Sunteți pe pagina 1din 216



The World before World War I
The War was also known as THE FIRST WORLD WAR,
It was a global military conflict that took place
mainly in Europe between 1914 & 1918.

It was a total War which left great devastation,

millions dead and shaped the modern world.

World War I created a decisive break with the old

world order that had emerged after the Napoleonic
Wars , which was modified by the mid-19th
century’s nationalistic revolutions. The results of
World War I would be important factors in the
development of world war II; 21 years later.
Long-term Causes: Why did the war break out?

Napoleon Bonaparte and

the Rise of Nationalist
Colonial Expansion
Anglo-German Naval Race
Tension in the Balkans
Ascension of Kaiser
Wilhelm II
Web of alliances
Serb Nationalism: Napoleon Bonaparte and
the Rise of Nationalist Sentiment
Nationalism means being a strong supporter of the
rights and interests of one's country. The Congress of
Vienna, held after Napoleon's exile to Elba, aimed to
sort out problems in Europe.
Delegates from Britain, Austria, Prussia and Russia
(the winning allies) decided upon a new Europe that
left both Germany and Italy as divided states.
Strong nationalist elements led to the Re-unification
of Italy in 1861 and Germany in 1871.
The settlement at the end of the Franco-Prussian war
left France angry at the loss of Alsace-Lorraine to
Germany and keen to regain their lost territory.
Large areas of both Austria-Hungary and Serbia were
home to differing nationalist groups, all of whom
wanted freedom from the states in which they lived.
The French Revolution resulted in chaos and
the ascent of Napoleon to power. Napoleon's
armies marched all over Europe, bringing not
only French control, but French ideas.
The rise of ideas of nationalism, devotion
and love for one's common people and
ethnicity, increased in popularity during the
Napoleonic Wars.
Napoleon encouraged the spread of
nationalism, which he saw in his troops, to
better the French war machine.
The French people began to feel pride in
their culture and ethnicity. The world
watched nationalism for the first time and
saw the power the French gained from it.
Following the Napoleonic Wars, all of Europe
was sharing these ideas
Europe in 1914
By 1914 Europe was divided as a continent in
power struggling forces for the top place in the
world economic market.

At the start of the Great War in 1914, Germany

was a relatively young power, only coming into
existence following a series of wars in 1871.
Germany's Chancellor, Otto von Bismarck, had
shepherd the country into the 20th century with
the adage that Germany must always be in a
majority of three in any dispute among the five
great European powers. His aim was to maintain
peaceful ties with Russian.

When Kaiser Wilhelm II came to power, he quickly

retired Bismarck, and upset the Chancellor's
delicate balance of power by refusing to renew
Germany's friendship with Russia. Germany soon
found itself in a minority of two. Its only
European ally was the weakest of the European
Otto Van

building a
Kaiser Wilhelm II
Imperialism and Colonial Expansion
Imperialism is when a country takes over
new lands or countries and makes them
subject to their rule.
By 1900 the British Empire extended over
five continents and France had control of
large areas of Africa. With the rise of
industrialism countries needed new
The amount of lands 'owned' by Britain and
France increased the rivalry with Germany
who had entered the scramble to acquire
colonies late and only had small areas of
Africa. Note the contrast in the map below.
Imperialist rivalry had grown more intense
with the "new imperialism" of the late 19th
and early 20th cent.
The great powers had come into conflict
over spheres of influence in China and over
territories in Africa, and the Easter question ,
created by the decline of the Ottoman
Empire, had produced several disturbing
controversies. Particularly unsettling was the
policy of Germany.
It embarked late but aggressively on colonial
expansion under Emperor William II came
into conflict with France over Morocco , and
seemed to threaten Great Britain by its rapid
naval expansion.
Militarism means that the army and military forces are
given a high profile by the government. The growing
European divide had led to an arms race (competition
between nations to have the most powerful weapons)
between the main countries.
The armies of both France and Germany had more than
doubled between 1870 and 1914 and there was fierce
competition between Britain and Germany for mastery
of the seas.
The British had introduced the 'Dreadnought', an
effective battleship, in 1906. The Germans soon
followed suit introducing their own battleships.
The German, Von Schlieffen also drew up a plan of
action that involved attacking France through Belgium
if Russia made an attack on Germany. The map below
shows how the plan was to work.
An alliance is an agreement made between
two or more countries to give each other
help if it is needed. When an alliance is
signed, those countries become known as

A number of alliances had been signed by

countries between the years 1879 and 1914.
These were important because they meant
that some countries had no option but to
declare war if one of their allies. declared
war first
1879 1881 1882
The Dual Alliance Austro-Serbian Alliance The Triple Alliance

Germany and Austria- Austria-Hungary made an Germany and Austria-

Hungary made an alliance alliance with Serbia to stop Hungary made an alliance
to protect themselves from Russia gaining control of with Italy to stop Italy from
Russia Serbia taking sides with Russia

1914 1894
Triple Entente (no Franco-Russian Alliance
separate peace)

Russia formed an alliance

Britain, Russia and France with France to protect
agreed not to sign for peace herself against Germany
separately. and Austria-Hungary

Triple Entente 1907
Entente Cordiale
Anglo-Russian Entente

This was made between

This was an agreement, but
Russia, France and Britain This was an agreement
not a formal alliance,
to counter the increasing between Britain and Russia
between France and Britain.
threat from Germany.
Formation of the Triple Alliance
In 1879 Germany and Austria- Hungray
agreed to form a Dual Alliance.
This became the Triple Alliance when in
1882 it was expanded to include Italy, The
three countries agreed to support each
other if attacked by either France or Russia.
It was renewed at five-yearly intervals.
The formation of the Triple Entente in 1907
by Britain, France and Russia reinforced the
need for the alliance.
Formation of the Triple Entente
In 1882 Germany, Austria Hungary and Italy
formed the Triple Alliance. The three
countries agreed to support each other if
attacked by either France or Russia.
France felt threatened by this alliance.
Britain was also concerned by the growth in
the Germany Navy and in 1904 the two
countries signed the Entente Cordiale
(friendly understanding). The objective of the
alliance was to encourage co-operation
against the perceived threat of Germany.
Three years later, Russia who feared the
growth in the Germany Army, joined Britain
& France to form the Triple Entente.
The Russian government was also concerned
about the possibility of Austria Hungary
increasing the size of its empire. It therefore
made promises to help Serbia if it was
attacked by members of the Triple Alliance
Arms races
The naval arms race that developed between
Britain and Germany was intensified by the
1906 launch of HMS Dreadnought, a
revolutionary warship that rendered all
previous battleships obsolete. (Britain
maintained a large lead over Germany in all
categories of warship.) It has pointed out
that both nations believed in thesis that
command of the sea was vital to a great
Davis Stephoson described the armaments
race as "a self-reinforcing cycle of
heightened military preparedness", while
other Historians, viewed the shipbuilding
rivalry as part of a general movement
towards war. However, Niall Fergueson
argues that Britain’s ability to maintain an
overall advantage signifies that change
within this realm was insignificant and
The naval strength of the powers in 1914

Country Personn Large Tonnage

el Vessels

Russia 54,000 4 328,000

France 68,000 10 731,000
Britain 209,000 29 2,205,00
TOTAL 331,000 43 0
Germany 79,000 17 0
Austria- 16,000 3 0
Hungary TOTAL 95,000 20 1,268,00
Source: Ferguson 1999 p 85 0
Moroccan Crisis

