Military Wiki
World War I
Clockwise from the top: The aftermath of shelling during the Battle of the Somme, Mark V tanks cross the Hindenburg Line, HMS Irresistible sinks after hitting a mine in the Dardanelles, a British Vickers machine gun crew wears gas masks during the Battle of the Somme, Albatros D.III fighters of Jagdstaffel 11
Date28 July 1914 – 11 November 1918
(4 years, 3 months and 1 week)
LocationEurope, Africa, the Middle East, the Pacific Islands, China and off the coast of South and North America
Result Allied victory

Allied Powers
Flag of France French Third Republic
Flag of the United Kingdom British Empire
Flag of Russia Russian Empire (1914–17)
State Flag of Serbia (1882-1918) Kingdom of Serbia
Flag of the Kingdom of Montenegro Kingdom of Montenegro
Flag of Belgium (civil) Belgium
Merchant flag of Japan (1870) Empire of Japan
Flag of Italy (1861-1946) crowned Kingdom of Italy (1915–18)
Flag of Portugal First Portuguese Republic (1916–18)
Flag of Romania Kingdom of Romania (1916–18)
Flag of Hejaz 1917 Hejaz (1916–18)
US flag 48 stars United States (1917–18)
State flag of Greece (1863–1924;1935–73) Kingdom of Greece (1917–18)
Thailand Siam (1917–18)

...and others

Central Powers
Flag of the German Empire German Empire
Flag of Austria-Hungary 1869-1918 Austria-Hungary
Ottoman Flag Ottoman Empire
Flag of Bulgaria Kingdom of Bulgaria (1915–18)

...and co-belligerents
Commanders and leaders

Allied leaders
French Third Republic Georges Clemenceau
French Third Republic Raymond Poincaré
British Empire H. H. Asquith
British Empire David Lloyd George
Kingdom of Italy Vittorio Orlando
Kingdom of Italy Victor Emmanuel III
United States Woodrow Wilson
Empire of Japan Yoshihito
Russian Empire Nicholas II
Kingdom of Serbia Peter I
Kingdom of Romania Ferdinand I

...and others

Central Powers leaders
German Empire Wilhelm II
Austria-Hungary Franz Joseph I
Austria-Hungary Karl I
Ottoman Empire Mehmed V
Kingdom of Bulgaria Ferdinand I

...and others

Russian Empire 12,000,000
British Empire 8,841,541[1][2]
French Third Republic 8,660,000[3]
Kingdom of Italy 5,615,140
United States 4,743,826
Kingdom of Romania 1,234,000
Empire of Japan 800,000
Kingdom of Serbia 707,343
Belgium 380,000
Kingdom of Greece 250,000
Kingdom of Montenegro 50,000

Total: 42,959,850[4]

German Empire 13,250,000
Austria-Hungary 7,800,000
Ottoman Empire 2,998,321
Kingdom of Bulgaria 1,200,000

Total: 25,248,321[4]
Casualties and losses
Military dead:
Military wounded:
Military missing:
22,477,500 KIA, WIA or MIA
...further details.
Military dead:
Military wounded:
Military missing:
16,403,000 KIA, WIA or MIA
...further details.

World War I (WWI or WW1), also known as the First World War, was a global war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918. From the time of its occurrence until the approach of World War II in 1939, it was called simply the World War or the Great War, and thereafter the First World War or World War I.[5][6][7] In America it was initially called the European War.[8] More than 9 million combatants were killed: a scale of death impacted by industrial advancements, geographic stalemate and reliance on human wave attacks. It was the fifth-deadliest conflict in world history, paving the way for major political changes, including revolutions in many of the nations involved.[9]

The war drew in all the world's economic great powers,[10] which were assembled in two opposing alliances: the Allies (based on the Triple Entente of the United Kingdom, France and the Russian Empire) and the Central Powers of Germany and Austria-Hungary. Although Italy had also been a member of the Triple Alliance alongside Germany and Austria-Hungary, it did not join the Central Powers, as Austria-Hungary had taken the offensive against the terms of the alliance.[11] These alliances were both reorganised and expanded as more nations entered the war: Italy, Japan and the United States joined the Allies, and the Ottoman Empire and Bulgaria the Central Powers. Ultimately, more than 70 million military personnel, including 60 million Europeans, were mobilised in one of the largest wars in history.[12][13]

Although a resurgence of imperialism was an underlying cause, the immediate trigger for war was the 28 June 1914 assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria, heir to the throne of Austria-Hungary, by Yugoslav nationalist Gavrilo Princip in Sarajevo. This set off a diplomatic crisis when Austria-Hungary delivered an ultimatum to the Kingdom of Serbia,[14][15] and international alliances formed over the previous decades were invoked. Within weeks, the major powers were at war and the conflict soon spread around the world.

On 28 July, the Austro-Hungarians fired the first shots in preparation for the invasion of Serbia.[16][17] As Russia mobilised, Germany invaded neutral Belgium and Luxembourg before moving towards France, leading Britain to declare war on Germany. After the German march on Paris was brought to a halt, what became known as the Western Front settled into a battle of attrition, with a trench line that would change little until 1917. Meanwhile, on the Eastern Front, the Russian army was successful against the Austro-Hungarians, but was stopped in its invasion of East Prussia by the Germans. In November 1914, the Ottoman Empire joined the war, opening fronts in the Caucasus, Mesopotamia and the Sinai. Italy and Bulgaria went to war in 1915 and Romania in 1916.

The war approached a resolution after the Russian Tsar's government collapsed in March 1917 and a subsequent revolution in November brought the Russians to terms with the Central Powers. After a 1918 German offensive along the western front, the Allies drove back the Germans in a series of successful offensives and American forces began entering the trenches. Germany, which had its own trouble with revolutionaries, agreed to an armistice on 11 November 1918, ending the war in victory for the Allies.

By the end of the war, four major imperial powers—the German, Russian, Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman empires—ceased to exist. The successor states of the former two lost substantial territory, while the latter two were dismantled. The map of Europe was redrawn, with several independent nations restored or created. The League of Nations formed with the aim of preventing any repetition of such an appalling conflict. This aim failed, with weakened states, renewed European nationalism and the humiliation of Germany contributing to the rise of fascism and the conditions for World War II.


In Canada, Maclean's Magazine in October 1914 said, "Some wars name themselves. This is the Great War."[18] A history of the origins and early months of the war published in New York in late 1914 was titled The World War.[19] During the Interwar period, the war was most often called the World War and the Great War in English-speaking countries.

After the onset of the Second World War in 1939, the terms World War I or the First World War became standard, with British and Canadian historians favouring the First World War, and Americans World War I. The term "First World War" was first used in September 1914 by the German philosopher Ernst Haeckel, who claimed that "there is no doubt that the course and character of the feared 'European War' ... will become the first world war in the full sense of the word."[20] The First World War was also the title of a 1920 history by the officer and journalist Charles à Court Repington.[21]



Political and military alliances[]

Map of Europe focusing on Austria-Hungary and marking the central location of ethnic groups in it including Slovaks, Czechs, Slovenes, Croats, Serbs, Romanians, Ukrainians, Poles.

Rival military coalitions in 1914: Triple Entente in green; Triple Alliance in brown. Only the Triple Alliance was a formal "alliance"; the others listed were informal patterns of support.

For much of the 19th century, the major European powers maintained a tenuous balance of power among themselves, known as the Concert of Europe.[22] After 1848, this was challenged by a variety of factors, including Britain's withdrawal into so-called splendid isolation, the decline of the Ottoman Empire and the rise of Prussia under Otto von Bismarck. The 1866 Austro-Prussian War established Prussian hegemony in Germany, while victory in the 1870–1871 Franco-Prussian War allowed Bismarck to consolidate the German states into a German Empire under Prussian leadership. Avenging the defeat of 1871, or revanchism, and recovering the provinces of Alsace-Lorraine became the principal objects of French policy for the next forty years.[23]

In order to isolate France and avoid a war on two fronts, Bismarck negotiated the League of the Three Emperors (German: Dreikaiserbund) between Austria-Hungary, Russia and Germany. After Russian victory in the 1877–1878 Russo-Turkish War, the League was dissolved due to Austrian concerns over Russian influence in the Balkans, an area they considered of vital strategic interest. Germany and Austria-Hungary then formed the 1879 Dual Alliance, which became the Triple Alliance when Italy joined in 1882.[24] For Bismarck, the purpose of these agreements was to isolate France by ensuring the three Empires resolved any disputes between themselves; when this was threatened in 1880 by British and French attempts to negotiate directly with Russia, he reformed the League in 1881, which was renewed in 1883 and 1885. After the agreement lapsed in 1887, he replaced it with the Reinsurance Treaty, a secret agreement between Germany and Russia to remain neutral if either were attacked by France or Austria-Hungary.[25]

Bismarck viewed peace with Russia as the foundation of German foreign policy but after becoming Kaiser in 1890, Wilhelm II forced him to retire and was persuaded not to renew the Reinsurance Treaty by Leo von Caprivi, his new Chancellor.[26] This provided France an opportunity to counteract the Triple Alliance, by signing the Franco-Russian Alliance in 1894, followed by the 1904 Entente Cordiale with Britain, and the Triple Entente was completed by the 1907 Anglo-Russian Convention. While these were not formal alliances, by settling long-standing colonial disputes in Africa and Asia, British entry into any future conflict involving France or Russia became a possibility.[27] British and Russian support for France against Germany during the Agadir Crisis in 1911 reinforced their relationship and increased Anglo-German estrangement, deepening the divisions that would erupt in 1914.[28]

Arms race[]

Bundesarchiv DVM 10 Bild-23-61-23, Linienschiff "SMS Rheinland"

SMS Rheinland, a Nassau-class battleship, Germany's first response to the British Dreadnought

Creation of a unified Reich, along with indemnity payments imposed on France and the acquisition of important coal and iron deposits in the annexed provinces of Alsace-Lorraine, fuelled an economic boom and huge increase in German industrial strength. With the backing of Wilhelm II, after 1890 Admiral Alfred von Tirpitz sought to exploit this growth to create a Kaiserliche Marine, or Imperial German Navy, able to compete with the British Royal Navy for world naval supremacy.[29] He was greatly influenced by US naval strategist Alfred Thayer Mahan, who argued possession of a blue-water navy was vital for global power projection; Tirpitz had his books translated into German, while Wilhelm made them required reading for his advisors and senior military personnel.[30]

However, it was also an emotional decision, driven by Wilhelm's simultaneous admiration for the Royal Navy and his desire to outdo it. Bismarck stressed the need to avoid antagonising Britain, a policy made easier by his opposition to acquiring colonies, but this challenge could not be ignored and resulted in the Anglo-German naval arms race.[31] The launch of HMS Dreadnought in 1906 gave the British a technological advantage over their German rival which they never lost.[29] Ultimately, the race diverted huge resources to creating a German navy large enough to antagonise Britain, but not defeat it; in 1911, Chancellor Theobald von Bethmann Hollweg acknowledged defeat, leading to the Rüstungswende or ‘armaments turning point', when he switched expenditure from the navy to the army.[32]

This was driven by concern over Russia's recovery from defeat in the 1905 Russo-Japanese War and the subsequent revolution. Economic reforms backed by French funding led to a significant post-1908 expansion of railways and infrastructure, particularly in its western border regions.[33] Germany and Austria-Hungary relied on faster mobilisation to compensate for fewer numbers and it was the potential threat posed by the closing of this gap that led to the end of the naval race, rather than a reduction in tensions. When Germany expanded its standing army by 170,000 men in 1913, France extended compulsory military service from two to three years; similar measures taken by the Balkan powers and Italy, which led to increased expenditure by the Ottomans and Austria-Hungary. Absolute figures are hard to calculate due to differences in categorising expenditure, since they often omit civilian infrastructure projects with a military use, such as railways. However, from 1908 to 1913, defence spending by the six major European powers increased by over 50% in real terms.[34]

Conflicts in the Balkans[]

Photo of large white building with one signs saying "Moritz Schiller" and another in Arabic; in front is a cluster of people looking at poster on the wall.

Sarajevo citizens reading a poster with the proclamation of the Austrian annexation in 1908

The years before 1914 were marked by a series of crises in the Balkans as other powers sought to benefit from Ottoman decline. While Pan-Slavic and Orthodox Russia considered itself the protector of Serbia and other Slav states, the strategic importance of the Bosporus straits meant they preferred these be controlled by a weak Ottoman government, rather than an ambitious power like Bulgaria. Balancing these competing objectives required simultaneously backing their clients while limiting their territorial gains, dividing Russian policy makers and adding to the instability of this region.[35]

At the same time, many Austrian statesmen considered the Balkans essential for the continued existence of their Empire and Serbian expansion as a direct threat to it. The 1908-1909 Bosnian Crisis began when Austria annexed the former Ottoman territory of Bosnia and Herzegovina, which it had occupied since 1878. Timed to coincide with the Bulgarian Declaration of Independence from the Ottoman Empire, this unilateral action was denounced by all the Great Powers; unable to reverse it, they amended the 1878 Treaty of Berlin and accepted Austrian annexation. Some historians see this as a significant escalation, ending any chance of Russia and Austria co-operating in the Balkans, while damaging Austrian relations with Serbia and Italy, who had their own expansionist ambitions in the area.[36]

Tensions were further heightened by the 1911 to 1912 Italo-Turkish War, which demonstrated the apparent inability of the Ottomans to retain their empire and led to the formation of the Balkan League.[37] An alliance of Serbia, Bulgaria, Montenegro, and Greece, the League over-ran most of European Turkey in the 1912 to 1913 First Balkan War. Despite its decline, the Great Powers had assumed the Ottoman army was powerful enough to defeat the League and its collapse took them by surprise.[38] The Serbian capture of ports on the Adriatic resulted in partial Austrian mobilisation on 21 November 1912, including units along the Russian border in Galicia. When the Council of Ministers of the Russian Empire met to consider their response next day, they decided not to mobilise, fearing Germany would do the same and start a European war for which they were not yet prepared.[39]

The Great Powers sought to re-assert control through the 1913 Treaty of London, which created an independent Albania, while enlarging the territories of Bulgaria, Serbia, Montenegro and Greece. However, disputes between the victors sparked the 33-day Second Balkan War, when Bulgaria attacked Serbia and Greece on 16 June 1913; it was defeated, losing most of Macedonia to Serbia and Greece, and Southern Dobruja to Romania.[40] The result was that even countries which benefited from the Balkan Wars, such as Serbia and Greece, felt cheated of their "rightful gains", while for Austria it demonstrated the apparent indifference with which other powers viewed their concerns, including Germany.[41] This complex mix of resentment, nationalism and insecurity help explain why the pre-1914 Balkans became known as the "powder keg of Europe".[42]


Sarajevo assassination[]

Gavrilo Princip captured in Sarajevo 1914

Traditionally thought to show the arrest of Gavrilo Princip (right), historians now believe this photo depicts an innocent bystander, Ferdinand Behr [43] [44]

On 28 June 1914, Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria, heir presumptive to Emperor Franz Joseph, visited Sarajevo, capital of the recently annexed provinces of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Six assassins [lower-alpha 9] from the movement known as Young Bosnia, or Mlada Bosna, took up positions along the route taken by the Archduke's motorcade, with the intention of assassinating him. Supplied with arms by extremists within the Serbian Black Hand intelligence organisation, they hoped his death would free Bosnia from Austrian rule, although there was little agreement on what would replace it.[46]

Nedeljko Čabrinović threw a grenade at the Archduke's car and injured two of his aides, who were taken to hospital while the convoy carried on. The other assassins were also unsuccessful but an hour later, as Ferdinand was returning from visiting the injured officers, his car took a wrong turn into a street where Gavrilo Princip was standing. He stepped forward and fired two pistol shots, fatally wounding Ferdinand and his wife Sophie, who both died shortly thereafter.[47] Although Emperor Franz Joseph was shocked by the incident, political and personal differences meant the two men were not close; allegedly, his first reported comment was "A higher power has re-established the order which I, alas, could not preserve".[48]

According to historian Zbyněk Zeman, his reaction was reflected more broadly in Vienna, where "the event almost failed to make any impression whatsoever. On Sunday 28 June and Monday 29th, the crowds listened to music and drank wine, as if nothing had happened."[49][50] Nevertheless, the impact of the murder of the heir to the throne was significant, and has been described by historian Christopher Clark as a "9/11 effect, a terrorist event charged with historic meaning, transforming the political chemistry in Vienna".[51]

Expansion of violence in Bosnia and Herzegovina[]

1914-06-29 - Aftermath of attacks against Serbs in Sarajevo

Crowds on the streets in the aftermath of the anti-Serb riots in Sarajevo, 29 June 1914

The Austro-Hungarian authorities encouraged the subsequent anti-Serb riots in Sarajevo, in which Bosnian Croats and Bosniaks killed two Bosnian Serbs and damaged numerous Serb-owned buildings.[52][53] Violent actions against ethnic Serbs were also organised outside Sarajevo, in other cities in Austro-Hungarian-controlled Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia and Slovenia. Austro-Hungarian authorities in Bosnia and Herzegovina imprisoned and extradited approximately 5,500 prominent Serbs, 700 to 2,200 of whom died in prison. A further 460 Serbs were sentenced to death. A predominantly Bosniak special militia known as the Schutzkorps was established and carried out the persecution of Serbs.[54][55][56][57]

July Crisis[]

Austria Hungary ethnic

Ethno-linguistic map of Austria-Hungary, 1910. Bosnia-Herzegovina was annexed in 1908.

