Causes, Practices and Effects of War PPT

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Transcript Causes, Practices and Effects of War PPT

The World before World War I
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.
Long-term Causes: Why did the war break out?
Napoleon Bonaparte and the
Rise of Nationalist Sentiment
Colonial Expansion
Anglo-German Naval Race
Tension in the Balkans
Ascension of Kaiser Wilhelm II
Web of alliances
Serb Nationalism: Napoleon Bonaparte and
the Rise of Nationalist Sentiment
Nationalism means being a strong supporter of the rights and
interests of one's country. The Congress of Vienna, held after
Napoleon's exile to Elba, aimed to sort out problems in Europe.
Delegates from Britain, Austria, Prussia and Russia (the
winning allies) decided upon a new Europe that left both
Germany and Italy as divided states.
Strong nationalist elements led to the Re-unification of Italy
in 1861 and Germany in 1871.
The settlement at the end of the Franco-Prussian war left
France angry at the loss of Alsace-Lorraine to Germany and
keen to regain their lost territory.
Large areas of both Austria-Hungary and Serbia were home to
differing nationalist groups, all of whom wanted freedom from
the states in which they lived.
The French Revolution resulted in chaos and the
ascent of Napoleon to power. Napoleon's armies
marched all over Europe, bringing not only French
control, but French ideas.
The rise of ideas of nationalism, devotion and love
for one's common people and ethnicity, increased
in popularity during the Napoleonic Wars.
Napoleon encouraged the spread of nationalism,
which he saw in his troops, to better the French
war machine.
The French people began to feel pride in their
culture and ethnicity. The world watched
nationalism for the first time and saw the power
the French gained from it.
Following the Napoleonic Wars, all of Europe was
sharing these ideas
Europe in 1914
 By 1914 Europe was divided as a continent in power
struggling forces for the top place in the world economic
 At the start of the Great War in 1914, Germany was a
relatively young power, only coming into existence
following a series of wars in 1871. Germany's
Chancellor, Otto von Bismarck, had shepherd the
country into the 20th century with the adage that
Germany must always be in a majority of three in any
dispute among the five great European powers. His aim
was to maintain peaceful ties with Russian.
 When Kaiser Wilhelm II came to power, he quickly
retired Bismarck, and upset the Chancellor's delicate
balance of power by refusing to renew Germany's
friendship with Russia. Germany soon found itself in a
minority of two. Its only European ally was the weakest
of the European powers, Austria-Hungary.
Otto Van Bismark
His Strategies
towards building
a better Germany.
Kaiser Wilhelm II
Imperialism and Colonial Expansion
Imperialism is when a country takes over new
lands or countries and makes them subject to
their rule.
By 1900 the British Empire extended over five
continents and France had control of large areas
of Africa. With the rise of industrialism countries
needed new 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 cent.
The great powers had come into conflict over
spheres of influence in China and over territories in
Africa, and the Easter question , created by the
decline of the Ottoman Empire, had produced
several disturbing controversies. Particularly
unsettling was the policy of Germany.
It embarked late but aggressively on colonial
expansion under Emperor William II came into
conflict with France over Morocco , and seemed to
threaten Great Britain by its rapid naval expansion.
Militarism means that the army and military forces are given a
high profile by the government. The growing European divide
had led to an arms race (competition between nations to have
the most powerful weapons) between the main countries.
The armies of both France and Germany had more than
doubled between 1870 and 1914 and there was fierce
competition between Britain and Germany for mastery of the
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.
A number of alliances had been signed by
countries between the years 1879 and 1914.
These were important because they meant that
some countries had no option but to declare war if
one of their allies. declared war first
The Dual Alliance
Austro-Serbian Alliance
The Triple Alliance
Germany and AustriaHungary made an alliance
to protect themselves from
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 peace)
Franco-Russian Alliance
Russia formed an alliance
with France to protect
herself against Germany
and Austria-Hungary
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.
Formation of the Triple Alliance
In 1879 Germany and Austria- Hungray agreed to
form a Dual Alliance.
This became the Triple Alliance when in 1882 it
was expanded to include Italy, The three countries
agreed to support each other if attacked by either
France or Russia. It was renewed at five-yearly
The formation of the Triple Entente in 1907 by
Britain, France and Russia reinforced the need for
the alliance.
Formation of the Triple Entente
In 1882 Germany, Austria Hungary and Italy
formed the Triple Alliance. The three countries
agreed to support each other if attacked by either
France or Russia.
France felt threatened by this alliance. Britain was
also concerned by the growth in the Germany Navy
and in 1904 the two countries signed the Entente
Cordiale (friendly understanding). The objective of
the alliance was to encourage co-operation against
the perceived threat of Germany.
