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World War I

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World War I
Date 28 July 1914 – 11 November 1918 (Armistice)

Treaty of Versailles signed 28 June 1919

Location Europe, Africa, the Middle East, the Pacific Islands, China and off the coast of South and North America
Result Allied victory
Allied (Entente) Powers

France France
United Kingdom British Empire
 Russia (1914–17)
 United States (1917–18)
 Romania (1916–18)
 Empire of Japan
 Greece (1917–18)
Portugal Portugal (1916–18)
 Montenegro (1914–16)
and others

Central Powers

 German Empire
 Ottoman Empire
 Bulgaria (1915–18)

Commanders and leaders
Leaders and commanders

France Raymond Poincaré
France Georges Clemenceau
France Ferdinand Foch
British Empire H. H. Asquith
British Empire David Lloyd George
British Empire Douglas Haig
Russian Empire Nicholas II
Russian Empire Nicholas Nikolaevich
Kingdom of Italy (1861–1946) Antonio Salandra
Kingdom of Italy (1861–1946) Vittorio Orlando
Kingdom of Italy (1861–1946) Luigi Cadorna
United States Woodrow Wilson
United States John J. Pershing
Empire of Japan Emperor Taishō
and others

Leaders and commanders

German Empire Wilhelm II
German Empire Paul von Hindenburg
German Empire Erich Ludendorff
Austria-Hungary Franz Joseph I
Austria-Hungary Karl I
Austria-Hungary Conrad von Hötzendorf
Ottoman Empire Mehmed V
Ottoman Empire Enver Pasha
Ottoman Empire Mustafa Kemal Atatürk
Kingdom of Bulgaria Ferdinand I
Kingdom of Bulgaria Nikola Zhekov
and others


Russian Empire 12,000,000

British Empire 8,841,541[2][3]

France 8,660,000[4]

Kingdom of Italy (1861–1946) 5,093,140

United States 4,743,826

Romania 1,234,000

Empire of Japan 800,000

Kingdom of Serbia 707,343

Belgium 380,000

Greece 250,000

Portugal 200,000

Montenegro 50,000

Total: 42,959,850

Central Powers[1]

German Empire 13,250,000

Austria-Hungary 7,800,000

Ottoman Empire 2,998,321

Kingdom of Bulgaria 1,200,000

Total: 25,248,321

Casualties and losses
Military dead:
Military wounded:
Military missing:
22,477,500 KIA, WIA or MIA ...further details.
Military dead:
Military wounded:
Military missing:
16,403,000 KIA, WIA or MIA ...further details.
Map of Europe at the start of World War I. Turkey refers to the Ottoman Empire.

World War I also known as the First World War, was a global war centered in Europe that began on 28th July 1914 and lasted until 11th November 1918. The war lasted exactly four years, three months and 14 days. Before World War II began in 1939, World War I was called the Great War, the World War or the War to End all Wars. 135 countries took part in World War I, and more than 15 million people died in the war.[5]

World War I was fought on most of the continent of Europe. The actual fighting that happened during the war was fought on many different fronts. The Western Front was where most of the fighting between Germany and the Allies happened. The system of trenches marked the location of the Western Front. There was a no man's land between the two sides.[6] Most of the fighting here was trench warfare.

The Eastern Front was fought in Central and Eastern Europe and was one of the main places where World War I took place. The fighting on the Eastern Front was not trench warfare like it was on the Western Front, but instead depended on having front lines of soldiers ready to fight the enemy. The other fronts that had a lot of fighting include the Middle Eastern Front and the Italian Front. Fighting also took place in Africa, China, and at sea as well as in the air.

The war was ended by the signing of many different treaties, the most important being the Treaty of Versailles.

World War I was the first war where tanks, aeroplanes, and submarines or underwater boats (U-boats) were much used as weapons.


One person who strongly supported Serbian power sent men to kill Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria. They all failed to kill him with grenades while he passed through a large crowd but one of these men, a Bosnian student named Gavrilo Princip, shot him and his pregnant wife (Sophie) with a pistol.

