|First World War|
|Click on the links above for details of the campaigns pursued in each territory|
The First World War (1914-1918) came as no surprise to European statesmen, since Germany had been expanding her Navy since the 1890s in hopes of gaining an Empire and a world influence to rival that of the British. Alliances made in the first decade of the 20th century ensured that any state declaring war on any other would drag all Europe into the conflict. The heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne was assassinated in Sarajevo on 28 June 1914. Within a month Austria had declared war on Serbia, and the nations of Europe lined up for war. Germany and Austro-Hungary opposed the Allies: Britain (who declared war on behalf of all the British Empire), France, Russia and a number of smaller allies.
|The Germans attacked Belgium and France, but their rapid advance in the first days of the war was halted by lack of supplies and transport. The troops on both sides dug trenches in the Flanders region of north-east France and Belgium to stabilise their front lines and to get themselves below ground level out of the way of the bullets and shells. So began four long years of stalemate in Flanders, during which generals on both sides planned attacks and counterattacks over the same few bloodsoaked miles of muddy, shell-torn ground. Each year saw its terrible battles during which hundreds of thousands of men died - the Marne and the First Battle of Ypres in 1914, Neuve Chapelle and Second Ypres in 1915, the appalling slaughter at Verdun and on the Somme in 1916, Arras and Third Ypres in 1917, and Second Marne in 1918.|
|The classic First World War image - trenches, mud and men under fire|
© Imperial War Museum
|On the Eastern Front the Germans and Russians clashed ferociously, while in the Middle East it was the Turks of the Ottoman Empire who fought the Allies. In the early months the Turks nearly captured the vital supply corridor of the Suez Canal, but over the course of the war the Allies instigated a gradual, unstoppable advance through Mesopotamia (now Iraq), Palestine and Syria.|
|By November 1918, when the German alliance finally surrendered, some 16 million people had either died or gone missing, while 21 million had been wounded. No war in history had been comparable in scale, expense, devastation, suffering and far-reaching consequences. The cultural and political face of Europe would be changed for ever; and the stage had been set for the even more disastrous Second World War.|