World War I (often abbreviated as WWI or WW1, also known as the First World War and the Great War) was a global conflict lasting from 1914 to 1918, involving most of the world's nations including all of the great powers, eventually forming two opposing military alliances, the Allies and the Central Powers.
Prior to World War II, the First World War was seen as one of the most devastating conflicts in world history as over nine million combatants and seven million civilians died as a result of the war, due to the belligerents' technological and industrial sophistication, and the tactical stalemate caused by grueling trench warfare. As such, many people at the time dubbed the conflict as "the war to end all wars". While warfare would continue, the aftermath of World War I paved the way for both political and military change.
- 1 Background
- 2 Prelude
- 3 Western Front
- 3.1 Battle of Heligoland Bight
- 3.2 German airstrikes on London
- 3.3 Battle of Verdun
- 3.4 Storming of Fort Vaux
- 3.5 Battle of the Somme
- 3.6 Clash above the Alps
- 3.7 Bloody April
- 3.8 Battle of Passchendaele
- 3.9 Battle of La Malmaison
- 3.10 Attack on the Butte-de-Tahure Region
- 3.11 Battle of Saint Quentin
- 3.12 The Raid at Zeebrugge Port
- 3.13 Second Battle of the Marne
- 3.14 Battle of Amiens
- 3.15 Meuse-Argonne Offensive
- 3.16 Second Battle of Cambrai
- 3.17 Battle of the Selle
- 4 Eastern Front
- 5 Italian Front
- 6 Middle Eastern Theater
During the 19th century, the major European powers went to great lengths to maintain a balance of power, which resulted in the existence of both political and military alliances.
See also: A European Powder Keg (Codex Entry)
The situation in Europe before the war was uneasy. Imperialism, militarism, and nationalism are at high points, and an arms race between the great empires of Europe drove militarization to never-before-seen heights. Unresolved territorial conflicts created international tension, and multiple regional conflicts saw the break down of diplomatic relationships. Just before the outbreak of the war, much of Europe had allied themselves into two power camps, the Triple Entente and the Triple Alliance.
A trigger for a war was the assassination of Austro-Hungarian Archduke Ferdinand in Sarajevo at June 28, 1914, by Serbian nationalist Gavrilo Princip. The assassination brought Austria-Hungary to declare war on Serbia, and the conflict quickly escalated into most of Europe's Great Powers declaring war on each other. World War I became the war between the greatest empires in the world.
August 28, 1914
See also: Heligoland Bight (Codex Entry)
The Battle of Heligoland Bight was the first naval battle of World War I between British Marines and German Army, with the British launching an attack against an German patrol. The battle involved aircraft, airships, and small boats, in addition to the mainline dreadnoughts and destroyers. The battle ended with a British victory, sinking and damaging many German ships.
As an act of all-out war, the German Air Force performed many bombing raids on London, with the main goal of spreading chaos and terror among the civilian populace. At the beginning, the Germans used Zeppelins, but in 1917 they started replacing the large, slow moving airships with faster and harder to hit Gotha G.IV bombers.
February 21 - December 18, 1916
The Battle of Verdun was the longest and one of the deadliest battles ever fought on the Western Front. The German Army attacked the fortified region of Verdun in an attempt to rapidly capture Meuse Heights, thus gaining an advantage over the city of Verdun itself and drawing the offensive-orientated French into an attritional battle against their own defenses. Due to heavy French resistance, German advancement slowed down significantly a few days into the battle as both sides experienced heavy casualties. The battle ended with French victory, but the gruelling fight had taken a toll on both sides, with several hundred thousands of casualties.
June 1 - 8, 1916
See also: Fort De Vaux (Codex Entry)
As the German Army advanced on Verdun, Fort de Vaux posed a threat to their left flank. The fort was constantly bombed by Germany since the Battle of Verdun began and a final assault began on 1 June. After a valiant defense by the French troops, the battle ended with their surrender on June 7 after their water had ran out. The fort would not be recaptured by French forces until November.
July 1 - November 18, 1916
See also: River Somme (Codex Entry)
The Battle of the Somme was part of the Allies' plan for combined offensives against the Central Powers in both the west and east in the Summer of 1916, while also relieving pressure on the French at Verdun. It would prove to be one of the largest and bloodiest battles of the war, with the causalities from the British side standing at around 57,470 and 19,240 killed on the first day. The Battle of the Somme would display the first usage of tanks in battle, as the British utilized the Mark I Tank.
