28 June 1914: Assassination of Franz Ferdinand.
- The Balkans states of Bosnia and Herzegovina, had been annexed from Turkey and taken into the Austro-Hungarian Empire. This was resented by Serbs and Croats, this was also when The Black Hand (a nationalist group) was created.
- Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria, and his wife, decided to inspect the Austro-Hungarian troops in Bosnia. The day chosen for inspection happened to be a national day in Bosnia. The nationalist group (Black Hand) supplied a group of students with weapons for an assassination attempt to mark the occasion. (Yikes).
- Austrian Franz Ferdinand and his wife were assassinated by Gavrilo Princip, a Serbian nationalist student, when their open car stopped at a corner on its way out of the town.
28 July 1914: Austria declared war on Serbia.
- The Austrian government blamed the Serbian government for the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife and declared war on Serbia.
- Although Russia was allied with Serbia, Germany did not believe that she would mobilise and offered to support Austria if needed.
- However, Russia did mobilise, and through their alliance with France, called on the French to mobilise.
1 August 1914: Germany declared war on Russia.
- Germany declared war on Russia.
3 August 1914: Germany declared war on France.
- Germany declared war on France. German troops poured into Belgium as directed under the Schlieffen Plan, drawn up in 1905. The British foreign secretary, Sir Edward Grey, sent an ultimatum to Germany demanding their withdrawal from the neutral Belgium. (Just a bit more insight on the Schlieffen Plan: The name given to German war plans and the influence of Field Marshal Alfred von Schlieffen and his thinking on the invasion of France and Belgium on 4 August 1914. Schlieffen was Chief of the General Staff of the German Army from 1891 to 1906. This plan also resulted in 305,000 casualties. In 1905 and 1906, Schlieffen devised an army deployment plan for a war-winning offensive against the French Third Republic [The French Third Republic was the system of government adopted in France from 1807, when the Second French Empire collapsed during Franco-Russian War, until 10 July 1940 after France’s defeat by Nazi Germany in World War 2 led to the formation of the Vichy government in France]. After losing the First World War, German official historians of the Reichsarchiv and other writers described the plan as a blueprint for victory. Generaloberst (Colonel-General) Helmuth Von Moltke the Younger, succeeded the Schlieffen as Chief of the German General Staff in 1906 and was dismissed after the First Battle of Marne (5 to 12 September 1914). German historians claimed that Moltke had ruined the plan by meddling with it.)
4 August 1914: British declaration of war.
- Germany did not withdraw from Belgium and Britain declared war on Germany.
- The Russian army marched into Prussia. However, because of the differences in railway gauge between Russia and Prussia it was difficult for the Russians to get supplies through to their men. The Germans, on the other hand, used their railway system to surround the Russian Second army at Tannenberg before it’s commander could realise what was happening. The ensuing battle was a heavy defeat for the Russians with thousands of men killed and 125,000 taken prisoner. Although the Germans won the battle, 13,000 men were killed.
13th August 1914: Japan declared war on Germany.
- Japan declared war on Germany through their alliance with Great Britain, signed in 1902.
September 1914: Battle of Masurian Lakes.
- Having defeated the Russian Second army, the Germans turned their attention to the Russian First army at Masurian Lakes. Although the Germans were unable to defeat the army completely, over 100,000 Russians were taken prisoner.
29th October 1914: Turkey.
- Turkey entered the war on the side of the central powers and gave help to a German naval bombardment of Russia.
2nd November 1914: Russia declared war on Turkey.
- Because of the help given by Turkey to the German attack of Russia, Russia declared war on Turkey.
5th November 1914: Britain and France declared war on Turkey.
- Britain and France, Russia’s allies, declared war on Turkey, because of the help given to the German attack on Russia.
- The German advance through Belgium to France did not go as smoothly as the Germans had hoped. The Belgians put up a good fight destroying railway lines to slow the transport of German supplies.
- Despite a French counter-attack that saw the deaths of many Frenchmen on the battlefields at Ardennes, the Germans continued to march into France. They were eventually halted by the allies at the river Marne.
Late 1914: Early stages of the war.
- British troops had advanced from the northern coast of France to the Belgian town of Mons. Although they initially held off the Germans, they were soon forced to retreat.
- The British lost a huge number of men at the first battle of Ypres.
- By Christmas, all hopes that the war would be over had gone and the holiday saw men of both sides digging themselves into the trenches of the Western Front.
December 1914: Zeppelins.
- The first Zeppelins appeared over the English coast.
7th May 1915: Lusitania Sunk.