The assassination initiated the July Crisis, a month of diplomatic manoeuvring between Austria-Hungary, Germany, Russia, France and Britain. Correctly believing intelligence officials from the Black Hand were involved in the plot to murder the Archduke, Austria wanted to end Serbian interference in Bosnia and believed war was the best way to achieve this.[58] However, the Austrian-Hungarian Foreign Ministry had no proof of Serbian involvement, and a dossier belatedly compiled to make its case was riddled with errors.[59] On 23 July, Austria delivered an ultimatum to Serbia, listing ten demands made intentionally unacceptable to provide an excuse for starting hostilities.[60]

Serbia ordered general mobilisation on 25 July, but accepted all the terms, except for those empowering Austrian representatives to suppress "subversive elements" inside Serbia, and take part in the investigation and trial of Serbians linked to the assassination.[61][62] Claiming this amounted to a wholesale rejection, Austria broke off diplomatic relations and ordered partial mobilisation the next day; on 28 July, they declared war on Serbia and started shelling Belgrade. Having initiated war preparations on 25 July, Russia now ordered general mobilisation in support of Serbia on 30th.[63]

Anxious to ensure backing from the SDP political opposition by presenting Russia as the aggressor, Bethmann-Hollweg delayed commencement of war preparations until 31 July.[64] That afternoon the Russian government was given an ultimatum, requiring they "cease all war measures against Germany and Austria-Hungary" within 12 hours.[65] Germany also demanded assurances France would remain neutral; the French refused and ordered general mobilisation but delayed declaring war.[66] In reality, the German General Staff had long assumed a war on two fronts; originally completed in 1905, the Schlieffen Plan envisaged the bulk of the army would be used to defeat France in four weeks, before doing the same to Russia. In accordance with this, mobilisation orders were issued that afternoon.[67]

The War of the Nations WW1 337

Cheering crowds in London and Paris on the day war was declared.

At a meeting on 29 July, the British cabinet had narrowly decided its obligations to Belgium under the 1839 Treaty of London did not require it to oppose a German invasion with military force. However, this was largely driven by Prime Minister Asquith's desire to maintain unity; he and his senior Cabinet ministers were already committed to support France, the Royal Navy had been mobilised and public opinion was strongly in favour of intervention.[68] On 31 July, Britain sent notes to Germany and France, asking them to respect Belgian neutrality; France pledged to do so, Germany did not reply.[69]

Once the German ultimatum to Russia expired on the morning of 1 August, the two countries were at war. Later the same day, Wilhelm was informed by his Ambassador in London, Prince Lichnowsky, that Britain would remain neutral if France was not attacked, and in any case might be stayed by a crisis in Ireland.[70] Jubilant at this news, he ordered General Moltke, the German chief of staff, to "march the whole of the ... army to the East". Moltke protested that "it cannot be done. The deployment of millions cannot be improvised."[71] Lichnowsky, in any case, quickly realised he was mistaken. Although Wilhelm insisted on waiting for a telegram from his cousin George V, once received, it confirmed there had been a misunderstanding and he told Moltke "Now do what you want."[72]

French intelligence was well aware of German plans to attack through Belgium, and the French Commander-in-Chief, General Joseph Joffre, asked that his troops be allowed to cross the border to pre-empt such a move. This was rejected by the French government, in part to avoid antagonising the British, and Joffre was told any advance into Belgium could come only after a German invasion.[73] On 2 August, Germany occupied Luxembourg and exchanged fire with French units; on 3 August, they declared war on France and demanded the Belgians allow them unimpeded right of way, which was refused. Early on the morning of 4 August, the Germans invaded; Albert I of Belgium ordered his army to resist and called for assistance under the Treaty of London.[74][75] Britain sent Germany an ultimatum demanding they respect Belgian neutrality and withdraw, which expired at midnight without a response; Germany was now at war with Britain and its global empire.[76]

Global war develops[]

Opening hostilities[]

Confusion among the Central Powers[]

The strategy of the Central Powers suffered from miscommunication. Germany had promised to support Austria-Hungary's invasion of Serbia, but interpretations of what this meant differed. Previously tested deployment plans had been replaced early in 1914, but those had never been tested in exercises. Austro-Hungarian leaders believed Germany would cover its northern flank against Russia.[77] Germany, however, envisioned Austria-Hungary directing most of its troops against Russia, while Germany dealt with France. This confusion forced the Austro-Hungarian Army to divide its forces between the Russian and Serbian fronts.

Serbian campaign[]

Serbian Army Blériot XI "Oluj", 1915

Beginning on 12 August, the Austrian and Serbs clashed at the battles of the Cer and Kolubara; over the next two weeks, Austrian attacks were repulsed with heavy losses, dashing their hopes of a swift victory and marking the first major Allied victories of the war. As a result, Austria had to keep sizeable forces on the Serbian front, weakening its efforts against Russia.[78] Serbia's defeat of the 1914 invasion has been called one of the major upset victories of the twentieth century.[79] In spring 1915, the campaign saw the first use of anti-aircraft warfare after an Austrian plane was shot down with ground-to-air fire, as well as the first medical evacuation by the Serbian army in autumn 1915.[80][81]

German Offensive in Belgium and France[]
German soldiers in a railroad car on the way to the front during early World War I, taken in 1914. Taken from greatwar

German soldiers on the way to the front in 1914; at this stage, all sides expected the conflict to be a short one.

When the war began, the German Order of Battle placed 80% of the army in the West, with the remainder acting as a screening force in the East. The plan was to quickly knock France out of the war, then redeploy to the East and do the same to Russia.

The German offensive in the West was officially titled Aufmarsch II West, but is better known as the Schlieffen Plan, after its original creator. Schlieffen deliberately kept the German left (i.e. its positions in Alsace-Lorraine) weak to lure the French into attacking there, while the majority were allocated to the German right, so as to sweep through Belgium, encircle Paris and trap the French armies against the Swiss border. This strategy was actually helped by the French themselves, since their Plan XVII envisaged a major offensive into the "lost provinces" of Alsace-Lorraine.[82] However, Schlieffen's successor Moltke grew concerned that the French might push too hard on his left flank. Consequently, as the German Army increased in size in the years leading up to the war, he changed the allocation of forces between the German right and left wings from 85:15 to 70:30. Ultimately, Moltke's changes meant insufficient forces to achieve decisive success and thus unrealistic goals and timings.[83]

Georges Scott, A la baïonnette !

French bayonet charge during the Battle of the Frontiers; by the end of August, French casualties exceeded 260,000, including 75,000 dead.

The initial German advance in the West was very successful: by the end of August the Allied left, which included the British Expeditionary Force (BEF), was in full retreat; French casualties in the first month exceeded 260,000, including 27,000 killed on 22 August during the Battle of the Frontiers.[84] German planning provided broad strategic instructions, while allowing army commanders considerable freedom in carrying them out at the front; this worked well in 1866 and 1870 but in 1914, von Kluck used this freedom to disobey orders, opening a gap between the German armies as they closed on Paris.[85] The French and British exploited this gap to halt the German advance east of Paris at the First Battle of the Marne from 5 to 12 September and push the German forces back some 50 km (31 mi).

In 1911, the Russian Stavka had agreed with the French to attack Germany within 15 days of mobilisation; this was unrealistic and the two Russian armies that entered East Prussia on 17 August did so without many of their support elements.[86] The Russian Second Army was effectively destroyed at the Battle of Tannenberg on 26–30 August but the Russian advance caused the Germans to re-route their 8th Field Army from France to East Prussia, a factor in Allied victory on the Marne.[citation needed]

By the end of 1914, German troops held strong defensive positions inside France, controlled the bulk of France's domestic coalfields and had inflicted 230,000 more casualties than it lost itself. However, communications problems and questionable command decisions cost Germany the chance of a decisive outcome, while it had failed to achieve the primary objective of avoiding a long, two-front war.[87] As was apparent to a number of German leaders, this amounted to a strategic defeat; shortly after the Marne, Crown Prince Wilhelm told an American reporter; "We have lost the war. It will go on for a long time but lost it is already."[88]

Asia and the Pacific[]
World 1914 empires colonies territory

World empires and colonies around 1914

On 30 August 1914, New Zealand occupied German Samoa, now the independent state of Samoa. On 11 September, the Australian Naval and Military Expeditionary Force landed on the island of New Britain, then part of German New Guinea. On 28 October, the German cruiser SMS Emden sank the Russian cruiser Zhemchug in the Battle of Penang. Japan declared war on Germany prior to seizing territories in the Pacific which later became the South Seas Mandate, as well as German Treaty ports on the Chinese Shandong peninsula at Tsingtao. After Vienna refused to withdraw its cruiser SMS Kaiserin Elisabeth from Tsingtao, Japan declared war on Austria-Hungary as well, and the ship was sunk at Tsingtao in November 1914.[89] Within a few months, Allied forces had seized all German territories in the Pacific, leaving only isolated commerce raiders and a few holdouts in New Guinea.[90][91]

African campaigns[]

Some of the first clashes of the war involved British, French, and German colonial forces in Africa. On 6–7 August, French and British troops invaded the German protectorate of Togoland and Kamerun. On 10 August, German forces in South-West Africa attacked South Africa; sporadic and fierce fighting continued for the rest of the war. The German colonial forces in German East Africa, led by Colonel Paul von Lettow-Vorbeck, fought a guerrilla warfare campaign during World War I and only surrendered two weeks after the armistice took effect in Europe.[92]

Indian support for the Allies[]
Indian forces on their way to the Front in Flanders - first world war 2

The British Indian infantry divisions were withdrawn from France in December 1915, and sent to Mesopotamia.

Germany attempted to use Indian nationalism and pan-Islamism to its advantage, instigating uprisings in India, and sending a mission that urged Afghanistan to join the war on the side of Central Powers. However, contrary to British fears of a revolt in India, the outbreak of the war saw an unprecedented outpouring of loyalty and goodwill towards Britain.[93][94] Indian political leaders from the Indian National Congress and other groups were eager to support the British war effort since they believed that strong support for the war effort would further the cause of Indian Home Rule.[citation needed] The Indian Army in fact outnumbered the British Army at the beginning of the war; about 1.3 million Indian soldiers and labourers served in Europe, Africa, and the Middle East, while the central government and the princely states sent large supplies of food, money, and ammunition. In all, 140,000 men served on the Western Front and nearly 700,000 in the Middle East. Casualties of Indian soldiers totalled 47,746 killed and 65,126 wounded during World War I.[95] The suffering engendered by the war, as well as the failure of the British government to grant self-government to India after the end of hostilities, bred disillusionment and fuelled the campaign for full independence that would be led by Mohandas K. Gandhi and others.[96]

Western Front 1914 to 1916[]

Trench warfare begins[]
Cheshire Regiment trench Somme 1916

Trenches of the 11th Cheshire Regiment at Ovillers-la-Boisselle, on the Somme, July 1916

Pre-war military tactics that emphasised open warfare and the individual rifleman proved obsolete when confronted with conditions prevailing in 1914. Technological advances allowed the creation of strong defensive systems largely impervious to massed infantry advances, such as barbed wire, machine guns and above all far more powerful artillery, which dominated the battlefield and made crossing open ground extremely difficult.[97] Both sides struggled to develop tactics for breaching entrenched positions without suffering heavy casualties. In time, however, technology began to produce new offensive weapons, such as gas warfare and the tank.[98]

After the First Battle of the Marne in September 1914, Allied and German forces unsuccessfully tried to outflank each other, a series of manoeuvres later known as the "Race to the Sea". By the end of 1914, the opposing forces confronted each other along an uninterrupted line of entrenched positions from the Channel to the Swiss border.[99] Since the Germans were normally able to choose where to stand, they generally held the high ground; in addition, their trenches tended to be better built, since Anglo-French trenches were initially intended as "temporary," and would only be needed until the breaking of German defences.[100]

Both sides tried to break the stalemate using scientific and technological advances. On 22 April 1915, at the Second Battle of Ypres, the Germans (violating the Hague Convention) used chlorine gas for the first time on the Western Front. Several types of gas soon became widely used by both sides, and though it never proved a decisive, battle-winning weapon, poison gas became one of the most-feared and best-remembered horrors of the war.[101][102]

Continuation of trench warfare[]
Mud stained British soldiers at rest

Royal Irish Rifles in a communications trench, first day on the Somme, 1916

Neither side proved able to deliver a decisive blow for the next two years. Throughout 1915–17, the British Empire and France suffered more casualties than Germany, because of both the strategic and tactical stances chosen by the sides. Strategically, while the Germans mounted only one major offensive, the Allies made several attempts to break through the German lines.

In February 1916 the Germans attacked French defensive positions at the Battle of Verdun, lasting until December 1916. The Germans made initial gains, before French counter-attacks returned matters to near their starting point. Casualties were greater for the French, but the Germans bled heavily as well, with anywhere from 700,000[103] to 975,000[104] casualties suffered between the two combatants. Verdun became a symbol of French determination and self-sacrifice.[105]

The Battle of the Somme, July-november 1916 Q4218

Dead German soldiers at Somme 1916

The Battle of the Somme was an Anglo-French offensive of July to November 1916. The opening day of the offensive (1 July 1916) was the bloodiest day in the history of the British Army, suffering 57,470 casualties, including 19,240 dead. The entire Somme offensive cost the British Army some 420,000 casualties. The French suffered another estimated 200,000 casualties and the Germans an estimated 500,000.[106] Gun fire was not the only factor taking lives; the diseases that emerged in the trenches were a major killer on both sides. The living conditions made it so that countless diseases and infections occurred, such as trench foot, shell shock, blindness/burns from mustard gas, lice, trench fever, "cooties" (body lice) and the 'Spanish flu'.[107][unreliable source?]

Naval war[]

King George V and officials inspecting munitions factory in 1917

King George V (front left) and a group of officials inspect a British munitions factory in 1917.

