World War I (WWI), which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918. It involved all the world's great powers
As might have been foreseen even before 1914, Britain's closest rival for primacy in the international economy was not Germany but America. After the war, and largely as its direct consequence, New York replaced London as the financial capital of the world.
Many examples might be cited to show that the Central empires were dead to the humanities. There were apparently no limits to the brutality of the German war-makers. Among the outstanding deeds of the Teutons that sickened the world was the killing of Miss Edith Cavell, an English nurse working in Belgian hospitals.
A shudder of horror circled the world when announcement was formally made that this splendid woman was sentenced to death and murdered by a German firing squad at two o'clock on the morning of October 12, 1915.
World War One ended at 11am on 11th November 1918. In 1919, Lloyd George of England, Orlando of Italy, Clemenceau of France and Woodrow Wilson from the US met to discuss how Germany was to be made to pay for the damage world war one had caused.
The Second Battle of the Marne turned the tide of war decisively towards the Allies, who were able to regain much of France and Belgium in the months that followed. By the fall of 1918, the Central Powers were unraveling on all fronts. Despite the Turkish victory at Gallipoli, later defeats by invading forces and an Arab revolt had combined to destroy the Ottoman economy and devastate its land, and the Turks signed a treaty with the Allies in late October 1918. Austria-Hungary, dissolving from within due to growing nationalist movements among its diverse population, reached an armistice on November 4. Facing dwindling resources on the battlefield, discontent on the home front and the surrender of its allies, Germany was finally forced to seek an armistice on November 11, 1918, ending World War I.
By 1918 there were strikes and demonstrations in Berlin and other cities protesting about the effects of the war on the population. The British naval blockade of German ports meant that thousands of people were starving. Socialists were waiting for the chance to seize Germany as they had in Russia. In October 1918 Ludendorff resigned and the German navy mutinied. The end was near. Kaiser Wilhelm II abdicated on November 9th 1918.
Although America did not declare war on Germany until 1917, she had been involved in the war from the beginning supplying the allies with weapons and supplies.
On May 2nd 1915 the British passenger liner Lusitania was sunk by a torpedo from a German submarine. 1195 passengers, including 128 Americans, lost their lives. Americans were outraged and put pressure on the government to enter the war.
Woodrow Wilson (left) campaigned for a peaceful end to the war. He appealed to both sides to try to settle the war by diplomatic means but was unsuccessful.
In February 1917, the Germans announced an unrestricted submarine warfare campaign. They planned to sink any ship that approached Britain whether it was a military ship, supply ship or passenger ship.
On April 3rd 1917, Wilson made a speech declaring that America would enter the war and restore peace to Europe.
The United States declared war on Germany on April 6th 1917. American troops joined the French and British in the summer of 1918.
With World War I having effectively settled into a stalemate in Europe, the Allies attempted to score a victory against the Ottoman Empire, which had entered the conflict on the side of the Central Powers in late 1914. After a failed attack on the Dardanelles (the strait linking the Sea of Marmara with the Aegean Sea), Allied forces led by Britain launched a large-scale land invasion of the Gallipoli Peninsula in April 1915. The invasion also proved a dismal failure, and in January 1916 Allied forces were forced to stage a full retreat from the shores of the peninsula, after suffering 250,000 casualties.
In the First Battle of the Marne, fought from September 6-9, 1914, French and British forces confronted the invading Germany army, which had by then penetrated deep into northeastern France, within 30 miles of Paris. Under the French commander Joseph Joffre, the Allied troops checked the German advance and mounted a successful counterattack, driving the Germans back to north of the Aisne River. The defeat meant the end of German plans for a quick victory in France. Both sides dug into trenches, and began the bloody war of attrition that would characterize the next three years on World War I’s Western Front. Particularly long and costly battles in this campaign were fought at Verdun (February-December 1916) and the Somme (July-November 1916); German and French troops suffered close to a million casualties in the Battle of Verdun alone.
This alliance, unlike others, endured until war in 1914. It was this clause that Austria-Hungary invoked in calling Germany to her aid against Russian support for Serbia (who in turn was protected by treaty with Russia).
The First World War has sometimes been labelled, with reason, "a family affair". This is derived from the reality that many of the European monarchies - many of which fell during the war (including those of Russia, Germany and Austria-Hungary) - were inter-related.
The British monarch George V's predecessor, Edward VII, was the German Kaiser's uncle and, via his wife's sister, uncle of the Russian Tsar as well. His niece, Alexandra, was the Tsar's wife. Edward's daughter, Maud, was the Norwegian Queen, and his niece, Ena, Queen of Spain; Marie, a further niece, was to become Queen of Romania.
The explosive that was World War One had been long in the stockpiling; the spark was the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, in Sarajevo on 28 June 1914. (Click here to view film footage of Ferdinand arriving at Sarajevo's Town Hall on 28 June 1914.)
Ferdinand's death at the hands of the Black Hand, a Serbian nationalist secret society, set in train a mindlessly mechanical series of events that culminated in the world's first global war.