See also: Razor's Edge (Codex Entry)
See also: Bloody April (Codex Entry)
In April 1917, Franco-British forces launched the Nivelle Offensive, named after and led by French General Robert Nivelle, one part of which was the Battle of Arras. In the Battle of Arras, the Royal Flying Corps has been involved in an arms race with the Luftstreitkräfte, the German Air Force. The battle was a disaster for the RFC, as the German technological and tactical superiority in the air proved difficult to counter. Undeterred, the British continue to provide aerial recon and artillery spotting duties in support of the ground offensive, which ultimately led to the German defeat in the battle.
July 31 - November 10, 1917
See also: Passchendaele (Codex Entry)
The Third Battle of Ypres also known as Battle of Passchendaele was launched by British Army to attack Imperial German Army to take control of city of Ypres. The battle has since become infamous for the extreme conditions such as torrential rain, rivers of mud, burning forests and the liberal use of poison gas, which quickly brought the offensive to a standstill. The British captured the town of Passchendaele on the 6th of November, with the town by then being totally obliterated.
October 23 - 27, 1917
See also: Battle of Malmaison (Codex Entry)
The main component of the April 1917 Nivelle Offensive was the Second Battle of the Aisne, a French assault on German positions on the strategically important ridge of Chemin des Dames. However, the offensive was a dismal failure, with incredibly high French losses while failing to achieve the objective. Months later, on the night of October 23, French forces focused an assault on the Chemin des Dames, advancing with the help of tanks and a creeping artillery barrage. On October 27, French forces captured the village and fort of La Malmaison and took control of the Chemin des Dames.
See also: Champagne-Ardenne (Codex Entry)
Later in 1917, the region of Butte-de-Tahure, Marne, controlled by the Germans, was invaded by the French in order to gain back land. As the battle comes to life, the fortified village of Tahure is bombarded by French artillery, who would eventually take back the region. Tahure, completely devastated in the battle, is one of dozens of French villages lost to the war.
March 21 - 23, 1918
The stalemate on the Western Front broke in 1918, when Germany launched the Spring Offensive, also known as Kaiserschlacht (The Emperor's Battle in German). As the start of the opening offensive Operation Michael, the German Army, led by Erich Ludendorff, launched a rapid attack near the commune of Saint Quentin. The use of innovative new artillery and infantry tactics took the enemy by surprise, and the German Army managed to break through the Allied lines, pushing towards the city of Amiens, an important Allied railway and communications center. However, the Allies managed to halt the German forces just east of Amiens, and by April, the operation was terminated.
April 23, 1918
See also: Zeebrugge (Codex Entry)
In April 1918, the British Royal Navy aimed to cripple the Imperial German Navy by attacking the Bruges-Zeebrugge Port, however, sheltering of U-boats in concrete pens would make any bombardment of the port ineffective. Therefore, on the midnight of 23 April, the ships of HMS Vindictive, Thetis, Intrepid, and Iphegenia, alongside submarines of British Navy made a daring raid. As Royal Marines were landed by Vindictive on the mole itself, three blockships were sunk near the canal mouth, while submarines destroyed the rail viaduct cutting off German reinforcements. While classified as a success by the British, it was a strategic failure as the canal remained open to U-boat traffic. Casualties in this battle were relatively low, with 8 Germans killed, 16 Germans wounded, and an estimated 200 British deaths.
Second Battle of the Marne
July 15 – August 6, 1918
See also: Beginning of the End (Codex Entry)
See also: Soissons (Codex Entry)
- Battle of Soissons - The initial offensive from the Germans failed to break through the lines. On 18 July, the allies launched a major counteroffensive, consisting of multiple divisions of the French Army supported by a large amount of tanks and a few American divisions, fought in the area surrounding the city of Soissons. The offensive ended as a decisive allied victory.
See also: Rupture (Codex Entry)
- Aisne River - By August, the German forces had been pushed back to a line running along rivers Aisne and Vesle. Continued Allied offensives attempted to cross the rivers, and multiple locations around the rivers saw fierce engagements. Specifically, in the area around Fismes and Fismette, the area would change hands about five times. In the end, the area would fall under allied control for the remainder of the conflict.
