World War I
|World War I|
Clockwise from top: Trenches on the Western Front; a British Mark IV Tank crossing a trench; Royal Navy battleship HMS Irresistible sinking after striking a mine at the Battle of the Dardanelles; a Vickers machine gun crew with gas masks, and German Albatros D.III biplanes
|Allied (Entente) Powers
|Commanders and leaders|
|Leaders and commanders
|Leaders and commanders
|Casualties and losses|
22,477,500 KIA, WIA or MIA ...further details.
16,403,000 KIA, WIA or MIA ...further details.
World War I or the First World War (sometimes written WW1 or WWI for short) was a war fought by many countries, which is why it is called a "world" war. It started in 1914 and ended in 1918. Before World War II began in 1939, World War I was called the Great War, the World War or the War to End all Wars. 135 countries took part in World War I, and more than 15,000,000 people died in the war.
World War I was fought on most of the continent of Europe. The actual fighting that happened during the war was fought on many different fronts. The Western Front was where most of the fighting between Germany and the Allies happened. The system of trenches marked the location of the Western Front. There was also a no man's land that broke into this area. Most of the fighting that happened in this area was trench warfare. The Eastern Front was fought in Central and Eastern Europe and was one of the main places where World War I took place. The fighting done on the Eastern Front was not trench warfare like it was on the Western Front, but instead depended on having front lines of soldiers ready to fight the enemy. The other fronts that had a lot of fighting includes the Middle Eastern Front and the Italian Front. Fighting also took place in Africa, China, and at sea as well as in the air.
One person who strongly supported Serbian power had sent five men to kill Ferdinand. They all failed to kill the Archduke while he passed through the large crowd. The grenades thrown at the car did not kill him. After failing their mission, the five men decided to give up and go home. One of these men was a Bosnian student named Gavrilo Princip, who was also part of a group called the Black Hand.
The archduke and his wife were entering the city when the controller of their car took a wrong turn onto a large street with many people. Princip saw the archduke and his wife. He took out a gun from his pocket and shot at Ferdinand; two hit the archduke, one hit his wife, and the other hit the car. Both Ferdinand and his wife died shortly after.
Austria-Hungary blamed Serbia for the assassination. Germany, which supported Austria-Hungary, said that they should make a list of things that Serbia should do as punishment for killing the Archduke. Austria-Hungary was very strict, perhaps because they wanted an excuse to start the war. Though Serbia agreed to most of ten of the things on the list, they could not agree to them all. Austria-Hungary then declared war on Serbia.
Russia joined the war on Serbia's side because the people of Serbia were Slavic, like Russia, and the Slavic countries had agreed to help each other if they were attacked. Since Russia is a large country it had to move soldiers closer to the war, but Germany feared that Russia's soldiers would also attack Germany. Russia did not like Germany because of things Germany had done in the past to become stronger. Germany declared war on Russia, and used a plan to attack Russia that had been created before the war, but it also involved attacking France and Belgium. France and also Great Britain joined the war because Great Britain had agreed to help Belgium if it were ever attacked by someone else.
This quickly led to a full-scale war. Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia. Both country's allies became involved in the war, and soon most of Europe became involved.
Germany v. France and Russia [change]
Germany was friends with Austria-Hungary. Russia was friends with Serbia. The German government was afraid that because Austria-Hungary had attacked Serbia, that Russia would attack Austria-Hungary to help Serbia. Because of this, Germany felt it had to help Austria-Hungary by attacking Russia first, before it could attack Austria-Hungary. The problem was that Russia was also friends with France, and the Germans thought the French might attack them to help Russia. So the Germans decided that they could win the war if they attacked France first, and quickly. They could mobilize very quickly. They had a list of all the men who had to join the army, and where those men had to go, and the times of every train that would carry those men to where they would have to fight. France was doing the same thing, but could not do it as quickly. The Germans thought that if they attacked France first, they could “knock France” out of the war before Russia could attack them.
