Beginning: July 28, 1914
|End: November 11, 1918|
Factions: Allies - Start of War
Factions: Central Powers - Start of War
Faction Leaders: Allies - Start of War
Faction Leaders: Central Powers - Start of War
Notable Soldiers: Allies
Notable Soldiers: Central Powers
World War I (WWI) or First World War (called at the time the Great War) was a major war centred on Europe that began in the summer of 1914. The fighting ended in November 1918. This conflict involved all of the world's assembled in two opposing alliances: the Allies (centred around the Triple Entente) and the Central Powers. More than 70 million military personnel, including 60 million Europeans, were mobilised in one of the largest wars in history. More than 9 million combatants were killed, due largely to great technological advances in firepower without corresponding advances in mobility. It was the second deadliest conflict in Western history.
The assassination on 28 June 1914 of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria, the heir to the throne of Austria-Hungary, was the proximate trigger of the war. Long-term causes, such as imperialistic foreign policies of the great powers of Europe, such as the German Empire, the Austro-Hungarian Empire Empire, the Ottoman Empire, the Russian Empire, the British Empire, France, and Italy, played a major role. Ferdinand's assassination by a Yugoslav nationalist resulted in a Habsburg ultimatum against the Kingdom of Serbia. Several alliances formed over the past decades were invoked, so within weeks the major powers were at war; via their colonies, the conflict soon spread around the world.
On 28 July, the conflict opened with the Austro-Hungarian invasion of Serbia, followed by the German invasion of Belgium, Luxembourg and France; and a Russian attack against Germany. After the German march on Paris was brought to a halt, the Western Front settled into a static battle of attrition with a trench line that changed little until 1917. In the East, the Russian army successfully fought against the Austro-Hungarian forces but was forced back by the German army. Additional fronts opened after the Ottoman Empire joined the war in 1914, Italy and Bulgaria in 1915 and Romania in 1916. The Russian Empire collapsed in 1917, and Russia left the war after the Ocotober Revolution later that year. After a 1918 German offensive along the western front, United States forces entered the trenches and the Allies drove back the German armies in a series of successful offensives. Germany agreed to a cease-fire on 11 November 1918, later known as Armistice Day.
By the war's end, four major imperial powers—the German, Russian, Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman Empires—had been militarily and politically defeated. The latter two ceased to exist. The revolutionised Soviet Union emerged from the Russian Empire, while the map of central Europe was completely redrawn into several smaller states. The League of Nations was formed in the hope of preventing another such conflict. The European nationalism spawned by the war and the breakup of empires, and the repercussions of Germany's defeat and the Treaty of Versailles led to the beginning of World War II in 1939.
The prime cause of World War I being the hostility between Serbia and Austria-Hungary, it isn't surprising that some of the earliest fighting took place between Serbia and its powerful neighbour to the north: Austria-Hungary. Serbia held out against Austria-Hungary for more than a year before it was conquered in late 1915.
Allied diplomacy was able to bring Romania into the war in 1916 but this proved disastrous for the Romanians. Shortly after they joined the war, a combined German, Austrian, Bulgarian and Ottoman offensive conquered two-thirds of their country in a rapid campaign which ended in December 1916. However, the Romanian and Russian armies managed to stabilize the front and hold on to Moldavia.
In 1917, Greece entered the war on the Allied side, and in 1918, the multi-national Army of the Orient, based in northern Greece, finally launched an offensive which drove Bulgaria to seek peace, recaptured Serbia and finally halted only at the border of Hungary in November 1918.
Following the outbreak of World War I in 1914, the German Army opened the Western Front by first invading Luxembourg and Belgium, then gaining military control of important industrial regions in France. The tide of the advance was dramatically turned with the Battle of the Marne. Both sides then dug in along a meandering line of fortified trenches, stretching from the North Sea to the Swiss frontier with France. This line remained essentially unchanged for most of the war.
Between 1915 and 1917 there were several major offensives along this front. The attacks employed massive artillery bombardments and massed infantry advances. However, a combination of entrenchments, machine gun nests, barbed wire, and artillery repeatedly inflicted severe casualties on the attackers and counter attacking defenders. As a result, no significant advances were made.