In 1904 Morocco had been given to France by

Britain, but the Moroccans wanted their
independence. In 1905, Germany announced
her support for Moroccan independence.
War was narrowly avoided by a conference
which allowed France to retain possession of
Morocco. However, in 1911, the Germans
were again protesting against French
possession of Morocco. Britain supported
France and Germany was persuaded to back
down for part of French Congo.
Bosnian Crisis
In 1908, Austria-Hungary took over the
former Turkish province of Bosnia.
This angered Serbians who felt the province
should be theirs. Serbia threatened Austria-
Hungary with war, Russia, allied to Serbia,
mobilised its forces. Germany, allied to
Austria-Hungary mobilised its forces and
prepared to threaten Russia. War was
avoided when Russia backed down.
There was, however, war in the Balkans
between 1911 and 1912 when the Balkan
states drove Turkey out of the area. The
states then fought each other over which
area should belong to which state.
Austria-Hungary then intervened and forced
Serbia to give up some of its acquisitions.
Tension between Serbia and Austria-Hungary
was high.
The Black Hand
In May 1911, ten men in Serbia
formed the Black Hand Secret
Society. Early members
included Colonel
Dragutin Dimitrijevic, the chief
of the Intelligence Department
of the Serbian General Staff,
Major Voja Tankosic and
Milan Ciganovic.
The main objective of the Black
Hand was the creation, by
means of violence, of a Greater
Serbia. Its stated aim was: "To
realize the national ideal, the
unification of all Serbs. This
organisation prefers terrorist
action to cultural activities; it
will therefore remain secret."
By 1914 there were around 2,500 members
of the Black Hand. The group was mainly
made up of junior army officers but also
included lawyers, journalists and university
Three senior members of the Black Hand
group, Dragutin Dimitrijevic,
Milan Ciganovic, and Major Voja Tankosic,
decided that Archduke Franz Ferdinand
should be assassinated. Dimitrijevic was
concerned about the heir to the
Austro-Hungarian throne, Ferdinand's plans
to grant concessions to the South Slavs.
Dimitrijevic feared that if this happened, an
independent Serbian state would be more
The People chosen for the task
Gavrilo Princip,
Nedjelko Cabrinovic
and Trifko Grabez from
Serbia to assassinate
What is meant by the term alliance?
Which countries were allied by the Triple
Which countries were allied by the Triple
Why was Germany annoyed by
Which armies had increased in size
between 1870 and 1914?
Describe the Schlieffen Plan.
Why were the two crises important
Which countries were bound to each other by
which alliance?
How did imperialism contribute towards
Germany’s increasing anger with Britain and
Why was nationalism an important factor?
Describe the part played by Germany in
increasing European militarism.
What links were there between the two crises
The Background to the Assasination
Archduke Franz-Ferdinand of Austria-Hungary
wanted to marry the beautiful Countess Sophie von
Chotkowa und Wognin (Sophie Chotek).  
Emperor Franz Josef forbade the marriage; Franz
Ferdinand was heir of a noble royal family.   He was
supposed to marry royalty.   Sophie was only a
The two eloped and married secretly, anyway, on 28
June 1900.   Then they returned to face the music.  
Franz Josef ruled that they could not be seen
together in public, since an Archduke could not
appear with a mere Countess as his consort.  
She was raised by Franz Josef to Princess of
Hohenberg when she married Franz Ferdinand in
1900, and to Duchess of Hohenberg in 1907.   But
Franz Josef disliked Sophie, and she was continually
insulted and slighted in Vienna.
Franz Ferdinand was hurt by the ban on public
appearances, until he found a loophole: as Field
Marshall of the army he could appear with his wife
(for a Field Marshall could be seen with a commoner
as his consort).   It was this that led Franz
In 1914, Austria-Hungary was a world
power, but its rulers were afraid.  
They feared nationalism.  
Many different races lived in the
Austrian Empire; fifteen different
languages were spoken within its
If nationalism caught on in Austria-
Hungary, the Empire would fall apart.
The small nation-states in the south-
east of Europe (`the Balkans') were
very nationalistic.   Serbia was the
In Serbia, there was a group called
Union or Death (nicknamed the `Black
Hand').   It was the Balkan equivalent
of the IRA.   It was dedicated to uniting
all Serbs. 
Many Serbs lived in the Austrian
province of Bosnia, and after 1908 the
Black Hand waged a terrorist war
there, with bombings, shootings and
Assassination at Sarajevo
On 28 June 1914, the Archduke Franz-Ferdinand and
his wife visited Sarajevo, the capital of Bosnia, to
review these troops.

It was a sunny Sunday morning. It was the

Archduke's wedding anniversary.  But the Archduke
could not have chosen a worse day to go to

It was also Serbia's National Day - the anniversary of

the battle, in 1389, when Serbia had been conquered
by the Turkish Ottoman Empire, yet at which a Serb
hero, Milos Obilic, had assassinated the Ottoman
Sultan. The day was inextricably linked with Serbian
nationalism, and with the assassination of foreign

Waiting for Franz Ferdinand, lined up along the

Appel Quay, Sarajevo's main road, were six young
men.   They were armed with pistols and bombs
supplied by the Black Hand.   They were going to try
Austrian spies in Serbia had reported that there was
going to be an assassination attempt. Panic, the Prime
Minister of Serbia, had also told the Austrian
government that there was going to be trouble.
Franz Ferdinand ignored these warnings. Only 120
policeman were on duty in Sarajevo, and they were so
excited that they forgot to watch the crowds, and
looked at the procession instead.
Franz Ferdinand was dressed in the ceremonial uniform
of an Austrian cavalry general, with a blue tunic, a high
collar with three stars, and a hat adorned with pale-
green feathers.
 He wore black trousers with red stripes down the sides
and around his waist a Bauchband, a gold-braided
ribbon with tassels.
To reach the Town Hall the procession had to drive
along the Appel Quay.   The six conspirators had
posted themselves along the route; the Appel Quay
was `a regular avenue of assassins.' As the procession
moved along the Appel Quay there were a few shouts
of Zivio! ('Long may he live!').
At 10.10 am, as the procession drew near the Cumuria
Near the Cumuria bridge:
1st  Mehmed Mehmedbasic: told a friend that he could not
get a clear opportunity; told Albertini in 1937 that a
policeman had approached him just as he was to throw the
2nd Vaso Cubrilovic: told investigation that felt sorry for
the Duchess; told Albertini that he was badly placed.
3rd   Nedeljko Cabrinovic: threw a bomb.   Wearing a long
black coat and a black hat, he asked a policeman to tell
him which car the Archduke was in; seconds later he had
knocked the cap off a hand grenade against a metal lamp-
post and aimed it at the Archduke seated in the open car.  
Franz Ferdinand later claimed that he had knocked away
the bomb with his hand; witnesses at the trial, however,
all agreed that the bomb had bounced off the folded-back
hood of the Archduke's car.   It blew up the car behind,
killing two officers and injuring about twenty people.  
Cabrinovic swallowed poison, but it failed to work.   After
stopping to see what had happened, Franz Ferdinand's car
sped to the Town Hall.
4th (landward side) Cvetko Popovic: told a friend that
could not sec which was Franz Ferdinand because he was
short-sighted; told the trial the lost his nerve.
After attending the official reception at the City Hall,
Franz Ferdinand asked about the members of his party
that had been wounded by the bomb.
When the archduke was told they were badly injured in
hospital, he insisted on being taken to see them. A
member of the archduke's staff, Baron Morsey,
suggested this might be dangerous, but Oskar Potiorek,
who was responsible for the safety of the royal party,
replied, "Do you think Sarajevo is full of assassins?“
However, Potiorek did accept it would be better if
Duchess Sophie remained behind in the City Hall. When
Baron Morsey told Sophie about the revised plans, she
refused to stay arguing: "As long as the Archduke shows
himself in public today I will not leave him."

In order to avoid the city centre, General Oskar Potiorek

decided that the royal car should travel straight along
the Appel Quay to the Sarajevo Hospital. However,
Potiorek forgot to tell the driver, Franz Urban, about
this decision. On the way to the hospital, Urban took a
right turn into Franz Joseph Street.
One of the conspirators, Gavrilo Princip, was standing on the
corner at the time. Oskar Potiorek immediately realised the
driver had taken the wrong route and shouted "What is this?
This is the wrong way! We're supposed to take the Appel

The driver put his foot on the brake, and began to back up. In
doing so he moved slowly past the waiting Gavrilo Princip.
The assassin stepped forward, drew his gun, and at a distance
of about five feet, fired several times into the car. Franz
Ferdinand was hit in the neck and Sophie von Chotkovato in
the abdomen.

Princip's bullet had pierced the archduke's jugular vein but

before losing consciousness, he pleaded "Sophie dear! Sophie
dear! Don't die! Stay alive for our children!“

Franz Urban drove the royal couple to Konak, the governor's

residence, but although both were still alive when they
arrived, they died from their wounds soon afterwards.
Nedjelko Cabrinovic, statement in court (23rd October, 1914)

