World War One: War at Sea and End of the War


The War at Sea: U-Boat campaign

The U-Boat was a type of German submarine. It could attack ships without being detected. From 1915 thousands of tons of merchant shipping was attacked and sunk even though Germany had only 20 U-Boats. At first the Germans were careful not to attack ships from neutral countries or passenger liners. The British soon realised this so started sending resources/supplies on non military ships, so the Germans started sinking them as well. 

Effects of the U-Boat campaign: 

  • At one point Britain only had 6 weeks supply of wheat left 
  • Millions of tons of shipping lost 
  • sinking of Lusitania killed many people including American civillians - America outraged
  • Q-Ships made - British warships disguised as merchant ships to attack the submarines 
  • Convoy system introduced by Lloyd George. Merchant ships would sail in large groups lead and gaurded by warships. 
  • Lead to USA joining the war in 1917. 

U-Boats were seen as an unstopable foce becaause in April 1917 alone the British lost 0.5 million tons of shipping alone. The U-Boat campaign was trying to starve Britain into submission, to tackle this issue Lloyd  Georgew introduced the convoy system - where merchant ships travelled together in groups protected by warships - to keep Britains supplies coming in. 

1 of 8

The War at Sea: The Lusitania

On 1st May 1915 the British passenger liner Lusitania, under the command of Captain Turner set sail from New Yorl destined for the port of Liverpool. On 7th May it crossed paths with Reman U-Boat U20 off the head of Old Kinsale in Ireland. At around 2;10pm a single torpedo was fired without warning at the sides of the Lusitania on the command of Captain Schweiger. This caused a large explosion coming from the bottom of the ship. The Lusitania kilted to the right and within 18 minutes the ship sunk. 

The losses were high. Distress signals were sent out but the old battle cruiser that was near by didn't pick up any survivors. 1201 people lost their lives, 128 of which were American citizens. This helped bring them into the war two years later.

2 of 8

The War at Sea: The Battle of Jutland

Both Britain and Germany had rushed to build dreadnoughts in the Arms Race in 1906 - 1914, but neither side wanted to risk these expensive ships in too many battles at sea. The only. The only large scale battle between the dreadnought fleets was the Battle of Jutland in May 1916. 250 ships clashed, the German Admiral von Scheer wanted to lure part of the British fleet out of their base to attack them, however more British ships came than he expected. The battle failed to to meet the Germans aims which was to remove the blockade. 

Both sides said the won at the Battle of Jutland.. 

  • The British lost 14 ships and Germany lost 11
  • They fought in the evening when it was misty, so neither side could fire accuratley 
  • The British ships generally suffered more damage than the Germans 
  • The German ships and firepower seemed much stronger
  • But the German fleet left the battle first, never challenged anyone at sea again/never left their ports again 
  • British fleet so big wasn't as affected by the loss of ships as Gerany were 
  • German objective not met 
3 of 8

End of the Fighting: Russia Leave the War

Russia signed the treaty of Brest- Litovsk with Germany in 1918, giving Germany control of Eastern territory in return for peace. Two important results came from Russia leaving the war these were: The allies were left to fight on without Russian help on an Eastern Front and Germany were now able to pull back 1 mill men to the Western Front. But why did they pull out?Military weakness... 

  • 1.8 million Russians died or wounded, also many soldiers had poor health
  • Inexperienced soilders – poor shooters
  • Poor and undeveloped industry means poorly equipped soldiers 
  •  High numbers of casualties and prisoners of war
  •  Tsar takes control of army in 1915 and was a poor military commander so got the blame for losing battles
  •  Turkey join the war on the side of Germany and there is a naval mutiny in Russia 

Internal Problems... 

  • Russians starving – people start to question the war
  • Rumoured affair between Tsarina and Rasputin whilst Tsar fighting on the front line
  •  Tsarina – German princess so public become suspicious of her input into the war – German spy? 
4 of 8

End of the Fighting: Ludendorff Offensive

The US wasn't ready to send all so Germany made a last effort to break through. The Ludendorff Offensive tried to capture Paris in March 1918. It looked like it would work at first but the Germans advanced too far too fast and their supplies couldn't keep up with them. They were beyond their lines in a kind of bulge, so the Allies attacked them from the sides. Thousands of American troops were soon joining the Allies and the Germans were soon pushed back, Conditions were poor for civillians in Germany with severe food shortages. Kaiser Wilhelm II abdicated and the new government agreed to a ceasefire/armistice on November 11th 1918. 

5 of 8

End of the Fighting: America Join the War 1917

Why did America not join the war in 1914? 

  • Population - America was a multi cultural country so they didn't want to cause any unrest by chosing a side 
  • Money - America had lots of money coming in from the war as they were neutral so supplied both sides. 
  • Woodrow Wilson - wanted to be re-elected so listened to what the public wanted. Americans didn't want war so Wilson made sure kept them out of the war and came across as anti-war
  • Not in Europe - America saw the war as a European war and it wasn't in Europe so decided it was pointless getting involved 

Why did they join the war in 1917? 

  • Sinking of the Lusitania - Ship was sunk by German U-Boats and 128 American civillians died
  • Rescinding of Sussex Pledge - Germany went against the pledge by sinking ships with civillians on. 
  • Change in public opinion - America aware Germany went against them so public want revenge
  • Zimmerman Tellagram promised Mexican gov. that Germany would help it recover land it lost to America in return for help in the war - Americaa felt threatened so joined war 
6 of 8

End of the Fighting: Germany agree to Armastice

7 of 8

End of the Fighting: Germany agree to Armistice

Germany Agreed to an Armastice in 1918 because: 

  • Blockade on German ports - Early 1918 - The blockade led to economic problems. German trade by was worth $5.9 billion in 1914, but only worth $0.8 in 1917. Raw materials and food in short supply - German public starving and become anti-war. 
  • The USA were moving 50, 000 troops to Framce per month in 1918 and the Germans couldn't keep up with all the new men and freshness of the army and new supplies when the German army were tired and run down. 
  • German commander, Ludendorff, launched a great gamble to win the war in March 1918. He started with bombardements and gas attacks followed by attacks by highly trained and lightly equipped 'storm troops'. This was effective in stopping the allies from gathering defences. They managed to advance 64kms, however lost 400 000 men
  • Between May and August 1918 the Germans made no progress, they had run out of time and resources. Trench warfare had ended, by this point the allies were well fed and well equiped with new technologies and artillery. 

This all lead to Germany agreeing to an armastice as it weakened Germany until they could no longer carry on. 

8 of 8


No comments have yet been made

Similar History resources:

See all History resources »See all Causes and effects of WW1 resources »