Three years later, Russia who feared the growth in
the Germany Army, joined Britain & France to form
the Triple Entente.
The Russian government was also concerned about
the possibility of Austria Hungary increasing the
size of its empire. It therefore made promises to
help Serbia if it was attacked by members of the
Triple Alliance
Arms races
The naval arms race that developed between
Britain and Germany was intensified by the 1906
launch of HMS Dreadnought, a revolutionary
warship that rendered all previous battleships
obsolete. (Britain maintained a large lead over
Germany in all categories of warship.) It has
pointed out that both nations believed in thesis
that command of the sea was vital to a great
Davis Stephoson described the armaments race as
"a self-reinforcing cycle of heightened military
preparedness", while other Historians, viewed the
shipbuilding rivalry as part of a general movement
towards war. However, Niall Fergueson argues
that Britain’s ability to maintain an overall
advantage signifies that change within this realm
was insignificant and 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.
Bosnian Crisis
In 1908, Austria-Hungary took over the former
Turkish province of Bosnia.
This angered Serbians who felt the province should
be theirs. Serbia threatened Austria-Hungary with
war, Russia, allied to Serbia, mobilised its forces.
Germany, allied to Austria-Hungary mobilised its
forces and prepared to threaten Russia. War was
avoided when Russia backed down.
There was, however, war in the Balkans between
1911 and 1912 when the Balkan states drove
Turkey out of the area. The states then fought each
other over which area should belong to which state.
Austria-Hungary then intervened and forced Serbia
to give up some of its acquisitions. Tension
between Serbia and Austria-Hungary was high.
The Black Hand
In May 1911, ten men in Serbia
formed the Black Hand Secret
Society. Early members included
Colonel Dragutin Dimitrijevic, the
chief of the Intelligence
Department of the Serbian General
Staff, Major Voja Tankosic and
Milan Ciganovic.
The main objective of the Black
Hand was the creation, by means of
violence, of a Greater Serbia. Its
stated aim was: "To realize the
national ideal, the unification of all
Serbs. This organisation prefers
terrorist action to cultural
activities; it will therefore remain
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 AustroHungarian throne, Ferdinand's plans to grant
concessions to the South Slavs.
Dimitrijevic feared that if this happened, an
independent Serbian state would be more difficult
to achieve.
The People chosen for the task
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:
The Background to the Assasination
Archduke Franz-Ferdinand of Austria-Hungary wanted to
marry the beautiful Countess Sophie von Chotkowa und
Wognin (Sophie Chotek).
Emperor Franz Josef forbade the marriage; Franz
Ferdinand was heir of a noble royal family. He was
supposed to marry royalty. Sophie was only a 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 Austria-Hungary,
the Empire would fall apart.
The small nation-states in the south-east of
Europe (`the Balkans') were very
nationalistic. Serbia was the 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.
Assassination at Sarajevo
On 28 June 1914, the Archduke Franz-Ferdinand and his
wife visited Sarajevo, the capital of Bosnia, to review these
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 trouble.
Franz Ferdinand ignored these warnings. Only 120 policeman
were on duty in Sarajevo, and they were so excited that they
forgot to watch the crowds, and looked at the procession
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 assassins?“
However, Potiorek did accept it would be better if Duchess
Sophie remained behind in the City Hall. When Baron Morsey
told Sophie about the revised plans, she refused to stay
arguing: "As long as the Archduke shows himself in public today
I will not leave him."
In order to avoid the city centre, General Oskar Potiorek
decided that the royal car should travel straight along the Appel
Quay to the Sarajevo Hospital. However, Potiorek forgot to tell
the driver, Franz Urban, about this decision. On the way to the
hospital, Urban took a right turn into Franz Joseph Street.
One of the conspirators, Gavrilo Princip, was standing on the corner at
the time. Oskar Potiorek immediately realised the driver had taken the
wrong route and shouted "What is this? This is the wrong way! We're
supposed to take the Appel 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.
Nedjelko Cabrinovic, statement in court (23rd October, 1914)
We did not hate Austria, but the Austrians had done nothing, since the
occupation, to solve the problems that faced Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Nine-tenths of our people are farmers who suffer, who live in misery,
who have no schools, who are deprived of any culture.
We sympathized with them in their distress. We thought that only
people of noble character were capable of committing political
assassinations. We heard it said that he (Archduke Franz Ferdinand)
was an enemy of the Slavs. Nobody directly told us "kill him"; but in
this environment, we arrived at the idea ourselves.
