Thursday, 21 May 2015


IN 1910

When Gravilo Princip fired a shot at the Archduke Franz Ferdinand, killing him, heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, he did not realize that he started something that would spin out of control. Although, in general, he was blamed for the First World War but there always playing other factors into it to ignite such devastation.

On one hand, there was Germany united since the Franco-Prussian war of 1879-1. The balance of Europe started to shift which was frowned on by other countries. Tensions started to build up by national ambitions, economic rivalry and setting up colonies.

In the year 1914 there existed a Triple Alliance of Austria-Hungary, Germany and Italy. This other Triple entente was between Britain, France and Russia. These two Triple Alliances caused the spreading of the conflict. Therefore, when Kaiser William II invaded Belgium, for unknown reason, it seemed that the stage was set for the First World War. Britain had to declare on Germany on 4 August, 1914 because Britain guaranteed Belgium to protect their independence.  

At that time Britain had the largest Navy for obvious reason but they did not have any army.  The secretary of state for war, Lord Kitchener, rushed around to get a volunteer army together.  In 1915 he counted around 2.5million man. Since the war continued the number of volunteer slumped and the casualties rose rapidly; he was forced to introduce a compulsory army.

Germany’s attempt to defeat France before Russia could mobilise failed at the Battle of the Marne in September 1914. Trenches were tugged in on both sides. Due to the accuracy of modern weapons, especially the machine gun, it was realized that soldiers can safe themselves by taking shelter in the trenches.

At the battle of Ypres in November 1914 the British Expeditionary Force under Sir John French was almost wiped out.  By December 1914 there were trenches from the English Channel all the way down to Switzerland.

After that the Allies and the Germans tried to end the stalemate.  The only way they could do it by bombarding the enemy’s position, using poisonous gas and built tanks. The loss of men was huge. The Battles of Verdun and the Somme in 1916 cost the Allies 1.1million. The Germans had the same number of men lost.  British forces under the command of Sir Douglas Haig lost around 44,000 men a month which rose to 75,000 by 1918.

In spite of the Russia enormous effort to mobilise in 1917 they suffered great losses. They won a great victory in 1916 over Austria in the offensive of General Alexei Brusilov but at the end they were exhausted. We also got to remember they had a revolution in 1917 while whole Europe was at war.  After the revolution the Provisional Government led by Alexander Kerensky the offensive in summer was a failure. It is assumed that the Bolsheviks got tired of fighting. In March 1918 Lenin signed a peace treaty which was humiliating, the treaty of Brest Litovsk.

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