World War I

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In the trenches: Australian Infantry with gas masks, Ypres, 1917

World War I (also known as the First World War or The Great War) was a large scale, fratricidal military conflict between 1914 and 1918 in which millions of people died[1]. The opposing sides were the Allied Entente Powers, which ultimately included Serbia, Montenegro, the Russian Empire, France, Belgium, the British Empire, Japan, and (from 1917) the United States. Also, Italy (1915) and Romania (August 27, 1916) both broke treaties and joined the Allies.[2]

Opposing them were the Central Powers, which included the Austro-Hungarian and German Empires, Bulgaria, and the Ottoman Empire. Serbia was soon completely over-run by Austria-Hungary, and Montenegro sued for an armistice in 1916. Russia was forced to accept defeat and withdrew from the war after the Bolshevik Revolution of October 1917, the Peace Treaty being signed at Brest-Litovsk in March the following year, followed by final Protocols in August.[3]

The fighting that took place along the Western Front occurred along a system of trenches, breastworks, and fortifications separated by an area known as no man's land. These stretched 475 miles (more than 600 kilometres) and defined the war for many. On the Eastern Front, the vast eastern plains and limited Russian rail network prevented a trench warfare stalemate, though the scale of the conflict was just as large as on the Western Front. The Middle-Eastern Fronts and the Italian Front also saw heavy fighting, while hostilities also occurred at sea, and for the first time, in the air.

At the end of the war the victorious Allies dismembered the three ancient empires: the Austro-Hungarian, German, Ottoman, with the Russians also losing provinces. Germany lost its colonial empire, Austria-Hungary its seaboard, and new artificial states such as Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia emerged on their territories, along with the resurrection of both Poland and Lithuania and the establishment of the independent states of Finland, Estonia, and Latvia. The cost of waging the war caused ructions in the British Empire (mainly in India) and left France devastated for more than a generation.

The German Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (for just over 8 months in 1916-17) Arthur Zimmermann, desperate to get Russia out of the war, helped to send Vladimir Lenin and other Jewish Bolsheviks into Russia on the infamous sealed train. Meanwhile the Zionists blackmailed the British Government in obtaining vital American bank war loans in return for being given a so-called Jewish People's Homeland in Palestine in the event of the Ottoman Empire's defeat.

The Great War marked the end of the old world order which had existed since at least the Napoleonic Wars, and the botched Peace Treaties of 1919 were crucial factors in the outbreak of World War II.


Ethnic and Political Rivalries

A Balkan war between Serbia and Austria-Hungary was considered by some inevitable, as the Pan-Slav movement, which was motivated by ethnic and religious loyalties, and a rivalry with Austria dating back to at least the Crimean War, grew and became more aggressive. The rise of ethnic nationalism, particularly the 'Greater Serbia' movement, where anti-Austrian sentiment was perhaps most fervent, fuelled matters in this region. The increasing Serbian nationalist sentiment also coincided with the decline of the Ottoman Empire

After defeating the Turks, Austria-Hungary had occupied the former Ottoman province of Bosnia-Herzegovina, which had a large Serb minority population, in 1878. It was subsequently formally annexed as part of Austria-Hungary in 1908. Despite the model administration given to the two provinces, they were open to destabilisation by neighbouring Serbia. In 1903 the pro-Austrian Serbian ruling dynasty, the Obrenovics, were brutally murdered in a putsch by Serbian Officers, and the pro-Russian Karadjordjevic family were installed in their place. The latter were far more robust in pursuing a 'Greater Serbia' expansionist policy, and encouraged closer ties with Russia, which supported the Pan-Slav movement.[4]

A myriad of other geopolitical motivations existed elsewhere as well, for example France's loss of Alsace and Lorraine, which they had occupied for 300 years, in the Franco-Prussian War, helped create a sentiment of irredentist revanchism in that country.

Balance of Power

One of the goals of the foreign policies of the Great Powers in the pre-war years was to maintain the so-called 'Balance of Power' in Europe. This evolved into an elaborate network of secret and public alliances and agreements. For example, after the Franco-Prussian war (1870-71), Britain was in favour of a strong Germany, against its traditional enemy, France. After Germany began to increase it strength, which included a 'place in the sun' with colonies, plus increasing the size of its navy, the attitude changed. France, smarting from its humiliating defeat by Germany in 1871, found an ally in Russia, who was pursing a Pan-Slav policy opposing Austria-Hungary. The latter Empire had concluded a natural mutual defence treaty with their Teutonic brethren in Germany.

When The Great War broke out, these treaties determined who entered the war and on which side. Britain had no treaties with Russia. However Britain's Foreign Secretary, Sir Edward Grey, had negotiated the Anglo-Russian Convention in 1907, and found itself increasingly supporting Russian interests. Egged on by a Russophile Ambassador, Arthur Nicolson, in St.Petersburg from 1906-1910, the British Foreign Office increasingly saw the Balkans through Russian eyes. During the annexation of Bosnia-Herzegovina crisis in 1908, Sir Edward Grey supported the Russian point of view wholeheartedly.[5] Britain only had "agreements" with France, and formally entered the war because of the violation of Belgian neutrality, of which she (with Prussia!) was a guarantor. Italy had a treaty with both Austria-Hungary and Germany, yet refused to enter the war with them, later changing sides to the Allies who had secretly promised them Austrian territory. Romania also failed to honour its treaty with the Central Powers and instead joined the Entente who had offered them territories at their neighbours' expense.

Perhaps the most significant treaty of all was the defensive pact between Germany and Austria-Hungary, which Germany in 1909 reconfirmed by declaring that Germany was bound to stand with Austria-Hungary even if it had started a war.

Arms Race

The so-called naval race between Britain and Germany was intensified by the 1906 launch of HMS Dreadnought a revolutionary vessel whose size and power, notably the positions of its heaviest guns, rendered previous battleship designs partially obsolete. Britain at this time had the world's largest navy. Alfred Thayer Mahan's thesis was that a strong navy was vital to great nation status, and this appears to have been shared by the European great powers, all of whom had naval expansion plans in action.

Following Russia's defeat at the hands of Japan and with the rapid advances in armaments, particularly warships and their design, the Great Powers began modernising all aspects of their military capabilities. Author David Herrmann viewed the shipbuilding rivalry as part of a general movement in the direction of war. Count Max Montgelas demolished this as myth, and historian Niall Ferguson argued Britain's clear ability to maintain an overall naval lead signified this was not a factor in the oncoming conflict.

The cost of rearmament was felt by all the Great Powers in Europe. The total arms spending by Britain, Germany, France, Russia, Austria-Hungary and Italy increased by 50% between 1908 and 1913.

Plans, Distrust and Mobilization

The thesis adopted by many is that the mobilization plans of Russia, Austria-Hungary, France and Germany (in that order), automatically escalated the conflict. Left-wing German author Fritz Fischer emphasized what he saw as the inherently aggressive nature of the Schlieffen Plan, which had considered a two-front strategy. However, almost all European Empires and countries had common borders with another, and all High Commands, since Napoleonic times, had extensive strategic plans of action in place if a war was declared. Germany would therefore have to eliminate one major opponent quickly, before taking on the other. Germany had drawn up the Schlieffen plan as a fast moving strategy based on Clausewitz's argument that attack can be the best defence. Germany did not want to risk all the terrain problems they encountered during the Franco-Prussian war,[6] thus giving France time to organise. The plan therefore called for a strong right to seize Belgium and cripple the French Army by pre-empting its mobilization. After the attack, the German Army would rush east by railroad and quickly destroy what was expected to be slowly mobilizing Russian forces.

France meanwhile had concluded a military alliance with Russia in 1894.[7] In addition France spent hundreds of millions of Francs on a series of supposedly impregnable fortresses (i.e: Verdun), and by subsidising Belgium's construction of similar fortresses (i.e: Leige) to complement their own. Their principle line of movement was to be into the disputed provinces of Alsace and Lorraine which had been restored to Germany in 1871, and where the only fortifications were old.

Russia, following their defeat at the hands of the Japanese in 1904-5, lost interest in that part of the Far-East and reverted her attention to the Balkans. With the French as long-standing partners in their conspiracy against the Teutonic Empires[8], Russia foresaw a mobilization of its armies against both Austria-Hungary and Germany, a huge front, and in this respect France financed vast loans to the Imperial Government for a string of new railways all heading towards the German and Austro-Hungarian frontiers.

All these plans created an atmosphere in which speed was one of the determining factors for victory. Elaborate timetables were prepared; once mobilizations had begun, there was little possibility of turning back. Also, the plans of France, Russia, & Germany (but not Austria-Hungary) were based upon some form of offensive, in clear conflict with the improvements of defensive firepower and entrenchment.

Anti-Imperial Propaganda

It has been argued that aristocrats and military élites had too much power in Empires such as Germany, Russia, and Austria-Hungary, and that war was a consequence of their desire for armed forces and disdain for democracy. This theme figured prominently in anti-German sentiment propaganda.[9] Consequently, supporters of this theory called for the abdication of rulers such as Kaiser Wilhelm II, as well as an end to aristocracy and militarism in general. This platform provided some justification for the entry of the USA into the war when the Russian Empire surrendered in 1917. American President Wilson hoped the League of Nations and disarmament would secure a lasting peace. He also acknowledged that variations of militarism, in his opinion, existed within the British and French Empires.

However this was a propaganda myth as Great Britain, France, Germany, Austria-Hungary, Russia and Italy were by this time all democracies with representative parliaments. The Ottoman, alone of the Empires, remained autocratic.

Opposition & Support for the War

Some Jewish political activists, both of the Bolshevik and Zionist variety, favored the war seeing it as an opportunity for the destruction and breakup of empires.

Vladimir Lenin asserted that imperialism was responsible for the war. He drew upon the economic theories of Karl Marx and English economist John A. Hobson, who predicted that unlimited competition for expanding markets would lead to a global conflict. Cordell Hull, American Secretary of State under Franklin Roosevelt, a free-trader, believed that trade barriers were the root cause of both World War I and World War II. In 1944, he helped design the Bretton Woods Agreements to reduce trade barriers and eliminate what he saw as the cause of the conflicts.

The trade union and socialist movements, controlled by Communists and their fellow-travellers, had long voiced their opposition to a war, which they argued, meant only that workers would kill other workers in the interest of capitalism. Once war was declared, however, the vast majority of socialists and trade unions backed their governments. The exceptions were the Bolsheviks en bloc, the Italian Socialist Party, and individuals such as Karl Liebknecht, Rosa Luxemburg and their followers in Germany. There were also small anti-war groups in Britain and France. Other opposition came from conscientious objectors - some socialist, some religious - who refused to fight. In Britain 16,000 people asked for conscientious objector status. 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". Many countries also jailed those who spoke out against the conflict. These included Eugene Debs in the United States and Bertrand Russell in Britain.