I would like to add something else. Although Princip is playing the
hero, and although we all wanted to appear as heroes, we still have
profound regrets. In the first place, we did not know that they late
Franz Ferdinand was a father. We were greatly touched by the words
he addressed to his wife: "Sophie, stay alive for our children." We are
anything you want, except 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.
July Crisis and the declarations of war
After the assassination of the Arckduke Franz Ferdinand on
June 28, Austria-Hungary waited for 3 weeks before deciding
on a course of action.
This wait was due to a large part of the army being on leave to
help in gathering the harvest, which practically denied Austria
the possibility of military action at the 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.
Opening hostilities
Some of the first hostilities of the war occurred in Africa and
in the Pacific Ocean, in the colonies and territories of the
European powers.
On August 1914 a combined French and British Empire
forces invaded the German protectorate of Togoland in
West Africa. Shortly thereafter, on August 10, German
forces based in South West Africa attacked South Africa,
part of the British 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.
Serbian Campaign {WWI}
The Serbian army fought a defensive battle against the
invading Austrian army (called the Battle of Cer) starting on
12 August.
The Serbians occupied defensive positions on the south side
of the Drina and Save rivers.
Over the next two weeks Austrian attacks were thrown
back with heavy losses.
This marked the first major Allied victory of the war.
Austrian expectations of a swift victory over Serbia were not
realized and as a result, Austria had to keep a very sizable
force on the Serbian front, weakening their armies which
faced Russia.
The German war plan to deal with the Franco-Russian alliance (called
the Schlieffen plan) involved delivering a knock-out blow to the French
and then turning to deal with the more slowly mobilized Russian army.
Rather than invading eastern France directly, German planners deemed
it prudent to attack France from the north.
To do so, the German army had to march through Belgium. Germany
demanded free passage from the Belgian government, promising to
treat Belgium as Germany's firm ally if permission was granted.
The Belgian government's refusal to come to terms at zero-hour was an
unpleasant surprise but the German army chose to follow through with
its plan just the same. After entering Belgian territory, it soon
encountered resistance at a fortified 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
The First BATTLE
The Battle of Liege, 1914
Something of a moral victory for the Allies as
represented by Belgium, the Battle of Liege ran for
twelve days from 5-16 August 1914, and resulted in
surprisingly heavy losses upon the German invasion
force by the numerically heavily outnumbered Belgians.
The Battle of Liege signified the first land battle of the
war, as the German Second Army crossed the frontier
into neutral Belgium (since 1839) so as to attack France
from the north. The Schlieffen plan had started.
The initial aim of Von Bulow’s Second Army, which
comprised 320,000 men, was to seize the city of Liege,
gateway to Belgium, which blocked the narrow gap
between the 'Limburg appendix' and the Ardennes, the
best entrance into Belgium.
The Schlieffen Plan
Germany’s military
plan to defeat
France and Russia.
“Knock out blow”
aimed at France
Avoid French
defences by
invasion of Belgium.
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 defeated.
If this happened, Britain and Russia would be unwilling to carry on fighting. Schlieffen
calculated that it would take Russia six weeks to organize its large army for an attack on
Germany. Therefore, it was vitally important to force France to surrender before Russia
was ready to use all its forces.
Schlieffen's plan involved using 90% of Germany's armed forces to attack France.
Fearing the French forts on the border with Germany, Schlieffen suggested a scythe-like
attack through Holland, Belgium and Luxembourg. The rest of the German Army would
be sent to defensive positions in the east to stop the expected Russian advance.
When Helmuth von Moltke replaced Alfred von Schlieffen as German Army
Chief of Staff in 1906, he modified the plan by proposing that Holland was not
The main route would now be through the flat plains of Flanders. Moltke argued
that Belgium's small army would be unable to stop German forces from quickly
entering France. Moltke suggested that 34 divisions should invade Belgium
whereas 8 divisions would be enough to stop Russia advancing in the east.
On 2nd August 1914, the Schlieffen Plan was put into operation when the
German Army invaded Luxembourg and Belgium. However, the Germans were
held up by the Belgian Army and were shocked by the Russian Army's advance
into East Prussia. The Germans were also surprised by how quickly the British
Expeditionary Force reached France and Belgium.
On 3rd September, Joseph Joffre, the Commander-in-Chief of the French forces,
ordered his men to retreat to a line along the River Seine, south-east of Paris and
over 60km south of the Marne. Sir John French, commander of the British
Expeditionary Force agreed to join the French in attacking the German 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, southeast 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
What actually happened?
Belgium, Britain and France responded to the launching of the Schlieffen Plan in different ways.