At the start of the war, the German Empire had cruisers scattered across the globe, some of which were subsequently used to attack Allied merchant shipping. The British Royal Navy systematically hunted them down, though not without some embarrassment from its inability to protect Allied shipping. Before the beginning of the war, it was widely understood that Britain held the position of strongest, most influential navy in the world.[108][unreliable source?] The publishing of the book The Influence of Sea Power upon History by Alfred Thayer Mahan in 1890 was intended to encourage the United States to increase its naval power. Instead, this book made it to Germany and inspired its readers to try to over-power the British Royal Navy.[109] For example, the German detached light cruiser SMS Emden, part of the East Asia Squadron stationed at Qingdao, seized or destroyed 15 merchantmen, as well as sinking a Russian cruiser and a French destroyer. However, most of the German East-Asia squadron—consisting of the armoured cruisers SMS Scharnhorst and Gneisenau, light cruisers Nürnberg and Leipzig and two transport ships—did not have orders to raid shipping and was instead underway to Germany when it met British warships. The German flotilla and Dresden sank two armoured cruisers at the Battle of Coronel, but was virtually destroyed at the Battle of the Falkland Islands in December 1914, with only Dresden and a few auxiliaries escaping, but after the Battle of Más a Tierra these too had been destroyed or interned.[110]

Hochseeflotte 2

Battleships of the Hochseeflotte, 1917

NationaalArchief uboat155London

U-155 exhibited near Tower Bridge in London, after the 1918 Armistice

Soon after the outbreak of hostilities, Britain began a naval blockade of Germany. The strategy proved effective, cutting off vital military and civilian supplies, although this blockade violated accepted international law codified by several international agreements of the past two centuries.[111] Britain mined international waters to prevent any ships from entering entire sections of ocean, causing danger to even neutral ships.[112] Since there was limited response to this tactic of the British, Germany expected a similar response to its unrestricted submarine warfare.[113]

The Battle of Jutland (German: Skagerrakschlacht, or "Battle of the Skagerrak") in May/June 1916 developed into the largest naval battle of the war. It was the only full-scale clash of battleships during the war, and one of the largest in history. The Kaiserliche Marine's High Seas Fleet, commanded by Vice Admiral Reinhard Scheer, fought the Royal Navy's Grand Fleet, led by Admiral Sir John Jellicoe. The engagement was a stand off, as the Germans were outmanoeuvred by the larger British fleet, but managed to escape and inflicted more damage to the British fleet than they received. Strategically, however, the British asserted their control of the sea, and the bulk of the German surface fleet remained confined to port for the duration of the war.[114]

German U-boats attempted to cut the supply lines between North America and Britain.[115] The nature of submarine warfare meant that attacks often came without warning, giving the crews of the merchant ships little hope of survival.[115][116] The United States launched a protest, and Germany changed its rules of engagement. After the sinking of the passenger ship RMS Lusitania in 1915, Germany promised not to target passenger liners, while Britain armed its merchant ships, placing them beyond the protection of the "cruiser rules", which demanded warning and movement of crews to "a place of safety" (a standard that lifeboats did not meet).[117] Finally, in early 1917, Germany adopted a policy of unrestricted submarine warfare, realising the Americans would eventually enter the war.[115][118] Germany sought to strangle Allied sea lanes before the United States could transport a large army overseas, but after initial successes eventually failed to do so.[115]

The U-boat threat lessened in 1917, when merchant ships began travelling in convoys, escorted by destroyers. This tactic made it difficult for U-boats to find targets, which significantly lessened losses; after the hydrophone and depth charges were introduced, accompanying destroyers could attack a submerged submarine with some hope of success. Convoys slowed the flow of supplies since ships had to wait as convoys were assembled. The solution to the delays was an extensive program of building new freighters. Troopships were too fast for the submarines and did not travel the North Atlantic in convoys.[119] The U-boats had sunk more than 5,000 Allied ships, at a cost of 199 submarines.[120]

World War I also saw the first use of aircraft carriers in combat, with HMS Furious launching Sopwith Camels in a successful raid against the Zeppelin hangars at Tondern in July 1918, as well as blimps for antisubmarine patrol.[121]

Southern theatres[]

War in the Balkans[]
Flüchtlingstransport Leibnitz - k.k

Refugee transport from Serbia in Leibnitz, Styria, 1914

Bulgaria southern front

Bulgarian soldiers in a trench, preparing to fire against an incoming aeroplane

Austrians executing Serbs 1917

Austro-Hungarian troops executing captured Serbians, 1917. Serbia lost about 850,000 people during the war, a quarter of its pre-war population.[122]

Faced with Russia in the east, Austria-Hungary could spare only one-third of its army to attack Serbia. After suffering heavy losses, the Austrians briefly occupied the Serbian capital, Belgrade. A Serbian counter-attack in the Battle of Kolubara succeeded in driving them from the country by the end of 1914. For the first ten months of 1915, Austria-Hungary used most of its military reserves to fight Italy. German and Austro-Hungarian diplomats, however, scored a coup by persuading Bulgaria to join the attack on Serbia.[1]-132">[123] The Austro-Hungarian provinces of Slovenia, Croatia and Bosnia provided troops for Austria-Hungary in the fight with Serbia, Russia and Italy. Montenegro allied itself with Serbia.[124]

Bulgaria declared war on Serbia on 14 October 1915 and joined in the attack by the Austro-Hungarian army under Mackensen's army of 250,000 that was already underway. Serbia was conquered in a little more than a month, as the Central Powers, now including Bulgaria, sent in 600,000 troops total. The Serbian army, fighting on two fronts and facing certain defeat, retreated into northern Albania. The Serbs suffered defeat in the Battle of Kosovo. Montenegro covered the Serbian retreat towards the Adriatic coast in the Battle of Mojkovac in 6–7 January 1916, but ultimately the Austrians also conquered Montenegro. The surviving Serbian soldiers were evacuated by ship to Greece.[125] After conquest, Serbia was divided between Austro-Hungary and Bulgaria.[126]

In late 1915, a Franco-British force landed at Salonica in Greece to offer assistance and to pressure its government to declare war against the Central Powers. However, the pro-German King Constantine I dismissed the pro-Allied government of Eleftherios Venizelos before the Allied expeditionary force arrived.[127] The friction between the King of Greece and the Allies continued to accumulate with the National Schism, which effectively divided Greece between regions still loyal to the king and the new provisional government of Venizelos in Salonica. After intense negotiations and an armed confrontation in Athens between Allied and royalist forces (an incident known as Noemvriana), the King of Greece resigned and his second son Alexander took his place; Greece officially joined the war on the side of the Allies in June 1917.

The Macedonian front was initially mostly static. French and Serbian forces retook limited areas of Macedonia by recapturing Bitola on 19 November 1916 following the costly Monastir offensive, which brought stabilisation of the front.[128]

Serbian and French troops finally made a breakthrough in September 1918 in the Vardar offensive, after most of the German and Austro-Hungarian troops had been withdrawn. The Bulgarians were defeated at the Battle of Dobro Pole, and by 25 September British and French troops had crossed the border into Bulgaria proper as the Bulgarian army collapsed. Bulgaria capitulated four days later, on 29 September 1918.[129] The German high command responded by despatching troops to hold the line, but these forces were far too weak to re-establish a front.[130]

The disappearance of the Macedonian front meant that the road to Budapest and Vienna was now opened to Allied forces. Hindenburg and Ludendorff concluded that the strategic and operational balance had now shifted decidedly against the Central Powers and, a day after the Bulgarian collapse, insisted on an immediate peace settlement.[131]

Ottoman Empire[]
Scene just before the evacuation at Anzac. Australian troops charging near a Turkish trench. When they got there the..

Australian troops charging near a Turkish trench during the Gallipoli Campaign

The Ottomans threatened Russia's Caucasian territories and Britain's communications with India via the Suez Canal. As the conflict progressed, the Ottoman Empire took advantage of the European powers' preoccupation with the war and conducted large-scale ethnic cleansing of the indigenous Armenian, Greek, and Assyrian Christian populations, known as the Armenian genocide, Greek genocide, and Assyrian genocide.[132][133][134]

The British and French opened overseas fronts with the Gallipoli (1915) and Mesopotamian campaigns (1914). In Gallipoli, the Ottoman Empire successfully repelled the British, French, and Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZACs). In Mesopotamia, by contrast, after the defeat of the British defenders in the Siege of Kut by the Ottomans (1915–16), British Imperial forces reorganised and captured Baghdad in March 1917. The British were aided in Mesopotamia by local Arab and Assyrian tribesmen, while the Ottomans employed local Kurdish and Turcoman tribes.[135]

Sultan Mehmed V of Turkey greeting Kaiser Wilhelm II on his arrival at Constantinople

Mehmed V greeting Wilhelm II on his arrival at Constantinople

Further to the west, the Suez Canal was defended from Ottoman attacks in 1915 and 1916; in August, a German and Ottoman force was defeated at the Battle of Romani by the ANZAC Mounted Division and the 52nd (Lowland) Infantry Division. Following this victory, an Egyptian Expeditionary Force advanced across the Sinai Peninsula, pushing Ottoman forces back in the Battle of Magdhaba in December and the Battle of Rafa on the border between the Egyptian Sinai and Ottoman Palestine in January 1917.[136]

Russian armies generally had success in the Caucasus campaign. Enver Pasha, supreme commander of the Ottoman armed forces, was ambitious and dreamed of re-conquering central Asia and areas that had been lost to Russia previously. He was, however, a poor commander.[137] He launched an offensive against the Russians in the Caucasus in December 1914 with 100,000 troops, insisting on a frontal attack against mountainous Russian positions in winter. He lost 86% of his force at the Battle of Sarikamish.[138]

Ottoman 15th Corps

Kaiser Wilhelm II inspecting Turkish troops of the 15th Corps in East Galicia, Austria-Hungary (now Poland). Prince Leopold of Bavaria, the Supreme Commander of the German Army on the Eastern Front, is second from the left.

The Ottoman Empire, with German support, invaded Persia (modern Iran) in December 1914 in an effort to cut off British and Russian access to petroleum reservoirs around Baku near the Caspian Sea.[139] Persia, ostensibly neutral, had long been under the spheres of British and Russian influence. The Ottomans and Germans were aided by Kurdish and Azeri forces, together with a large number of major Iranian tribes, such as the Qashqai, Tangistanis, Lurs, and Khamseh, while the Russians and British had the support of Armenian and Assyrian forces. The Persian campaign was to last until 1918 and end in failure for the Ottomans and their allies. However, the Russian withdrawal from the war in 1917 led to Armenian and Assyrian forces, who had hitherto inflicted a series of defeats upon the forces of the Ottomans and their allies, being cut off from supply lines, outnumbered, outgunned and isolated, forcing them to fight and flee towards British lines in northern Mesopotamia.[140]


Russian forest trench at the Battle of Sarikamish, 1914–1915

General Yudenich, the Russian commander from 1915 to 1916, drove the Turks out of most of the southern Caucasus with a string of victories.[138] During the 1916 campaign, the Russians defeated the Turks in the Erzurum offensive, also occupying Trabzon. In 1917, Russian Grand Duke Nicholas assumed command of the Caucasus front. Nicholas planned a railway from Russian Georgia to the conquered territories so that fresh supplies could be brought up for a new offensive in 1917. However, in March 1917 (February in the pre-revolutionary Russian calendar), the Tsar abdicated in the course of the February Revolution, and the Russian Caucasus Army began to fall apart.

The Arab Revolt, instigated by the Arab bureau of the British Foreign Office, started June 1916 with the Battle of Mecca, led by Sharif Hussein of Mecca, and ended with the Ottoman surrender of Damascus. Fakhri Pasha, the Ottoman commander of Medina, resisted for more than two and half years during the Siege of Medina before surrendering in January 1919.[141]

The Senussi tribe, along the border of Italian Libya and British Egypt, incited and armed by the Turks, waged a small-scale guerrilla war against Allied troops. The British were forced to dispatch 12,000 troops to oppose them in the Senussi campaign. Their rebellion was finally crushed in mid-1916.[142]

Total Allied casualties on the Ottoman fronts amounted 650,000 men. Total Ottoman casualties were 725,000 (325,000 dead and 400,000 wounded).[143]

Italian participation[]
Interventisti Bologna 1914

A pro-war demonstration in Bologna, Italy, 1914

Italy had been allied with the German and Austro-Hungarian Empires since 1882 as part of the Triple Alliance. However, the nation had its own designs on Austro-Hungarian territory in Trentino, the Austrian Littoral, Fiume (Rijeka) and Dalmatia. Rome had a secret 1902 pact with France, effectively nullifying its part in the Triple Alliance;[144] Italy secretly agreed with France to remain neutral if the latter was attacked by Germany.[citation needed]At the start of hostilities, Italy refused to commit troops, arguing that the Triple Alliance was defensive and that Austria-Hungary was an aggressor. The Austro-Hungarian government began negotiations to secure Italian neutrality, offering the French colony of Tunisia in return. The Allies made a counter-offer in which Italy would receive the Southern Tyrol, Austrian Littoral and territory on the Dalmatian coast after the defeat of Austria-Hungary. This was formalised by the Treaty of London. Further encouraged by the Allied invasion of Turkey in April 1915, Italy joined the Triple Entente and declared war on Austria-Hungary on 23 May. Fifteen months later, Italy declared war on Germany.[145]

Austro-Hungarian mountain corps

Austro-Hungarian troops, Tyrol

The Italians had numerical superiority, but this advantage was lost, not only because of the difficult terrain in which the fighting took place, but also because of the strategies and tactics employed.[146] Field Marshal Luigi Cadorna, a staunch proponent of the frontal assault, had dreams of breaking into the Slovenian plateau, taking Ljubljana and threatening Vienna.

On the Trentino front, the Austro-Hungarians took advantage of the mountainous terrain, which favoured the defender. After an initial strategic retreat, the front remained largely unchanged, while Austro-Hungarian Kaiserjäger, Kaiserschützen and Standschützen engaged Italian Alpini in bitter hand-to-hand combat throughout the summer. In the Alpine and Dolomite fronts, the main battle line led through rock and ice and often to an altitude of over 3000m. The soldiers were threatened not only by the enemy but especially in winter by the forces of nature and the difficult supply. The fighting led to the formation of special units with mountain guides and new combat tactics. The Austro-Hungarians counterattacked in the Altopiano of Asiago, towards Verona and Padua, in the spring of 1916 (Strafexpedition), but made little progress and were defeated by the Italians.[147]

Beginning in 1915, the Italians under Cadorna mounted eleven offensives on the Isonzo front along the Isonzo (Soča) River, northeast of Trieste. Of these eleven offensives, five were won by Italy, three remained inconclusive, and the other three were repelled by the Austro-Hungarians, who held the higher ground. In the summer of 1916, after the Battle of Doberdò, the Italians captured the town of Gorizia. After this victory, the front remained static for over a year, despite several Italian offensives, centred on the Banjšice and Karst Plateau east of Gorizia.