July Crisis and Declarations of War

The Assassination

Archduke Ferdinand

On the 28 June 1914, Gavrilo Princip, a Bosnian Serb[10] failed student, assassinated the Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, and his wife, in Sarajevo. Princip was a fanatical member of the Black Hand, a group whose aims included (article 1) "the union of all Serbs" and the organisation of revolutionary activity "in all lands inhabited by Serbs".[11] The assassination in Sarajevo set into motion a series of fast-moving events that eventually escalated into full-scale war. The Austro-Hungarian government, a great European power, were outraged by the assassination of the heir-apparent to their throne and his consort, and served an ultimatum on Serbia on July 23, with a number of clear demands.[12] Two days later Serbia accepted most but not all,[13] and mobilised. This resulted in partial mobilisation against Serbia by the Empire who then declared war. The other major European powers were at war by August 3 because of their treaties and alliances with each other.

War Preparations by the Pan-Slavs

The German Chancellor had been made aware from intelligence reports that the French Ambassador in St.Petersburg had advised Paris by telegram at 11.35 p.m. on July 20, 1914 that "the Russian Government had decided to take the first steps towards general mobilisation secretly." The German Chancellor therefore telegraphed the Russian Foreign Minister the following day: "We would emphasise that the problem, in our view, is soley for Austria-Hungary and Serbia to solve, and one which it should be the earnest endeavour of the [Great] Powers to confine to the immediate participants."[14]

On July 23, 1914 Austria-Hungary served an ultimatum upon the Serbian government with numerous demands, compliance with would mean an acceptable peace. Austria insisted it had no wish to compromise Serbian sovereignty.[15] Serbia rejected the ultimatum[16][17] and, relying on the 'blank cheque' guaranteed support by Russia, ordered full mobilization of its army at 3 p.m., on July 24, which was followed by Austria’s partial mobilisation of eight Army Corps [18] against Serbia[19] on the evening of the following day.

The Pan-Slav Russian Press became exceptionally excited, calling for immediate mobilisation.[20] The Russian Ministerial Council, presided over by the Tsar, decided upon partial mobilisation: to mobilise thirteen Army Corps against Austria-Hungary on July 25. These measures were conveyed to Paris, where the Russian Ambassador, Paléologue, stated that the Russian General Staff said "war had been a certainty since the 24th July", when France had assured Russia that she "would fulfil all the obligations of her military alliance". Russia ordered a "Period of Preparation for War" for the whole Empire on July 26, on which day Sir George Buchanan, British Ambassador in St Petersburg, telegraphed London: "Russia being sure of support by France will face all the risks of war." General Joffe later wrote that he and the French War Office were "delighted" that their covert war measures had so far been carried out without a hitch:July 27.

Frantic German negotiations to avoid war

Meanwhile the German Government appeared to still think that matters could be dealt with without a war.[21]

Kaiser Wilhelm II, upon learning of the Austrian partial mobilisation against Serbia on the 24th, immediately telegraphed Tsar Nicholas II emphasising that Austria had only partially mobilised, and only against Serbia.[22] At 9.19 p.m. on July 27 the German War Ministry telegraphed the German Military Attaché in St Petersburg: "No military measures are contemplated here. But we note that the (Russian) frontier guard is already mobilised, and that steps are being taken to close the frontier. Therefore request constant watch to be kept on Russian military measures and report." The following day Emperor Wilhelm II sent a note at 10 a.m., to Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, von Jagow, saying "There is no reason for war." Von Moltke records that this Note was communicated at once to the Chief of the German General Staff. On the same day the German Government, through Herr von Schoen, declared "Germany was ready to work with the other powers for the preservation of peace."

The Imperial German Chancellor made urgent "let us decrease the tension" appeals to Paris, over French preparations for war, and to St Petersburg, on the afternoon of the 29th, which were met with evasive responses. The Chancellor asked the British Ambassador to convey to London Germany’s regret that the Austrian Government had rejected the proposal for negotiations with Serbia which Berlin had supported.

The German Emperor had meanwhile telegraphed the Austrian Emperor on the same day: "I could not see my way to refuse the Tsar’s personal request that I should undertake to mediate with a view to averting a general conflagration and maintaining peace, and I have submitted proposals to your government through my Ambassador yesterday and today." On July 31 the German Ambassador Count Pourtales was received by Tsar Nicholas when he "begged the Tsar, if it were possible in any way, to check or to revoke Russian mobilisation" to which the Tsar replied "that for technical reasons that was no longer possible.[23]

Austria declares war on Serbia

With the Serbian rejection[24] of the Austro-Hungarian ultimatum, that empire declared war on Serbia, "in order to compel the Serbian Government to comply with the demands in full and establish guarantees for future good behaviour", at about 7 pm on July 28, 1914.[25] The Serbs immediately appealed to Russia "the protector of Serbia" to "severely punish" Austria-Hungary.[26] In response, Sazanov, Russian Foreign Minister, now urged the "necessity of general mobilisation without further delay". (Notwithstanding that partial mobilisations had been under way in russia some time before this). Ukases were then drawn up and issued the same night for mobilisation against Austria-Hungary.


On July 29, Russia mobilised by Imperial Ukase all the military districts on the Austrian frontier and generally against Austria-Hungary and Germany.[27] Germany advised London that if a Russian offensive against Austria occurred Germany would be obliged to respect her defence treaty obligations as Russia could engage 55 infantry divisions whereas Austria-Hungary could only raise 22 because of the reserves in place for action against Serbia. On the same day France announced partial mobilisation, and the German General Staff minuted that they were feeling uneasy in a Memorandum to their Imperial Chancellor, that Russia already has twelve Army Corps on the German frontier and were making great "military dispositions". Further reports came from Paris one of which states that "the French General Staff were surprised at Germany taking so few protective measures."

At 3 p.m. on July 30, Russian Minister Isvolsky’s response to the calls for further negotiations were: "we cannot comply with Germany’s wishes, and have no alternative but to hasten with our military preparations and assume war is inevitable." That evening the Austrians were still only considering partial mobilisation for their Russian frontier, their Government having telegraphed St.Petersburg that "Austria really wishes to reach an understanding with Russia". However the next day, following receipt of intelligence reports, Austria-Hungary announced full mobilisation "as a purely defensive measure". On July 30th also, Montenegro mobilised against Austria-Hungary.[28]

On July 31, after the Russian General Staff informed the Tsar that partial mobilization was logistically impossible, a full mobilization of army and fleets was ordered throughout Russia.[29] The German Ambassador at St.Petersburg telegraphed the German Foreign office that his Military Attaché reported vast troop movements and trains carrying them West, which had commenced as early as the 29th July.

The Emperor Franz-Joseph telegraphed German Emperor on July 31 to say that he had reluctantly ordered the mobilisation of his entire armed forces, including the navy, following the Russian full mobilisation against his Empire.[30] The Germans, who had continued to hope for peace, were now being inundated with military intelligence reports of those preparing to attack them, and declared on July 31 a state of "threatening danger of war", a pre-mobilisation step.[31]

The German Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs subsequently served upon the Russian Ambassador at Berlin an extensive note for the Russian Government: "While Germany, striving since the commencement of the crisis to find a peaceful solution, was still continuing upon orders from her August Sovereign, its role of mediator between Austria-Hungary and Russia, you have proceeded to the full mobilisation of all your land and sea forces. Obviously the security of the German Empire is now menaced by this extreme measure which had not been preceded in Germany in similar measure. Our request to His Majesty the Emperor (of Russia) to stop this mobilisation for war (ultimatum of 31st) having been declined, His Majesty the Emperor, my August Sovereign, declares that he accepts the war which is forced upon him."

The full German Mobilisation Order was given by von Falkenhayn, Minister of War, at 5 p.m. on August 2, Germany being the last of the four Great Continental Powers to give this order.


As for France, the Russian Military attaché in Paris reported by telegram to St. Petersburg at 1 a.m. on August 1st: "The French War Minister informed me, in great spirits, that his Government are firmly determined on war, and begged me to endorse the hope of the French General Staff that all our efforts will be directed against Germany, and that Austria will be treated as a quantité négligeable.” France ordered full mobilisation the same day, although French cavalry regiments had taken up war positions on the German frontier on the 31st and further mounted troops were brought by train early the next morning, before official mobilisation. The German Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, von Jagow, urgently telegraphed his Ambassador at Paris: "We want and contemplate no hostile action against France, despite their mobilisation. We are speaking with [England's] Sir Edward Grey and shall keep you informed".

Meanwhile, President Poincare advised the Russian Ambassador, Isvolsky, at 11 pm, that because of France’s Constitution it was necessary to obtain the consent of parliament before war could be declared, and at least two days would be required to summon a meeting of the Chamber. He said, therefore, that it would be better if the declaration of war were made by Germany. Given that France had mobilised against Germany, and already sent large formations to the frontier, a declaration of War between them was now purely a matter of form, as in three days French detachments had crossed the frontiers about 56 times. In addition French airmen had dropped bombs on the railway at Karlsruhe and Nuremberg on August 2, and these violations were mentioned in the German Declaration of War against France by telegram at 6 p.m. on August 3.


On July 29, German State Secretary von Jago formally communicated Germany's proposals in case of war to the German Ambassador in Brussels for submission to the Royal Belgian Government.[32] The Ambassador replied to the Foreign Office in Berlin on August 3 when he confirmed he had served the German Government's further note of August 2, delivered at 8 p.m., that "according to reliable information French forces intend to march on the Meuse via Givet and Namur, and that Belgium, in spite of the best intentions, would not be in a position to repulse, without assistance, any advance of French troops. The German Government would consider itself compelled to anticipate this attack and to violate Belgian territory. The German Government urged the Royal Belgian Government to assist the friendly passage of German troops to meet the French and that if the Belgians refused and put up a fight they will be considered an enemy. We emphasise that Germany had no hostile intentions of any sort towards Belgium. Germany would evacuate immediately peace was declared and that they would offer Belgium generous compensation." This was declined by the Belgian government.

On August 3rd at 11 am mobilisation orders were issued in Great Britain, as France had reported that Belgian neutrality had been violated (false at that point). Belgium's neutrality was subsequently violated, at 6 a.m. on August 4th, by the German advance through it heading towards Paris, and this brought the British Empire into the war as a 'defender' of Belgium. With this, five of the six European powers were now involved in the largest continental European conflict since the Napoleonic Wars.

