The Great War
WHO? WHAT? WHERE? WHEN? WHY?
Video Retrieved from:
Timeline leading up to WW1
1870 - Franco-Prussian War begins
1871 - Prussian Empire is unified under the context of German control
- Prussian Empire defeats the French Army - Treaty of Frankfurt signed
- Alsace and Lorraine ceded to the Germans - French are humiliated
1873 - German occupation of France ends
1882 - Germany, Austro-Hungary, and Italy form the Triple Alliance
1891 - France and Russia answer the Triple Alliance with an Alliance of their own
- Would serve as the basis for the Triple Entente
1898 - Arms race between the English and German Empires begins to become prevalent
1902 - British/Japanese naval alliance created
1904 - France and Britain sign a reactionary alliance
- You hurt them, I’ll hurt you - Triple Entente formed
Timeline leading up to WW1
1905, Jan. - Bloody Sunday occurs in Russia - Revolution is at their doorstep
1905, May - Russia defeated in Russo-Japanese War
1905, Oct. - Continued tension in Russia - general strikes
1906 - British launch the H.M.S. Dreadnought
- This signifies the beginning of a new type of military capacity in regards to weaponry
1908 - Austro-Hungary annexes Bosnia - ethnic Serbs not happy
1910 - German Empire becomes on of the leading economic powers in Europe
1912 - Balkan War (Greece, Serbia, Bulgaria versus Turks) begins
1913 - Turks are pushed out of Europe, but Bulgaria wishes for a bigger share of the area and a second
Balkan war begins
1914 - Franz Ferdinand (Austrian Archduke), not the band, is murdered
- This is the event that leads to the Great War
- So many alliances had been created for preventative measures that almost the entirety of Europe
became involved in a matter of days
The events leading to the outbreak of war had deep roots in European history. There had not been a large-scale European war for over one
hundred years, but many small problems were slowly becoming major issues. Many of these problems were used later to blame one country or
another for the outbreak of war. Examinations of these problems provide important clues about the political and military situation that
developed in 1914.
Germany was a relatively new country at the outbreak of the Great War. In fact, Germany was only 50 years old by 1914. Before Germany unified, it was
made up of a large number of small states. Each of the states was independent and had its own ruler. The largest and most powerful of these states was
Prussia. Under to guidance of the Chancellor, Otto Von Bismarck, a Prussian Aristocrat and politician there was the dream of a unified German state. Under
his leadership the dream became a reality.
Bismarck was able to blend diplomacy, a tough foreign policy, and two wars to create Germany. He successfully conducted two wars in his efforts to unify
Germany. The first conflict was the Seven Weeks War (1866) against Austria-Hungary, to establish Prussian domination in the affairs of all German-speaking
areas of Europe. The second war was the Franco-Prussian War (1870), which made Prussia the leader of the German states.
At the end of the Franco-Prussian War, a number of events occurred that provided clues to later problems in European history. First, Germany was declared a
nation under the rule of Prussian kings. The announcement took place inside the Palace of Versailles, just outside of Paris. This was a tremendous insult to the
people of France.
Second, the newly formed Germany forced France to pay for the cost of the war. The idea was to cripple the economy of France so that they could not use the
money to rebuild her army. Bismarck thought limiting the military threat to his new country was a good idea. In addition to the huge sums of money, Germany
also claimed two French provinces, Alsace and Lorraine. This led to very bitter feelings between France and Germany. They were to fester for many years.
With the unification of Germany now complete, Otto Von Bismarck turned his attention to ensuring its future. He believed that Germany needed strong allies
to help protect his new land. Furthermore, he would need to take steps to weaken France, which he believed to be the greatest threat to Germany.
A Review of the 19th Century
The 19th century saw European countries experiencing great change.
New innovations and inventions (including transportation and weaponry) led to growing industrialism----The
Nations also competed to establish overseas empires. These empires would act more as a status symbol.
“Pride, not profit, was their motive” is building their empires.
European powers expanded their colonial interests and influence into Africa, Southeast Asia, China, and Japan.
The 19th century also saw the unification of Italy (1871) and Germany (1871).----Nationalism (a belief in nation)
Otto von Bismarck, the Chancellor of Prussia, was determined to unite the German peoples through “blood and iron”.
Bismarck challenged or tricked into war those countries that stood in the way of German Unification. In doing so, he
opened up a wound which would play a part in causing WWI.
The Franco-Prussian War of 1870-71 involved Prussia (soon to be Germany) taking possession of a part of France called
Alsace-Lorraine. The French would not soon forget this humiliation...
Prelude to War The Road to War
The Road to war - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QnkVVyru3KY
Franco- Prussian War - 1870-1871
Leading up to this war the process of German unification was taking place
Cause: Leopold, the Prince in Prussia, put his name forward to become the monarch of Spain
Spain was in political turmoil and there was a vacancy in their monarchy
France was scared of the idea of a Spanish-Prussian alliance, which would leave them
surrounded and vulnerable
Prussia, Saxony, Bavaria, Baden - these states became “Germany” in 1871
They wanted to attempt to embarrass the Prussian Empire to delegitimize their candidacy for the
Result: The French lost
In an attempt to de-legitimize the Prussian Empire they actually allowed them to complete their
unification of Germany, lost control of Alsace-Lorraine, and were under German occupation until 1873
- How do you think the French felt after this defeat?
Austro-Hungary: The Annexation of Bosnia
- In October of 1908, the Austro-Hungarian Empire seized control of Bosnia
- Many ethnic Serbians lived in Bosnia, thus were unhappy with this forceful
- At the same time, Bulgaria proclaimed independence from the Ottoman
- These events were not connected, but Bulgaria’s claim to independence
from the Ottoman Empire violated parts of the Berlin Treaty from 1878.
Austro-Hungary: The Annexation of Bosnia
- Serbia, which controlled the Bosnian area 600 years before, still had a
yearning for the area, thus tensions grew.
- The Annexation of Bosnia was the result of larger empires adhering to their own
- Colonialism did not die until the mid 1950’s, thus many countries were still taking
advantage of countries and ethnic groups that were “lesser”
- This applied all over the world including: African nations, Asia, and South
- The most important aspect of the annexation of Bosnia and the
independence declaration of Bulgaria is the political instability that it
created in the Balkan Region
The Balkan War(s): 1912-1913
Serbia, Bulgaria, Montenegro, and Greece wish to emulate nations similar to their north
western counterparts. To do this they had to cast away Ottoman influence.
The Balkan League was created in 1912, consisting of Serbians, Greeks, Bulgarians, and
This loose amalgamation of nationalities were able to defeat the Ottoman Empire and push their
influence back into Asia Minor (Turkey).
- After, the Balkan league needed to divide up the new territory that they had gained
This did not go well, the result being the destruction of the Balkan League and Bulgaria fighting against Serbia, Greece, and
- These two wars just furthered the political tension of the area, leading up to the “Great War”
that began in 1914
- This political landscape filled with ethnic disagreements, arbitrary border creations, and overall
frustrations with one another led to Europe resembling a pile of dynamite with a short, short,
short fuse, thus leading to the nickname “The Powder Keg of Europe”
Militarism - The most prominent transition between the 19th and 20th centuries is the
advent of militarization
Having a local militia was always key to defend your town, kingdom, barn, swamp,
or what have you, but having a well-kempt military that was employed year round
was a rarity
- This began in the late 18th/ early 19th century
- By the beginning of the 20th century it was not enough to have a year round
military, but to have the “strongest” military
- An arms race began between European powers
- Britain and Germany were the two that came out on top
- Imagine that you are in a room with ten other people and you are arguing about
who gets to control each piece of the room. Obviously the “borders” are
completely imaginary and arbitrary, but then someone tosses a gun into the room.
How would the room feel?