Kämpfe auf dem Doberdo

Depiction of the Battle of Doberdò, fought in August 1916 between the Italian and the Austro-Hungarian armies

The Central Powers launched a crushing offensive on 26 October 1917, spearheaded by the Germans, and achieved a victory at Caporetto (Kobarid). The Italian Army was routed and retreated more than 100 kilometres (62 mi) to reorganise. The new Italian chief of staff, Armando Diaz, ordered the Army to stop their retreat and defend the Monte Grappa summit, where fortified defences were constructed; the Italians repelled the Austro-Hungarian and German Army, and stabilised the front at the Piave River. Since the Italian Army had suffered heavy losses in the Battle of Caporetto, the Italian Government ordered conscription of the so-called '99 Boys (Ragazzi del '99): all males born in 1899 and prior, who were 18 years old or older. In 1918, the Austro-Hungarians failed to break through in a series of battles on the Piave and were finally decisively defeated in the Battle of Vittorio Veneto in October. On 1 November, the Italian Navy destroyed much of the Austro-Hungarian fleet stationed in Pula, preventing it from being handed over to the new State of Slovenes, Croats and Serbs. On 3 November, the Italians invaded Trieste from the sea. On the same day, the Armistice of Villa Giusti was signed. By mid-November 1918, the Italian military occupied the entire former Austrian Littoral and had seized control of the portion of Dalmatia that had been guaranteed to Italy by the London Pact.[148] By the end of hostilities in November 1918,[149] Admiral Enrico Millo declared himself Italy's Governor of Dalmatia.[149] Austria-Hungary surrendered on 11 November 1918.[150][151]

Romanian participation[]
Marshal Joffre inspecting Romanian troops during WWI

Marshal Joseph Joffre inspecting Romanian troops, 1916

Romania had been allied with the Central Powers since 1882. When the war began, however, it declared its neutrality, arguing that because Austria-Hungary had declared war on Serbia, Romania was under no obligation to join the war. On 4 August 1916, Romania and the Entente signed the Political Treaty and Military Convention, that established the parameters of Romania's participation in the war. In return, it received the Allies' formal sanction for Transylvania, Banat and other territories of Austria-Hungary to be annexed to Romania. The action had large popular support.[152] On 27 August 1916, the Romanian Army launched an attack against Austria-Hungary, with limited Russian support. The Romanian offensive was initially successful in Transylvania, but a Central Powers counterattack drove them back.[153] As a result of the Battle of Bucharest, the Central Powers occupied Bucharest on 6 December 1916. Fighting in Moldova continued in 1917, but Russian withdrawal from the war in late 1917 as a result of the October Revolution meant that Romania was forced to sign an armistice with the Central Powers on 9 December 1917.[154]

Romanian troops at Marasesti in 1917

Romanian troops during the Battle of Mărășești, 1917

In January 1918, Romanian forces established control over Bessarabia as the Russian Army abandoned the province. Although a treaty was signed by the Romanian and Bolshevik Russian governments following talks between 5 and 9 March 1918 on the withdrawal of Romanian forces from Bessarabia within two months, on 27 March 1918 Romania formally attached Bessarabia, inhabited by a Romanian majority, to its territory, based on a resolution passed by the local assembly of that territory on its unification with Romania.[155]

Romania officially made peace with the Central Powers by signing the Treaty of Bucharest on 7 May 1918. Under the treaty, Romania was obliged to end the war with the Central Powers and make small territorial concessions to Austria-Hungary, ceding control of some passes in the Carpathian Mountains, and to grant oil concessions to Germany. In exchange, the Central Powers recognised the sovereignty of Romania over Bessarabia. The treaty was renounced in October 1918 by the Alexandru Marghiloman government, and Romania nominally re-entered the war on 10 November 1918 against the Central Powers. The next day, the Treaty of Bucharest was nullified by the terms of the Armistice of Compiègne.[156][157] Total Romanian deaths from 1914 to 1918, military and civilian, within contemporary borders, were estimated at 748,000.[158]

Eastern Front[]

Initial actions[]
Mikolaj II w Twierdzy Przemysl

Emperor Nicholas II and Commander-in-Chief Nikolai Nikolaevich in the captured Przemysl. The Russian Siege of Przemyśl was the longest siege of the war.

Russian plans for the start of the war called for simultaneous invasions of Austrian Galicia and East Prussia. Although Russia's initial advance into Galicia was largely successful, it was driven back from East Prussia by Hindenburg and Ludendorff at the battles of Tannenberg and the Masurian Lakes in August and September 1914.[159][160] Russia's less developed industrial base and ineffective military leadership were instrumental in the events that unfolded. By the spring of 1915, the Russians had retreated from Galicia, and, in May, the Central Powers achieved a remarkable breakthrough on Poland's southern frontiers with their Gorlice–Tarnów offensive.[161] On 5 August, they captured Warsaw and forced the Russians to withdraw from Poland.

Despite Russia's success in the June 1916 Brusilov offensive against the Austrians in eastern Galicia,[162] the offensive was undermined by the reluctance of other Russian generals to commit their forces to support the victory. Allied and Russian forces were revived only briefly by Romania's entry into the war on 27 August and initial gains in Transylvania, as Romania was rapidly pushed back by a combined Central Powers offensive until only the region of Moldavia was left. Meanwhile, unrest grew in Russia as the Tsar remained at the front. The increasingly incompetent rule of Empress Alexandra drew protests and resulted in the murder of her favourite, Rasputin, at the end of 1916.

Central Powers peace overtures[]

River Crossing NGM-v31-p338

"They shall not pass", a phrase typically associated with the defence of Verdun

On 12 December 1916, after ten brutal months of the Battle of Verdun and a successful offensive against Romania, Germany attempted to negotiate a peace with the Allies.[163] However, this attempt was rejected out of hand as a "duplicitous war ruse".[163]

Soon after, the US president, Woodrow Wilson, attempted to intervene as a peacemaker, asking in a note for both sides to state their demands. Lloyd George's War Cabinet considered the German offer to be a ploy to create divisions amongst the Allies. After initial outrage and much deliberation, they took Wilson's note as a separate effort, signalling that the United States was on the verge of entering the war against Germany following the "submarine outrages". While the Allies debated a response to Wilson's offer, the Germans chose to rebuff it in favour of "a direct exchange of views". Learning of the German response, the Allied governments were free to make clear demands in their response of 14 January. They sought restoration of damages, the evacuation of occupied territories, reparations for France, Russia and Romania, and a recognition of the principle of nationalities.[164] This included the liberation of Italians, Slavs, Romanians, Czecho-Slovaks, and the creation of a "free and united Poland".[164] On the question of security, the Allies sought guarantees that would prevent or limit future wars, complete with sanctions, as a condition of any peace settlement.[165] The negotiations failed and the Entente powers rejected the German offer on the grounds that Germany had not put forward any specific proposals.

1917; Timeline of Major Developments[]

March to November 1917; Russian Revolution[]

By the end of 1916, Russian casualties totalled nearly five million killed, wounded or captured, with major urban areas affected by food shortages and high prices. In March 1917, Tsar Nicholas ordered the military to forcibly suppress a wave of strikes in Petrograd but the troops refused to fire on the crowds.[166] Revolutionaries set up the Petrograd Soviet and fearing a left-wing takeover, the State Duma forced Nicholas to abdicate and established the Russian Provisional Government, which confirmed Russia's willingness to continue the war. However, the Petrograd Soviet refused to disband, creating competing power centres and caused confusion and chaos, with frontline soldiers becoming increasingly demoralised and unwilling to fight on.[167]

In the summer of 1917 a Central Powers offensive began in Romania under the command of August von Mackensen to knock Romania out of the war. Resulting in the battles of Oituz, Mărăști and Mărășești where up to 1.000.000 Central Powers troops were present. The battles lasted from 22 July to 3 September and eventually the Romanian army was victorious. August von Mackensen could not plan for another offensive as he had to transfer troops to the Italian Front.[168]

Following the Tsar's abdication, Vladimir Lenin—with the help of the German government—was ushered by train from Switzerland into Russia 16 April 1917. Discontent and the weaknesses of the Provisional Government led to a rise in the popularity of the Bolshevik Party, led by Lenin, which demanded an immediate end to the war. The Revolution of November was followed in December by an armistice and negotiations with Germany. At first, the Bolsheviks refused the German terms, but when German troops began marching across Ukraine unopposed, the new government acceded to the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk on 3 March 1918. The treaty ceded vast territories, including Finland, the Baltic provinces, parts of Poland and Ukraine to the Central Powers.[169] Despite this enormous German success, the manpower required by the Germans to occupy the captured territory may have contributed to the failure of their Spring Offensive, and secured relatively little food or other materiel for the Central Powers war effort.

With the Russian Empire out of the war, Romania found itself alone on the Eastern Front and signed Treaty of Bucharest with the Central Powers in May 1918, ending the state of war between Romania and the Central Powers. Under the terms of the treaty, Romania had to give territory to Austria-Hungary and Bulgaria, and lease its oil reserves to Germany. However, the terms also included the Central Powers recognition of the union of Bessarabia with Romania.[170][171]

April 1917: the United States enters the war[]
President Woodrow Wilson asking Congress to declare war on Germany, 2 April 1917

President Wilson asking Congress to declare war on Germany, 2 April 1917

The United States was a major supplier of war materiel to the Allies but remained neutral in 1914; many opposed the idea of involvement in "foreign wars", while German Americans made up over 10% of the total population in 1913.[172] On 7 May 1915, the British passenger liner RMS Lusitania was sunk by a German submarine, killing nearly 1,200, including 128 Americans. President Woodrow Wilson demanded an apology and warned the United States would not tolerate unrestricted submarine warfare but refused to be drawn into the war.[173] When more Americans died after the sinking of SS Arabic in August, Bethman-Hollweg ordered an end to such attacks and the affair blew over.[174] It led to a wider discussion over the morality of neutrality, a position summarised by former president Theodore Roosevelt, who denounced the idea of "setting a spiritual example [to others] by sitting idle, uttering cheap platitudes and picking up their trade".[175] However, this remained a minority view and Wilson was narrowly re-elected as president in 1916, campaigning on the slogan "he kept us out of war".[176]

By the end of 1916, the British naval blockade was causing serious shortages in Germany and Wilhelm approved the resumption of unrestricted submarine warfare [lower-alpha 10] on 1 February 1917.[178] While the German government recognised this action was likely to bring America into the war, the navy claimed they could starve Britain into submission in less than six months.[179] The military position also appeared stable, at least for the foreseeable future. Despite heavy losses at Verdun and the Somme during 1916, withdrawal to the newly created Hindenburg Line would enable the Westheer to conserve its troops, while it was clear Russia was on the brink of revolution. The combination meant Germany was willing to gamble it could force the Allies to make peace before the US could intervene in any meaningful way.[180]

Although Wilson responded by severing diplomatic relations on 2 February, he was reluctant to start hostilities without overwhelming public support and delayed any military response. On 24 February, he was presented with the Zimmermann Telegram; drafted in January by German Foreign Secretary Arthur Zimmermann, it was intercepted and decoded by British intelligence, who shared it with their American counterparts. Already financing Russian Bolsheviks and anti-British Irish nationalists, Zimmermann hoped to exploit nationalist feelings in Mexico caused by American incursions during the Pancho Villa Expedition. He promised President Carranza support for a war against the United States and help in recovering Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona, although this offer was promptly rejected.[181]

Publication of the telegram on 1 March caused an upsurge in support for war, but did not eliminate opposition to it, while public fury quickly subsided.[177] The most significant factor in creating the overwhelming majority Wilson needed was the German submarine offensive, which not only cost American lives, but paralysed trade as ships were reluctant to put to sea. This caused food shortages in cities along the East Coast and on 22 March, Congress approved the arming of merchant ships.[182] Now committed to war, in his speech to Congress on 2 April, Wilson presented it as a crusade "against human greed and folly, against Germany, and for justice, peace and civilisation".[183] On 6 April, Congress declared war on Germany, although it did so as an "Associated Power", rather than a formal ally.[184] The US also remained outside the Pact of London and was at war with Germany, not the other Central Powers.[177]

Hassam - avenue-of-the-allies-1

The Allied Avenue, 1917 painting by Childe Hassam, that depicts Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue decorated with flags from Allied nations

The United States Navy sent a battleship group to Scapa Flow to join the Grand Fleet, as well providing convoy escorts. In April 1917, the United States Army had fewer than 300,000 men, including National Guard units, compared to British and French armies of 4.1 and 8.3 million respectively. The Selective Service Act of 1917 drafted 2.8 million men, although training and equipping such numbers was a huge logistical challenge. By June 1918, over 667,000 members of the American Expeditionary Forces, or AEF, had been transported to France, a figure which reached 2 million by the end of November.[185] However, their arrival exposed weaknesses in American tactical doctrine, which was based on pre-1914 principles, a world away from the Combined arms approach used by the French and British in 1918.[186] US commanders were initially slow to accept such ideas, limiting their effectiveness and leading to heavy casualties; it was not until the last month of the war that these failings were rectified.[187]

Despite his conviction Germany must be defeated, Wilson went to war primarily to ensure the US would play a leading role in shaping the peace. This meant preserving independence of action and required the AEF to operate as a separate military force, rather than being absorbed into British or French units as his Allies wanted.[188] He was strongly supported in this by AEF commander General John J. Pershing, a proponent of pre-1914 "open warfare" who considered the French and British emphasis on artillery as misguided and incompatible with American "offensive spirit".[189] Much to the frustration of his Allies, who had suffered heavy losses in 1917, he insisted on retaining control of American troops and refused to commit them to the front line until able to operate as independent units. As a result, the first significant US involvement was the Meuse–Argonne offensive in late September 1918.[190]

April to June; Nivelle Offensive and French Army mutinies[]

French infantry advance on the Chemin des Dames, April 1917

Verdun cost the French nearly 400,000 casualties, while the horrific conditions severely impacted morale, leading to a number of incidents of indiscipline. Although relatively minor, they reflected a belief among the rank and file that their sacrifices were not appreciated by their government or senior officers.[191] Combatants on both sides claimed the battle was the most psychologically exhausting of the entire war; recognising this, Philippe Pétain frequently rotated divisions, a process known as the noria system. While this ensured units were withdrawn before their ability to fight was significantly eroded, it meant a high proportion of the French army was affected by the battle.[192] By the beginning of 1917, morale was brittle, even in divisions with good combat records.[193]

In December 1916, Robert Nivelle replaced Pétain as commander of French armies on the Western Front and began planning a spring attack in Champagne, part of a joint Franco-British operation. Nivelle claimed the capture of his main objective, the Chemin des Dames, would achieve a massive breakthrough and cost no more than 15,000 casualties.[194] Poor security meant German intelligence was well informed on tactics and timetables, but despite this, when the attack began on 16 April the French made substantial gains, before being brought to a halt by the newly built and extremely strong defences of the Hindenburg Line. Nivelle persisted with frontal assaults and by 25 April the French had suffered nearly 135,000 casualties, including 30,000 dead, most incurred in the first two days.[195]

Concurrent British attacks at Arras were more successful, although ultimately of little strategic value.[196] Operating as a separate unit for the first time, the Canadian Corps capture of Vimy Ridge during the battle is viewed by many Canadians as a defining moment in creating a sense of national identity.[197][198] Although Nivelle continued the offensive, on 3 May the 21st Division, which had been involved in some of the heaviest fighting at Verdun, refused orders to go into battle, initiating the French Army mutinies; within days, acts of "collective indiscipline" had spread to 54 divisions, while over 20,000 deserted.[199] Unrest was almost entirely confined to the infantry, whose demands were largely non-political, including better economic support for families at home, and regular periods of leave, which Nivelle had ended.[200]

Files of soldiers with rifles slung follow close behind a tank, there is a dead body in the foreground

Canadian Corps troops at the Battle of Vimy Ridge, 1917

Although the vast majority remained willing to defend their own lines, they refused to participate in offensive action, reflecting a complete breakdown of trust in the army leadership.[201] Nivelle was removed from command on 15 May and replaced by Pétain, who resisted demands for drastic punishment and set about restoring morale by improving conditions. While exact figures are still debated, only 27 men were actually executed, with another 3,000 sentenced to periods of imprisonment; however, the psychological effects were long-lasting, one veteran commenting "Pétain has purified the unhealthy atmosphere...but they have ruined the heart of the French soldier".[202]

The last large-scale offensive of this period was a British attack (with French support) at Passchendaele (July–November 1917). This offensive opened with great promise for the Allies, before bogging down in the October mud. Casualties, though disputed, were roughly equal, at some 200,000–400,000 per side.

The victory of the Central Powers at the Battle of Caporetto led the Allies to convene the Rapallo conference at which they formed the Supreme War Council to co-ordinate planning. Previously, British and French armies had operated under separate commands.

