WW1 Newsreel: The key events of the terrible conflict
The key events leading up to, and during, World War 1.
August 27, 1911
Angered by a standoff with France over influence in Morocco the previous month, Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany makes a speech saying his nation wants its "place in the sun". Germany, which has been aggressively seeking colonial territories in a bid to catch up with the other European imperial powers, is determined not to back down from confrontation again.
October 8, 1912
Tiny Montenegro invades the ailing Ottoman Empire, sparking the First Balkan War. Serbia, Greece and Bulgaria ally with Montenegro, and the Ottomans capitulate within months. Serbia grows in wealth and territory, alarming Austria-Hungary, which fears that the increasingly assertive Balkan state will encourage the many Serbs living within the Austro-Hungarian Empire's borders to secede.
December 13, 1912
Determined to oppose the introduction of Home Rule in Ireland, the Ulster Unionist Council forms the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF, pictured left). By the summer of 1914, 90,000 men have joined the paramilitary group.
Cousins Kaiser Wilhelm, Britain's George V and Tsar Nicholas II of Russia meet – for the last time – in Berlin for the wedding of Wilhelm's daughter. Although tensions had been running high between Britain and Germany in the previous decade due to a naval arms race, relations between them have warmed recently. The idea of an imminent war between the Great Powers seems fanciful.
The UVF smuggle 25,000 German rifles and ammunition into Larne. In response, Erskine Childers lands weapons for the nationalist Irish Volunteer Force at Howth the following month.
June 28, 1914
Gavrilo Princip, a 19-year-old Bosnian Serb, assassinates Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, and his wife Sophie in Sarajevo. Princip and his co-conspirators got their weapons from the Black Hand, a terrorist group with links to the Serbian army, and Austria-Hungary blames the Serbian government for the assassination.
Having received a guarantee of support from Germany's Kaiser Wilhelm, the Austrians deliver a harsh ultimatum to Serbia on July 23, intending to provoke the Balkan nation into war. Serbia is prepared to make some concessions, but Austria-Hungary declares war on July 28. Serbia's ally Russia begins mobilising its troops in response.
August 1 – 4, 1914
Germany declares war on Russia on August 1 and on Russia's ally France two days later. Germany demands that neutral Belgium allows German troops to march through its territory to attack France. Belgium refuses and is invaded, and its ally Britain declares war on Germany on August 4. Before the end of the year, Japan joins the Allies and Turkey enters the conflict on the side of the Central Powers. The world is at war.
In Ireland, the Home Rule Bill is suspended – some 80,000 men, both unionist and nationalist, will enlist in the British army in the first year of the war.
August 26-30, 1914
On the Eastern Front, the German army inflicts a costly defeat on Russian forces at the Battle of Tannenberg, halting Russia's attack on East Prussia.
German forces advance towards Paris, but are halted and then pushed back by French and British troops at the Battle of the Marne. The Battle of the Aisne later in the month marks the beginning of static, trench warfare on the Western Front as, faced with a stalemate, both sides dig in.
April 24, 1915
Turkey begins rounding up and deporting Armenians living in the east of the country, claiming they are collaborating with its enemy, Russia. By 1918, an estimated 800,000 – 1.5 million Armenians will have died in what is now seen by historians as an act of genocide.
April 25, 1915
Hoping to knock Turkey out of the war, the Allies land troops at Gallipoli, including a sizeable Irish contingent. Conceived by First Lord of the Admiralty Winston Churchill (left), the plan turns out to be a costly disaster. Despite further troop landings in August, the Allies are pinned down by Turkish forces, and the operation is abandoned in 1916.
May 31, 1915
Germany launches its first Zeppelin air raid on London (right). The 1915 airship attacks are the first time British civilians have suffered casualties on the home front – by the end of the conflict, more than 1,500 people in the UK will have died in bombing raids.
February 21, 1916
German forces launch a massive attack on the French fortress of Verdun. The battle is a slaughter, with some 400,000 casualties on each side, but Verdun becomes a symbol of French resistance, encapsulated by General Philippe Petain's vow, "They shall not pass".
April 24, 1916
Irish republicans led by Padraig Pearse seize several buildings in Dublin on Easter Monday. The British authorities impose martial law and seal off the capital from the rest of the country, shelling the rebel strongholds before infantry attacks begin. The surviving republicans surrender on April 29, with much of Dublin in ruins. Irish public opinion is initially unsympathetic to the rebels, though this changes after the British execute Pearse and 14 other Easter Rising leaders.
May 31, 1916
The Battle of Jutland, the only major encounter between the British and German fleets in the war, begins. The battle is inconclusive – Germany inflicts heavy losses on the British fleet, but fails to wrest control of the North Sea from the Royal Navy.
July 1, 1916
Britain launches its Somme offensive. By the end of the first day, some 20,000 British soldiers are dead, and casualties on both sides will number more than a million before the battle ends in November. Irish troops, including the Royal Dublin Fusiliers and 36th (Ulster) Division – which is comprised of UVF men – are in the thick of the fighting.
September 15, 1916
Tanks are used for the first time in warfare, as Britain deploys 50 of the machines on the Somme battlefield.
April 6, 1917
Angered by US casualties due to U-boat attacks and German overtures to Mexico, encouraging it to attack America, the United States declares war on Germany. The first US troops arrive in France in June.
July 31, 1917
On the Western Front, British forces launch the Third Battle of Ypres, a muddy bloodbath which culminates in the seizure of Passchendaele Ridge in November.
November 7, 1917
In Russia, Vladimir Lenin's Bolsheviks seize power from the moderate provisional government that took over when Tsar Nicholas abdicated in March. The Bolsheviks sue for peace with Germany, signing the humiliating Brest-Litovsk Treaty the following year.
March 21, 1918
Transferring troops from the Eastern Front, Germany launches the massive Kaiserschlacht offensive in a last-ditch attempt to break the stalemate on the Western Front. Although initially successful, the attack has ground to a halt by April.
August 8, 1918
British, Canadian and Australian forces, led by 600 tanks, attack the German lines at Amiens. German defences crumble and, after the static warfare of the past four years, the Allies advance 11km by nightfall in what German general Erich Ludendorff calls "the Black Day of the German army."
October 14, 1918
Adolf Hitler, an Austrian serving as a corporal with the German army, is wounded in a British gas attack at Ypres.
October/ November 1918
A mutiny in the German fleet sparks uprisings across the country. The Kaiser abdicates and Germany's new civilian government requests an armistice.
November 11, 1918
A German delegation signs the armistice in a railway carriage in Compiegne, France. Fighting ceases at 11am – the last soldier to die in the war, Canadian George Price, is killed by a German sniper at 10.58am.
A global flu pandemic kills more than 50 million people, some three times the number killed in the war.
June 28, 1919
The Treaty of Versailles, finalising the peace terms, is signed by the war's participants in the French palace. The settlement imposes harsh terms on Germany, forcing it to accept a "war guilt" clause and crippling reparations, which sows the seeds for years of political unrest and the eventual rise to power of Adolf Hitler's Nazi Party.
See our dedicated World War 1 section here.
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