Nationalism: My country is better than yours,
Before WWI many wars were fought in the name of colonialist expansion, religious
ideals, and border disputes of regional territories
People fought for their kings and religions, not for their country
At this point in history Nationalism took hold
- People wanted to have independence within a nation
- Austro-Hungary was of the Old Order, thus did not foster independence within its dual
- This can explain the hot bed that was in the Balkans
- Serbia, Montenegro, and Bulgaria were under constant oppression from the
Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian Empire's leading to their desire for
- The central powers of WWI also used the idea of “Country” as a way to recruit
Sources of Tension
the Congress of Vienna (1815) set out a peace settlement that lasted almost 100 years.
deep seated rivalries however threatened this peace. Mistrust and hatred developed
that would eventually lead to Total War.
3) Military build-up
4) Triple Alliance
5) Triple Entente
(a belief in nation. A nation refers to people sharing a common language, customs, religion etc.)
Nationalism often developed out of empires.
Britain’s colonial empire remained quite strong.
The Austro-Hungarian Empire was referred to as the “mad house of Europe”. The reason it was called this is because it
included many different ethnic groups seeking independence.
The Ottoman Empire was referred to as the “sick man of Europe” because it was on the brink of collapse.
-Nationalism was also a major source of tension between France and Germany.
ie) Morocco- These two countries almost went to war over Morocco in 1905. Morocco was a French colony but Germany
stated that it would support an independent Morocco, thus ticking off the French. In 1911, the French used Moroccan
riots as an excuse to send in the troops. Germany responded by sending a warship to the Port of Agadir. Germany
agreed to give up it’s claim on Morocco in exchange for the French Congo. War was averted by British mediation,
however because of Germany’s increased aggressiveness, anti-German sentiment rose in Britain and France.
◦ The French bitterly resented their loss in the Franco-Prussian War, and they were anxious for
◦ They were anxious to regain Alsace-Lorraine, however the Germans were determined to keep it.
◦ Italy, not exactly a powerhouse, was attempting to increase it’s status and were eager to gain
territories from the nearby Austro-Hungarian Empire.
3) Military build up
◦ With the increase in tensions, nations of Europe took steps to prepare for war.
◦ Military expenditures rose 300% in Europe between the years of 1870 and 1914.
◦ Some nations promoted militarism (a belief in the value of a strong military) and put officers in powerful
◦ Probably the most notable rivalry was the naval race between Germany and Britain.
◦ In 1898, Germany undertook a major naval build up campaign in order to match the might of Great Britain on
◦ As a result, Britain responded to this impending threat to her superiority on the seas by increasing naval
spending. Tension rose between these two powers.
◦ Armies also expanded in size. Two examples of this included:
◦ France- The French introduced 2-3 year mandatory military service.
◦ Russia- doubled their military spending between 900-1914.
◦ War was becoming increasingly inevitable.....
4) The Triple Alliance
•Not only did Europe’s powers build militarily, but they also sought out allies in case war did break out.
•German Chancellor Bismarck arranged several alliances with other European powers, his goal being to isolate France
so that it could not take revenge on Germany.
The alliances are as follows:
1879 - with Austria-Hungary
1881- “The Three Emperors League” was created which was a secret agreement between Germany, A/H, and Russia.
1882- The Triple Alliance was created. This saw Italy join the Germany-A/H Alliance.
A crisis in the Balkans (modern day Yugoslavia) led to tension between Germany and Russia, but Bismarck reached
out for friendship. The Reinsurance Treaty (1887) was signed between Russia and Germany to end the crisis.
Otto von Bismarck -> With these moves and secret alliances, Bismarck has successfully isolated France on the
5) The Triple Entente (French for “friendship”)
when Germany made alliances, France also sought allies.
◦ Kaiser Wilhelm II removed Bismarck from office in Germany. He wanted to conduct his own foreign policy.
◦ After dismissing Bismarck, he proceeded to let the Reinsurance Treaty of 1887 die.
◦ France seizes the opportunity and allies with Russia. Russia accepts because it is at odds with Austria-Hungary and is
worried about German power.
◦ France and Russia sign a pact agreeing to help if either are attacked.
◦ Britain, meanwhile, stayed out of the alliances. However, Germany’s increasing power caused the Brits to look for
◦ In 1904, the “Entente Cordial” is signed between Britain and France. It settles colonial issues, yet France sees it as a
◦ In 1907, Britain and Russia sign an agreement, and the Triple Entente is complete.
◦ The Alliance system increased the chance of war because if two countries started to fight, countless others would join
in because of their secret alliances.
The Road to Total War
What does Nationalism and Imperialism do? :
causes a growth in “nations” and a strong belief in the nation itself.
Germany unites and attempts to rival Britain’s naval power....an “arms race” results.
France harbours a deep hatred for Germany as a
result of their defeat and humiliation in the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-71.
Colonial rivalries result in a growing hatred between rival nations.
Europe Prior to WWI: Alliances and Enemies
1. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f11CKYB2FCA - Alliances and Enemies
2. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dYrofaDfMKI – Tinderbox Europe
3. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZmHxq28440c – A Shot that Changed the World
Outbreak of WWI- How Europe Spiraled into the
1) Prelude to war - https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLB2vhKMBjSxMMg8xHeY2K-0ap9srI_zx7
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n7kp3vf1uKA - Origins of WWI part 1
3) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gjlGoe1mnw0 – Origins of WWI part 2
50 years before WWI the likes and dislikes of the Euopean powers were very
different than those of 1914.
* Britain, for example, had no ties with other countries and instead concentrated
on building up her empire.
* the Emperors of Germany, Austria and Russia were already tied together by an
agreement called “The Three Emperors League”
* France had very few friends as was still licking her wounds after her defeat in
the Franco-Prussian War
These likes and dislikes began to change in 1879 when Germany quarreled with Russia.
To get protection against a possible Russian Attack, Germany agreed with Austria that
each would help the other if either of them were attacked
Thus the DUAL ALLIANCE 1879- Germany/Austria was born (agreement #1)
Three years later, Italy joined the DUAL ALLIANCE making it the TRIPLE ALLIANCE.
Agreement #2 – THE TRIPLE ALLIANCE, 1882- Germany/Austria/Italy
This three way friendship worried France and Russia, who both feared they could be
attacked and beaten by three powerful countries acting together. Their fears led to a third
alliance in 1892 when France and Russia agreed to help each other if either were attacked
Agreement #3- THE FRANCO-RUSSIAN ALLIANCE, 1892- France/Russia
For awhile, these alliances calmed the fears of both countries
Now it was Britain’s turn to become worried. As you know, Britain had been concentrating on
building up her Empire rather than building friendships with other European countries. But
when one of her colonies (South Africa) fought a war against the Boers (rebel settlers that
wanted to be independent) Britain noticed that Germany showed sympathy and supported
the Boers. This made Britain very suspicious of Germany and then began to search Europe for
a friend that would support them. Britain found that friend in France. “friendly
- Agreement #4- THE ENTENTE CORDIALE, 1904 – Britain/France
* Three years later in 1907 Britain made a similar agreement with Russia who, as you can see in
AGREEMENT #3, was already in an alliance with France. Thus the ENTENTE CORDIALE expanded
into the Triple Entente. Agreement #5- THE TRIPLE ENTENTE, 1907 – Britain/Russia/France
Alliances by 1907
The Powers of Europe
Size of Colonies
27 mill. sq. km
2.5 mill. sq. km
11 mill sq. km
Pop of Colonies
Size of Army
Size of Navy
Coal output yrly.
292 mill. tonnes
277 mill. tonnes
40 mill. tonnes
47 mill. tonnes
36.2 mill tonnes
Steel output yrly.
