis Star
on 20 September 1914. After the onset of the Second World War in 1939,
World War I
World War I or the First World War became standard, with
British and Canadian historians favouring the First World War, and
Americans World War I.
Causes of World War I Rival military coalitions
Triple Entente in green; Triple Alliance in brown. Only the
Triple Alliance was a formal "alliance"; the others listed were
informal patterns of support.
POLITICAL AND MILITARY ALLIANCES
During the 19th century, the major European powers went to great
lengths to maintain a balance of power throughout Europe, resulting in
the existence of a complex network of political and military alliances
throughout the continent by 1900. These began in 1815, with the Holy
Prussia , Russia, and Austria. When Germany was
united in 1871,
Prussia became part of the new German nation. Soon
after, in October 1873, German
Otto von Bismarck
Otto von Bismarck negotiated
League of the Three Emperors (German: Dreikaiserbund) between the
monarchs of Austria-Hungary,
Russia and Germany. This agreement failed
Russia could not agree over Balkan policy,
leaving Germany and
Austria-Hungary in an alliance formed in 1879,
called the Dual Alliance . This was seen as a method of countering
Russian influence in the
Balkans as the
Ottoman Empire continued to
weaken . This alliance expanded in 1882 to include Italy, in what
became the Triple Alliance .
Bismarck had especially worked to hold
Russia at Germany's side in an
effort to avoid a two-front war with
France and Russia. When Wilhelm
II ascended to the throne as
German Emperor (Kaiser), Bismarck was
compelled to retire and his system of alliances was gradually
de-emphasised. For example, the Kaiser refused, in 1890, to renew the
Reinsurance Treaty with Russia. Two years later, the Franco-Russian
Alliance was signed to counteract the force of the Triple Alliance. In
1904, Britain signed a series of agreements with France, the Entente
Cordiale , and in 1907, Britain and
Russia signed the Anglo-Russian
Convention . While these agreements did not formally ally Britain with
France or Russia, they made British entry into any future conflict
Russia a possibility, and the system of
interlocking bilateral agreements became known as the
Triple Entente .
SMS Rheinland , a Nassau-class battleship, Germany's first
response to Dreadnought.
German industrial and economic power had grown greatly after
unification and the foundation of the Empire in 1871 following the
Franco-Prussian War . From the mid-1890s on, the government of Wilhelm
II used this base to devote significant economic resources for
building up the
Kaiserliche Marine (
Imperial German Navy ),
established by Admiral
Alfred von Tirpitz , in rivalry with the
Royal Navy for world naval supremacy. As a result, each
nation strove to out-build the other in capital ships . With the
launch of HMS Dreadnought in 1906, the
British Empire expanded on its
significant advantage over its German rival. The arms race between
Britain and Germany eventually extended to the rest of Europe, with
all the major powers devoting their industrial base to producing the
equipment and weapons necessary for a pan-European conflict. Between
1908 and 1913, the military spending of the European powers increased
Sarajevo citizens reading a poster with the proclamation
of the Austrian annexation in 1908
CONFLICTS IN THE BALKANS
Austria-Hungary precipitated the
Bosnian crisis of 1908–1909 by
officially annexing the former Ottoman territory of Bosnia and
Herzegovina, which it had occupied since 1878 . This angered the
Kingdom of Serbia and its patron, the Pan-Slavic and Orthodox Russian
Empire . Russian political manoeuvring in the region destabilised
peace accords that were already fracturing in the Balkans, which came
to be known as the "powder keg of Europe ." In 1912 and 1913, the
First Balkan War was fought between the
Balkan League and the
fracturing Ottoman Empire. The resulting Treaty of London further
shrank the Ottoman Empire, creating an independent Albanian state
while enlarging the territorial holdings of Bulgaria, Serbia,
Montenegro, and Greece. When Bulgaria attacked Serbia and Greece on 16
June 1913, it lost most of Macedonia to Serbia and Greece, and
Southern Dobruja to Romania in the 33-day
Second Balkan War , further
destabilising the region. The
Great Powers were able to keep these
Balkan conflicts contained, but the next one would spread throughout
Europe and beyond.
Assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria
This picture is usually associated with the arrest of Gavrilo
Princip , although some believe it depicts Ferdinand Behr, a
On 28 June 1914, Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand visited the
Sarajevo . A group of six assassins (Cvjetko Popović
Gavrilo Princip ,
Muhamed Mehmedbašić ,
Nedeljko Čabrinović ,
Trifko Grabež ,
Vaso Čubrilović ) from the Yugoslavist group Mlada
Bosna , supplied by the Serbian Black Hand , had gathered on the
street where the Archduke's motorcade would pass, with the intention
of assassinating him. Čabrinović threw a grenade at the car, but
missed. Some nearby were injured by the blast, but Ferdinand's convoy
carried on. The other assassins failed to act as the cars drove past
About an hour later, when Ferdinand was returning from a visit at the
Sarajevo Hospital with those wounded in the assassination attempt, the
convoy took a wrong turn into a street where, by coincidence, Princip
stood. With a pistol, Princip shot and killed Ferdinand and his wife
Sophie . The reaction among the people in Austria was mild, almost
indifferent. As historian
Zbyněk Zeman later wrote, "the event almost
failed to make any impression whatsoever. On Sunday and Monday (28 and
29 June), the crowds in
Vienna listened to music and drank wine, as if
nothing had happened.". Nevertheless, the political impact of the
murder of the heir to the throne was significant and has been
described as a "9/11 effect, a terrorist event charged with historic
meaning, transforming the political chemistry in Vienna. And although
they were not personally close, the Emperor Franz Joseph was
profoundly shocked and upset.
The Austro-Hungarian authorities encouraged the subsequent anti-Serb
Sarajevo , in which
Bosnian Croats and
Bosniaks killed two
Bosnian Serbs and damaged numerous Serb-owned buildings. Violent
actions against ethnic Serbs were also organized outside Sarajevo, in
other cities in Austro-Hungarian-controlled Bosnia and Herzegovina,
Croatia and Slovenia. Austro-Hungarian authorities in Bosnia and
Herzegovina imprisoned and extradited approximately 5,500 prominent
Serbs, 700 to 2,200 of whom died in prison. A further 460 Serbs were
sentenced to death. A predominantly Bosniak special militia known as
Schutzkorps was established and carried out the persecution of
July Crisis Crowds on the streets in the
aftermath of the anti-Serb riots in
Sarajevo , 29 June 1914
Ethno-linguistic map of Austria-Hungary, 1910. Bosnia-Herzegovina was
annexed in 1908.
The assassination led to a month of diplomatic manoeuvring between
Austria-Hungary, Germany, Russia,
France and Britain, called the July
Crisis . Believing correctly that Serbian officials (especially the
officers of the Black Hand) were involved in the plot to murder the
Archduke, and wanting to finally end Serbian interference in Bosnia,
Austria-Hungary delivered to Serbia on 23 July the July Ultimatum , a
series of ten demands that were made intentionally unacceptable, in an
effort to provoke a war with Serbia. The next day, after the Council
of Ministers of
Russia was held under the chairmanship of the Tsar at
Russia ordered general mobilization for Odessa, Kiev,
Kazan and Moscow military districts, and fleets of the Baltic and the
Black Sea. They also asked other regions to accelerate preparations
for general mobilization. Serbia decreed general mobilization on the
25th. The Serbs drafted their reply to the ultimatum in such a way as
to give the impression of making significant concessions but, as
Christopher Clark states "...this was a highly perfumed rejection on
most points". This included article six, which demanded that Austrian
delegates be allowed in Serbia for the purpose of participation in the
investigation into the assassination. Following this, Austria broke
off diplomatic relations with Serbia and, the next day ordered a
partial mobilization. Finally, on 28 July 1914, Austria-Hungary
declared war on Serbia.
On 25 July, Russia, in support of its Serb protégé, unilaterally
declared—outside of the conciliation procedure provided by the
Franco-Russian military agreements—partial mobilization against
Austria-Hungary. On the 30th,
Russia ordered general mobilization
against Germany. German
Chancellor Bethmann-Hollweg waited until the
31st for an appropriate response, when Germany declared a "state of
danger of war". Kaiser
Wilhelm II asked his cousin, Tsar Nicolas II,
to suspend the Russian general mobilization. When he refused, Germany
issued an ultimatum demanding its mobilization be stopped, and a
commitment not to support Serbia. Another was sent to France, asking
her not to support
Russia if it were to come to the defence of Serbia.
On 1 August, after the Russian response, Germany mobilized and
declared war on Russia. This also led to the general mobilization in
Austria-Hungary on 4 August.
The German government issued demands to
France that it remain neutral
as they had to decide which deployment plan to implement, it being
difficult if not impossible to change the deployment whilst it was
underway. The modified German
Schlieffen Plan , Aufmarsch II West,
would deploy 80% of the army in the west, and Aufmarsch I Ost and
Aufmarsch II Ost would deploy 60% in the west and 40% in the east as
this was the maximum that the East Prussian railway infrastructure
could carry. The French did not respond, but sent a mixed message by
ordering their troops to withdraw 10 km (6 mi) from the border to
avoid any incidents, and at the same time ordered the mobilisation of
her reserves. Germany responded by mobilising its own reserves and
implementing Aufmarsch II West. On 1 August Wilhelm ordered General
Moltke to "march the whole of the … army to the East" after he had
been wrongly informed that the British would remain neutral as long as
France was not attacked. The General convinced the Kaiser that
improvising the redeployment of a million men was unthinkable and that
making it possible for the French to attack the Germans "in the rear"
might prove disastrous. Yet Wilhelm insisted that the German army
should not march into
Luxembourg until he received a telegram sent by
his cousin George V, who made it clear that there had been a
misunderstanding. Eventually the Kaiser told Molkte, "Now you can do
what you want." Germany attacked
Luxembourg on 2 August, and on 3
August declared war on France. On 4 August, after
Belgium refused to
permit German troops to cross its borders into France, Germany
declared war on
Belgium as well. Britain declared war on Germany at
19:00 UTC on 4 August 1914 (effective from 11 pm), following an
"unsatisfactory reply" to the British ultimatum that
Belgium must be
kept neutral .
PROGRESS OF THE WAR
Diplomatic history of World War I
Confusion Among The Central Powers
The strategy of the
Central Powers suffered from miscommunication.
Germany had promised to support Austria-Hungary's invasion of Serbia,
but interpretations of what this meant differed. Previously tested
deployment plans had been replaced early in 1914, but those had never
been tested in exercises. Austro-Hungarian leaders believed Germany
would cover its northern flank against Russia. Germany, however,
Austria-Hungary directing most of its troops against
Russia, while Germany dealt with France. This confusion forced the
Austro-Hungarian Army to divide its forces between the Russian and
Blériot XI "Oluj", 1915 Main article: Serbian
World War I
World War I
Austria invaded and fought the Serbian army at the
Battle of Cer and
Battle of Kolubara beginning on 12 August. Over the next two weeks,
Austrian attacks were thrown back with heavy losses, which marked the
first major Allied victories of the war and dashed Austro-Hungarian
hopes of a swift victory. As a result, Austria had to keep sizable
forces on the Serbian front, weakening its efforts against Russia.
Serbia's defeat of the Austro-Hungarian invasion of 1914 counts among
the major upset victories of the twentieth century.
German Forces In
Belgium And France
Western Front (World War I)
Western Front (World War I) German soldiers in a
railway goods wagon on the way to the front in 1914. Early in the war,
all sides expected the conflict to be a short one.
At the outbreak of World War I, 80% of the German army was deployed
as seven field armies in the west according to the plan Aufmarsch II
West. However, they were then assigned to execute the retired
deployment plan Aufmarsch I West, also known as the Schlieffen Plan.
This would march German armies through northern
Belgium and into
France, in an attempt to encircle the French army and then breach the
'second defensive area' of the fortresses of
Verdun and Paris and the
Aufmarsch I West was one of four deployment plans available to the
German General Staff in 1914. Each plan favoured certain operations,
but did not specify exactly how those operations were to be carried
out, leaving the commanding officers to carry those out at their own
initiative and with minimal oversight. Aufmarsch I West, designed for
a one-front war with France, had been retired once it became clear it
was irrelevant to the wars Germany could expect to face; both Russia
and Britain were expected to help France, and there was no possibility
of Italian nor Austro-Hungarian troops being available for operations
against France. But despite its unsuitability, and the availability of
more sensible and decisive options, it retained a certain allure due
to its offensive nature and the pessimism of pre-war thinking, which
expected offensive operations to be short-lived, costly in casualties,
and unlikely to be decisive. Accordingly, the Aufmarsch II West
deployment was changed for the offensive of 1914, despite its
unrealistic goals and the insufficient forces Germany had available
for decisive success. Moltke took Schlieffen's plan and modified the
deployment of forces on the western front by reducing the right wing,
the one to advance through Belgium, from 85% to 70%. In the end, the
Schlieffen plan was so radically modified by Moltke, that it could be
more properly called the Moltke Plan.
The plan called for the right flank of the German advance to bypass
the French armies concentrated on the Franco-German border, defeat the
French forces closer to
Belgium and move south to
Paris. Initially the Germans were successful, particularly in the
Battle of the Frontiers
Battle of the Frontiers (14–24 August). By 12 September, the French,
with assistance from the British Expeditionary Force (BEF), halted the
German advance east of Paris at the First
Battle of the Marne (5–12
September) and pushed the German forces back some 50 km (31 mi). The
French offensive into southern Alsace, launched on 20 August with the
Battle of Mulhouse , had limited success.
In the east,
Russia invaded with two armies. In response, Germany
rapidly moved the 8th Field Army from its previous role as reserve for
the invasion of
France to East
Prussia by rail across the German
Empire. This army, led by general
Paul von Hindenburg
Paul von Hindenburg defeated Russia
in a series of battles collectively known as the First Battle of
Tannenberg (17 August – 2 September). While the Russian invasion
failed, it caused the diversion of German troops to the east, allowing
the Allied victory at the First Battle of the Marne. This meant
Germany failed to achieve its objective of avoiding a long, two-front
war. However, the German army had fought its way into a good defensive
France and effectively halved France's supply of coal.
It had also killed or permanently crippled 230,000 more French and
British troops than it itself had lost. Despite this, communications
problems and questionable command decisions cost Germany the chance of
a more decisive outcome.