The Germans ask for peace in 1916

In his 1961 speech at Willard Hotel, Benjamin Freedman points out that Germany actually won World War 1 in 1916 and Germany sent peace terms to Great Britain in 1916[33]. Germany's peace terms to Great Britain was published in the newspapers throughout the world on both October 5 and December 13-14 of 1916 [34].

PEACE NOTE TO NEUTRALS. TEXT OF THE DOCUMENT LONDON, December 13. (From Newspaper “The Advertiser” (Adelaide, SA), December 14, 1916)[35].

The German Note to the neutral Powers says:--"The most terrific war in history, which has been raging for 2½ years, has been a catastrophe, which 2,000 years of civilisation was unable to prevent. The spiritual and material progress, which was the pride of Empire, has been threatened with ruin. Germany and her Allies have given proof of their unconquerable strength. The continuance of the war will not break our resistance. We were obliged to take up arms to defend the cause of justice, our liberty, and our national evolution. We had no aim to shatter or annihilate our adversaries. Despite our consciousness of military and eco-mic strength, and our readiness to continue the war, we propose to conclude a peace which will guarantee the existence of our honor, liberty, and evolution. If our enemies refuse to accept reconciliation Germany and her Allies are resolved to continue the war to a victorious end. We solemnly decline, to take the responsibility before humanity and history. If our enemies refuse to stop the slaughter in order to continue their plans of conquest and annihilation every German heart will burn with sacred wrath. God will be our judge. We will proceed fearless and un- ashamed. We are ready for fighting, and we are ready for peace.”

In "Chicago Daily Tribune" (December 13, 1916), it is also revealed that Germany sent peace offers to United States in order to end World War 1 and Germany even asked for Pope's Aid to join with Neutral Powers for European peace. But the newspaper (Chicago Tribune, December 13, 1916) also reveals that it was Great Britain who rejected the peace terms of Germany [36]. In Chicago Tribune (December 20, 1916), Great Britain again publicly announced their rejection of Germany's peace terms through British Prime Minister Lloyd George with headline "War Must Go On: Lloyd-George to Germany"[37]. It must be noted that Wilson declared war against Germany by lying to Americans that Germans were the aggressors when in fact that it was Great Britain who rejected the peace terms of Germany and her Allies in order to continue the war as mentioned above [38]. In 1961 speech, Benjamin Freedman revealed that Great Britain drove US into war against Germany in order to promise Palestine to Zionists which came to be known as Balfour Declaration. Benjamin Freedman also mentions that Balfour Declaration is just as phony as a three dollar bill [39].

Secret Actions against Germany and her Allies during World War 1

The details about the role of USA and Great Britain behind the sinking of Lusitania can be read here[40].

Rasputin the monk (a close advisor to Queen Alexandra - Wife of Czar Nicholas II) advised Czar Nicholas II to have peace between Russia and Germany to avoid World War 1 starting from 1914. Even after Russia entered the war in 1914, Rasputin continued to persuade Russia to stop its war against Germany. By 1916, Russia lost more than a million soldiers. Rasputin the monk again requested to make peace between Russia and Germany and the things started going in favor of Rasputin who wanted peace. But Rasputin was immediately murdered in December 1916. But the bullet found on Rasputin's head was used only by British during that time. Great Britain was the ally of Russia and worked with their agent Rayner in Russia against Rasputin. All of the details can be seen here [41].

Rayner and another soldier Captain John Dymoke scale had met Yusupoff several times in the lead up to the assassination, a fact confirmed by the diary of their chauffeur, William Compton. According to Compton, "It is a little known fact that Rasputin was shot not by a Russian but by an Englishman.[42].


Two days before outbreak of First World War, a letter documents a secret meeting between King George V and his foreign secretary Edward Grey where George urged Grey to "Find a reason to go to war with Germany".[43] England would later end up surrounded by German submarines, its people starving, and it losing. England would then have to make a faustian deal with Zionist jews where the jews would bring Russia and the USA into the war provided that England give the jews the nation of Palestine as their own country.[44]

Serbian Campaign

Initially things went surprisingly well for the Serbs, who on August 12, 1914 halted the over-optimistic Austrian advance as their Fifth Army crossed the Drina rivier, the Serbs occupying defensive positions on the south side of the Drina and Sava rivers. The Austrians withdrew totally from Serbian territory on August 24. They returned on September 7 inflicting heavy casualties on the Serbs who fell back into Bosnia. But by October 25, Potioreck, the Austrian commander, had cleared Serbian forces from Bosnia. On December 2, Belgrade fell. The Serbs regrouped and threw themselves with suicidal abandon at the Austrians and by December 13, Potiorek was once more driven back across the Sava and Belgrade was relieved on the 15th. The Serbian Army had lost 170,000 troops. By the beginning of October 1915 the Austrians had regrouped with German support and on the 7th they swarmed across the Sava and Danube rivers and the Bulgarian First Army moved against Serbia from the east, cutting off the escape route to Salonika. Serbia was this time quickly defeated and over-run by the Central Powers. 150,000 men of the Serbian Army, leaving behind their equipment, escaped to Albania in one of the most difficult retreats in history.[45]

German Forces

Initially, the Germans had great success in the Battle of the Frontiers (14 to 24 August). Russia had invaded East Prussia with two huge armies and diverted German forces intended for the Western Front. Germany defeated Russia in a series of battles collectively known as the Battle of Tannenberg from August 17 until September 2, but this diversion exacerbated problems of insufficient speed of advance from rail-heads not foreseen by the German General Staff.

On the Western Front, the Schlieffen Plan had called for the right flank of the German advance to pass through Belgium and to the west of Paris. However, the capacity and low speed of horse-drawn transport hampered the German supply train, allowing French and British forces to finally halt the German advance east of Paris at the First Battle of the Marne (September 5 until September 12, thereby denying Germany a quick victory and forcing them to fight a war on two European fronts. The German army had fought its way into a good defensive position inside France and had permanently incapacitated 230,000 more French and British troops, more than it had lost itself.

African Campaigns

Some of the first clashes of the war involved British, French and German colonial forces in the German colonies in Africa: Togo, Kamerun, South-West Africa and East Africa. On August 7, French and British troops invaded the German Togoland. On August 10, nominal German forces, but aided by aircraft, in South West Africa made a pre-emptive attack against South African forces. German forces in East Africa where constant sporadic and fierce fighting continued for the whole of the war, remained undefeated until after the Armistice of November 11, 1918, when they surrendered to the vastly larger British and Empire forces they had tied up for the duration.

Asia and the Pacific

Map showing the German colony of Tsingtau and the position of the forts protecting it.

Japan besieged Germany’s new city, harbour and coastal concessions of Tsingtau, on the Chinese Shandong peninsula, a valuable coaling port with a floating dock, and the base of the German East Asiatic Squadron. A bitter but hopeless defence was put up by the garrison using the colonies forts, but ultimately there was a surrender. The Japanese then and proceeded to take their Micronesian island colonies.

New Zealand occupied German Western Samoa, which was still in German hands, on August 30. On September 11 the Australian Naval and Military Expeditionary Force landed on the island of New Britain (later New Britain), which formed part of German New Guinea. Within a few months, the Allied forces had seized all the German colonies in the Pacific.

Early Stages

Trench Warfare Begins

French troops in action with a mortar catapult.
German troops decorating a Christmas tree in 1914.

Military tactics in the early part of World War I failed to keep pace with advances in technology. New technology allowed the building of impressive defence systems, which out-of-date tactics could not break through. Barbed wire was a significant hindrance to massed infantry advances; artillery, vastly more lethal than in the 1870s, coupled with machine guns, made crossing open ground very difficult. Germany introduced Poison gas (pioneered by the "father of chemical warfare," the Jew, Fritz Haber, it soon became used by both sides, though it never proved decisive in winning a battle. Its effects were brutal, however, causing slow and painful death, becoming one of the most-feared and best-remembered horrors of the war. Commanders on both sides failed to develop tactics for breaking through entrenched positions without large numbers of casualties. In time, however, technology began also to yield new offensive weapons, such as the tank, a wartime invention of the British to break the trench warfare stalemate. Both Britain and France were its primary users; the Germans employed captured Allied tanks and some of their own design.

After the First Battle of the Marne, both Entente and German forces began a series of outflanking maneuvers, in the so-called 'Race to the Sea'. Britain and France soon found themselves facing entrenched German forces from Lorraine to Belgium's Flemish coast. Britain and France sought to take the offensive, while Germany defended the occupied territories; consequentially, German trenches were generally much better constructed than those of their enemy. Anglo-French trenches were only intended to be 'temporary' before their forces broke through German defenses. Both sides attempted to break the stalemate using scientific and technological advances. In April 1915, the Germans used chlorine gas, for the first time,in violation of the Hague Conventions (1899 and 1907), opening a 6kilometer (4mile) hole in the Allied lines when British and French colonial troops retreated. Military history of Canada during World War I closed the breach at the Second Battle of Ypres. At the Third Battle of Ypres, Canadian forces took the village of Passchendaele.

On 1 July 1916, the first day of the Battle of the Somme , the British Army endured the bloodiest day in its history, suffering 57,470 casualties and 19,240 dead. Most of the casualties occurred in the first hour of the attack. The entire offensive cost the British Army almost half a million dead.

Neither side proved able to deliver a decisive blow for the next two years, though protracted German action at Battle of Verdun throughout 1916 combined the Entente’s failure at the Battle of the Somme (summer 1916), brought the exhausted French army to the brink of collapse. Futile attempts at frontal assault—with a rigid adherence to unimaginative maneuver—came at a high price for both the British and the French poilu (infantry) and led to French Army Mutinies, especially during the time of the Nivelle Offensive in the spring of 1917. Throughout 1915 and 1917, the British Empire and France suffered more casualties than Germany, due both to the strategic and tactical stances chosen by the sides. At the strategic level, while the Germans only mounted a single main offensive at Verdun, the Allies made several attempts to break through German lines. At the tactical level, the German defensive doctrine was well suited for trench warfare, with a relatively lightly defended "sacrificial" forward position, and a more powerful main position from which an immediate and powerful counter-offensive could be launched. This combination usually was effective in pushing out attackers at a relatively low cost to the Germans. In absolute terms, of course, the cost in lives of men for both attack and defense was astounding then and remains so now.