11 mill. tonnes
14 mill. tonnes
4.6 mill. tonnes
5 mill. tonnes
3.6 mill tonnes
The Result of Austria Declaring War on
By Early August
Within a week all but one of the members of the two
blocs formed were also at war
Italy was the exception
◦Bargained with both sides for several months
The Powers looked more like…
Changed from Central to
The Players when broken down…
United States (1917)
Fought on 3 Fronts
◦ Decisive front in France and Belgium
Eastern or Russian Front
◦ Reached from the Baltic Sea to the Aegean
◦ Involved only Italy and Austria-Hungary and had no major influence on the course of
On the Brink
1) the Balkan “Powder Keg”
2) Assassination in Sarajevo
3) Diplomatic crisis
4) the outbreak of war
1. The Balkan “Powder Keg”
At the Congress of Berlin (1878), Austria-Hungary was given the right to administer BosniaHerzegovina, on the western border of Serbia.
This upset the Serbs who wanted to absorb the area within the territory they already controlled.
Russia was also upset because they wanted access to warm water sea ports.
However, Russia was too weak to fight, so they reluctantly accepted the situation.
In 1912-13, wars broke out within the Balkans to gain independence from the Ottoman and A/H
Albania became independent, and an uneasy peace follows.
Ottoman Empire (enters the war at wk
The Ottoman Disaster (wk 23) - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ew39InPunOY
2) Assassination in Sarajevo
◦ On June 28, 1914, Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne visited Sarajevo, the capital of Bosnia.
• Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie were riding through the streets in an open top car. Suddenly, a young
Bosnian radical named Gavrilo Princip stepped from the curb and shot them both dead.
Princip belonged to the “Black Hand”, a Serbian nationalist group that wanted to unite Bosnia with Serbia.
◦ The Black Hand was not associated with the Serbian Government, but Austria-Hungary felt that the Serbs were
somehow involved with the murder.
◦ The Austro-Hungarian Emperor, Franz Josef, sent a telegram to Germany denouncing this “well organized conspiracy”.
Germany replied that it would “fulfill all obligations as set out in it’s alliances”.
Austria-Hungary would take this to mean that Germany would support any action that it took against Serbia.
The Beginning of the End- August 1914
This was the culmination of several events, a few of which we have covered, the led to
destruction of four major empires, and the beginning of the end of colonial dominance.
In June, 1914, Franz Ferdinand, the heir to the Austro-Hungarian Empire was assassinated by a
Serbian political group, the Black Hand.
Franz Ferdinand and his wife, Sophie, made a visit to Sarajevo, the capital of Bosnia
The recent annexation, 1908, still fresh in many ethnic Serbians minds was the cause of this
First, a bomb was thrown at the Archduke’s motorcade, but exploded underneath wounding
several people, but the Archduke was still alive.
The Black Hand was given a second attempt outside of a sandwich shop, which is where one of
the assassins, Gavrilo Princip, had went for lunch.
Princip seized this opportunity, drawing out two pistols, and murdered the Archduke and his
• On July 23rd, 1914, Austro-Hungary issued a forty-eight hour ultimatum
• One of the ultimatum terms was the Austro-Hungarian Empire demanding an inquiry
into the assassination on Serbian soil, but the Serbian government rejected this
• Thus Austro-Hungary was unable to investigate into their Archduke’s death in Serbia,
given that the Serbian government deemed this to be outside of their jurisdiction
• Without this inquest the Austro-Hungarian Empire declared war on the Serbian nation
on July 28th, 1914 by bombing Belgrade
• The Russians, who had a pact with the Serbians, mobilized troops to defend Serbia
• Germany then leapt to Austro-Hungary’s defence and declared war on Russia
• Germany then quickly declared war on France, who was Russia’s ally
• When Germany prepared to attack Belgium, England declared war on Germany due
to their alliance with the Belgians
• Austro-Hungary then declared war on Russia
• France and England then declared war on Austro-Hungary
• Switzerland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Spain, Albania, and the USA all declared
3) Diplomatic Crisis
Tensions mounted in the month after the murder.
Austria-Hungary issued several demands to Serbia including:
cease all anti-Austro-Hungarian activity.
allow Austro-Hungarian officials into Serbia to investigate the murder.
Serbia faced a difficult decision.
LOSS OF INDEPENDENCE
Serbia accepted all provisions, except for the last one. They refused to let A/H officials into their country to investigate.
As a result Austria-Hungary starts to mobilize it’s army in preparation for war with Serbia.
France and Russia become alarmed. Russia pledges to support Serbia. France pledges to support Russia.
Britain proposed a “Great Powers” conference to mediate the dispute between Austria-Hungary and Serbia.
Germany and Austria-Hungary refused this proposal. The world now sat on the brink of Total War....
4) The Outbreak of War
On July 28, 1914, Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia. The Alliance System
soon began to operate.
On July 29, 1914, Russia began mobilizing it’s army. Germany asked Russia to
cancel the mobilization order, stating that a failure to do so would result in war.
Russia did not comply, and Germany declared war on Russia on August 1, 1914.
Czar Nicholas II of Russia vs Kaiser Wilhelm II of German
The Pieces in Motion
Up to this point of warfare history, wars had been generally short, but fought slowly, the scale was small, and the
offensive was the tried and true way to win a war. This changed with WWI
The Germans were able to taking an advantage in France with the Schlieffen Plan, but eventually led to a
four year long stalemate which changed the view of war forever; what was once a whimsical mix of
beautiful uniforms, gallantry, and bravado was now a landscape of war torn countryside covered with
barbed wire, artillery shells, poisonous gases, and bodies
New technologies also widened the scope of battle
Although these technologies had been developed for years and utilized in various ways no one really
understood their capabilities fully, thus they were relegated to the side by the majority of nations
• Machine Guns
• Biological Warfare
Plans of Attack
1) Schlieffen Plan- Germany
2) Plan 17 – France
3) Plan R - Austria-Hungary
1) The Schlieffen Plan
Developed by Alfred von Schlieffen in 1905, the Schlieffen Plan was a code of conduct
that the German army would enact to quickly encircle the French
Essentially, the German army would take a quick offensive against the French, rather than
adopting a stagnant defensive position, while simultaneously having a contingency plan for
eastern deployment against the Russians
- The Germans would go through Belgium, making use of their extensive railway system,
thus avoiding the French fortresses along their border
- They take the majority of their army through this passage, go around Paris routing the
French defences, rendering French’s surrender imminent
- This needed to be done quickly to allow the Germans the ability to mobilize forces against
other nations in a multi-front war
- Schlieffen warned that if the Germans lost momentum or if the French were able to escape the campaign
would become an endless struggle
- This plan was used partially by the German general Helmuth von Moltke the
The Schlieffen Plan was used in part, where the Germans attempted to outflank the
French, thus putting them into a trap, but unlike Schlieffen, Moltke was tentative and
planned to send far fewer troops through Belgium than Schlieffen had recommended
- Schlieffen recommended a seven to one ratio of troops in the centre of Germany, while Moltke opted
for a tentative three to one ratio, thus staving off French invasion in the south west of Germany
- This plan was daring because they needed to defeat the French in less than six weeks so that they had
ample time to make it to the eastern front to take on and defeat the Russians
- Regardless of this plan, the German army was outnumbered by the French
- 1.7 million Germans versus 2 million French, plus the Belgian and British intervention while they
attempted to pass through Belgium to rout the French
Recap Schlieffen Plan
The basic premise was to sweep through Belgium to attack France.
After defeating the French, the Germans could turn their attention towards Russia.
Russia reacted more quickly than expected and the French resisted the German attack at the Miracle of the
The Germans figured that France would eventually join the war, so they declared war on France on August 3,
1914. This was to allow the “Schlieffen Plan” time to work.
Germany had known for some time that a war fought in Europe would mean it’s armed forces would have to
fight a war on two fronts:
Against FRANCE in the West
Against RUSSIA in the East
Therefore, the Germans had a plan devised for a two front war-----The Schlieffen Plan.
This plan was based on 3 major premises:
1) Germany could not fight and win a two front war.
2) That it would take Russia 6 weeks to mobilize it’s massive army to the point that it was ready
to attack Germany.