In December, the Central Powers signed an armistice with Russia, thus freeing large numbers of German troops for use in the west. With German reinforcements and new American troops pouring in, the outcome was to be decided on the Western Front. The Central Powers knew that they could not win a protracted war, but they held high hopes for success based on a final quick offensive. Furthermore, both sides became increasingly fearful of social unrest and revolution in Europe. Thus, both sides urgently sought a decisive victory.[203]

In 1917, Emperor Charles I of Austria secretly attempted separate peace negotiations with Clemenceau, through his wife's brother Sixtus in Belgium as an intermediary, without the knowledge of Germany. Italy opposed the proposals. When the negotiations failed, his attempt was revealed to Germany, resulting in a diplomatic catastrophe.[204][205]

Ottoman Empire conflict, 1917–1918[]
Turkish howitzer 10

10.5 cm Feldhaubitze 98/09 and Ottoman artillerymen at Hareira in 1917 before the Southern Palestine offensive

Capture of Jerusalem 1917d

British artillery battery on Mount Scopus in the Battle of Jerusalem, 1917. Foreground, a battery of 16 heavy guns. Background, conical tents and support vehicles.

In March and April 1917, at the First and Second Battles of Gaza, German and Ottoman forces stopped the advance of the Egyptian Expeditionary Force, which had begun in August 1916 at the Battle of Romani.[206][207] At the end of October, the Sinai and Palestine campaign resumed, when General Edmund Allenby's XXth Corps, XXI Corps and Desert Mounted Corps won the Battle of Beersheba.[208] Two Ottoman armies were defeated a few weeks later at the Battle of Mughar Ridge and, early in December, Jerusalem was captured following another Ottoman defeat at the Battle of Jerusalem.[209][210][211] About this time, Friedrich Freiherr Kress von Kressenstein was relieved of his duties as the Eighth Army's commander, replaced by Djevad Pasha, and a few months later the commander of the Ottoman Army in Palestine, Erich von Falkenhayn, was replaced by Otto Liman von Sanders.[212][213]

In early 1918, the front line was extended and the Jordan Valley was occupied, following the First Transjordan and the Second Transjordan attacks by British Empire forces in March and April 1918.[214] In March, most of the Egyptian Expeditionary Force's British infantry and Yeomanry cavalry were sent to the Western Front as a consequence of the Spring Offensive. They were replaced by Indian Army units. During several months of reorganisation and training of the summer, a number of attacks were carried out on sections of the Ottoman front line. These pushed the front line north to more advantageous positions for the Entente in preparation for an attack and to acclimatise the newly arrived Indian Army infantry. It was not until the middle of September that the integrated force was ready for large-scale operations.

Ottoman soldiers WWI

Ottoman troops during the Mesopotamian campaign

The reorganised Egyptian Expeditionary Force, with an additional mounted division, broke Ottoman forces at the Battle of Megiddo in September 1918. In two days the British and Indian infantry, supported by a creeping barrage, broke the Ottoman front line and captured the headquarters of the Eighth Army (Ottoman Empire) at Tulkarm, the continuous trench lines at Tabsor, Arara, and the Seventh Army (Ottoman Empire) headquarters at Nablus. The Desert Mounted Corps rode through the break in the front line created by the infantry. During virtually continuous operations by Australian Light Horse, British mounted Yeomanry, Indian Lancers, and New Zealand Mounted Rifle brigades in the Jezreel Valley, they captured Nazareth, Afulah and Beisan, Jenin, along with Haifa on the Mediterranean coast and Daraa east of the Jordan River on the Hejaz railway. Samakh and Tiberias on the Sea of Galilee were captured on the way northwards to Damascus. Meanwhile, Chaytor's Force of Australian light horse, New Zealand mounted rifles, Indian, British West Indies and Jewish infantry captured the crossings of the Jordan River, Es Salt, Amman and at Ziza most of the Fourth Army (Ottoman Empire). The Armistice of Mudros, signed at the end of October, ended hostilities with the Ottoman Empire when fighting was continuing north of Aleppo.

15 August 1917: Peace offer by the Pope[]

On or shortly before 15 August 1917 Pope Benedict XV made a peace proposal[215] suggesting:

  • No annexations
  • No indemnities, except to compensate for severe war damage in Belgium and parts of France and of Serbia
  • A solution to the problems of Alsace-Lorraine, Trentino and Trieste
  • Restoration of the Kingdom of Poland
  • Germany to pull out of Belgium and France
  • Germany's overseas colonies to be returned to Germany
  • General disarmament
  • A Supreme Court of arbitration to settle future disputes between nations
  • The freedom of the seas
  • Abolish all retaliatory economic conflicts
  • No point in ordering reparations, because so much damage had been caused to all belligerents
July to November; British offensive at Passchendaele[]

Section to be continued.

1918; Timeline of Major Developments[]

German Spring Offensive[]
General gouraud french army world war i machinegun marne 1918

French soldiers under General Gouraud, with machine guns amongst the ruins of a cathedral near the Marne, 1918

Ludendorff drew up plans (codenamed Operation Michael) for the 1918 offensive on the Western Front. The Spring Offensive sought to divide the British and French forces with a series of feints and advances. The German leadership hoped to end the war before significant US forces arrived. The operation commenced on 21 March 1918 with an attack on British forces near Saint-Quentin. German forces achieved an unprecedented advance of 60 kilometres (37 mi).[216]

British and French trenches were penetrated using novel infiltration tactics, also named Hutier tactics after General Oskar von Hutier, by specially trained units called stormtroopers. Previously, attacks had been characterised by long artillery bombardments and massed assaults. In the Spring Offensive of 1918, however, Ludendorff used artillery only briefly and infiltrated small groups of infantry at weak points. They attacked command and logistics areas and bypassed points of serious resistance. More heavily armed infantry then destroyed these isolated positions. This German success relied greatly on the element of surprise.[citation needed]

British 55th Division gas casualties 10 April 1918

British 55th (West Lancashire) Division soldiers blinded by tear gas during the Battle of Estaires, 10 April 1918

The front moved to within 120 kilometres (75 mi) of Paris. Three heavy Krupp railway guns fired 183 shells on the capital, causing many Parisians to flee. The initial offensive was so successful that Kaiser Wilhelm II declared 24 March a national holiday. Many Germans thought victory was near. After heavy fighting, however, the offensive was halted. Lacking tanks or motorised artillery, the Germans were unable to consolidate their gains. The problems of re-supply were also exacerbated by increasing distances that now stretched over terrain that was shell-torn and often impassable to traffic.[217]

Following Operation Michael, Germany launched Operation Georgette against the northern English Channel ports. The Allies halted the drive after limited territorial gains by Germany. The German Army to the south then conducted Operations Blücher and Yorck, pushing broadly towards Paris. Germany launched Operation Marne (Second Battle of the Marne) on 15 July, in an attempt to encircle Reims. The resulting counter-attack, which started the Hundred Days Offensive, marked the first successful Allied offensive of the war. By 20 July, the Germans had retreated across the Marne to their starting lines,[218] having achieved little, and the German Army never regained the initiative. German casualties between March and April 1918 were 270,000, including many highly trained stormtroopers.

Meanwhile, Germany was falling apart at home. Anti-war marches became frequent and morale in the army fell. Industrial output was half the 1913 levels.

Hundred Days Offensive[]

Between April and November 1918, the Allies increased their front-line rifle strength while German strength fell by half.[219]

Aerial view of ruins of Vaux, France, 1918, ca. 03-1918 - ca

Aerial view of ruins of Vaux-devant-Damloup, France, 1918

The Allied counteroffensive, known as the Hundred Days Offensive, began on 8 August 1918, with the Battle of Amiens. The battle involved over 400 tanks and 120,000 British, Dominion, and French troops, and by the end of its first day a gap 24 kilometres (15 mi) long had been created in the German lines. The defenders displayed a marked collapse in morale, causing Ludendorff to refer to this day as the "Black Day of the German army".[220][221][222] After an advance as far as 23 kilometres (14 mi), German resistance stiffened, and the battle was concluded on 12 August.

Rather than continuing the Amiens battle past the point of initial success, as had been done so many times in the past, the Allies shifted attention elsewhere. Allied leaders had now realised that to continue an attack after resistance had hardened was a waste of lives, and it was better to turn a line than to try to roll over it. They began to undertake attacks in quick order to take advantage of successful advances on the flanks, then broke them off when each attack lost its initial impetus.[223]

The day after the Offensive began, Ludendorff said: "We cannot win the war any more, but we must not lose it either." On 11 August he offered his resignation to the Kaiser, who refused it, replying, "I see that we must strike a balance. We have nearly reached the limit of our powers of resistance. The war must be ended."[citation needed] On 13 August, at Spa, Hindenburg, Ludendorff, the Chancellor, and Foreign Minister Hintz agreed that the war could not be ended militarily and, on the following day, the German Crown Council decided that victory in the field was now most improbable. Austria and Hungary warned that they could continue the war only until December, and Ludendorff recommended immediate peace negotiations. Prince Rupprecht warned Prince Maximilian of Baden: "Our military situation has deteriorated so rapidly that I no longer believe we can hold out over the winter; it is even possible that a catastrophe will come earlier."[224]

Battle of Albert[]
Canadian Scottish at Canal du Nord Sept 1918 IWM CO 3289

16th Bn (Canadian Scottish), advancing during the Battle of the Canal du Nord, 1918

British and Dominion forces launched the next phase of the campaign with the Battle of Albert on 21 August.[225] The assault was widened by French[224] and then further British forces in the following days. During the last week of August, the Allied pressure along a 110-kilometre (68 mi) front against the enemy was heavy and unrelenting. From German accounts, "Each day was spent in bloody fighting against an ever and again on-storming enemy, and nights passed without sleep in retirements to new lines."[223]

Faced with these advances, on 2 September the German Oberste Heeresleitung ("Supreme Army Command") issued orders to withdraw in the south to the Hindenburg Line. This ceded without a fight the salient seized the previous April.[226] According to Ludendorff, "We had to admit the necessity ... to withdraw the entire front from the Scarpe to the Vesle."[227][page needed] In nearly four weeks of fighting beginning on 8 August, over 100,000 German prisoners were taken. The German High Command realised that the war was lost and made attempts to reach a satisfactory end. On 10 September Hindenburg urged peace moves to Emperor Charles of Austria, and Germany appealed to the Netherlands for mediation. On 14 September Austria sent a note to all belligerents and neutrals suggesting a meeting for peace talks on neutral soil, and on 15 September Germany made a peace offer to Belgium. Both peace offers were rejected.[224]

Allied advance to the Hindenburg Line[]
World War I Observation Balloon HD-SN-99-02269

An American major, piloting an observation balloon near the front, 1918

In September the Allies advanced to the Hindenburg Line in the north and centre. The Germans continued to fight strong rear-guard actions and launched numerous counterattacks, but positions and outposts of the Line continued to fall, with the BEF alone taking 30,441 prisoners in the last week of September. On 24 September an assault by both the British and French came within 3 kilometres (2 mi) of St. Quentin. The Germans had now retreated to positions along or behind the Hindenburg Line. That same day, Supreme Army Command informed the leaders in Berlin that armistice talks were inevitable.[224]

The final assault on the Hindenburg Line began with the Meuse-Argonne offensive, launched by French and American troops on 26 September. The following week, co-operating French and American units broke through in Champagne at the Battle of Blanc Mont Ridge, forcing the Germans off the commanding heights, and closing towards the Belgian frontier.[228] On 8 October the line was pierced again by British and Dominion troops at the Battle of Cambrai.[229] The German army had to shorten its front and use the Dutch frontier as an anchor to fight rear-guard actions as it fell back towards Germany.

When Bulgaria signed a separate armistice on 29 September, Ludendorff, having been under great stress for months, suffered something similar to a breakdown. It was evident that Germany could no longer mount a successful defence. The collapse of the Balkans meant that Germany was about to lose its main supplies of oil and food. Its reserves had been used up, even as US troops kept arriving at the rate of 10,000 per day.[230][231][232] The Americans supplied more than 80% of Allied oil during the war, and there was no shortage.[233]

German Revolution 1918–1919[]
Bundesarchiv Bild 183-R72520, Kiel, Novemberrevolution, Matrosenaufstand

German Revolution, Kiel, 1918

News of Germany's impending military defeat spread throughout the German armed forces. The threat of mutiny was rife. Admiral Reinhard Scheer and Ludendorff decided to launch a last attempt to restore the "valour" of the German Navy.

In northern Germany, the German Revolution of 1918–1919 began at the end of October 1918. Units of the German Navy refused to set sail for a last, large-scale operation in a war they believed to be as good as lost, initiating the uprising. The sailors' revolt, which then ensued in the naval ports of Wilhelmshaven and Kiel, spread across the whole country within days and led to the proclamation of a republic on 9 November 1918, shortly thereafter to the abdication of Kaiser Wilhelm II, and to German surrender.[234][235][236][232]

New German government surrenders[]

With the military faltering and with widespread loss of confidence in the Kaiser leading to his abdication and fleeing of the country, Germany moved towards surrender. Prince Maximilian of Baden took charge of a new government on 3 October as Chancellor of Germany to negotiate with the Allies. Negotiations with President Wilson began immediately, in the hope that he would offer better terms than the British and French. Wilson demanded a constitutional monarchy and parliamentary control over the German military.[237] There was no resistance when the Social Democrat Philipp Scheidemann on 9 November declared Germany to be a republic. The Kaiser, kings and other hereditary rulers all were removed from power and Wilhelm fled to exile in the Netherlands. It was the end of Imperial Germany; a new Germany had been born as the Weimar Republic.[238]

Armistices and capitulations[]
Trento 3 novembre 1918

Italian troops reach Trento during the Battle of Vittorio Veneto, 1918. Italy's victory marked the end of the war on the Italian Front and secured the dissolution of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

The collapse of the Central Powers came swiftly. Bulgaria was the first to sign an armistice, the Armistice of Salonica on 29 September 1918.[239] German Emperor Wilhelm II in his telegram to Bulgarian Tsar Ferdinand I described situation: "Disgraceful! 62,000 Serbs decided the war!".[240][241] On the same day, the German Supreme Army Command informed Kaiser Wilhelm II and the Imperial Chancellor Count Georg von Hertling, that the military situation facing Germany was hopeless.[242]

On 24 October, the Italians began a push that rapidly recovered territory lost after the Battle of Caporetto. This culminated in the Battle of Vittorio Veneto, which marked the end of the Austro-Hungarian Army as an effective fighting force. The offensive also triggered the disintegration of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. During the last week of October, declarations of independence were made in Budapest, Prague, and Zagreb. On 29 October, the imperial authorities asked Italy for an armistice, but the Italians continued advancing, reaching Trento, Udine, and Trieste. On 3 November, Austria-Hungary sent a flag of truce to ask for an armistice (Armistice of Villa Giusti). The terms, arranged by telegraph with the Allied Authorities in Paris, were communicated to the Austrian commander and accepted. The Armistice with Austria was signed in the Villa Giusti, near Padua, on 3 November. Austria and Hungary signed separate armistices following the overthrow of the Habsburg Monarchy. In the following days, the Italian Army occupied Innsbruck and all Tyrol with over 20,000 soldiers.[243]

On 30 October, the Ottoman Empire capitulated, signing the Armistice of Mudros.[239]


Ferdinand Foch, second from right, pictured outside the carriage in Compiègne after agreeing to the armistice that ended the war there. The carriage was later chosen by Nazi Germany as the symbolic setting of Pétain's June 1940 armistice.[244]

On 11 November, at 5:00 am, an armistice with Germany was signed in a railroad carriage at Compiègne. At 11 am on 11 November 1918—"the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month"—a ceasefire came into effect. During the six hours between the signing of the armistice and its taking effect, opposing armies on the Western Front began to withdraw from their positions, but fighting continued along many areas of the front, as commanders wanted to capture territory before the war ended. The occupation of the Rhineland took place following the Armistice. The occupying armies consisted of American, Belgian, British and French forces.

