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The War was also known as THE FIRST WORLD WAR, THE
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.
Napoleon Bonaparte and
the Rise of Nationalist
Colonial Expansion
Anglo-German Naval
Tension in the Balkans
Ascension of Kaiser
Wilhelm II
Web of alliances
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.
pan-Slavic nationalism was one of the few causes that Russia’s
ruling classes supported (religious, cultural similarities) – Russia
was horribly disunited in the early 1900s
Since gaining independence from Ottomans (1886), Serbia
desired to unite the Slavic peoples in a “greater Slavia”
(Yugoslavia) – many Slavs lived inside the Austro-Hungarian
Empire. Russian support of these peoples were the real menace to
the Hapsburgs.
A series of crises and small wars rocked the Balkans in 1908, 1912
and 1913 – in each case, Russia backed down from supporting the
Austria-Hungary annexed Bosnia in 1908 to prevent nationalist
uprisings on its borders.
“Europe today is a powder keg and the leaders are like
men smoking in an arsenal…A single spark will set off an
explosion that will consume us all…I cannot tell you when
that explosion will occur, but I can tell you where…Some
damned foolish thing in the Balkans will set it off.”
-Otto von Bismarck, 1890s
“The Balkan crisis of 1914 proved fatal because two others
had gone before it, leaving feelings of exasperation in
Austria, desperation in Serbia, and humiliation in Russia.”
-- Palmer, Colton and Kramer
movements in
the Balkans
were a threat to
the stability of
both AustriaHungary and
the Ottoman
The collapse of Ottoman rule in the Balkans was viewed from Moscow as an
opportunity to expand south into the Mediterranean.
This “Eastern Question” had dominated European diplomacy since the Crimean
War – if not the Ottomans to rule, then who?
…What Greece had done in the Peloponnese in the 1820s, what
Belgium had done in Flanders in the 1830s, what Piedmont had done in
Italy in the 1850s and what Prussia had done in Germany in the 1860s –
that was what the Serbs wanted to do in the Balkans in the 1900s: to
extend their territory in the name of “South Slav” [Yugoslavia]
nationalism. The success or failure of small states to achieve
independence or enlargement always hinged, however, on the
constellation of great power politics.
– Niall Ferguson, The Pity of War (1999).
Otto von Bismarck
His Strategies towards
building a better
Kaiser Wilhelm II
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 markets.
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
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
 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 Allies.
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
The Dual Alliance
Germany and Austria-Hungary
made an alliance to protect
themselves from Russia
Austro-Serbian Alliance
The Triple Alliance
Austria-Hungary made an
alliance with Serbia to stop
Russia gaining control of
Germany and AustriaHungary made an alliance with
Italy to stop Italy from taking
sides with Russia
Triple Entente (no separate
Franco-Russian Alliance
Russia formed an alliance
with France to protect herself
against Germany and AustriaHungary
Britain, Russia and France
agreed not to sign for peace
Triple Entente
This was made between
Russia, France and Britain to
counter the increasing threat
from Germany.
Anglo-Russian Entente
This was an agreement
between Britain and Russia
Entente Cordiale
This was an agreement, but
not a formal alliance, between
France and Britain.
 In
1879 Germany and Austria- Hungary 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.
This political cartoon shows
the German perspective of
the Anglo-French entente.
John Bull (Britain) is shown
being escorted away from a
possible friendship with
Germany by the prostitute
(France). The sword hidden
under the German’s cloak
suggests there will be future
consequences for this foolish
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
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 nation.
Davis Stephenson 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 Ferguson argues that
Britain’s ability to maintain an overall advantage
signifies that change within this realm was
insignificant and therefore not a factor in the
movement towards war..
The naval strength of the powers in 1914
Personnel Large
Naval Vessels
Source: Ferguson 1999 p 85
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.
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 underlying causes of
World War I were:
Militarism – many
countries were building
up their military and
getting ready for war.
Alliances – countries
allied with one another for
protection and markets.