- There outraged protests from the United States at the German U-boat campaign, when the Lusitania, which had many American passengers abroad, was sank. The Germans moderated their U-boat campaign.
23rd May 1915: Italy.
- Italy entered the war on the side of the Allies.
2nd April 1915: Second Battle of Ypres.
- Poison gas was used for the first time during this battle. The gas, fired by the Germans claimed many British casualties.
February 1915: Zeppelin bombing.
- Zeppelin airships dropped bombs on Yarmouth.
February 1915: Dardenelles.
- The Russians appealed for help from Britain and France to beat off an attack by the Turkish. The British navy responded by attacking Turkish forts in the Dardenelles.
April – August 1915: Dardenelles/Gallipoli.
- Despite the loss of several ships to mines, the British successfully landed a number of marines in the Gallipoli region of the Dardenelles. Unfortunately the success was not followed up and the mission was a failure.
After February 1915: Winston Churchill resigns.
- Winston Churchill, critical of the Dardenelles campaign resigned his post as First Lord of the Admiralty. He rejoined the army as a battalion commander.
April 1915: Zeppelins.
- The use of airships by the Germans increased. Zeppelins began attacking London. They were also used for naval reconnaissance [There are three types of reconnaissance: Three types of reconnaissance patrols are area, zone, and route. Reconnaissance patrols provide timely and accurate information on the enemy and terrain. They confirm the leader’s plan before it is executed] to attack London and smaller balloons were used for reconnaissance along the Western Front. They were only stopped when the introduction of aeroplanes shot them down.
Early 1916: Winston Churchill.
- Winston Churchill served in Belgium as lieutenant colonel of the Royal Scots Fusiliers. [Royal Scots Fusiliers was a line infantry regiment of the British Army that existed from 1678 until 1959 when it was amalgamated with the Highland Light Infantry to form the Royal Highland Fusiliers which was later itself merged with the Royal Scots Borderers, the Black Watch, the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders and the Highlanders to form a large regiment, the Royal Regiment of Scotland.]
April 1916: Romania enter the war.
- Romania joined the war on the side of the Allies. But within a few months it was occupied by Germans and Austrians. [Keep in mind the Allied powers were Great Britain, The United States, China and the Soviet Union. The leaders of the Allies were Franklin Roosevelt (the United States), Winston Churchill (Great Britain), and Joseph Stalin (the Soviet Union) The main Axis powers were Germany, Japan and Italy. The Axis leaders were Adolf Hitler (Germany), Benito Mussolini (Italy), and Emperor Hirohito (Japan)]
31st May 1916: Battle of Jutland.
- This was the only truly large-scale naval battle of the war. German forces, confined to port by a British naval blockade, came out in the hope of splitting the British fleet and destroying it ship by ship. However, the British admiral, David Beatty, aware that the German tactics were the same as those used by Nelson at Trafalgar, sent a smaller force to lure the German’s into the range of Admiral Jellicoe’s main fleet. Although Beatty’s idea worked, the exchange of fire was brief and the German’s withdrew.
1st June 1916: Battle of Jutland.
- The British and German naval forces met again but the battle was inconclusive. The German ships did a great deal of damage to British ships before once again withdrawing and the British Admiral Jellicoe decided not to give chase.
- Although British losses were heavier than the German, the battle had alarmed both the Kaiser [Wilhelm II (1859-1941), the German Kaiser (emperor) and king of Prussia from 1888 to 1918] and the German Admiral Scheer and they decided to keep their fleet consigned to harbor for the remainder of the war.
28th November 1916: First Aeroplane raid.
- The first German air raid on London took place. The Germans hoped that by making raids on London and the South East, the British Air Force would be forced into protecting the home front rather than attacking the German air force.
December 1916: Lloyd George Prime Minister.
- Lloyd George became Prime Minister of the war time coalition. His war cabinet, unlike that of his predecessor, met every day. However, there was considerable disagreement among the members of the Cabinet, especially between Lloyd George and his war secretary, Sir Douglas Haig. Lloyd George suspected Haig of squandering life needlessly and was suspicious of his demands for more men and freedom of action in the field.
21st February – November 1916: Battle of Verdun.
- The Germans mounted an attack on the French at Verdun designed to ‘bleed the French dry’. Although the fighting continued for nine months, the battle was inconclusive. Casualties were disastrous on both ends with the Germans losing 430,000 men and 540,000 for the French.
1st July – November 1916: Battle of the Somme.
