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FIRST WORLD WAR: Timeline

The Harrogate territorials marching to the station en route to York on August  5, 1914. (1401271AM)

The Harrogate territorials marching to the station en route to York on August 5, 1914. (1401271AM)

We look back at the key events and battles of the First World War, from 1914 to 1918.

1914

June 28: Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the throne of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and his wife Sophie, Duchess of Hohenberg, are assassinated in Sarajevo, Bosnia.

June 29: Austria-Hungary accuses Serbia of being involved in the assassination.

July 5: Kaiser Wilhelm II promises German support for Austrian empire against Serbia.

July 20: Austro-Hungarian troops sent to the Serbian border.

July 25: Serbia starts to mobilise its army and Russia, an ally of Serbia, stations troops on the Russo-Austrian frontier.

July 28: Austria-Hungary declares war on Serbia.

July 29: Great Britain warns Germany that it cannot stay neutral and calls for a political solution to the crisis. Austrians bombard Serbian capital Belgrade, while German patrols cross the French border.

August 1: Germany declares war on Russia. The French order mobilisation and Italy and Belgium announce neutrality.

August 3: Germany declares war on France and invades neutral Belgium. Britain sends Germany an ultimatum to withdraw from Belgium and gives order for troops to mobilise.

August 4: USA declares neutrality and Germany declares war on Belgium. Britain gives Austria-Hungary an ultimatum to stand down from hostilities. This is rejected and a state of war is declared at 11pm.

August 6: Royal Navy cruiser HMS Amphion is sunk by German mines in the North Sea, with the loss of 150 men and the first British casualties of war.

August 7: The first British troops land in France with 120,000 trained members of the regular British Army forming the British Expeditionary Force (BEF).

August 11: ‘Your King and Country Need You’ slogan is published, calling for men to join Lord Kitchener’s new army.

August 23: The Battle of Mons was the BEF’s first major action of the war. British troops were vastly outnumbered and forced to retreat deep into France for the next two weeks.

August 25: The Royal Flying Corps, who were the air arm of the British Army claimed their first ‘kill’ as three aircrafts from 2nd Squadron forced down a German reconnaissance plane.

September 6: The First Battle of Marne. This halts the German advance but it comes at a heavy cost with 13,000 British, 250,000 French and 250,000 German casualties reported.

October 19: First Battle of Ypres. The Germans launch a major attack on Ypres in Belgium. Despite heavy losses British, French and Belgian troops fend off the attack.

October 29: Turkey enters the war on the side of Germany.

November 22: The Battle of Ypres came to an end after a month of fighting. The First Battle of Ypres had taken the lives of more than 5,000 British and 5,000 German soldiers, marking the start of trench warfare on the Western Front.

December 8: The Battle of Falkland Islands. A Royal Navy task force sinks a German squadron of Admiral Graf Von Spee in the South Atlantic off the coast of Argentina, with only the SMS Dresden escaping.

December 16: The war comes to our shores. The German navy bombards coastal towns including Whitby and Scarborough. The attack killed 137 civilians and wounded many others, proving that the British mainland is vulnerable to attack.

1915

JAN 19: The first airborne attack on British soil, with Zeppelins bombing Great Yarmouth and King’s Lynn, killing five civilians. Part of a two-day bombing mission against Britain.

FEB 18: The blockade of Britain by German U-boats begins. All vessels, including those from neutral countries, are considered targets.

FEB 19: British and French battleships launch a massive attack on the Dardanelles. The British, and especially Lord of the Admiralty Winston Churchill, become convinced it is possible to win control of the strait just through the Navy.

MARCH 10: British offensive begins at Neuve Chapelle. Allied losses amount to 12,800 in two days. Some of the blame falls on the poor quality and lack of British shells leading to the ‘shell crisis.’

APRIL 22: Second battle of Ypres begins and sees the first use of poison gas on the Western Front by the Germans. The Allies suffer 58,000 casualties at the Second Battle of Ypres while the German figure is 38,000.

APRIL 25: The Allies land at Gallipoli, in Turkey, and suffer heavy losses.

MAY 2: On the Eastern Front, a combined Austro-German offensive on Galicia begins. Within two days the Russians are in full retreat.

MAY 7: A German U-Boat sinks the British passenger liner Lusitania off the Irish coast, with the loss of 1,201 lives, including over 100 Americans and many women and children. The incident causes a diplomatic crisis between the US and Germany.

MAY 23: Italy declares war on Austria-Hungary, entering the war on the side of Britain, France and Russia.

MAY 25: The ‘shell crisis’ exposes the British Government’s failure to support frontline troops. Anger at the growing number of casualties leads to a coalition government with Prime Minister Asquith struggling to maintain control of the House of Commons.

JUNE 21: British troops reach the Euphrates in Mesopotamia and reoccupy Aden.

JULY 15: National Registration Act is introduced in Britain requiring all eligible men to register for military service.

AUGUST 4: The Germans annex Warsaw effectively ending the Russian threat on the Eastern Front.

AUGUST 16: A U-boat bombards Whitehaven, proving that German submarines could breach Britain’s maritime defences.

SEPTEMBER 25: At the Battle of Loos the British use gas for the first time but the wind blows this over their own troops resulting in 2,632 casualties –including seven dead.

SEPTEMBER 27: Second Lieutenant John Kipling of the British army, the only son of author Rudyard Kipling, is killed at the Battle of Loos. The death toll is greater than in any previous battle of the war.

OCTOBER 12: British nurse Edith Cavell, 49, is executed by a German firing squad in Brussels for helping British and French POWs escape to Holland.

DECEMBER 15: In the wake of the British defeat at Loos, Sir Douglas Haig replaces Sir John French as commander-in-chief of all British forces on the Western Front.