August 8 - 12, 1918
See also: Villers-Bretonneux (Codex Entry)
During the Spring Offensive, Germany had advanced the lines to the east of Amiens. With the support of tanks, Imperial soldiers attempted to penetrate the line further and reach Amiens, but they were stopped by the Allied forces. In August, after the success of the Battle of Soissons, the Allies launched a successful offensive against German forces in the region, and this victory was the beginning of a major Allied offensive known as the Hundred Days Offensive.
September 26 - November 11, 1918
See also: Le Château (Codex Entry)
- Ballroom Blitz - During World War I many châteaus (castles) were captured by Germans and used by high-ranking officers as residences. One of these buildings saw a short battle between Germans and Americans as they advanced towards Sedan, which would fall under allied control.
See also: Into Argonne Forest (Codex Entry)
- Argonne Forest - During the second phase of offensive, American troops broke through the Hindenburg Line and went into Argonne Forest. It was a labyrinth of German trenches, bunkers and MG nests. Many young Americans died, but finally the battle resulted in US victory. Due to heavy casualties, this battle is also known as The Hell of Argonne.
October 8 - 10, 1918
See also: Towards Cambrai (Codex Entry)
In 1918, during the Hundred Days Offensive, the Allied forces began another armored offensive with over 320 tanks on the city of Cambrai. After the controversial First Battle of Cambrai in 1917 (also the first and the greatest tank battle in World War I), the tank tactics had developed significantly. Combined with exhausted German defenders, the battle was an overwhelming success for the Allied forces.
October 17 - 25, 1918
See also: Battle of the Selle (Codex Entry)
Another Allied attack in the Hundred Days Offensive, the battle involved the Allies assaulting the retreating German forces near Le Cateau after the Second Battle of Cambrai, who had taken positions near the Selle river. The battle saw major combat over the Le Cateau-Wassigny Railway and ended with Allied victory.
See also: Eastern Front (Codex Entry)
Winter of 1914/1915
As the new year dawns, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, now at war with Russia, aims to recapture areas lost to the Russians in the Battle of Galicia in September 1914. An encounter in the treacherous Łupków Pass brought forth a bitter contest struggle for the area that would continue for almost the remainder of the war.
June 4 - September 20, 1916
Aiming to push the Hapsburg forces of the Austro-Hungarian Empire back and regain the momentum on the field, General Aleksei Brusilov spearheaded a tactical offensive on the 4th of June 1916. Coinciding with Allied efforts at Verdun and the Somme, the Brusilov Offensive ranks as the bloodiest battle of World War I, and one of the deadliest in world history.
- A Contested Galicia - The plains of Galicia were a highly contested area for the Austro-Hungarian and Russian Empires. In 1916, Russian forces launched an audacious offensive on the plains of Galicia, pushing the unprepared Austro-Hungarians back, giving Russia once again the plains.
- Attack on Kolomyia - Subsequently, the Russians launched an offensive on the Samara River, to the Hapsburg-controlled town of Kolomyia on the Carpathian mountains. The offensive continued until German reinforcements came to the aid of the Austro-Hungarians, which resulted in the battle grounding to a halt.
October 12 - 20, 1917
See also: Operation Albion (Codex Entry)
The German Empire launched an amphibious operation to occupy the West Estonian Islands, which was part of the Russian Republic as an autonomous governate of Estonia. After two failed attempts to land troops, the island of Hiiumaa was eventually captured on 19 September. This sucessful German operation resulted in large numbers of captured prisoners and guns. In this offensive, the Zeppelin was utilized alongside the Dreadnought.
October 24 - November 19, 1917
See also: Caporetto (Codex Entry)
The Isonzo River had been widely contested since 1915, with a total of eleven engagements between the Italian Army and the Austro-Hungarian forces. However, in the battle of Caporetto on 24 October, the twelfth sequential battle over the river crossing, the Austro-Hungarian Empire deployed poison gas via devices similar to British Livens projectors, killing approximately 600. An Austro-Hungarian offensive followed, using specialized tactics mimicking the German stormtroopers. This combination attack routed the Italians, with this twelfth engagements above the Isonzo ending in a massive defeat. The Italians were able to reinforce a position on the Piave, far beyond their original lines on the Isonzo.