We did not hate Austria, but the Austrians had done nothing,
since the occupation, to solve the problems that faced Bosnia
and Herzegovina. Nine-tenths of our people are farmers who
suffer, who live in misery, who have no schools, who are
deprived of any culture.
We sympathized with them in their distress. We thought that
only people of noble character were capable of committing
political assassinations. We heard it said that he (Archduke
Franz Ferdinand) was an enemy of the Slavs. Nobody directly
told us "kill him"; but in this environment, we arrived at the
idea ourselves.
I would like to add something else. Although Princip is playing
the hero, and although we all wanted to appear as heroes, we
still have profound regrets. In the first place, we did not know
that they late Franz Ferdinand was a father. We were greatly
touched by the words he addressed to his wife: "Sophie, stay
alive for our children." We are anything you want, except
In my name and in the name of my comrades, I ask the
children of the late successor to the throne to forgive us. As
for you, punish us according to your understanding. We are
not criminals. We are honest people, animated by noble
sentiments; we are idealists; we wanted to do good; we have
loved our people; and we shall die for our ideals.
July Crisis and the declarations of war
After the assassination of the Arckduke Franz
Ferdinand on June 28, Austria-Hungary waited for 3
weeks before deciding on a course of action.
This wait was due to a large part of the army being on
leave to help in gathering the harvest, which practically
denied Austria the possibility of military action at the
On July 23, assured by unconditional ('carte blanche')
support of the Germans should war break out, it sent
an ULTIMATUM to Serbia containing many demands,
among them that Austrian agents would be allowed to
take part in the investigation, and in general holding
Serbia responsible for the assassination.
The Serbian government accepted all the terms, except
that of the participation of the Austrian agents in the
inquiry, which it saw as a violation of its sovereignty.
Emboldened by last minute Russian support, Serbia
rejected the ultimatum.
Austria-Hungary, in turn, rejected the Serbian reply on
July 26. Breaking diplomatic relations, the Austro-
Hungarian Empire declared war on Serbia on July 28,
proceeding to bombard Belgrade on July 29. On July 30
The Germans, having pledged their support to Austria-
Hungary, sent Russia an ultimatum to stop mobilization within
12 hours on July 31.
On August 1, with the ultimatum expired, the German
ambassador to Russia formally declared war. On August 2
Germany occupied Luxembourg, as a preliminary step to the
invasion of Belgium and the Schlieffen Plan (i.e. Germany had
planned to attack France first according to the plan, and then
Russia, which had already gone wrong) the same day yet
another ultimatum was delivered to Belgium, requesting free
passage for the German army on the way to France.
The Belgians refused. At the very last moment, the Kaiser
Wilhelm II asked Moltke, the German Chief of General Staff, to
cancel the invasion of France in the hope this would keep
Britain out of the war.
Moltke, horrified by the prospect of the utter ruin of the
Schlieffen Plan, refused on the grounds that it would be
impossible to change the rail schedule- "once settled, it cannot
be altered".
On August 3 Germany declared war on France, and on August 4
invaded Belgium. This act, violating Belgian neutrality to which
Germany, France, and Britain were all committed to guarantee,
gave Britain, which up to that point had yet to choose a side in
the conflict, a reason to declare war on Germany on August 4.
Opening hostilities
Some of the first hostilities of the war occurred in
Africa and in the Pacific Ocean, in the colonies and
territories of the European powers.
On August 1914 a combined French and British
Empire forces invaded the German protectorate of
Togoland in West Africa. Shortly thereafter, on
August 10, German forces based in South West
Africa attacked South Africa, part of the British
Another British Dominion, New Zealand, occupied
German Samoa (later Western Samoa) on 30
August; on September 11 the Australian Naval &
Military Expeditionary Force landed on the island of
Neu Pommern (later New Britain), which formed part
of German New Guinea.
Within a few months, the Entente forces had driven
out or had accepted the surrender of all German
forces in the Pacific. Sporadic and fierce fighting,
however, continued in Africa for the remainder of
In Europe, the Central Powers — the German Empire
and the Austro-Hungarian Empire - suffered from
mutual miscommunication and lack of intelligence
regarding the intentions of each other's army.
Germany had originally guaranteed to support
Austria-Hungary's invasion of Serbia, but practical
interpretation of this idea differed.
Austro-Hungarian leaders believed Germany would
cover her northern flank against Russia. Germany,
however, had planned for Austria-Hungary to focus
the majority of its troops on Russia while Germany
dealt with France on the Western Front.
This confusion forced the Austro-Hungarian Army to
split its troop concentrations. Somewhat more than
half went to fight the Russians on their border, a
somewhat smaller force was allocated to invade and
Serbian Campaign {WWI}
The Serbian army fought a defensive battle against
the invading Austrian army (called the Battle of Cer)
starting on 12 August.
The Serbians occupied defensive positions on the
south side of the Drina and Save rivers.
Over the next two weeks Austrian attacks were
thrown back with heavy losses.
This marked the first major Allied victory of the war.
Austrian expectations of a swift victory over Serbia
were not realized and as a result, Austria had to
keep a very sizable force on the Serbian front,
weakening their armies which faced Russia.
The German war plan to deal with the Franco-Russian alliance
(called the Schlieffen plan) involved delivering a knock-out blow
to the French and then turning to deal with the more slowly
mobilized Russian army. Rather than invading eastern France
directly, German planners deemed it prudent to attack France
from the north.
To do so, the German army had to march through Belgium.
Germany demanded free passage from the Belgian
government, promising to treat Belgium as Germany's firm ally
if permission was granted.
The Belgian government's refusal to come to terms at zero-
hour was an unpleasant surprise but the German army chose to
follow through with its plan just the same. After entering
Belgian territory, it soon encountered resistance at a fortified
Although the army as a whole continued to make rapid
progress into France, it was Britain's decision to declare war on
Germany and honor a dated protection pact with Belgium that
left the German government in disbelief and seriously hindered
the military's plans.
Britain sent an army to France (the British Expenitionary Force
or BEF) which advanced into Belgium and slowed the Germans.
The First BATTLE
The Battle of Liege, 1914
Something of a moral victory for the Allies as
represented by Belgium, the Battle of Liege ran for
twelve days from 5-16 August 1914, and resulted in
surprisingly heavy losses upon the German invasion
force by the numerically heavily outnumbered Belgians.
The Battle of Liege signified the first land battle of the
war, as the German Second Army crossed the frontier
into neutral Belgium (since 1839) so as to attack France
from the north. The Schlieffen plan had started.
The initial aim of Von Bulow’s Second Army, which
comprised 320,000 men, was to seize the city of Liege,
gateway to Belgium, which blocked the narrow gap
between the 'Limburg appendix' and the Ardennes, the
best entrance into Belgium.
The Schlieffen Plan
military plan to
defeat France
and Russia.
“Knock out blow”
aimed at France
Avoid French
defences by
invasion of
Germans thought
Schlieffen Plan

Count Alfred von Schlieffen drew up the Schlieffen Plan

in 1905 when he was German Chief of Staff.
In a general European war, Germany would face France
in the west and Russia in the east, and would need to
defeat France within six weeks before Russia mobilised
her troops.

1. As most of the French army was stationed on the

border with Germany, the Schlieffen Plan aimed for the
quick defeat of France by invading it through neutral
Belgium and moving rapidly on to capture Paris.
2. The Germans did not believe that Britain would go to
war over their 1839 treaty with Belgium, which they
described as a 'scrap of paper'.
3. Even if Britain did defend Belgium, the Kaiser believed
that there was no need to fear the British Expeditionary
Force, which he called a 'contemptible little army'.
4. Having defeated France, Germany would then be able
to concentrate her efforts on defeating the Russians in the
east rather then having to fight on two fronts at once.
In 1904 France and Britain signed the Entente Cordiale (friendly understanding). The
objective of the alliance was to encourage co-operation against the perceived threat of
Germany. Negotiations also began to add Russia to this alliance. As a result of these
moves the German military began to fear the possibility of a combined attack from
France, Britain and Russia.
Alfred von Schlieffen, German Army Chief of Staff, was given instructions to devise a
strategy that would be able to counter a joint attack. In December, 1905, he began
circulating what later became known as the Schlieffen Plan. Schlieffen argued that if war
took place it was vital that France was speedily defeated.
If this happened, Britain and Russia would be unwilling to carry on fighting. Schlieffen
calculated that it would take Russia six weeks to organize its large army for an attack on
Germany. Therefore, it was vitally important to force France to surrender before Russia
was ready to use all its forces.
Schlieffen's plan involved using 90% of Germany's armed forces to attack France.
Fearing the French forts on the border with Germany, Schlieffen suggested a scythe-like
attack through Holland, Belgium and Luxembourg. The rest of the German Army would
be sent to defensive positions in the east to stop the expected Russian advance.
When Helmuth von Moltke replaced Alfred von Schlieffen as German Army
Chief of Staff in 1906, he modified the plan by proposing that Holland was not
The main route would now be through the flat plains of Flanders. Moltke argued
that Belgium's small army would be unable to stop German forces from quickly
entering France. Moltke suggested that 34 divisions should invade Belgium
whereas 8 divisions would be enough to stop Russia advancing in the east.
On 2nd August 1914, the Schlieffen Plan was put into operation when the
German Army invaded Luxembourg and Belgium. However, the Germans were
held up by the Belgian Army and were shocked by the Russian Army's advance
into East Prussia. The Germans were also surprised by how quickly the
British Expeditionary Force reached France and Belgium.
On 3rd September, Joseph Joffre, the Commander-in-Chief of the French
forces, ordered his men to retreat to a line along the River Seine, south-east of
Paris and over 60km south of the Marne. Sir John French, commander of the
British Expeditionary Force agreed to join the French in attacking the German
On 2nd August 1914, the Schlieffen Plan was put into operation
when the German Army invaded Luxembourg and Belgium.
However, the Germans were held up by the Belgian Army and
were shocked by the Russian Army's advance into East Prussia.
The Germans were also surprised by how quickly the
British Expeditionary Force reached France and Belgium.
 On 3rd September, Joseph Joffre, the Commander-in-Chief of the
French forces, ordered his men to retreat to a line along the
River Seine, south-east of Paris and over 60km south of the
Marne. Sir John French, commander of the
British Expeditionary Force agreed to join the French in attacking
the German forces.
The French 6th Army attacked the German Ist Army at the
Marne on the morning of 6th September. General
Alexander von Kluck wheeled his entire force to meet the attack,
opening a 50km gap between his own forces and the German
2nd Army led by General Karl von Bulow. The British forces and
the French 5th Army now advanced into the gap that had been
For the next three days the German
forces were unable to break through the
Allied lines. At one stage the French 6th
Army came close to defeat and were only
saved by the use of Paris taxis to rush
6,000 reserve troops to the front line.
On 9th September, General
Helmuth von Moltke, the German
Commander in Chief, ordered General
Karl von Bulow and General
Alexander von Kluck to retreat. The
British and French forces were now able
to cross the Marne.
The Schlieffen Plan had not succeeded.
The German hopes of a swift and decisive
victory had been frustrated. However, the
German Army had not been beaten and
its successful retreat and the building of
trenches between the North Sea to the
Swiss Frontier ended all hope of a short
What actually happened?
Belgium, Britain and France responded to the launching of the Schlieffen Plan in different ways.
The Germans were not expecting any resistance from Belgium, but the Belgian army fought
bravely and managed to delay the German advance. Members of the British Expeditionary Force
(BEF) arrived to help, and the Germans were held up at Mons.
The Belgians later prevented the Germans from taking the French channel ports by flooding their
Britain declared war on Germany in response to the invasion of Belgium. Although the BEF
consisted of only 125, 000 men, they were well trained and equipped, and ready for action within
less than one week. Having helped the Belgians hold the Germans up at Mons, the BEF then
moved to support the French on the River Marne and prevent the Germans from reaching Paris.
Losses were heavy and by December 1914 more than half of the original BEF were dead.
France responded quickly to the German attack by launching an invasion of Alsace and Lorraine,
but this failed. They then switched troops to the defence of Paris in a desperate attempt to hold the
Germans up, which involved transporting troops to the front line in fleets of taxis.
The battle at the Marne was a turning-point; with the help of the remaining members of the BEF
the German advance was not only halted but the Germans were also pushed back about 35 miles.
The British and French then moved to secure the Channel ports.
Why did the Schlieffen Plan fail?
The plan relied upon rapid movement. The resistance of the Belgians and the BEF
prevented this.
Russia mobilized its troops quicker than expected. Within 10 days the Russians had
invaded Germany, which meant that the Germans had to switch troops away from
western Europe to hold up the Russian invasion.
Both sides now had to secure the land that they held. Trenches were dug and machine-
gun posts erected. The first exchanges of the war were over; from now until 1918, neither
side would advance more than 10 miles forward nor backwards from the positions they
now held
The fact that Belgian troops were able to hold up the German advance gave time for the
BEF to arrive. Together they were further able to delay the Germans at Mons, and this
allowed the French to switch their troops from Alsace-Lorraine to defend Paris.
However Liege was defended by a ring of twelve
heavily armed forts built on high ground in the 1880s,
six on each side of the Meuse River, each 3-5km apart,
and some 6-10km from the city itself.  The forts
contained a total of 400 retractable guns, up to 210mm
in size.  To some extent these forts offset the relatively
small force at Belgian General Leman’s disposal - just
70,000 men.
The Germans, under General Emmich with a force of
30,000 men, attacked at night on 5 August, sustaining
heavy losses and making little or no progress, much to
the surprise of the supremely confident German army.
Ludendorfff, rather than continue to attack the forts,
called in the use of zeppelins to drop bombs into the
city and citadel, and personally led 14th Brigade in
between the forts - effectively a gap where the
Belgians had intended to build rifle trenches but had
not actually done so - into the city, forcing the Belgian
garrison there to surrender on 7 August.
Nevertheless, the Germans could not hope to continue
their advance through Belgium without first capturing
the forts.
In order to assist with this the Germans introduced a
weapon which until that point remained unknown to
the Allies, Austrian-built 17-inch howitzers. 
With the significant aid of the howitzers and the Big
Bertha gun (a 420mm siege howitzer) the forts were
finally taken on 16 August, General Leman having to be
carried unconscious out of the besieged forts.
On the following day, 17 August, the German Second
Army, together with First and Third Armies, began to
implement the next stage of the Schlieffen Plan,
embarking upon a wide sweeping wheel movement
through Belgium, forcing the Belgian army back to
Brussels itself was captured without resistance by
General Von Kluck of the First Army on 20 August.
Battles - The Western Front
The Battle of the Frontiers, 1914

