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The 20th century was the period between January 1, 1901, and December 31, 2000, inclusive. The century had the first global-scale wars between several world powers across multiple continents in World War I and World War II.

Titanic

“Introduction To Titanic”

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The Titanic: Passengers, Crew, Sinking, and Survivors

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Timeline

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The Titanic was a luxury vessel and the largest moveable man-made object of its time. It sank on April 15, 1912, off the coast of Newfoundland in the North Atlantic. Over 1,500 of the 2,240 passengers and crew lost their lives in the disaster. It remains a cautionary tale of the arrogance of builders than their creation could ever be flawless or impervious to harm. The White Star Line(See main article: The White Star Line)The White Star Shipping Line was founded in 1850 to take advantage of an increase in trade following the discovery of gold in Australia. In 1867, the White Star Shipping Line was purchased by Thomas Ismay and set up to rival Cunard in Trans-Atlantic passenger traffic. Thomas’s son, Bruce, became a partner in the firm and took over as company director in 1899 when his father died. In 1902 the company was bought by wealthy American, J Pierpoint Morgan. Ismay retained his position within the firm as managing director. Morgan’s money meant that the company could build large luxury liners to attract wealthy passengers.In 1907 Ismay suggested that the company build two liners that were heavier, bigger, and more luxurious than any other ship in the World. They were to be called Olympic and Titanic. If these were successful a third, Gigantic, later renamed Brittanic, would follow.Construction(See main article: Titanic Construction: Building the Unsinkable Ship)The Titanic construction took place in Belfast by the shipbuilding company Harland and Wolff. The company was owned by Lord Pirrie, a friend of Bruce Ismay, managing director of the White Star Line (pictured below, left). The chief designer of the Titanic was his son-in-law, Thomas Andrews. Construction of the Titanic began in 1909. Harland and Wolff had to make alterations to their shipyard (larger piers and gantries) to accommodate the giant liners, Titanic, and her sister ship Olympic. The two ships were to be built side-by-side The giant gantries constructed by Harland and WolffWatertight Compartment Titanic were constructed with sixteen watertight compartments. Each compartment had doors that were designed to close automatically if the water level rose above a certain height. The doors could also be electronically closed from the bridge. Titanic was able to stay afloat if any two compartments or the first four became flooded. Shortly after the Titanic hit the iceberg it was revealed that the first six compartments were flooded. Boilers were twenty-four double-ended boilers and five single-ended boilers which were housed in six boiler rooms. The double-ended boilers were 20 feet long, had a diameter of 15 feet 9 inches, and contained six coal-burning furnaces. The single-ended boilers were 11 feet 9 inches long with the same diameter and three furnaces.

Titanic Sinking: A New Theory

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By now the story of the sinking of the Titanic is well-known and well-worn: Man creates an “unsinkable ship” and, in his hubris, brings along too few lifeboats. An iceberg cures his of his arrogance by tearing a hole in the side of the ship, sending it and thousands of passengers to the icy depths of the North Atlantic.

But according to a new documentary, the iceberg may not have been the sole reason for the sinking of the Titanic. Instead, in an extraordinary stroke of bad luck, the iceberg may have struck in the exact spot where the hull had been weakened by a coal fire that blazed in the depths of the ship prior to disembarking.

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Irish journalist Senan Molony argues in his January 2017 documentary “Titanic: The New Evidence” the hull of the ship was compromised weeks before its ill-fated voyage. He examined photos and eye-witness testimonies to determine that a fire spontaneously lit inside one of Titanic‘s coal bunkers and severely weakened a segment of the ship’s hull.

“The ship is a single-skin ship,” Molony told Smithsonian.com. He means that while modern ships contain two hulls, the Titanic, like other early twentieth-century vessels, had only one. Such a structure typically made for a weaker vessel, but in the Titanic‘s case, it proved fatal. The bunkers where the crew stored engine coal were located next to the hull. The heat from the fire transferred directly to the ship’s metal structure.

The ah-ha moment for Molony came when he discovered a trove of previously unknown photographs. Four years ago he purchased them from a descendant of the engineering chief of Harland and Wolff, the Irish company that built the Titanic. He was startled to see a thirty-foot-long black streak documented on the outside of the ship’s hull, near where the iceberg struck its blow.

R.M.S Titanic

(See Main Article: R.M.S Titanic)

White Star Line Triple Screw Royal Mail Steamship Titanic

The Crow’s Nest

The Crow’s nest was used by the ship’s lookouts. It was from here, at 11.40 pm on April 15 1912, that lookouts Frederick Fleet and Reginald Lee first spotted the iceberg that caused the Titanic to sink.

Officers’ Quarters

The Titanic’s officer quarters were located just below the boat deck so that they could quickly reach the bridge in case of emergency. Captain Smith retired to the officers’ quarters about an hour before the ship hit the iceberg.

The Bridge

The Bridge was the place where the ship was operated from. There was always a senior officer on the bridge and it was first officer Murdock who ordered the Titanic ‘hard a starboard’ when the iceberg was spotted.

First Class Grand Staircase

The two first-class staircases were very grand indeed. Over the top of both were glass domes which allowed sunlight to pass through.

Marconi/Wireless Room

The two wireless operators, Harold Bride and John Philips were employed to send telegrams on behalf of the passengers. They also received and sent messages to other ships. It was here that the messages warning of icebergs were received on the afternoon of 14th April 1912 and the SOS messages were sent when it was realized that the Titanic would sink.

Gymnasium

The Titanic’s gymnasium had all the latest exercise equipment – a bicycle, rowing machine, and electric horse. Separate sessions were available for men, women, and children.

First Class Staterooms

The first-class staterooms were luxuriously furnished with curtained beds and tables and chairs. The most expensive even had their own private balcony.

A la Carte Restaurant

The Titanic’s a la carte restaurant served the finest food. Passengers could reserve tables and book areas for private parties.

First Class Smoking Room

The First Class smoking room was open for most of the day. Passengers could purchase the most luxurious cigarettes and tobacco here.

Cafe Parisien

This cafe was designed to look like a Paris street cafe and the waiters were French.

Third Class Smoking Room

This was one of the leisure rooms provided for the use of third-class passengers.

Second Class Staterooms

Second-class staterooms were occupied by up to four people. By the standards of the day, they were luxurious with mahogany furniture and linoleum floors.

