the first world war


Long Term Causes: Alliences

1839: Treaty of London - Britain and Belgium

1879: Dual Allience between Germany and Austria-Hungary .

1882: Triple Allience when Italy joined the dual allience 

these two alliences made France and Russia nervous as they created a larrge group of allies in, central Euope.

1892: Franco-Russian Allience formed against the Triple Allience

1904: Entente Cordiale between Britain and France 

1907: the Anglo-Russian Entente completes the Triple Entente between Russia, Britain and France 

These alliences created tensions between the major powers, Germany, Austria-Hungary and Italy felt threatened and surrounded by the Triple Entente. 

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Long Term Causes: Arms Race

Between 1900 and 1914 Germany attempted to double the size of it's Navy, as it wanted to gain strength and expand its empire - this was worrying to Britain as Germany is largely landlocked and had a small empire. Britain also had the largest Navy at the time and dindn't want this to change 

At the time Britain had a policy called the Two Power Standard, this stated that the British navy had to be as big as the next to largest Navy's put together, this meant that it would never be outnumbered at sea

Britian responded to Germanys improvements in 1906 by building the first dreadnought which is a new battkeship which was seen as superior to any other at the time. Germany then built it's own version in 1907/8 - but by 1912 Britain then had a new bigger kind. Then by 1914 Britain had 29 dreadnoughts and Germandy had 17.

So the Arms Race was litterally a race between the Major Powers to build up their arms this increases tensions as the countries are all prepared for war and are almost waiting for it to happen. 

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Long Term Causes: Plans for War made

In case of war Germany would have enemies on it's Eastern (France) and Western (Russia) borders, Germany came up with the Schlieffen Plan in 1905. The plan was that in case of war Germany would defeat France quickly before Russia mobilises their army, then fight Russia. This plan was supposed to prevent a war on two fronts. 

France prepared Plan 17 to help it recapture Alsace Lorraine from Germany. 

Britain created the British Expiditionary Force (BEF) of 150,000 men ready to travel immediatly to Europe incase of war. The Territorial Army was also set up 

Russia also started to build up it's Army in 1909 in case of a war 

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Long Term Causes: Moroccan Crises

There werre two crises that took place in and about Morocco the first one took place in 1905 and the next in 1911. 

1905 Crisis:

Morocco was an uncolonised African country, It wanted independance however France wanted to add it to it's empire. The Kaiser (Germany) supported the Moroccan independance, so demanded an international conference. At the conference of Algeciras in 1906, Germany was forced to back down by British, Italian, Russian and Spanish support for France taking control of Moroccos banks and police. 

The Agadir Crisis 1911:

The French sent troops to Fez to fight Moroccan rebels. Germany got annoyed over this and claimed that France were trying to take complete control over Morocco. In reaction to this Germany sent the warship 'The Panther' to Agadir, in hope of forcing France out of Morocco. Britain then become worried that Germany is going to build a naval base at Algadir which would threaten bey British sea routes so Britain also sent warships. Germany again were forced to back down and were given a peice of land in Africa as compensation and the Germans felt even more anti British. 

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Long Term Causes: Balkans Crises

The Balkans were a very poor area of Southern Eastern Europe. The Ottoman (Turkish) Empire was in decline. It suffered from increasing corruption and the rise of Nationalism among many of the countries it controlled. Lots of the major powers wanted influence in the Balkans. Austria Hungary had been given control of Bosnia in a treaty in 1878, they wanted to make it an official part of its empire . They made a deal with Russia who would support this annexation if Austria Hungary backed Russian hopes of getting access through the Turkish straits. Russia didn't get what it wanted, but Austria Hungary went ahead with the annexation. Russia protested but Germany backed Austria Hungary and Russia wasn't strong enough to stand against them both. this left Russia feeling angry and humiliated. 

First Balkan War: Greece, Bulgaria, Serbia and Montenegro formed the Balkan league and attacked the Turkish Empire in 1912. The Turks were beaten easily and driven out of the Balkan area and forced to give up their lands. 

The Second Balkan War: In 1913 the Balkan League quarrelled - Bulgaria went to war with Greece and Serbia. Turkey and Romania joined the Greek and Serbian side, Bulgaria was soon defeated - losing land to the four victors . 

In both of these wars Britain tried to keep peace instead of supporting Russia, who were on Serbias side. Germany saw this as a sign that the Triple Entente was weak.

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Short Term Causes: Assassination

The Black Hand gang was started in Serbia with the aim of uniting all the Serbian peoples.  Austria-Hungary had many Serbian citizens and feared a rebellion in its lands especially in Bosnia. So they were a Serbian nationalist party.