In November 1918, the Allies had ample supplies of men and materiel to invade Germany. Yet at the time of the armistice, no Allied force had crossed the German frontier, the Western Front was still some 720 kilometres (450 mi) from Berlin, and the Kaiser's armies had retreated from the battlefield in good order. These factors enabled Hindenburg and other senior German leaders to spread the story that their armies had not really been defeated. This resulted in the stab-in-the-back myth,[245][246] which attributed Germany's defeat not to its inability to continue fighting (even though up to a million soldiers were suffering from the 1918 flu pandemic and unfit to fight), but to the public's failure to respond to its "patriotic calling" and the supposed intentional sabotage of the war effort, particularly by Jews, Socialists, and Bolsheviks.

The Allies had much more potential wealth they could spend on the war. One estimate (using 1913 US dollars) is that the Allies spent $58 billion on the war and the Central Powers only $25 billion. Among the Allies, the UK spent $21 billion and the US$17 billion; among the Central Powers Germany spent $20 billion.[247]


No other war had changed the map of Europe so dramatically. Four empires disappeared: the German, Austro-Hungarian, Ottoman, and Russian. Numerous nations regained their former independence, and new ones created. Four dynasties, together with their ancillary aristocracies, all fell after the war: the Hohenzollerns, the Habsburgs, the Romanovs, and the Ottomans. Belgium and Serbia were badly damaged, as was France, with 1.4 million soldiers dead,[248] not counting other casualties. Germany and Russia were similarly affected.[249]

Formal end of the war[]

A formal state of war between the two sides persisted for another seven months, until the signing of the Treaty of Versailles with Germany on 28 June 1919. However, the American public opposed ratification of the treaty, mainly because of the League of Nations the treaty created; the United States did not formally end its involvement in the war until the Knox–Porter Resolution was signed in 1921. After the Treaty of Versailles, treaties with Austria, Hungary, Bulgaria, and the Ottoman Empire were signed. However, the negotiation of the latter treaty with the Ottoman Empire was followed by strife (the Turkish War of Independence), and a final peace treaty between the Allied Powers and the country that would shortly become the Republic of Turkey was not signed until 24 July 1923, at Lausanne.

Some war memorials date the end of the war as being when the Versailles Treaty was signed in 1919, which was when many of the troops serving abroad finally returned to their home countries; by contrast, most commemorations of the war's end concentrate on the armistice of 11 November 1918. Legally, the formal peace treaties were not complete until the last, the Treaty of Lausanne, was signed. Under its terms, the Allied forces divested Constantinople on 23 August 1923.

Peace treaties and national boundaries[]

After the war, the Paris Peace Conference imposed a series of peace treaties on the Central Powers officially ending the war. The 1919 Treaty of Versailles dealt with Germany, and building on Wilson's 14th point, brought into being the League of Nations on 28 June 1919.[250][251]

Germany was forced, despite its vehement protests, to admit guilt for starting the war back in 1914, and therefore being liable for huge reparations. Specifically Germany had to acknowledge responsibility for "all the loss and damage to which the Allied and Associated Governments and their nationals have been subjected as a consequence of the war imposed upon them by the aggression of Germany and her allies". Similar clauses were included into the treaties signed by the other members of the Central Powers. This clause later became known, to Germans, as the War Guilt clause; the great majority of Germans felt humiliated and resentful on this point, and it became a major campaign issue for the Nazis in the 1920s. Overall the Germans felt they had been very unjustly dealt by what they called the "diktat of Versailles." Schulze says, the Treaty placed Germany, "under legal sanctions, deprived of military power, economically ruined, and politically humiliated."[252] Meanwhile, nations liberated from German rule viewed the Treaty as recognition of wrongs committed against small nations by much larger aggressive neighbors.[253] The Peace Conference required all the defeated powers to pay reparations for all the damage done to civilians, but in practice this meant only Germany.

Smyrna-massacre-refugees port-1922

Greek refugees from Smyrna, Turkey, 1922

Austria-Hungary was partitioned into several successor states, including Austria, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, and Yugoslavia, largely but not entirely along ethnic lines. Transylvania was shifted from Hungary to Greater Romania. The details were contained in the Treaty of Saint-Germain and the Treaty of Trianon. As a result of the Treaty of Trianon, 3.3 million Hungarians came under foreign rule. Although the Hungarians made up 54% of the population of the pre-war Kingdom of Hungary, only 32% of its territory was left to Hungary. Between 1920 and 1924, 354,000 Hungarians fled former Hungarian territories attached to Romania, Czechoslovakia, and Yugoslavia.

The Russian Empire, which had withdrawn from the war in 1917 after the October Revolution, lost much of its western frontier as the newly independent nations of Estonia, Finland, Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland were carved from it. Bessarabia was re-attached to Greater Romania, as it had been a Romanian territory for more than a thousand years.[254]

The Ottoman Empire disintegrated, and much of its non-Anatolian territory was awarded to various Allied powers as protectorates. The Turkish core was reorganised as the Republic of Turkey. The Ottoman Empire was to be partitioned by the Treaty of Sèvres of 1920. This treaty was never ratified by the Sultan and was rejected by the Turkish republican movement, leading to the Turkish Independence War and, ultimately, to the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne.

National identities[]

Poland reemerged as an independent country, after more than a century. The Kingdom of Serbia and its dynasty, as a "minor Entente nation" and the country with the most casualties per capita,[255][256][257] became the backbone of a new multinational state, the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes, later renamed Yugoslavia. Czechoslovakia, combining the Kingdom of Bohemia with parts of the Kingdom of Hungary, became a new nation. Russia became the Soviet Union and lost Finland, Estonia, Lithuania, and Latvia, which became independent countries. The Ottoman Empire was soon replaced by Turkey and several other countries in the Middle East.

Map Europe 1923-en

Map of territorial changes in Europe after World War I

In the British Empire, the war unleashed new forms of nationalism. In Australia and New Zealand the Battle of Gallipoli became known as those nations' "Baptism of Fire". It was the first major war in which the newly established countries fought, and it was one of the first times that Australian troops fought as Australians, not just subjects of the British Crown. Anzac Day, commemorating the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps, celebrates this defining moment.[258][259]

After the Battle of Vimy Ridge, where the Canadian divisions fought together for the first time as a single corps, Canadians began to refer to theirs as a nation "forged from fire".[260] Having succeeded on the same battleground where the "mother countries" had previously faltered, they were for the first time respected internationally for their own accomplishments. Canada entered the war as a Dominion of the British Empire and remained so, although it emerged with a greater measure of independence.[261][262] When Britain declared war in 1914, the dominions were automatically at war; at the conclusion, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa were individual signatories of the Treaty of Versailles.[263]

The establishment of the modern state of Israel and the roots of the continuing Israeli–Palestinian conflict are partially found in the unstable power dynamics of the Middle East that resulted from World War I.[264] Prior to the end of the war, the Ottoman Empire had maintained a modest level of peace and stability throughout the Middle East.[265] With the fall of the Ottoman government, power vacuums developed and conflicting claims to land and nationhood began to emerge.[266] The political boundaries drawn by the victors of World War I were quickly imposed, sometimes after only cursory consultation with the local population. In many cases, these continue to be problematic in the 21st-century struggles for national identity.[267][268] While the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire at the end of World War I was pivotal in contributing to the modern political situation of the Middle East, including the Arab-Israeli conflict,[269][270][271] the end of Ottoman rule also spawned lesser known disputes over water and other natural resources.[272]

Health and economic effects[]

0 Verdun - Cimetière de Douaumont (1)

The French military cemetery with Douaumont ossuary, which contains the remains of more than 130,000 unknown soldiers

The war had profound economic consequences. Of the 60 million European soldiers who were mobilised from 1914 to 1918, 8 million were killed, 7 million were permanently disabled, and 15 million were seriously injured. Germany lost 15.1% of its active male population, Austria-Hungary lost 17.1%, and France lost 10.5%.[273] In Germany civilian deaths were 474,000 higher than in peacetime, due in large part to food shortages and malnutrition that weakened resistance to disease.[274] By the end of the war, famine had killed approximately 100,000 people in Lebanon.[275] The best estimates of the death toll from the Russian famine of 1921 run from 5 million to 10 million people.[276] By 1922, there were between 4.5 million and 7 million homeless children in Russia as a result of nearly a decade of devastation from World War I, the Russian Civil War, and the subsequent famine of 1920–1922.[277] Numerous anti-Soviet Russians fled the country after the Revolution; by the 1930s, the northern Chinese city of Harbin had 100,000 Russians.[278] Thousands more emigrated to France, England, and the United States.

Emergency hospital during Influenza epidemic, Camp Funston, Kansas - NCP 1603

Emergency military hospital during the Spanish flu pandemic, which killed about 675,000 people in the United States alone. Camp Funston, Kansas, 1918

In Australia, the effects of the war on the economy were no less severe. The Australian prime minister, Billy Hughes, wrote to the British prime minister, Lloyd George, "You have assured us that you cannot get better terms. I much regret it, and hope even now that some way may be found of securing agreement for demanding reparation commensurate with the tremendous sacrifices made by the British Empire and her Allies."[279] Australia received ₤5,571,720 war reparations, but the direct cost of the war to Australia had been ₤376,993,052, and, by the mid-1930s, repatriation pensions, war gratuities, interest and sinking fund charges were ₤831,280,947.[279] Of about 416,000 Australians who served, about 60,000 were killed and another 152,000 were wounded.[280]

Diseases flourished in the chaotic wartime conditions. In 1914 alone, louse-borne epidemic typhus killed 200,000 in Serbia.[281] From 1918 to 1922, Russia had about 25 million infections and 3 million deaths from epidemic typhus.[282] Whereas before World War I Russia had about 3.5 million cases of malaria, its people suffered more than 13 million cases in 1923.[283] In addition, a major influenza epidemic spread around the world. Overall, the 1918 flu pandemic killed at least 50 million people.[284][285]

Lobbying by Chaim Weizmann and fear that American Jews would encourage the US to support Germany culminated in the British government's Balfour Declaration of 1917, endorsing creation of a Jewish homeland in Palestine.[286] A total of more than 1,172,000 Jewish soldiers served in the Allied and Central Power forces in World War I, including 275,000 in Austria-Hungary and 450,000 in Czarist Russia.[287]

The social disruption and widespread violence of the Russian Revolution of 1917 and the ensuing Russian Civil War sparked more than 2,000 pogroms in the former Russian Empire, mostly in the Ukraine.[288] An estimated 60,000–200,000 civilian Jews were killed in the atrocities.[289]

In the aftermath of World War I, Greece fought against Turkish nationalists led by Mustafa Kemal, a war which resulted in a massive population exchange between the two countries under the Treaty of Lausanne.[290] According to various sources,[291] several hundred thousand Pontic Greeks died during this period.[292]


Ground warfare[]


A Russian armoured car.

World War I began as a clash of 20th-century technology and 19th-century tactics, with the inevitably large ensuing casualties. By the end of 1917, however, the major armies, now numbering millions of men, had modernised and were making use of telephone, wireless communication,[293] armoured cars, tanks,[294] and aircraft. Infantry formations were reorganised, so that 100-man companies were no longer the main unit of manoeuvre; instead, squads of 10 or so men, under the command of a junior NCO, were favoured.

Artillery also underwent a revolution. In 1914, cannons were positioned in the front line and fired directly at their targets. By 1917, indirect fire with guns (as well as mortars and even machine guns) was commonplace, using new techniques for spotting and ranging, notably aircraft and the often overlooked field telephone. Counter-battery missions became commonplace, also, and sound detection was used to locate enemy batteries.

Germany was far ahead of the Allies in utilising heavy indirect fire. The German Army employed 150 mm (6 in) and 210 mm (8 in) howitzers in 1914, when typical French and British guns were only 75 mm (3 in) and 105 mm (4 in). The British had a 6-inch (152 mm) howitzer, but it was so heavy it had to be hauled to the field in pieces and assembled. The Germans also fielded Austrian 305 mm (12 in) and 420 mm (17 in) guns and, even at the beginning of the war, had inventories of various calibers of Minenwerfer, which were ideally suited for trench warfare.[295]

Much of the combat involved trench warfare, in which hundreds often died for each yard gained. Many of the deadliest battles in history occurred during World War I. Such battles include Ypres, the Marne, Cambrai, the Somme, Verdun, and Gallipoli. The Germans employed the Haber process of nitrogen fixation to provide their forces with a constant supply of gunpowder despite the British naval blockade.[296] Artillery was responsible for the largest number of casualties[297] and consumed vast quantities of explosives. The large number of head wounds caused by exploding shells and fragmentation forced the combatant nations to develop the modern steel helmet, led by the French, who introduced the Adrian helmet in 1915. It was quickly followed by the Brodie helmet, worn by British Imperial and US troops, and in 1916 by the distinctive German Stahlhelm, a design, with improvements, still in use today.

Gas! GAS! Quick, boys! - An ecstasy of fumbling,
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time;
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling,
And flound'ring like a man in fire or lime...
Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light,
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.

Mustard gas burns

A Canadian soldier with mustard gas burns, ca. 1917–1918.

The widespread use of chemical warfare was a distinguishing feature of the conflict. Gases used included chlorine, mustard gas and phosgene. Few war casualties were caused by gas,[299] as effective countermeasures to gas attacks were quickly created, such as gas masks. The use of chemical warfare and small-scale strategic bombing were both outlawed by the 1907 Hague Conventions, and both proved to be of limited effectiveness,[300] though they captured the public imagination.[301]

The most powerful land-based weapons were railway guns weighing hundreds of tons apiece. These were nicknamed Big Berthas, even though the namesake was not a railway gun. Germany developed the Paris Gun, able to bombard Paris from over 100 kilometres (62 mi), though shells were relatively light at 94 kilograms (210 lb). While the Allies also had railway guns, German models severely out-ranged and out-classed them.

Vickers IWW

British Vickers machine gun

Trenches, machine guns, air reconnaissance, barbed wire, and modern artillery with fragmentation shells helped bring the battle lines of World War I to a stalemate. The British and the French sought a solution with the creation of the tank and mechanised warfare. The British first tanks were used during the Battle of the Somme on 15 September 1916. Mechanical reliability was an issue, but the experiment proved its worth. Within a year, the British were fielding tanks by the hundreds, and they showed their potential during the Battle of Cambrai in November 1917, by breaking the Hindenburg Line, while combined arms teams captured 8,000 enemy soldiers and 100 guns. Meanwhile, the French introduced the first tanks with a rotating turret, the Renault FT, which became a decisive tool of the victory. The conflict also saw the introduction of Light automatic weapons and submachine guns, such as the Lewis Gun, the Browning automatic rifle, and the Bergmann MP18.

Another new weapon, the flamethrower, was first used by the German army and later adopted by other forces. Although not of high tactical value, the flamethrower was a powerful, demoralising weapon that caused terror on the battlefield. It was a dangerous weapon to wield, as its heavy weight made operators vulnerable targets.

Trench railways evolved to supply the enormous quantities of food, water, and ammunition required to support large numbers of soldiers in areas where conventional transportation systems had been destroyed. Internal combustion engines and improved traction systems for automobiles and trucks/lorries eventually rendered trench railways obsolete.


Germany deployed U-boats (submarines) after the war began. Alternating between restricted and unrestricted submarine warfare in the Atlantic, the Kaiserliche Marine employed them to deprive the British Isles of vital supplies. The deaths of British merchant sailors and the seeming invulnerability of U-boats led to the development of depth charges (1916), hydrophones (passive sonar, 1917), blimps, hunter-killer submarines (HMS R-1, 1917), forward-throwing anti-submarine weapons, and dipping hydrophones (the latter two both abandoned in 1918).[121] To extend their operations, the Germans proposed supply submarines (1916). Most of these would be forgotten in the interwar period until World War II revived the need.