Austria-Hungary blamed Serbia for the assassination. Germany, which supported Austria-Hungary, said that they should make a list of things that Serbia should do as punishment for killing the Archduke. Austria-Hungary was very strict, perhaps because they wanted an excuse to start the war. Though Serbia agreed to most of ten of the things on the list, they could not agree to them all. Austria-Hungary then declared war on Serbia. This quickly led to a full-scale war.[7] Both country's allies became involved in the war.

Russia joined the war on Serbia's side because the people of Serbia were Slavic, like Russia, and the Slavic countries had agreed to help each other if they were attacked. Since Russia is a large country it had to move soldiers closer to the war, but Germany feared that Russia's soldiers would also attack Germany. Russia did not like Germany because of things Germany had done in the past to become stronger. Germany declared war on Russia, and used a plan to attack Russia that had been created before the war, but it also involved attacking France and Belgium. France and also Great Britain joined the war because Great Britain had agreed to help Belgium if it were ever attacked by someone else.

Soon most of Europe became involved.

Germany vs Russia

Germany was friends with Austria-Hungary. Russia was friends with Serbia. The German government was afraid that because Austria-Hungary had attacked Serbia, Russia would attack Austria-Hungary to help Serbia. Because of this, Germany felt it had to help Austria-Hungary by attacking Russia first, before it could attack Austria-Hungary.

The problem was that Russia was also friends with France, and the Germans thought the French might attack them to help Russia. So the Germans decided that they could win the war if they attacked France first, and quickly. They could mobilize very quickly. They had a list of all the men who had to join the army, and where those men had to go, and the times of every train that would carry those men to where they would have to fight. France was doing the same thing, but could not do it as quickly. The Germans thought that if they attacked France first, they could “knock France” out of the war before Russia could attack them.

Russia had a big army, but Germany thought that it would take six weeks to mobilize and a long time before they could attack the Central Powers. That wasn't true, because the Russian Army mobilized in ten days. Also, the Russians drove deep into Austria.

Britain vs Germany

Great Britain was allied with Belgium, and became quickly involved in the war. Germany attacked Belgium to reach Paris before Russia could mobilize and open up a second front against them. On August 4, 1914, Britain declared war against Germany in support of Belgium. Britain had the biggest empire (it ruled over a quarter of the world). If Germany conquered France, it might take Britain and France's colonies and become the most powerful and biggest empire in the world.

Britain was also worried about Germany's growing military power. Germany was developing its large army into one of the most powerful in the world. The British Army was quite small. The British Royal Navy was the largest and best in the world, and in the 19th century that was enough to keep other navies from attacking. Basically, Germany was a land power, and Britain was a sea power. But now the Germans were building a large navy. This was seen as a threat to Britain. However, the decision to declare war was taken under its alliance with Belgium in the 1839 Treaty of London. However, the Government might have decided differently. No-one foresaw how long the war would last, and what the terrible costs would be.


Turkey went into the war because it had lost much of its empire before the war and wanted to get it back from Britain and France. Serbia, which was once an Ottoman colony, had already become its own country before the war. When Austria went to war against Serbia, Turkey declared war soon after.

Britain vs Turkey

Britain also fought against Turkey because the Ottoman Empire was supporting Germany, it had no real enmity against the Turks.[8] However, by fighting the Turks in the Mesopotamia region (in what is now called Iraq), in the Arabian Peninsula and other places, Britain was able to defeat them, finally, with help from the British Indian Army.[9] Later, after the War ended, Britain was able to get some areas from the old Turkish empire which was breaking up, and to add them to the British Empire.[10]

Greece vs Turkey

Greece went into the war because its leader supported the Allied cause. Greece and Serbia had become independent, but many Greeks still lived in lands that were once Greek but were now in the Turkish Ottoman Empire. Having recently won the Balkan Wars, the Greeks especially wanted to control other land to the north that was under Bulgarian and Turkish rule, so they declared war.