The Battle of the Frontiers comprises five

offensives launched under French
Commander-in-Chief Joseph Joffre and
German Chief of Staff Helmuth von Moltke's
initiative during the first month of the war,
August 1914.
The battles - at Mulhouse, Lorraine, the
Ardennes, Charleroi and Mons - were
launched more or less simultaneously, and
marked the collision of both French and
German invasion plans (Plan XVII and the
Schlieffen Plan, respectively), each battle
The Battle of Mulhouse: Opened 7
The Invasion of Lorraine: Opened 14
The Battle of the Ardennes: Opened 21
The Battle of Charleroi: Opened 21
The Battle of Mons: Opened 23 August
The Various Battles Of World War I

Battle of Liege, Opened 5 August 1914

Battle of the Frontiers, Opened 5 August 1914
Battle of Mulhouse, Opened 7 August 1914
Battle of Haelen, Opened 12 August 1914
Invasion of Lorraine, Opened 14 August 1914
Battle of the Ardennes, Opened 21 August
Battle of Charleroi, Opened 21 August 1914
Siege of Namur, Opened 21 August 1914
Battle of Mons, Opened 23 August 1914
Capture of Dinant, Opened 23 August 1914
Siege of Maubeuge, Opened 25 August 1914
Destruction of Louvain, Opened 25 August
Battle of Guise, Opened 29 August 1914
First Battle of the Marne, Opened 6 September 1914
First Battle of the Aisne, Opened 12 September 1914
First Battle of Albert, Opened 25 September 1914
Siege of of Antwerp, Opened 28 September 1914
First Battle of Arras, Opened 1 October 1914
First Battle of Ypres, Opened 14 October 1914
First Battle of Ypres (Second Account), Opened 14
October 1914
Battle of the Yser, Opened 18 October 1914
Raid on Scarborough and Hartlepool, Opened 16 Dec
Battle of Givenchy, Opened 18 December 1914
First Battle of Champagne, Opened 20 December 1914
Battle of Neuve-Chapelle, Opened 10 March 1915
Second Battle of Ypres, Opened 22 April 1915
Battle of Festubert, Opened 15 May 1915
Battle of Loos, Opened 25 September 1915
Battle of Verdun, Opened 21 February 1916
Battles: The Invasion of Lorraine, 1914
One of the Battle of the Frontiers, the
Invasion of Lorraine (also known as the Battle
of Morhange-Sarrebourg) began with the
French First and Second Armies entering the
city on 14 August 1914, despite the failure of
General Paul Pau’s 8 August offensive at the
Battle of Mulhouse, another key target near
the Swiss border, with his ‘Army of Alsace’.
The French First Army, under General Auguste
Dubail, intended to take Sarrebourg, east of
Nancy, a strongly defended town, with
General Noel dr Castelnau’s Second Army
taking Morhange, similarly fortified.  The task
of defending these towns fell to German
Crown Prince Rupprecht, who had overall
command of the German Sixth and General
Josias von Herringen’s Seventh Army.
Rupprecht implemented a strategy of apparently
retreating under the force of the French attack, only to
bounce back in a fierce, cleverly manoeuvred counter-
attack, having lured the French armies into a strong
attack upon a heavily defended position.  As the
French armies advanced they encountered increasingly
stern German opposition, including treacherous
machine gun fire and heavy artillery.
Rupprecht, however, pressed German Army Chief of
Staff Helmuth von Moltke to authorise a more
aggressive strategy, under which the Germans would
mount a counter-attack, the aim being to drive the
French back to Nancy.
With Moltke’s agreement the offensive was launched
on 20 August, whilst de Castelnau’s Second Army
battered Morhange.  Caught by surprise and without
the assistance of an entrenched position, Second Army
was forced to fall back, eventually into France itself.
This in turn obliged General Dubail to retreat his First
Army from Sarrebourg.  Despite the German onslaught
Ferdinand Foch’s XX Corps managed to defend Nancy
Gaps began to appear between the French armies,
prompting Commander-in-Chief Joseph Joffre to
withdraw the Army of Alsace – a bitter blow given the
latter’s recent success in retaking Mulhouse.
Eight days after the French offensive had begun, 22
August, both First and Second Armies were back to the
fortress zones of Belfort, Epinal and Toul.
Diverting from the Schlieffen Plan, Rupprecht’s forces
were reinforced preparatory to an attack against the
two French armies through the Trouee des Charmes, a
natural gap between Epinal and Toul.  However the
French, through the successful use of Reconnaissance
aircraft, were alerted to the German's build-up and so
prepared an adequate defence.  Attacked therefore on
24 August, German gains were minimal, limited to the
acquisition of a small salient into French lines, itself
reduced by heavy French counter-attacks on the
morning of 25 August.
The French line held.  Realistically the
troops gathered for Rupprecht’s
offensive – which comprised 26
divisions of men – would have been
put to far greater use at the
First Battle of the Marne; however
Rupprecht continued fighting until the
end of the month, without success. 
Stalemate and trench warfare ensued.
Battles: The First Battle of the Marne, 1914
The First Battle of the Marne was conducted between 6-
12 September 1914, with the outcome bringing to an
end the war of movement that had dominated the First
World War since the beginning of August.  Instead, with
the German advance brought to a halt, stalemate and
trench warfare ensued.
Having invaded Belgium and north-eastern France, the
German army had reached within 30 miles of Paris. 
Their progress had been rapid, having successfully
beaten back Belgian, French and British forces in
advancing deep into north-eastern France.  Their
advance was in pursuance of the aims of the
Schlieffen Plan, whose primary focus was the swift
defeat of France in the west before turning attention
the Russian forces in the east.
As the German armies neared Paris, the French capital
prepared itself for a siege.  The defending French
forces (Fifth and Sixth Armies) - and the British - were
at the point of exhaustion, having retreated
continuously for 10-12 days under repeated German
attack until, directed by Joseph Joffre, the French
Commander-in-Chief, they reached the south of the
River Marne.
With victory seemingly near, Alexander von Kluck’s
German First Army was instructed to encircle Paris
from the east.  The French government, similarly
expecting the fall of the capital, left Paris for
Joseph Joffre, imperturbable in the face of crisis,
resolved on 4 September to launch a counter-offensive
strike, under the recommendation of the military
governor of Paris, Gallieni, and aided by the British
under Sir John French.
Joffre authorised General Maunoury’s Sixth Army -
comprising 150,000 men - to attack the right flank of
the German First Army in an action beginning on the
morning of 6 September.  In turning to meet the
French attack a 30 mile wide gap appeared in the
German lines between the First and Second Army, the
latter commanded by the cautious General Karl von
Nevertheless, the German forces were close
to achieving a breakthrough against
Maunoury's beleaguered forces between 6-8
September, and were only saved on 7
September by the aid of 6,000 French reserve
infantry troops ferried from paris in streams
of taxies, 600 in all.