The Germans were not expecting any resistance from Belgium, but the Belgian army fought
bravely and managed to delay the German advance. Members of the British Expeditionary Force
(BEF) arrived to help, and the Germans were held up at Mons.
The Belgians later prevented the Germans from taking the French channel ports by flooding their
Britain declared war on Germany in response to the invasion of Belgium. Although the BEF
consisted of only 125, 000 men, they were well trained and equipped, and ready for action within
less than one week. Having helped the Belgians hold the Germans up at Mons, the BEF then
moved to support the French on the River Marne and prevent the Germans from reaching Paris.
Losses were heavy and by December 1914 more than half of the original BEF were dead.
France responded quickly to the German attack by launching an invasion of Alsace and Lorraine,
but this failed. They then switched troops to the defence of Paris in a desperate attempt to hold
the Germans up, which involved transporting troops to the front line in fleets of taxis.
The battle at the Marne was a turning-point; with the help of the remaining members of the BEF
the German advance was not only halted but the Germans were also pushed back about 35 miles.
The British and French then moved to secure the Channel ports.
Why did the Schlieffen Plan fail?
The plan relied upon rapid movement. The resistance of the Belgians and the BEF
prevented this.
Russia mobilized its troops quicker than expected. Within 10 days the Russians had
invaded Germany, which meant that the Germans had to switch troops away from western
Europe to hold up the Russian invasion.
Both sides now had to secure the land that they held. Trenches were dug and machine-gun
posts erected. The first exchanges of the war were over; from now until 1918, neither side
would advance more than 10 miles forward nor backwards from the positions they now
The fact that Belgian troops were able to hold up the German advance gave time for the
BEF to arrive. Together they were further able to delay the Germans at Mons, and this
allowed the French to switch their troops from Alsace-Lorraine to defend Paris.
However Liege was defended by a ring of twelve heavily
armed forts built on high ground in the 1880s, six on each side
of the Meuse River, each 3-5km apart, and some 6-10km from
the city itself. The forts contained a total of 400 retractable
guns, up to 210mm in size. To some extent these forts offset
the relatively small force at Belgian General Leman’s disposal just 70,000 men.
The Germans, under General Emmich with a force of 30,000
men, attacked at night on 5 August, sustaining heavy losses
and making little or no progress, much to the surprise of the
supremely confident German army.
Ludendorfff, rather than continue to attack the forts, called in
the use of zeppelins to drop bombs into the city and citadel,
and personally led 14th Brigade in between the forts effectively a gap where the Belgians had intended to build rifle
trenches but had not actually done so - into the city, forcing
the Belgian garrison there to surrender on 7 August.
Nevertheless, the Germans could not hope to continue their
advance through Belgium without first capturing the forts.
In order to assist with this the Germans introduced a weapon
which until that point remained unknown to the Allies,
Austrian-built 17-inch howitzers.
With the significant aid of the howitzers and the Big Bertha
gun (a 420mm siege howitzer) the forts were finally taken on
16 August, General Leman having to be carried unconscious
out of the besieged forts.
On the following day, 17 August, the German Second Army,
together with First and Third Armies, began to implement the
next stage of the Schlieffen Plan, embarking upon a wide
sweeping wheel movement through Belgium, forcing the
Belgian army back to Antwerp.
Brussels itself was captured without resistance by General Von
Kluck of the First Army on 20 August.
Battles - The Western Front
The Battle of the Frontiers, 1914
The Battle of the Frontiers comprises five offensives
launched under French Commander-in-Chief
Joseph Joffre and German Chief of Staff Helmuth
von Moltke's initiative during the first month of the
war, August 1914.
The battles - at Mulhouse, Lorraine, the Ardennes,
Charleroi and Mons - were launched more or less
simultaneously, and marked the collision of both
French and German invasion plans (Plan XVII and
the Schlieffen Plan, respectively), each battle
impacting the course of others.
The Battle of Mulhouse: Opened 7 August
The Invasion of Lorraine: Opened 14 August
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
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
Battles: The Invasion of Lorraine, 1914
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 August.
The French line held. Realistically the
troops gathered for Rupprecht’s offensive –
which comprised 26 divisions of men –
would have been put to far greater use at
the First Battle of the Marne; however
Rupprecht continued fighting until the end
of the month, without success. Stalemate
and trench warfare ensued.
Battles: The First Battle of the Marne, 1914
The First Battle of the Marne was conducted between 6-12
September 1914, with the outcome bringing to an end the war
of movement that had dominated the First World War since the
beginning of August. Instead, with the German advance
brought to a halt, stalemate and trench warfare ensued.