Archduke Franz Ferdinand was the heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne. He went to Bosnia to try to strengthen the loyalty of the Bosnian people to Austria-Hungary.He was inspecting the army in Sarajevo with his wife Sophie. The royal couple arrived by train at 9.28am.

  • Seven young Bosnian Serbs planned to assassinate Franz Ferdinand as he drove along the main road in Sarajevo, the Appel Quay.The first conspirator who tried to kill Franz Ferdinand threw a bomb at his car. He missed and was arrested.The Archduke escaped unhurt. He decided to abandon the visit and return home via a different route to the one planned. . No one had told the driver the route had changed. On the way back, therefore, the driver turned into Franz Josef Street, following the published route and, when told of his error, stopped the car to turn around. Unfortunately, the car stopped in front of Gavrilo Princip, one of the conspirators, who was on his way home thinking he had failed. Princip pulled out a gun and shot at Franz Ferdinand, hitting him in the jugular vein. There was a tussle, during which Princip shot and killed Sophie. By 11.30am, Franz Ferdinand had bled to death.

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Short Term Causes: Road to War

23rd July - Austria-Hungary blames the Serbian government for the assassination, demanding                         compensation and the right to send troops into Serbia.

28th July - Serbia refuses to let these troops in. Austria-Hungary declares war on Serbia and                       shells Belgrade.

29th July - Russia begins mobilising troops ready to help Serbia.

30th July - Germany demands that Russia stop mobalising. 

1st August - Russia refuses. Germany declares war on Russia.

2nd August - France begins mobalising to help Russia. 

3rd August - Germany declares war on France. 

4th August - Germany sends troops through Belgium to attack France, following the Schlieffen                      Plan. Belgium being neutral, and Britain has agreed to protect Belgium. Britain                          orders Germny to withdraw. Germany refuses so Britain declare war on Germany.

6th August - Austria-Hungary declares war on Russia.

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Events of War: Schlieffen Plan

Due to the allience between Russia and France, if a war did happen Germany saw that they would be at war on two fronts meaning it would have to split its army. The answer to this was the Schlieffen Plan. Thought up by the Germans in 1905 the plan aimed to attack France through Belgium before Russia mobilised their army so they could defeat France quickly and then back to fight Russia. However this plan failed. 

Why the plan failed...

  • Belgium refused to let the German army through to attack France. So Germany had to use force which slowed their advance giving France and Russia more time to prepare 
  • Britain signed a treaty with Belgium in 1938 to protect it as a neutral country. When Germany , refuse to leave Belgium, Britain declare war on Germany
  • Russia mobilises its army quicker than expected. So many valuable German troops had to march East to face Russia instead of pushing on into France. 
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Events of War: Open Warfare

The early battles of the west saw both sides struggle for an advangtage. 

  • Battle of Mons - August 1914 - The British Expiditionary Force (BEF) were the first troops sent from Britain. They managed to slow down the German advance but not stop it. 
  • Battle of Marne - September 1914 - Germany tried to invade Paris however the allied troops managed to save Paris and forced the Germans to pull back to the river Aisne. The battle lasted 5 days
  • Battle of Ypres - 1915 -  The battle of Ypres was where both sides 'dashed to the sea' to try to stop the other side from gaining control of the coastline. The allied troops managed to win the battle but with a large loss of life. 
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Events of War; Why there was a stalemate

Changes in warfare meant a stalemate in the trenches because: 

  • Nobody was used to trench warfare, it took a long time to work out how to break the stalemate. 
  • No-one had commanded such huge armies before. So they had to learn now.
  • It took time to train all the new soilders, this proved especially hard for the British who had a small army before the war and had never tried to control an army of that size. 
  • New weapons the armies had were better for defence than attack.
  • Advancing troops couldn't hold on to the ground they won, and were pushed back. 
  • Both sides were well supplied, and could always call up for more arms and men.
  • Conditions were often appauling - muddy and wet - so was not suited for quick attacks.
  • Artillarty Bombardements were supposed to weaken enemy lines - but they just wanted the enemy an attack was coming. 
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Events of War: Over the Top

Both sides often tried to break the stalemate by sending thousands of men across No Mans Land this was called going over the top as the men climbed out of there trenches and walked/ran across No Mans Land. The result of this was huge slaughter of infantry. But some battles did effect the whole war:

  • At the second battle of Ypres in 1915, the Germans first used poison gas aqainst the Allied troops. 
  • At Verdun in 1916, the French under General Petain, held the Germans back from the city.This victory for France boosted the French morale and Verdun became a symbol of French freedom and demoralised the Germans who were certain it would fail. 
  •  In order to relieve the pressure at Verdun, the British began a major attack at the Somme. At this battle the British army used a new invention - the tank. 
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Events of War: The Somme

The Somme was one of the key battles of the war. The British commander was Sir Douglas Haig. After a massive artillery bombardment, the British soldiers were sent 'over the top' to charge the German trenches. They wereunder orders to advance slowly, not run. This gave the Germans time to get ready for the attack. The slow moving British soldiers were an easy target. 57 000 Britons were killed or wounded on the first day alone. Later attacks were more successful but the battle dragged out until from 1st July 1916 until the 18th of November 1916. Only about 12km of land was gained. 