- The battle was preceded by a week long artillery bombardment of the German line which was supposed to destroy the barbed wire defences placed along the German line but only actually succeeded in making no mans land a mess of mud and craters. The 5 month long battle witnessed the deaths of 420,000 British soldiers (60,000 on 1st day), 200,000 French soldiers and half a million of German soldiers all just for a total land gain of 25 miles.
1917: New War Commander.
- Lloyd George [An interesting 2 minute video on The Treaty of Versailles, What did the Big Three Want? Watch here and more on that later] who had never trusted his war minister’s ability to direct the war, persuaded the Cabinet to appoint the French General Nivelle as supreme war commander over Haig’s head. Haid was assured that the appointment was for one operation only and that if the felt the British army was being misused by the Frenchmen he could appeal to the British government.
July – November 1917: W.front Passchendaele.
- The operation commanded by the French General, Robert Nivelle, went wrong and caused the loss of many French soldiers [Short video on the Battle of Passchendaele here] The total casualties at Passchendaele were estimated at some 500,000 about 275,000 British and Commonwealth and maybe more than 200,000 Germans. Nearly 15,700 Canadians and 5300 New Zealanders fell there, killed, wounded or missing. (Although numbers could be a bit inaccurate)] Haig protested to the British government and advocated trying his own scheme for a breakthrough. At the resulting battle of Passchendaele Haig broke his promise to call off the battle if the first stage failed because he did not want to lose face with the government. [A little backstory on French General Robert Nivelle; Robert Nivelle was a French artillery officer who served in the Boxer Rebellion and WW1. He was an organizer of field artillery at the regimental and divisional levels. In May 1916 he succeeded Philippe Petain as commander of the French Second Army in the Battle of Verdun, leading counter-offensives that rolled back the German forces in late 1916. During this time, he and General Charles Mangin were already accused of wasting French lives. [Charles Mangin serving as a French general during WW1 was and rose from divisional command to that of the Tenth Army for the Second Battle of the Marne, commanding both French and American troops. He was nicknamed “the Butcher” for his espousal of ‘la guerre a outrance (all-out war) and his faith in the suitability of North African Tirailleur for the attack, there was no doubt in the french Army that Mangin was fearless. Tirailleur in the Napoleonic era, was a type of light infantry trained to skirmish ahead of the main columns. During that war, Mangin had notable victories at the Battle of Charleroi (1914) and Battle of Verdun (1916) but his reputation suffered following the Nivelle Offensive which is due partly to the fact that he was one of the few high-ranking French officials who supported Nivelle’s strategy.]
1917: Churchill Minister of Munitions.
- Following the defeat at Passchendaele, Lloyd George decided that he wanted Churchill in the Cabinet. Churchill was then appointed Minister of Munitions.
1917: Reinforcements sent to Italy.
- The Italians lost many men trying to hold the line between Italy and Central Powers. British and French reinforcements were sent to hold the line.
6th April 1917: USA declares war on Germany.
- The United States declared war on Germany in response to the sinking, by German U boats, of US ships.
November 1917: W.Front Cambrai.
- The British took a large force of tanks across barbed wire and machine gun posts at Cambrai.
March 1918: Treaty of Brest-Litovsk.
- Following the successful revolution by the Bolsheviks, the Russians signed an Armistice with the Germans at Brest-Litovsk. The terms of the treaty were raspy: Russia had to surrender Poland, the Ukraine and other regions. They had to stop all Socialist propaganda directed at Germany and pay 300 million roubles for the repatriation of Russian prisoners.
April 1918: Formation of RAF.
- The Royal Flying Corps and Royal Naval Air Service were merged to create the Royal Air Force. [During the early part of the war, RFC supported the British Army by artillery co-operation and photographic reconnaissance. This led RFC pilots into aerial battles with German pilots and later in the war included strafing of enemy infantry and emplacements, the bombing of German military airfields and later the strategic bombing of German industrial and transport facilities.]
8 – 11th August 1918: Battle of Amiens.
- The British general, Haig, ordered the attack of the German sector at Amiens. At the same time the news came through that the allies had broken through from Salonika and forced Bulgaria to sue for peace.
Mid October 1918: Allies recover France and Belgium.
- The allies had taken almost all of German-occupied France and part of Belgium.
30th October 1918: Armistice with Turkey.
- The allies had successfully pushed the Turkish army back and the Turks were forced to ask for an armistice. The terms of the armistice treaty allowed the allies access to the Dardenelles.
Early November 1918: Hindenberg line collapsed.
- By the beginning of November the allies had pushed the Germans back beyond the Hindenberg line.
9th November 1918: Kaiser Abdicated.
- Kaiser Wilhelm II abdicated.