There are many causes resulting in the Great War.
The Franco-Prussian War of 1870 saw the defeat of France and the unification of the German states into a German nation. This new country had an especially strong industry which challenged that of Britain. A naval race followed when both countries spent a monopoly on the construction of new and powerful ships known as Dreadnoughts.
The assasination of the Austrian archduke Franz Ferdinand worsened matters. He was killed while visiting Sarajevo by a group of young Bosnians who wanted independance from the Austro-Hungarian empire. Austria claimed that the Bosnians were under instructions from the Serbian government, a claim which is yet to be proven. It is known that Austria had been looking for an excuse to attack the Serbs for a long time and had now finally found one. However the Russian backing of Serbia (both are Slav nations) put doubt in Austrian minds. However Germany responded by supporting the Austrians (both of them speak Germans, therefore feel that they are natural allies). Following the signing of several treaties, Europe was divided into two well armed camps.
In 1914, the German military initiated the Schlieffen Plan. As Germany was surrounded by France and Russia, two opposing nations (France in paticular wanted revenge against Germany for the 1870 war), it was in a sticky situation. If ever the French or Russians declared war on her, the other would follow suit. Knowing Russia was a backwards nation with poor transport systems, it would take some time for them to mobilise their armies. Germany thought that if it could defeat France in this time, it could turn around and face the oncoming Russians. A war on two fronts would be avoided. The Germans gave themselves 6 weeks to take France. However they had to attack the neutral Belgium first, this resulted with Britain being brought into the fray against Germany. The invasion was poorly planned and the Russians mobilised faster than expected. An all-out European war had begun.
The Allies or Entente Powers[edit | edit source]
- Great Britain and the British Empire
- Russia (until early 1918, when communist revolution had finished and the communists pulled Russia out of the war)
- Italy (from 1915. Originally allied with Germany and co. Italy switched sides following the secret London Treaty.)
- USA (from 1917)
The Central Powers[edit | edit source]
1914[edit | edit source]
August: Germany sends troops through neutral Belgium to attack France. This formed the Western Front with its trenches. Conditions in the trenches were appalling and disease was as big a threat as enemy guns.
The Russian Army attacked Germany, but was quickly defeated. The German plan for invasion, the Schlieffen plan, fails. The Eastern Front was formed. However, this was not like the Western Front, land was lost and gained much quicker. Following the communist revolution under Lenin and the formation of the USSR (United Soviet Socialist Republics) The treaty of Brest-Litovsk was hurriedly signed by the Soviet leaders. It involved the taking of huge areas of land by Germany (most of it being Russia's best agricultural land). Peace for the new Soviet Union had come at a heavy price. Of 13,000,000 soldiers mobilised, 9,000,000 had been either injured or killed.
1915[edit | edit source]
German Zeppelins attack the south coast of Britain and poison gas (chlorine) is used, for the first time, by the Germans. The neutral American Lusitania is sunk by the Germans because they believed it was carrying weapons. This is used as propaganda in Britain as the Germans celebrated the death of over 1000 passengers.
1916[edit | edit source]
Tanks are used for the first time by Britain, during the Battle of the Somme. Conscription is also introduced in Britain. Battle of the Verdun, February to August. This was a battle for the town of Verdun - a matter of pride for the French - they put every effort into defending the town. Battle of the Somme, July to November.
1917[edit | edit source]
Battle of Passchendaele. Russia left the war due to the Russian revolution. The USA enters the war.
1918[edit | edit source]
Peace treaties go under negotiation. Germany signs the armistice written up by the Allies and WW1 is over.