Imperialism – countries
wanted to expand and
conquer other countries
for land, resources, and
Nationalism – strong
feeling towards one’s
“Secret plans determined that any crisis not settled by sensible
diplomacy would, in the circumstances prevailing in Europe in 1914,
lead to a general war. Sensible diplomacy had settled crises before,
notably during the powers’ quarrels over position in Africa and in the
disquiet raised by the Balkan Wars of 1912-13. Such crises, however, had
touched matters of national interest only, not matters of national honour
or prestige…”
-John Keegan, The First World War
“During the final period before the outbreak of general war, one
appalling fact becomes terrifyingly clear: the unrelenting rigidity of
military schedules and timetables on all sides. All these had been
worked out in minute detail years before, in case war should come.”
– A. Stoessinger, Why Nations Go to War, p. 14)
Historians generally recognize that some long-term
developments played a role in the outbreak of war in 1914:
Franco-Prussian War (1870-1914); “the German
Collapse of Ottoman Empire & Balkan independence
movements; “the Eastern Question”
Russo-Japanese War and 1905 Revolution
Austro-Hungarian annexation of Bosnia (1908)
Balkan Wars (1912-13)
Those who argue convincingly that Germany was most responsible for
the conditions that created a general war point out a recklessness and
aggression that was apparent long before 1914:
Moroccan Crises (1905, 1911)
Naval arms race and military build up
Seeking “a place in the sun” – empire building in Asia and
Ambitions in the Middle East was a threat to Suez (i.e. BerlinBaghdad railway)
Provided Krupp artillery guns to Boers and Afrikaners in Boer
War; Kaiser’s public support for Britain’s enemies in the war
“..it must be granted that [Germany’s] policies had for some years been rather
peremptory, arrogant, devious and obstinate.”
- Palmer, Colton, Kramer, A History of the Modern World
Some historians point out that all European states faced potential
home-grown problems by 1914, that made the gamble of war
(“rolling the iron dice”) seem like a attractive solution:
Rise in political power of socialists in Reichstag; demands for
greater democratization and power-sharing was feared by
traditional elites and industrialists.
Successful war would unify the people behind the Reich
Very multi-ethnic population. Successful war against Serbia and
Russia would give them dominance in the Balkans and end
nationalist disturbances.
Tsar had recovered from 1905 by allowing a Duma
(parliament) but had been restricting its powers.
Increasingly relied on middle class and working class for
industrialization, but did not want to share power or reform
government. In the last years before war, the Duma’s powers
were curtailed and the intelligentsia was increasingly
antagonistic against Tsardom.
Russian Empire contained hundreds of minorities and were
disunited. Attempts to “Russify” minorities had failed.
Civil unrest and strikes had rocked Russia in the last years
before the war. Successful war would unify the people
behind the Tsar and avoid future revolution.
Had been rocked by military scandals, strikes and labour
Industrial growth and population growth were stagnant and
faced a bleak future.
Support for socialist Labour Party growing amidst declining
economic growth.
“Troubles” in Ireland – terrorism, violence, revolt, and threat
of civil war
Had suffered some shocks to its prestige and was losing
ground to USA and Germany as the prime economic power.
German exports were challenging British economy.
Overall, it seems very insufficient that internal reasons would
explain why Europe’s leaders gambled on war.
Without exception, every state’s population rallied to the call
of war and supported it when it came.
There was little danger of revolution anywhere except for
Russia, and that circumstance was made worse after the war
had begun.
Ultimately, what ever was going on inside these states, it was
the assassination of Franz Ferdinand in Bosnia, that lead their
leaders on the path to war.
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 professors.
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
Dimitrijevic feared that if this happened, an
independent Serbian state would be more difficult to
Gavrilo Princip, Nedjelko
Cabrinovic and Trifko
Grabez from Serbia to
assassinate him.
 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 Imperialism?
 Which armies had increased in size between
1870 and 1914?
 Describe the Schlieffen Plan.
 Why were the two crises important factors?