Results of the Somme: 

  • The Germans had found out about the offensive on the Somme before it happened, which meant there was a big problem with kepping military secrets. 
  • The British artillary had failed to break the enemy lines. It didnn't even destroy their barbed wire despte bombing for seven days. 
  • The battle was filmed and shown back home. It gave people some idea of what the trenches were really like - but some footage was faked as the battle was too horrific. 
  • People at home started to openly criticise the generals and their tactics. 
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Events of War: The Somme Tactics

Many people feel that the tactics used at the Somme and in other battles were wrong. Their picture of the First World War comes from tv, books and films - which often lay a lot of blame on Sir Douglas Haig.Here are some main opinions on both sides.

Arguements suppoting Haig's tactics: 

  • Haigs main aim was to win the war, whatever the cost not to save lives
  • If the British government thought there was a better stratergie at the time they would've replaced haig - but they didn't 
  • Some of Germanys best troops were killed at the Somme - and couldn't be replaced 
  • Haigh couldn't wait for more tankss before the Somme he had to relieve preassure of Verdun or the whole war could've been lost.
  •  By 1918 Haigh had learnt to adapt these tactics to become more successful, they then managed to push back the Germanat the Battle of Amiens in 1918

Arguements against Haigs tactics: 

  • hundreds of thousands of men killed under his command 
  • Haig could've waited for more tanks which would've saved many lives 
  • after first days slaughter he shoulve changed his tactics 
  • He didn't take into account bad weather 
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Events of War: Life in the Trenches

Life in the trenches was hard and dangerous, it was almost as dangerous in the trenches as it was in No Mans Land. 

Each man got paip 1 shilling (5p) a day and their main rations were bully beef, jam and tea. Some reasons why it lie was hard in the trenches.

  • there was heavy artillery fire from both sides
  • Artillery bombardements often caused shell shock
  • Rapid machine gun that fires up to 600 bullets a minute
  • Aircraft surveillance and attacks later on in the war
  • lots of rats and lice making it unhygenic and dirty 
  • waterlogged trenches which led to disease trench foot
  • soldiers didn't have a steel helmet until 1915
  • each side had barbed wire protecting their trenches
  • Dangerous tunnelling to lay explosives under enemy lines however counter tunnelling took place with sound equipment so you could here if someone was planting explosives under your lines
  • gas attacks from 1915 onwards 
  • tanks from 1916 
  • no mans land was often in deep mud 
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New Weapons: Aircraft

Aircraft developed throughout the war:

On the Western Front both sides used planes and baloons to find enemy weak points for attack. The Germans used airships called Zeppelins to carry out bombing raids like the May 1915 one on London. In 1915 new planes carried synchronised machine guns which wouldn't shoot the propeller. One man could now fly and handle the gun - where before they'd need two people. Fighter planes escorted bombers on raids, attacked enemy bombers and fought each other, especially on the Wester Front. Both sides developed planes for long-distance bombing raids the first serious raid on Britain was in May 1917 where 71 people were killed at Folkstone. Britain did also send bombers into Germany aswell. 

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New Weapons: Tanks

The tracks on tanks meant they could go over very rough ground, and plough through barbed wire without problems. The heavily armoured body of thtanks meant that ordinarry gun fire couldn't stop them. Tanks should have allowed the British army to break the deadlock on the trenches, but it took a while to develop effective tactics, and the early tanks often broke down.

  • The first time tanks were used was at the Battle of the Somme in July 1916. Sir douglas Haig sent 49 tanks. He could have waited for more but decided it was more important to Suprise the Germans and went ahead anyway. The tank devision captured 2km of German held land however couldn't nhold onto it and were soon pushed back. 
  • At Cambrai  on the Western Front in November 1917, tanks were used more successfully. Nearly 500 tanks advanced about 6Km into German territory, but again couldn't hold on to their gains. 
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New Weapons: Poison Gas

The Germans were the first to use Chlorine Gas - in the second battle of Ypres, April - May 1915. It caused terror and killed many. The british tried to use it at the battle of Loos (September 1915) but the wind blew some of it back on them. Chlorine has the military disadvantage of being highly visible. 