Soon there was a battle between the Turks and the Greeks. Turkey killed most of the Greek army and the Greeks tried to invade Turkey again. Another war was sparked by an explosion made by the Greeks. They had bombed a train. Turkey swept Greece back into their own territory. From then on the Greeks never again declared war, while Turkey had one of the biggest armies in the world.

Bulgaria vs Serbia and Greece

Bulgaria, like Greece and Serbia, was owned by Turkey before, got its freedom and took a lot of Turkish land. When Bulgaria took this land, a short time before the war, the Serbians and Greeks felt cheated because the Bulgarians got a lot of land which they felt was Greek or Serbian. The Greeks and Serbians took back Bulgarian land and irritated Bulgaria, which made Bulgaria become friends with Turkey. They declared war on Serbia and Greece. Serbia and Greece won.

Romania's alliances

Romania was on the side of the Central powers until 1916, when they were forced into the war by the Allied powers.

Important events in the war

British soldiers in a captured German trench

Most people thought the war would be short. They thought the armies would move around quickly to attack each other, and one would defeat the other without too many people getting killed. They thought the war would be about brave soldiers - they did not know what the war would really be like. Only a few people like Lord Kitchener said that the war would take a long time.

Germany's plan

Germany's generals had decided that the best way to defeat France was to go through Belgium using a plan called the Schlieffen Plan. This was invented by the Germany Army Chief of Staff, Alfred Von Schlieffen. They could then attack the French army at the north side and the south side at the same time. The German Army went into Belgium on August the 4th. On the same day, Great Britain started a war on Germany, because Britain was a friend of Belgium. The British had said some time before, in 1839, that they would not let anyone control Belgium, and they kept their promise.

Germany's invasion of Belgium

When the Germans got to the Belgian city of Liège, the Belgians fought very hard to stop them from coming into the city. The Germans did finally push the Belgians out of the city, but it had taken longer than the German generals had planned. Then the Germans attacked the north side of the French army. The French and the British moved men up to fight the Germans. They could do this because the Belgians had fought so long at Liège. But the Germans pushed the French back at the Fronteirs, and the British held the Germans back at Mons, but afterwards they also fell back to join up with the retreating French army, until they were stopped at the river Marne. This was called The Miracle of the Marne.

In the East, the Russians had attacked the Germans. The Russians pushed back the Germans, but then the Germans defeated the Russians at the Battle of Tannenberg.

Trench warfare

Trench warfare killed great numbers of soldiers. New weapons, such as machine guns, and long-range artillery had an increased rate of fire that cut down huge numbers of soldiers during mass charges, a tactic leftover from older warfare. The men on both sides took spades and dug holes, because they did not want to be killed. The holes joined up into trenches, until the lines of trenches went all the way from Switzerland to the North Sea. In front of the trenches, there was barbed wire that cut anyone who tried to climb over it, and land mines that blew up anyone who tried to cross the "no man's land" between the trenches. Late in the war, poison gas was also an important weapon.

The new machine guns, artillery, trenches and mines made it very difficult to attack. The generals were used to fighting wars without these, so they ordered their armies to attack in the old style of marching in rows- allowing the enemy to shoot them down easily. At the battle of the Somme in 1916 60,000 British men died in a single day. It was one of the bloodiest days in the history of the British army.

The British used whistles to communicate to other soldiers, so before they shelled the German trenches, they would sound the whistle. However, the Germans caught on to this tactic after a while, so after the shelling, when the British soldiers came to finish off the German soldiers, the Germans were ready with their machine guns, because they knew the British were coming.


Airplanes were first used extensively in World War I. Airplanes were not used very much in fighting before World War I. It was the first war to use airplanes as weapons. Airplanes were first used to take pictures of enemy land. Generals, military leaders, were using airplanes as an important part of their attack plans at the end of the war. World War I showed that airplanes could be important war weapons.