Refrigerated Cargo

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In order to ensure that food served at tables was as fresh as possible, the Titanic was fitted with a refrigerated storage area. There were different areas for meat, cheese, flowers and wines, and champagne.

Second Class Dining Room

This large, pleasantly furnished room was where second-class passengers took their meals. Food served to second-class passengers was cooked in the first-class kitchen.

First and Second Class Galley

Food for both first and second-class passengers was prepared in the same galley. There was a large ice-cream maker as well as refrigerated rooms for storing meat and perishable goods.

The Titanic: Lifeboats

(See Main Article: The Titanic: Lifeboats)

One of the factors that make the sinking of the Titanic so memorable is the fact that lives were needlessly lost. There were not enough Titanic lifeboats onboard to hold all the passengers and crew, and when the lifeboats were launched they were not filled to capacity.

The information on this page represents some of the main facts relating to the lifeboats on board the Titanic.

At the British Inquiry into the Titanic disaster, Sir Alfred Chalmers of the Board of Trade was asked why regulations governing the number of lifeboats required on passenger ships had not been updated since 1896. Sir Alfred gave a number of reasons for this (question 22875):

Due to advancements that had been made in shipbuilding, it was not necessary for boats to carry more lifeboats.vThe latest boats were stronger than ever and had watertight compartments making them unlikely to require lifeboats at all.vSea routes used were well-traveled meaning that the likelihood of a collision was minimal.vThe latest boats were fitted with wireless technology.

That it would be impossible for crew members to be able to load more than sixteen boats in the event of a disaster.That the provision of lifeboats should be a matter for the ship owners to consider.

Sir Alfred also stated that he felt that if there had been fewer lifeboats on the Titanic then more people would have been saved. He believed that if there had been fewer lifeboats then more people would have rushed to the boats and they would have been filled to capacity thus saving more people.

Facts on Titanic Lifeboats

The Titanic carried 20 lifeboats, enough for 1178 people. The existing Board of Trade required a passenger ship to provide lifeboat capacity for 1060 people. Titanic’s lifeboats were situated on the top deck. The boat was designed to carry 32 lifeboats but this number was reduced to 20 because it was felt that the deck would be too cluttered.

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At the British investigation, Charles Lightoller as the senior surviving officer was questioned about the fact that the lifeboats were not filled to capacity. They had been tested in Belfast on 25th March 1912 and each boat had carried seventy men safely. When questioned about the filling of lifeboat number six, Lightoller testified that the boat was filled with as many people as he considered to be safe. Lightoller believed that it would be impossible to fill the boats to capacity before lowering them to sea without the mechanism that held them collapsing. He was questioned as to whether he had arranged for more people to be put into the boats once it was afloat. Lightoller admitted that he should have made some arrangement for the boats to be filled once they were afloat. When asked if the crew member in charge of lifeboat number six was told to return to pick up survivors, the inquiry was told that the crew member was told to stay close to the ship. (questions 13883 – 13910) Lifeboat number 6 was designed to hold 65 people. It left with 40.

Titanic also carried 3500 lifebelts and 48 life rings; Useless in the icy water. The majority of passengers that went into the sea did not drown but froze to death.

World War One

 

Who Started WW1? The Background of the Great War

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Since the end of the Napoleonic Wars in 1815, there had been several regional conflicts in Europe, but there had not been a general war (one that involved all of the major European powers). Between 1815 and 1914, the most powerful nations of Europe had coexisted in an arrangement called the “Balance of Power.” Under this arrangement, the major powers of Europe kept each other’s power in check. If one nation seemed to be growing too powerful, the others would act to stop this and preserve the balance.

In 1914, Europe was dominated by several major powers, most of which were multinational empires. They called themselves the Great Powers. There were 5 Great Powers, as well as two other nations who desired to be, although they lacked the military and economic power of the others. Let’s go around Europe and take a look at each of these powers.

What Started WW1? A Closer Look at the Origins of the Great War

(See Main Article: What Started WW1? A Closer Look at the Origins of the Great War)

At first, it all seemed very far away. The possibility of a Great War engulfing Europe had not become a reality since the terrifying days of the Napoleonic Wars. But it did not begin due to the failure of diplomacy. The reasons for the beginning of World War One all start with a wrong turn taken on a road in Sarajevo.

On 28 June 1914 Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife, Countess Sophie, were assassinated in Sarajevo, Bosnia. It was the couple’s fourteenth wedding anniversary. They were utterly devoted; indeed it sometimes seemed Sophie was Ferdinand’s only friend. Politically liberal and personally difficult, Ferdinand had married against the wishes of his uncle, Austria’s Emperor Franz Joseph. As a result, his children were removed from any right to succession, but he was still next in line to the throne of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

An empire it surely was, even if its welter of nationalities were only tenuously welded together. Ferdinand was an Austrian, skeptical of Hungarians, married to a Czech, and inclined to be indulgent with Croats and Serbs. His reputation for liberalism—in what was a tolerant, cosmopolitan, fatalistic, conservative-reactionary empire, which regarded itself, in the famous Viennese phrase, as being in a situation that was hopeless but not serious—came largely from his support for expanding the dual monarchy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire into a tripartite monarchy that would have given greater autonomy to the Slavs.

It was not a popular position. Austrian hardliners saw no reason for the change, Hungarians feared it would lessen their influence, and Slavic nationalists did not want their people reconciled to Austrian rule; they wanted violence, bloodshed, and nationalist revolution. On 28 June 1914, one of their number—Gavrilo Princip, a tubercular student, an atheist in a famously Catholic if multireligious empire, and a member of the Black Hand, a Serbian terrorist movement—committed the murders that eventually created an independent Yugoslavia, all at the cost of a cataclysmic world war.

What started World War 1 began with one death. It ended with 17 million more dead.

World War 1: A Comprehensive Overview of the Great War

(See Main Article: World War 1: A Comprehensive Overview of the Great War)

World War 1 inflicted hitherto unseen violence on Europe and entangled the entire planet in the conflict—the first time a war was so far-reaching. It broke empires, launched new nations onto the international stage, and caused humanity to question its innate goodness.

Scroll down to learn about the causes of World War 1, major battles, their end, treaties, and aftermath.