Sopwith F-1 Camel

RAF Sopwith Camel. In April 1917, the average life expectancy of a British pilot on the Western Front was 93 flying hours[302]

Fixed-wing aircraft were first used militarily by the Italians in Libya on 23 October 1911 during the Italo-Turkish War for reconnaissance, soon followed by the dropping of grenades and aerial photography the next year. By 1914, their military utility was obvious. They were initially used for reconnaissance and ground attack. To shoot down enemy planes, anti-aircraft guns and fighter aircraft were developed. Strategic bombers were created, principally by the Germans and British, though the former used Zeppelins as well.[303] Towards the end of the conflict, aircraft carriers were used for the first time, with HMS Furious launching Sopwith Camels in a raid to destroy the Zeppelin hangars at Tondern in 1918.[304]

Manned observation balloons, floating high above the trenches, were used as stationary reconnaissance platforms, reporting enemy movements and directing artillery. Balloons commonly had a crew of two, equipped with parachutes,[305] so that if there was an enemy air attack the crew could parachute to safety. (At the time, parachutes were too heavy to be used by pilots of aircraft (with their marginal power output), and smaller versions were not developed until the end of the war; they were also opposed by the British leadership, who feared they might promote cowardice.)[306]

Recognised for their value as observation platforms, balloons were important targets for enemy aircraft. To defend them against air attack, they were heavily protected by antiaircraft guns and patrolled by friendly aircraft; to attack them, unusual weapons such as air-to-air rockets were even tried. Thus, the reconnaissance value of blimps and balloons contributed to the development of air-to-air combat between all types of aircraft, and to the trench stalemate, because it was impossible to move large numbers of troops undetected. The Germans conducted air raids on England during 1915 and 1916 with airships, hoping to damage British morale and cause aircraft to be diverted from the front lines, and indeed the resulting panic led to the diversion of several squadrons of fighters from France.[303][306]

War crimes[]

Genocide and ethnic cleansing[]

Hromadná poprava srbského obyvatelstva

Austro-Hungarian soldiers executing Serb civilians during the occupation of Mačva, 1914

The ethnic cleansing of the Ottoman Empire's Armenian population, including mass deportations and executions, during the final years of the Ottoman Empire is considered genocide.[307] The Ottomans saw the entire Armenian population as an enemy[308] that had chosen to side with Russia at the beginning of the war.[309] In early 1915, a number of Armenians joined the Russian forces, and the Ottoman government used this as a pretext to issue the Tehcir Law (Law on Deportation). This authorized the deportation of Armenians from the Empire's eastern provinces to Syria between 1915 and 1917. The exact number of deaths is unknown: while Balakian gives a range of 250,000 to 1.5 million for the deaths of Armenians,[310] the International Association of Genocide Scholars estimates over 1 million.[307][311] The government of Turkey has consistently rejected charges of genocide, arguing that those who died were victims of inter-ethnic fighting, famine, or disease during World War I.[312] Other ethnic groups were similarly attacked by the Ottoman Empire during this period, including Assyrians and Greeks, and some scholars consider those events to be part of the same policy of extermination.[313][314][315]


Picture showing Armenians killed during the Armenian Genocide. Image taken from Ambassador Morgenthau's Story, written by Henry Morgenthau, Sr. and published in 1918.[316]

Russian Empire[]

Many pogroms accompanied the Russian Revolution of 1917 and the ensuing Russian Civil War. 60,000–200,000 civilian Jews were killed in the atrocities throughout the former Russian Empire.[317]

"Rape of Belgium"[]

The German invaders treated any resistance—such as sabotaging rail lines—as illegal and immoral, and shot the offenders and burned buildings in retaliation. In addition, they tended to suspect that most civilians were potential "franc-tireurs" (guerrillas) and, accordingly, took and sometimes killed hostages from among the civilian population. The German army executed over 6,500 French and Belgian civilians between August and November 1914, usually in near-random large-scale shootings of civilians ordered by junior German officers. The German Army destroyed 15,000–20,000 buildings—most famously the university library at Louvain—and generated a wave of refugees of over a million people. Over half the German regiments in Belgium were involved in major incidents.[318] Thousands of workers were shipped to Germany to work in factories. British propaganda dramatizing the "Rape of Belgium" attracted much attention in the United States, while Berlin said it was legal and necessary because of the threat of "franc-tireurs" like those in France in 1870.[319] The British and French magnified the reports and disseminated them at home and in the United States, where they played a major role in dissolving support for Germany.[320][321]

Soldiers' experiences[]

BVRC-Great-War-Contingent 1914

The First Contingent of the Bermuda Volunteer Rifle Corps to the 1 Lincolns, training in Bermuda for the Western Front, winter 1914–1915. The two BVRC contingents suffered 75% casualties.

The British soldiers of the war were initially volunteers but increasingly were conscripted into service. Surviving veterans, returning home, often found that they could only discuss their experiences amongst themselves. Grouping together, they formed "veterans' associations" or "Legions".

Prisoners of war[]

German prisoners in a French prison camp. French Pictorial Service

German prisoners in a French prison camp

About eight million men surrendered and were held in POW camps during the war. All nations pledged to follow the Hague Conventions on fair treatment of prisoners of war. POWs' rate of survival was generally much higher than that of their peers at the front.[322] Individual surrenders were uncommon; large units usually surrendered en masse. At the siege of Maubeuge about 40,000 French soldiers surrendered, at the battle of Galicia Russians took about 100,000 to 120,000 Austrian captives, at the Brusilov Offensive about 325,000 to 417,000 Germans and Austrians surrendered to Russians, at the Battle of Tannenberg 92,000 Russians surrendered. When the besieged garrison of Kaunas surrendered in 1915, some 20,000 Russians became prisoners, at the battle near Przasnysz (February–March 1915) 14,000 Germans surrendered to Russians, at the First Battle of the Marne about 12,000 Germans surrendered to the Allies. 25–31% of Russian losses (as a proportion of those captured, wounded, or killed) were to prisoner status; for Austria-Hungary 32%, for Italy 26%, for France 12%, for Germany 9%; for Britain 7%. Prisoners from the Allied armies totalled about 1.4 million (not including Russia, which lost 2.-3.5[Clarification needed]

million men as prisoners. In some research it is stated that the number of Russian prisoners was 2,417,000). From the Central Powers about 3.3 million men became prisoners; most of them surrendered to Russians.[323]

Germany held 2.5 million prisoners; Russia held 2.2-2.9 million; while Britain and France held about 720,000. Most were captured just prior to the Armistice. The United States held 48,000. The most dangerous moment was the act of surrender, when helpless soldiers were sometimes gunned down.[324][325] Once prisoners reached a camp, conditions were, in general, satisfactory (and much better than in World War II), thanks in part to the efforts of the International Red Cross and inspections by neutral nations. However, conditions were terrible in Russia: starvation was common for prisoners and civilians alike; about 15–20% of the prisoners in Russia died (in some researches it is stated that 2.5% of prisoners in Russia died, and in Central powers imprisonment – 8% of Russians.[326] In Germany, food was scarce, but only 5% died.[327][328][329]

Indian army soldier after siege of Kut

An emaciated Indian Army soldier who survived the Siege of Kut

The Ottoman Empire often treated POWs poorly.[330] Some 11,800 British Empire soldiers, most of them Indians, became prisoners after the Siege of Kut in Mesopotamia in April 1916; 4,250 died in captivity.[331] Although many were in very bad condition when captured, Ottoman officers forced them to march 1,100 kilometres (684 mi) to Anatolia. A survivor said: "We were driven along like beasts; to drop out was to die."[332] The survivors were then forced to build a railway through the Taurus Mountains.

In Russia, when the prisoners from the Czech Legion of the Austro-Hungarian army were released in 1917, they re-armed themselves and briefly became a military and diplomatic force during the Russian Civil War.

While the Allied prisoners of the Central Powers were quickly sent home at the end of active hostilities, the same treatment was not granted to Central Power prisoners of the Allies and Russia, many of whom served as forced labor, e.g., in France until 1920. They were released only after many approaches by the Red Cross to the Allied Supreme Council.[333] German prisoners were still being held in Russia as late as 1924.[334]

Military attachés and war correspondents[]

Military and civilian observers from every major power closely followed the course of the war. Many were able to report on events from a perspective somewhat akin to modern "embedded" positions within the opposing land and naval forces. These military attachés and other observers prepared voluminous first-hand accounts of the war and analytical papers.

For example, former US Army Captain Granville Fortescue followed the developments of the Gallipoli Campaign from an embedded perspective within the ranks of the Turkish defenders; and his report was passed through Turkish censors before being printed in London and New York.[335] However, this observer's role was abandoned when the U.S. entered the war, as Fortescue immediately re-enlisted, sustaining wounds at Montfaucon-d'Argonne in the Meuse-Argonne Offensive, September 1918.[336]

In-depth observer narratives of the war and more narrowly focused professional journal articles were written soon after the war; and these post-war reports conclusively illustrated the battlefield destructiveness of this conflict. This was not the first time the tactics of entrenched positions for infantry defended with machine guns and artillery became vitally important. The Russo-Japanese War had been closely observed by military attachés, war correspondents and other observers; but, from a 21st-century perspective, it is now apparent that a range of tactical lessons were disregarded or not used in the preparations for war in Europe and throughout the Great War.[337]

Support and opposition to the war[]


Affiche-guerre Femmes-au-travail

Poster urging women to join the British war effort, published by the Young Women's Christian Association

In the Balkans, Yugoslav nationalists such as the leader Ante Trumbić in the Balkans strongly supported the war, desiring the freedom of Yugoslavs from Austria-Hungary and other foreign powers and the creation of an independent Yugoslavia.[338] The Yugoslav Committee was formed in Paris on 30 April 1915 but shortly moved its office to London; Trumbić led the committee.[338] In April 1918, the Rome Congress of Oppressed Nationalities met, including Czechoslovak, Italian, Polish, Transylvanian, and Yugoslav representatives who urged the Allies to support national self-determination for the peoples residing within Austria-Hungary.[339]

In the Middle East, Arab nationalism soared in Ottoman territories in response to the rise of Turkish nationalism during the war, with Arab nationalist leaders advocating the creation of a pan-Arab state.[340] In 1916, the Arab Revolt began in Ottoman-controlled territories of the Middle East in an effort to achieve independence.[340]

A number of socialist parties initially supported the war when it began in August 1914.[339] But European socialists split on national lines, with the concept of class conflict held by radical socialists such as Marxists and syndicalists being overborne by their patriotic support for war.[341] Once the war began, Austrian, British, French, German, and Russian socialists followed the rising nationalist current by supporting their countries' intervention in the war.[342]

Italian nationalism was stirred by the outbreak of the war and was initially strongly supported by a variety of political factions. One of the most prominent and popular Italian nationalist supporters of the war was Gabriele d'Annunzio, who promoted Italian irredentism and helped sway the Italian public to support intervention in the war.[343] The Italian Liberal Party, under the leadership of Paolo Boselli, promoted intervention in the war on the side of the Allies and utilised the Dante Alighieri Society to promote Italian nationalism.[344] Italian socialists were divided on whether to support the war or oppose it; some were militant supporters of the war, including Benito Mussolini and Leonida Bissolati.[345] However, the Italian Socialist Party decided to oppose the war after anti-militarist protestors were killed, resulting in a general strike called Red Week.[346] The Italian Socialist Party purged itself of pro-war nationalist members, including Mussolini.[346] Mussolini, a syndicalist who supported the war on grounds of irredentist claims on Italian-populated regions of Austria-Hungary, formed the pro-interventionist Il Popolo d'Italia and the Fasci Riviluzionario d'Azione Internazionalista ("Revolutionary Fasci for International Action") in October 1914 that later developed into the Fasci di Combattimento in 1919, the origin of fascism.[347] Mussolini's nationalism enabled him to raise funds from Ansaldo (an armaments firm) and other companies to create Il Popolo d'Italia to convince socialists and revolutionaries to support the war.[348]


Sackville Street (Dublin) after the 1916 Easter Rising

Sackville Street (now O'Connell Street), Dublin, after the 1916 Easter Rising

The trade union and socialist movements had long voiced their opposition to a war, which they argued would only mean that workers would kill other workers in the interest of capitalism. Once war was declared, however, many socialists and trade unions backed their governments. Among the exceptions were the Bolsheviks, the Socialist Party of America, and the Italian Socialist Party, and individuals such as Karl Liebknecht, Rosa Luxemburg, and their followers in Germany. There were also small anti-war groups in Britain and France.

Benedict XV, elected to the papacy less than three months into World War I, made the war and its consequences the main focus of his early pontificate. In stark contrast to his predecessor,[349] five days after his election he spoke of his determination to do what he could to bring peace. His first encyclical, Ad Beatissimi Apostolorum, given 1 November 1914, was concerned with this subject. Seen as being biased in favour of the other and resented for weakening national morale, Benedict XV found his abilities and unique position as a religious emissary of peace ignored by the belligerent powers. The 1915 Treaty of London between Italy and the Triple Entente included secret provisions whereby the Allies agreed with Italy to ignore papal peace moves towards the Central Powers. Consequently, the publication of Benedict's proposed seven-point Peace Note of August 1917 was roundly ignored by all parties except Austria-Hungary.[350]

The Deserter

The Deserter, 1916. Anti-war cartoon depicting Jesus facing a firing squad made up of soldiers from five different European countries

In Britain, in 1914, the Public Schools Officers' Training Corps annual camp was held at Tidworth Pennings, near Salisbury Plain. Head of the British Army Lord Kitchener was to review the cadets, but the imminence of the war prevented him. General Horace Smith-Dorrien was sent instead. He surprised the two-or-three thousand cadets by declaring (in the words of Donald Christopher Smith, a Bermudian cadet who was present), that war should be avoided at almost any cost, that war would solve nothing, that the whole of Europe and more besides would be reduced to ruin, and that the loss of life would be so large that whole populations would be decimated. In our ignorance I, and many of us, felt almost ashamed of a British General who uttered such depressing and unpatriotic sentiments, but during the next four years, those of us who survived the holocaust—probably not more than one-quarter of us—learned how right the General's prognosis was and how courageous he had been to utter it.[351] Voicing these sentiments did not hinder Smith-Dorien's career, or prevent him from doing his duty in World War I to the best of his abilities.

1917 - Execution à Verdun lors des mutineries

1917 – Execution at Verdun at the time of the mutinies

Bundesarchiv Bild 183-R72520, Kiel, Novemberrevolution, Matrosenaufstand

German Revolution, November 1918

Many countries jailed those who spoke out against the conflict. These included Eugene Debs in the United States and Bertrand Russell in Britain. In the U.S., the Espionage Act of 1917 and Sedition Act of 1918 made it a federal crime to oppose military recruitment or make any statements deemed "disloyal". Publications at all critical of the government were removed from circulation by postal censors,[352] and many served long prison sentences for statements of fact deemed unpatriotic.

A number of nationalists opposed intervention, particularly within states that the nationalists were hostile to. Although the vast majority of Irish people consented to participate in the war in 1914 and 1915, a minority of advanced Irish nationalists staunchly opposed taking part.[353] The war began amid the Home Rule crisis in Ireland that had resurfaced in 1912, and, by July 1914, there was a serious possibility of an outbreak of civil war in Ireland.[354] Irish nationalists and Marxists attempted to pursue Irish independence, culminating in the Easter Rising of 1916, with Germany sending 20,000 rifles to Ireland in order to stir unrest in Britain.[354] The UK government placed Ireland under martial law in response to the Easter Rising, although, once the immediate threat of revolution had dissipated, the authorities did try to make concessions to nationalist feeling.[355]

Other opposition came from conscientious objectors – some socialist, some religious – who refused to fight. In Britain, 16,000 people asked for conscientious objector status.[356] Some of them, most notably prominent peace activist Stephen Henry Hobhouse, refused both military and alternative service.[357] Many suffered years of prison, including solitary confinement and bread and water diets. Even after the war, in Britain many job advertisements were marked "No conscientious objectors need apply".

The Central Asian Revolt started in the summer of 1916, when the Russian Empire government ended its exemption of Muslims from military service.[358]

In 1917, a series of French Army Mutinies led to dozens of soldiers being executed and many more imprisoned.