3) That Germany had to ignore Russia, attack and defeat France in 4-5 weeks, and quickly
move it’s forces to the Eastern Front.
The Schlieffen Plan was simple in design.
The Germans would attack France from a base in Alsace-Lorraine.
While the French met this attack, a second wing of the German army would swing threw Belgium into northern France and come
up against the enemy from behind, thus crushing the enemy from both sides.
Problem: The Schlieffen Plan did not work from the beginning. Why?
i) Belgium did not allow free passage for the German Army.
ii) The Invasion of Belgium caused Britain to enter the war; largely due to an agreement which guaranteed Belgian
neutrality. Germany violated this agreement.
iii) The southern flank of the German army which was to engage the French, then allow the second wing to come up behind
was too strong and drove the French back. Therefore both wings of the German army met just outside Paris facing the
In the “Miracle of the Marne”, the French held off the German invaders, who could not deliver the knockout blow. Therefore
both sides dug in. Soon the British Empire troops joined the Western Front, marking the beginning of a long trench war.
Four long years of conflict and bloodshed lay ahead....
Germany in the 2 Front War and the
2) Plan 17
The French, too, had a plan under Joseph Joffre
- Plan 17 outlined that the French would take an all encompassing coverage of
Belgium, Luxembourg, and Lorraine
- This was later regarded as a grave mistake since they did not expect the
Germans to take such a large sweep into Belgium
The basic idea behind this plan was to sweep through and take the captured provinces of
Alsace-Lorraine (speed and aggression).
Stalemate in France
As we look back in history we can see that the execution of the Schlieffen Plan was
inadequate, but why?
The plan itself was sound in nature, but the confidence from Moltke the Senior and
other German generals was not there
- von Kluck, a German general, felt too “exposed” out in the north west flanking position,
so he changed his formation, thus ruining the execution of the plan
- It was this lack of confidence that led to the German’s plan failing
- Moltke was demoted for this failure of the Schlieffen Plan
- Although the plan to conquer France in six weeks had failed, the Germans controlled
90% of French iron ore reserves and 40% of their coal
- The reasons for general stalemate comes from the lack of knowledge around the new technology, how to
deal with massive mobilized armies, and lacking adequate rations/ammunitions for a long war
- Everyone believed that this war would not last longer than six months, which they were sorely mistaken
Oh, those Belgians...
One of the main reasons why the Schlieffen Plan failed is two-fold
1. von Moltke the Senior was too tentative and did not send a large enough
2. The Belgians, led by King Albert I, put up a hell of a good fight regardless of
their poorly equipped and trained infantry
If the Germans had sent the amount of troops the Schlieffen had originally predicted
through Belgium, they would have conquered Belgium and France in less than six weeks
allowing them to confront the Russians on their eastern border
This could have had a large impact as England may have been hesitant to enter the war if
Germany quickly took control of Belgium and France
Although the Belgian force was untrained and unequipped, behind their fearless leader,
Albert I, they fought with gumption for their nationhood
Week 3 to Week 6
1) To Arms- Deployment of Troops- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1gHIykUyBb0
2) A New War with Old Generals- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y-OYK2M4U3Y
3) The Rape of Belgium and the Battle of Tannenberg- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=THRNohrfAiI
4) Plans are Doomed to Fail- Battle of Galicia- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FoGjv3U-AP8
Battle of Marne: I’ll Race you, Buddy.
- Although the Schlieffen Plan “failed” the Germans were twenty one kilometres
from Paris on the Marne river
- The citizens of Paris began to leave in droves to try and escape German occupation
The British army was suffering from retreat in Belgium towards Paris
- The next few days highlighted Germany’s press towards Paris, but the French staved
- At this point, the Germans now had the British and French in front of the; desperately in need of a new
position they began their race to the sea
- The British/French also attempted to reach the sea
- The result was miles and miles of trenches, and the creation of the trench stalemate on a grandiose scale
Battle of the Marne
They sent they forces across the border into Russia to engage the enemy.
• Help Belgium
• The British Expeditionary Force (B.E.F.) landed to attempt to liberate Belgium from enemy occupation.
Opposite of Austria-Hungary.
Problems and Results:
The key to all these plans was speed.
However, all of these plans did not work for a variety of reasons.
The UNEXPECTED actions of opposing forces often led to the failure of many of the plans.
Neither side was able to take an advantage. As a result both sides ended up at Flanders (on the Western Front) and
began digging in until the trenchline extended all the way to Switzerland.
The long stalemate began....
Mud & Blood
The defining feature of WWI, other than the total control it had around the world
in the scale of involvement, would be the trenches
Before this trench warfare was an unknown
- There had been sieges waged upon castles/ fortresses, and it was common practice to dig a small hole to
hide yourself from incoming cannon shots, but trenches of this scale and staying in them for days on end
was unheard of
- Attrition: the action or process of gradually reducing the strength or effectiveness of
someone or something through sustained attack or pressure
- Trenches began like their distant counterparts used for cannon warfare, simply as
- The Germans were well planned in their placement of trenches, usually at beneficial
vantage points and upstream, while the English and French were relegated to sitting in
wet, muddy, and exposed positions
a) Construction of Trenches
Trenches were built everywhere (through cemeteries etc.)
They were constructed in a zig zag pattern so as to limit the impact of an enemy blast to a small section of the
There were 3 levels of trenchlines
front line trenches
Connecting these trenches were communication trenches for phone lines as well as blind alleys to confuse the
b) Life in the Trenches
Life in the trenches was horrifying. One of the most fearful experiences was going
“over the top”
Before going “over the top” the enemy was bombarded so as to soften them up
Because of their nature, artillery shells caused more psychological damage (referred
to as “shell shock”) than physical damage.
When not fighting or being bombarded, troops lived a miserable life.
The troops could spend weeks in knee deep water in the trenches which could often
lead to a condition called trench foot.
Trenches were filthy and were infested with huge rats and lice.
In general, the existence of a soldier was miserable with little relief, sleep, or food. This
was a far cry from the dreams of adventure and glory that many had envisioned when
they signed up to serve their country in this glorious conflict.
The issue with trenches, especially for the British and French
was that where the trenches were position they took on large
amounts of water
The mud also affected soldier’s weaponry and food
Soldiers would then stand in mud and water for days on end
- This led to something known as “trench foot”
Rations were ruined, and weapons began to jam
Rats were also an issue in the trenches
Rats were able to feast on the numerous dead bodies found in
the trenches, thus they produced like wild fire
They spread disease, stole food, and even endangered soldiers
that were injured because they became bold enough to attack!
- Five day fever - Caused by lice
"I saw some rats running from under the dead men's greatcoats, enormous rats,
fat with human flesh. My heart pounded as we edged towards one of the bodies.
His helmet had rolled off. The man displayed a grimacing face, stripped of flesh;
the skull bare, the eyes devoured and from the yawning mouth leapt a rat."