Asia And The Pacific
Asian and Pacific theatre of World War I Military
Australia , 1914
New Zealand occupied
German Samoa (later Western Samoa) on 30 August
1914. On 11 September, the Australian Naval and Military Expeditionary
Force landed on the island of Neu Pommern (later New Britain), which
formed part of
German New Guinea
German New Guinea . On 28 October, the German cruiser
SMS Emden sank the
Russian cruiser Zhemchug in the
Battle of Penang
Battle of Penang .
Japan seized Germany's Micronesian colonies and, after the Siege of
Tsingtao , the German coaling port of
Qingdao on the Chinese Shandong
Vienna refused to withdraw the Austro-Hungarian cruiser
SMS Kaiserin Elisabeth
SMS Kaiserin Elisabeth from Tsingtao, Japan declared war not only on
Germany, but also on Austria-Hungary; the ship participated in the
defense of Tsingtao where it was sunk in November 1914. Within a few
months, the Allied forces had seized all the German territories in the
Pacific; only isolated commerce raiders and a few holdouts in New
African theatre of World War I Military
Ottoman Empire , 1914
Some of the first clashes of the war involved British, French, and
German colonial forces in Africa. On 6–7 August, French and British
troops invaded the German protectorate of
Kamerun . On 10
August, German forces in South-West Africa attacked South Africa;
sporadic and fierce fighting continued for the rest of the war. The
German colonial forces in
German East Africa , led by Colonel Paul von
Lettow-Vorbeck , fought a guerrilla warfare campaign during World War
I and only surrendered two weeks after the armistice took effect in
Indian Support For The Allies
Hindu–German Conspiracy , Niedermayer–Hentig
Expedition , and
Third Anglo-Afghan War
Third Anglo-Afghan War
Germany attempted to use Indian nationalism and pan-Islamism to its
advantage, instigating uprisings in India , and sending a mission that
urged Afghanistan to join the war on the side of Central powers.
However, contrary to British fears of a revolt in India, the outbreak
of the war saw an unprecedented outpouring of loyalty and goodwill
towards Britain. Indian political leaders from the Indian National
Congress and other groups were eager to support the British war
effort, since they believed that strong support for the war effort
would further the cause of Indian Home Rule . The Indian Army in fact
British Army at the beginning of the war; about 1.3
million Indian soldiers and labourers served in Europe, Africa, and
the Middle East, while the central government and the princely states
sent large supplies of food, money, and ammunition. In all, 140,000
men served on the Western Front and nearly 700,000 in the Middle East.
Casualties of Indian soldiers totalled 47,746 killed and 65,126
wounded during World War I. The suffering engendered by the war, as
well as the failure of the British government to grant self-government
to India after the end of hostilities, bred disillusionment and
fuelled the campaign for full independence that would be led by
Mohandas K. Gandhi and others.
Western Front (World War I)
Western Front (World War I)
Trench Warfare Begins
Royal Irish Rifles in a communications trench, first day on the
Somme , 1916
Military tactics developed before
World War I
World War I failed to keep pace
with advances in technology and had become obsolete. These advances
had allowed the creation of strong defensive systems, which
out-of-date military tactics could not break through for most of the
Barbed wire was a significant hindrance to massed infantry
advances, while artillery , vastly more lethal than in the 1870s,
coupled with machine guns , made crossing open ground extremely
difficult. Commanders on both sides failed to develop tactics for
breaching entrenched positions without heavy casualties. In time,
however, technology began to produce new offensive weapons, such as
gas warfare and the tank .
Just after the First
Battle of the Marne (5–12 September 1914),
Entente and German forces repeatedly attempted manoeuvring to the
north in an effort to outflank each other: this series of manoeuvres
became known as the "
Race to the Sea
Race to the Sea ". When these outflanking efforts
failed, the opposing forces soon found themselves facing an
uninterrupted line of entrenched positions from Lorraine to Belgium's
coast. Britain and
France sought to take the offensive, while Germany
defended the occupied territories. Consequently, German trenches were
much better constructed than those of their enemy; Anglo-French
trenches were only intended to be "temporary" before their forces
broke through the German defences.
Both sides tried to break the stalemate using scientific and
technological advances. On 22 April 1915, at the Second Battle of
Ypres , the Germans (violating the Hague Convention ) used chlorine
gas for the first time on the Western Front. Several types of gas soon
became widely used by both sides, and though it never proved a
decisive, battle-winning weapon, poison gas became one of the
most-feared and best-remembered horrors of the war. Tanks were
developed by Britain and France, and were first used in combat by the
British during the
Battle of Flers–Courcelette (part of the Battle
of the Somme) on 15 September 1916, with only partial success.
However, their effectiveness would grow as the war progressed; the
Allies built tanks in large numbers, whilst the Germans employed only
a few of their own design, supplemented by captured Allied tanks.
Continuation Of Trench Warfare
French 87th regiment near Verdun, 1916 King George V
(front left) and a group of officials inspect a British munitions
factory in 1917 Canadian troops advancing with a British Mark
II tank at the
Battle of Vimy Ridge , 1917
Neither side proved able to deliver a decisive blow for the next two
years. Throughout 1915–17, the
British Empire and
more casualties than Germany, because of both the strategic and
tactical stances chosen by the sides. Strategically, while the Germans
only mounted one major offensive, the Allies made several attempts to
break through the German lines.
In February 1916 the Germans attacked the French defensive positions
Verdun . Lasting until December 1916, the battle saw initial German
gains, before French counter-attacks returned matters to near their
starting point. Casualties were greater for the French, but the
Germans bled heavily as well, with anywhere from 700,000 to 975,000
casualties suffered between the two combatants.
Verdun became a symbol
of French determination and self-sacrifice.
Battle of the Somme
Battle of the Somme was an Anglo-French offensive of July to
November 1916. The opening of this offensive (1 July 1916) saw the
British Army endure the bloodiest day in its history, suffering 57,470
casualties, including 19,240 dead, on the first day alone. The entire
Somme offensive cost the
British Army some 420,000 casualties. The
French suffered another estimated 200,000 casualties and the Germans
an estimated 500,000.
Protracted action at
Verdun throughout 1916, combined with the
bloodletting at the Somme, brought the exhausted French army to the
brink of collapse. Futile attempts using frontal assault came at a
high price for both the British and the French and led to the
French Army Mutinies , after the failure of the costly
Nivelle Offensive of April–May 1917. The concurrent British Battle
of Arras was more limited in scope, and more successful, although
ultimately of little strategic value. A smaller part of the Arras
offensive, the capture of Vimy Ridge by the
Canadian Corps , became
highly significant to that country: the idea that Canada's national
identity was born out of the battle is an opinion widely held in
military and general histories of Canada.
The last large-scale offensive of this period was a British attack
(with French support) at Passchendaele (July–November 1917). This
offensive opened with great promise for the Allies, before bogging
down in the October mud. Casualties, though disputed, were roughly
equal, at some 200,000–400,000 per side.
These years of trench warfare in the West saw no major exchanges of
territory and, as a result, are often thought of as static and
unchanging. However, throughout this period, British, French, and
German tactics constantly evolved to meet new battlefield challenges.
Naval warfare of World War I Battleships of the
Hochseeflotte , 1917
At the start of the war, the
German Empire had cruisers scattered
across the globe, some of which were subsequently used to attack
Allied merchant shipping . The British
Royal Navy systematically
hunted them down, though not without some embarrassment from its
inability to protect Allied shipping. For example, the German detached
SMS Emden , part of the East-Asia squadron stationed at
Qingdao, seized or destroyed 15 merchantmen, as well as sinking a
Russian cruiser and a French destroyer. However, most of the German
East-Asia squadron —consisting of the armoured cruisers SMS
Scharnhorst and Gneisenau , light cruisers Nürnberg and Leipzig and
two transport ships—did not have orders to raid shipping and was
instead underway to Germany when it met British warships. The German
flotilla and Dresden sank two armoured cruisers at the Battle of
Coronel , but was virtually destroyed at the Battle of the Falkland
Islands in December 1914, with only Dresden and a few auxiliaries
escaping, but after the
Battle of Más a Tierra these too had been
destroyed or interned.
Soon after the outbreak of hostilities, Britain began a naval
blockade of Germany . The strategy proved effective, cutting off vital
military and civilian supplies, although this blockade violated
accepted international law codified by several international
agreements of the past two centuries. Britain mined international
waters to prevent any ships from entering entire sections of ocean,
causing danger to even neutral ships. Since there was limited
response to this tactic of the British, Germany expected a similar
response to its unrestricted submarine warfare.
Battle of Jutland
Battle of Jutland (German: Skagerrakschlacht, or "Battle of the
Skagerrak ") developed into the largest naval battle of the war. It
was the only full-scale clash of battleships during the war, and one
of the largest in history. The Kaiserliche Marine's High Seas Fleet,
commanded by Vice Admiral
Reinhard Scheer , fought the Royal Navy's
Grand Fleet , led by Admiral Sir John Jellicoe . The engagement was a
stand off, as the Germans were outmanoeuvred by the larger British
fleet, but managed to escape and inflicted more damage to the British
fleet than they received. Strategically, however, the British asserted
their control of the sea, and the bulk of the German surface fleet
remained confined to port for the duration of the war. U-155
exhibited near Tower Bridge in London, after the 1918 Armistice.
German U-boats attempted to cut the supply lines between North
America and Britain. The nature of submarine warfare meant that
attacks often came without warning, giving the crews of the merchant
ships little hope of survival. The
United States launched a protest,
and Germany changed its rules of engagement. After the sinking of the
RMS Lusitania in 1915, Germany promised not to target
passenger liners, while Britain armed its merchant ships, placing them
beyond the protection of the "cruiser rules ", which demanded warning
and movement of crews to "a place of safety" (a standard that
lifeboats did not meet). Finally, in early 1917, Germany adopted a
policy of unrestricted submarine warfare , realising that the
Americans would eventually enter the war. Germany sought to strangle
Allied sea lanes before the
United States could transport a large army
overseas, but after initial successes eventually failed to do so.
U-boat threat lessened in 1917, when merchant ships began
travelling in convoys , escorted by destroyers . This tactic made it
difficult for U-boats to find targets, which significantly lessened
losses; after the hydrophone and depth charges were introduced,
accompanying destroyers could attack a submerged submarine with some
hope of success. Convoys slowed the flow of supplies, since ships had
to wait as convoys were assembled. The solution to the delays was an
extensive program of building new freighters. Troopships were too fast
for the submarines and did not travel the North Atlantic in convoys.
The U-boats had sunk more than 5,000 Allied ships, at a cost of 199
World War I
World War I also saw the first use of aircraft carriers
in combat, with HMS Furious launching
Sopwith Camels in a successful
raid against the
Zeppelin hangars at
Tondern in July 1918, as well as
blimps for antisubmarine patrol.
War In The Balkans
Balkans Campaign (World War I) , Bulgaria during World
War I ,
Serbian Campaign (World War I) , and
Austro-Hungarian troops executing captured Serbians, 1917. Serbia lost
about 850,000 people during the war, a quarter of its pre-war
population. Bulgarian soldiers in a trench, preparing to fire
against an incoming airplane. Refugee transport from Serbia in
Styria , 1914
Faced with Russia,
Austria-Hungary could spare only one-third of its
army to attack Serbia. After suffering heavy losses, the Austrians
briefly occupied the Serbian capital,
Belgrade . A Serbian
counter-attack in the
Battle of Kolubara succeeded in driving them
from the country by the end of 1914. For the first ten months of 1915,
Austria-Hungary used most of its military reserves to fight Italy.
German and Austro-Hungarian diplomats, however, scored a coup by
persuading Bulgaria to join the attack on Serbia. The
Austro-Hungarian provinces of
Slovenia , Croatia and Bosnia provided
troops for Austria-Hungary, in the fight with Serbia,
Italy. Montenegro allied itself with Serbia.
Bulgaria declared war on Serbia, 12 October and joined in the attack
by the Austro-Hungarian army under Mackensen's army of 250,000 that
was already underway. Serbia was conquered in a little more than a
month, as the Central Powers, now including Bulgaria, sent in 600,000
troops total. The Serbian army, fighting on two fronts and facing
certain defeat, retreated into northern Albania . The Serbs suffered
defeat in the Battle of Kosovo . Montenegro covered the Serbian
retreat towards the Adriatic coast in the
Battle of Mojkovac in 6–7
January 1916, but ultimately the Austrians also conquered Montenegro.
The surviving Serbian soldiers were evacuated by ship to Greece.
After conquest, Serbia was divided between Austro-Hungary and
In late 1915, a Franco-British force landed at
Salonica in Greece, to
offer assistance and to pressure its government to declare war against
the Central Powers. However, the pro-German King Constantine I
dismissed the pro-Allied government of
Eleftherios Venizelos before
the Allied expeditionary force arrived. The friction between the King
of Greece and the Allies continued to accumulate with the National
Schism , which effectively divided Greece between regions still loyal
to the king and the new provisional government of Venizelos in
Salonica. After intense negotiations and an armed confrontation in
Athens between Allied and royalist forces (an incident known as
Noemvriana ), the King of Greece resigned and his second son Alexander
took his place; Greece then officially joined the war on the side of
In the beginning, the
Macedonian Front was mostly static. French and
Serbian forces retook limited areas of Macedonia by recapturing Bitola
on 19 November 1916 following the costly
Monastir Offensive , which
brought stabilization of the front.
Serbian and French troops finally made a breakthrough in September
1918 , after most of the German and Austro-Hungarian troops had been
withdrawn. The Bulgarians suffered their only defeat of the war at the
Battle of Dobro Pole . Bulgaria capitulated two weeks later, on 29
September 1918. The German high command responded by despatching
troops to hold the line, but these forces were far too weak to
reestablish a front.
The disappearance of the
Macedonian Front meant that the road to
Vienna was now opened to Allied forces. Hindenburg and
Ludendorff concluded that the strategic and operational balance had
now shifted decidedly against the
Central Powers and, a day after the
Bulgarian collapse, insisted on an immediate peace settlement.
Main article: History of the
Ottoman Empire during
World War I
World War I See
Middle Eastern theatre of World War I Australian troops
charging near a Turkish trench during the
Mehmed V greeting
Wilhelm II on his arrival at
Wilhelm II inspecting Turkish troops of the 15th Corps in East
Galicia, Poland. Prince Leopold of Bavaria, the Supreme Commander of
the German Army on the Eastern Front, is second from the left.
Russian forest trench at the
Battle of Sarikamish , 1914–1915
The Ottomans threatened Russia's Caucasian territories and Britain's
communications with India via the
Suez Canal . As the conflict
Ottoman Empire took advantage of the European powers'
preoccupation with the war and conducted large-scale ethnic cleansing
of the indigenous Armenian , Greek , and Assyrian Christian
populations, known as the
Armenian Genocide ,
Greek Genocide , and
Assyrian Genocide .