Battle of Vittorio Veneto
October 24 – November 4, 1918
Since 1915, the Italian Front was fought almost entirely between the Austro-Hungarian Empire and the Kingdom of Italy. The Battle of Vittorio Veneto, which occurred on the anniversary of Italy's defeat in the Twelfth Battle of the Isonzo River, was the final offensive of the Italian Front and concluded the Italian Front with a decisive Italian victory.
See also: Vittorio Veneto (Codex Entry)
- Third Battle of Monte Grappa - The Battle of Monte Grappa was a series of three battles, fought between Italy and Austria-Hungary. The main reason of these battles was a plan to flank the Italian Piave front. The first battle occurred in 1917 and it brought the Austrian summer offensive to a halt. The next two battles were fought in 1918 and resulted in Italian victory.
See also: The Adriatic (Codex Entry)
- Adriatic Coast - The 3rd Italian Army was responsible for advancing the front near the Adriatic Coast. The rapid advance of the 3rd army to the Tagliamento river along the Adriatic kept pressure on the Austro-Hungarians, who were losing battles along the entire front. On November 4th, the Austro-Hungarian empire signed an armistice, ending the war on the Italian front.
Middle Eastern Theater
See also: Oil of Empires (Codex Entry)
The main reason of conflict between the British and Ottoman Empires was domination over the Suez Canal and Middle Eastern oilfields, which were the most important strategic objects in the region - the former being an important shipping route between the Mediterranean and the Horn of Africa, and the latter essential for fuelling those ships and the modern war machine in general.
November 6 - 8, 1914
In the first battle in the Middle Eastern theatre of World War I, British and Indian troops landed in the cape of Al-Faw to take control over the Ottoman defenses at Fao Fortress. With the support of dreadnoughts and artillery, British troops captured the fort and took 300 prisoners, while also seizing many artillery guns.
January 26 - February 4, 1915
See also: Vein of the Empire (Codex Entry)
At the beginning of 1915, the German-led Ottoman Army performed a bold raid on the Suez Canal, hoping to sever the vital artery supplying British interests in the subcontinent. Hoping to surprise the defenders, the Ottoman raiding force crossed the inhospitable Sinai Peninsula mostly on foot, but were spotted before reaching the canal. Opting to attack anyway, the raid failed due to strongly held defenses.
February 17, 1915 - January 9, 1916
With the war on the Western Front stagnating, the British planned to deprive Germany of allies by knocking the Ottoman Empire out of the war via a massive invasion of its home territories. To achieve this, the Britain had to capture Gallipoli peninsula before marching on to Constantinople. The Gallipoli battle was the greatest landing operation of World War I, but this front also became bogged in the face of staunch Ottoman defenses. After six months of heavy casualties, the Allies withdrew their forces back to Egypt. The Battle of Gallipoli was a landmark event for Australians and New Zealanders, as it was the first time they had fought under their own respective flags.
See also: Cape Helles (Codex Entry)
- Allied landing at Cape Helles - The British-led landing at V-Beach on the Gallipoli peninsula, preceded by the beaching of the SS River Clyde, is opposed by Ottoman defenders under the lead of Colonel Kemal. After severe losses, the allies were eventually able to establish a beachhead.
See also: Achi Baba (Codex Entry)
- Allied attempts to secure Achi Baba - The Achi Baba heights was the original objective of the British troops. Despite repeated attacks, the heights never fell from the hands of Ottoman Army, with the cost of high causalities on both sides. The British launched a final attempt to take Achi Baba in late 1915, resulting in an Ottoman defensive victory.
January 28, 1915 - October 30, 1918
See also: Forgotten Deserts (Codex Entry)
After an unsuccessful raid on the Suez Canal, Ottoman forces were pushed into Sinai Desert. Many battles occurred, such as battles of Gaza, Romani and Maghdaba. In 1918, the British Empire and its allies finally bested the Ottoman Empire, winning control of the Middle-Eastern front.
June 1916 – October 1918
In 1915, an Arab-nationalist movement began within the Ottoman Empire. Sharif Hussein bin Ali, Emir of Mecca, had negotiated with the British Empire to lead an uprising and secure an independent Arab state. In June 1916, Hussein declared himself the King of the Kingdom of Hejaz and began a rebellion against the Ottoman Empire. T. E. Lawrence, better known as the Lawrence of Arabia, was sent to Hejaz as a British liaison and to lead the revolt, showing strong skills as a strategist and securing multiple victories.