The following night, on 8 September, the

aggressive French commander General
Franchet d’Esperey’s Fifth Army launched a
surprise attack against the German Second
Army, serving to further widen the gap
between the German First and Second
Armies.  D'Espery was a recent appointment,
Joffre having given him command of Fifth
Army in place of the dismissed General
Lanrezac, who was deemed too cautious and
wanting in 'offensive spirit'
On 9 September the German armies began a retreat
ordered by the German Chief of Staff
Helmuth von Moltke.  Moltke feared an Allied
breakthrough, plagued by poor communication from
his lines at the Marne.
The retreating armies were pursued by the French and
British, although the pace of the Allied advance was
slow - a mere 12 miles in one day.  The German armies
ceased their withdrawal after 40 miles at a point north
of the River Aisne, where the First and Second Armies
dug in, preparing trenches that were to last for several
In a strategic triumph at the First Battle of the Marne,
which ended on 10 September, the French forces -
assisted by the British - had succeeded in throwing
back the German offensive, recapturing lost ground in
the process.  More importantly, the battle ended any
hopes the Germans had of effectively bringing the war
on the Western Front to an early close.
Casualties at the battle were heavy.  The French
incurred 250,000 losses, and it is believed that the
Germans suffered similar casualties (no official figures
are available).  The British recorded 12,733 casualties
Battles: The Siege of Antwerp, 1914
Battles: The Siege of Antwerp, 1914
Following the fall of the forts at Liege in
Belgium on 16 August 1914, King Albert I
ordered a withdrawal of Belgium's remaining
65,000 troops to Antwerp, another fortress
city (along with Namur).
Together with 80,000 garrison troops,
Antwerp's ring of 48 outer and inner forts
presented formidable opposition to von
Kluck’s German First Army's flank.  Von Kluck
had chosen to bypass Antwerp in the
Germany army's advance through Belgium
and into France.  Nevertheless, the presence
of so many troops at its flank presented a
This danger transpired into sorties conducted from the
forts on 24-25 August and 9 September, designed by
the Belgians to distract the Germans from their attack
upon the British and French at the Battles of Mons and
Charleroi.  Effective to a degree, von Kluck was obliged
to detach four divisions solely to face attacks from
Antwerp.  Following the attack on 9 September
however the German High Command, led by the German
Chief of Staff Helmuth von Moltke in Berlin, determined
to capture the Antwerp forts.

Before this could be done however, action at the Marne

distracted all German attention to their advance upon
Paris, followed after the Marne action by a retreat to
the Aisne.

German General von Boseler was given the task of

capturing Antwerp.  Assigned a force of five divisions of
mostly reserve forces and 173 guns, artillery
bombardment began firing upon the outer south-east
forts on 28 September.  As at Liege and at Namur, the
use of heavy guns such as the powerful Big Bertha (a
420mm siege howitzer), effectively put the forts out of
On 2 October the Germans succeeded in penetrating
two of the city's forts.  Churchill was sent to Antwerp
to provide a first-hand report on the situation there. 
Leaving London that night he spent three days in
trenches and fortifications around the city.  He
reported to Kitchener on 4 October that Belgian
resistance was weakening with morale low.

Receiving a request from the Belgian government for

more assistance, the British dispatched a further 6,000
Royal Navy troops, 2,000 on 4 October and 4,000 on
the following day.  The original division of 22,000
troops were also en route for Ostend.

Landing at Ostend on 6 October the British naval forces

were too late; the Belgian government relocated from
Antwerp to Ostend the same day, with the city itself
evacuated the following day under heavy artillery
bombardment, formerly surrendered by its Military
Governor, General Victor Deguise to the Germans on 10
The division of British troops at Ostend had
not in any event moved towards Antwerp
upon hearing that the French government
had declined to add relieving forces of their
own.  Nevertheless, British intervention had
prolonged the defence of Antwerp for
perhaps five days, giving the British
valuable time for the deployment of troops
in Flanders.
German forces continued to occupy Antwerp
until its liberation in late 1918.  Most
Belgian and Allied forces had however
managed to escape the city west along the
coast, subsequently taking part in the
The Battle of Verdun, 1916
The German siege of Verdun and its ring of
forts, which comprised the longest battle of
the First World War, has its roots in a letter
sent by the German Chief of Staff, Erich von
Falkenhavn, to the Kaiser, Wilheim II, on
Christmas Day 1915.

In his letter to the Kaiser, Falkenhayn

argued that the key to winning the war lay
not on the Eastern Front, against Russia –
whom he believed was on the point of
revolution and subsequent withdrawal from
the war – but on the Western Front.  He
reasoned that if France could be defeated in
a major set-piece battle Britain would in all
likelihood seek terms with Germany, or else
In his letter to Wilhelm Falkenhayn believed that Britain
formed the foundation of the Allied effort ranged
against Germany and that she must be removed from
the war.  To that end he recommended implementation
of a policy of unrestricted submarine warfare against
merchant shipping, a policy directed squarely at
starving Britain.  This combined with a knock-out block
to France would, he believed, bring about a successful
conclusion to hostilities.
In so doing he agreed to switch focus from
the Eastern Front to the Western Front.  This
latter strategy was not without its critics: in
particular Paul von Hindenburg argued that
the opportunity was lost to capture the bulk
of the Russian army.  Ultimately the failure of
Falkenhayn’s recommendations cost him his
Falkenhayn’s choice of Verdun as the focus of
the German offensive was shrewd.  Although
relegated by France to the status of a minor
fortress during the early stages of the war,
France having lost faith in the value of
fortress defences, Verdun maintained a great
psychological hold in the minds of the French
people.  On a practical level the woods
immediately behind Verdun would have
The last fortress town to fall to the Prussians
in the Franco-Prussian war of 1870-71,
Verdun’s fortifications had been significantly
boosted in the 1880s to withstand further
attacks.  In addition its status as an important
fortress since Roman times guaranteed
recognition of the name ‘Verdun’ to most
Frenchmen.  In short, it was of greater value
symbolically than strategically.  Falkenhayn
counted upon this.
Falkenhayn’s stated aim was to “bleed
France white” in its defence of the ancient
fortress town.  The fact that Verdun formed a
French salient into German lines only served
to help Falkenhayn, since it meant that it
was open to attack from three sides at once.
The task of besieging Verdun fell to the
German Fifth Army under Crown Prince
Wilhelm.  He planned to assault the town
from both side of the surrounding Meuse
River, a plan vetoed by Falkenhayn, who,
cautious by nature, feared heavy losses,
ordered the attack to be confined to the east
bank of the river.
In the interim between the planned and actual start
date French Commander-in-Chief Joffre received
intelligence of the imminent attack, hastily deploying
reinforcements to the French Second Army.  Meanwhile
the fortress commander, Lieutenant Colonel Emile
Driant, also a politician and published author, vainly
attempted to improve Verdun’s trench systems in time.

Driant prepared for the onslaught by posting two

battalions, led by himself, at the tip of the Verdun
salient on the east bank of the Meuse River.  He faced
formidable opposition: one million German troops
against 200,000 defenders.

The attack finally began at 07:15 on 21 February,

Crown Prince Wilhelm opening the battle with 1,400
guns packed along the eight-mile front, the guns well
served by good nearby railway facilities.  100,000 shells
poured into Verdun every hour, Wilhelm’s intention
being to kill the majority of the French defenders
before the infantry even started their advance into the
It is arguable that had Wilhelm chosen to attack at this point
the fortress might still have been taken.  Instead, daunted by
the apparently formidable defences, Wilhelm chose to renew
the bombardment.

By the close of the day the German forces had succeeded

only in capturing the French front line trenches, much less
than planned, although Driant himself had been killed during
the battle, and his two battalions demolished.