Having invaded Belgium and north-eastern France, the German
army had reached within 30 miles of Paris. Their progress had
been rapid, having successfully beaten back Belgian, French
and British forces in advancing deep into north-eastern
France. Their advance was in pursuance of the aims of the
Schlieffen Plan, whose primary focus was the swift defeat of
France in the west before turning attention the Russian forces
in the east.
As the German armies neared Paris, the French capital
prepared itself for a siege. The defending French forces (Fifth
and Sixth Armies) - and the British - were at the point of
exhaustion, having retreated continuously for 10-12 days
under repeated German attack until, directed by Joseph Joffre,
the French Commander-in-Chief, they reached the south of the
River Marne.
With victory seemingly near, Alexander von Kluck’s German
First Army was instructed to encircle Paris from the east. The
French government, similarly expecting the fall of the capital,
left Paris for 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
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
Battles: The Siege of Antwerp, 1914
Following the fall of the forts at Liege in Belgium
on 16 August 1914, King Albert I ordered a
withdrawal of Belgium's remaining 65,000 troops to
Antwerp, another fortress city (along with Namur).
Together with 80,000 garrison troops, Antwerp's
ring of 48 outer and inner forts presented
formidable opposition to von Kluck’s German First
Army's flank. Von Kluck had chosen to bypass
Antwerp in the Germany army's advance through
Belgium and into France. Nevertheless, the
presence of so many troops at its flank presented a
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
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 mid-October.
The Battle of Verdun, 1916
The German siege of Verdun and its ring of forts,
which comprised the longest battle of the First
World War, has its roots in a letter sent by the
German Chief of Staff, Erich von Falkenhavn, to
the Kaiser, Wilheim II, on Christmas Day 1915.
In his letter to the Kaiser, Falkenhayn argued that
the key to winning the war lay not on the Eastern
Front, against Russia – whom he believed was on
the point of revolution and subsequent withdrawal
from the war – but on the Western Front. He
reasoned that if France could be defeated in a
major set-piece battle Britain would in all likelihood
seek terms with Germany, or else be defeated in
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 fortress.
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
By the close of the day the German forces had succeeded only in
capturing the French front line trenches, much less than planned,
although Driant himself had been killed during the battle, and his two
battalions demolished.
Wilhelm withdrew his forward infantry in preparation for a further
artillery bombardment, thus taking the sting out of the momentum
that had been generated. More importantly it allowed the French
defenders to position themselves such that they were able to enfilade
the advancing German troops from across the river.
Verdun remained in French hands, although the defensive situation
was dire. A message was sent to French headquarters on 23
February reporting that Driant had been lost, as had all company
commanders, and that the battalion had been reduced from 600 to
around 180 men.
The following day, 24 February, German troops succeeded in
over-running the French second line of trenches, forcing the
defenders to within 8 kilometres of Verdun
itself. Nevertheless, two outer forts, Vaux and Douaumont,
continued to hold out.
A French division sent in piecemeal that same day was
dispersed under heavy German artillery fire. The next day
Douaumont fell to the 24th Brandenburg Infantry
Regiment. The effect on French morale of the loss of
Douaumont was marked, both upon the remaining defenders
and the reinforcements freshly arrived. Popular French
sentiment within the country demanded its recapture:
withdrawal from Verdun was therefore politically impossible.
The French Commander-in-Chief, Joffre, remained
unflappable. He issued a statement noting that any
commander who gave ground to the advancing Germans
would be court-martialled. He summarily dismissed General
Langle de Cary, who was responsible for the defence of
Verdun, for deciding to evacuate Woevre plain and the east
bank of the Meuse River.
Pledging to Joffre, “Ils ne passeront pas!” – literally “They shall
not pass!” – Petain telephoned the commander of the Verdun
front line and instructed him to hold fast. In a sense Petain’s
appointment could hardly have better-suited Falkenhayn.
His stated aim of the campaign was to bleed the French army
at Verdun. A quick German victory at Verdun would hardly
meet this criteria, whereas Petain’s dogged determination to
hold out suited his intentions perfectly. However he could
hardly have determined just how effective Petain’s defensive
strategies turned out to be.
Petain understood that the defence of Verdun would result in
many French casualties: the nature of the terrain made this
inevitable. However he was determined to inflict the maximum
damage to the German invaders in the course of these
losses. Hence he effectively re-organised French use of
artillery, personally taking commanding of this aspect of the
Petain understood that the defence of Verdun would
result in many French casualties: the nature of the
terrain made this inevitable. However he was
determined to inflict the maximum damage to the
German invaders in the course of these
losses. Hence he effectively re-organised French use
of artillery, personally taking commanding of this
aspect of the defence.