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An alliance is an agreement made between two or more countries to give each other help if it is needed. When an alliance is signed, those countries become known as Allies.A number of alliances had been signed by countries between the years 1879 and 1914. These were important because they meant that some countries had no option but to declare war if one of their allies. declared war first. (the table below reads clockwise from the top left picture)ImperialismImperialism is when a country takes over new lands or countries and makes them subject to their rule. By 1900 the British Empire extended over five continents and France had control of large areas of Africa. With the rise of industrialism, countries needed new markets. The amount of lands ‘owned’ by Britain and France increased the rivalry with Germany who had entered the scramble to acquire colonies late and only had small areas of Africa.

Militarism means that the army and military forces are given a high profile by the government. The growing European divide had led to an arms race between the main countries. The armies of both France and Germany had more than doubled between 1870 and 1914 and there was fierce competition between Britain and Germany for mastery of the seas. The British had introduced the ‘Dreadnought’, an effective battleship, in 1906. The Germans soon followed suit introducing their own battleships. The German, Von Schlieffen also drew up a plan of action that involved attacking France through Belgium if Russia made an attack on Germany.

Nationalism means being a strong supporter of the rights and interests of one’s country. The Congress of Vienna, held after Napoleon’s exile to Elba, aimed to sort out problems in Europe. Delegates from Britain, Austria, Prussia, and Russia (the winning allies) decided upon a new Europe that left both Germany and Italy as divided states. Strong nationalist elements led to the reunification of Italy in 1861 and Germany in 1871. The settlement at the end of the Franco-Prussian war left France angry at the loss of Alsace-Lorraine to Germany and keen to regain their lost territory. Large areas of both Austria-Hungary and Serbia were home to differing nationalist groups, all of whom wanted freedom from the states in which they lived.CrisesMoroccan CrisisIn 1904 Morocco had been given to France by Britain, but the Moroccans wanted their independence. In 1905, Germany announced her support for Moroccan independence. War was narrowly avoided by a conference that allowed France to retain possession of Morocco. However, in 1911, the Germans were again protesting against French possession of Morocco. Britain supported France and Germany was persuaded to back down for part of French Congo. Bosnian CrisisIn 1908, Austria-Hungary took over the former Turkish province of Bosnia. This angered Serbians who felt the province should be theirs. Serbia threatened Austria-Hungary with war, Russia, allied to Serbia, mobilized its forces. Germany, allied to Austria-Hungary mobilized its forces and prepared to threaten Russia. War was avoided when Russia backed down. There was, however, a war in the Balkans between 1911 and 1912 when the Balkan states drove Turkey out of the area. The states then fought each other over which area should belong to which state. Austria-Hungary then intervened and forced Serbia to give up some of its acquisitions. The tension between Serbia and Austria-Hungary was high. A Closer Look at the Origins of World War 1At first it all seemed very far away. The possibility of a Great War engulfing Europe had not become a reality since the terrifying days of the Napoleonic Wars. But it did not begin due to the failure of diplomacy. The reasons for the beginning of World War One all start with a wrong turn taken on a road in Sarajevo. On 28 June 1914 Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife, Countess Sophie, were assassinated in Sarajevo, Bosnia. It was the couple’s fourteenth wedding anniversary. They were utterly devoted; indeed it sometimes seemed Sophie was Ferdinand’s only friend. Politically liberal and personally difficult, Ferdinand had married against the wishes of his uncle, Austria’s Emperor Franz Joseph. As a result, his children were removed from any right to succession, but he was still next in line to the throne of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. An empire it surely was, even if its welter of nationalities were only tenuously welded together. Ferdinand was an Austrian, skeptical of Hungarians, married to a Czech, and inclined to be indulgent with Croats and Serbs. His reputation for liberalism—in what was a tolerant, cosmopolitan, fatalistic, conservative-reactionary empire, which regarded itself, in the famous Viennese phrase, as being in a situation that was hopeless but not serious—came largely from his support for expanding the dual monarchy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire into a tripartite monarchy that would have given greater autonomy to the Slavs. It was not a popular position. Austrian hardliners saw no reason for the change, Hungarians feared it would lessen their influence, and Slavic nationalists did not want their people reconciled to Austrian rule; they wanted violence, bloodshed, and nationalist revolution. On 28 June 1914, one of their number—Gavrilo Princip, a tubercular student, an atheist in a famously Catholic if multireligious empire, and a member of the Black Hand, a Serbian terrorist movement—committed the murders that eventually created an independent Yugoslavia, all at the cost of a cataclysmic world war. What started World War 1 began with one death. It ended with 17 million more dead.

ATTEMPTING TO HOLD THE EMPIRE TOGETHERAustria-Hungary’s statesmen knew just how vulnerable they were as a multinational empire. Avenging Franz Ferdinand’s death—even if he was not much liked—was necessary to affirm the dual monarchy’s staying power. Heirs to the throne simply could not be picked off by Slavic nationalists at will and without consequences. While the reaction throughout much of Europe was measured, shock mingling with the assumption that this was a local affair—there was always something new out of Austria-Hungary—Austria’s foreign minister, Count Leopold von Berchtold, advocated “a final and fundamental reckoning with Serbia,” a terror-sponsoring state, the power behind the assassins. He was supported by the hawkish chief of the Austrian general staff, Count Franz Conrad von Hötzendorf, who recognized the danger of Slavic nationalism if it were led by Serbia rather than contained within the Habsburg Empire. If the start of the war were limited to Serbia, the empire could fight it successfully. But of Europe’s five great powers—Austria-Hungary, Germany, France, Russia, and Britain—Austria-Hungary was by far the weakest; it could make no pretense to dominate Europe; defending itself in the Balkans was challenge enough. Barely a quarter of its army was Austrian, another near quarter was Hungarian, and the rest, the majority, was a motley of Czechs, Italians, and Slavs whose devotion to the dual monarchy was open to question. Germany was Austria’s necessary ally to keep the Russian bear from mauling the Austrian eagle—especially as the Russian bear made a pretense of looking on the Balkan states as her lost cubs. What the Russian bear wanted most of all was to splash in the warm water port of Constantinople, the gateway from the Black Sea to the Aegean Sea and the Mediterranean, and her cubs could lead her there.