The Russian army [change]
Russia had a big army, but Germany thought that it would take six weeks to mobilize and a long time before they could attack the Central Powers. That wasn't true, because the Russian Army mobilized in ten days. Also, the Russians drove deep into Austria.
Britain v. Germany [change]
Great Britain was allied with Belgium. It also became quickly involved in the war. On August 4, 1914, it declared war against Germany when Germany attacked Belgium, to reach Paris before Russia could mobilize and open up a second front against Germany. Britain had the biggest empire (parts of the world it ruled) as it ruled over a quarter of the world, and was afraid that Germany would take its and France's colonies and become the most powerful and biggest empire in the world. Britain was also worried about Germany's growing military power. This was because Germany was growing its very large army into one of the most powerful in the world. Britain’s army was quite small but more professional compared with large armies like Germany’s or Russia’s armies. Britain had the largest and best navy in the world, and initially thought that was enough to keep other navies from attacking. But now the Germans were growing a large navy too. The Germans were quickly building ships and putting even more men in its army and Germany was almost going to become as powerful as Britain.
Turkey went into the war because it had lost much of its empire before the war and wanted to get it back from Britain and France. Serbia, which was once an Ottoman colony, had already become its own country before the war. When Austria went to war against Serbia, Turkey declared war soon after.
Greece v. Turkey [change]
Greece went into the war because its leader supported the Allied cause. Greece and Serbia became free again, but many Greeks still lived in lands that were once Greek but were now Turkish. The Greeks especially wanted to regain control of the land to the north that was under Bulgarian and Turkish rule, so they declared war after a civil war.
Soon after there was a battle between the Turks and the Greeks. Turkey killed most of the Greek army and the Greeks tried to invade Turkey again. Another war was sparked by an explosion made by the Greeks. They had bombed a train. Turkey swept Greece back into their own territory. From then on the Greeks never again declared war, while Turkey had one of the biggest armies in the world. The Turkish empire is made of Turkey and half of Cyprus.
Bulgaria v. Serbia and Greece [change]
Bulgaria, like Greece and Serbia, was owned by Turkey before, got its freedom and took a lot of Turkish land. But when the Bulgarians did a short time before the war, the Serbians and Greeks felt cheated because the Bulgarians got a lot of land which they felt was Greek or Serbian. The Greeks and Serbians took back Bulgarian land and irritated Bulgaria, which made Bulgaria become friends with Turkey. They declared war on Serbia and Greece. Serbia and Greece won.
Romania's alliances [change]
Romania was on the side of the Central powers until 1916, when they were forced into the war by the Allied powers.
Important events in the war [change]
Most people thought the war would be short. They thought the armies would move around quickly to attack each other, and one would defeat the other without too many people getting killed. They thought the war would be about brave soldiers - they did not know what the war would really be like. Only a few people like Lord Kitchener said that the war would take a long time.
Germany's plan [change]
Germany's generals had decided that the best way to defeat France was to go through Belgium using a plan called the Schlieffen Plan. This was invented by the Germany Army Chief of Staff, Alfred von Schlieffen. They could then attack the French army at the north side and the south side at the same time. The German Army went into Belgium on the 4 August. On the same day, Great Britain started a war on Germany, because Britain was a friend of Belgium. The British had said some time before, in 1839, that they would not let anyone control Belgium, and they kept their promise.
Germany's invasion of Belgium [change]
When the Germans got to the Belgian city of Liège, the Belgians fought very hard to stop them from coming into the city. The Germans did finally push the Belgians out of the city, but it had taken longer than the German generals had planned. Then the Germans attacked the north side of the French army. The French and the British moved men up to fight the Germans. They could do this because the Belgians had fought so long at Liège. But the Germans pushed the French back at the Fronteirs, and the British held the Germans back at Mons, but afterwards they also fell back to join up with the retreating French army, until they were stopped at the river Marne. This was called The Miracle of the Marne.