1) Welcome to the Dirt- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hJV3ZGclI8o
2) Austrian Railways- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZB41G4Q8-2U
3) Dying in the Mud- Autumn is Taking its Toll- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hkWqqciony0
4) Trench Warfare in WWI (special)- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P92guhd7d-8
5) Trench Raid Tactics - Into The Abyss https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HfKUd8bvQfc
6) How did they bury the dead? - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HoS7FM63Hcc
life in the trenches!!.ppt
Trench Warfare in WWI.ppt
- While the Western front was grinding to a halt, the war at sea was raging
By the end of 1914 the British, who were the naval superiors of the world, were
able to sink every German civilian ship
- This is important because this caused a disconnect between Germany and her colonies, thus they
could not be supplied from outside forces
- Any German frigates or dreadnoughts were simply chased back to Germany, thus for the first year
of WWI the British still owned the ocean
- Germany was slowly losing the ability to properly supply their army, and the British were simply
exacerbating that issue
- This was the beginning of a glimpse into what Total War would be
Entire economies were controlled by the war effort, millions of men were needed,
supplying those men was a logistical nightmare, and war weariness hit an all time
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B27f4tEROJU - The Russian War Machine and the Race to the Sea
Learning From Napoleon (wk 12) - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QrT7H2DvQ3Y
Russian Uniforms- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=esNyj5Qkl3U
Christmas Day, 1914
Something odd occurred on December 24th, 1914
A cease fire has been called and for an entire day there was no fighting between the Alliance and
- What is even more peculiar is that these groups of soldiers actually met in “no man’s land” and
shared food and gifts
Some reports came back stating that there were friendly matches of soccer taking place between warring enemies
- Generals from both sides were furious over these actions and called for an immediate
abandonment of such gatherings
"I think I have seen one of the most extraordinary sights today that anyone has ever seen. About 10 o'clock this
morning I was peeping over a parapet when I saw a German, waving his arms, and presently two of them got out
of their trenches and some came towards ours. We were just going to fire on them when we saw they had no rifles
so one of our men went out to meet them and in about two minutes the ground between the two lines of trenches
was swarming with men and officers of both sides, shaking hands and wishing each other a happy Christmas.
Second Lieutenant Dougan Chater
Back For Christmas? The Illusion of a Short War (wk
The Christmas Truce- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SpqVblMPRB4
The Machine Gun: this weapon, prior to WWI, was viewed as lacklustre. Many believed that
this weapon would be ineffective in war, especially the “well-trained” armies of Britain or
- The Germans took advantage of this new technology and utilized it in such a way that it
became a staple in warfare
- By placing machine guns in specific positions on hills, the Germans were able to create
an interlocking spray of machine gun fire
This system allowed for maximum defence with minimal effort
Artillery: with advancements in the range of artillery fire, the scope and the way battles were
fought changed completely.
- Barrages of artillery fire prior to battles were now common place
The issue with such barrages were the lack of planning, communication, and effectiveness
- At the Battle of the Somme, before the initial attack, the British used a barrage of artillery to
weaken the German defences; the issue was that the types of shells used were not explosive
enough - defences were left intact and a massacre ensued as the British left their trenches
Grenades: this technology was not new at the advent of WWI, but the usage became widespread as they were
effective in clearing out enemy trenches
Tanks: this was a new technology for all generals in WWI. No one truly understand how to utilize them in the
battlefield properly, but they were effective in surpassing “No Man’s Land”.
- the tank was basically engineered out of a tractors husk with armour plating welding on to it
- this of course changed as technologies advanced
originally tanks were just simple machines with tracks, equipped with machine guns and in some cases
- these were cumbersome units that could only travel four to six kilometres an hour and weighed over thirty
Biological warfare: this was not a new weapon, but the types of biological warfare used was.
- Chlorine: a bluish, green gas that would suffocate those that were infected by filling the
First used by the Germans in 1915 in Ypres, but was generally ineffective as those infected
would cough the gas out of their lungs
Phosgene, a clear gas, was then developed as an alternative to chlorine, which was much
more effective than its bluish, green counterpart
Mustard gas: a musty, hay smelling gas that would develop blisters on the body and burn
the inner lining of the lung.
This was one of the most terrifying weapons used
- It was a slow acting acid where symptoms would not develop for twelve hours in some cases
Airplanes: this was a weapon that came into its own as the war progressed
- Originally, they were simply used for the purposes of observing enemy positions, which
was very successful
- When the French mounted machine guns as weapons on the airplane it then became the
cavalry of the sky
Planes at this point were not the fast, fancy, aerodynamic machines that we know
- They were wooden, static, covered in canvas, and lacked maneuverability
Barbed Wire: yes, the thing that is used to prevent cows from leaving their desired area
was used as a weapon.
- Developed in the USA as a tool for farmers/ranchers, it was soon used to cover “No
Man’s Land” and to defend the trenches
- Soldiers would become entangled in the wire, thus leaving them exposed and swiftly
- This weapon, couple with crisscrossing machine gun fire led to the demise of many
The Unterseebooten (U-boats): although the submarine had been around since 1620, the
Germans were able to perfect its usage in WWI
- Submarines were used as a stealth weapon against the naval superiority that the
British possessed over the Germans
- Germans were now able to silently and secretly attack the British enemy
- In 1917, the Germans sunk the Lusitania
This led to the death of over 1100 civilians, including 139 Americans
- This is what caused the USA to join the war
- The convoy system of accompanying unarmed ships with
destroys was soon adopted to stave off German attacks
1) How did Gas shells Work- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tDnF-P_tfPE
2) Gas!- A New Horror on the Battlefield (wk 28)
3) Silent and Deadly - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OrHFEPu_ANI
Role of Airplanes and Cavalry in WWI
2) Sky was the Limit - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s1oxX4Q6ndo
What was the Bloodiest Battle in WWI?
First 6 months of WWI summary
Canadian Involvement in WWI
- Canada, at this time, was still closely tied to Britain; when Britain declared war on
Germany, we were also at war with Germany
It was not until William Lyon Mackenzie King, who was insane, that we became more
independent as a nation
- In WWI we attempted to supply Britain through the war effort with munitions, food, and
- In certain cases, Canadians were used as “expendables”, thus many battalions were
given dangerous and risky missions
- Although Canada was under British dominion, the size of the war effort was hotly
- Remember: Canada is a country that has three different nations represented within it - the English, the
French, and the First Nations People of Canada
- The French, not seeing the relevance of being a part of the war, debated on whether or not they should be
a part of it - why should the French population of Canada fight in a British war?
First Nations Involvement in WWI
- WWI powerpoints\First Nations Involvement in World War One.ppt
- around 4,000 First Nations people from across Canada joined the military to fight the
Germans and Austro-Hungarians
The view on soldiers at this time was that “a soldier is a soldier is a soldier”
- Regardless of this, there were still racially inspired issues that many had to deal with
- They also had to overcome the exclusive use of English in the army - many First Nations people did not know
how to speak fluent English
- Despite all of these barriers, the First Nations people who were apart of the army served
honorably and their talents were noticed
- Due to the lifestyles of hunting, many First Nations people were well trained with rifles
- Corporal Francis Pegahmagabow was the most decorated First Nations soldier that fought in WWI; he was
known as an excellent marksman, and was also able to single handedly capture a large number of German
soldiers circa 1916.