Canadians during the Battle of Vimy Ridge

Around 800,000 soldiers from the British Empire were on the Western Front at any one time. 1,000 battalions, occupying sectors of the line from the North Sea to the Orne River, operated on a month-long four-stage rotation system, unless an offensive was underway. The front contained over 9,600kilometers (6,000miles) of trenches. Each battalion held its sector for about a week before moving back to support lines and then further back to the reserve lines before a week out-of-line, often in the Poperinge or Amiens areas.

In the British-led Battle of Arras during the 1917 campaign, the only military success was the capture of Vimy Ridge by Canadian forces under Sir Arthur Currie and Julian Byng. It provided the allies with a great military advantage and had a lasting impact on the war. The Battle of Vimy Ridge is considered by many historians to be one of the bloodiest day for Canada.

Naval War

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 light cruiser Emden, part of the East-Asia squadron stationed at Tsingtao, seized or destroyed 15 merchantmen, as well as sinking a Russian cruiser and a French destroyer. However, the bulk of the German East Asia squadron,consisting of the armoured cruisers SMS Scharnhorst and SMS Gneisenau, light cruisers SMS Nürnberg and SMS Leipzig and two transport ships—did not have orders to raid shipping and was instead underway to Germany when it encountered elements of the British fleet. The German flotilla, along with SMS Dresden, sank two armoured cruisers at the Battle of Coronel, but was almost completely destroyed at the Battle of the Falkland Islands in December 1914, with only Dresden escaping.

SMS Dresden

Soon after the outbreak of hostilities, Britain initiated a naval blockade of Germany. The strategy proved effective, cutting off vital military and civilian supplies, although this blockade violated generally accepted international law codified by several international agreements of the past two centuries. A blockade of stationed ships within a three mile (5 km) radius was considered legitimate, however 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, Germany expected a similar response to its unrestricted submarine warfare.

The 1916 Battle of Jutland (German: Skagerrakschlacht, or "Battle of the Skagerrak") developed into the largest naval battle of the war, the only full-scale clash of battleships during the war. It took place on 31 May until 1 June, 1916, in the North Sea off Jutland. The Kaiserliche Marine's High Seas Fleet, commanded by Vice Admiral Reinhard Scheer, squared off against the Royal Navy's Grand Fleet, led by Admiral Sir John Jellicoe. The engagement was a standoff, as the Germans, outmaneuvered by the larger British fleet, 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.

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 modified its rules of engagement. After the infamous sinking of the passenger ship RMS Lusitania in 1915, Germany promised not to target passenger liners, while Britain armed its merchant ships. Finally, in early 1917 Germany adopted a policy of unrestricted submarine warfare, realizing the Americans would eventually enter the war. Germany sought to strangle Allied sea lanes before the U.S. could transport a large army overseas.

The U-boat threat lessened in 1917, when merchant ships entered convoys escorted by destroyers. This tactic made it difficult for U-boats to find targets, and the accompanying destroyers might sink a submerged submarine with depth charges. The losses to submarine attacks were reduced significantly, but the convoy system slowed the flow of supplies, as convoys were limited to the speed of the slowest ship. The solution to the delays was a massive program to build new freighters. Troop ships were too fast for the submarines and did not travel the North Atlantic in convoys.

The First World War 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.

Southern Theatres

Ottoman Empire

The Ottoman Empire joined the Central Powers in the war, the secret Ottoman-German Alliance having been signed in August 1914. It threatened Russia’s Caucasus territories and Britain’s communications with India via the Suez Canal. The British and French opened overseas fronts with the Gallipoli Campaign (1915) and Mesopotamian Campaign campaigns. In Gallipoli, the Turks successfully repelled the British, French and Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZACs). In Mesopotamia, by contrast, after the disastrous Siege of Kut (1915–16), British Imperial forces reorganized and captured Baghdad in March 1917. Further to the west, in the Sinai and Palestine Campaign, initial British setbacks were overcome when Jerusalem was captured in December 1917. The Egyptian Expeditionary Force, under Field Marshal Edmund Allenby, broke the Ottoman forces at the Battle of Megiddo in September 1918.

Russian armies generally had the best of it in the Caucasus. Vice-Generalissimo Enver Pasha, supreme commander of the Turkish armed forces, was ambitious and dreamed of conquering central Asia. 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 Sarikamis.

The Russian commander from 1915 to 1916, General Nikolai Nikolaevich Yudenich, 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 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 was overthrown in the February Revolution and the Russian Caucasus Army began to fall apart. In this situation, the army corps of Armenian volunteer units realigned themselves under the command of General Tovmas Nazarbekian, with Drastamat Kanayan as a civilian commissioner of the Administration for Western Armenia. The frontline had three main divisions: Movses Silikyan, Andranik Toros Ozanian and Mikhail Areshian. Another regular unit was under Colonel Korganian. There were Armenian militia partisian guerrilla detachments (more than 40,000 strong accompanying these main units.

Along the border of Italian Libya and British Egypt, the Senussi tribe, incited and armed by the Turks, waged a small-scale guerilla war against Allied troops. According to Martin Gilbert's The First World War, the British were forced to dispatch 12,000 troops to deal with the Senussi. Their rebellion was finally crushed in mid-1916.

Italian Participation

Austro-Hungarian troops cross the River Isonzo, under heavy fire from the enemy.
Provisions directed to german troops, on the Vršič Pass now in Slovenia.

Italy had been allied with the German and Austro-Hungarian Empires since 1882 as part of the Triple Alliance. However, Rome had a secret 1902 pact with France, effectively nullifying its alliance. When Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia, Italy refused to participate, arguing that one of the conditions of the Treaty was that all signatories had to be consulted first and they were not properly consulted. The Austrians argued this was untrue but the Italians remained neutral. Italy, which coveted various territories under Austrian rule, decided upon a waiting game. On April 26, 1915 she secretly signed the Treaty of London (more correctly a Pact) with Britain, Russia and France. The Allies had promised Italy that in the even of victory she would receive the South Tirol south of the Brenner, Istria (including Trieste, Austria's largest port) and the northern Dalmatian littoral; the Albanian port of Valona and an Italian protectorate of that country, as well as a loan of £50,000,000, etc., on condition Italy declared way within a month. Therefore, on May 23, Rome declared war on Austria-Hungary (only). She did not declare war on Germany until August 27, 1916.[46]

Militarily, the Italians were in a difficult position. Their navy, for instance, had only one Dreadnaught battleship and the Austrians four. The Libyan War against Turkey only three years earlier had cost Italy dearly, and in 1915 all her military resources were depleted. Further, Italy lacked sufficient heavy industry and resources for large-scale production of military material. Despite these obstacles, she managed to triple the size of her armed forces to 900,000 men by the Spring of 1915.[47]

During 1915 the first four battles of the Isonzo took place, an exercise in futility with the Italians losing 250,000 men. Generalissimo Luigi Cadorna a staunch proponent of the frontal assault, had dreams of breaking into the Slovenian plateau, taking Ljubljana and threatening Vienna. It was a Napoleonic Wars plan, which had no realistic chance of success in an age of barbed wire, machine guns, and indirect artillery fire, combined with hilly and mountainous terrain with Austrians entrenched in strong defensive positions. Cadorna unleashed eleven offensives (Battle of the Isonzo) with total disregard for his men's lives. The Italians also went on the offensive to relieve pressure on other Allied fronts. On the 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 Austrian Kaiserschützen and Standschützen and Italian Alpini engaged in bitter hand-to-hand combat throughout the summer. The Austro-Hungarians counter-attacked in the Asiago, towards Verona and Padua, in the spring of 1916 (Battle of Asiago), but made little progress. The year closed with stalemate.[48]

In the summer of 1916, the Italians captured the town of Gorizia. After this minor victory, the front remained static for over a year, despite several Italian offensives. In the autumn of 1917, thanks to the improving situation on the Eastern front, the Austrians received large numbers of reinforcements, including German Stormtroopers and the elite Alpenkorps. The Central Powers launched a crushing offensive on the October 24, achieving victory at Battle of Caporetto, the Italian army being routed and retreating more than 100 km (60 miles). The Italians were able to reorganise and stabilize the front at the Battle of the Piave River. In 1918, the Austro-Hungarians repeatedly failed to break through, in a series of battles on the Asiago , finally being decisively defeated by the Allies in the Battle of Vittorio Veneto in October of that year as the Empire collapsed internally and after Italy received substantial support from the U.S.A.. Austria-Hungary surrendered in early November 1918.

War in the Balkans

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. Serbian counterattacks, however, 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 convincing Bulgaria to join in attacking Serbia. The Austro-Hungarian provinces of Slovenia, Croatia and Bosnia provided troops for Austria-Hungary, invading Serbia as well as fighting Russia and Italy. Montenegro allied itself with Serbia.

Serbia was conquered in a little more than a month. The attack began in October, when the Central Powers launched an offensive from the north; four days later the Bulgarians joined the attack from the east. The Serbian army, fighting on two fronts and facing certain defeat, retreated into Albania, halting only once, to make a stand against the Bulgarians. The Serbs suffered defeat near modern day Gnjilane in Kosovo, forces being evacuated by ship to Greece.

In late 1915, a Franco-British force landed at Salonica in Greece, to offer assistance and to pressure the government to declare war against the Central Powers. Unfortunately for the Allies, the pro-German King Constantine I dismissed the pro-Allied government of Eleftherios Venizelos, before the allied expeditionary force could arrive.

The Salonica Front proved static; it was joked that Salonica was the largest German prisoner of war camp of the war. Only at the end of the conflict were the Entente powers able to break through, which was 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, but days later, they decisively defeated British and Greek forces at the Battle of Doiran, avoiding occupation. Bulgaria signed an armistice on 29 September, 1918.

Fighting in India

Although the conflict in India cannot be explicitly said to have been a part of the First World War, it can certainly be said to have been significant in terms of the wider strategic context. The British attempt to subjugate the tribal leaders who had rebelled against their British overlords drew away much needed troops from other theaters, in particular, of course, the Western Front, where the real decisive victory would be made.

The reason why some Indian and Afghani tribes rose up simply came down to years of discontent which erupted, probably not coincidentally, during the First World War. It is likely that the tribal leaders were aware that Britain would not be able to field the required men, in terms of either number or quality. They underestimated, however, the strategic importance placed on India by the British; despite being located far away from the epicenter of the conflict, it provided a bounty of men for the fronts. Its produce was also needed for the British war effort and many trade routes running to other profitable areas of the Empire ran through India. Therefore, although the British were not able to send the men that they wanted, they were able to send enough to resist the revolt of the tribesmen through a gradual but effective counter-guerilla war. The fighting continued into 1919 and in some areas lasted even longer.