Trench warfare [change]
Trench warfare was incredibly costly in terms of human life. New weapons, such as machine guns, and long-range artillery had an increased rate of fire that proved incredibly effective in cutting down soldiers during mass charges, a tactic leftover from older warfare. The men on both sides took spades and dug holes, because they did not want to be killed. The holes joined up into trenches, until the lines of trenches went all the way from Switzerland to the North sea. In front of the trenches, there was barbed wire that cut anyone who tried to climb over it, and mines that blew up anyone who tried to run across the "no man's land" that was in between the trenches. Poison gas was also an important weapon used.
In the East, the Russians had attacked the Germans. The Russians pushed back the Germans, but then the Germans defeated the Russians at the Battle of Tannenberg.
Machine guns, long-range artillery during warfare [change]
The machine guns, long-range artillery, the trenches and mines made it very difficult to attack. The generals were used to fighting wars without these, so they ordered their armies to attack in the old style of marching in rows- allowing the enemy to shoot them down easily. At the battle of the Somme in 1916 60,000 British men died in a single day. It was one of the bloodiest days in the history of the British army.
The British used whistles to communicate to other soldiers, so before they shelled the German trenches, they would sound the whistle. However, the Germans caught on to this tactic after a while, so after the shelling, when the British soldiers came to finish off the German soldiers, the Germans were ready with their machine guns, because they knew the British were coming.
Life in the Trenches [change]
The first thing a new recruit would notice on the way to the Frontline was the smell, rotting bodies in shallow graves, men who hadn't washed in weeks because there were no facilities, overflowing cess pits, creosol or chloride of lime, used to stave off the constant threat of disease and infection. Cordite, the lingering odour of poison gas, rotting sandbags, stagnant mud, cigarette smoke, and cooking food. Although overwhelming to a new recruit, they soon got used to the smell and eventually became part of the smell with their own body odour.
The Trench System [change]
Front line trenches were usually about seven feet deep and six feet wide. The front of the trench was known as the parapet. The top two or three feet of the parapet and the parados (the rear side of the trench) would consist of a thick line of sandbags to absorb any bullets or shell fragments.
In a trench of this depth it was impossible to see over the top, so a two or three-foot ledge known as a fire-step, was added. Trenches were not dug in straight lines. Otherwise, if the enemy had a successive offensive, and got into your trenches, they could shoot straight along the line. Each trench was dug with alternate fire-bays and traverses.
Duck-boards were also placed at the bottom of the trenches to protect soldiers from problems such as trench foot. Soldiers also made dugouts and funk holes in the side of the trenches to give them some protection from the weather and enemy fire.
The front-line trenches were also protected by barbed-wire entanglements and machine-gun posts. Short trenches called saps were dug from the front-trench into No-Man's Land. The sap-head, usually about 30 yards forward of the front-line, were then used as listening posts.
Behind the front-line trenches were support and reserve trenches. The three rows of trenches covered between 200 and 500 yards of ground. Communication trenches, were dug at an angle to the frontline trench and were used to transport men, equipment and food supplies.
Airplanes were first used extensively in World War I. Airplanes were not used very much in fighting before World War I. It was the first war to use airplanes as weapons. Airplanes were first used to take pictures of enemy land. Generals, military leaders, were using airplanes as an important part of their attack plans at the end of the war. World War I showed that airplanes were something that could be used in a war.
Improvement of Airplanes [change]
Airplanes in World War I were made of wood and canvas, a type of rough cloth. They did not last for a long time. They could not fly very fast at the beginning of the war. They could only fly up to 116 kilometers per hour, or 72 miles per hour. At the end of the war they could fly up to 222 kilometers per hour, or 138 miles per hour. But they could not fly as fast as planes today. Guns were put on planes for the first time during the war. Pilots, people who fly the plane, used the guns to shoot enemy planes. One pilot used metal sheets, pieces of metal, to protect his airplane. Other pilots began using metal sheets on their airplanes to protect them. Pilots also made their airplanes better with machine guns, guns that shoot bullets much faster. Machine guns made fighting harder and more dangerous between airplanes.