The British and French opened overseas fronts with the Gallipoli
(1915) and Mesopotamian campaigns (1914). In Gallipoli, the Ottoman
Empire successfully repelled the British, French, and Australian and
New Zealand Army Corps (ANZACs). In
Mesopotamia , by contrast, after
the defeat of the British defenders in the
Siege of Kut by the
Ottomans (1915–16), British Imperial forces reorganised and captured
Baghdad in March 1917. The British were aided in
Mesopotamia by local
Arab and Assyrian tribesmen, while the Ottomans employed local Kurdish
and Turcoman tribes.
Further to the west, the
Suez Canal was defended from Ottoman attacks
in 1915 and 1916; in August, a German and Ottoman force was defeated
Battle of Romani by the
ANZAC Mounted Division and the 52nd
(Lowland) Infantry Division . Following this victory, an Egyptian
Expeditionary Force advanced across the
Sinai Peninsula , pushing
Ottoman forces back in the
Battle of Magdhaba in December and the
Battle of Rafa on the border between the Egyptian
Sinai and Ottoman
Palestine in January 1917.
Russian armies generally saw success in the Caucasus.
Enver Pasha ,
supreme commander of the Ottoman armed forces, was ambitious and
dreamed of re-conquering central Asia and areas that had been lost to
Russia previously. He was, however, a poor commander. He launched an
offensive against the Russians in the
Caucasus in December 1914 with
100,000 troops, insisting on a frontal attack against mountainous
Russian positions in winter. He lost 86% of his force at the Battle of
The Ottoman Empire, with German support, invaded
Persia (modern Iran
) in December 1914 in an effort to cut off British and Russian access
to petroleum reservoirs around
Baku near the
Caspian Sea . Persia,
ostensibly neutral, had long been under the spheres of British and
Russian influence. The Ottomans and Germans were aided by Kurdish and
Azeri forces, together with a large number of major Iranian tribes,
such as the Qashqai , Tangistanis , Luristanis , and
Khamseh , while
the Russians and British had the support of Armenian and Assyrian
Persian Campaign was to last until 1918 and end in failure
for the Ottomans and their allies. However the Russian withdrawal from
the war in 1917 led to Armenian and Assyrian forces, who had hitherto
inflicted a series of defeats upon the forces of the Ottomans and
their allies, being cut off from supply lines, outnumbered, outgunned
and isolated, forcing them to fight and flee towards British lines in
General Yudenich , the Russian commander from 1915 to 1916, drove the
Turks out of most of the southern
Caucasus with a string of victories.
In 1917, Russian
Grand Duke Nicholas assumed command of the Caucasus
front. Nicholas planned a railway from Russian Georgia to the
conquered territories, so that fresh supplies could be brought up for
a new offensive in 1917. However, in March 1917 (February in the
pre-revolutionary Russian calendar), the Czar abdicated in the course
February Revolution and the Russian
Caucasus Army began to fall
Arab Revolt , instigated by the Arab bureau of the British
Foreign Office , started June 1916 with the Battle of
Mecca , led by
Sherif Hussein of
Mecca , and ended with the Ottoman surrender of
Fakhri Pasha , the Ottoman commander of
Medina , resisted
for more than two and half years during the Siege of
Senussi tribe, along the border of Italian Libya and British
Egypt, incited and armed by the Turks, waged a small-scale guerrilla
war against Allied troops. The British were forced to dispatch 12,000
troops to oppose them in the
Senussi Campaign . Their rebellion was
finally crushed in mid-1916.
Total Allied casualties on the Ottoman fronts amounted 650,000 men.
Total Ottoman casualties were 725,000 (325,000 dead and 400,000
Italian Front (World War I) and Albania during World
War I Further information:
Battles of the Isonzo A pro-war
Bologna , 1914.
Italy had been allied with the German and Austro-Hungarian Empires
since 1882 as part of the Triple Alliance. However, the nation had its
own designs on Austrian territory in
Trentino , the Austrian Littoral
, Fiume (Rijeka) and
Dalmatia . Rome had a secret 1902 pact with
France, effectively nullifying its part in the Triple Alliance. At
the start of hostilities,
Italy refused to commit troops, arguing that
the Triple Alliance was defensive and that
Austria-Hungary was an
aggressor. The Austro-Hungarian government began negotiations to
secure Italian neutrality, offering the French colony of Tunisia in
return. The Allies made a counter-offer in which
Italy would receive
the Southern Tyrol ,
Austrian Littoral and territory on the Dalmatian
coast after the defeat of Austria-Hungary. This was formalised by the
Treaty of London . Further encouraged by the Allied invasion of Turkey
in April 1915,
Italy joined the
Triple Entente and declared war on
Austria-Hungary on 23 May. Fifteen months later,
Italy declared war on
Germany. Austro-Hungarian troops, Tyrol.
Italians had numerical superiority but this advantage was lost,
not only because of the difficult terrain in which the fighting took
place, but also because of the strategies and tactics employed. Field
Luigi Cadorna , a staunch proponent of the frontal assault,
had dreams of breaking into the Slovenian plateau, taking Ljubljana
and threatening Vienna.
Trentino front, the Austro-Hungarians took advantage of the
mountainous terrain, which favoured the defender. After an initial
strategic retreat, the front remained largely unchanged, while
Standschützen engaged Italian
bitter hand-to-hand combat throughout the summer. The
Austro-Hungarians counterattacked in the Altopiano of
Asiago , towards
Verona and Padua, in the spring of 1916 (Strafexpedition ), but made
Beginning in 1915, the
Italians under Cadorna mounted eleven
offensives on the Isonzo front along the Isonzo (Soča) River,
Trieste . All eleven offensives were repelled by the
Austro-Hungarians, who held the higher ground. In the summer of 1916,
Battle of Doberdò , the
Italians captured the town of
Gorizia . After this minor victory, the front remained static for over
a year, despite several Italian offensives, centred on the Banjšice
and Karst Plateau east of Gorizia. Depiction of the Battle of
Doberdò , fought in August 1916 between the Italian and the
Central Powers launched a crushing offensive on 26 October 1917,
spearheaded by the Germans. They achieved a victory at Caporetto
Kobarid ). The Italian Army was routed and retreated more than 100
kilometres (62 mi) to reorganise, stabilising the front at the Piave
River . Since the Italian Army had suffered heavy losses in the Battle
of Caporetto, the Italian Government called to arms the so-called '99
Boys (Ragazzi del '99): that is, all males born 1899 and prior, and so
were 18 years old or older. In 1918, the Austro-Hungarians failed to
break through in a series of battles on the Piave and were finally
decisively defeated in the
Battle of Vittorio Veneto
Battle of Vittorio Veneto in October of
that year. On 1 November, the Italian Navy destroyed much of the
Austro-Hungarian fleet stationed in
Pula , preventing it from being
handed over to the new
State of Slovenes, Croats and Serbs . On 3
Trieste from the sea. On the same day,
Armistice of Villa Giusti was signed. By mid-November 1918, the
Italian military occupied the entire former
Austrian Littoral and had
seized control of the portion of
Dalmatia that had been guaranteed to
Italy by the London Pact. By the end of hostilities in November 1918,
Enrico Millo declared himself Italy's Governor of Dalmatia.
Austria-Hungary surrendered on 11 November 1918.
Romania during World War I Marshal Joffre
inspecting Romanian troops, 1916 Romanian troops during the
Battle of Mărăşeşti , 1917
Romania had been allied with the
Central Powers since 1882. When the
war began, however, it declared its neutrality, arguing that because
Austria-Hungary had itself declared war on Serbia, Romania was under
no obligation to join the war. When the Entente Powers promised
Banat , large territories of eastern Hungary,
in exchange for Romania's declaring war on the Central Powers, the
Romanian government renounced its neutrality. On 27 August 1916, the
Romanian Army launched an attack against Austria-Hungary, with limited
Russian support. The Romanian offensive was initially successful,
against the Austro-Hungarian troops in Transylvania, but a
counterattack by the forces of the
Central Powers drove them back. As
a result of the
Battle of Bucharest , the
Central Powers occupied
Bucharest on 6 December 1916. Fighting in Moldova continued in 1917 ,
resulting in a costly stalemate for the Central Powers. Russian
withdrawal from the war in late 1917 as a result of the October
Revolution meant that Romania was forced to sign an armistice with the
Central Powers on 9 December 1917.
In January 1918, Romanian forces established control over Bessarabia
as the Russian Army abandoned the province. Although a treaty was
signed by the Romanian and the
Bolshevik Russian governments following
talks between 5 and 9 March 1918 on the withdrawal of Romanian forces
Bessarabia within two months, on 27 March 1918 Romania attached
Bessarabia to its territory, formally based on a resolution passed by
the local assembly of that territory on its unification with Romania.
Romania officially made peace with the
Central Powers by signing the
Bucharest on 7 May 1918. Under that treaty, Romania was
obliged to end the war with the
Central Powers and make small
territorial concessions to Austria-Hungary, ceding control of some
passes in the
Carpathian Mountains , and to grant oil concessions to
Germany. In exchange, the
Central Powers recognised the sovereignty of
Romania over Bessarabia. The treaty was renounced in October 1918 by
Alexandru Marghiloman government, and Romania nominally re-entered
the war on 10 November 1918. The next day, the Treaty of
nullified by the terms of the
Compiègne . Total
Romanian deaths from 1914 to 1918, military and civilian, within
contemporary borders, were estimated at 748,000.
Eastern Front (World War I)
Eastern Front (World War I) Heir presumptive Karl
visiting the fortress of Przemyśl after the first siege. The Russian
Siege of Przemyśl was the longest siege of the war.
While the Western Front had reached stalemate, the war continued in
East Europe. Initial Russian plans called for simultaneous invasions
of Austrian Galicia and East Prussia. Although Russia's initial
advance into Galicia was largely successful, it was driven back from
Prussia by Hindenburg and Ludendorff at the Battle of Tannenberg
and the Masurian Lakes in August and September 1914. Russia's less
developed industrial base and ineffective military leadership were
instrumental in the events that unfolded. By the spring of 1915, the
Russians had retreated to Galicia, and, in May, the Central Powers
achieved a remarkable breakthrough on Poland's southern frontiers. On
5 August, they captured
Warsaw and forced the Russians to withdraw
Russian Revolution American, British, and
Japanese troops parade through
Vladivostok in armed support of the
anti-communist White Army
Treaty of Brest-Litovsk , 1918.
Count Ottokar von Czernin
Richard von Kühlmann
Despite Russia's success with the June 1916
Brusilov Offensive in
eastern Galicia, dissatisfaction with the Russian government's
conduct of the war grew. The offensive's success was undermined by the
reluctance of other generals to commit their forces to support the
victory. Allied and Russian forces were revived only temporarily by
Romania's entry into the war on 27 August. German forces came to the
aid of embattled Austro-Hungarian units in
Transylvania while a
German-Bulgarian force attacked from the south, and
retaken by the
Central Powers on 6 December. Meanwhile, unrest grew in
Russia, as the Tsar remained at the front. Empress Alexandra\'s
increasingly incompetent rule drew protests and resulted in the murder
of her favourite, Rasputin , at the end of 1916.
In March 1917, demonstrations in Petrograd culminated in the
abdication of Tsar Nicholas II and the appointment of a weak
Provisional Government , which shared power with the Petrograd Soviet
socialists. This arrangement led to confusion and chaos both at the
front and at home. The army became increasingly ineffective.
Following the Tsar's abdication,
Vladimir Lenin was ushered by train
from Switzerland into
Russia 16 April 1917. He was financed by Jacob
Schiff . Discontent and the weaknesses of the Provisional Government
led to a rise in the popularity of the
Bolshevik Party, led by Lenin,
which demanded an immediate end to the war. The Revolution of November
was followed in December by an armistice and negotiations with
Germany. At first, the
Bolsheviks refused the German terms, but when
German troops began marching across
Ukraine unopposed, the new
government acceded to the
Treaty of Brest-Litovsk on 3 March 1918. The
treaty ceded vast territories, including Finland, the Baltic provinces
, parts of Poland and
Ukraine to the Central Powers. Despite this
enormous apparent German success, the manpower required for German
occupation of former Russian territory may have contributed to the
failure of the
Spring Offensive and secured relatively little food or
other materiel for the
Central Powers war effort.
With the adoption of the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, the Entente no
longer existed. The Allied powers led a small-scale invasion of
Russia, partly to stop Germany from exploiting Russian resources, and
to a lesser extent, to support the "Whites" (as opposed to the "Reds")
Russian Civil War . Allied troops landed in
Arkhangelsk and in
Vladivostok as part of the
North Russia Intervention .
Czechoslovak Legion , Vladivostok, 1918. Main article:
Czechoslovak Legion fought with the Entente; their goal was to
win support for the independence of
Czechoslovakia . The Legion in
Russia was established in September 1914, in December 1917 in France
(including volunteers from America) and in April 1918 in
Czechoslovak Legion troops defeated the Austro-Hungarian army at the
Ukrainian village of Zborov , in July 1917. After this success, the
Czechoslovak legionaries increased, as well as Czechoslovak
military power. In the
Battle of Bakhmach , the Legion defeated the
Germans and forced them to make a truce.
In Russia, they were heavily involved in the Russian Civil War,
siding with the Whites against the
Bolsheviks , at times controlling
most of the
Trans-Siberian railway and conquering all the major cities
Siberia . The presence of the
Czechoslovak Legion near
Yekaterinburg appears to have been one of the motivations for the
Bolshevik execution of the Tsar and his family in July 1918.
Legionaries arrived less than a week afterwards and captured the city.
Because Russia's European ports were not safe, the corps was evacuated
by a long detour via the port of Vladivostok. The last transport was
the American ship Heffron in September 1920.
CENTRAL POWERS PEACE OVERTURES
They shall not pass ", a phrase typically associated with the
defense of Verdun.