Eastern Front

Initial Actions

While the Western Front had reached stalemate, the war continued in the East. Initial Russian plans called for simultaneous invasions of Austrian Galicia and German East Prussia. Although Russia's initial advance into Galicia was largely successful, they were driven back from East Prussia by Hindenburg and Erich Ludendorff at Battle of Tannenberg and the First Battle of the Masurian Lakes in August and September 1914. Russia's less developed industrial base and ineffective military leadership was instrumental in the events that unfolded. By the spring of 1915, the Russians had retreated into 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 from Poland. This became known as the "Great Retreat" in Russia and the "Great Advance" in Germany.


During World War I Galicia became a major battleground between the opposing forces. Ukrainians could be found participating on both sides of the conflict (though most sided with Austria-Hungary, Galicia being part of Austria).

With the collapse of the Russian and Austro-Hungarian empires following World War I and the Russian Revolution of 1917, a Ukrainian national movement for self-determination emerged. During 1917–20 several separate Ukrainian states briefly emerged: the Central Rada, the Hetmanate, the Directorate, the Ukrainian People's Republic and the West Ukrainian People's Republic. However, with the defeat of the latter in the Polish-Ukrainian War and the failure of the Polish Kiev Offensive, the Peace of Riga concluded in March 1921 between Second Polish Republic and Bolshevist Russia left Ukraine divided again. The western Allies had already agreed in the Versailles Treaty that Galicia would be mandated to the Poland, incorporating territory claimed or controlled by the ephemeral Komancza Republic and the Lemko-Rusyn Republic. The larger, central and eastern part, established as the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic in March 1919, later became a constituent republic of the Soviet Union, when it was formed in December 1922.

Bolshevic Revolution

Furthest extent of Central Powers' advance into Russia.

Dissatisfaction with the Russian government's conduct of the war grew, despite the success of the June 1916 Brusilov offensive in eastern Galicia. The success was undermined by the reluctance of other generals to commit their forces to support the victory. Allied and Russian forces revived only temporarily with Romania's entry into the war on 27 August. German forces came to the aid of embattled Austrian units in Transylvania and Bucharest fell to the Central Powers on 6 December. Meanwhile, unrest grew in Russia, as the Nicholas II of Russia remained at the front. Alexandra of Hesse increasingly incompetent rule drew protests and resulted in the murder of her favourite, Grigori Rasputin, at the end of 1916.

In March 1917, demonstrations in St Petersburg culminated in the abdication of Nicholas II of Russia and the appointment of a weak Russian Provisional Government, 1917. It shared power with the socialists of the Petrograd Soviet. This arrangement led to confusion and chaos both at the front and at home. The army became increasingly ineffective.

The war and the government became more and more unpopular. Discontent led to a rise in popularity of the Bolshevik political party, led by Vladimir Lenin. He promised to pull Russia out of the war and was able to gain power. The October Revolution in November was followed in December by an armistice and negotiations with Germany. At first, the Bolsheviks refused to agree to the harsh German terms. But when Germany resumed the war and marched with impunity across Ukraine, the new government acceded to the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk on 3 March, 1918. It took Russia out of the war and ceded vast territories, including Finland, the Baltic states, parts of Poland and Ukraine to the Central Powers.

The publication by the new Bolshevik government of the secret treaties signed by the Tsar was hailed across the world, either as a great step forward for the respect of the will of the people, or as a dreadful catastrophe which could destabilize the world. The existence of a new type of government in Russia led to the reinforcement in many countries of Communist parties.

After the Russians dropped out of the war, the Entente no longer existed. The Allied powers led a small-scale invasion of Russia. The intent was primarily to stop Germany from exploiting Russian resources and, to a lesser extent, to support the Whites in the Russian Civil War. Troops landed in Arkhangelsk.

1917 and 1918

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 Chancellor Theobald von Bethmann Hollweg to declare unrestricted submarine warfare, with the goal of starving Britain out of the war. Tonnage sunk rose above 500,000 tons per month from February to July. It peaked at 860,000 tons in April. After July, the reintroduced convoy system became extremely effective in neutralizing the U-boat threat. Britain was safe from starvation and German industrial output fell.

The victory of Austria-Hungary and Germany at the Battle of Caporetto led the Allies at the Rapallo Conference to form the Supreme Allied Council to co-ordinate planning. Previously, British and French armies had operated under separate commands.

In December, an exhausted Russia signed an armistice with the Central Powers. This released German troops for use in the west. Ironically, German troop transfers could have been greater if their territorial acquisitions had not been so dramatic. With German reinforcements and new American troops pouring in, the final outcome was to be decided on the Western front. The Central Powers knew now that they could not win a protracted war. But they held out high hopes for a quick decisive offensive. Furthermore, the leaders of the Central Powers and the Allies became increasingly fearful of social unrest and revolution in Europe.

Entry of the United States

The United States originally pursued a policy of isolationism, avoiding conflict whilst trying to broker a peace. This resulted in increased tensions with Berlin and London. But the latter was winning the propaganda war. At the outbreak of the war Britain had severed the European-Atlantic cables meaning the only news reaching North America came by the UK-USA cable. Moreover, the press agencies and the newspapers across the USA fed by them were inextricably linked to British agencies and press. When a German U-boat sank the British liner RMS Lusitania in 1915, with 128 Americans aboard, the U.S. President Woodrow Wilson vowed that "America was too proud to fight" and demanded an end to attacks on passenger ships. Germany complied. Wilson unsuccessfully tried to mediate a settlement. He repeatedly warned that America would not tolerate unrestricted submarine warfare, and he was under pressure from former president Theodore Roosevelt, who denounced German acts as "piracy." Other factors contributing to the U.S. entry into the war include the alleged German sabotage of both Black Tom in Jersey City, and the Kingsland Explosion in what is now Lyndhurst.

In January 1917, after the Imperial Navy pressurised the Naval Ministry and the Kaiser, Germany resumed unrestricted submarine warfare. Britain's secret "Room 40" cryptography group had decrypted the German diplomatic code, and discovered a proposal from Berlin (the famed Zimmermann Telegram) to Mexico to join the war as Germany's ally against the United States. The proposal suggested that Mexico should declare war against the United States and enlist Japan as an ally; this would prevent America from joining the Allies and deploying troops to Europe, which would give the Germans more time for their unrestricted submarine warfare program to strangle Britain's vital war supplies. In return, the Germans would promise Mexico support in reclaiming Texas, New Mexico and Arizona.

After the British revealed the telegram to the Americans, Woodrow Wilson was still attached to neutrality but released the captured telegram as a way of supporting his proposed plan to arm American merchant ships. After submarines sank seven American merchant ships en route with war supplies to Britain, and the publication of the Zimmerman telegram, Wilson called for war on Germany, which the U.S. Congress declared on April 6, 1917.

The United States was never formally a member of the Allies but became a self-styled "Associated Power". America had a small army, but it drafted four million men and by summer 1918 was able to send 10,000 fresh soldiers to France every day. Germany had miscalculated that it would be many more months before they would arrive or that the arrival could be stopped by U-boats.

The 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. The Americans rejected the first proposition and accepted the second. General John J. Pershing, American Expeditionary Force (AEF) commander, refused to break up American units to be used as reinforcements for British Empire and French units (though he did allow African American combat units to be used by the French). AEF doctrine called for the use of frontal assaults, which had been discarded by that time by British Empire and French commanders because of the large loss of life sustained throughout the war.

German Spring Offensive of 1918

German General Erich Ludendorff drew up plans 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 strike a decisive blow before significant U.S. forces arrived. Before the offensive began, Ludendorff left the elite Eighth Army in Russia and sending over only a small portion of the German forces to the west.

Operation Michael opened on 21 March 1918. British forces were attacked near Amiens. Ludendorff wanted to split the British and French armies. German forces achieved an unprecedented advance of 60 kilometers (40 miles). For the first time since 1914, the maneuver was successful on the battlefield.

British and French trenches were penetrated using novel infiltration tactics, also named Hutier tactics, after General Oskar von Hutier. Attacks had been characterised by long artillery bombardments and massed assaults. However, in the Spring Offensive, the German Army 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. German success relied greatly on the element of surprise.

The front moved to within 120 kilometers (75miles) of Paris. Three heavy 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 Self-propelled artillery, the Germans were unable to consolidate their gains. The sudden stop was also a result of the four AIF (Australian Imperial Forces) divisions that were "rushed" down, thus doing what no other army had done and stopping the German advance in its tracks. While during that time the first Australian division was hurredly sent north again to stop the second German break through.

American divisions, which Pershing had sought to field as an independent force, were assigned to the depleted French and British Empire commands on 28 March. A supreme command of Allied forces was created at the Doullens Conference. Ferdinand Foch was appointed as supreme commander of the allied forces. Haig, Petain and Pershing retained tactical control of their respective armies.

Following Operation Michael, Germany launched Operation Georgette against the northern English Channel ports. The Allies halted the drive with limited territorial gains for Germany. The German Army to the south then conducted Third Battle of the Aisne, broadly towards Paris. Operation Marne was launched on 15 July, attempting to encircle Reims and beginning the Second Battle of the Marne. The resulting Allied counterattack marked their first successful offensive of the war. By 20 July, the Germans were back at their Kaiserschlacht starting lines, having achieved nothing. Following this last phase of the war in the West, the German Army never again regained the initiative. German casualties between March and April 1918 were 270,000, including many highly trained stormtroopers.

Meanwhile, Germany was falling apart at home. Anti-war marches become frequent and morale in the army fell. Industrial output was 53% of 1913 levels.

New States Under War Zone

In 1918, the internationally recognized Democratic Republic of Armenia and Democratic Republic of Georgia bordering the Ottoman Empire, and the not recognized Centrocaspian Dictatorship and South West Caucasian Republicwere established.

In 1918, the Dashnaks of Armenian national liberation movement declared the Democratic Republic of Armenia (DRA) through the Armenian Congress of Eastern Armenians (unified form of Armenian National Councils) after the dissolution of Transcaucasian Democratic Federative Republic. Tovmas Nazarbekian become the first Commander-in-chief of DRA. Enver Pasha ordered the creation of a new army to be named the Army of Islam. He ordered the Army of Islam into DRA, with the goal of taking Baku on the Caspian Sea. This new offensive was strongly opposed by the German Empire. In early May, 1918, the Ottoman army attacked the newly declared DRA. Although the Armenians managed to inflict one defeat on the Ottomans at the Battle of Sardarapat, the Ottoman army won a later battle and scattered the Armenian army. The Republic of Armenia was forced to sign the Treaty of Batum in June, 1918.

