World War I began in 1914 and continued to the end in 1918. It is the first time that so many countries gathered together in battle and it is also known as the War to End all Wars, the Great War, WW I, and the First World War.
The countries participating were referred to as the Central Powers, which included Austria-Hungary, Germany, Bulgaria, and the Ottoman Empire; and the Allied Powers, which included France, Britain, Russia and later in 1917, the United States.
What started WWI?
There may have been many reasons for the cause of World War I, but the tipping point was the assassination of Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand. After Ferdinand was assassinated, Austria made the declaration of war against Serbia.
Since Serbia was a Russian ally, Russia came to their defense. Germany then jumped in to declare war on Russia as a way to protect Austria. This caused France to protect their Russian allies by declaring war on Germany.
Germany then invaded Belgium as a way to get to France and this caused Great Britain to make a declaration of war on Germany. All of this happened in only a couple of days.
The fighting in any war can take radical directions but in World War I most of the fighting was in Europe along the western and eastern fronts.
The western front existed from Switzerland to the coast of Belgium and was a very long line of dug trenches. The eastern front existed between Austria-Hungary, Germany and Bulgaria on the one side and Romania and Russia on the other side.
Trench warfare was the key method of fighting on the western front.
The Major Battles
While we may be accustomed to hearing about wars and battles where men and machines plow ahead, in this case, the armies barely moved anywhere.
Almost all of the war attacks involved everyone shooting at each other across the trenches and sending bombs over to the other side. This took its toll as many men were killed.
The most notable World War one battles included:
- Battle of Somme
- First Battle of Marne
- Battle of Gallipoli,
- Battle of Tannenberg,
- Battle of Verdun
Living in the Trenches
So many men literally lived in the trenches during WWI. They devoted their days to firing shots at the enemy, writing letters home, playing cards, and doing the chores that needed to be done.
While the open fire was often constant, an astounding nine out of ten men in the trenches did survive. Winter brought on another challenge and by 1915, so many trenches had been dug that in some of the locations the enemies were incredibly close.
The trenches were muddy, dirty, and smelly and over 5 million British soldiers spent time living there, taking turns to be on the Front Line, which were the trenches closest to the enemy. The conditions continued to be horrible with overflowing latrines, giant rats and a lice infestation.
The Final End
On November 11, 1918 the fighting ceased when both sides agreed to a general armistice. This was made official when the Allies and Germany signed the Treaty of Versailles.
Facts about World War I:
- It is estimated that over sixty five million men fought in WW I.
- The soldiers used well-trained messenger dogs to carry messages through the trenches.
- World War I was the first major war to deploy tanks and airplanes.
- Of the 7.8 million Austrian-Hungarian soldiers that fought in the war, 98% of them were either killed or injured.
- The first tanks that were invented by the British were originally called “landships.”
- The group responsible for the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand was a terrorist organization known as the Black Hand.
- The famous scientist Marie Curie assisted with the war effort by equipping vans with x-ray machines so that the French physicians could see the bullets that were in the bodies of injured men. The vans were called “petite Curies” or “little Curies.”