In Milan, in May 1917, Bolshevik revolutionaries organised and engaged in rioting calling for an end to the war, and managed to close down factories and stop public transportation.[359] The Italian army was forced to enter Milan with tanks and machine guns to face Bolsheviks and anarchists, who fought violently until 23 May when the army gained control of the city. Almost 50 people (including three Italian soldiers) were killed and over 800 people arrested.[359]

In September 1917, Russian soldiers in France began questioning why they were fighting for the French at all and mutinied.[360] In Russia, opposition to the war led to soldiers also establishing their own revolutionary committees, which helped foment the October Revolution of 1917, with the call going up for "bread, land, and peace". The Bolsheviks agreed to a peace treaty with Germany, the peace of Brest-Litovsk, despite its harsh conditions.

In northern Germany, the end of October 1918, saw the beginning of the German Revolution of 1918–1919. Units of the German Navy refused to set sail for a last, large-scale operation in a war which they saw as good as lost; this initiated the uprising. The sailors' revolt which then ensued in the naval ports of Wilhelmshaven and Kiel spread across the whole country within days and led to the proclamation of a republic on 9 November 1918 and shortly thereafter to the abdication of Kaiser Wilhelm II.


The Conscription Crisis of 1917 in Canada erupted when the Conservative Prime Minister, Robert Borden, brought in compulsory military service through the Military Service Act over the objection of French-speaking Quebecers.[361] It opened a political gap between French Canadians, who believed their true loyalty should be to Canada and not to the British Empire, and members of the Anglophone majority, who saw the war as a duty to both Britain and Canada. Out of approximately 625,000 Canadians who served, about 60,000 were killed and another 173,000 wounded.[362]

In Australia, a sustained pro-conscription campaign by Billy Hughes, the Prime Minister, caused a split in the Australian Labor Party, so Hughes formed the Nationalist Party of Australia in 1917 to pursue the matter. Nevertheless, the labour movement, the Catholic Church, and Irish nationalist expatriates successfully opposed Hughes' push, which was rejected in two plebiscites.

In Britain, conscription resulted in the calling up of nearly every physically fit man in Britain – six of ten million eligible. Of these, about 750,000 lost their lives and 1,700,000 were wounded. Most deaths were to young unmarried men; however, 160,000 wives lost husbands and 300,000 children lost fathers.[363]


File:Beaumont hamel newfoundland memorial.jpg

The Beaumont-Hamel Newfoundland Memorial in the Somme

..."Strange, friend," I said, "Here is no cause to mourn."
"None," said the other, "Save the undone years,
The hopelessness"...

Wilfred Owen, Strange Meeting, 1918[298]

The first tentative efforts to comprehend the meaning and consequences of modern warfare began during the initial phases of the war, and this process continued throughout and after the end of hostilities.


Pagny le Chateau monument morts 002b

A typical village war memorial to soldiers killed in World War I

Memorials were erected in thousands of villages and towns. Close to battlefields, those buried in improvised burial grounds were gradually moved to formal graveyards under the care of organisations such as the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, the American Battle Monuments Commission, the German War Graves Commission, and Le Souvenir français. Many of these graveyards also have central monuments to the missing or unidentified dead, such as the Menin Gate memorial and the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing of the Somme.

On 3 May 1915, during the Second Battle of Ypres, Lieutenant Alexis Helmer was killed. At his graveside, his friend John McCrae, M.D., of Guelph, Ontario, Canada, wrote the memorable poem In Flanders Fields as a salute to those who perished in the Great War. Published in Punch on 8 December 1915, it is still recited today, especially on Remembrance Day and Memorial Day.[364][365]

Liberty Memorial in Kansas City, Missouri, is a United States memorial dedicated to all Americans who served in World War I. The site was dedicated on 1 November 1921, when the supreme Allied commanders spoke to a crowd of more than 100,000 people. It was the only time in history these leaders were together in one place – Lieutenant General Baron Jacques of Belgium; General Armando Diaz of Italy; Marshal Ferdinand Foch of France; General Pershing of the United States; and Admiral D. R. Beatty of Britain. After three years of construction, the Liberty Memorial was completed and President Calvin Coolidge delivered the dedication speech to a crowd of 150,000 people in 1926. Liberty Memorial is also home to The National World War I Museum, the only museum in the United States dedicated solely to World War I.

The UK Government has budgeted substantial resources to the commemoration of the war during the period 2014 to 2018. The lead body is the Imperial War Museum.[366]

Cultural memory[]

World War I had a lasting impact on social memory. It was seen by many in Britain as signalling the end of an era of stability stretching back to the Victorian period, and across Europe many regarded it as a watershed.[367] Historian Samuel Hynes explained:

A generation of innocent young men, their heads full of high abstractions like Honour, Glory and England, went off to war to make the world safe for democracy. They were slaughtered in stupid battles planned by stupid generals. Those who survived were shocked, disillusioned and embittered by their war experiences, and saw that their real enemies were not the Germans, but the old men at home who had lied to them. They rejected the values of the society that had sent them to war, and in doing so separated their own generation from the past and from their cultural inheritance.[368]

This has become the most common perception of World War I, perpetuated by the art, cinema, poems, and stories published subsequently. Films such as All Quiet on the Western Front, Paths of Glory and King & Country have perpetuated the idea, while war-time films including Camrades, Poppies of Flanders, and Shoulder Arms indicate that the most contemporary views of the war were overall far more positive.[369] Likewise, the art of Paul Nash, John Nash, Christopher Nevison, and Henry Tonks in Britain painted a negative view of the conflict in keeping with the growing perception, while popular war-time artists such as Muirhead Bone painted more serene and pleasant interpretations subsequently rejected as inaccurate.[368] Several historians like John Terriane, Niall Ferguson and Gary Sheffield have challenged these interpretations as partial and polemical views:

These beliefs did not become widely shared because they offered the only accurate interpretation of wartime events. In every respect, the war was much more complicated than they suggest. In recent years, historians have argued persuasively against almost every popular cliché of World War I. It has been pointed out that, although the losses were devastating, their greatest impact was socially and geographically limited. The many emotions other than horror experienced by soldiers in and out of the front line, including comradeship, boredom, and even enjoyment, have been recognised. The war is not now seen as a 'fight about nothing', but as a war of ideals, a struggle between aggressive militarism and more or less liberal democracy. It has been acknowledged that British generals were often capable men facing difficult challenges, and that it was under their command that the British army played a major part in the defeat of the Germans in 1918: a great forgotten victory.[369]

Though these views have been discounted as "myths"[368][370] these perceptions of the war, they are common.[369] They have dynamically changed according to contemporary influences, reflecting in the 1950s perceptions of the war as 'aimless' following the contrasting Second World War and emphasising conflict within the ranks during times of class conflict in the 1960s.[369] The majority of additions to the contrary are often rejected.[369]

Social trauma[]


A book distributed by the US War Department to veterans in 1919

The social trauma caused by unprecedented rates of casualties manifested itself in different ways, which have been the subject of subsequent historical debate.[371] Some people were revolted by nationalism and its results, and began to work towards a more internationalist world, supporting organisations such as the League of Nations. Pacifism became increasingly popular. Others had the opposite reaction, feeling that only strength and military might could be relied upon in a chaotic and inhumane world. Anti-modernist views were an outgrowth of the many changes taking place in society.

The experiences of the war led to a collective trauma shared by many from all participating countries. The optimism of la belle époque was destroyed, and those who had fought in the war were referred to as the Lost Generation.[372] For years afterwards, people mourned the dead, the missing, and the many disabled.[373] Many soldiers returned with severe trauma, suffering from shell shock (also called neurasthenia, a condition related to posttraumatic stress disorder).[374] Many more returned home with few after-effects; however, their silence about the war contributed to the conflict's growing mythological status.[371] In Britain, mass mobilisation, large casualty rates, and the collapse of the Edwardian era made a strong impression on society. Though many participants did not share in the experiences of combat or spend any significant time at the front, or had positive memories of their service, the images of suffering and trauma became the widely shared perception.[371] Such historians as Dan Todman, Paul Fussell, and Samuel Heyns have all published works since the 1990s arguing that these common perceptions of the war are factually incorrect.[371]

Discontent in Germany[]

The rise of Nazism and fascism included a revival of the nationalist spirit and a rejection of many post-war changes. Similarly, the popularity of the stab-in-the-back legend (German: Dolchstoßlegende) was a testament to the psychological state of defeated Germany and was a rejection of responsibility for the conflict. This conspiracy theory of betrayal became common, and the German populace came to see themselves as victims. The widespread acceptance of the "stab-in-the-back" theory delegitimized the Weimar government and destabilized the system, opening it to extremes of right and left. A sense of disillusionment and cynicism became pronounced, with nihilism growing.

Communist and fascist movements around Europe drew strength from this theory and enjoyed a new level of popularity. These feelings were most pronounced in areas directly or harshly affected by the war. Adolf Hitler was able to gain popularity by utilising German discontent with the still controversial Treaty of Versailles.[375] World War II was in part a continuation of the power struggle never fully resolved by World War I. Furthermore, it was common for Germans in the 1930s to justify acts of aggression in terms of perceived injustices imposed by the victors of World War I.[376][377][378] American historian William Rubinstein wrote that:

The 'Age of Totalitarianism' included nearly all of the infamous examples of genocide in modern history, headed by the Jewish Holocaust, but also comprising the mass murders and purges of the Communist world, other mass killings carried out by Nazi Germany and its allies, and also the Armenian genocide of 1915. All these slaughters, it is argued here, had a common origin, the collapse of the elite structure and normal modes of government of much of central, eastern and southern Europe as a result of World War I, without which surely neither Communism nor Fascism would have existed except in the minds of unknown agitators and crackpots.[379]

Views in the United States[]

The announcing of the armistice on November 11, 1918, was the occasion for a monster celebration in Philadelphia..

The announcing of the armistice on 11 November 1918. Philadelphia

US intervention in the war, as well as the Wilson administration itself, became deeply unpopular. This was reflected in the U.S. Senate's rejection of the Versailles Treaty and membership in the League of Nations. In the interwar era, a consensus arose that US intervention had been a mistake, and the Congress passed laws in an attempt to preserve U.S. neutrality in any future conflict. Polls taken in 1937 and the opening months of World War II established that nearly 60% regarded intervention in WWI as a mistake, with only 28% opposing that view. But, in the period between the fall of France and the attack on Pearl Harbor, public opinion changed dramatically and, for the first time, a narrow plurality rejected the idea that the war had been a mistake.[380]

Economic effects[]

The Girl Behind the Gun 1915

"The Girl Behind the Gun" – women workers, 1915

One of the most dramatic effects of the war was the expansion of governmental powers and responsibilities in Britain, France, the United States, and the Dominions of the British Empire. In order to harness all the power of their societies, governments created new ministries and powers. New taxes were levied and laws enacted, all designed to bolster the war effort; many have lasted to this day. Similarly, the war strained the abilities of some formerly large and bureaucratised governments, such as in Austria-Hungary and Germany; however, any analysis of the long-term effects were clouded by the defeat of these governments.

Gross domestic product (GDP) increased for three Allies (Britain, Italy, and U.S.), but decreased in France and Russia, in neutral Netherlands, and in the three main Central Powers. The shrinkage in GDP in Austria, Russia, France, and the Ottoman Empire reached 30 to 40%. In Austria, for example, most pigs were slaughtered, so at war's end there was no meat.

In all nations, the government's share of GDP increased, surpassing 50% in both Germany and France and nearly reaching that level in Britain. To pay for purchases in the United States, Britain cashed in its extensive investments in American railroads and then began borrowing heavily on Wall Street. President Wilson was on the verge of cutting off the loans in late 1916, but allowed a great increase in U.S. government lending to the Allies. After 1919, the U.S. demanded repayment of these loans. The repayments were, in part, funded by German reparations, which, in turn, were supported by American loans to Germany. This circular system collapsed in 1931 and the loans were never repaid. In 1934, Britain owed the US$4.4 billion[381] of World War I debt.[382]

Macro- and micro-economic consequences devolved from the war. Families were altered by the departure of many men. With the death or absence of the primary wage earner, women were forced into the workforce in unprecedented numbers. At the same time, industry needed to replace the lost labourers sent to war. This aided the struggle for voting rights for women.[383]

Bundesarchiv Bild 102-00104, Inflation, Tapezieren mit Geldscheinen

Hyperinflation reduced banknotes' value so much that they were used as wallpaper, ruining many savers. Between 1914, a dollar was worth 4.2 marks; by November 1923, it was worth 4.2 trillion[384] marks.[385]

World War I further compounded the gender imbalance, adding to the phenomenon of surplus women. The deaths of nearly one million men[Clarification needed]

during the war increased the gender gap by almost a million; from 670,000 to 1,700,000. The number of unmarried women seeking economic means grew dramatically. In addition, demobilisation and economic decline following the war caused high unemployment. The war increased female employment; however, the return of demoblised men displaced many from the workforce, as did the closure of many of the wartime factories. Hence women who had worked during the war found themselves struggling to find jobs and those approaching working age were not offered the opportunity.

In Britain, rationing was finally imposed in early 1918, limited to meat, sugar, and fats (butter and oleo), but not bread. The new system worked smoothly. From 1914 to 1918, trade union membership doubled, from a little over four million to a little over eight million. Work stoppages and strikes became frequent in 1917–1918 as the unions expressed grievances regarding prices, alcohol control, pay disputes, fatigue from overtime and working on Sundays, and inadequate housing.

Britain turned to her colonies for help in obtaining essential war materials whose supply had become difficult from traditional sources. Geologists such as Albert Ernest Kitson were called on to find new resources of precious minerals in the African colonies. Kitson discovered important new deposits of manganese, used in munitions production, in the Gold Coast.[386]

Article 231 of the Treaty of Versailles (the so-called "war guilt" clause) stated Germany accepted responsibility for "all the loss and damage to which the Allied and Associated Governments and their nationals have been subjected as a consequence of the war imposed upon them by the aggression of Germany and her allies."[387] It was worded as such to lay a legal basis for reparations, and the same clause was inserted, mutatis mutandis "in the treaties with Austria and Hungary, neither of whom interpreted it as declaration of war guilt.[388] In 1921, the total reparation sum was placed at 132 billion gold marks. However, "Allied experts knew that Germany could not pay" this sum. The total sum was divided into three categories, with the third being "deliberately designed to be chimerical" and its "primary function was to mislead public opinion ... into believing the" total sum "was being maintained."[389] Thus, 50 billion gold marks (12.5 billion dollars) "represented the actual Allied assessment of German capacity to pay" and "therefore ... represented the total German reparations" figure that had to be paid.[389] Furthermore, this figure could be paid in cash or in kind (coal, timber, chemical dyes etc.). In addition, some of the territory lost - via the treaty of Versailles - was credited towards the reparation figure as was other acts such helping to restore the Library of Louvain.[390] In 1932 the payment of reparations was suspended by the international community, by which point Germany had only paid the equivalent of 20.598 billon gold marks in reparations.[391] With the rise of Adolf Hitler, all bonds and loans that had been issued and taken out during the 1920s and early 1930s were cancelled. David Andelman notes "refusing to pay doesn't make an agreement null and void. The bonds, the agreement, still exist." Thus, following the Second World War, at the London Conference in 1953, Germany agreed to resume payment on the money borrowed. On 3 October 2010, Germany made the final payment on these bonds.[392]


Allied bombing runs over German lines

French and British WWI-era tanks

"We're All Going Calling on the Kaiser" performed by Arthur Fields and the Peerless Quartet. By James Alexander Brennan. Edison Records, May 1918.

"The Makin's of the U.S.A." (Von Tilzer; Peerless Quartet. Columbia Records, A2522 side B, released March 1918)

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For a comprehensive bibliography see List of books about World War I

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