He also took action to ensure that an effective
supply route to Verdun was maintained, designating
a single artery road leading to a depot 50 miles to
the west, Bar-le-Duc, and ensuring constant access
by assigning columns of troops whose sole duty it
was to maintain clearance of the road and to
perform repairs as necessary. The road was
christened ‘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 conclusion.
Meanwhile the casualties were mounting rapidly on
both sides. The French were certainly losing huge
numbers of men, as were their German
opposition. By the time the battle ended almost one
million casualties had 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 BethmannHollweg, 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.
The Gallipoli Front
Battle At Gallipoli, 1915
By the spring of 1915, combat on the Western Front
had sunk into stalemate. Enemy troops stared at each
other from a line of opposing trenches that stretched
from the English Channel to the Swiss border. Neither
opponent could outflank its enemy resulting in costly
and unproductive direct attacks on well-fortified
defenses. The war of movement that both sides had
predicted at the beginning of the conflict had devolved
into deadly stagnation.
Allied leaders, including Winston Churchill
and Lord Kitchener, scoured their maps to
find a way around the impasse. The
Dardanelles Strait leading from the
Mediterranean to Istanbul caught their eye.
A successful attack in this area could open a
sea lane to the Russians through the Black
Sea, provide a base for attacking the Central
Powers through what Churchill described as
the "soft underbelly of Europe", and divert
enemy attention 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
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
The Value of the Straits
But why attempt the Straits in the first place? The
answer lay in the great strategic value control
would give the Entente Powers. The Straits linked
the Mediterranean Sea with the Sea of
Marmora. This not only gave ready access to the
Turkish capital Constantinople and much of the
Turkish Empire's industrial powerhouse, but also
provided a lane to the Black Sea.
Just as importantly, if not more so, access to the
Sea of Marmora was bound to give Britain and
France supply route access to their eastern ally,
Russia. Therefore it was quite feasible that should
Britain and France gain the Straits they could
succeed in not only eliminating Turkey from the
war, but in also drawing Greece and Bulgaria into
the war against the Central Powers.
The Difficulty in Seizing Control
Control of the Dardanelles Straits was
therefore a prized ambition of the Entente
Powers. As might be expected given the
huge tactical and strategic value placed
upon the Straits, they were however heavily
defended, chiefly by natural geography.
To the north they were protected by the
Gallipoli Peninsula; to the south by the
shore of Ottoman Asia. In addition,
fortresses were well positioned on cliff-tops
overlooking shipping lanes.
Lack of Success on the Western Front
In the meantime both Britain and France were finding news
from the campaign on the Western Front sober reading. While
much of their time, effort and resources were consumed by the
requirements of the struggle in France and Flanders both
governments gradually came around to the notion of opening
up another front in the Mediterranean, one that offered
possibly better prospects of success.
In Britain in particular a number of members of the War
Cabinet had long favoured decisive action away from the
stagnation of the Western Front's lines of trench 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.
Initial Attacks - 19/25 February 1915
The first attempt upon the 65km-long, 7km-wide Straits was
made on 19 February 1915 by a considerable number of
combined British and French battleships comprised of the new
battleship Queen Elizabeth, 3 battlecruisers, 16 predreadnought (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.
Failure to Force the Narrows, 18
March 1915
Having paused to consolidate following the clear
failure of February's attempts to batter the Turkish
protective fortresses, a further naval effort was
Briefly launched on 18th march in an attempt to
force through The Narrows (so-named because
just 1,600 heavily-mined metres separated the
shore on either side).
Immediately before the attack's launch however
Carden collapsed from nervous exhaustion. He
was replaced by Sir John de Robeck. The renewed
attack proved a heavy failure, chiefly on account of
the presence of 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-in-Chief
responsible henceforth for the success of the
expedition, accompanied by a force of 75,000
comprised largely of untested Australian and New
Zealand troops
Preparations for a Ground Offensive
Hamilton, unsure of the appropriate strategy,
sought advice from de Robeck and agreed on 27
March to a straightforward invasion of the Gallipoli
Preparations for the Allied landings were not
auspicious, and were distinguished by hesitation,
indecision and confusion. Meanwhile Turkish
defences were further boosted by the arrival of
ground forces around the Straits. As a measure
of the extent of German influence over Turkish
policy regional command was placed in the hands
of Limon von Sanders.