THE GERMAN BLUNDERBUSSThe Austrians took the position that one was either with the dual monarchy or with the terrorists. Germany was with the dual monarchy. But despite Prussian stereotypes to the contrary, turmoil in the Balkans potentially pitting Austria-Hungary against Russia had for decades made Germany the peacemaker of Central Europe. In the famous formulation of Otto von Bismarck, chancellor of the German Reich from 1871 to 1890, “The whole Eastern question”—by which he meant the Balkans—“is not worth the healthy bones of a Pomeranian musketeer.”Germany was Europe’s most powerful state. United only since 1871 (before that it had been a congeries of kingdoms, principalities, duchies, free cities, and confederations), Germany was an industrial superpower, with the second-largest manufacturing economy in the world (behind the United States), double the steel production of Britain, and world leadership in fields from applied chemistry to electrical engineering. Germany’s industrious population was growing—to 65 million in 1913—casting an ominous shadow over the French, who, for all their reputation as lovers, were not having babies; France boasted a population of only 39 million. The German education system was broad, deep, and effective, stamping out engineers, physicists, and highly trained specialists in every academic and technical field—including the profession of arms, where even the lowliest private was literate. So professional, well-trained, and highly educated was the German army—and so politically dominant was militaristic Prussia within Germany—that the Second Reich was really the kingdom of the German general staff. But Bismarck knew how important it was for Germany, having forged itself through “blood and iron,” to reassure Europe that it was a “contented” power. His chief foreign policy goal was to isolate France and keep Germany allied with Austria and Russia. As Bismarck said, “I am holding two powerful heraldic beasts by their collars, and am keeping them apart for two reasons: first of all, lest they should tear each other to pieces; and secondly, lest they should come to an understanding at our expense.”All this changed with the arrival of Kaiser Wilhelm II, who assumed the throne in 1888 and dismissed Bismarck two years later.

The Kaiser did not follow Theodore Roosevelt’s foreign policy admonition about speaking softly and carrying a big stick. Instead, he spoke like an exploding blunderbuss while insisting on having the biggest stick possible and waving it furiously. He practiced diplomatic brinksmanship, thrusting himself forward, asserting German rights—and then almost invariably backing down, grumbling about the lack of respect granted to his empire. He twisted the lion’s tail when he could. About a third of the world’s Muslim population lived under the Union Jack, so the Kaiser made a trip to Damascus in 1898 and declared himself a Teutonic Saladin: “The [Ottoman] sultan and the 300 million Muslims who revere him as their spiritual leader should know that the German Emperor is their friend forever.” German railroad engineers backed his boast by helping to build the Berlin-to-Baghdad railway and the Hijaz Railway from Damascus to Medina—neither of which was completed before the war, but both of which Britain saw as potential threats to India. Germany’s diplomatic sabre-rattling had inspired some odd alliances. Since 1892 anti-clerical republican France had been allied with Orthodox czarist Russia. Russia was notoriously weak—her armed forces had been humiliated in the Russo-Japanese War of 1904–1905—but the German general staff could not discount her size (170 million people) or her potential to cause trouble in the Balkans. In the west, Britain’s John Bull became the unlikely escort of the French Marianne in 1904 with the Entente Cordiale. On its face, the entente simply resolved imperial issues, but de facto it made Britain an ally of France. It was followed in 1912 by an Anglo-French naval agreement committing the Royal Navy to defend France’s Atlantic coast. In 1907, Britain even agreed to an entente with Russia, which had long been regarded as the great imperial threat to British India. In British eyes the railroad-building, battleship-constructing, Boer-supporting, Philo-Islamic German Kaiser had become the greater threat; and the Russians were equally worried that Germany’s increasingly friendly relationship with the Ottoman Turks could block their dream of acquiring Constantinople.

AUSTRIA DECLARES A SMALL WAR; FRANCE, RUSSIA, AND GERMANY MAKE IT A BIGGER ONE On 23 July, Austria delivered an ultimatum to Serbia. The assassination of the Archduke had put an end to Austrian tolerance. Austria demanded that Serbia ban all propaganda directed against the Habsburg Empire, shut down the nationalist organizations that fanned it, allow Austrian officials to help suppress anti-imperial groups in Serbia, sack Serbian officers as specified by Austria, and allow imperial investigators to bring the terrorists who had conspired against the Archduke to justice. The Serbians were given forty-eight hours to respond. To the Austrians’ surprise, the Serbians agreed to almost everything, quibbling only at allowing Austrian police onto Serbian territory, which the Serbs considered an unacceptable violation of their sovereignty. Even the Kaiser thought Serbia’s response was a “capitulation of the most humiliating character. Now that Serbia has given in, all grounds for war have disappeared.” For the Austrians the point had been to establish the pretext for war, not to get Serbian agreement, and Austria decided Serbia’s response was insufficient. On 28 July, the Habsburg Empire declared war on Serbia.

The Austrians’ declaration of war put the cat among the pigeons or the Teutons among the Slavs. But the first major power to go on full mobilization for what could be a wider war was not Austria or Germany, it was Russia. Russia’s foreign minister Sergei Sazonov saw the Austrian ultimatum as a starting pistol—“c’est la guerre européene!”—that provided Russia cover (and allies) for a strategic lunge at Constantinople. Encouraging Russian belligerence was France, which had its own territorial designs if Russia could tie down German armies on an eastern front. For more than forty years, the French had wanted to regain the territory of Alsace-Lorraine in southwestern Germany. The French knew they could not regain the territory by diplomacy or by fighting Germany on their own. The French could never instigate a war; they could only hope for one in which they had surrounded Germany with enemies and strengthened themselves with allies. And now they had done just that. With the Entente Cordiale, the French believed they had seduced Britain from her previous policy of “splendid isolation” from the Continent. The “Triple Entente” had put the Russian steamroller in the East on the side of la belle France, and in the West procured her the tacit support of the world’s largest navy, backed by the resources of the world’s largest empire. While Europe’s diplomats and statesmen talked about peace, more than a few wanted war. All the major belligerents in the First World War, with the exception of the British Empire and the United States, entered the war thinking they had something to gain. In one sense, what started World War I was opportunism. But all had made fatal miscalculations. Austria, in its desire to punish the Serbs, had misjudged the possibility of a greater war. The Russians, with their eyes on seizing Constantinople, failed to recognize how vulnerable their society was to the shock of a European conflagration. French revanchists misjudged the price of glory. Germany military planning was for a two-front war.