Wilhelm withdrew his forward infantry in preparation for a

further artillery bombardment, thus taking the sting out of
the momentum that had been generated.  More importantly it
allowed the French defenders to position themselves such
that they were able to enfilade the advancing German troops
from across the river.

Verdun remained in French hands, although the defensive

situation was dire.  A message was sent to French
headquarters on 23 February reporting that Driant had been
lost, as had all company commanders, and that the battalion
had been reduced from 600 to around 180 men.
The following day, 24 February, German troops
succeeded in over-running the French second line of
trenches, forcing the defenders to within 8 kilometres
of Verdun itself.  Nevertheless, two outer forts, Vaux
and Douaumont, continued to hold out.

A French division sent in piecemeal that same day was

dispersed under heavy German artillery fire.  The next
day Douaumont fell to the 24th Brandenburg Infantry
Regiment.  The effect on French morale of the loss of
Douaumont was marked, both upon the remaining
defenders and the reinforcements freshly arrived. 
Popular French sentiment within the country
demanded its recapture: withdrawal from Verdun was
therefore politically impossible.

The French Commander-in-Chief, Joffre, remained

unflappable.  He issued a statement noting that any
commander who gave ground to the advancing
Germans would be court-martialled.  He summarily
dismissed General Langle de Cary, who was responsible
for the defence of Verdun, for deciding to evacuate
Woevre plain and the east bank of the Meuse River.
Pledging to Joffre, “Ils ne passeront pas!” – literally
“They shall not pass!” – Petain telephoned the
commander of the Verdun front line and instructed him
to hold fast.  In a sense Petain’s appointment could
hardly have better-suited Falkenhayn.

His stated aim of the campaign was to bleed the French

army at Verdun.  A quick German victory at Verdun
would hardly meet this criteria, whereas Petain’s
dogged determination to hold out suited his intentions
perfectly.  However he could hardly have determined
just how effective Petain’s defensive strategies turned
out to be.

Petain understood that the defence of Verdun would

result in many French casualties: the nature of the
terrain made this inevitable.  However he was
determined to inflict the maximum damage to the
German invaders in the course of these losses.  Hence
he effectively re-organised French use of artillery,
personally taking commanding of this aspect of the
Petain understood that the defence of Verdun
would result in many French casualties: the
nature of the terrain made this inevitable. 
However he was determined to inflict the
maximum damage to the German invaders in
the course of these losses.  Hence he
effectively re-organised French use of
artillery, personally taking commanding of this
aspect of the defence.
He also took action to ensure that an effective
supply route to Verdun was maintained,
designating a single artery road leading to a
depot 50 miles to the west, Bar-le-Duc, and
ensuring constant access by assigning
columns of troops whose sole duty it was to
maintain clearance of the road and to perform
repairs as necessary.  The road was christened
On 6 March the Germans began a fresh
offensive after receiving fresh artillery
supplies, at first making great progress until
French counter-attacks pushed back the
advancing German infantry.
For the remainder of the month Wilhelm
launched repeated attacks against the French
reinforcements constantly pouring into the
fortress.  Of the 330 infantry regiment of the
French army, 259 eventually fought at Verdun.
Falkenhayn reluctantly committed another
corps of men to an attack up the left bank of
the Meuse River towards a small ridge named
Le Morte-homme (the ‘Dead Man’), a battle
that raged continuously without conclusion.
Meanwhile the casualties were mounting
rapidly on both sides.  The French were
certainly losing huge numbers of men, as were
their German opposition.  By the time the
battle ended almost one million casualties had
Meanwhile the casualties were mounting
rapidly on both sides.  The French were
certainly losing huge numbers of men, as
were their German opposition.  By the time
the battle ended almost one million
casualties had been incurred in roughly
equal numbers on either side.
April 9 saw the third major German offensive
launched, this time on both sides of the
salient.  Again Petain’s defences held, the
attacks and counter-attacks continuing until
the close of May, the German forces inching
ever closer to the remaining forts.  During
this period Petain received a promotion and
was replaced at Verdun by the aggressive
Mort Homme Hill was secured by the Germans on 29
May and finally, on 7 June, Fort Vaux fell.
Situated on the east bank of the Meuse River, the fort
had held out against constant bombardment since the
start of the battle in February.  However, by now out of
reserves of water and the fort itself lying in ruins, its
French defenders could hold out no longer.  With the
capture of the fort Wilhelm offered his congratulations
to the fort commander, Major Raynal, for holding out so
Encouraged by the success in capturing Fort Vaux,
German troops almost succeeded in breaking through
the French line at the close of June and into early July. 
It was at this stage that the latest form of chemical
warfare was unveiled by Germany: phosgene gas, which
acted by forming as hydrochloric acid once inhaled into
the lungs.
Joffre, meanwhile, pressed the British government to
stage a major diversionary offensive elsewhere on the
Western Front to serve as a drain on German
manpower.  Originally scheduled for 1 August, the
Battle of the Somme was brought forward to 1 July
Petain, against Nivelle’s recommendation,
recommended a withdrawal from the western
Meuse line.  Joffre, however, supported Nivelle
in dismissing the suggestion, a decision that
was fortunately vindicated by a sudden drain
upon German resources as a result of a
Russian offensive on the Eastern Front, which
meant that fifteen German divisions had to be
withdrawn from Verdun to aid in the defence
on the east. By this stage the German
Chancellor, Theobald von Bethmann-Hollweg,
was scathing in his condemnation of
Falkenhayn’s lack of success in Verdun, which
was proving as costly in terms of manpower to
Germany as it was to France.  Falkenhayn was
consequently dismissed by the Kaiser and
dispatched to the Transylvanian Front on 29
August to command Ninth Army.  Falkenhayn’s
arch critic, Paul von Hindenburg, replaced him
as Chief of Staff, buoyed by his successes in
A new French commander of the Verdun forts,
Third Army’s General Charles Mangin, was
also appointed, reporting to Nivelle.  Taking
the offensive Mangin managed to retake
Douaumont on 24 October, followed by Fort
Vaux on 2 November.  Following a rest pause,
Mangin renewed his offensive, retaking
ground lost since the start of the German
attack.  Between 15-18 December alone, when
the battle ended, the French captured 11,000
prisoners and with them 115 heavy guns. 
Simply put, Hindenburg saw no point in
continuing Falkenhayn’s pointless attacks.
French casualties during the battle were
estimated at 550,000 with German losses set
at 434,000, half of the total being fatalities. 
The only real effect of the battle was the
irrevocable wounding of both armies.  No
tactical or strategic advantage had been
The Gallipoli Front
Battle At Gallipoli, 1915
By the spring of 1915, combat on the Western
Front had sunk into stalemate. Enemy troops
stared at each other from a line of opposing
trenches that stretched from the English
Channel to the Swiss border. Neither opponent
could outflank its enemy resulting in costly and
unproductive direct attacks on well-fortified
defenses. The war of movement that both sides
had predicted at the beginning of the conflict
had devolved into deadly stagnation.
Allied leaders, including Winston
Churchill and Lord Kitchener, scoured
their maps to find a way around the
impasse. The Dardanelles Strait
leading from the Mediterranean to
Istanbul caught their eye. A successful
attack in this area could open a sea
lane to the Russians through the Black
Sea, provide a base for attacking the
Central Powers through what Churchill
described as the "soft underbelly of
Europe", and divert enemy attention
The Campaign was a fiasco, poorly
planned and badly executed. It began
in February 1915 with an unsuccessful
naval attempt to force a passage up
the Dardanelles. The flotilla retreated
after sustaining heavy damage from
Turkish guns lining both shores and
from mines strewn across the channel
In April, a landing on the Gallipoli Peninsula
attempted to secure the shores and silence
the Turkish guns.
Trouble brewed from the beginning.
Amphibious operations were a new and
unperfected form of warfare leading to poor
communications, troop deployment and
The Turks entrenched themselves on the high
ground pouring artillery and machine gun fire
down upon the hapless Australian, New
Zealand, Irish, French and English troops
below. The battleground soon resembled that
of the Western Front - both sides peering at
each other from fortified trenches, forced to
spill their precious blood in futile frontal
attacks on well defended positions.
The stalemate continued through the fall of
1915 until British forces withdrew at the end
Casualties were high - approximately
252,000 or 52% for the
British/French while the Ottoman
Turks suffered about 300,000
casualties or a rate of 60%. The
failed campaign gained little and
badly tarnished both Churchill's and
Kitchener's reputations.
The Value of the Straits
But why attempt the Straits in the first
place?  The answer lay in the great strategic
value control would give the Entente Powers.
  The Straits linked the Mediterranean Sea
with the Sea of Marmora.  This not only gave
ready access to the Turkish capital
Constantinople and much of the Turkish
Empire's industrial powerhouse, but also
provided a lane to the Black Sea.
Just as importantly, if not more so, access to
the Sea of Marmora was bound to give
Britain and France supply route access to
their eastern ally, Russia.  Therefore it was
quite feasible that should Britain and France
gain the Straits they could succeed in not
only eliminating Turkey from the war, but in
also drawing Greece and Bulgaria into the
The Difficulty in Seizing Control
Control of the Dardanelles Straits was
therefore a prized ambition of the
Entente Powers.  As might be expected
given the huge tactical and strategic
value placed upon the Straits, they
were however heavily defended,
chiefly by natural geography.
To the north they were protected by
the Gallipoli Peninsula; to the south by
the shore of Ottoman Asia.  In addition,
fortresses were well positioned on cliff-
tops overlooking shipping lanes.
Lack of Success on the Western Front
In the meantime both Britain and France were finding
news from the campaign on the Western Front sober
reading.  While much of their time, effort and resources
were consumed by the requirements of the struggle in
France and Flanders both governments gradually came
around to the notion of opening up another front in the
Mediterranean, one that offered possibly better
prospects of success.
In Britain in particular a number of members of the War
Cabinet had long favoured decisive action away from
the stagnation of the Western Front's lines of trench
Churchill took great care in placing such a proposal to
the Cabinet.  He coerced Admiral Sir Sackville Carden -
the commander of British naval forces in the
Mediterranean - into sending him a detailed plan for a
solely naval attack upon the Straits.  Carden obliged
but was by no means personally in favour of such an
Notwithstanding an obvious desire to initiate
any plan likely to bring with it a possibility of
success, Admiral John FISHER’S silence at the
War Cabinet meeting was remarkable.  As
First Sea Lord his naval force was to take
prime responsibility in driving forward
Churchill's strategy.
Given his later violent objections - which
ultimately led to his (and Churchill's)
resignation - his lack of objection in January
was all the more surprising.  It is possible
however that he envisaged any eventual
attack taking the form of a combined
Initial Attacks - 19/25 February 1915
The first attempt upon the 65km-long, 7km-wide
Straits was made on 19 February 1915 by a
considerable number of combined British and French
battleships comprised of the new battleship Queen
Elizabeth, 3 battlecruisers, 16 pre-dreadnought
(including four French vessels), 4 cruisers, 18
destroyers, 6 submarines, 21 trawlers plus the
seaplane carrier Ark Royal.  Overseeing the effort was