- When many of the soldiers returned to Canada though, they still faced the same prejudice
Canada in WWI
1) What About Canada? - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eYmsRaT6L1Y
2) Baptism by Fire for Canada- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WHvaLDe-xiY
Canada and the Great war
Episode 1 Part 1- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UuoAnXA1rsk
Part 2- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0cVPvPm_5TY
Part 3- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WCeRtGZ0zWA
Part 4- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zIvL8HIPueo
Part 5- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V-i8gr9yycg
Part 6- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xEMxxqWa4L
Part 7- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s9wc_IG1gA0
Part 8- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rhGehGzrlbA
Major Canadian Battles
Second Ypres - April, 1915*
Festubert - May, 1915
St. Eloi Craters - April, 1916
Mount Sorrel - June, 1916
The Somme - July - Nov. 1916*
Courcelette - Sept. 1916
Vimy Ridge - April, 1917*
Hill 70 - July-August, 1917
Passchendaele - October, 1917*
Siberian Expedition Force (Russian Civil War) - 1918 - 1921
Amiens - August, 1918
Arras and Canal du Nord - August, 1918*
Mons - November, 1918
Ypres was the last major town that the Allies had control of; they needed to ensure
control of it at all costs as this was a route where the Allies could protect French ports
on the English Channel
this was the first battle where biological warfare was used on the battlefield by the Germans
- Three brigades of Canadians were present that day: two were in the front lines, and the other
in the reserves near Ypres
- The French were fighting on the left of the Canadian brigades where they were gassed with
Many abandoned their posts fleeing the bluish-green gas with their lungs and eyes burning
- Much of the gas missed the Canadians, but left their flank exposed
- Over the next four days the Canadians fought tenaciously, but at the cost of 6,000 men
- The Canadian army now had a new found reputation because of their dependability and
toughness in the heat of battle
Second Battle of Ypres
◦ Second Battle of Ypres PDF
**Battle of Verdun
This was a battle primarily between the Germans and the French. However, Verdun was such a critical
location for the allies and the desperate push to keep it spurned the most costly battle for Canadians…
The Battle of the Somme
here is a very brief overview of Verdun
The Somme - 1916
- by 1916 the British had trained a massive force of new soldiers
this was necessary because the original, small, professional force at this point of
the war had been eliminated in battle
- Now the British had a new, revitalized force, but they were not battle ready due
to a lack of experience
- The French at this point were willing and able to launch a full offensive to
effectively “end” the war
Under French command, both the British and French were to launch a massive
offensive at the Somme, but this was ruined by the Germans launching a
counter offensive at Verdun
The Somme was then left in the hands of the British under General Haig
- The plan was simple, as the British government and General Haig had little
confidence in the newly trained soldiers
A barrage of over 1.5 million artillery shells was to knock out much of the
German defence network
- The soldiers would then go in four waves, one after the other, march to the
German trenches and take control of the new positions
- This offensive was supposed to be a short one…
- The artillery barrage began on July 1st and for five days straight shells
rained down upon the German defences
- When came time to go up and over soldiers were eager, as many of them had
not fought in an actual battle before
- What occurred was chaos
- At the end of the first day the British had suffered 56,000 casualties: 21,000 dead and 35,000
- Some divisions, such as one from Newfoundland, suffered almost ensured destruction; 810 men
went over, and only 100 lived
- Why did this occur?
The reason that the Somme offensive was such a complete failure is because of the
insufficient use of proper artillery shells
Most of the shells that were used were the air explosive type, rather than a high impact
- The Germans were able to simply hide from much of the shrapnel, thus their defences
were left intact
- The barbed wire was also to be destroyed, but the air explosive shells were not able to
destroy such defences; they needed to use high impact explosives to have that effect
- With the German defences intact many soldiers were trapped in the barbed wire and shot
- The medical staff was completely overwhelmed and little could be done for the majority of those wounded
- Many of those that were shot in the stomach area were just left to die, because nothing could be
done for them other than be given a shot of morphine
- By the end of the FIRST MONTH of battle over one million people were
dead on both sides
- Allies - 620,000
- German - 450,000
- The ground gained was minimal, just a few kilometers, for the amount of dead
that had succumbed to the horrors of fights
- General Haig was undeterred by such numbers and continued day after day
with the onslaught
- The battle actually lasted until November 18th, 1916 = FOUR AND A HALF
- This type of military engagement highlights the style of warfare that was typical
of the WWI landscape
Battle of the Somme
Battle of the Somme PDF
This battle, and its resulting success, were defining moments for Canada and her military
This position was integral because its seven kilometre expanse making it a strategic vantage point for
- The British at this point had minimal success, and the French had suffered great losses, but when the
Canadians were instructed to take Vimy Ridge they did it in a spectacular fashion
- Lieutenant-General Sir Julian Byng, the Canadian Corps commander, learning
much from the Battle of the Somme, used new tactics with his soldiers
- Instead of having the soldiers led by their commanding officer, all soldiers were given the plan
so that they could make independent decisions to ensure the advancement of the line
- An artillery barrage was used to isolate the German defences from one another
- At 5:30 AM, April 9th, 1917 over 1000 guns fired upon the German positions and 15,000
Canadian soldiers came out of the trenches to advance to their new position with thousands
more soldiers behind them
This battle is important in Canadian history because of the unprecedented victory that neither the French,
nor the British, could complete
This was also the first time all four Canadian divisons fought together
Far From Home- Canada and Vimy Ridge
Vimy Ridge From Heaven to Hell (full documentary) 70 minutes
Battle of Vimy Ridge PDF
- Similar to the situation at Vimy Ridge where the British were unable to effectively
defeat the German held position, General Haig had little success at Passchendaele
with the British
- He then ordered the Canadians to bring victory home for the Allies
Sir Arthur Currie, commander of the Canadian Corps, was instructed by General Haig to
take Passchendaele, but Currie refused initially
- He felt that the battle could not be won, but Haig insisted, thus he began to prepare
- The landscape of Passchendaele was a murky bog filled with bodies and a shell shocked landscape
- The Canadian troops arrived to relieve New Zealand and Australian soldiers from their positions and begin
- Currie began by building new roads, creating new defence positions, and repair railworks
- With the new infrastructure in place the Canadians began a four set piece attack, where they would be
http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x2i6syx Passchendaele full movie (1 hour 55 min)
Arras and Canal du Nord
Following a victory at the battle of Amiens, the Allied generals wanted to have a
joint attack against the seemingly weak German Western front
What resulted became known as the “Hundred Days” which lasted from August until
November of 1918
- The Canadians took the lead on the attack on August 26th with the use of artillery
- The German defences were shell shocked, but heavily losses were incurred on both sides
- More than 11,000 Canadians died by September 2nd when they finally broke through the DrocourtQuéant Line
- After a month of planning, the Canadians took on another risky operation against the
Germans at the Canal du Nord
- Due to proper planning and magnificent execution, the Canadians were able to break through and take
the key positions Bourlon Wood and Cambrai
Canal du Nord
The Home Fronts
- Remember, while all of this warfare was going on in mainland Europe some
sort of “normal” life still needed to be sustained
While the country was rallying behind their army to supply their troops they
also needed to supply themselves with food, clothes, and other amenities
- This was the introduction of “Total War”
- Nations were at a stand still supporting the entirety of the war effort
- No one had anticipated a war that would last longer than a year
As the war continued to drag on and resources expired, countries were at odds
with how to properly supply their armies
- Germany was the best prepared out of all nations that entered WWI, and
they even reached resistance with supply issues
Food was one of the major issues in Germany during the war
The best food was sent to the front lines to ensure the soldiers would have the proper
amount of energy to conquer those before them, while those at home were left with
little to eat
- Kriegsbrot became a staple for the German people, which is a type of bread that is made with potatoes
instead of wheat
- As the war began to take longer than initially expected, the Germans turned to science to feed those who
were at home
- Margarine, artificial honey, gravies, puddings, and other edibles were created to deal with the lack of
- Winter of 1916 - Turnip Winter - potatoe harvest was destroyed by frost
- Due to the war effort needing so many men, there was a shortage of men to work in the
- Prisoners of war, children, and women were used to keep up the production needed for those abroad and
those at home
- Like the Germans, the British did not expect the war to last as long
as it did, thus their economy was strained
DORA (Defense of Realm Act) was passed to allow the government to do
WHATEVER IT TAKES to defeat the enemy
- When the Germans began their unrestricted submarine warfare the civilians
of Britain suffered
- Before this, the British were able to access their colonies for extra food stuffs
- Shortages then became more common as this practice of unrestricted warfare began
- Unlike Germany, the British did not suffer from a lack of raw materials, but
did suffer from a lack of workers
- Women stepped up and began to work “Traditional” jobs that were generally occupied by
men at the time
On the Homefront
1) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A9GVIAznl04 (8:53) A war to End all wars, homefront
2) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S7_WEbTwOD0 (9:38) Fresh Meat- the search for new recruits
The French Mutiny - 1917
After three years of solid fighting and hundreds of thousands of dead and wounded the
French army had had enough
The food was poor, the soldiers had not been on leave for the entirety of the war, and they began to
lose faith in their commanding officers
- One disastrous battle was the tipping point
100,000 French soldiers died in a major battle and the replacements “bleated like sheep” to symbolize the generals herding
them to their deaths
- Discontent continued to spread culminating in 30,000 men simply getting out of their trenches and
54 divisions, over half of the French army, began to disregard their commanding officers orders and panic quickly set into the
General Petain made some changes to the conditions of the army, and after six weeks the army was working cohesively again
- This did not occur before mass arrests, exiles, and executions
24,000 arrested, 400 sentenced to death, 50 shot, the other 350 sent to Devil’s Isle
French Mutiny 1917
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y2wkfUqsEcU (10 min)
Slow Uncle Sam joins the fight
Remember, the USA did not join the war initially, instead they declared their
Special note: the Americans supplied Germany with nickel, a metal used in creating
bullets, plating armour upon ships and tanks, and other general military applications
- Capitalism knows no bounds…
- In 1917, the Germans had stepped up their unrestricted submarine warfare policy and
consequently the Lusitania, a civilian ship, was sunk
- One board were 128 Americans, and public outcry led for Woodrow Wilson to declare war on April 6th,
- The Germans now had to scramble to defeat those left on the Western front before the Americans could
- The American army was was well equipped, refreshed, and ready to fight as they had not been in a
major war since the Spanish Civil War in 1898
Why did the US enter WWI?
