Beginning of the war

World War I began in the Balkans, the site of many small wars. In the early 1900’s, Balkan states fought the Ottoman Empire in the First Balkan War (1912-1913), and another in the Second Balkan War (1913). European powers stayed out of both wars. Didn’t escape the third Balkan crisis.

Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria, Archduke of Austria Este, Austro-Hungarian and Royal Prince of Hungary and of Bohemia, and hear presumptive to the Austro-Hungarian throne, hoped his sympathy for Slavs would ease tensions between Austria-Hungary and the Balkans. Arranged to tour Bosnia with his wife Sophie, as they rode through Sarajevo on June 28, 1914, an assassin jumped on their automobile and fired two shots. Ferdinand and his wife died. The murderer was Gavrilo Princip, a Serbian terrorist group Black Hand.

This gave Austria-Hungary an excuse to crush Serbia, its long-time enemy in the Balkans. Gained Germany’s promise of support for any action it took against Serbia. Then set a list of humiliating demands to Serbia on July 23, 1914. Serbia accepted most of the demands and offered to have the rest settled by an international conference. Austria-Hungary rejected the offer and then declared war on Serbia on July 28, 1914.

The Chief European powers were down into WWI. Few attempts were made to prevent the war. Great Britain proposed an international conference to end the crisis, but Germany rejected the idea, claiming that dispute involved only Austria-Hungary and Serbia. Germany tried to stop the war from spreading. German Kaiser Wilhelm II, urged Czar Nicholas II of Russia, his cousin not to mobilize, but Russia backed down before in supporting its ally Serbia.

Wilhelm II, German Emperor (1859-1941), was the last German Emperor (Kaiser) and King of Prussia, ruling the German Empire and the Kingdom of Prussia from 15 June 1888 to 9 November 1918. He was the eldest grandchild of the British Queen Victoria and related to many monarchs and princes of Europe.

Crowned in 1888, he dismissed the Chancellor, Otto von Bismarck, in 1890 and launched Germany on a bellicose “New Course” in foreign affairs that culminated in his support for Austria-Hungary in the crisis of July 1914 that led in a matter of days to the First World War. Bombastic and impetuous, he sometimes made tactless pronouncements on sensitive topics without consulting his ministers, culminating in a disastrous Daily Telegraph interview in 1908 that cost him most of his influence. His leading generals, Paul von Hindenburg and Erich Ludendorff, dictated policy during the First World War with little regard for the civilian government. An ineffective war-time leader, he lost the support of the army, abdicated in November 1918, and fled to exile in the Netherlands.

Nicholas II of Russia (1868-1918), was the last Emperor of Russia, ruling from 1 November 1894 until his forced abdication on 15 March 1917.

His reign saw the fall of the Russian Empire from being one of the foremost great powers of the world to economic and military collapse.

Due to the Khodynka Tragedy, anti-Semitic pogroms, Bloody Sunday, the violent suppression of the 1905 Revolution, the execution of political opponents and his perceived responsibility for the Russo-Japanese War, he was given the nickname Nicholas the Bloody by his political adversaries.

Soviet historiography portrayed Nicholas as a weak and incompetent leader, whose decisions led to military defeats and the deaths of millions of his subjects.

Russia suffered a decisive defeat in the Russo-Japanese War, which saw the annihilation of the Russian Baltic Fleet at the Battle of Tsushima, loss of Russian influence over Manchuria and Korea, and the Japanese annexation of South Sakhalin. The Anglo-Russian Entente, designed to counter German attempts to gain influence in the Middle East, ended the Great Game between Russia and the United Kingdom.

Nicholas approved the Russian mobilization on 30 July 1914, which led to Germany declaring war on Russia on 1 August 1914. It is estimated that around 3,300,000 Russians were killed in World War I.[5] The Imperial Army’s severe losses and the High Command’s incompetent management of the war efforts, along with the lack of food and other supplies on the Home Front, were the leading causes of the fall of the Romanov dynasty.

Following the February Revolution of 1917, Nicholas abdicated on behalf of himself and his son, Nicholas and his family were imprisoned. In the spring of 1918, Nicholas was handed over to the local Ural Soviet; with the approval of Lenin, Nicholas and his family were eventually murdered by the Bolsheviks on the night of 16–17 July 1918. The recovered remains of the Imperial Family were finally re-interred in St. Petersburg, eighty years to the day on 17 July 1998.

In 1908, Austria-Hungary angered Serbia by taking over Bosnia and Hercegovina, and Russia had stepped aside. In 1914, Russia vowed to stand behind Serbia, Russia first gained a promise of support from France.

Czar Nicholas then approved plans to mobilize along Russia’s border with Austria-Hungary.