Airplanes in World War I were made of wood and canvas, a type of rough cloth. They did not last for a long time. They could not fly very fast at the beginning of the war. They could only fly up to 116 kilometers per hour, or 72 miles per hour. At the end of the war they could fly up to 222 kilometers per hour, or 138 miles per hour. But they could not fly as fast as planes today. Guns were put on planes for the first time during the war. Pilots, people who fly the plane, used the guns to shoot enemy planes. One pilot used metal sheets, pieces of metal, to armor his airplane. Other pilots began using metal sheets, too. Pilots also made their airplanes better with machine guns, guns that shoot bullets much faster. Machine guns made fighting harder and more dangerous between airplanes.

Pilots had to wear certain clothes when flying an airplane in World War I because they flew high where the air is cold. The pilot's clothes kept them warm and protected them from the wind and cold. Pilots wore a leather coat to protect their bodies. They wore a padded helmet and goggles, large glasses with special lenses, to protect their head and face. They wore a scarf around their neck. The scarf kept the wind from blowing against their neck when they turned their head.

USA vs Germany

The German leaders decided to use submarines. These submarines were named U-boats, from the German word Unterseeboot (meaning underwater boat). The U-boats attacked passenger ships (Lusitania) that were carrying civilians to Great Britain. The Germans thought that the Americans were helping only the British and not being neutral. "Neutral" means that a country is not involved in the war. But then many American and British noncombatants were killed by the submarines.

Germany also wrote a secret telegram note to Mexico in code suggesting that the two countries work together to attack the United States. This note is called the Zimmerman Telegram because the person who sent it was named Arthur Zimmerman. It offered Mexico land in the southwestern United States that the United States took in previous wars. Spies from the United Kingdom found out about the note and told the United States. American people became angry and many decided that they wanted their country to enter the war to punish Germany. For these and other reasons, on April 6, 1917 the United States declared war against Germany and became part of the Allies.


The First Russian Revolution

In 1917, there was a revolution in Russia. The Tsar Nicholas II had to say he would not be Tsar any more, and that the people should have power. At first it was thought that Russia would fight harder now that the Tsar was gone. However, the Russian people didn't want to fight anymore, because there was not sufficient food, appropriate armament, or adequate roads to supply its army. The war had been putting burdens on them, and many of them were poor and hungry. They began to hate their new government because it wouldn't stop the war.

The Second Russian Revolution

Then, there was an October Revolution. Two factions fought to rule over Russia. The passive Mensheviks lost against radical Bolsheviks. The leader of the Bolsheviks was Vladimir Lenin (1870-1924) which was Communist who followed the ideas of Karl Marx. The new government asked the Germans for peace, and signed a peace treaty called Brest-Litvosk with the Central Powers in March 1918 at the city of Brest Litovsk. The Germans and Russians stopped fighting. This gave Germany lots of land in eastern Europe and the Baltic Sea.

After the war

Map of Europe before and after the war.

After the war, the Germans had to agree to the Treaty of Versailles. Germany had to pay $66.7 billion[source?] in reparations. They also had to take responsibility for the war. Part of the treaty said the countries of the world should come together to make an international organization to stop wars from happening. This organization was called the League of Nations. The US Senate didn't agree with this, even though it was the idea of the US president, Woodrow Wilson. Woodrow Wilson tried to tell the American people that they should agree, but the U.S. never joined the League of Nations. Problems with the Treaty in Germany would later lead to the Second World War.


  1. 1.0 1.1 Tucker & Roberts 2005, p. 273
  3. Figures are for the British Empire
  4. Figures are for Metropolitan France and its colonies
  5. "Military Casualties of World War One".
  6. Ashworth, Tony. Trench warfare 1914–1918, pp3–4. 2000: Macmillan Press, London.
  7. "First World Primary Documents: Archduke Ferdinand's Assassination, 28 June 1914". 2002-11-03. Retrieved 2008-02-17.
  8. Talor, AJP World War I and its aftermath, London 1998
  9. Taylor
  10. Taylor

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