The Schlieffen Plan, drawn up by Field Marshal Alfred Graf von Schlieffen in 1905—and implemented in 1914 by General Helmuth von Moltke the Younger, chief of the German general staff—was to knock out France in six weeks with one enormous blow and then turn Germany’s full strength against the lumbering Russians. Schlieffen polished his plan until the end of his life in 1913. From a purely military point of view, it was a plan of genius, and had it been implemented as designed it might very well have achieved its aims. But the Achilles’ heel of the plan was its amorality. It utterly disregarded the rights of neutral Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg—rights that Germany was pledged to uphold. While to the German general staff these rights were insignificant, they became the direct cause of British intervention in the war. On 1 August, the Germans declared war on Russia; two days later they declared war on France; and on 4 August, they invaded Belgium, which had rejected Germany’s ultimatum for free passage of its troops. Britain then declared war on Germany. German chancellor Bethmann-Hollweg rebuked Britain’s ambassador to Berlin: “Just for a scrap of paper, Britain is going to make war on a kindred nation.” That amoral disregard for scraps of paper was one reason Europe’s Armageddon had begun. When Sir Edward Grey, Britain’s foreign secretary, received word that Germany had declared war on France, he was watching the street lamps being lit below his office window. He remarked to a friend, “The lamps are going out all over Europe; we shall not see them lit again in our lifetime.” In the United States, the lamps would continue to burn brightly, and they would be lit again in Europe, but only after the New World came to redress the balance in the Old.

The Assassination of Franz Ferdinand Franz Ferdinand, aged 51, was heir to the Austro-Hungarian empire. He was married to Sophie Chotek von Chotvoka and had three children. Franz Ferdinand was, however, very unpopular because he had made it clear that once he became Emperor he would make changes. The map below, of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1914, shows that Bosnia/ Herzegovina was controlled by Austria. Austria had annexed Bosnia in 1908, a move that was not popular with the Bosnian people. Franz Ferdinand decided to visit Sarajevo, the capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina, to make an inspection of the Austro-Hungarian troops there. The inspection was scheduled for 28th June 1914. It was planned that Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie would be met at the station and taken by car to the City Hall where they would have lunch before going to inspect the troops. A Serbian terrorist group, called The Black Hand, had decided that the Archduke should be assassinated and the planned visit provided the ideal opportunity. Seven young men who had been trained in bomb-throwing and marksmanship were stationed along the route that Franz Ferdinand’s car would follow from the City Hall to the inspection. The first two terrorists were unable to throw their grenades because the streets were too crowded and the car was traveling quite fast. The third terrorist, a young man called Cabrinovic, threw a grenade that exploded under the car following that of the Archduke. Although the Archduke and his wife were unhurt, some of his attendants were injured and had to be taken to hospital. After lunch at the City Hall, Franz Ferdinand insisted on visiting the injured attendants in the hospital. However, on the way to the hospital, the driver took a wrong turn. Realizing his mistake he stopped the car and began to reverse. Another terrorist, named Gavrilo Princip, stepped forward and fired two shots. The first hit the pregnant Sophia in the stomach, she died almost instantly. The second shot hit the Archduke in the neck. He died a short while later. Gavrilo Princip was arrested but was not executed because he was under 20 years. He was sentenced to twenty years in prison where he died of TB in 1918.
Theatres of War in World War 1The Theatres of War of the First World War are listed in this article, particularly those on the Western Front in France, Belgium, and elsewhere. Although World War One was a world war, most of the fighting was confined to a few key areas. These areas are usually referred to as the theatres of war.

  • Western Front
  • Eastern Front
  • Italian Front
  • Gallipoli
  • The War at Sea

World War 1 Timeline

Causes of World War 1The first world war began in August 1914. It was directly triggered by the assassination of the Austrian archduke, Franz Ferdinand, and his wife, on 28th June 1914 by Bosnian revolutionary, Gavrilo Princip. This event was, however, simply the trigger that set off declarations of war. The actual causes of the war are more complicated and are still debated by historians today.

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How did the Treaty of Versailles Lead to WW2?

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How did the Treaty of Versailles Lead to WW2

President Woodrow Wilson, for his part, urged Americans to be neutral in thought, word, and deed. Yet the president was at heart pro-British. Wilson himself once remarked privately, “England is fighting our fight and you may well understand that I shall not, in the present state of the world’s affairs, place obstacles in her way. . . . I will not take any action to embarrass England when she is fighting for her life and the life of the world.”

Germany’s violation of Belgian neutrality, which involved the passing of troops through Belgium on their way to France, became for the Allies a symbol of barbarity and militarism run amok and a reminder of the need to wipe autocracy from the face of the earth. Germany’s violation of Belgian neutrality was certainly an outrage, but obviously not the greatest atrocity in the history of mankind. The Germans had made the same request of the Belgians that they had of Luxembourg, which accepted them without difficulty: they wanted safe passage for German troops and agreed to compensate Belgians for any damage or for any victuals consumed along the way.

Was the US Involvement in World War One a Mistake?

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Most Americans are unclear about their country’s contribution to victory in World War I. They figure we entered the conflict too late to claim much credit, or maybe they think our intervention was discreditable. Some say we had no compelling national interest to enter the Great War; worse, our intervention allowed Britain and France to force on Germany an unjust, punitive peace that made the rise of Adolf Hitler’s National Socialist German Workers Party inevitable. Had we stayed out of the war, the argument goes, the Europeans would have been compelled to make a reasonable, negotiated peace, and postwar animosity would have been lessened.

WW1 Soldiers: British, German, French, Russian, Italian, and Ottoman

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“The Average WW1 Soldier Was a 110-Pound Villager”

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US Involvement in WW1

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Most Americans are indifferent about the nation’s involvement in World War One (under half say the U.S. had a responsibility to fight in the war; one-in-five say it didn’t). Many figures it entered the conflict too late to claim much credit, or intervention was discreditable. Some say the U.S. had no compelling national interest to enter the Great War; worse, U.S. intervention allowed Britain and France to force on Germany an unjust, punitive peace that made the rise of Adolf Hitler’s National Socialist German Workers Party inevitable. But others argue that America’s involvement saved Europe from a militaristic dictatorship that would have resulted in a worse 20th century. We look at all these aspects of America’s involvement in the war in this episode.