In December 1916, after ten brutal months of the Battle of
a successful offensive against Romania , the Germans attempted to
negotiate a peace with the Allies. Soon after, the U.S. President,
Woodrow Wilson, attempted to intervene as a peacemaker, asking in a
note for both sides to state their demands. Lloyd George\'s War
Cabinet considered the German offer to be a ploy to create divisions
amongst the Allies. After initial outrage and much deliberation, they
took Wilson's note as a separate effort, signalling that the United
States was on the verge of entering the war against Germany following
the "submarine outrages". While the Allies debated a response to
Wilson's offer, the Germans chose to rebuff it in favour of "a direct
exchange of views". Learning of the German response, the Allied
governments were free to make clear demands in their response of 14
January. They sought restoration of damages, the evacuation of
occupied territories, reparations for France,
Russia and Romania, and
a recognition of the principle of nationalities. This included the
liberation of Italians, Slavs, Romanians, Czecho-Slovaks, and the
creation of a "free and united Poland". On the question of security,
the Allies sought guarantees that would prevent or limit future wars,
complete with sanctions, as a condition of any peace settlement. The
negotiations failed and the Entente powers rejected the German offer,
because Germany did not state any specific proposals. The Entente
powers stated to Wilson that they would not start peace negotiations
until the Central powers evacuated all occupied Allied territories and
provided indemnities for all damage which had been done.
Developments In 1917
French Army lookout at his observation post,
Haut-Rhin , France,
1917. German film crew recording the action.
Events of 1917 proved decisive in ending the war, although their
effects were not fully felt until 1918.
The British naval blockade began to have a serious impact on Germany.
In response, in February 1917, the
German General Staff convinced
Theobald von Bethmann-Hollweg to declare unrestricted
submarine warfare, with the goal of starving Britain out of the war.
German planners estimated that unrestricted submarine warfare would
cost Britain a monthly shipping loss of 600,000 tons. The General
Staff acknowledged that the policy would almost certainly bring the
United States into the conflict, but calculated that British shipping
losses would be so high that they would be forced to sue for peace
after 5 to 6 months, before American intervention could make an
impact. In reality, tonnage sunk rose above 500,000 tons per month
from February to July. It peaked at 860,000 tons in April. After July,
the newly re-introduced convoy system became effective in reducing the
U-boat threat. Britain was safe from starvation, while German
industrial output fell and the
United States joined the war far
earlier than Germany had anticipated.
On 3 May 1917, during the Nivelle Offensive, the French 2nd Colonial
Division, veterans of the Battle of Verdun, refused orders, arriving
drunk and without their weapons. Their officers lacked the means to
punish an entire division, and harsh measures were not immediately
French Army Mutinies eventually spread to a further
54 French divisions and saw 20,000 men desert. However, appeals to
patriotism and duty, as well as mass arrests and trials, encouraged
the soldiers to return to defend their trenches, although the French
soldiers refused to participate in further offensive action. Robert
Nivelle was removed from command by 15 May, replaced by General
Philippe Pétain , who suspended bloody large-scale attacks.
The victory of the
Central Powers at the
Battle of Caporetto
Battle of Caporetto led the
Allies to convene the
Rapallo Conference at which they formed the
Supreme War Council to coordinate planning. Previously, British and
French armies had operated under separate commands.
In December, the
Central Powers signed an armistice with Russia, thus
freeing large numbers of German troops for use in the west. With
German reinforcements and new American troops pouring in, the outcome
was to be decided on the Western Front. The
Central Powers knew that
they could not win a protracted war, but they held high hopes for
success based on a final quick offensive. Furthermore, both sides
became increasingly fearful of social unrest and revolution in Europe.
Thus, both sides urgently sought a decisive victory.
In 1917, Emperor
Charles I of Austria
Charles I of Austria secretly attempted separate
peace negotiations with Clemenceau, through his wife's brother Sixtus
Belgium as an intermediary, without the knowledge of Germany. Italy
opposed the proposals. When the negotiations failed, his attempt was
revealed to Germany, resulting in a diplomatic catastrophe.
Ottoman Empire Conflict, 1917–1918
Sinai and Palestine Campaign 10.5 cm Feldhaubitze
98/09 and Ottoman artillerymen at Hareira in 1917 before the Southern
Palestine offensive. Ottoman troops during Mesopotamian
campaign . British artillery battery on
Mount Scopus in the
Jerusalem , 1917. British troops on the march during
Mesopotamian campaign , 1917
In March and April 1917, at the First and Second Battles of Gaza ,
German and Ottoman forces stopped the advance of the Egyptian
Expeditionary Force, which had begun in August 1916 at the Battle of
Romani. At the end of October, the
Sinai and Palestine Campaign
resumed, when General Edmund Allenby 's XXth Corps , XXI Corps and
Desert Mounted Corps won the Battle of Beersheba . Two Ottoman armies
were defeated a few weeks later at the
Battle of Mughar Ridge and,
early in December,
Jerusalem was captured following another Ottoman
defeat at the
Battle of Jerusalem (1917) . About this time,
Friedrich Freiherr Kress von Kressenstein was relieved of his duties
as the Eighth Army's commander, replaced by Djevad Pasha , and a few
months later the commander of the
Ottoman Army in Palestine, Erich von
Falkenhayn , was replaced by
Otto Liman von Sanders .
In early 1918, the front line was extended and the Jordan Valley was
occupied, following the First Transjordan and the Second Transjordan
British Empire forces in March and April 1918. In March,
most of the Egyptian Expeditionary Force's British infantry and
Yeomanry cavalry were sent to the Western Front as a consequence of
the Spring Offensive. They were replaced by Indian Army units. During
several months of reorganisation and training of the summer, a number
of attacks were carried out on sections of the Ottoman front line.
These pushed the front line north to more advantageous positions for
the Entente in preparation for an attack and to acclimatise the newly
arrived Indian Army infantry. It was not until the middle of September
that the integrated force was ready for large-scale operations.
The reorganised Egyptian Expeditionary Force, with an additional
mounted division, broke Ottoman forces at the Battle of Megiddo in
September 1918. In two days the British and Indian infantry, supported
by a creeping barrage, broke the Ottoman front line and captured the
headquarters of the
Eighth Army (Ottoman Empire) at Tulkarm , the
continuous trench lines at Tabsor , Arara and the Seventh Army
(Ottoman Empire) headquarters at Nablus . The Desert Mounted Corps
rode through the break in the front line created by the infantry and,
during virtually continuous operations by
Australian Light Horse ,
British mounted Yeomanry, Indian
Lancers and New Zealand Mounted Rifle
brigades in the
Jezreel Valley , they captured Nazareth , Afulah and
Beisan , Jenin , along with Haifa on the Mediterranean coast and Daraa
east of the
Jordan River on the Hejaz railway. Samakh and
Sea of Galilee
Sea of Galilee , were captured on the way northwards to
Meanwhile, Chaytor\'s Force of Australian light horse, New Zealand
mounted rifles, Indian, British West Indies and Jewish infantry
captured the crossings of the
Jordan River , Es Salt ,
Amman and at
Ziza most of the
Fourth Army (Ottoman Empire) . The
Mudros , signed at the end of October, ended hostilities with the
Ottoman Empire when fighting was continuing north of
Entry Of The United States
American entry into World War I President Wilson
before Congress, announcing the break in official relations with
Germany on 3 February 1917
At the outbreak of the war, the
United States pursued a policy of
non-intervention , avoiding conflict while trying to broker a peace.
When the German
U-boat U-20 sank the British liner
RMS Lusitania on 7
May 1915 with 128 Americans among the dead, President Woodrow Wilson
insisted that "America is too proud to fight" but demanded an end to
attacks on passenger ships. Germany complied. Wilson unsuccessfully
tried to mediate a settlement. However, he also repeatedly warned that
United States would not tolerate unrestricted submarine warfare,
in violation of international law. Former president Theodore Roosevelt
denounced German acts as "piracy". Wilson was narrowly reelected in
1916 as his supporters emphasized "he kept us out of war".
In January 1917, Germany resumed unrestricted submarine warfare,
realizing it would mean American entry. The German Foreign Minister,
Zimmermann Telegram , invited Mexico to join the war as
Germany's ally against the United States. In return, the Germans would
finance Mexico's war and help it recover the territories of Texas, New
Mexico, and Arizona. The United Kingdom intercepted the message and
presented it to the U.S. embassy in the U.K. From there it made its
way to President Wilson who released the Zimmermann note to the
public, and Americans saw it as casus belli . Wilson called on antiwar
elements to end all wars, by winning this one and eliminating
militarism from the globe. He argued that the war was so important
that the U.S. had to have a voice in the peace conference. After the
sinking of seven U.S. merchant ships by submarines and the publication
of the Zimmermann telegram, Wilson called for war on Germany, which
the U.S. Congress declared on 6 April 1917 .
United States was never formally a member of the Allies but
became a self-styled "Associated Power". The
United States had a small
army, but, after the passage of the Selective Service Act , it drafted
2.8 million men, and, by summer 1918, was sending 10,000 fresh
France every day. In 1917, the U.S. Congress granted U.S.
citizenship to Puerto Ricans to allow them to be drafted to
participate in World War I, as part of the
Jones–Shafroth Act . If
Germany believed it would be many more months before American soldiers
would arrive and that their arrival could be stopped by U-boats, it
United States Navy sent a battleship group to
Scapa Flow to join
with the British Grand Fleet, destroyers to Queenstown ,
Ireland , and
submarines to help guard convoys. Several regiments of U.S. Marines
were also dispatched to France. The British and French wanted American
units used to reinforce their troops already on the battle lines and
not waste scarce shipping on bringing over supplies. General John J.
American Expeditionary Forces (AEF) commander, refused to
break up American units to be used as filler material. As an
exception, he did allow African-American combat regiments to be used
in French divisions. The
Harlem Hellfighters fought as part of the
French 16th Division, and earned a unit Croix de Guerre for their
actions at Château-Thierry , Belleau Wood , and Sechault. AEF
doctrine called for the use of frontal assaults, which had long since
been discarded by
British Empire and French commanders due to the
large loss of life that resulted.
Spring Offensive Of 1918
Spring Offensive British 55th Division soldiers,
blinded by tear gas during the Battle of Estaires , 10 April 1918
French soldiers under General Gouraud , with machine guns amongst
the ruins of a cathedral near the Marne , 1918.
Ludendorff drew up plans (codenamed
Operation Michael ) for the 1918
offensive on the Western Front. The
Spring Offensive sought to divide
the British and French forces with a series of feints and advances.
The German leadership hoped to end the war before significant U.S.
forces arrived. The operation commenced on 21 March 1918, with an
attack on British forces near Saint-Quentin . German forces achieved
an unprecedented advance of 60 kilometres (37 mi).
British and French trenches were penetrated using novel infiltration
tactics , also named Hutier tactics, after General
Oskar von Hutier ,
by specially trained units called stormtroopers . Previously, attacks
had been characterised by long artillery bombardments and massed
assaults. However, in the
Spring Offensive of 1918, Ludendorff used
artillery only briefly and infiltrated small groups of infantry at
weak points. They attacked command and logistics areas and bypassed
points of serious resistance. More heavily armed infantry then
destroyed these isolated positions. This German success relied greatly
on the element of surprise.
The front moved to within 120 kilometres (75 mi) of Paris. Three
Krupp railway guns fired 183 shells on the capital, causing many
Parisians to flee. The initial offensive was so successful that Kaiser
Wilhelm II declared 24 March a national holiday . Many Germans thought
victory was near. After heavy fighting, however, the offensive was
halted. Lacking tanks or motorised artillery , the Germans were unable
to consolidate their gains. The problems of re-supply were also
exacerbated by increasing distances that now stretched over terrain
that was shell-torn and often impassable to traffic.
General Foch pressed to use the arriving American troops as
individual replacements, whereas Pershing sought to field American
units as an independent force. These units were assigned to the
depleted French and
British Empire commands on 28 March. A Supreme War
Council of Allied forces was created at the
Doullens Conference on 5
November 1917. General Foch was appointed as supreme commander of the
Allied forces. Haig, Petain, and Pershing retained tactical control of
their respective armies; Foch assumed a coordinating rather than a
directing role, and the British, French, and U.S. commands operated
Following Operation Michael, Germany launched Operation Georgette
against the northern
English Channel ports. The Allies halted the
drive after limited territorial gains by Germany. The German Army to
the south then conducted Operations Blücher and Yorck , pushing
broadly towards Paris. Germany launched Operation Marne (Second Battle
of the Marne ) 15 July, in an attempt to encircle
Reims . The
resulting counterattack, which started the
Hundred Days Offensive ,
marked the first successful Allied offensive of the war.
By 20 July, the Germans had retreated across the Marne to their
starting lines, having achieved little, and the German Army never
regained the initiative. German casualties between March and April
1918 were 270,000, including many highly trained storm troopers.
Meanwhile, Germany was falling apart at home.
Anti-war marches became
frequent and morale in the army fell. Industrial output was half the
New States Under War Zone
In the late spring of 1918, three new states were formed in the South
Caucasus : the
First Republic of Armenia , the Azerbaijan Democratic
Republic , and the
Democratic Republic of Georgia , which declared
their independence from the Russian Empire. Two other minor entities
were established, the
Centrocaspian Dictatorship and South West
Caucasian Republic (the former was liquidated by Azerbaijan in the
autumn of 1918 and the latter by a joint Armenian-British task force
in early 1919). With the withdrawal of the Russian armies from the
Caucasus front in the winter of 1917–18, the three major republics
braced for an imminent Ottoman advance, which commenced in the early
months of 1918. Solidarity was briefly maintained when the
Transcaucasian Federative Republic was created in the spring of 1918,
but this collapsed in May, when the Georgians asked for and received
protection from Germany and the Azerbaijanis concluded a treaty with
Ottoman Empire that was more akin to a military alliance. Armenia
was left to fend for itself and struggled for five months against the
threat of a full-fledged occupation by the Ottoman Turks before
defeating them at the
Battle of Sardarabad .
ALLIED VICTORY: SUMMER 1918 ONWARDS
Allies increased their front-line rifle strength while German
strength fell in half in 1918
Hundred Days Offensive
Hundred Days Offensive and
Aerial view of ruins of
Vaux-devant-Damloup , France, 1918
The Allied counteroffensive, known as the Hundred Days Offensive,
began on 8 August 1918, with the Battle of Amiens . The battle
involved over 400 tanks and 120,000 British,
Dominion , and French
troops, and by the end of its first day a gap 24 kilometres (15 mi)
long had been created in the German lines. The defenders displayed a
marked collapse in morale, causing Ludendorff to refer to this day as
the "Black Day of the German army". After an advance as far as 23
kilometres (14 mi), German resistance stiffened, and the battle was
concluded on 12 August.