Allied Victory: Summer and Autumn 1918

The Allied counteroffensive, known as the Hundred Days Offensive, began on 8 August 1918. The Battle of Amiens developed with III Corps British Fourth Army on the left, the French First Army on the right, and the Australian Corps and Canadian Corps spearheading the offensive in the centre. It involved 414 tanks of the Mark I/Mark IV and Mark V type, and 120,000 men. They advanced 12kilometers (7miles) into German-held territory in just seven hours. Erich Ludendorff referred to this day as the "Black Day of the German army".

Supply problems caused the offensive to lose momentum. British units had encountered problems when all but seven tanks and trucks ran out of fuel. On 15 August Douglas Haig, 1st Earl Haig called a halt and began planning a new offensive in Albert, Somme. The Second Battle of the Somme began on 21 August. The British Third Army and British Fourth Army British Armies and the American II Corps pushed the German Second Army back over a 55kilometer (34mile) front. By 2 September, the Germans were back to the Hindenburg Line, their starting point in 1914.

The Allied attack on the Hindenburg Line began on 26 September. 260,000 American soldiers went "over the top". All initial objectives were captured; the U.S. 79th Infantry Division, which met stiff resistance at Montfaucon, took an extra day to capture its objective. The U.S. Army stalled because of supply problems because its inexperienced headquarters had to cope with large units and a difficult landscape.

At the same time, French units broke through in Champagne and closed on the Belgian frontier. The most significant advance came from Commonwealth units, as they entered Belgium (liberation of Ghent). The German army had to shorten its front and use the Dutch frontier as an anchor to fight rear-guard actions. This probably saved the army from disintegration but was devastating for morale.

By October, it was evident that Germany could no longer mount a successful defence. They were increasingly outnumbered, with few new recruits. Rations were cut. Ludendorff decided, on 1 October, that Germany had two ways out — total annihilation or an armistice. He recommended the latter at a summit of senior German officials. Allied pressure did not let up.

Meanwhile, 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 "valor" of the German Navy. Knowing the government of Prince Maximilian would veto any such action, Ludendorff decided not to inform him. Nonetheless, word of the impending assault reached sailors at Kiel. Many rebelled and were arrested, refusing to be part of a naval offensive which they believed to be suicidal. 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. The reserves had been used up, but the Americans kept arriving at the rate of 10,000 per day.

With power coming into the hands of new men in Berlin, further fighting became impossible. With 6 million German casualties, Germany moved toward peace. Prince Maximilian of Baden took charge of a new government. Negotiations with President Wilson began immediately, in the vain hope that better terms would be offered than with the British and French. Instead Wilson demanded the abdication of the Kaiser. There was no resistance when the Social Democratic Philipp Scheidemann on 9 November declared Germany to be a republic. Imperial Germany was dead; a new Germany had been born: the Weimar Republic.

End of War

The collapse of the Central Powers came swiftly. Bulgaria was the first to sign an armistice on September 29, 1918 at Saloniki.

On October 24 the Italians began a push which 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 Austro-Hungarian Empire. During the last week of October declarations of independence were made in Budapest, Prague and Zagreb. On October 29, the imperial authorities asked Italy for an armistice. But the Italians continued advancing, reaching Trento, Udine and Trieste. On November 3 Austria-Hungary sent a flag of truce to ask for an Armistice. 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 November 3. Austria and Hungary signed separate armistices following the overthrow of the Habsburg-Lorraine monarchy.

Following the outbreak of the communist Judenputsch in Germany, a republic was proclaimed on 9 November. The Kaiser fled to the Netherlands. On November 11 Armistice with Germany was signed in a railroad carriage at Compiègne. At 11 a.m. on November 11, 1918 at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month ; a ceasefire came into effect. Opposing armies on the Western Front began to withdraw from their positions. Canadian George Lawrence Price is traditionally regarded as the last soldier killed in the Great War: he was shot by a German sniper and died at 10:58.

A formal state of war between the two sides persisted for another seven months, until signing of the Treaty of Versailles with Germany on June 28, 1919. Later treaties with Austria, Hungary, Bulgaria and the Ottoman Empire were signed. However, the latter treaty with the Ottoman Empire was followed by strife (the Turkish Independence War) and a final peace treaty was signed between the Allied Powers and the country that would shortly become the Republic of Turkey, at Treaty of Lausanne on July 24, 1923.

Some war memorials date the end of the war as being when the Versailles treaty was signed in 1919; by contrast, most commemorations of the wars end concentrate on the armistice of November 11, 1918. Legally the last formal peace treaties were not signed until the Treaty of Lausanne. Under its terms, the Allied forces abandoned Constantinople on the 23rd of August, 1923.


No other war had changed the map of Europe so dramatically — four empires disappeared: the German, Austro-Hungarian, Ottoman and the Russian. Four defunct dynasties, the Hohenzollerns, the Habsburg, Romanovs and the Ottomans together with all their ancillary aristocracies, all fell after the war. Belgium was badly damaged, as was France with 1.4 million soldiers dead, not counting other casualties. Germany and Russia were similarly affected. The war had profound economic consequences. In addition, a Spanish flu that started in Western Europe in the latter months of the war, killed millions in Europe and then spread around the world. Overall, the Spanish flu killed at least 50 million people.

Peace Treaties

After the war, the Allies imposed a series of peace treaties on the Central Powers. The 1919 Treaty of Versailles ended the war with Germany. Germany was kept under blockade until it signed the treaty, which declared that Germany was responsible for the war. The treaty required Germany to pay enormous war reparations, which it did by borrowing from the United States, until the reparations were suspended in 1931. The "Guilt Thesis" became a controversial explanation of events in Britain and the United States. The Treaty of Versailles caused enormous bitterness in Germany, which nationalist movements, exploited. (See Dolchstosslegende). The treaty contributed to one of the worst economic collapses in history of Germany, sparking runaway inflation.

The Ottoman Empire was to be partitioned by the Treaty of Sèvres in 1920. The treaty, however, was never ratified by the Sultan and was rejected by the Turkish Republican Movement. This led to the Turkish Independence War and, ultimately, to the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne.

Dismembering of Hungary

Hungary was completely dismembered, 3/4 of Hungarian territory and 2/3 of the populance was "given" to partly newly created neighbors. In "Slovakia" lived 1.7 Million "Slovaks" and 1.2 Million Hungarians, with other words 500 thousand Slovakian "majority" become 63 thousand square kilometres Hungarian area. Romania became over 95 thousand square kilometres of Hungary, while Hungary itself remained only 93 thousand square kilometres. Out of 10.050.575 Hungarian inhabitants of Hungary 3.332.000 became "foreigners" in the occupying countries. There is almost nobody in Hungary, who has no relatives in the detached areas. This shameful "peace" was fixed in the Treaty of Trianon. Even though the Hungarian minister president, the later by Bolshevist Jews murdered István Tisza was 1914 clearly against starting a war against Serbia.

Austria was also partitioned, largely along ethnic lines. The details were contained in the Treaty of Saint-Germain.

New National Identities

Poland reemerged as an independent country, after more than a century. Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia were entirely new nations. Russia became the Soviet Union and lost Finland, Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia, which became independent countries. The Ottoman Empire was soon replaced by Turkey and several other countries in the Middle East.

Some people think that the Allies opened the way to more colonization with their policy, because with it the Allies could colonize territories owned by the Ottoman Empire and Austro-Hungarian Empire, by making them independent.

Postwar colonization in the Ottoman Empire led to many future problems still unresolved today. Conflict between mostly Jewish colonists and the indigenous, mostly Muslim, population intensified as the Zionists encouraged mass immigration to overwhelm the Palestinian Arabs. However, any new homeland for immigrants would cause hardships for the indigenous population, especially if the former displaced the latter. 1947 UN Partition Plan with Jewish approval but without Arab and Muslim approval. After the creation of the state of Israel a series of wars broke out between Israel and its neighbors, Egypt, Jordan, and Syria, in addition to unrest from the indigenous Palestinian population and national liberation activity by Palestinians and others reaching to Iran and beyond. Lasting peace in the Near East is an elusive goal even almost a century later.

In the British Empire, the war unleashed new forms of patriotism. 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 of the British Crown. Anzac Day, commemorating the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps, celebrates this defining moment.

This effect was even greater in Canada. Canadians proved they were a nation and not merely subjects of a distant empire. Indeed, following the Battle of Vimy Ridge, many Canadians began to refer to Canada as a nation "forged from fire". Canadians had proved themselves on the same battlefield where the British and French had previously faltered, and were respected internationally for their accomplishments. Canada entered the war as a Dominion of the British Empire, but when the war came to a close, Canada emerged as a fully independent nation. Canadian diplomats played a significant role in negotiating the Versailles Treaty. Canada was an independent signatory of the treaty, whereas other Dominions were represented by Britain. Canadians commemorate the war dead on Remembrance Day. In French Canada, however, the conscription crisis of 1917 left bitterness in its wake.

Social Trauma

The experiences of the war led to a collective trauma for all participating countries. The optimism of the 1900s was gone and those who fought in the war became known as the "Lost Generation". For the next few years, much of Europe mourned. Memorials were erected in thousands of villages and towns. The soldiers returning home from World War I suffered greatly from the horrors they had witnessed. Although it was called shell shock at the time, many returning veterans suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder.

The social trauma caused by years of fighting manifested itself in different ways. Some people claimed to be revolted by jingoism and its results. They began to work toward a more internationalist world, supporting organizations such as the League of Nations; this was especially prominent for the Masonic countries; Anglo-Americans and France. Pacifism became increasingly popular. Others had the opposite reaction, feeling that only strength and military-might could be relied upon in a chaotic and inhumane world. Especially in Germany, where nationalists realized, that even though the army was not defeated by any way in 1917, there was not a single foreign soldier in German territory, internal sabotage (Dolchstoss) caused unnecessary military weakness and defeat. The rise of National Socialism and Fascism included a revival of the nationalist spirit and a rejection of many post-war changes.

Many believed that the war heralded the end of the world as they had known it, including the collapse of Capitalism and Imperialism. Communist movements around the world drew strength from this theory and enjoyed a level of popularity they had never known before. These feelings were most pronounced in areas directly or harshly affected by the war. In May 1915, during the Second Battle of Ypres, Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae M.D. of Guelph, Ontario, Canada wrote the memorable poem In Flanders Fields as a salute to those who perished in the Great War. Published in Punch Magazine December 8 1918, it is still recited today, especially on Armistice Day/Remembrance Day and Memorial Day.