Unrestricted Submarine Warfare and the Lusitania
U.S. Entered World War I April 6, 1917
On April 6, 1917, the U.S. joined its allies--Britain,
France, and Russia--to fight in World War I. Under the
command of Major General John J. Pershing, more than
2 million U.S. soldiers fought on battlefields in France.
Many Americans were not in favor of the U.S. entering
the war and wanted to remain neutral. However, the
U.S. eventually did enter the war.
Sinking of the Lusitania
American neutrality was put to the
test in May 1915, when the German
submarine U-20 sank the British
luxury liner Lusitania, which was
carrying 1200 passengers and a
cargo of ammunition for British
rifles. The German embassy had
warned Americans that Allied
vessels in the war zone were fair
targets, but 128 Americans had
ignored the warning and met their
deaths. Wilson accused the
Germans of brutality, demanded
that they stop submarine warfare,
and refused to ban American
passengers from sailing on Allied
Sinking of the Lusitania (44 minutes)
Wilson did not want to enter a war while trying to get
•In March 1916, after another passenger vessel, the Sussex, was torpedoed,
Germany finally agreed to apologize, pay damages and promise not to attack
passenger vessels. This promise was known as the “Sussex Pledge”.
•Wilson won the election of 1916 with the campaign slogan “He kept us out of
•By 1917, Wilson asked Congress to join the war in Europe. Most Americans did
not support U.S. involvement in the war. Wilson decided to ask congress to go
to war because:
1) the sinking of the Lusitania
2) the Zimmerman Telegram
The final break with
Germany came in the
wake of two incidents.
(1) The Germans
announced early in 1917
that they would resume
warfare. At first, horrified
that his policy of "strict
now to demand war,
Wilson did nothing.
(2) In February, the British
revealed the contents of
Telegraph," proposing a
under which Mexico would
recover all the territory it
had lost to the U.S. in the
1840s. Wilson began
arming merchant ships, and
on April 2, 1917, Wilson
appeared before the
Congress asking for a
declaration of war against
While Wilson weighed his options regarding the submarine issue, he also had to address the
question of Germany’s attempts to cement a secret alliance with Mexico. On January 19, 1917,
British naval intelligence intercepted and decrypted a telegram sent by German Foreign Minister
Arthur Zimmermann to the German Ambassador in Mexico City. The “Zimmermann Telegram”
promised the Mexican Government that Germany would help Mexico recover the territory it had
ceded to the United States following the Mexican-American War. In return for this assistance,
Germany asked for Mexican support in the war.
On April 2, 1917, President Woodrow Wilson went before a joint session of Congress to request a
declaration of war against Germany. Wilson cited Germany’s violation of its pledge to suspend unrestricted
submarine warfare in the North Atlantic and the Mediterranean, as well as its attempts to entice Mexico into
an alliance against the United States, as his reasons for declaring war. On April 4, 1917, the U.S. Senate
voted in support of the measure to declare war on Germany. The House concurred two days later. The
United States later declared war on German ally Austria-Hungary on December 7, 1917.
In the trenches
By the time the American troops
arrived in substantial numbers in the
spring of 1918, British and French
units had endured more than three
years of increasingly costly trench
warfare. These British troops are
shown on the front line in the Somme
area in August 1916. The Battle of the
Somme, in the summer and fall of
1916, achieved almost no changes in
the positions of the German and
Allied armies, but 420,000 British,
200,000 French, and 450,000
Germans lost their lives, and the area
was almost totally destroyed.
Der letzte Angriff Deutsch (The Last German
- With the Americans soon arriving, the Germans needed to
make one last push to take victory on the Western Front
The war on the Eastern front had mostly subsided due to the Russian
Revolutions that occurred in February and October of 1917, thus the
Germans could now solely focus on one front rather than two
- Under General Ludendorff the Germans launched a massive assault
- With 200 divisions of soldiers and a massive artillery backing the Germans broke
through and pushed all the way to Paris, but lost momentum
- The Allies then banded together - the French, British, and newly arrived Americans and began a counteroffensive which slowly pushed them back to their original
- The end was now near, but not before thousand more were killed on both sides...
Germany’s last Gamble 1918 (51 minutes)
The Final Days
- The end was now insight for the Allies
The British took an initiative of a number of offensives to take the pressure off
the war weary French
- The problem with this was the lack of adaptations the British High Command
made in their battle plans
- Little knowledge was used from the prior battles, thus high casualty numbers plagued the
last few endeavours
- Hundreds of thousands of men died in battles like Passchendaele for little to no actual gain
- The German home front at this point was beyond war weary and the soldiers
felt an imminent defeat
- Beginning with a mutiny at sea, riots quickly spread across Germany and the war effort
completely fell apart
Woodrow Wilson’s fourteen points
On January 8th, 1918 Wilson delivered a speech outlines the demands of an Armistice with the USA
Open, public peace talks
Free sea passage, outside territorial waters
Removal of trade barriers for all those that agree to peace
Guarantees that armaments will go as low as needed for national safety
An open minded, impartial re-adjustment to colonial claims
Evacuation of Russian Territory
Evacuation/ Rectification of Belgium
Evacuation of French Territory, including Alsace-Lorraine
Italy’s borders readjusted
Austro-Hungary should be reassured of their independence
Romania, Serbia, and Montenegro should be evacuated
Turkish portion of Ottoman Empire given autonomy, but other areas should be allowed to grow, as well as
the Dardanelles should be left open for all to use
13. Poland should be granted independence
14. Equality amongst all nations
14 Points (tee shirt challenge)
Wilson’s proposals included:
◦Reaching agreements openly rather than
through secret diplomacy
◦Reducing armaments (military and weapons)
◦ The right of each people to have its own nation.
On November 11th, 1918 General Foch, commander of the French
army, met with politicians sent by General Ludendorff to reach terms
The terms were harsh on Germany, as someone needed to be blamed
- It has been noted that one of the politicians broke down in tears because of
the severity of the terms that had been imposed upon Germany
- After the signing of the agreement Foch stood up from his chair and walked
out of the train car where the meeting had taken place
- The war would effectively end on the 11th hour, of the 11th day, of the 11th month of 1918
- Although the armistice had been signed there was a long road ahead for
Germany as they were to be blamed for the entirety of WWI…..
The French Position
The French people wished for revenge upon the German people - most of the battles
occurred on French territory, thus the cost of rebuilding would be exorbitant
This was not just because of WWI, but also other embarrassing instances
The Franco-Prussian War
- The French President, George Clemenceau, wished for strict limitations upon Germany
1. A buffer country is to be created between France and Germany
2. Germany is to be demilitarized forever
3. Germany needs to pay the victors all large amounts of money because they started the war
It was eventually agreed to at the Treaty of Versailles that Germany would pay 22 billion pounds
When did Germany finally pay this back? Take a guess…..