  • President Wilson: Background
    • Wilson had grown up in Virginia and other parts of the South. His father was a minister, and the family moved a lot.
    • Wilson attended Princeton and later taught there. Eventually, he became the president of the university.
    • He was elected Governor of New Jersey and then US president in 1912.
    • A devout Presbyterian, he believed that he was being used by God to affect change worldwide. He saw himself as an outsider and above politics. He tried to communicate directly with the American people, bypassing political institutions.
    • When the war broke out, he was determined to keep the U. S. neutral.
    • He won re-election in 1916, running under the slogan “He has kept us out of war.” But at the same time, he offered to mediate an end to the war. The Europeans rejected his offer.
  • America’s March Toward War
    • When war broke out in 1914, few Americans were interested in getting involved.
    • 12 million immigrants had come to America (most from Europe) since 1900, and many had experienced conscription, European-style military service, and even war. They wanted no part of war.

    • Many immigrants had ties to Germany and Austria-Hungary. Irish immigrants felt no love for the Allies, especially the UK.

    • Still, most Americans sympathized with the Allies. Plus, American trade had increased with the Allies due to British naval policy (especially the blockade), while trade with Germany had been virtually eliminated.

    • German sinkings of ships containing Americans caused Americans to gradually turn against the Germans. The most famous sinking was the Lusitania in 1915, a luxury liner. 1200 people died, including 128 Americans. The Sussex sinking in 1916 also caused a great deal of outrage among Americans.

    • The sinkings led to a movement among Americans called the “Preparedness Campaign.” Preparedness advocates wanted an expanded and well-trained US Army and Navy in the event that America was to join the war. Theodore Roosevelt was a key leader of the movement.

    • Some Americans volunteered to join European forces. One famous unit was the French “Escadrille Lafayette,” an air unit.

    • President Wilson tried to calm the increasingly pro-war passions of Americans, charting a middle ground. He argued that Americans were “too proud to fight.”

    • Between 1914 and 1917, American production greatly increased. Steel production increased 76%. American exports quadrupled. American loans helped finance the Allied war effort, and America went from being a debtor nation to a creditor nation.

    • In February of 1917, Germany announced the resumption of Unrestricted Submarine Warfare. The U. S. broke diplomatic relations with Germany and began arming merchant’s vessels.

    • On March 1, Wilson made the “Zimmermann Telegram” public. This had been sent by the German foreign minister to Mexico. Zimmermann had proposed that Mexico go to war with the US, with German support. In return, Germany would make sure that Mexico received the states of Texas, Arizona, and New Mexico as compensation. This was the last straw for most Americans.

    • On April 6, 1917, the U. S. formally declared war on Germany. In his war message, Wilson said “The world must be made safe for democracy.” But he said the U. S. was not joining the Allies, but rather becoming an “Associated Power.”

Trench Warfare: The Hellish Fighting Conditions of WW1

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“Rats came up from the canal, fed on the plentiful corpses, and multiplied exceedingly. A new officer joined the company and…when he turned in that night he heard a scuffling, shone his torch on the bed, and found two rats on his blanket tussling for the possession of a severed hand.” The scene that Captain Robert Graves described in his autobiography was common for that of many soldiers. There were perhaps few places in the history of warfare as miserable as the trenches. Unlike most armies, which are constantly on the move, the armies of WW1 stayed locked in positions for months or even years. There they festered in disease, cold, hunger, and the fear that the whistle would blow and they would have to go “over the top” and face a hail of enemy artillery as they tried to charge No Man’s Land.

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The world of the trenches quickly took on reality as a world apart. And trench warfare made a permanent imprint on the western imagination. Phrases like “over the top,” “in the trenches,” and “no man’s land” became a permanent part of the vocabularies of the languages of the various powers.

The Structure of Trenches

    • Trenches became increasingly elaborate.

    • Barbed wire barriers were built in front of each side’s trenches.

    • Trenches began to be built in zigzag formations.

    • Boards had to be put at the bottom of the trenches due to moisture.

    • They were typically about 10 feet high and were lined with sandbags. They had a parapet in the front.

    • Trenches had a “fire step” that allowed people to see over the edge.

    • They had a machine gun and mortar batteries placed at intervals.

Between and Behind the Trenches

    • The area in between the two sides was called “No Man’s Land.” It could be anywhere from 30 yards to several hundred yards wide.

    • It was filled with shell holes, the remains of fortifications, and dead bodies.

    • It was usually about 275 yards across.

    • Trenches consisted of several lines: front lines, support lines, reserve lines, and retreat lines. Also, there were supply lines, workshops, training facilities, and HQ.

    • They had dugouts, where up to 3 men could squeeze in for shelter.

    • Trench networks were so complicated that there had to be maps and guides.

    • Behind the trenches were bunkers that were reinforced with concrete. There

    • Behind the bunkers were artillery positions.

    • Some trenches had railways in them, which could be used to quickly bring in reinforcements.

Life in the Trenches

    • Soldiers were constantly exposed to the weather.

    • Snow and mud were commonly present.

    • Soldiers took on near-primitive existences. Filth was everywhere. The smell was horrible due to the rotting bodies of men and animals, overflowing latrines, and the inability of the soldiers to bathe.

    • Rats and vermin were everywhere.

    • Extreme boredom prevailed, although it was punctuated by moments of extreme terror. Soldiers would read and do other time-killing activities to beat the boredom.

    • Heroism seemed pointless. War seemed to be all about technology, not individuals. Soldiers felt dehumanized.

    • Soldiers would be rotated, spending (perhaps one week on the front lines, then a week in the reserve trenches, then time behind the lines (sometimes on leave).

    • The daily routine involved getting ready (“Stand To”) for an attack at the beginning of the day. Then there would be “The Daily Hate”, big artillery or machine-gun barrage. Then if no attack happened, there would be meals, sentry duty, repairing and adding on to trenches, cleaning weapons, inspections, and other duties. At the end of the day, they would “Stand To” again.

    • At night, soldiers had to be prepared for attacks. Lack of sleep was the norm. Sentry duty was assigned in 2-hour shifts.

    • The disease was rampant, like “Trench Foot” and “Trench Fever” (which came from vermin and lice). The British army alone suffered about 20,000 casualties from Trench Foot by the end of 1914. Trench foot decreased as the quality of trenches increased.

    • There was also “Shell Shock” (PTSD).