Pounding the outer fortresses the British and French

attack proved ineffective in the face of an efficient
Turkish defensive system and poor Allied gunnery,
although greater damage was inflicted than the
bombarding naval forces realised.

A renewed bombardment the following week (following

a pause for adverse weather), on 25 February, was
similarly unsuccessful.  While the outer forts were
themselves seized the Allied force could not effective
silence the Turkish mobile batteries that poured
Failure to Force the Narrows, 18
March 1915
Having paused to consolidate following the
clear failure of February's attempts to batter
the Turkish protective fortresses, a further
naval effort was Briefly launched on 18th
march in an attempt to force through The
Narrows (so-named because just 1,600
heavily-mined metres separated the shore
on either side).
Immediately before the attack's launch
however Carden collapsed from nervous
exhaustion.  He was replaced by Sir John de
Robeck.  The renewed attack proved a heavy
failure, chiefly on account of the presence of
It was increasingly clear that ground
support was required.  A month's pause in
operations was undertaken pending
preparations for Allied landings at Helles
and Anzac Cove.
Some 18,000 French colonial troops were
despatched to the region on 10 March -
prior to the attempt on The Narrows - and
on 12 March Lord Kitchener appointed Ian
Hamiliton (a former protégé) as regional
Commander-in-Chief responsible henceforth
for the success of the expedition,
accompanied by a force of 75,000
comprised largely of untested Australian
and New Zealand troops
Preparations for a Ground Offensive
Hamilton, unsure of the appropriate
strategy, sought advice from de Robeck and
agreed on 27 March to a straightforward
invasion of the Gallipoli Peninsula.
Preparations for the Allied landings were not
auspicious, and were distinguished by
hesitation, indecision and confusion. 
Meanwhile Turkish defences were further
boosted by the arrival of ground forces
around the Straits.  As a measure of the
extent of German influence over Turkish
policy regional command was placed in the
hands of Limon von Sanders.
Liman brought with him approximately
84,000 troops which he dispersed to
strategic locations around Gallipoli.  As it
transpired however Liman's careful
positioning of his men was found wanting
once Hamilton actually launched his attack
on the southern peninsula: Hamilton chose
to attack where the Turkish concentration
was as its weakest.
Landings at Helles and Anzac Cove, 25
April 1915
The relative weakness of Turkish strength
on the southern peninsula the whole
operation might well have been thrown
back into the sea.

As it was heavy casualties were incurred at

those locations where Turkish defenders
were available in any force.  Even so two
beachheads were established by Hamilton's
force, at Helles on Gallipoli's southernmost
tip, and further up the coast near Gaba
Tepe - the latter soon to be renamed Anzac
Cove in honour of the Australian and New
Zealand corps who bore the brunt of
Landings at Suvla Bay, 6 August 1915
It was clear that operations in
Gallipoli were going badly.  The
newly formed Dardanelles
Committee in London met on 7
June to consider what steps next
to take.  Agreement was reached
to send additional forces to
Hamilton, greatly reinforcing the
Allied presence on the peninsula
by some three divisions - a
decision made by Kitchener in the
face of fierce opposition from
hard-pressed commanders on the
Western Front.
Unfortunately for the Allies their
Turkish opponents were bringing
forward additional reserves at a
greater pace than they
themselves could manage, with
forces despatched from both
Palestine and Caucasian Fronts.
Such an injection of additional Allied
resources signalled another major offensive. 
When put into effect on 6th August 1915 it
took the form of a three-pronged attack: a
diversionary action at Helles; movement
northward from Anzac Cove towards Sari
Bairs; and the centrepiece of the offensive, a
landing in force at Suvla Bay by freshly
arrived divisions operating under General Sir
Frederick Stopford.  The idea was for
Stopford's forces to link with the troops at
Anzac Cove and make a clean sweep across
the Gallipoli peninsula.
In the interim Hunter-Weston pressed on with
further attacks directed towards Achi Baba in
Helles.  These were uniformly unsuccessful,
maintaining Hunter-Weston's particular record
To Hamilton's credit the landings at
Suvla Bay achieved total surprise and
Stopford made initial progress
unopposed.  However the wider
offensive rapidly lost momentum by 10
August as local command indecision -
Stopford was particularly at fault - and
lack of firm decision from Hamilton's
headquarters took their melancholy
toll, although fighting continued at Sari
Bair until 12 August.
The possibility of further reinforcements to
the region seemingly ruled out, Hamilton
received word on 11 October 1915 of a
proposal to evacuate the peninsula.  He
responded in anger by estimating that
casualties of such an evacuation would run at
up to 50%: a startlingly high figure.
The tide was clearly moving against
Hamilton.  His belief in what was widely
viewed as an unacceptable casualty rate in
the event of evacuation resulted in his
removal as Commander-in-Chief and recall to
London at a meeting of the Dardanelles
Committee on 14 October.
Hamilton was replaced by Sir Charles Monro. Monro
lost no time in touring Helles, Suvla Bay and Anzac
Cove upon his arrival on the peninsula on 28 October. 
His recommendation was prompt: evacuation.  This did
not however meet with Kitchener's approval.  He
travelled to the region to see the state of affairs for
The British government, having prevaricated for
several weeks, finally sanctioned an evacuation on 7
December.  Unfortunately by this stage a heavy
blizzard had set in making such an operation
hazardous.  Nevertheless the evacuation of 105,000
men and 300 guns from Anzac Cove and Suvla Bay was
successfully conducted from 10-20 December 1915. 
The evacuation of Helles was conducted - comprising
35,000 men - from late December until 9 January 1916.
The evacuation operation was easily the most
successful element of the entire campaign, with
casualty figures significantly lower than Hamilton had
predicted (official figures quote just three casualties). 
Painstaking efforts had been made to deceive the
100,000 watching Turkish troops into believing that
the movement of Allied forces did not constitute a
The War in the Air
Aircraft technology was little over a decade
old when Archduke Franz Ferdinand’s
assassination in late June 1914 ultimately
resulted in the outbreak of 'The Great War' a
month later.
Initially deemed of little use to the armed
services other than in a reconnaissance role,
aircraft development exploded during
wartime (all too often literally).  For example,
France had fewer than 140 aircraft when her
war against Germany began; four years later
that number had ballooned to approximately
This section of the website examines the role
of the aircraft and associated technologies
during the First World War, viewed from all
sides.  In addition to an exploration of aircraft
innovations - such as deflector and
interrupter gear - the planes themselves are
When war broke out the number of aircraft on all sides and
all fronts was very small. France, for example, had less
than 140 aircraft at the start of the war. By the end of the
war she fielded 4,500 aircraft, more than any other
protagonist. While this may seem an impressive increase,
it does not give a true indication of the amount of aircraft
involved. During the war France produced no less than
68,000 aircraft. 52,000 of them were lost in battle, a
horrendous loss rate of 77%.
The period between 1914 and 1918 saw not only
tremendous production, but also tremendous development
in aircraft technology.
A typical British aircraft at the outbreak of the war was the
general purpose BE2c, with a top speed of 116 km/h (72
mph). Powered by a 90 hp engine, it could remain aloft for
over three hours. By the end of the war aircraft were
designed for specific tasks. Built for speed and
maneuverability, the SE5a fighter of 1917 was powered by a
200 hp engine and had a top speed of 222 km/h (138 mph).
Britain's most famous bomber, the Handley-Page O/400,
could carry a bomb load of 900kg (2000 lb) at a top speed of
156 km/h (97mph) for flights lasting eight hours. It was
powered by two 360 hp engines.
Not only did aircraft become faster, more
manoeuvrable and more powerful, but a number of
technologies that were common at the start of the war
had almost disappeared by the end of it.  Many of the
aircraft in 1914 were of "pusher" layout.  This is the
same configuration that the Wright brothers used,
where the propeller faced backwards and pushed the
aircraft forward.
The alternative layout, where the propeller faces
forwards and pulls the aircraft, was called a "tractor"
design.  It provided better performance, but in 1914
visibility was deemed more important than speed. 
World War One marked the end of pusher aircraft.
The rapid pace of technological innovation
was matched by a rapid change in the uses to
which aircraft were put.  If in 1914 there were
few generals who viewed aircraft as anything
more than a tool for observation and
reconnaissance (and many of them had great
reservation even to that use) by the end of
the war both sides were integrating aircraft as
a key part of their planned strategies.
While the plane did not play the decisive roll
that it was to play in later conflicts, the First
World War proved their capabilities.  It was
during this period that the key tasks that
aircraft could perform were discovered,
experimented with, and refined: observation
and reconnaissance, tactical and strategic
bombing, ground attack, and naval warfare. 
The War in the Air - Bombers
Fighter aircraft are the most aggressive
aircraft in war, but their role is essentially
defensive: to protect ones own airspace, or to
protect ones own aircraft when they enter
enemy airspace.  The aircraft that carry out
the offensive policies of a nation are the
Strategic bombing is aimed at reducing an
enemy's capacity to make war – targets
typically include factories, power stations and
dockyards.  The Italians and British, and to a
lesser extent the French, carried out such
bombing campaigns.  The Germans attempted
to destroy the British capacity to make war by
sowing panic and dissent among the civilian
population.  Strategic bombing calls for long
range aircraft, as often the target is well
Weapons of War
However no history of the war
would be complete without an
overview of the weapons of war, in
all their varying forms.  Thus this
area of the site provides summary
information of the tools by which
the armies conducted war, and
include many of the innovations
war always brings to the
development of weaponry.
Veterans of the Great War, when
interviewed, tended to play down the impact
of the bayonet during the war.  Many
remarked (partly in jest) that the bayonet
was used primarily as a splendid means of
toasting bread, and for opening cans, to
scrape mud off uniforms, poking a trench
brazier or even to assist in the preparation of
communal latrines.
It therefore begs the question: was the
bayonet of any real significance during the
war, and if not why was it carried by virtually
all infantrymen in all armies (and most
especially by the usually technologically
advanced German army)?
Simple Design
The Lusitania
The Lusitania sailed on May 1st 1915 from New
York bound for Liverpool. The sinking of the
Lusitania was thought to have made a major
impact on America and World War One, but
America did not join the war for another two
As the Lusitania had sailed from New York, she
had on board American civilians and in 1915
America was neutral in WWI.
As she left New York, the dock was crowded
with news reporters as New York newspapers
had carried an advert in them paid for by the
German Embassy that any ship that sailed into
the "European War Zone" was a potential
target for German submarines. Some
newspapers printed the warning directly next
to Cunard's list of departure dates.
Regardless of this, the Cunard liner was
packed with passengers. Many had received an
anonymous telegram advising them not to
travel but the ship was billed by Cunard as the
"fastest and largest steamer now in the
Atlantic service" and it was generally believed
that the Lusitania had the power to outpace
any ship above or below the water.
Many of the passengers came to the simple
conclusion that a luxury liner simply was not a
legitimate target of the Germans as it had no
military value.
Any passenger who had doubts was given
further confidence when many famous and rich
people boarded.
It was assumed that the likes of multi-
millionaire Alfred Vanderbilt and wine
merchant George "Champagne King" Kessler
and the like would have had access to
As the 32,000 ton luxury liner left New York, the passengers
turned their attention to what the liner had to offer them as
fee paying customers. One female passenger said:

I don't think we thought of war. It was too beautiful a

passage to think of anything like war."

The Lusitania crossed the half-way point of her journey at night

on May 4th. Around this time, the U-boat U20 appeared off the
Irish coast off the Old Head of Kinsdale. U20 was captained by
Kapitän-leutnant Schwieger.
In all, there were about 15 German U boats in the "European
War Zone" - the zone that the Lusitania was about to move
into. U20 had left its base at Emden on April 31st 1915.
In its journey to the Atlantic it had attacked a Danish merchant
ship but let it go once its Danish flag had been spotted.
May 6th brought better targets for U20. Medium-sized liners
called the 'Candidate' and the 'Centurion' were both attacked
and sunk. Neither sinking led to any casualties - though
Schwieger had not given a warning to either ship.
At 19.50 on May 6th, the Lusitania received the first of a
number of warnings from the Admiralty about U-boat activity
off the south coast of Ireland. The crew went through a
number of safety drills and some watertight bulkheads were
closed. But the night passed without further incident.
The next day, May 7th, the Lusitania came into sight of
the Irish coast. The ship's captain, Captain Turner,
became concerned as he could see no other ship ahead
of him - more especially, he was concerned that he
could see no protective naval ships.
It was as if all other ships had cleared the waters as a
result of the Admiralty's warning.
At 13.40 on May 7th, Turner could see the Old Head of
Kinsdale - a well known sighting for any experienced
sailor in the region. At around the same time, the
Lusitania was spotted by U20. The first torpedo was
fired at 14.09. At 14.10, Schwieger noted in his log:

"Shot hits starboard side right behind bridge. An

unusually heavy detonation follows with a
strong explosion cloud..." Schwieger noted
"great confusion on board... they must have lost
their heads."
The Lusitanian took just eighteen
minutes to sink. The speed and the
angle of sinking made it extremely
difficult to launch the life boats and
the first one that did get into the
water spilled its occupants into the
1,153 passengers and crew drowned.
128 of them were Americans. There
was understandable anger
throughout America and Great
Britain. But some questions remained
unanswered by those who
Why did the liner only take 18 minutes to

The log of U20 stated clearly that the

submarine had only fired one torpedo and
Schwieger stated that this was the case. His
log also noted that the torpedo caused an
unusually large explosion.
why was a second explosion seen if no second
torpedo was fired?  This second explosion
presumably speeded up the whole process of
the Lusitania sinking.
with such a high profile ship crossing the
Atlantic and after warnings from the Germans
and the Admiralty, why were there no British
naval boats in the vicinity to protect the
It is thought that a second explosion occurred
because the Lusitania was carrying something
more than a liner should have been carrying.
In the hold of the Lusitania were 4,200 cases
of small arms ammunition - an insignificant
quantity when compared to the millions of
bullets being used in each battle on the
Western Front. However, by carrying
ammunition, the Lusitania was carrying war
contraband and she was therefore a
legitimate target for the German U boat fleet
in the Atlantic.
The British propaganda machine went into
overdrive condemning the sinking as an act of
piracy. The "Times" referred to the sinking by
condemning those who doubted German
"the hideous policy of
indiscriminate brutality which has
placed the German race outside of
the pale. The only way to restore
peace in the world, and to shatter
the brutal menace, is to carry the
war throughout the length and
breadth of Germany. Unless Berlin
is entered, all the blood which has
been shed will have flowed in
The neutrality of the United States had been seriously
imperiled after the sinking of the Lusitania(1915).
At the end of 1916, Germany, whose surface fleet had
been bottled up since the indecisive battle of Jutland
announced that it would begin unrestricted submarine
warfare in an effort to break British control of the seas.
In protest the United States broke off relations with
Germany (Feb., 1917), and on Apr. 6 it entered the war.
American participation meant that the Allies now had
at their command almost unlimited industrial and
manpower resources, which were to be decisive in
winning the war.
It also served from the start to lift Allied morale, and
the insistence of President Woodrow Wilson on a “war
to make the world safe for democracy” was to weaken
the Central Powers by encouraging revolutionary
groups at home.
In 1918, an arm of the American government in
order to assure continued public support for the
war effort published the Official Reasons why
American chose to enter the World War.
The organization responsible for distributing
this information was called the Committee for
Public Information which played a number of
roles for the American government including
serving as a propaganda ministry.
Below is a clearly states list of reasons for
America declaring war overlain with some florid
language of the propagandist. Nevertheless,
this clearly summarizes what the citizenry told
about why their nation was fighting a war.
The renewal by Germany of her submarine warfare.

Imperial Germany was running amuck as an international


Prussian Militancy and autocracy let loose in the world

disturbed the balance of power and threatened to destroy
the international equilibrium.

The conflict [had gradually shaped] into a war between the

democratic nations on one hand and autocratic on the

[America's] tradition of isolation had grown out warn and

could no longer be maintained in the age of growing

Because of the menace to the Monroe Doctrine and to

[America's] independence.