Delegates met in Paris 1919 to determine the
Secret treaties and agreements had been made
◦Conflicted with hopes of self-determination put
forth by Wilson
- Clemenceau, Wilson, and David Lloyd George, the British Prime Minister,
negotiated for months over the terms that should be imposed on Germany
Clemenceau pushed for strict and harsh conditions to be put upon Germany,
which the Americans and British did not agree with
- Eventually, Wilson was so fed up with Clemenceau he pack his bags and went
- It was at this moment that Clemenceau relaxed his rage, vengeful grip upon the defeated
Germans and agreed to other terms
- The terms were still astronomically harsh upon war torn, economically crippled Germany
- On June 28th, 1919, in the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles, the treaty was finally
signed by the Germans
- The instigation of another counter attack was improbable from Germany during this long period
of negotiations, because the Allies continued the trade embargo with Germany causing the
nation to starve
Paris Peace Conference
David Lloyd George: PM of GB
Platform: Make Germany Pay for the war
George Clemenceau: French Premier
Desired revenge and security
Wanted Germany stripped of all weapons and vast German payments (reparations)
Most important decisions of the Paris Peace Conference were made by Wilson, Lloyd
George, and Clemenceau.
Germany was not invited.
Russia was too involved in civil war
Wilson wanted to create the League of Nations to prevent future wars
Clemenceau and Lloyd George wanted to punish Germany
Treaty of Versailles
June 28, 1919
Germany had to claim responsibility
Germany had to pay reparations to Allied governments
Germany had to reduce its army, cut back navy, and eliminate its air force
Alsace and Lorraine were returned to France
Treaty of Versailles (58 minutes)
The Conditions of the Treaty - Versailles
1. The German Army was limited to only 100,000 men of all ranks.
2. No large artillery pieces, tanks or aircraft were allowed for the German military.
3. Limits on German Army Reserves. Men who joined the German Army had to stay in for twelve years and
officers had to stay in for twenty-five years. This meant that only a limited number of men in Germany would
have military training.
4. No General Staff was allowed. The purpose of a General Staff was to plan for war. This was were Von Schlieffen
had developed his plans, therefore, no General Staff equals no war plans, then no war.
5. The German Navy was limited to six cruisers, two old battleships and some smaller ships for port duties.
6. Submarines were completely forbidden. The threat of these weapons during the war caused serious problems
for the Allies.
7. The Allies were to occupy the Rhineland for 15 years in an area called the “demilitarized zone.” Germany was to
pay for the cost of the Allied troops stationed in this area. This condition was to help limit French fears of
fighting on French soil.
8. Alsace-Lorraine was returned to France. This was a sore spot for France because Bismarck had taken the
provinces away after the Franco-Prussian War.
9. Parts of Germany that were occupied by Polish people were given to the new country of Poland. This was part
of Wilson’s Fourteen Points to create countries made up of ethnic groups, not run by foreign powers.
10. All German overseas colonies were divided up and given to France, England and in the Pacific to Japan.
Note: these were only the German conditions; there were seperate treaties written up for Austro-Hungary and the
14 Points vs. Treaty of Versailles
Assigned war guilt
Demilitarized zone in
The Situation after Versailles
The document of the treaty was riddled with favouritism, but some parts were beneficial for a relatively
- The idea of national self-determination allowed countries to exist on their own, not occupied by foreign
powers. It was hoped that situations like in Serbia would not occur again as a spark to future wars.
- Germany had been punished, but had not been destroyed or broken into smaller states. Several countries
wanted Germany wiped out and returned to the many small states before Bismarck unified them.
- The League of Nations was established along with several defensive alliances to limit future problems in
Europe and the world.
The problem that occurred was the American Congress rejected the Treaty of Versailles…
They also rejected the defence treaty with France, which in turn led Britain to also abandon the French treaty
The USA began their practice of isolationism once more, because they felt that European matters did not affect
- Thus the Americans did not join WWII until December of 1941 when Pearl Harbour was
bombed by the Japanese
The Other Treaties
- Who bombed Belgrade? And because of this action all the other nations
declared war on one other was caused by whom?
That’s right! Austro-Hungary did it! Their eager need to expand their territorial
boundaries while Kaiser Wilhelm II attempted to backtrack and stop the inevitable
war seems to be all but forgotten.
- The conditions that were placed upon Austro-Hungary, and the Ottoman Empire
who fought with Germany, were not as severe as the German conditions
Both empires were to be broken up and independence given to the ethnic minorities
within those nations
- Austro-Hungary became Austria, Hungary, Poland, and Czechoslovakia
- The Ottoman Empire was broken up into a number of countries, thus the only piece remaining was
“War. War never changes.”
overseas. Just under
60,000 men died
and 172,000 were
14% of the Canadian
force died in WWI
10% of the British
over all died
14% - Russia
16% - Germany
16% - France
15% - Austria
11% - Italy
2% - USA
11% - Turkey
7% - Bulgaria
The Financial Cost
Because this war was “Total War” the cost was weighed heavily upon all of those
who participated all four years of the war
Britain, whom before the war was a financial staple in Europe, was the on the verge of
- Germany, now under the rule of the Treaty of Versailles, was worst off out of all the
The Germans were to pay 2.5 billion gold marks a year until 1961
The first payment occurred in 1921, but in 1922 the economy collapsed
- Hyperinflation ensued because the government kept printing money
This eventually came to be one of the factors that led to WWII
Why War’s like this were impossible, and still
Mutually assured destruction
Legacy of WWI
Changed the way wars were fought
Power of government increased
Opened the door for great insecurity
“normalcy” was over
Note: Not all of these questions or topics will be on the exam, however to ensure that you are prepared,
be familiar with them all. I will expect you to be able to discuss things in detail.
Notes, Handouts, Films
Know the following terms: Isolationism, militarism, nationalism, imperialism
Know the leaders (Kings and or elected leaders) for each of the following countries: Prussia, AustriaHungary, Russia, Germany, US, Britain, France.
How did Bismarck unite Germany?
Explain the significance of the following: Franco-Prussian War, Alsace Lorraine,
What country had the biggest overseas empire in 1914? Which had the biggest navy?
Be able to explain the events that occurred in Sarajevo on June 28, 1914. (The assassination) and be able
to explain how this started the chain reaction which led to WWI. This would include discussing who
declared war on whom, when, why, what groups were involved, etc. Basically this is discussing the domino
effect which took place after the assassination. BE SPECIFIC.
Be able to explain the Schlieffen Plan. What was the point of this plan? Did it work, why or why not? What problems
did it have? What were the 3 premises it was based on?
Between what years did the war take place?
Alliance systems (know your chart!!!!!!)
What advantage did the Entente have over the Triple Alliance?
Who was the traditional ally of Serbia and why might they have an interest in the Balkans?
What was the significance of Belgium in regards to World War I?
What do we mean by stalemate in regards to WWI? What was No Mans’ Land?
What was the significance of the Lusitania? Explain
What was the Zimmerman Telegram? Why was it significant?
What were U-Boats and how were they used?
Who were the ANZACS? (from a video- look it up if you don’t remember)
When was the “armistice”?
What was the Treaty of Versailles? Explain 5 points contained within this document. What were 2 results of the
What role did the Balkans play in causing European tension?
What were the different plans that each of the major European countries used after the outbreak of war? What was
the key to each plan? What cause problems for each plan?
Describe “life in the trenches” and some of the hardships that soldiers may have had to deal with on a day to day
basis. Be specific.
Know the importance of the following:
Battle of the Marne
Second Battle of Ypres
Define: total war, armistice
What was the significance of the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk?
What new weapons came into use during WWI?
Why was WWI called a total war?
What was the main goal of Woodrow Wilson’s 14 points?
Provide 5 of Wilson’s 14 points.
What countries made the major decisions at the peace conference in 1919 and who were each of their leaders
(collectively known as the “Big Three”)
What was the “war guilt” clause and how did this impact Germany?