    • Soldiers gave names to sections of their trenches. The names often evoked places back home.

    • Soldiers tried to make the best of things, often with dark humor. At a British salient at Ypres, there was a spot where an arm was sticking out from a trench wall. Soldiers called the arm “Jack” and would shake the hand on their way out of and back into the trenches (Dr. Vejas Liulevicius).

    • They also published trench newspapers, put on plays, and showed movies.

    • About 1/3 of Allied casualties on the Western Front occurred in the trenches.

    • Dan Carlin: Unlike in WW2 and other wars, in which the armies often moved, in WW1, they mostly stayed put (at least on the Western Front). This means that the soldiers had to fight where they also lived. Bodies had to be buried very close to where the soldiers stayed, and often shellings and the digging of more or deeper trenches caused them to be unearthed.

Technology

    • Machine Guns: Had a range of more than 1000 yards. Fired 600 rounds per minute. One machine gun crew could hold off masses of enemies.

    • No-recoil artillery. It was not jolted out of position by every firing. It also did not have to be re-sighted or recalibrated. This allowed for precise attacks.

    • Poison Gas: First used by Germany on April 22, 1915

    • All this gave the defense a great advantage. The “Cult of the Offensive” was dead.

A Typical Attack

    • A massive artillery barrage (intended to cut barbed wire and damage enemy defenses). But the barrages seldom accomplished either of these things. Instead, they ruined the element of surprise.

    • Attacking units were ordered to go “Over the Top”…out of the trenches with bayonet charges, through no man’s land, and into enemy trenches.

    • However, the artillery barrages made attacks more difficult by tearing up no man’s land. Soldiers sometimes got caught on barbed wire.

    • The attackers would be mowed down by machine guns operated by the defenders.

    • “Defense was mechanized; the attack was not.” – AJP Taylor

    • Many commanders refused to adapt to the new reality. They stubbornly clung to old notions of warfare, including cavalry, heroic bayonet charges, and the Cult of the Offensive.

WW1 Flying Aces: The Red Baron and More

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Since the first successful flight of an airplane, people had imagined and dreamed of airplanes being used for combat. H. G. Wells’s 1908 book (The War in the Air was an example. When World War One broke out, there were only about 1000 planes on all sides. Planes were very basic. Cockpits were open, instruments were rudimentary, and there were no navigational aids. Pilots had to use maps, which were not always reliable. Getting lost was common. Sometimes pilots had to land and ask for directions! At the beginning of the war, airplanes were seen as being almost exclusively for reconnaissance, taking the job formerly done by cavalry. Eventually, however, it became necessary for planes to eliminate the observation planes of the enemy, so air-to-air combat (dogfights) became common.

The Development of Combat Aircraft

    • Since the first successful flight of an airplane, people had imagined and dreamed of airplanes being used for combat. H. G. Wells (The War in the Air, 1908) was an example.

    • Planes had been used in minor wars beginning in the 1910s.

    • Each Great Power had formed air branches of the army and/or navy. France had the most developed one. Britain had two: The Royal Flying Corps (part of the army) and the Royal Naval Air Service (part of the navy). They would be merged into the Royal Air Force, the first independent air service, in 1917. The German service was called the Luftstreitkrafte.

    • When the war broke out, there were only about 1000 planes on all sides.

    • Planes were very basic. Cockpits were open, instruments were rudimentary, and there were no navigational aids. Pilots had to use maps, which were not always reliable. Getting lost was common. Sometimes pilots had to land and ask directions!

    • At the beginning of the war, airplanes were seen as being almost exclusively for reconnaissance, taking the job formerly done by cavalry. They were also used for artillery spotting and range finding. Flying reconnaissance missions was dangerous, however.

    • Eventually, however, it became necessary for planes to eliminate the observation planes of the enemy, so air-to-air combat (dogfights) became common.

    • Plane technology improved throughout the war, and specialized planes began to emerge (seaplanes, fighters, bombers). There were biplanes and triplanes. Popular makes included the Neuport, the Sopwith Pup and Sopwith Camel, and the German Fokker triplane.

    • Plane speeds increased throughout the war, from about 75 mph at the start of the war to nearly twice that at the end.

    • The air forces increased greatly in size. At the beginning of the war, the British air services had 300 officers and about 1800 men. By the end of the war, they had 27,000 officers and over 300,000 men. France had less than 140 aircraft at the start of the war but 4500 at the end of the war (the most of all powers).

    • Production of planes also increased greatly. By the war’s end, France was building as many planes every day as the total number they had at the start of the war.

    • Aircraft weaponry became more elaborate. At the beginning of the war, pilots just shot at each other with pistols or other small arms.

    • Then machine guns were installed, but the bullets would hit the propeller. Metal plates were installed on propeller blades to deflect the bullets. But the bullets would sometimes ricochet, and repeated hits would wear off the plates.

    • This problem was solved by Dutch engineer Anthony Fokker, who invented an interrupter gear that synchronized the gun’s action with the propeller. This invention gave the Central Powers air superiority (“The Fokker Scourge”) for a while, but only for about a year. After about a year, the Allies had developed this technology and the German advantage was lost.

WW1 Gas Attacks: When Poison Was Released in 1915

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ww1 gas attacks

WW1 And The Use of Gas As A Weapon”

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In 1915, the Central Powers and Allies dug in their heels and tried desperately to break the stalemate of the war, still hoping for a short conflict on the scale of a few months. Poison gas was used for the first time. Germans experimented with flamethrowers and armored shields, while the French began using hand grenades.  In April, Germans began the Second Battle of Ypres and used 168 tons of chlorine gas.  On the Eastern Front, Austria launched three offensives against Russian forces in the Carpathians.  All three failed miserably. As many as 100,000 Austrian soldiers froze to death. Further north, Russian forces began to retreat from Warsaw and Riga.  In Poland, Russian forces adopted a “scorched earth policy.”  They forced Poles and other residents of Poland and western Russia to burn their crops and abandon their homes. This created millions of refugees. In December, the remains of the Serbian Army, along with several hundred thousand civilians, fled through the freezing mountains of Montenegro and Albania to the coast.  200,000 died along the way (out of 700,000 initially). Finally, the Ottomans began the forced deportation of Armenians to Syria, which was actually a death march. It became known as the Armenian Genocide in which 1.5 million were slaughtered.