Which countries were bound to each other by which
How did imperialism contribute towards Germany’s
increasing anger with Britain and France?
Why was nationalism an important factor?
Describe the part played by Germany in increasing
European militarism.
What links were there between the two crises and:
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 commoner.
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
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 Ferdinand to go to more and more army reviews, and
was to lead to his death.
 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 borders.
 If nationalism caught on in AustriaHungary, the Empire would fall apart.
 The
small nation-states in the south-east of
Europe (`the Balkans') were very
nationalistic. Serbia was the worst.
 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 poisonings.
 The Austrian Army wanted to destroy the
Black Hand by attacking Serbia.
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 Sarajevo.
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 rulers.
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 to murder Franz Ferdinand
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
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
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 Bridge.
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 bomb.
 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
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 Quay!".
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.
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 criminals.
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.
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 time.
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 Austria-Hungary and Russia both
ordered general mobilization of their armies.
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.
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 Empire.
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 the war.
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 AustriaHungary'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 conquer Serbia.
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 Liege.
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
British soldier killed in the war was John Parr, on 21st August 1914,
near Mons.
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.
 Germany’s
plan to defeat
France and Russia.
 “Knock out blow”
aimed at France
 Avoid French
defences by
invasion of
 Germans thought
Britain would not
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
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 invaded.
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 forces.
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 created splitting the two German armies.
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 war.
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 land.
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
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
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
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, Austrianbuilt 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 Antwerp.
Brussels itself was captured without resistance by General Von
Kluck of the First Army on 20 August.
 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
impacting the course of others.
 The
Battle of Mulhouse: Opened 7 August
 The Invasion of Lorraine: Opened 14
 The Battle of the Ardennes: Opened 21
 The Battle of Charleroi: Opened 21 August
 The Battle of Mons: Opened 23 August
Were the other Battles of the Frontiers
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 1914
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 1914
Battle of Le Cateau, Opened 26 August 1914
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 1914
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
One of the Battle of the Frontiers, the Invasion of
Lorraine (also known as the Battle of MorhangeSarrebourg) 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 itself.
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
 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.
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 Commanderin-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 Bordeaux.
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 Bulow.
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 years.
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 among the BEF.
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
 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 constant threat.
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 October
 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 defence at Ypres in midOctober.
 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
be defeated in turn.
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 position.
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 proved far easier to defend
than the Verdun forts.
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 courtmartialled. 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 defence.
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
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 ‘Voie Sacree’ –
the ‘Sacred Road’
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
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.
 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 Robert Nivelle.
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 long.
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
upon the insistence of the French.
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 the east.
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 gained by
either side.
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 wellfortified 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 from
the Western Front.
 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 supply.
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 of the year.
 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.
 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 war against the Central Powers.
 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 clifftops overlooking shipping lanes.
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 warfare
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 approach
 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 naval/ground troop undertaking.
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 Carden.
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 shellfire from the heights.
 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 an unsuspected
Turkish minefield
 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-inChief responsible henceforth for the success of
the expedition, accompanied by a force of 75,000
comprised largely of untested Australian and
New Zealand troops
 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
 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
operations in the area
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 threepronged 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 HunterWeston's particular record of poor results since
arriving on the peninsula.
 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
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
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 4,500.
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 summarised, from fighter aircraft
to bombers to Zeppelins to naval aircraft; and biographies
are available for a great many of the war's air aces and
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
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
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. With
the growing importance and influence of aircraft came the
need to control the air, and thus the fighter was born
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 behind enemy
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
 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)?
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 years.
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
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 information from the highest of sources
to warn them if danger really did exist.
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
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 later
"great confusion on board... they must have lost their
 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 sea.
 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
condemned the attack.
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
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 Lusitania?
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 brutality:
 "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 vain"
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
The conflict [had gradually shaped] into a war between the
democratic nations on one hand and autocratic on the other.
[America's] tradition of isolation had grown out warn and could no
longer be maintained in the age of growing interdependency.
Because of the menace to the Monroe Doctrine and to [America's]