Soldiers Experiences

The soldiers of the war were initially volunteers but increasingly were conscripted into service. Books such as All Quiet on the Western Front detail the mundane time and intense horror of soldiers that fought the war but had no control of the experience they existed in. William Henry Lamin's experience as a front line soldier is detailed in his letters posted in real time plus 90 years in a blog [1], as if it were a technology available at the time.

About 8 million men surrendered and were held in POW camps during the war. All nations pledged to follow the Hague Convention on fair treatment of prisoners of war. In general, a POW's rate of survival was much higher than their peers at the front.[49] Individual surrenders were uncommon. Large units usually surrendered en mass. At the Battle of Tannenberg 92,000 Russians surrendered. When the besieged garrison of Kaunas surrendered in 1915, 20,000 Russians became prisoners. Over half of Russian losses were prisoners (as a proportion of those captured, wounded or killed); for Austria 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 between 2.5 and 3.5 million men as prisoners.) From the Central Powers about 3.3 million men became prisoners.

Germany held 2.5 million prisoners; Russia held 2.9 million and Britain and France held about 720,000. Most of the Western Allies POWs were captured just prior to the Armistice. The U.S. held 48,000. The most dangerous moment was the act of surrender, when helpless soldiers were sometimes gunned down. Once prisoners reached a camp, in general, conditions were satisfactory (and much better than in World War II), thanks in part to the efforts of the International Red Cross and inspections by neutral nations. Conditions were terrible in Russia, starvation was common for prisoners and civilians alike; about 15-20% of the prisoners in Russia died. In Germany food was in short supply, but only 5% died.

The 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.The survivors were then forced to build a railway through the Taurus Mountains.

In Russia, Czech prisoners-of-war from the Austro-Hungarian army were released in 1917. They re-armed themselves as the Czech Legion becoming a military menace and nightmare for both Red and White Russian armies during the Russian Civil War, culminating in them capturing and handing over to the Bolsheviks the White Commander-in-Chief, Admiral Kolchak who was then murdered.

War Crimes

Armenian Holocaust

Armenians crucified by the Ottoman Turks

The ethnic cleansing of up to 3,000,000 Christian Armenians between 1896 and 1916 the Ottoman Empire is widely considered genocide. The Turks, at that time widely under Jewish leadership, accused the Armenian Apostolic Church Armenians of preparing to ally themselves with Russia and saw the entire Armenian population as an enemy. Turkish governments have consistently denied the Armenian Holocaust charges, often arguing that those who died were simply caught up in the fighting or that killings of Armenians were justified by their individual or collective treason. These claims have been disputed by non-Turkish scholars.

Rape of Belgium

In Belgium, German troops, as a reaktion to the terror of French and Belgian guerrilla fighters, or francs-tireurs, massacred townspeople in Andenne (211 dead), Tamines (384 dead), and Dinant (612 dead). The victims included women and children. On 25 August 1914, the Germans set fire to the town of Leuven, burned the library containing about 230,000 books, killed 209 civilians and forced 42,000 to evacuate. These actions brought worldwide condemnation.

Economics and Manpower Issues

Gross Domestic Product (GDP) increased for three Allies (Britain, Italy, and U.S.), but decreased in France and Russia, in neutral Netherlands and in the main three Central Powers. The shrinkage in GDP in Austria, Russia, France, and the Ottoman Empire reached 30 to 40%. In Austria, for example, most of the pigs were slaughtered and, at war's end, there was no meat.

All nations had increases in the government’s share of GDP, surpassing fifty percent in both Germany and France and nearly reaching fifty percent in Britain. To pay for purchases in the United States, Britain cashed in its massive 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 with war imminent with Germany, he allowed a massive increase in Federal government of the United States lending to the Allies. After 1919, the U.S. demanded repayment of these loans, which, in part, were 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.

One of the most dramatic effects was the expansion of governmental powers and responsibilities in Britain, France, the United States, and the Dominions of the British Empire. In order to harness all the power of their societies, new government ministries and powers were created. New taxes were levied and laws enacted, all designed to bolster the war effort; many of which have lasted to this day.

At the same time, the war strained the abilities of the formerly large and bureaucratized governments such as in Austria-Hungary and Germany. Here, however, the long-term effects were clouded by the defeat of these governments.

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 laborers sent to war. This aided the struggle for voting rights for women.

As the war slowly turned into a war of attrition, conscription was implemented in some countries. This issue was particularly explosive in Canada and Australia. In the former it opened a political gap between French-Canadians; who claimed their true loyalty was to Canada and not the British Empire and the English-speakingmajority who saw the war as a duty to both Britain and Canada. Prime Minister Sir Robert Borden pushed through a Military Service Act that caused the Conscription Crisis of 1917. In Australia, a sustained pro-conscription campaign by Prime Minister William Morris Hughes, caused a split in the Australian Labor Party and Hughes formed the Nationalist Party of Australia in 1917 to pursue the matter. Nevertheless, the labour movement, the Catholic Church and Irish republican expatriates successfully opposed Hughes' push to introduce conscription, which was rejected in two plebiscites.

In Britain, rationing was finally imposed in early 1918 and was limited to meat, sugar and fats (butter and oleo) 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 million. Work stoppages and strikes became frequent in 1917-18 as the unions expressed grievances regarding prices, alcohol control, pay disputes, fatigue from overtime and working on Sundays and inadequate housing. Conscription put into uniform nearly every physically fit man, six million out of ten million eligible in Britain. Of these, about 750,000 lost their lives and 1,700,000 were wounded. Most deaths were to young unmarried men; however, 160,000 wives lost husbands and 300,000 children lost fathers.

Britain turned to her colonies for help in obtaining essential war materials whose supply had become difficult from traditional sources. Geologists, such as Albert Ernest Kitson, were called upon 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.


The First World War began as a clash of 20th century technology and 19th century military tactics, with inevitably large casualties. By the end of 1917, however, the major armies, now numbering millions of men, had modernized and were making use of wireless communication, armoured cars, tanks and strategical aircraft. Infantry formations were reorganized, so that 100-man companies were no longer the main unit of maneuver. Instead, squads of 10 or so men, under the command of a junior NCO, were favoured. Artillery also under went a revolution.

A British Mark I tank, 1916

In 1914, cannons were positioned in the front line and fired directly at their targets. By 1917, indirect fire guns (as well as mortars and even machine guns) was responsible for the majority of casualties. Counter-battery fire missions became commonplace, using new techniques for spotting and ranging enemy artillery.

Germany was far ahead of the Allies in utilizing heavy indirect fire. It employed 150 and 210 millimeter howitzers in 1914 when the typical French and British guns were only 75 and 105 mm. The British had a 6inch (152 mm) howitzer, but it was so heavy that it had to be assembled for firing. Germans also fielded Austrian 305 mm and 420 mm guns, and already by the beginning of the war had inventories of various calibers of Minenwerfer that were ideally suited for trench warfare.

Much of the combat involved trench warfare, where hundreds often died for each yard gained. Many of the deadliest battles in history occurred during the First World War. Such battles include Battle of Ypres, Battle of the Marne, Battle of Cambrai, Battle of the Somme, Battle of Verdun, and Battle of Gallipoli. The Haber process of nitrogen fixation was employed to provide the German forces with a constant supply of gunpowder, in the face of 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 shrapnel forced the combatant nations to develop the modern steel helmet. The French, who introduced the Adrian helmet in 1915, led this effort. It was quickly followed by the Brodie helmet, worn by British Imperial and U.S. troops, and in 1916 by the German Stahlhelm, the distinctive steel helmet, which the design, with improvements, is still in use today.

There was chemical warfare and aerial bombing of cities, both of which were outlawed by the 1907 Hague Conventions. Both were of limited tactical effectiveness.

The widespread use of chemical warfare, was a distinguishing feature of the conflict. Gases used included chlorine, Mustard gas and phosgene. Only a small proportion of total war casualties were caused by gas. Effective countermeasures to gas attacks were quickly created, such as gas masks.

The most powerful land based weapons were railway guns weighing hundreds of tons apiece. These were nicknamed Big Berthas, even though the namesake was not a railway gun. Germany developed the Paris Gun that was able to bombard Paris from a distance of over 100 km, though shells were relatively light at 94 kilograms (210 lb). While the Allies had railway guns, German models severely out-ranged and out-classed them.

Fixed-wing aircraft were a World War I aviation first used militarily during the First World War. They were initially used for reconnaissance and Close air support. 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 against the Zepplin hangars at Tondern in 1918.

German U-boats or (submarines), were deployed after the war began. Alternating between restricted and unrestricted submarine warfare in the Atlantic, they were employed by the Kaiserliche Marine in a strategy to deprive the British Isles of vital supplies. The deaths of British merchantmen 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), ahead-throwing weapons, and dipping hydrophones (both abandoned in 1918). To extend their operations, the Germans proposed supply submarines (1916). Most of these would be forgotten in the interwar perioduntil World War II revived the need.

Trenches, the machine gun, air reconnaissance, barbed wire and modern artillery with fragmentation shells helped bring the battle lines of World War I to a stalemate. The infantry was armed mostly with magazine fed bolt action rifles, but the machine gun, with the ability to fire hundreds of rounds per minute, blunted most infantry attacks. The British sought a solution with the creation of the tank and mechanized warfare. The Mark I were used during the Battle of the Somme on 15 September 1916. Mechanical reliability became an issue, but the experiment proved its worth. Within a year, the British were fielding tanks by the hundreds and showed their potential during the Battle of Cambrai in November 1917, by breaking the Hindenburg Line, while combined arms teams captured 8000 enemy soldiers and 100 guns. Light automatic weapons also were introduced, such as the Lewis Gun and Browning Automatic Rifle.

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. In the event of an enemy air attack, the crew could parachute to safety. At the time, parachutes were too bulky to be used by pilots of aircraft and smaller versions would not be developed until the end of the war. Recognized for their value as observation platforms, balloons were important targets of enemy aircraft. To defend against air attack, they were heavily protected by antiaircraft guns and patrolled by friendly aircraft. Blimps and balloons contributed to air-to-air combat among aircraft because of their reconnaissance value. 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.

Another new weapon sprayed jets of burning fuel: flamethrowers. First used by the German army and later adopted by other forces. Although not of high tactical value, they were a powerful, demoralizing weapon and caused terror on the battlefield. It was a dangerous weapon to wield, as its heavy weight made operators vulnerable targets.