Rather than continuing the Amiens battle past the point of initial
success, as had been done so many times in the past, the Allies
shifted their attention elsewhere. Allied leaders had now realised
that to continue an attack after resistance had hardened was a waste
of lives, and it was better to turn a line than to try to roll over
it. They began to undertake attacks in quick order to take advantage
of successful advances on the flanks, then broke them off when each
attack lost its initial impetus. Canadian Scottish , advancing
Battle of the Canal du Nord , 1918
Dominion forces launched the next phase of the campaign
with the Battle of Albert on 21 August. The assault was widened by
French and then further British forces in the following days. During
the last week of August the Allied pressure along a 110-kilometre (68
mi) front against the enemy was heavy and unrelenting. From German
accounts, "Each day was spent in bloody fighting against an ever and
again on-storming enemy, and nights passed without sleep in
retirements to new lines."
Faced with these advances, on 2 September the German Supreme Army
Command issued orders to withdraw to the
Hindenburg Line in the south.
This ceded without a fight the salient seized the previous April.
According to Ludendorff "We had to admit the necessity ... to withdraw
the entire front from the Scarpe to the Vesle.
September saw the Allies advance to the
Hindenburg Line in the north
and centre. The Germans continued to fight strong rear-guard actions
and launched numerous counterattacks on lost positions, but only a few
succeeded, and those only temporarily. Contested towns, villages,
heights, and trenches in the screening positions and outposts of the
Hindenburg Line continued to fall to the Allies, with the BEF alone
taking 30,441 prisoners in the last week of September. On 24 September
an assault by both the British and French came within 3 kilometres (2
mi) of St. Quentin. The Germans had now retreated to positions along
or behind the Hindenburg Line. An American major, piloting an
observation balloon near the front, 1918
In nearly four weeks of fighting beginning on 8 August, over 100,000
German prisoners were taken. As of "The Black Day of the German Army",
the German High Command realised that the war was lost and made
attempts to reach a satisfactory end. The day after that battle,
Ludendorff said: "We cannot win the war any more, but we must not lose
it either." On 11 August he offered his resignation to the Kaiser, who
refused it, replying, "I see that we must strike a balance. We have
nearly reached the limit of our powers of resistance. The war must be
ended." On 13 August, at Spa , Hindenburg, Ludendorff, the Chancellor,
and Foreign Minister Hintz agreed that the war could not be ended
militarily and, on the following day, the German Crown Council decided
that victory in the field was now most improbable. Austria and Hungary
warned that they could only continue the war until December, and
Ludendorff recommended immediate peace negotiations. Prince Rupprecht
warned Prince Max of Baden: "Our military situation has deteriorated
so rapidly that I no longer believe we can hold out over the winter;
it is even possible that a catastrophe will come earlier." On 10
September Hindenburg urged peace moves to Emperor Charles of Austria,
and Germany appealed to the Netherlands for mediation. On 14 September
Austria sent a note to all belligerents and neutrals suggesting a
meeting for peace talks on neutral soil, and on 15 September Germany
made a peace offer to Belgium. Both peace offers were rejected, and on
24 September Supreme Army Command informed the leaders in Berlin that
armistice talks were inevitable.
The final assault on the
Hindenburg Line began with the Meuse-Argonne
Offensive , launched by French and American troops on 26 September.
The following week, cooperating French and American units broke
through in Champagne at the
Battle of Blanc Mont Ridge , forcing the
Germans off the commanding heights, and closing towards the Belgian
frontier. On 8 October the line was pierced again by British and
Dominion troops at the Battle of Cambrai . The German army had to
shorten its front and use the Dutch frontier as an anchor to fight
rear-guard actions as it fell back towards Germany.
When Bulgaria signed a separate armistice on 29 September,
Ludendorff, having been under great stress for months, suffered
something similar to a breakdown. It was evident that Germany could no
longer mount a successful defence. Men of U.S. 64th Regiment,
7th Infantry Division , celebrate the news of the Armistice, 11
News of Germany's impending military defeat spread throughout the
German armed forces. The threat of mutiny was rife. Admiral Reinhard
Scheer and Ludendorff decided to launch a last attempt to restore the
"valour" of the German Navy. Knowing the government of Prince
Maximilian of Baden would veto any such action, Ludendorff decided not
to inform him. Nonetheless, word of the impending assault reached
Kiel . Many, refusing to be part of a naval offensive,
which they believed to be suicidal, rebelled and were arrested.
Ludendorff took the blame; the Kaiser dismissed him on 26 October. The
collapse of the
Balkans meant that Germany was about to lose its main
supplies of oil and food. Its reserves had been used up, even as U.S.
troops kept arriving at the rate of 10,000 per day. The Americans
supplied more than 80% of Allied oil during the war, and there was no
With the military faltering and with widespread loss of confidence in
the Kaiser, Germany moved towards surrender. Prince Maximilian of
Baden took charge of a new government as
Chancellor of Germany to
negotiate with the Allies. Negotiations with President Wilson began
immediately, in the hope that he would offer better terms than the
British and French. Wilson demanded a constitutional monarchy and
parliamentary control over the German military. There was no
resistance when the Social Democrat
Philipp Scheidemann on 9 November
declared Germany to be a republic. The Kaiser, kings and other
hereditary rulers all were removed from power and Wilhelm fled to
exile in the Netherlands . Imperial Germany was dead; a new Germany
had been born as the
Weimar Republic .
Armistices And Capitulations
Armistice of 11 November 1918 The New York Times
of 11 November 1918
Ferdinand Foch , second from right,
pictured outside the carriage in
Compiègne after agreeing to the
armistice that ended the war there. The carriage was later chosen by
Nazi Germany as the symbolic setting of Pétain's June 1940 armistice.
The collapse of the
Central Powers came swiftly. Bulgaria was the
first to sign an armistice, on 29 September 1918 at
Saloniki . On 30
Ottoman Empire capitulated, signing the
On 24 October, the
Italians began a push that rapidly recovered
territory lost after the Battle of Caporetto. This culminated in the
Battle of Vittorio Veneto, which marked the end of the
Austro-Hungarian Army as an effective fighting force. The offensive
also triggered the disintegration of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
During the last week of October, declarations of independence were
made in Budapest, Prague, and Zagreb. On 29 October, the imperial
Italy for an armistice, but the
advancing, reaching Trento, Udine, and Trieste. On 3 November,
Austria-Hungary sent a flag of truce to ask for an armistice
Armistice of Villa Giusti ). The terms, arranged by telegraph with
the Allied Authorities in Paris, were communicated to the Austrian
commander and accepted. The
Armistice with Austria was signed in the
Villa Giusti, near
Padua , on 3 November. Austria and Hungary signed
separate armistices following the overthrow of the
Habsburg Monarchy .
On 11 November, at 5:00 am, an armistice with Germany was signed in a
railroad carriage at Compiègne. At 11 am on 11 November 1918—"the
eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month"—a ceasefire
came into effect. During the six hours between the signing of the
armistice and its taking effect, opposing armies on the Western Front
began to withdraw from their positions, but fighting continued along
many areas of the front, as commanders wanted to capture territory
before the war ended.
The occupation of the Rhineland took place following the Armistice.
The occupying armies consisted of American, Belgian, British and
In November 1918, the Allies had ample supplies of men and materiel
to invade Germany. Yet at the time of the armistice, no Allied force
had crossed the German frontier; the Western Front was still some 720
kilometres (450 mi) from Berlin; and the Kaiser's armies had retreated
from the battlefield in good order. These factors enabled Hindenburg
and other senior German leaders to spread the story that their armies
had not really been defeated. This resulted in the stab-in-the-back
legend , which attributed Germany's defeat not to its inability to
continue fighting (even though up to a million soldiers were suffering
1918 flu pandemic
1918 flu pandemic and unfit to fight), but to the public's
failure to respond to its "patriotic calling" and the supposed
intentional sabotage of the war effort, particularly by Jews,
Socialists, and Bolsheviks.
The Allies had much more potential wealth they could spend on the
war. One estimate (using 1913 U.S. dollars) is that the Allies spent
$58 billion on the war and the
Central Powers only $25 billion. Among
the Allies, the UK spent $21 billion and the U.S. $17 billion; among
Central Powers Germany spent $20 billion.
Aftermath of World War I
Aftermath of World War I The French military
cemetery at the
Douaumont ossuary , which contains the remains of more
than 130,000 unknown soldiers
In the aftermath of the war, four empires disappeared: the German,
Austro-Hungarian, Ottoman, and Russian. Numerous nations regained
their former independence, and new ones were created. Four dynasties,
together with their ancillary aristocracies, all fell as a result of
the war: the Romanovs , the Hohenzollerns , the Habsburgs , and the
Belgium and Serbia were badly damaged, as was France, with
1.4 million soldiers dead, not counting other casualties. Germany and
Russia were similarly affected.
FORMAL END OF THE WAR
A formal state of war between the two sides persisted for another
seven months, until the signing of the
Treaty of Versailles with
Germany on 28 June 1919. The
United States Senate did not ratify the
treaty despite public support for it, and did not formally end its
involvement in the war until the
Knox–Porter Resolution was signed
on 2 July 1921 by President
Warren G. Harding . For the United
Kingdom and the British Empire, the state of war ceased under the
provisions of the Termination of the Present War (Definition) Act 1918
with respect to:
* Germany on 10 January 1920.
* Austria on 16 July 1920.
* Bulgaria on 9 August 1920.
* Hungary on 26 July 1921.
* Turkey on 6 August 1924.
After the Treaty of Versailles, treaties with Austria, Hungary,
Bulgaria, and the
Ottoman Empire were signed. However, the negotiation
of the latter treaty with the
Ottoman Empire was followed by strife,
and a final peace treaty between the Allied Powers and the country
that would shortly become the
Republic of Turkey was not signed until
24 July 1923, at Lausanne .
Some war memorials date the end of the war as being when the
Versailles Treaty was signed in 1919, which was when many of the
troops serving abroad finally returned to their home countries; by
contrast, most commemorations of the war's end concentrate on the
armistice of 11 November 1918. Legally, the formal peace treaties were
not complete until the last, the Treaty of Lausanne, was signed. Under
its terms, the Allied forces left
Constantinople on 23 August 1923.
PEACE TREATIES AND NATIONAL BOUNDARIES
Greek prime minister
Eleftherios Venizelos signing the Treaty of
Sèvres The signing of peace in the
Hall of Mirrors ,
Versailles, 28 June 1919
After the war, the Paris Peace Conference imposed a series of peace
treaties on the
Central Powers officially ending the war. The 1919
Treaty of Versailles dealt with Germany and, building on Wilson\'s
14th point , brought into being the
League of Nations
League of Nations on 28 June 1919.
Central Powers had to acknowledge responsibility for "all the
loss and damage to which the Allied and Associated Governments and
their nationals have been subjected as a consequence of the war
imposed upon them by" their aggression. In the Treaty of Versailles,
this statement was Article 231 . This article became known as the War
Guilt clause as the majority of Germans felt humiliated and resentful.
Overall the Germans felt they had been unjustly dealt with by what
they called the "diktat of Versailles". Schulze said the Treaty placed
Germany "under legal sanctions, deprived of military power,
economically ruined, and politically humiliated." Belgian historian
Laurence Van Ypersele emphasizes the central role played by memory of
the war and the Versailles Treaty in German politics in the 1920s and
Active denial of war guilt in Germany and German resentment at both
reparations and continued Allied occupation of the Rhineland made
widespread revision of the meaning and memory of the war problematic.
The legend of the "stab in the back " and the wish to revise the
"Versailles diktat", and the belief in an international threat aimed
at the elimination of the German nation persisted at the heart of
German politics. Even a man of peace such as Stresemann publicly
rejected German guilt. As for the Nazis, they waved the banners of
domestic treason and international conspiracy in an attempt to
galvanize the German nation into a spirit of revenge. Like a Fascist
Nazi Germany sought to redirect the memory of the war to the
benefit of its own policies.
Meanwhile, new nations liberated from German rule viewed the treaty
as recognition of wrongs committed against small nations by much
larger aggressive neighbors. The Peace Conference required all the
defeated powers to pay reparations for all the damage done to
civilians. However, owing to economic difficulties and Germany being
the only defeated power with an intact economy, the burden fell
largely on Germany.
Austria-Hungary was partitioned into several successor states,
including Austria, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, and
Yugoslavia , largely
but not entirely along ethnic lines.
Transylvania was shifted from
Greater Romania . The details were contained in the Treaty
of Saint-Germain and the Treaty of Trianon. As a result of the Treaty
of Trianon , 3.3 million Hungarians came under foreign rule. Although
the Hungarians made up 54% of the population of the pre-war Kingdom of
Hungary , only 32% of its territory was left to Hungary. Between 1920
and 1924, 354,000 Hungarians fled former Hungarian territories
attached to Romania, Czechoslovakia, and Yugoslavia.
The Russian Empire, which had withdrawn from the war in 1917 after
the October Revolution, lost much of its western frontier as the newly
independent nations of Estonia , Finland , Latvia , Lithuania , and
Poland were carved from it. Romania took control of
Ottoman Empire disintegrated, with much of its
awarded to various Allied powers as protectorates. The Turkish core in
Anatolia was reorganised as the Republic of Turkey. The Ottoman Empire
was to be partitioned by the
Treaty of Sèvres
Treaty of Sèvres of 1920. This treaty
was never ratified by the Sultan and was rejected by the Turkish
National Movement , leading to the victorious Turkish War of
Independence and the much less stringent 1923 Treaty of Lausanne.
Sykes–Picot Agreement Map of territorial
changes in Europe after
World War I
World War I (as of 1923)
Poland reemerged as an independent country, after more than a
Kingdom of Serbia and its dynasty, as a "minor Entente
nation" and the country with the most casualties per capita, became
the backbone of a new multinational state, the Kingdom of Serbs,
Croats and Slovenes , later renamed Yugoslavia. Czechoslovakia,
Kingdom of Bohemia
Kingdom of Bohemia with parts of the Kingdom of Hungary
, became a new nation.
Russia became the
Soviet Union and lost
Finland, Estonia, Lithuania, and Latvia, which became independent
Ottoman Empire was soon replaced by Turkey and several
other countries in the Middle East.
In the British Empire, the war unleashed new forms of nationalism. In
Australia and New Zealand the Battle of Gallipoli became known as
those nations' "Baptism of Fire". It was the first major war in which
the newly established countries fought, and it was one of the first
times that Australian troops fought as Australians, not just subjects
British Crown .
Anzac Day , commemorating the Australian and
New Zealand Army Corps , celebrates this defining moment.
Battle of Vimy Ridge , where the Canadian divisions fought
together for the first time as a single corps, Canadians began to
refer to theirs as a nation "forged from fire". Having succeeded on
the same battleground where the "mother countries" had previously
faltered, they were for the first time respected internationally for
their own accomplishments. Canada entered the war as a
Dominion of the
British Empire and remained so, although it emerged with a greater
measure of independence. When Britain declared war in 1914, the
dominions were automatically at war; at the conclusion, Canada,
Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa were individual signatories
Treaty of Versailles .