Liman brought with him approximately 84,000
troops which he dispersed to strategic locations
around Gallipoli. As it transpired however
Liman's careful positioning of his men was found
wanting once Hamilton actually launched his
attack on the southern peninsula: Hamilton chose
to attack where the Turkish concentration was as
its weakest.
Landings at Helles and Anzac Cove, 25
April 1915
The relative weakness of Turkish strength on the
southern peninsula the whole operation might well
have been thrown back into the sea.
As it was heavy casualties were incurred at those
locations where Turkish defenders were available
in any force. Even so two beachheads were
established by Hamilton's force, at Helles on
Gallipoli's southernmost tip, and further up the
coast near Gaba Tepe - the latter soon to be
renamed Anzac Cove in honour of the Australian
and New Zealand corps who bore the brunt of
operations in the area
Landings at Suvla Bay, 6 August 1915
It was clear that operations in
Gallipoli were going badly. The newly
formed Dardanelles Committee in
London met on 7 June to consider
what steps next to take. Agreement
was reached to send additional forces
to Hamilton, greatly reinforcing the
Allied presence on the peninsula by
some three divisions - a decision made
by Kitchener in the face of fierce
opposition from hard-pressed
commanders on the Western Front.
Unfortunately for the Allies their
Turkish opponents were bringing
forward additional reserves at a
greater pace than they themselves
could manage, with forces despatched
from both Palestine and Caucasian
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 Hunter-Weston'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 Commanderin-Chief and recall to London at a meeting of the
Dardanelles Committee on 14 October.
Hamilton was replaced by Sir Charles Monro. Monro lost no
time in touring Helles, Suvla Bay and Anzac Cove upon his
arrival on the peninsula on 28 October. His recommendation
was prompt: evacuation. This did not however meet with
Kitchener's approval. He travelled to the region to see the
state of affairs for himself.
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 withdrawal.
The War in the Air
Aircraft technology was little over a decade old when
Archduke Franz Ferdinand’s assassination in late June 1914
ultimately resulted in the outbreak of 'The Great War' a
month later.
Initially deemed of little use to the armed services other
than in a reconnaissance role, aircraft development
exploded during wartime (all too often literally). For
example, France had fewer than 140 aircraft when her war
against Germany began; four years later that number had
ballooned to approximately 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 technology.
A typical British aircraft at the outbreak of the war was the
general purpose BE2c, with a top speed of 116 km/h (72
mph). Powered by a 90 hp engine, it could remain aloft for
over three hours. By the end of the war aircraft were
designed for specific tasks. Built for speed and
maneuverability, the SE5a fighter of 1917 was powered by a
200 hp engine and had a top speed of 222 km/h (138 mph).
Britain's most famous bomber, the Handley-Page O/400,
could carry a bomb load of 900kg (2000 lb) at a top speed of
156 km/h (97mph) for flights lasting eight hours. It was
powered by two 360 hp engines.
Not only did aircraft become faster, more manoeuvrable and
more powerful, but a number of technologies that were
common at the start of the war had almost disappeared by
the end of it. Many of the aircraft in 1914 were of "pusher"
layout. This is the same configuration that the Wright
brothers used, where the propeller faced backwards and
pushed the aircraft forward.
The alternative layout, where the propeller faces forwards
and pulls the aircraft, was called a "tractor" design. It
provided better performance, but in 1914 visibility was
deemed more important than speed. World War One marked
the end of pusher aircraft.
The rapid pace of technological innovation was matched by
a rapid change in the uses to which aircraft were put. If in
1914 there were few generals who viewed aircraft as
anything more than a tool for observation and
reconnaissance (and many of them had great reservation
even to that use) by the end of the war both sides were
integrating aircraft as a key part of their planned strategies.
While the plane did not play the decisive roll that it was to
play in later conflicts, the First World War proved their
capabilities. It was during this period that the key tasks that
aircraft could perform were discovered, experimented with,
and refined: observation and reconnaissance, tactical and
strategic bombing, ground attack, and naval warfare. With
the growing importance and influence of aircraft came the
need to control the air, and thus the fighter was born
The War in the Air - Bombers
Fighter aircraft are the most aggressive aircraft in
war, but their role is essentially defensive: to
protect ones own airspace, or to protect ones own
aircraft when they enter enemy airspace. The
aircraft that carry out the offensive policies of a
nation are the bombers.
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 lines.
Weapons of War
However no history of the war would be
complete without an overview of the
weapons of war, in all their varying
forms. Thus this area of the site
provides summary information of the
tools by which the armies conducted
war, and include many of the
innovations war always brings to the
development of weaponry.