Pilot Uniform [change]
Pilots had to wear certain clothes when flying an airplane in World War I. The pilot's clothes kept them warm and protected them from the wind and cold. Pilots wore a leather coat to protect their bodies. They wore a padded helmet and goggles, large glasses with special lenses, to protect their head and face. They wore a scarf around their neck. The scarf kept the wind from blowing against their neck when they turned their heads.
USA v. Germany [change]
The German leaders decided to use submarines. These submarines were named U-boats, from the German word Unterseeboot (meaning underwater boat). The U-boats attacked American passenger ships (Lusitania) that were carrying civilians to Great Britain. The Germans thought that the Americans were helping only the British and not being neutral. "Neutral" means that a country is not involved in the war. But then many American and British noncombatants were killed by the submarines.
Germany also wrote a secret telegram note to Central America in code suggesting that the two countries work together to attack the United States. This note is called the Zimmerman Telegram because the person who sent it was named Arthur Zimmerman. It offered Mexico land that the United States took in previous wars such as Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona. Some spies from the United Kingdom found out about the note and told the United States. American people became angry and many decided that they wanted their country to enter the war to punish Germany. Because of these things in part,on April 6, 1917 the United States declared war against Germany and became part of the Allies.
The First Russian Revolution [change]
In 1917, there was a revolution in Russia. The Tsar had to say he would not be Tsar any more, and that the people should have power. At first it was thought that Russia would fight harder now that the Tsar was gone. However, the Russian people didn't want to fight anymore, because there was not sufficient food, appropriate armament, or adequate roads to supply its army. The war had been putting burdens on them, and many of them were poor and hungry. They began to hate their new government because it wouldn't stop the war.
The Second Russian Revolution [change]
Then, there was an October Revolution. Two factions fought to rule over Russia. The passive Mensheviks lost against radical Bolsheviks. The leader of the Bolsheviks was Vladimir Lenin (1870-1924) which was Communist who followed the ideas of Karl Marx. The new government the Germans for peace, and signed a peace treaty called Brest-Litvosk with the Central Powers in March 1918 at the city of Brest Litovsk. The Germans and Russians stopped fighting. This gave Germany lots of land in eastern Europe and the Baltic Sea.
After the war [change]
After the war, the Germans had to agree to the Treaty of Versailles. Germany had to pay $66 billion in reparations. They also had to take responsibility for the war. They finished paying the debt on October 4th, 2010. Part of the treaty said the countries of the world should come together to make an international organization to stop wars from happening. This organization was called the League of Nations. The US Senate didn't agree with this, even though it was the idea of the US president, Woodrow Wilson. Woodrow Wilson tried to tell the American people that they should agree, but the U.S. never joined the League of Nations. Problems with the Treaty in Germany would later lead to the Second World War.
- Tucker & Roberts 2005, p. 273
- Figures are for the British Empire
- Figures are for Metropolitan France and its colonies
- "The First World War". http://www.channel4.com/history/microsites/F/firstworldwar/index.html.
- "Military Casualties of World War One". http://www.firstworldwar.com/features/casualties.htm.
- Ashworth, Tony. Trench warfare 1914–1918, pp3–4. 2000: Macmillan Press, London.
- "First World War.com Primary Documents: Archduke http://www.dhm.de/lemo/objekte/pict/98005823/index.jpgFranz Ferdinand's Assassination, 28 June 1914". 2002-11-03. http://www.firstworldwar.com/source/harrachmemoir.htm. Retrieved 2008-02-17.
Other websites [change]
- World War 1 Letters The Internet's Collection of World War One Mail.
- World War 1 Atlas A day-by-day map of World War I
- A history of World War I in pictures, audio, and video
- The Heritage of the Great War, Netherlands