In December 1915 the Germans used Phosgene which is an invisible and deadly but slow acting. At the battle of Riga, in September 1917 they introduced mustard gas which causes horrible blisters and internal bleeding. 

Gas soon became a standard weapon used by both sides, not a war winning weapon. Countermeasures like masks, pads and gas helmets meant few British battles were lost due to gas. 

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The Eastern Front: The Russian Army

The allied plan was for Britain and France to hold the German army up on the West, while the Russian army advanced from the East. This would trap the Germans between their enemies. 

At the start of the war British newspapers talked confidently about the Russian steamroller crushing opposition as it advanced into Germany. It didn't happen. On the other hand, the Russians did catch the Germans out as they mobillised in just ten days with 6 million men. The Germans had to send troops East beforethey'd defeated France - so the Schlieffen plan had failed. 

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The Eastern Front: Russian Advance

The Russian Army advanced into Germany but they didn't have enough weapons.Many soldiers had to wait for someone to be killed so that they could get hold of a rifle. The Russian plans were rushed because of the need to advance quickly. They weren't prepared for a long campaign. The army was poorly orgnised. Many officers were inexperienced and discipline was poor. 150 000 Russians were slaughtered at the battle of Tannenberg and the Masurain Lakes by German troops under von Hindenburg and Ludendorff. After this the Russians were driven back and the Germans and Austro-Hungarians advanced. A stalemate soon developed on the Eastern Front. The war was now like a chess match. The war effort put a great strain on Russia, as civillians went hungry so troops could be supplied. 

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The Gallipoli Campaign: The Plan

The Ottoman Empire - centered on Turkey - Allied with Germany 

The Ottoman Empire joined the war on the German side in Vovember 1914. It attacked Russia in the hope of regaining the Balkans. Some leaders in Britain like Churchill, the First Lord of the Admirality, believed that Germany and Austria-Hungary could be weakened by attacking Turkey in the East.

The Dardanells was a narrow entrance to the black sea and also a route to get supplies to Russia. If Britain could land troops on the Gallipoli peninsula they could take the Dardanelles, and then go on to Constantinople, the capital of the Turkis Empire. Then other nearby countries like Greece and Romania might join in on Britains side, and help the allies win the war by attacking Germany from the East. 

So the main aims of the campaign were: 

  • To get control of the Dardanelles for a supply line to Russia 
  • To weaken Germany as its army would have to split into 3 if battle broke out 
  • Ally to Germany so if the beat Turkey the war may collapse 
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The Gallipoli Campaign: Slaughter on the Beaches

In February 1915 the British Navy tried to advance up the Dardanelles but failed to get past the Turkish forts and mines. The Navy pulled out and the Army was sent in the force was made up of one British Divisionand ANZAC (Australian and New Zealand Army Corps) and French troops. The iidea was to cross the Gallipoli peninsula and capture Turkish capital Constantinople. The land assult began in  April. Britain were hoping this would be a suprise attack but the Germans warned the Turks so they were prepared for batrtle. By firing down from hills above the beaches were the troops landed the Turks stopped the British troops advancing at all. The allied forces were then forced to dig trenches, they spent summer and autumn under fire, suffering from heat and disease, with poor supplies of food and ammumnition. There were 40 000 casualties by August. It wasn't until December they started withdraw, they withdrew 105 000 soldiers. however the Turks lost even more men than the allies as they lost 65 000 men, this seriosly weakened their army, but it wasn't made obvious at the time. So the campaign was a failure.  

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The Gallipoli Campaign: Why it Failed

Over a third of the ANZACS sent to Gallipoli died. Churchill was removed from his post as First Lord of the Admirility and the Dardenelles remained under Turkish control. The disaster was partly caused by bad planning... 

  • Allied commanders didn't know the area very well and didn't have proper maps to look at the area, maps they did gave were old
  • The hadn't realised how strong and well positioned the Turkish army would be.
  • The chosen landing spot was in different terrain - a narrow beach backed by steep hills which made it hard for troops to get up. 

Other reasons it failed 

  • Seamines - stopped British navy entering the Dardanell straits 
  • lasted 8 months had to deal with extreme weather conditions - heat - dehydration, dysentry
  •                                                                                                  - cold - 16000 die of frost bite                                                                                                           300 die of hypethermia
  • Allied troops don't send enough troops as they expect Turkey to be weaker
  • Inadequit resources
  • Naval officers and Army officers disagree
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