The establishment of the modern state of Israel and the roots of the
Israeli–Palestinian conflict are partially found in the
unstable power dynamics of the Middle East that resulted from World
War I. Before the end of the war, the
Ottoman Empire had maintained a
modest level of peace and stability throughout the Middle East. With
the fall of the Ottoman government, power vacuums developed and
conflicting claims to land and nationhood began to emerge. The
political boundaries drawn by the victors of
World War I
World War I were quickly
imposed, sometimes after only cursory consultation with the local
population. These continue to be problematic in the 21st-century
struggles for national identity . While the dissolution of the
Ottoman Empire at the end of
World War I
World War I was pivotal in contributing
to the modern political situation of the Middle East, including the
Arab-Israeli conflict , the end of Ottoman rule also spawned lesser
known disputes over water and other natural resources.
Transporting Ottoman wounded at
military hospital during the
Spanish flu pandemic, which killed about
675,000 people in the
United States alone. Camp Funston, Kansas, 1918.
The war had profound consequences on the health of soldiers. Of the
60 million European military personnel who were mobilized from 1914 to
1918, 8 million were killed , 7 million were permanently disabled, and
15 million were seriously injured. Germany lost 15.1% of its active
Austria-Hungary lost 17.1%, and
France lost 10.5%.
In Germany, civilian deaths were 474,000 higher than in peacetime, due
in large part to food shortages and malnutrition that weakened
resistance to disease. By the end of the war, starvation caused by
famine had killed approximately 100,000 people in Lebanon. Between 5
and 10 million people died in the
Russian famine of 1921 . By 1922,
there were between 4.5 million and 7 million homeless children in
Russia as a result of nearly a decade of devastation from World War I,
the Russian Civil War, and the subsequent famine of 1920–1922.
Numerous anti-Soviet Russians fled the country after the Revolution;
by the 1930s, the northern Chinese city of
Harbin had 100,000
Russians. Thousands more emigrated to France, England, and the United
In Australia, the effects of the war on the economy were no less
severe. The Australian prime minister,
Billy Hughes , wrote to the
British prime minister,
Lloyd George , "You have assured us that you
cannot get better terms. I much regret it, and hope even now that some
way may be found of securing agreement for demanding reparation
commensurate with the tremendous sacrifices made by the British Empire
and her Allies."
Australia received ₤5,571,720 war reparations, but
the direct cost of the war to
Australia had been ₤376,993,052, and,
by the mid-1930s, repatriation pensions, war gratuities, interest and
sinking fund charges were ₤831,280,947. Of about 416,000
Australians who served, about 60,000 were killed and another 152,000
Diseases flourished in the chaotic wartime conditions. In 1914 alone,
louse-borne epidemic typhus killed 200,000 in Serbia. From 1918 to
Russia had about 25 million infections and 3 million deaths from
epidemic typhus. In 1923, 13 million Russians contracted malaria, a
sharp increase from the pre-war years. In addition, a major influenza
epidemic spread around the world. Overall, the 1918 flu pandemic
killed at least 50 million people.
Chaim Weizmann and fear that American Jews would
United States to support Germany culminated in the
Balfour Declaration of 1917, endorsing creation
Jewish homeland in Palestine. A total of more than 1,172,000
Jewish soldiers served in the Allied and
Central Power forces in World
War I, including 275,000 in
Austria-Hungary and 450,000 in Tsarist
The social disruption and widespread violence of the Russian
Revolution of 1917 and the ensuing
Russian Civil War sparked more than
2,000 pogroms in the former Russian Empire, mostly in
Ukraine . An
estimated 60,000–200,000 civilian Jews were killed in the
In the aftermath of World War I, Greece fought against Turkish
nationalists led by Mustafa Kemal , a war which eventually resulted in
a massive population exchange between the two countries under the
Treaty of Lausanne . According to various sources, several hundred
Greeks died during this period, which was tied in with the
Greek Genocide .
Technology during World War I and
Weapons of World War I
Tanks in World War I Tanks on parade in London at the
World War I
World War I A Russian armoured car, 1919
World War I
World War I began as a clash of 20th-century technology and
19th-century tactics , with the inevitably large ensuing casualties.
By the end of 1917, however, the major armies, now numbering millions
of men, had modernised and were making use of telephone, wireless
communication , armoured cars , tanks , and aircraft. Infantry
formations were reorganised, so that 100-man companies were no longer
the main unit of manoeuvre; instead, squads of 10 or so men, under the
command of a junior NCO, were favoured.
Artillery also underwent a revolution. In 1914, cannons were
positioned in the front line and fired directly at their targets. By
1917, indirect fire with guns (as well as mortars and even machine
guns) was commonplace, using new techniques for spotting and ranging,
notably aircraft and the often overlooked field telephone .
Counter-battery missions became commonplace, also, and sound detection
was used to locate enemy batteries.
Germany was far ahead of the Allies in utilising heavy indirect fire.
The German Army employed 150 mm (6 in) and 210 mm (8 in) howitzers in
1914, when typical French and British guns were only 75 mm (3 in) and
105 mm (4 in). The British had a 6-inch (152 mm) howitzer, but it was
so heavy it had to be hauled to the field in pieces and assembled. The
Germans also fielded Austrian 305 mm (12 in) and 420 mm (17 in) guns
and, even at the beginning of the war, had inventories of various
Minenwerfer , which were ideally suited for trench
warfare. 38-cm „Lange Max “ of
biggest gun of the world in 1917.
In 1917, on 27 June the Germans used their biggest gun of the world
Batterie Pommern , nicknamed "Lange Max ". This gun from
able to shoot 750 kg shells from
Dunkirk which is ±50 km
Much of the combat involved trench warfare , in which hundreds often
died for each metre gained. Many of the deadliest battles in history
occurred during World War I. Such battles include Ypres , the Marne ,
Cambrai , the Somme ,
Verdun , and Gallipoli . The Germans employed
Haber process of nitrogen fixation to provide their forces with a
constant supply of gunpowder despite the British naval blockade.
Artillery was responsible for the largest number of casualties and
consumed vast quantities of explosives. The large number of head
wounds caused by exploding shells and fragmentation forced the
combatant nations to develop the modern steel helmet , led by the
French, who introduced the
Adrian helmet in 1915. It was quickly
followed by the
Brodie helmet , worn by British Imperial and US
troops, and in 1916 by the distinctive German
Stahlhelm , a design,
with improvements, still in use today.
Gas! GAS! Quick, boys! – An ecstasy of fumbling,
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time;
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling,
And flound'ring like a man in fire or lime ...
Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light,
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning. —
Wilfred Owen , Dulce
et Decorum est , 1917 A Canadian soldier with mustard gas
burns, c. 1917–1918
The widespread use of chemical warfare was a distinguishing feature
of the conflict. Gases used included chlorine , mustard gas and
phosgene . Few war casualties were caused by gas, as effective
countermeasures to gas attacks were quickly created, such as gas masks
. The use of chemical warfare and small-scale strategic bombing were
both outlawed by the
Hague Conventions of 1899 and 1907 , and both
proved to be of limited effectiveness, though they captured the
The most powerful land-based weapons were railway guns , weighing
dozens of tons apiece. The German ones were nicknamed Big Berthas ,
even though the namesake was not a railway gun. Germany developed the
Paris Gun , able to bombard Paris from over 100 kilometres (62 mi),
though shells were relatively light at 94 kilograms (210 lb).
Vickers machine gun , 1917
Trenches, machine guns, air reconnaissance, barbed wire, and modern
artillery with fragmentation shells helped bring the battle lines of
World War I
World War I to a stalemate. The British and the French sought a
solution with the creation of the tank and mechanised warfare . The
British first tanks were used during the
Battle of the Somme
Battle of the Somme on 15
September 1916. Mechanical reliability was an issue, but the
experiment proved its worth. Within a year, the British were fielding
tanks by the hundreds, and they showed their potential during the
Battle of Cambrai in November 1917, by breaking the Hindenburg Line,
while combined arms teams captured 8,000 enemy soldiers and 100 guns.
Meanwhile, the French introduced the first tanks with a rotating
Renault FT , which became a decisive tool of the victory.
The conflict also saw the introduction of light automatic weapons and
submachine guns , such as the
Lewis Gun , the Browning automatic rifle
, and the
Bergmann MP18 .
Another new weapon, the flamethrower , was first used by the German
army and later adopted by other forces. Although not of high tactical
value, the flamethrower was a powerful, demoralising weapon that
caused terror on the battlefield.
Trench railways evolved to supply the enormous quantities of food,
water, and ammunition required to support large numbers of soldiers in
areas where conventional transportation systems had been destroyed.
Internal combustion engines and improved traction systems for
automobiles and trucks/lorries eventually rendered trench railways
Ottoman battlecruiser Yavûz Sultân Selîm
Germany deployed U-boats (submarines ) after the war began.
Alternating between restricted and unrestricted submarine warfare in
the Atlantic, the
Kaiserliche Marine employed them to deprive the
British Isles of vital supplies. The deaths of British merchant
sailors and the seeming invulnerability of U-boats led to the
development of depth charges (1916), hydrophones (passive sonar ,
1917), blimps , hunter-killer submarines (HMS R-1 , 1917),
forward-throwing anti-submarine weapons , and dipping hydrophones (the
latter two both abandoned in 1918). To extend their operations, the
Germans proposed supply submarines (1916). Most of these would be
forgotten in the interwar period until
World War II
World War II revived the need.
Aviation in World War I
Aviation in World War I
Sopwith Camel . In
April 1917, the average life expectancy of a British pilot on the
Western Front was 93 flying hours.
Fixed-wing aircraft were first used militarily by the
Libya on 23 October 1911 during the
Italo-Turkish War for
reconnaissance, soon followed by the dropping of grenades and aerial
photography the next year. By 1914, their military utility was
obvious. They were initially used for reconnaissance and ground attack
. To shoot down enemy planes, anti-aircraft guns and fighter aircraft
were developed. Strategic bombers were created, principally by the
Germans and British, though the former used Zeppelins as well.
Towards the end of the conflict, aircraft carriers were used for the
first time, with HMS Furious launching
Sopwith Camels in a raid to
Zeppelin hangars at
Tondern in 1918.
Manned observation balloons , floating high above the trenches, were
used as stationary reconnaissance platforms, reporting enemy movements
and directing artillery. Balloons commonly had a crew of two, equipped
with parachutes , so that if there was an enemy air attack the crew
could parachute to safety. At the time, parachutes were too heavy to
be used by pilots of aircraft (with their marginal power output), and
smaller versions were not developed until the end of the war; they
were also opposed by the British leadership, who feared they might
Recognised for their value as observation platforms, balloons were
important targets for enemy aircraft. To defend them against air
attack, they were heavily protected by antiaircraft guns and patrolled
by friendly aircraft; to attack them, unusual weapons such as
air-to-air rockets were tried. Thus, the reconnaissance value of
blimps and balloons contributed to the development of air-to-air
combat between all types of aircraft, and to the trench stalemate,
because it was impossible to move large numbers of troops undetected.
The Germans conducted air raids on England during 1915 and 1916 with
airships, hoping to damage British morale and cause aircraft to be
diverted from the front lines, and indeed the resulting panic led to
the diversion of several squadrons of fighters from France.
Baralong incidents HMS Baralong.
On 19 August 1915, the German submarine U-27 was sunk by the British
HMS Baralong . All German survivors were summarily executed by
Baralong's crew on the orders of Lieutenant
Godfrey Herbert , the
captain of the ship. The shooting was reported to the media by
American citizens who were on board the Nicosia, a British freighter
loaded with war supplies, which was stopped by U-27 just minutes
before the incident.
On 24 September, Baralong destroyed U-41 , which was in the process
of sinking the cargo ship Urbino. According to Karl Goetz, the
submarine's commander, Baralong continued to fly the U.S. flag after
firing on U-41 and then rammed the lifeboat – carrying the German
survivors – sinking it.
TORPEDOING OF HMHS LLANDOVERY CASTLE
The Canadian hospital ship
HMHS Llandovery Castle
HMHS Llandovery Castle was torpedoed by
the German submarine
SM U-86 on 27 June 1918 in violation of
international law. Only 24 of the 258 medical personnel, patients, and
crew survived. Survivors reported that the
U-boat surfaced and ran
down the lifeboats, machine-gunning survivors in the water. The U-boat
Helmut Patzig , was charged with war crimes in Germany
following the war, but escaped prosecution by going to the Free City
of Danzig , beyond the jurisdiction of German courts.
CHEMICAL WEAPONS IN WARFARE
Chemical weapons in World War I French soldiers
making a gas and flame attack on German trenches in Flanders
The first successful use of poison gas as a weapon of warfare
occurred during the
Second Battle of Ypres
Second Battle of Ypres (22 April – 25 May 1915).
Gas was soon used by all major belligerents throughout the war. It is
estimated that the use of chemical weapons employed by both sides
throughout the war had inflicted 1.3 million casualties. For example,
the British had over 180,000 chemical weapons casualties during the
war, and up to one-third of American casualties were caused by them.
The Russian Army reportedly suffered roughly 500,000 chemical weapon
casualties in World War I. The use of chemical weapons in warfare was
in direct violation of the 1899 Hague Declaration Concerning
Asphyxiating Gases and the 1907 Hague Convention on Land Warfare ,
which prohibited their use.
The effect of poison gas was not limited to combatants. Civilians
were at risk from the gases as winds blew the poison gases through
their towns, and rarely received warnings or alerts of potential
danger. In addition to absent warning systems, civilians often did not
have access to effective gas masks. An estimated 100,000–260,000
civilian casualties were caused by chemical weapons during the
conflict and tens of thousands more (along with military personnel)
died from scarring of the lungs, skin damage, and cerebral damage in
the years after the conflict ended. Many commanders on both sides knew
such weapons would cause major harm to civilians but nonetheless
continued to use them. British
Sir Douglas Haig
Sir Douglas Haig wrote in
his diary, "My officers and I were aware that such weapons would cause
harm to women and children living in nearby towns, as strong winds
were common in the battlefront. However, because the weapon was to be
directed against the enemy, none of us were overly concerned at all."