Russia’s military leaders persuaded the Czar to mobilize along the German border. On July 30, 1914, Russia announced it would mobilize fully. Germany declared war on Russia, on August 1, 1914, on August 3, Germany declared war on France.

The German Army swept into Belgium caused Britain to declared war on Germany on August 4.

Western Front

Germany’s war plan been prepared in 1905 by Alfred von Schlieffen was a German field marshal and strategist, chief of the German General Staff, known as the Schlieffen Plan. Group of officers who provided advice on military operation. Fighting both France d Russia, aimed at a quick defeat of France while Russia slowly mobilized.

After defeating France, Germany would deal with Russia. The Plan required Germany to strike first if war came. Once the plan was set in motion, the system of military alliances almost assured a general European war. They called for two wings of the Germany army to crush the French army in a pincers movement.

A small left wing would defend Germany along tis frontier with France. A larger right wing would include France through Belgium, encircle and capture France’s capital, Paris, France, and then move east. Helmuth von Moltke, was Chief of the General Staff in 1900, directed German strategy at the outbreak of World War I. Moltke changed the Schlieffen Plan by reducing the number of troops in the right wing.

On August, 16, 1914, the right wing of the Germany Army could begin its princers motion. Drove back to the French forces and a small British force in Southern Belgium and swept into France.

Instead of swinging west around Paris according to the plan, one part of the right wing pursued retreating French troops east toward the Marne River.

This maneuver left the Germans exposed to attacks from the rear. General Joseph Joffre (1852-1931), a French general, Commander in Chief of all the French armies, stationed his forces near the Marne River east of Paris and prepared for battle.

The First Battle of the Marne, fought from September 7-Seotember 12, 1914. On September 9, the German forces started to withdraw, and a key victory for the Allies because it ended Germany’s hopes to defeat France quickly.

The battle was the culmination of the German advance into France and pursuit of the Allied armies which followed the Battle of the Frontiers in August and had reached the eastern outskirts of Paris.

A counter-attack by six French field armies and the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) along the Marne River forced the Imperial German Army to retreat north-west, leading to the Battle of the Aisne and the “Race to the Sea”. The Battle of the Marne was a victory for the Allies, but it also set the stage for four years of trench warfare stalemate on the Western Front.

Helmuth von Moltke the Younger was replaced by Erich von Falkenhayn was Chief of the German General Staff.

Germany Army halted its retreat near the Aisne River, the Germans and the Allies fought a series of battles that became known as The Race to the Sea.

Germany sought to seize ports on the English Channel and cut off vital supply lines between France and Britain. The Allies stopped the German advance to the sea in the Battle of Ypres in Belgium. Lasted from mid-October until mid-November1914.

The war reached a deadlock, along the Western Front as neither side gained much ground. The battle front extended more than 450 miles across Belgium and northwestern France to the border of Switzerland. A deadlock on the Western Front lasted 3/1-2 years.

Western Front

was the main theatre of war during World War I. Following the outbreak of war in August 1914, the German Army opened the Western Front by invading Luxembourg and Belgium, then gaining military control of important industrial regions in France. The tide of the advance was dramatically turned with the Battle of the Marne. Following the Race to the Sea, both sides dug in along a meandering line of fortified trenches, stretching from the North Sea to the Swiss frontier with France. This line remained essentially unchanged for most of the war.

Between 1915 and 1917 there were several major offensives along this front. The attacks employed massive artillery bombardments and massed infantry advances. However, a combination of entrenchments, machine gun emplacements, barbed wire, and artillery repeatedly inflicted severe casualties on the attackers and counter-attacking defenders. As a result, no significant advances were made. Among the most costly of these offensives were the Battle of Verdun, in 1916, with a combined 700,000 casualties (estimated), the Battle of the Somme, also in 1916, with more than a million casualties (estimated), and the Battle of Passchendaele, in 1917, with roughly 600,000 casualties (estimated).

In an effort to break the deadlock, this front saw the introduction of new military technology, including poison gas, aircraft and tanks. But it was only after the adoption of improved tactics that some degree of mobility was restored. The German Army’s Spring Offensive of 1918 was made possible by the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk that marked the end of the conflict on the Eastern Front. Using the recently introduced infiltration tactics, the German armies advanced nearly 100 kilometres (60 miles) to the west, which marked the deepest advance by either side since 1914 and very nearly succeeded in forcing a breakthrough.

In spite of the generally stagnant nature of this front, this theatre would prove decisive. The inexorable advance of the Allied armies during the second half of 1918 persuaded the German commanders that defeat was inevitable, and the government was forced to sue for conditions of an armistice. The terms of peace were agreed upon with the signing of the Treaty of Versailles in 1919.