Lest we Forget

Monday 4 August 2014, marks the 100th Anniversary of the outbreak of the First World War, a global war centred in Europe that began on 4th of August 1914 when Germany declared war on France. The conflict lasted until 11th of November 1918 and resulted in the senseless slaughter of More than 9 million combatants. a casualty rate exacerbated by the belligerents’ technological and industrial advances and tactical stalemate and It was one of the deadliest conflicts in history, paving the way for major political changes, including revolutions in many of the nations involved. The war drew in all the world’s economic great powers, 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. These alliances were 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.

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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, whilst he and his wife Sofie visited the Bosnian capital, Sarajevo. He was targeted by a group of six assassins (Cvjetko Popović, Gavrilo Princip, Muhamed Mehmedbašić, Nedeljko Čabrinović, Trifko Grabež, Vaso Čubrilović) from the nationalist group Mlada Bosna, supplied by the Black Hand. Čabrinović threw a grenade at the car, but missed. It injured some people nearby, and Franz Ferdinand’s convoy carried on. The other assassins failed to act as the cars drove past them quickly. About an hour later, when Franz Ferdinand was returning from a visit at the Sarajevo Hospital, the convoy took a wrong turn into a street where, by coincidence, Princip stood. With a pistol, Princip shot and killed Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie. This set off a diplomatic crisis, Austria Hungary, Believed that Serbian officials (especially the officers of the Black Hand) were involved in the plot, and wanted to finally end Serbian interference in Bosnia, and delivered the July Ultimatum, a series of ten demands that were intentionally made unacceptable to provoke a war with Serbia. When Serbia agreed to only eight of the ten demands, Austria-Hungary declared war on 28 July 1914. Within weeks, the international alliances formed over the previous decades were invoked between Austria-Hungary, Germany, Russia, France, and Britain , and the major powers declared 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. As Russia mobilised, Germany invaded neutral Belgium and Luxembourg before moving towards France, leading Britain to declare war on Germany

Meanwhile The Russian Empire, unwilling to allow Austria-Hungary to eliminate its influence in the Balkans, and in support of its longtime Serb protégé, ordered a partial mobilisation one day later, 29 July. Germany mobilised on 30 July, and Russia responded by declaring a full mobilisation that same day. Germany imposed an ultimatum on Russia, to demobilise within 12 hours or face war. Russia responded by offering to negotiate the terms of a demobilisation. However, Germany refused to negotiate, declaring war against Russia on 1 August 1914. The German government also issued demands that France remain neutral The French did not respond but sent a mixed message by ordering their troops to withdraw 10 km (6 mi) from the border to avoid any incidents while ordering the mobilisation of her reserves. Germany responded by mobilising its own reserves. Germany attacked Luxembourg on 2 August and on 3 August declared war on France. On 4 August, after Belgium refused to permit German troops to cross its borders into France, Germany declared war on Belgium as well. Britain declared war on Germany on 4 August 1914, following an “unsatisfactory reply” to the British ultimatum that Belgium must be kept neutral. 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, Romania in 1916, and the United States in 1917.

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The next few years saw a battle of attrition during which millions of lives were lost. Austria invaded and fought the Serbian army at the Battle of Cer and Battle of Kolubara beginning on 12 August with heavy losses. This marked the first major Allied victories of the war and dashed Austro-Hungarian hopes of a swift victory. Germany wanted to invade France. Neutral Belgium refused, so the Germans invaded through Belgium instead. France also wanted to move their troops into Belgium, but Belgium wanted to avoid any war on Belgian soil. In the end, after the German invasion, Belgium did try to join their army with the French, but a large part of the Belgian army retreated to Antwerp where they were forced to surrender.

The Germans were prevented from invading Paris after the first battle of Marne. On 6–7 August, 1914 French and British troops invaded the German protectorate of Togoland and Kamerun. On 10 August, German forces in South-West Africa attacked South Africa, led by Colonel Paul von Lettow-Vorbeck. New Zealand occupied German Samoa (later Western Samoa) on 30 August 1914. On 11 September, the Australian Naval and Military Expeditionary Force landed on the island of Neu Pommern (later New Britain), which formed part of German New Guinea. Then On 28 October, the German cruiser SMS Emden sank the Russian cruiser Zhemchug in the Battle of Penang. Japan also seized Germany’s Micronesian colonies and, after the Siege of Tsingtao, the German coaling port of Qingdao in the Chinese Shandong peninsula. Japan declared war not only on Germany, but also on Austria-Hungary.

Meanwhile in the east, the Russians invaded with two armies. In response, Germany rapidly moved the 8th field army, from its previous role as reserve for the invasion of France, to East Prussia by rail across the German Empire. This army, led by general Paul von Hindenburg defeated Russia in a series of battles collectively known as the First Battle of Tannenberg (17 August – 2 September 1914). 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. Tanks were first used in combat by the British during the Battle of Flers-Courcelette (part of the wider Somme offensive) on 15 September 1916, with only partial success. However, their effectiveness would grow as the war progressed; the Germans employed only very small numbers of their own design, supplemented by captured Allied tanks. The situation reached stalemate for the next two years.

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Throughout 1915–17, the British Empire and France suffered more casualties than Germany, In February 1916 the Germans attacked the French defensive positions at Verdun. Running until December 1916, the battle saw initial German gains, Casualties were greater for the French, but the Germans suffered 700,000 to 975,000. casualties. Verdun became a symbol of French determination and self-sacrifice. The Battle of the Somme was another Anglo-French offensive that ran from July to November 1916. During this battle the British Army suffered 57,470 casualties, including 19,240 dead, on the first day alone. Protracted action at Verdun and The Somme throughout 1916 cost the British Army more than 420,000 casualties. The French suffered another estimated 200,000 casualties, and the Germans an estimated 500,000 casualties. and this led to the widespread French Army Mutinies. A smaller part of the Arras offensive of May 1917, the capture of Vimy Ridge by the Canadian Corps, became highly significant to that country: the idea that Canada’s national identity was born out of the battle is an opinion widely held in military and general histories of Canada.

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 war approached a resolution after the Russian government collapsed in March 1917, and a subsequent revolution in November brought the Russians to terms with the Central Powers. On 4 November 1918, the Austro-Hungarian empire agreed to an armistice. After a 1918 German offensive along the western front, the Allies drove back the Germans in a series of successful offensives and 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 maps of Europe and Southwest Asia were redrawn, with several independent nations restored or created. The League of Nations was formed with the aim of preventing any repetition of such an appalling conflict. This aim, however, failed with weakened states, renewed European nationalism and the German feeling of humiliation contributing to the rise of fascism. All of these conditions eventually led to World War II.