Western Front

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    1. Winter Offensives: Joffre wanted to push the Germans back and help prevent them from sending more troops to the East. So they launched a series of offensives in late 1914 and 1915

      1. First Battle of Artois (17 Dec 1914 – 13 Jan 1915)

      2. First Champagne Offensive (20 Dec 1914 – 17 March 1915). 93.000 French casualties and 46,000 German.

      3. The Christmas Truce

      4. Jan 31: Poison gas used for first time – it had little effect due to cold weather. In March, Germans experimented with flamethrowers and armored shields, while the French began using hand grenades.

      5. March 10: British First Army (let by Sir Douglas Haig) attacked Germans at Neuve-Chappelle. His policy was “bite and hold,” which meant quickly taking a piece of the enemy’s line and forcing them to counterattack it, suffering many casualties.

Spring Offenses

      1. April 17: The British launched an attack at Hill 60, in which they used mines to undermine the German position.

      2. April 22: Germans began the Second Battle of Ypres and used 168 tons of chlorine gas. This time it had devastating consequences. The British used makeshift respirators, including cloths draped in urine. The Allies held the town. The battle lasted just over a month.

      3. May 8: The British and French launched a combined offensive (first time) at the Second Battle of Artois. The battle lasted 6 weeks. The French lost 100,000 casualties, while the Germans lost 75,000.

    1. In late September, the British and French launched offensives at Loos, Artois (Third Battle), and Champagne (Second Battle). The British used poison gas for the first time. The British and French initially took their objectives, but a stubborn German defense caused massive Allied casualties. Germans used phosgene gas (worse than chlorine). These ended the first week of November. Neither side gained anything.

    2. On December 19, Sir John French was replaced as the BEF commander by Sir Douglas Haig.

Eastern Front

    1. Austria launched three offensives against Russian forces in the Carpathians. All three failed miserably. As many as 100,000 Austrian soldiers froze to death.

    2. Przemysl fell to the Russians on March 23. 126,000 prisoners and over 700 big guns fell to the Russians.

    3. May 1: A combined German-Austrian army launched an offensive against the Russians at Gorlice and Tarnow. The Russians had to retreat, and they lost all the land they had gained since the start of the war. 30,000 Russian prisoners were taken. Austrian forces recaptured Przemysl on June 3 and Lvov on June 22.

    4. Further north, Russian forces began to retreat from Warsaw and Riga. In Poland, Russian forces adopted a “scorched earth policy.” They forced Poles and other residents of Poland and western Russia to burn their crops and abandon their homes. This created millions of refugees.

    5. Warsaw fell to the German Army on August 5. Soon after Ivangorod, Kovno, Novogeorgiev, Brest-Litovsk, Bialystock, and the Grodno fortress fell. 1.5 million Russian prisoners had been taken by the end of August. Soon after, Austrian and German forces linked up to form a single line.

    6. On September 5, Tsar Nicolas removed the Grand Duke Nikolai from command and assumed personal command of the army.

    7. On September 18, the Germans took Vilnius and drove its Russian defenders completely out of Poland and Galicia. Russia had lost 300 miles of territory. But the ground became muddy and the Russians improved their defenses. This stopped the German advance.

    8. After Christmas, the Russian army launched major offensives in Bessarabia, Eastern Galicia, and also attacked in other places, including the Prippett Marshes. None of these attacks succeeded.

    9. By the end of 1915, Russia had suffered 3.4 million casualties and there were 2 million Russians displaced by the war.

    10. In January, 1916, Russia successfully attacked through the

The Balkans

    1. In March, a typhus epidemic broke out, killing many Serbs and Austrians. The outbreak prevented any attacks on Serbia for a while.

    2. On April 1, a force of Bulgarian Turks attacked Valandovo, in Macedonia (then part of Serbia). Serb forces repelled the invasion.

    3. On September 6, Bulgaria joined the war on the side of the Central Powers. Along with Austria-Hungary and Germany, they invaded Serbia the next month (beginning October 6). Belgrade fell on October 9. (Bulgaria would end up sending 25% of its entire population to war…that’s the highest percentage.)

    4. On November 5, Nis fell, giving the Central Powers a direct rail link from Berlin to Constantinople. At the end of the month, the Serbian army was defeated and forced to retreat.

    5. In December, the remains of the Serbian Army, along with several hundred thousand civilians, fled through the freezing mountains of Montenegro and Albania to the coast. 200,000 died along the way (out of 700,000 initially). Allied naval forces evacuated them from the Albanian coast to Corfu.

    6. French and British forces tried to help the Serbian army but were pushed by the Bulgarian army out of Macedonia into Greece. They established a base at Salonika (over the objections of the Greek government, which was neutral).

    7. In January 2016, the Austrian army invaded Montenegro. The government surrendered, but the army fled into Albania. The Austrians pursued them.

Southern Front

    1. February: Turkish attacked British forces in Egypt in an attempt to take the Suez Canal. They were soundly defeated.

    2. Turkey began the forced deportation of Armenians.

    3. British troops defend Basra and advance up the Tigris Valley toward Baghdad. In December, they became trapped at Kut-al-Amara., which the Turks put under siege.

    4. The next month, a rescue operation tried but failed to relieve them. Repeated attempts to rescue them would also fail, and the British force would eventually surrender in April 1916.

    5. May 23: Italy joins the war on the side of the Allies and attacked Austria-Hungary at the Isonzo River. For the next few months, they fought multiple battles there but made no gains. The fighting finally ended on December 10 due to winter weather.

    6. In the summer, Italy raided the Adriatic coast in several places.

Sea & Air

    1. December 14, 1914: German ships bombarded the cities of Scarborough, Whitley, and Hartleypool. This killed several civilians (first time since 1690!), but it increased popular British hatred for the Germans.

    2. Feb: Germans begin Unrestricted Submarine Warfare

    3. Mar: British start a sea blockade of Germany. Later they mine the North Sea.

    4. May 7: A German U-boat sinks the Lusitania (1200 people, including 120 Americans are killed).

    5. The Dutch inventor Anthony Fokker invents (for the Germans) developed interrupter gear, which led to German domination of the skies (the “Fokker Scourge”).

    6. On April 1916 the Germans began a policy of Unrestricted Submarine Warfare.

 

20TH CENTURY HISTORY – PAGE 2

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