WORLD WAR I

World War I (1914–1918) was the first war in history to be fought by many different nations around the world. About eight million men were killed, many in horrific TRENCH WARFARE, before the ARMISTICE in 1918.

Table 56. WAR AND PEACE

1914 Germany invades Belgium in order to attack France
1915 Gallipoli offensive in Turkey; Italy joins the Entente
1916 Naval battle off Jutland, Denmark
1917 US enters the war on the side of the Entente; Russia leaves the war; Italy defeated by the Austrians; Arabs revolt against Turks
1918 Armistice ends the war

WHY DID WAR BREAK OUT?

In the 20th century, European nations formed competing military alliances. War finally broke out in 1914 when a Serbian nationalist assassinated the heir to the throne of Austria. Austria went to war against Serbia, and many other countries joined in. On one side were the British, the French and Russian empires, Italy, and Japan (the Entente Powers). On the other side were the Germans, Austrians, Hungarians, Bulgarians, and Turks (the Central Powers).

WHAT NEW WEAPONS WERE USED IN ACTION?

Various new technologies were available. In 1915, the German army used poison gas for the first time in warfare, and it was soon in general use. The British were the first to introduce the battle tank. Submarines were now able to torpedo enemy shipping, forcing ships to travel across the ocean in convoys. Aircraft and airships were used to drop bombs, spy on enemy positions, and attack enemy pilots.

TANKS INTO BATTLE

Tanks were a British invention. They first appeared in 1916 and were used in battle at Cambrai, France, in 1917. Tanks were armor-plated. Their treads could cross muddy trenches and crash through barbed wire.

WHAT WAS TOTAL WAR?

This was war on a scale never experienced before. It was not just fought by professional soldiers. Most of the troops were civilian conscripts, called up to serve in the armed forces. Ordinary homes in cities such as London were bombed from the air. Even ocean liners carrying passengers from neutral countries came under attack. Entire national economies were geared to the war effort.

BIOGRAPHY: WILFRED OWEN 1893–1918

Many young men on both sides of the conflict, who had been idealists in 1914, became horrified by the war and its cruelty. One of them was the English war poet Wilfred Owen, killed just a week before the Armistice.

TRENCH WARFARE

In World War I, both sides dug long trenches as lines of defense, which stretched across Western Europe. These trenches filled up with stinking mud. Any order to go “over the top” and attack the enemy resulted in thousands of deaths.

DEATH IN GALLIPOLI

The Gallipoli campaign between the Entente Powers and Turkey in 1915 included some of the worst trench fighting of the war. The campaign was a failure and cost the lives of many Australians and New Zealanders.

WHERE WAS NO MAN’S LAND?

The territory between the two front lines was called “no man’s land.” It was a sea of mud, with broken stumps of trees and barbed wire entanglements. The area was raked by machine gun fire and pounded by heavy artillery, leaving craters big enough for soldiers to drown in.

ARMISTICE

An armistice is a laying down of weapons. The guns of World War I finally fell silent at 11am on the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918.

DID PEACE FOLLOW WAR?

No; in Germany there was street fighting and starvation. In 1919, the terms of the peace were agreed upon at Versailles, in France. The settlement was harsh on Germany, and this resulted in a sense of grievance that undermined any lasting peace.

FIND OUT MORE

Fascism
World War II

Copyright © 2007 Dorling Kindersley

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