GENOCIDE AND ETHNIC CLEANSING
Armenian Genocide ,
Assyrian genocide ,
Greek genocide ,
Armenians killed during the Armenian
Genocide. Image taken from Ambassador Morgenthau's Story, written by
Henry Morgenthau, Sr. and published in 1918. Austro-Hungarian
soldiers executing men and women in Serbia, 1916
The ethnic cleansing of the Ottoman Empire's Armenian population,
including mass deportations and executions, during the final years of
Ottoman Empire is considered genocide . The Ottomans carried out
organized and systematic massacres of the Armenian population at the
beginning of the war and portrayed deliberately provoked acts of
Armenian resistance as rebellions to justify further extermination.
In early 1915, a number of
Armenians volunteered to join the Russian
forces and the Ottoman government used this as a pretext to issue the
Tehcir Law (Law on Deportation), which authorized the deportation of
Armenians from the Empire's eastern provinces to Syria between 1915
and 1918. The
Armenians were intentionally marched to death and a
number were attacked by Ottoman brigands. While an exact number of
deaths is unknown, the International Association of
estimates 1.5 million. The government of Turkey has consistently
denied the genocide , arguing that those who died were victims of
inter-ethnic fighting, famine, or disease during World War I; these
claims are rejected by most historians. Other ethnic groups were
similarly attacked by the
Ottoman Empire during this period, including
Greeks , and some scholars consider those events to be
part of the same policy of extermination.
Main article: Anti-Jewish pogroms in the
Russian Empire See also:
Russian occupation of Eastern Galicia, 1914–1915 ;
Volhynia ; and
Many pogroms accompanied the
Russian Revolution of 1917 and the
Russian Civil War . 60,000–200,000 civilian Jews were killed
in the atrocities throughout the former
Russian Empire (mostly within
Pale of Settlement in present-day
RAPE OF BELGIUM
Main article: Rape of
The German invaders treated any resistance—such as sabotaging rail
lines—as illegal and immoral, and shot the offenders and burned
buildings in retaliation. In addition, they tended to suspect that
most civilians were potential francs-tireurs (guerrillas ) and,
accordingly, took and sometimes killed hostages from among the
civilian population. The German army executed over 6,500 French and
Belgian civilians between August and November 1914, usually in
near-random large-scale shootings of civilians ordered by junior
German officers. The German Army destroyed 15,000–20,000
buildings—most famously the university library at Louvain —and
generated a wave of refugees of over a million people. Over half the
German regiments in
Belgium were involved in major incidents.
Thousands of workers were shipped to Germany to work in factories.
British propaganda dramatizing the Rape of
Belgium attracted much
attention in the United States, while Berlin said it was both lawful
and necessary because of the threat of franc-tireurs like those in
France in 1870. The British and French magnified the reports and
disseminated them at home and in the United States, where they played
a major role in dissolving support for Germany.
Main articles: List of last surviving
World War I
World War I veterans by country
World War I casualties ,
Commonwealth War Graves Commission
Commonwealth War Graves Commission , and
American Battle Monuments Commission The First Contingent of the
Bermuda Volunteer Rifle Corps to the 1 Lincolns , training in Bermuda
for the Western Front, winter 1914–1915. The two BVRC contingents
suffered 75% casualties.
The British soldiers of the war were initially volunteers but
increasingly were conscripted into service. Surviving veterans,
returning home, often found that they could only discuss their
experiences amongst themselves. Grouping together, they formed
"veterans' associations" or "Legions". A small number of personal
accounts of American veterans have been collected by the Library of
Veterans History Project .
PRISONERS OF WAR
World War I prisoners of war in Germany German
prisoners in a French prison camp during the later part of the war
About eight million men surrendered and were held in POW camps during
the war. All nations pledged to follow the Hague Conventions on fair
treatment of prisoners of war , and the survival rate for POWs was
generally much higher than that of their peers at the front.
Individual surrenders were uncommon; large units usually surrendered
en masse. At the siege of Maubeuge about 40,000 French soldiers
surrendered, at the battle of Galicia Russians took about 100,000 to
120,000 Austrian captives, at the
Brusilov Offensive about 325,000 to
417,000 Germans and Austrians surrendered to Russians, and at the
Battle of Tannenberg 92,000 Russians surrendered. When the besieged
Kaunas surrendered in 1915, some 20,000 Russians became
prisoners, at the battle near Przasnysz (February–March 1915) 14,000
Germans surrendered to Russians, and at the First Battle of the Marne
about 12,000 Germans surrendered to the Allies. 25–31% of Russian
losses (as a proportion of those captured, wounded, or killed) were to
prisoner status; for
Austria-Hungary 32%, for
Italy 26%, for France
12%, for Germany 9%; for Britain 7%. Prisoners from the Allied armies
totalled about 1.4 million (not including Russia, which lost 2.5–3.5
million men as prisoners). From the
Central Powers about 3.3 million
men became prisoners; most of them surrendered to Russians. Germany
held 2.5 million prisoners;
Russia held 2.2–2.9 million; while
France held about 720,000. Most were captured just before
the Armistice. The
United States held 48,000. The most dangerous
moment was the act of surrender, when helpless soldiers were sometimes
gunned down. Once prisoners reached a camp, conditions were, in
general, satisfactory (and much better than in World War II), thanks
in part to the efforts of the
International Red Cross
International Red Cross and inspections
by neutral nations. However, conditions were terrible in Russia:
starvation was common for prisoners and civilians alike; about
15–20% of the prisoners in
Russia died and in Central Powers
imprisonment—8% of Russians. In Germany, food was scarce, but only
5% died. British prisoners guarded by Ottoman forces after the
First Battle of Gaza in 1917.
Ottoman Empire often treated POWs poorly. Some 11,800 British
Empire soldiers, most of them Indians, became prisoners after the
Siege of Kut in
Mesopotamia in April 1916; 4,250 died in captivity.
Although many were in a poor condition when captured, Ottoman officers
forced them to march 1,100 kilometres (684 mi) to
Anatolia . A
survivor said: "We were driven along like beasts; to drop out was to
die." The survivors were then forced to build a railway through the
Taurus Mountains .
In Russia, when the prisoners from the
Czech Legion of the
Austro-Hungarian army were released in 1917, they re-armed themselves
and briefly became a military and diplomatic force during the Russian
While the Allied prisoners of the
Central Powers were quickly sent
home at the end of active hostilities, the same treatment was not
Central Power prisoners of the Allies and Russia, many of
whom served as forced labor , e.g., in
France until 1920. They were
released only after many approaches by the Red Cross to the Allied
Supreme Council . German prisoners were still being held in
late as 1924.
MILITARY ATTACHéS AND WAR CORRESPONDENTS
Main article: Military attachés and war correspondents in the First
Military and civilian observers from every major power closely
followed the course of the war. Many were able to report on events
from a perspective somewhat akin to modern "embedded " positions
within the opposing land and naval forces.
SUPPORT AND OPPOSITION TO THE WAR
Poster urging women to join the British war effort, published by
the Young Women\'s Christian Association
In the Balkans, Yugoslav nationalists such as the leader, Ante
Trumbić , strongly supported the war, desiring the freedom of
Austria-Hungary and other foreign powers and the
creation of an independent
Yugoslavia . The
Yugoslav Committee was
formed in Paris on 30 April 1915 but shortly moved its office to
London; Trumbić led the Committee. In April 1918, the Rome Congress
of Oppressed Nationalities met, including
Czechoslovak , Italian ,
Transylvanian , and Yugoslav representatives who urged the
Allies to support national self-determination for the peoples residing
In the Middle East,
Arab nationalism soared in Ottoman territories in
response to the rise of Turkish nationalism during the war, with Arab
nationalist leaders advocating the creation of a pan-Arab state. In
Arab Revolt began in Ottoman-controlled territories of the
Middle East in an effort to achieve independence.
In East Africa,
Iyasu V of
Ethiopia was supporting the Dervish state
who were at war with the British in the
Somaliland Campaign . Von
Syburg, the German envoy in
Addis Ababa , said, "now the time has come
Ethiopia to regain the coast of the Red Sea driving the Italians
home, to restore the Empire to its ancient size." The Ethiopian Empire
was on the verge of entering
World War I
World War I on the side of the Central
Powers before Iyasu's overthrow due to Allied pressure on the
A number of socialist parties initially supported the war when it
began in August 1914. But European socialists split on national
lines, with the concept of class conflict held by radical socialists
such as Marxists and syndicalists being overborne by their patriotic
support for war. Once the war began, Austrian, British, French,
German, and Russian socialists followed the rising nationalist current
by supporting their countries' intervention in the war.
Italian nationalism was stirred by the outbreak of the war and was
initially strongly supported by a variety of political factions. One
of the most prominent and popular Italian nationalist supporters of
the war was Gabriele d\'Annunzio , who promoted Italian irredentism
and helped sway the Italian public to support intervention in the war.
Italian Liberal Party
Italian Liberal Party , under the leadership of
Paolo Boselli ,
promoted intervention in the war on the side of the Allies and
utilised the Dante Alighieri Society to promote Italian nationalism.
Italian socialists were divided on whether to support the war or
oppose it; some were militant supporters of the war, including Benito
Leonida Bissolati . However, the Italian Socialist
Party decided to oppose the war after anti-militarist protestors were
killed, resulting in a general strike called Red Week . The Italian
Socialist Party purged itself of pro-war nationalist members,
including Mussolini. Mussolini, a syndicalist who supported the war
on grounds of irredentist claims on Italian-populated regions of
Austria-Hungary, formed the pro-interventionist Il Popolo d\'Italia
Fasci Rivoluzionario d'Azione Internazionalista
Fasci for International Action") in October 1914 that
later developed into the
Fasci di Combattimento in 1919, the origin of
fascism. Mussolini's nationalism enabled him to raise funds from
Ansaldo (an armaments firm) and other companies to create Il Popolo
d'Italia to convince socialists and revolutionaries to support the
Opposition to World War I and
French Army Mutinies
Sackville Street (now O\'Connell Street ) after the 1916 Easter
Dublin The Deserter, 1916.
depicting Jesus facing a firing squad with soldiers from five European
Once war was declared, many socialists and trade unions backed their
governments. Among the exceptions were the
Bolsheviks , the Socialist
Party of America , and the
Italian Socialist Party
Italian Socialist Party , and individuals
Karl Liebknecht ,
Rosa Luxemburg , and their followers in
Benedict XV , elected to the papacy less than three months into World
War I, made the war and its consequences the main focus of his early
pontificate. In stark contrast to his predecessor , five days after
his election he spoke of his determination to do what he could to
bring peace. His first encyclical,
Ad beatissimi Apostolorum , given 1
November 1914, was concerned with this subject.
Benedict XV found his
abilities and unique position as a religious emissary of peace ignored
by the belligerent powers. The 1915 Treaty of London between
Triple Entente included secret provisions whereby the Allies
Italy to ignore papal peace moves towards the Central
Powers. Consequently, the publication of Benedict's proposed
seven-point Peace Note of August 1917 was roundly ignored by all
parties except Austria-Hungary.
In Britain , in 1914, the Public Schools Officers\' Training Corps
annual camp was held at Tidworth Pennings, near
Salisbury Plain . Head
British Army , Lord Kitchener , was to review the cadets , but
the imminence of the war prevented him. General Horace Smith-Dorrien
was sent instead. He surprised the two-or-three thousand cadets by
declaring (in the words of Donald Christopher Smith, a Bermudian cadet
who was present),
that war should be avoided at almost any cost, that war would solve
nothing, that the whole of Europe and more besides would be reduced to
ruin, and that the loss of life would be so large that whole
populations would be decimated. In our ignorance I, and many of us,
felt almost ashamed of a British General who uttered such depressing
and unpatriotic sentiments, but during the next four years, those of
us who survived the holocaust—probably not more than one-quarter of
us—learned how right the General's prognosis was and how courageous
he had been to utter it.
Voicing these sentiments did not hinder Smith-Dorrien's career, or
prevent him from doing his duty in
World War I
World War I to the best of his
abilities. Possible execution at
Verdun at the time of the
mutinies in 1917. The original French text accompanying this
photograph notes however that the uniforms are those of 1914/15 and
that the execution may be that of a spy at the beginning of the war.
Many countries jailed those who spoke out against the conflict. These
Eugene Debs in the
United States and
Bertrand Russell in
Britain. In the US, the
Espionage Act of 1917
Espionage Act of 1917 and Sedition Act of 1918
made it a federal crime to oppose military recruitment or make any
statements deemed "disloyal". Publications at all critical of the
government were removed from circulation by postal censors, and many
served long prison sentences for statements of fact deemed
A number of nationalists opposed intervention, particularly within
states that the nationalists were hostile to. Although the vast
majority of Irish people consented to participate in the war in 1914
and 1915, a minority of advanced Irish nationalists staunchly opposed
taking part. The war began amid the Home Rule crisis in
had resurfaced in 1912 and, by July 1914, there was a serious
possibility of an outbreak of civil war in Ireland. Irish nationalists
and Marxists attempted to pursue Irish independence, culminating in
Easter Rising of 1916, with Germany sending 20,000 rifles to
Ireland to stir unrest in Britain. The UK government placed Ireland
under martial law in response to the Easter Rising; although, once the
immediate threat of revolution had dissipated, the authorities did try
to make concessions to nationalist feeling. However, opposition to
involvement in the war increased in Ireland, resulting in the
Conscription Crisis of 1918 .
Other opposition came from conscientious objectors —some socialist,
some religious—who refused to fight. In Britain, 16,000 people asked
for conscientious objector status. Some of them, most notably
prominent peace activist
Stephen Henry Hobhouse , refused both
military and alternative service . Many suffered years of prison,
including solitary confinement and bread and water diets. Even after
the war, in Britain many job advertisements were marked "No
conscientious objectors need apply".
Central Asian Revolt started in the summer of 1916, when the
Russian Empire government ended its exemption of Muslims from military
In 1917, a series of
French Army Mutinies led to dozens of soldiers
being executed and many more imprisoned.
German Revolution ,
Milan , in May 1917,
Bolshevik revolutionaries organised and
engaged in rioting calling for an end to the war, and managed to close
down factories and stop public transportation. The Italian army was
forced to enter
Milan with tanks and machine guns to face Bolsheviks
and anarchists , who fought violently until 23 May when the army
gained control of the city. Almost 50 people (including three Italian
soldiers) were killed and over 800 people arrested.
In September 1917, Russian soldiers in
France began questioning why
they were fighting for the French at all and mutinied. In Russia,
opposition to the war led to soldiers also establishing their own
revolutionary committees, which helped foment the October Revolution
of 1917, with the call going up for "bread, land, and peace". The
Bolsheviks agreed to a peace treaty with Germany, the peace of
Brest-Litovsk , despite its harsh conditions.