See Also



  1. The total number of military and civilian casualties in World War I was over 37 million: over 17 million deaths and 20 million wounded, ranking it among the deadliest conflicts in human history. The total number of deaths includes about 10 million military personnel and about 7 million civilians.
  2. Schucking, Professor Walther, & Montgelas, Count Max, editors, Outbreak of the World War - German Documents Collected by Karl Kautsky, Oxford University Press, 1924,p.612-4, for the Austro-Hungarian-Romanian Treaty of Alliance of February 5, 1913, with the German Declaration of Accession, February 26, 1913. Also, the Italians were original members of the Central Powers, but declined involvement in 1914 on dubious grounds. Both Italy and Romania coveted various territories along their borders and were waiting to see which way they thought the war would go. A secret Italian-Romanian Accord dated September 23, 1914, pledged each state not to intervene without giving the other eight days warning.
  3. Wheeler-Bennett, Sir John, Brest-Litovsk – The Forgotten Peace - March 1918, 1966 reprint, London.
  4. Bassett, Richard, For God and Kaiser - The Imperial Austrian Army 1619 to 1918, Yale University Press, 2015, p.414-7. ISBN 978-0-300-17858-6
  5. Bassett, 2015, p.416-7.
  6. Howard, Michael, The Franco-Prussian War, New York, 1961, ISBN:0-88029-432-9
  7. Bassett, 2015, p.417.
  8. Bassett, 2015, p.416-7
  9. Peterson,Professor H.C., Propaganda for War - The Campaign against American Neutrality 1914-17, University of Oklahoma Press, 1939.
  10. Cassels, L., The Archduke and the Assassin, London, 1984, p.75, where it give's Princips biographical details. He was baptised on the day of his birth, St. Gabriel's day, into a devout Serbian Orthodox family.
  11. Cassels, 1984, p.121.
  12. Austrian Red Book, April 1915, part vii
  13. The Serbian Blue Book, May 1915, no.39.
  14. Schucking & Montgelas, 1924, p.149, no.100, Despatch from German Imperial Chancellor Bethmann-Hollweg to the German Ambassadors at St. Petersburg, Paris and London, July 21, 1914.
  15. The Austrian Red Book, published by the American Association for International Conciliation, New York, April 1915.
  16. Schucking & Montgelas, 1924, pps: 250-254, no.271
  17. The Serbian Book, published by the American Association for International Conciliation, New York, May 1915.
  18. Schucking & Montgelas, 1924, p.364, no.425.
  19. Schucking & Montgelas, 1924, p.354,no.408.
  20. Schucking & Montgelas, 1924, pps: 266-272, nos.288-291, includes lengthy report and quotes from the principal Russian newspapers by Count Pourtales.
  21. Schucking & Montgelas, 1924, p.372, no.441.
  22. Schucking & Montgelas, 1924, p.360, no.420.
  23. Schucking & Montgelas, 1924, p.428, no.535
  24. The Serbian Blue Book, published May 1915.
  25. Schucking & Montgelas, 1924, p.283, no.311
  26. Serbian Blue Book, published May 1915, Minute of Dr.Spalaikovitch, Serbian Ambassador to Russia of 28 July, p.30.
  27. Schucking & Montgelas, 1924, pps: 303 & 347, nos.343 & 300.
  28. Schucking & Montgelas, 1924, p.393, no.476
  29. Schucking & Montgelas, 1924, p.391, no.473
  30. Schucking & Montgelas, 1924, p.400, no.482.
  31. Schucking & Montgelas, 1924, pps: 395 & 409, nos.479 & 499.
  32. Schucking & Montgelas, 1924, p.330-1, no.376
  34. The Advertiser (Adelaide, SA : 1889 - 1931), 14 December 1916, page 7, 9., The Brisbane Courier, October 5 1916, page 7, & Chicago Tribune - December 13, 1916
  42. Book "Assassination!" by Paul Donnelley, Page 148-149
  44. Find a reason to go to war with Germany
  45. Shermer, David, World War 1, London, 1973, pps:43 & 137, ISBN:0-7064-0245-6
  46. Shermer, 1973, p.98.
  47. Shermer, 1973, p.98.
  48. Shermer, 1973, p.99-100.
  49. Geo G. Phillimore and Hugh H. L. Bellot, "Treatment of Prisoners of War", Transactions of the Grotius Society Vol. 5, (1919), pp. 47-64.


  • Bulow, Prince Bernhard von, Imperial Germany, London, 1914.
  • The famous "coloured books" of all the various governments involved in The Great War are absolutely essential reading. The most notorious are the Allied ones which are "selective", and so notable for what was left out as much as what appears.

The American Association for International Conciliation in New York were responsible for bringing these books to the public before the USA entered the war. They are verbatim government publications and include:

  • No.89, The Austrian Red Book, April 1915.
  • No.90, The Serbian Blue Book, May 1915.
  • No.96, Official Documents Bearing upon the European War, Series XI:

(1)US Secretary Bryan’s Letter to Senator Stone regarding charges of partiality shown to Great Britain, 20th January 1915. (2)The Austro-Hungarian Minister for Foreign Affairs to US Ambassador Penfield, 29th June 1915.(3)The US Secretary of State to Ambassador Penfield, 12th August 1915.

  • No.136, Russian Documents, March 1919.
  • Koester, Frank, The Lies of the Allies - a remarkable collection of facts, proofs and documents of how England, the Anglo-maniacs, and the 'big dailies' humbug the American people, 1916. (PDF-File) Non US-Citizens has to use an US-Proxy to download)
  • Ludendorff, Erich, My War Memories 1914-1918, Hutchinson & Co., London, 1920 (2 vols.)
  • Witte, Count, Memoirs, New York, 1921.
  • Gurdon,John Everard The German Air Force in The Great War, (1921), (PDF-File)
  • Buchanan, George, My Mission to Russia by Sir George Buchanan (2 vols), London, 1923. Sir George was the British Ambassador to St.Petersburg 1910-1918.
  • Montgelas, Max, The Case for the Central Powers - an Impeachment of the Versailles Verdict, (translated by Constance Vesey), London, 1925.

(Count Montgelas's father had been the Bavarian Government’s Ambassador in St.Petersburg, where the Count was born. The author was a member of the Reichstag Committee of Enquiry (into the war) in 1918, and a member of the Commission sent to Versailles by the German Government in 1919, specially to investigate the question of responsibility for the war. He was one of the four signatories to the Memorandum, presented on May 29 in reply to the allegations made by the Commission appointed by the Allied and Associated Governments to report on the subject, and he was jointly responsible, with Delbruck, for the Memorandum replying to the Allied Note of 16th June 1919.)

  • Wilhelm, Crown Prince, I Seek The Truth – on Responsibility for the War (translated by Ralph Butler), London, 1926.
  • Ponsonby, Arthur, Falsehood in Wartime: Propaganda Lies of the First World War, 1928 George Allen and Unwin, London (HTML-Version, Table of Contents, order the book)
  • Gerry Docherty / Jim MacGregor:
    • Hidden History: The Secret Origins of the First World War. Mainstream Publishing; Reprint edition, 2014, ISBN 978-1780576305
    • Prolonging the Agony: How the Anglo-American Establishment Deliberately Extended WWI by Three-And-A-Half Years. Trine Day, 2018, ISBN 978-1634241564
  • Justus D. Doenecke: Nothing Less Than War: A New History of America's Entry into World War I. University Press of Kentucky, 2014, ISBN 978-0813145501
  • John V. Denson: A Century of War: Lincoln, Wilson, and Roosevelt. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2006, ISBN 978-1479318070
  • Nicholas Kollerstrom: How Britain Initiated both World Wars, CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2016, ISBN 978-1530993185
  • Redlich, Joseph, Emperor Francis Joseph of Austria, London, 1929.
  • Wheeler-Bennett, John, Brest-Litovsk – The Forgotten Peace - March 1918. First published in 1938 and reprinted in 1939, 1956, 1963 & 1966. London.
  • von Kurenberg, Joachim, The Kaiser, London, 1954.
  • Crankshaw, Edward, The Fall of the House of Habsburg, London, 1963.
  • Dmytryshyn, Basil, editor, Imperial Russia – A Source Book 1700-1917, USA, 1967. It contains Sazanov’s (Foreign Minister) account of Russia’s entry into the war; as well as the famous and prophetic "Memorandum" to Tsar Nicholas of February 1914 by Durnovo who had a distinguished ministerial career and was a prominent member of the State Council. He argued against the war. Almost everything he says came true.
  • Geiss, Imanuel, July 1914 - The Outbreak of the 1st World War - selected documents, London, 1967. The author/editor is an established left-wing (possibly Marxist) historian who is very anti-Imperialist etc. So "selected documents" means the ones that he wants you to see. Most can in any case be found in the Kautsky Documents.
  • Pitt, Barrie, General Editor, The Great War, published by Purnell & Sons Ltd.,(BPC), London, from 1969,with countless contributing experts from all the beligerent countries.
  • Watt, Richard M., The King's Depart, London, 1969, ISBN:297-17858-X
  • Taylor, A.J.P., The Struggle for Mastery in Europe 1848-1918, Oxford History of Modern Europe, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1954 & 1957.
  • Seton-Watson, Hugh, The Russian Empire 1801-1917, Oxford History of Modern Europe, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1967 & 1988.
  • Craig, Gordon A., Germany 1866-1945, Oxford History of Modern Europe, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1978 and 1988.
  • Greger, René, The Russian Fleet 1914-1917, London, 1972, ISBN:7110-0255-X
  • Mee, Charles L. Mee, The End of Order – Versailles 1919, London, 1981.
  • Cassells, L., The Archduke & the Assassin, London, 1984, ISBN:0-584-11011-1
  • Gatrell, Peter, Government, Industry and Rearmament in Russia 1900-1914, Cambridge University Press, U.K., 1994, ISBN:0-521-45263-5
  • Niall Ferguson, The Pity of War - Explaining World War I, Allen Lane/Penguin Press, 1998.
  • Sinclair, David, Hall of Mirrors, London, 2001.
  • Fromkin, Professor David, Europe's Last Summer – Why the World Went to War in 1914, London, 2004.
  • Lee, John, The Warlords - Hindenburg & Ludendorff, London, 2005.
  • Nopper, Ryan, & Paul Wright, Austro-Hungarian Battleships 1914-1018, Osprey Publishing, Oxford, 2012, ISBN:978-1-84908-688-2
  • Sean Mcmeekin, The Russian Origins of the First World War, The Belknap Press at Harvard University Press, Cambridge 2013.
  • Clark, Christopher: "The Sleepwalkers: How Europe Went to War in 1914", ISBN 978-0713999426

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