Veterans of the Great War, when interviewed,
tended to play down the impact of the bayonet
during the war. Many remarked (partly in jest)
that the bayonet was used primarily as a splendid
means of toasting bread, and for opening cans, to
scrape mud off uniforms, poking a trench brazier
or even to assist in the preparation of communal
It therefore begs the question: was the bayonet of
any real significance during the war, and if not why
was it carried by virtually all infantrymen in all
armies (and most especially by the usually
technologically advanced German army)?
Simple Design
The Lusitania
The Lusitania sailed on May 1st 1915 from New York
bound for Liverpool. The sinking of the Lusitania was
thought to have made a major impact on America
and World War One, but America did not join the war
for another two 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
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
In all, there were about 15 German U boats in the "European War
Zone" - the zone that the Lusitania was about to move into. U20 had
left its base at Emden on April 31st 1915.
In its journey to the Atlantic it had attacked a Danish merchant ship
but let it go once its Danish flag had been spotted.
May 6th brought better targets for U20. Medium-sized liners called
the 'Candidate' and the 'Centurion' were both attacked and sunk.
Neither sinking led to any casualties - though Schwieger had not given
a warning to either ship.
At 19.50 on May 6th, the Lusitania received the first of a number of
warnings from the Admiralty about U-boat activity off the south coast
of Ireland. The crew went through a number of safety drills and some
watertight bulkheads were closed. But the night passed without
further incident.
The next day, May 7th, the Lusitania came into sight of the
Irish coast. The ship's captain, Captain Turner, became
concerned as he could see no other ship ahead of him - more
especially, he was concerned that he could see no protective
naval ships.
It was as if all other ships had cleared the waters as a result of
the Admiralty's warning.
At 13.40 on May 7th, Turner could see the Old Head of Kinsdale
- a well known sighting for any experienced sailor in the region.
At around the same time, the Lusitania was spotted by U20. The
first torpedo was fired at 14.09. At 14.10, Schwieger noted in
his log:
"Shot hits starboard side right behind bridge. An
unusually heavy detonation follows with a strong
explosion cloud..." Schwieger noted 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.
Why did the liner only take 18 minutes to
The log of U20 stated clearly that the submarine
had only fired one torpedo and Schwieger stated
that this was the case. His log also noted that the
torpedo caused an unusually large explosion.
why was a second explosion seen if no second
torpedo was fired? This second explosion
presumably speeded up the whole process of the
Lusitania sinking.
with such a high profile ship crossing the Atlantic
and after warnings from the Germans and the
Admiralty, why were there no British naval boats in
the vicinity to protect the 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 desperado
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]
The Big Four Leaders of World War I
The Big Four
Leaders gathered at
Versailles in
January 1919 to
write a formal treaty
for peace.
Woodrow Wilson
Woodrow Wilson, the President of the
United States at the time of war,
represented the United States in
Versailles himself. He had a difficult
time convincing the other three leaders
to accept his idea of peace without
victory. Wilson was forced to agree that
Germany had caused the war.
David Lloyd George
David Lloyd George was the British
Prime Minister who represented the
United Kingdom. During their talks,
George put the needs of his own nation
Vittorio Orlando, the Italian Prime
Minister, also put the needs of his
nation first during talks.
Georges Clemenceau
Clemenceau, the
French Premier,
wanted to make
Germany pay for the
entire cost of the
war since most of
the fighting took
place on French soil.
Peace Treaty Signed at Versailles,
The Parisians had a
parade after the
signing of the Treaty
at Versailles marking
the end of World
War I. Notice the
sign at the top of
this photograph that
reads: "Vive
The First World War Chronology
Picture History
The History of American Wars
The Big Four Leaders of World War I
The Big Four
Leaders gathered at
Versailles in
January 1919 to
write a formal treaty
for peace.
Woodrow Wilson
Woodrow Wilson, the President of the
United States at the time of war,
represented the United States in
Versailles himself. He had a difficult
time convincing the other three leaders
to accept his idea of peace without
victory. Wilson was forced to agree that
Germany had caused the war.
David Lloyd George
David Lloyd George was the British
Prime Minister who represented the
United Kingdom. During their talks,
George put the needs of his own nation
Vittorio Orlando, the Italian Prime
Minister, also put the needs of his
nation first during talks.
Georges Clemenceau
Clemenceau, the
French Premier,
wanted to make
Germany pay for the
entire cost of the
war since most of
the fighting took
place on French soil.
Peace Treaty Signed at Versailles,
The Parisians had a
parade after the
signing of the Treaty
at Versailles marking
the end of World
War I. Notice the
sign at the top of
this photograph that
reads: "Vive
The First World War Chronology
Picture History
The History of American Wars