In an effort to break the deadlock, this front saw the introduction of new military technology, including poison gas, aircraft and tanks. But it was only after the adoption of improved tactics that some degree of mobility was restored.
In spite of the generally stagnant nature of this front, this theater would prove decisive. The inexorable advance of the allied armies in 1918 persuaded the German commanders that defeat was inevitable, and the government was forced to sue for conditions of an armistice.
The length of the front in the east was much longer than in the west. The theatre of war was roughly delimited by the Baltic Sea in the west and Minsk in the east, and Saint Petersburg in the north and the Black Sea in the south, a distance of more than 1,600 kilometres (990 mi). This had a drastic effect on the nature of the warfare. While World War I on the Western Front developed into trech warfare, the battle lines on the Eastern Front were much more fluid and trenches never truly developed. This was because the greater length of the front ensured that the density of soldiers in the line was lower so the line was easier to break. Once broken, the sparse communication networks made it difficult for the defender to rush reinforcements to the rupture in the line to mount a rapid counteroffensive and seal off a breakthrough. In short, on the Eastern front the side defending did not have the overwhelming advantages it had on the Western front. However, as in the Napoleonic Wars and like World War II, Russian forces were familiar with their own ground which provided a natural advantage for the Russian emperor's land forces.
The Italian campaign refers to a series of battles fought between the armies of Austria-Hungary and Italy, along with their allies, in northern Italy between 1915 and 1918. Italy hoped that by joining the countries of the Triple Entente against the Central Powers it would gain Cisalpine Tyrol (today's provinces of Trento and Bolzano-Bozen), the Austrian Littoral, and northern Dalmatia. Although Italy had hoped to begin the war with a surprise offensive intended to move quickly and capture several Austrian cities, the war soon bogged down into trench warfare similar to the Western Front fought in France.
Middle Eastern theatre of World War IEdit
The Middle Eastern theatre of World War I was the scene of action between 29 October 1914, and 30 October 1918. The combatants were the Ottoman Empire, with some assistance from the other Central Powers, and primarily the British and the Russians among the Allies of World War I. There were five main campaigns: the Sanai and Palestine Campaign, the Mesopotamian Campaign, the Caucasus Campaign, the Persian Campaign and the Gallipoli Campaign. There were the minor North African Campaign, Arabia and Southern Arabia Campaign and Aden Campaign. Besides the regular forces both sides used asymmetrical forces in the region. Participating on the Allied side were Arabs who participated in the Arab Revolt, and Armenian Malitia who participated in the Armanian Resistance Resistance. The Armenian Volunteer Units and Armenian militia formed the Armenian Corps of the Democratic Republic of Armenia in 1918. This theatre encompassed the largest territory of all the theatres of the war.
The Russian participation ended with the Armistice of Erzincan (5 December 1917) and the revolutionary Russian government eventually withdrew from the war with the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk (3 March 1918). The Armenians attended the Trabzon Peace Confrence (14 March 1918) and resulting with the Treaty of Batum on 4 June 1918. The Ottomans accepted the Armistice of Mudros with the Allies on 30 October 1918, and signed theTreaty of Sèvres on 10 August 1920 and later the Treaty of Lausanne on July 24, 1923.
African Theatre of WarEdit
The African Theatre of World War I comprises geographically distinct campaigns around the German colonies of Kamerun, the Volta Region of Ghana, Togo, South-West Africa, and German East Africa.
The British Empire, with near total command of the world's oceans, had the power and resources to conquer the German colonies when the Great War started. Most German colonies in Africa had been recently acquired and were not well defended, with the notable exception of German East Africa. They were also surrounded on all land sides by African colonies belonging mostly to their enemies, the United Kingdom, France, Belgium and, later in the war, Portugal.
Asian and Pacific Theatre of WarEdit
The Asian and Pacific Theatre of World War I was a largely bloodless conquest of German Colonian Possession in the Pacific Ocean and China. The most significant military action was the careful and well-executed Siege of Tsingtao in what is now China, but smaller actions were also fought at Bita Paka and Toma in German New Guinea. All other German and Austrian possessions in Asia and the Pacific fell without bloodshed. Naval warfare was common; all of the colonial powers had naval squadrons stationed in the Indian or Pacific Oceans. These fleets operated by supporting the invasions of German held territories and by destroying the East Asia Squadron.