In northern Germany , the end of October 1918 saw the beginning of
German Revolution of 1918–1919 . Units of the German Navy
refused to set sail for a last, large-scale operation in a war which
they saw as good as lost; this initiated the uprising. The sailors\'
revolt which then ensued in the naval ports of
Wilhelmshaven and Kiel
spread across the whole country within days and led to the
proclamation of a republic on 9 November 1918 and shortly thereafter
to the abdication of Kaiser
Wilhelm II .
Young men registering for conscription,
New York City
New York City , 5 June
Conscription was common in most European countries. However it was
controversial in English speaking countries. It was especially
unpopular among minority ethnic groups—especially the Irish
Ireland and Australia, and the French Catholics in
Conscription In Canada
Conscription Crisis of 1917
In Canada the issue produced a major political crisis that
permanently alienated the Francophiles. It opened a political gap
between French Canadians , who believed their true loyalty was to
Canada and not to the British Empire, and members of the Anglophone
majority, who saw the war as a duty to their British heritage.
Conscription In Australia
In Australia, a sustained pro-conscription campaign by
Billy Hughes ,
the Prime Minister, caused a split in the
Australian Labor Party
Australian Labor Party , so
Hughes formed the Nationalist Party of
Australia in 1917 to pursue the
matter. Farmers, the labour movement , the Catholic Church, and the
Irish Catholics successfully opposed Hughes' push, which was rejected
in two plebiscites .
Conscription In Britain
Conscription in the United Kingdom
In Britain, conscription resulted in the calling up of nearly every
physically fit man in Britain—six of ten million eligible. Of these,
about 750,000 lost their lives. Most deaths were to young unmarried
men; however, 160,000 wives lost husbands and 300,000 children lost
fathers. In the United States, conscription began in 1917 and was
generally well received, with a few pockets of opposition in isolated
Diplomatic history of World War I
The non-military diplomatic and propaganda interactions among the
nations were designed to build support for the cause, or to undermine
support for the enemy. For the most part, wartime diplomacy focused on
five issues: propaganda campaigns; defining and redefining the war
goals, which became harsher as the war went on; luring neutral nations
(Italy, Ottoman Empire, Bulgaria, Romania) into the coalition by
offering slices of enemy territory; and encouragement by the Allies of
nationalistic minority movements inside the Central Powers, especially
among Czechs, Poles, and Arabs. In addition, there were multiple peace
proposals coming from neutrals, or one side or the other; none of them
progressed very far.
LEGACY AND MEMORY
... "Strange, friend," I said, "Here is no cause to mourn."
"None," said the other, "Save the undone years"... — Wilfred
Owen , Strange Meeting, 1918
The War was an unprecedented triumph for natural science. Bacon had
promised that knowledge would be power, and power it was: power to
destroy the bodies and souls of men more rapidly than had ever been
done by human agency before. This triumph paved the way to other
triumphs: improvements in transport, in sanitation, in surgery,
medicine, and psychiatry, in commerce and industry, and, above all, in
preparations for the next war. —
R. G. Collingwood , writing in
The first tentative efforts to comprehend the meaning and
consequences of modern warfare began during the initial phases of the
war, and this process continued throughout and after the end of
hostilities, and is still underway, more than a century later.
Historian Heather Jones argues that the historiography has been
reinvigorated by the cultural turn in recent years. Scholars have
raised entirely new questions regarding military occupation,
radicalization of politics, race, and the male body. Furthermore, new
research has revised our understanding of five major topics that
historians have long debated. These are: Why did the war begin? Why
did the Allies win? Were the generals to blame for the high casualty
rates? How did the soldiers endure the horrors of trench warfare? To
what extent did the civilian homefront accept and endorse the war
A typical village war memorial to soldiers killed in World War I
World War I memorials
Memorials were erected in thousands of villages and towns. Close to
battlefields, those buried in improvised burial grounds were gradually
moved to formal graveyards under the care of organisations such as the
Commonwealth War Graves Commission
Commonwealth War Graves Commission , the American Battle Monuments
Commission , the
German War Graves Commission , and Le Souvenir
français . Many of these graveyards also have central monuments to
the missing or unidentified dead, such as the
Menin Gate memorial and
Thiepval Memorial to the Missing of the Somme .
John McCrae , a Canadian army doctor, wrote the poem In
Flanders Fields as a salute to those who perished in the Great War.
Published in Punch on 8 December 1915, it is still recited today,
especially on Remembrance Day and
Memorial Day .
National World War I Museum and Memorial in
Kansas City, Missouri
Kansas City, Missouri ,
is a memorial dedicated to all Americans who served in World War I.
Liberty Memorial was dedicated on 1 November 1921, when the
supreme Allied commanders spoke to a crowd of more than 100,000
The UK Government has budgeted substantial resources to the
commemoration of the war during the period 2014 to 2018 . The lead
body is the
Imperial War Museum
Imperial War Museum . On 3 August 2014, French President
Francois Hollande and German President
Joachim Gauck together marked
the centenary of Germany\'s declaration of war on
France by laying the
first stone of a memorial in Vieil Armand, known in German as
Hartmannswillerkopf , for French and German soldiers killed in the
The examples and perspective in this section DEAL PRIMARILY WITH
BRITAIN AND DO NOT REPRESENT A WORLDWIDE VIEW OF THE SUBJECT. You may
improve this article , discuss the issue on the talk page , or create
a new article , as appropriate. (June 2017) (Learn how and when to
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World War I in popular culture Left:
John McCrae , author of
In Flanders Fields .
World War I
World War I had a lasting impact on social memory. It was seen by
many in Britain as signalling the end of an era of stability
stretching back to the Victorian period , and across Europe many
regarded it as a watershed. Historian Samuel Hynes explained:
A generation of innocent young men, their heads full of high
abstractions like Honour, Glory and England, went off to war to make
the world safe for democracy. They were slaughtered in stupid battles
planned by stupid generals. Those who survived were shocked,
disillusioned and embittered by their war experiences, and saw that
their real enemies were not the Germans, but the old men at home who
had lied to them. They rejected the values of the society that had
sent them to war, and in doing so separated their own generation from
the past and from their cultural inheritance.
This has become the most common perception of World War I,
perpetuated by the art, cinema, poems, and stories published
subsequently. Films such as
All Quiet on the Western Front , Paths of
Glory and King "> A 1919 book for veterans, from the US War
The social trauma caused by unprecedented rates of casualties
manifested itself in different ways, which have been the subject of
subsequent historical debate.
The optimism of la belle époque was destroyed, and those who had
fought in the war were referred to as the
Lost Generation . For years
afterwards, people mourned the dead, the missing, and the many
disabled. Many soldiers returned with severe trauma, suffering from
shell shock (also called neurasthenia, a condition related to
posttraumatic stress disorder ). Many more returned home with few
after-effects; however, their silence about the war contributed to the
conflict's growing mythological status. Though many participants did
not share in the experiences of combat or spend any significant time
at the front, or had positive memories of their service, the images of
suffering and trauma became the widely shared perception. Such
historians as Dan Todman,
Paul Fussell , and Samuel Heyns have all
published works since the 1990s arguing that these common perceptions
of the war are factually incorrect.
DISCONTENT IN GERMANY
The rise of
Fascism included a revival of the nationalist
spirit and a rejection of many post-war changes. Similarly, the
popularity of the stab-in-the-back legend (German: Dolchstoßlegende)
was a testament to the psychological state of defeated Germany and was
a rejection of responsibility for the conflict. This conspiracy theory
of betrayal became common, and the German populace came to see
themselves as victims. The widespread acceptance of the
"stab-in-the-back" theory delegitimized the Weimar government and
destabilized the system, opening it to extremes of right and left.
Communist and fascist movements around Europe drew strength from this
theory and enjoyed a new level of popularity. These feelings were most
pronounced in areas directly or harshly affected by the war. Adolf
Hitler was able to gain popularity by utilising German discontent with
the still controversial
Treaty of Versailles .
World War II
World War II was in
part a continuation of the power struggle never fully resolved by
World War I. Furthermore, it was common for Germans in the 1930s to
justify acts of aggression due to perceived injustices imposed by the
victors of World War I. American historian
William Rubinstein wrote
The 'Age of Totalitarianism' included nearly all of the infamous
examples of genocide in modern history, headed by the Jewish
Holocaust, but also comprising the mass murders and purges of the
Communist world, other mass killings carried out by
Nazi Germany and
its allies, and also the
Armenian Genocide of 1915. All these
slaughters, it is argued here, had a common origin, the collapse of
the elite structure and normal modes of government of much of central,
eastern and southern Europe as a result of World War I, without which
surely neither Communism nor
Fascism would have existed except in the
minds of unknown agitators and crackpots.
Economic history of World War I Poster showing women
One of the most dramatic effects of the war was the expansion of
governmental powers and responsibilities in Britain, France, the
United States, and the Dominions of the British Empire. To harness all
the power of their societies, governments created new ministries and
powers. New taxes were levied and laws enacted, all designed to
bolster the war effort ; many have lasted to this day. Similarly, the
war strained the abilities of some formerly large and bureaucratised
governments, such as in
Austria-Hungary and Germany.
Gross domestic product
Gross domestic product (GDP) increased for three Allies (Britain,
Italy, and the United States), but decreased in
France and Russia, in
neutral Netherlands, and in the three main Central Powers. The
shrinkage in GDP in Austria, Russia, France, and the Ottoman Empire
ranged between 30% and 40%. In Austria, for example, most pigs were
slaughtered, so at war's end there was no meat.
In all nations, the government's share of GDP increased, surpassing
50% in both Germany and
France and nearly reaching that level in
Britain. To pay for purchases in the United States, Britain cashed in
its extensive investments in American railroads and then began
borrowing heavily on
Wall Street . President Wilson was on the verge
of cutting off the loans in late 1916, but allowed a great increase in
U.S. government lending to the Allies. After 1919, the U.S. demanded
repayment of these loans. The repayments were, in part, funded by
German reparations which, in turn, were supported by American loans to
Germany. This circular system collapsed in 1931 and the loans were
never repaid. Britain still owed the
United States $4.4 billion of
World War I
World War I debt in 1934, and this money was never repaid.
Macro- and micro-economic consequences devolved from the war.
Families were altered by the departure of many men. With the death or
absence of the primary wage earner, women were forced into the
workforce in unprecedented numbers. At the same time, industry needed
to replace the lost labourers sent to war. This aided the struggle for
voting rights for women .
World War I
World War I further compounded the gender imbalance, adding to the
phenomenon of surplus women . The deaths of nearly one million men
during the war in Britain increased the gender gap by almost a
million: from 670,000 to 1,700,000. The number of unmarried women
seeking economic means grew dramatically. In addition, demobilisation
and economic decline following the war caused high unemployment. The
war increased female employment; however, the return of demobilised
men displaced many from the workforce, as did the closure of many of
the wartime factories.
In Britain, rationing was finally imposed in early 1918, limited to
meat, sugar, and fats (butter and margarine), but not bread. The new
system worked smoothly. From 1914 to 1918, trade union membership
doubled, from a little over four million to a little over eight
Britain turned to her colonies for help in obtaining essential war
materials whose supply from traditional sources had become difficult.
Geologists such as
Albert Ernest Kitson were called on to find new
resources of precious minerals in the African colonies. Kitson
discovered important new deposits of manganese , used in munitions
production, in the Gold Coast .
Article 231 of the
Treaty of Versailles (the so-called "war guilt"
clause) stated Germany accepted responsibility for "all the loss and
damage to which the Allied and Associated Governments and their
nationals have been subjected as a consequence of the war imposed upon
them by the aggression of Germany and her allies." It was worded as
such to lay a legal basis for reparations , and a similar clause was
inserted in the treaties with Austria and Hungary. However neither of
them interpreted it as an admission of war guilt." In 1921, the total
reparation sum was placed at 132 billion gold marks. However, "Allied
experts knew that Germany could not pay" this sum. The total sum was
divided into three categories, with the third being "deliberately
designed to be chimerical" and its "primary function was to mislead
public opinion ... into believing the "total sum was being
maintained." Thus, 50 billion gold marks (12.5 billion dollars)
"represented the actual Allied assessment of German capacity to pay"
and "therefore ... represented the total German reparations" figure
that had to be paid.
This figure could be paid in cash or in kind (coal, timber, chemical
dyes, etc.). In addition, some of the territory lost—via the treaty
of Versailles—was credited towards the reparation figure as were
other acts such as helping to restore the Library of Louvain. By
Great Depression arrived, causing political chaos throughout
the world. In 1932 the payment of reparations was suspended by the
international community, by which point Germany had only paid the
equivalent of 20.598 billion gold marks in reparations. With the rise
Adolf Hitler , all bonds and loans that had been issued and taken
out during the 1920s and early 1930s were cancelled. David Andelman
notes "refusing to pay doesn't make an agreement null and void. The
bonds, the agreement, still exist." Thus, following the Second World
War , at the London Conference in 1953, Germany agreed to resume
payment on the money borrowed. On 3 October 2010, Germany made the
final payment on these bonds.
The war contributed to the evolution of the wristwatch from women's
jewelry to a practical everyday item, replacing the pocketwatch which
requires a free hand to operate. Military funding of advancements in
radio contributed to the postwar popularity of the medium.
Outline of World War I
Death rates in the 20th century
Diplomatic history of World War I
European Civil War
List of people associated with World War I
Lists of wars
List of wars and anthropogenic disasters by death toll
Lists of World War I topics
Timeline of World War I
World War I casualties
World War I medal abbreviations
* ^ The
United States did not ratify any of the treaties agreed to
at the Paris Peace Conference .
* ^ Bulgaria joined the
Central Powers on 14 October 1915.
* ^ The
Ottoman Empire agreed to a secret alliance with Germany on
2 August 1914. It joined the war on the side of the
Central Powers on
29 October 1914.
* ^ The
United States declared war on
Austria-Hungary on 7 December
* ^ Austria was considered one of the successor states to
* ^ The
United States declared war on Germany on 6 April 1917.
* ^ Hungary was considered one of the successor states to
* ^ Although the
Treaty of Sèvres
Treaty of Sèvres was intended to end the war
between the Allies and the Ottoman Empire, the Allies and the Republic
of Turkey , the successor state of the Ottoman Empire, agreed to the
Treaty of Lausanne.
* ^ The
World War I
World War I officially ended when Germany paid off the
final amount of reparations imposed on it by the Allies.
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* ^ Figures are for Metropolitan
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