DECEMBER 20: Allies complete the evacuation of 83,000 troops from Gallipoli without losing a single soldier or sailor in the withdrawal.

1916

January 4: The Battle of Sheikh Sa’ad is the first attempt to relieve the bombarded

British in Kut, Mesopotamia.

The Turkish finally give way but the British suffer 4,000 casualties, a situation made worse by the poor medical facilities.

January 24: The British Government passes the Military Service Act which introduces conscription. The Act becomes law on May 25.

February 21: The Battle of Verdun starts with a German offensive, part of a plan to “bleed” the French Army to death. The battle lasts 10 months with more than a million casualties.

March 9: Germany declares war on Portugal as does Austria a few days later.

April 29: The siege of the garrison at Kut in Mesopotamia ends after 143 days and 3,000 British and 6,000 Indian troops are taken prisoner. The majority of these die of disease and starvation in prison camps.

May 31: The Battle of Jutland. British and German naval fleets clash in the North Sea and although the Germans inflict heavier losses on the Royal Navy (14 ships and 6,100 men) its fleet is irreparably damaged for the rest of the war.

June 4: The Russian Brusilov Offensive begins on the Eastern Front. It takes Austro-Hungarian troops by surprise, crippling them as an attacking force.

July 1: The Battle of the Somme sees an Allied force of around 750,000 men unleashed along a 25 mile front. By the end of the day nearly 60,000 were dead, wounded or missing. It remains the worst day’s fighting in British military history.

July 14: The Battle of Bazentin Ridge marks the end of the first Somme Offensive. The British manage to cross the German line but fail to defeat the opposition fast enough to take full advantage. They lose 9,000 men in the battle.

August 28: Italy declares war on Germany. The same day that Kaiser Wilhelm appoints Field Marshal Paul von Hindenburg as Germany’s new army chief following setbacks at Verdun and on the Eastern Front.

September 2: The first Zeppelin is shot down over Britain with the Royal Flying Corps using new explosives and incendiary bullets.

September 15: The Battle of Flers-Courcelette marks the third stage of the Somme Offensive. This was the first time British troops used tanks on the battlefield, attacking Germans along a five-mile front. The tanks allowed them to advance 2,000 yards.

September 26: The Battle of Thiepval begins with tanks again playing a key role.

November 13: The Battle of Ancre marks the fourth phase of the Somme Offensive. British troops capture the towns of Beaumont Hamel and St Pierre Division, taking nearly 4,000 prisoners.

December 7: David Lloyd George becomes Prime Minister of Britain. Although Lloyd George is not on good terms with the generals fighting the campaign on the Western Front, they respect the energy he brings into the political side of the campaign.

December 12: Germany delivers Peace Note to Allies suggesting compromise.

December 19: The battle of Verdun ends. It is the longest and costliest battle on the Western Front with nearly a million German and French casualties.

1917

JANUARY 31: Germany announces it will continue its submarine warfare, in the hopes of starving Britain into submission.

FEBRUARY 3: The US cuts diplomatic ties with Germany as U-Boats threaten American shipping.

FEBRUARY 21: What is known as the Great German Withdrawal to the Hindenburg line begins.

FEBRUARY 24: The Turks retreat to Baghdad as British troops retake Kut in Mesopotamia.

MARCH 15: Tsar Nicholas II abdicates as Moscow falls to Russian Revolutionaries. The demise of the Russian Army allows Germany to concentrate on the Western Front.

MARCH 26: The first battle of Gaza, in Palestine, as British troops try to cut off Turkish forces.

APRIL 6: The US declares war on Germany and begins mobilising troops.

APRIL 9: The Battle of Arras. Supported by Canadian and Australian troops, the British make a 3.5 mile territorial

gain. However, the Germans quickly regroup and the Allies suffer 150,000 casualties compared to 100,000 among

the Germans.

APRIL 16: The second battle of Aisne. French soldiers attack south of the Hindenburg Line but losses are appalling triggering mutinies in the French Army.

JUNE 7: The Battle of Messines Ridge. The British take the German-held ridge, south of Ypres, with few casualties.

It follows the detonation

of 19 mines under the German front lines. Around 10,000 Germans stationed on the ridge vanished instantly and the explosions were reportedly so loud they were heard in England.

JUNE 13: The Germans launch their first major bombing raid on London, killing 162 people.

JUNE 25: US troops arrive in France.

AUGUST 15: The Battle of Lens (Hill 70). Led by the Canadians, the Allies take the hill and hold firm against five German counter-attacks.

AUGUST 20: The third battle of Verdun begins with the French recovering territory lost from the earlier battles.

OCTOBER 9: The third part of the Ypres Offensive begins. Previous bombardments broke the drainage systems and along with heavy rain turns the battlefield into a quagmire.

OCTOBER 12: The bad weather continues as the Allies launch attacks against the Passchendaele Ridge but become bogged down in the mud.

OCTOBER 19: The last airship raid on Britain.

OCTOBER 26: The second battle of Passchendaele costs the Allies 12,000 casualties for a gain of only a few hundred yards.

OCTOBER 31: Battle of Beersheba, Palestine. The British take the town aided by a group of Arab fighters led by TE Lawrence.

NOVEMBER 7: The British capture Gaza.

NOVEMBER 10: Battle of Passchendaele ends. Over months of fighting the allies moved forward only 5 miles but control the battlefield. Half a million men are injured with 140,000 killed.

NOVEMBER 20: The battle of Cambrai begins, marked by the first ever mass attack by tanks.

DECEMBER 11: Jerusalem is captured by the British, ending 673 years of Turkish rule.

1918

JANUARY 16: Riots break out in Vienna and Budapest amid mounting unhappiness with the war.

MARCH 3: At Brest-Litovsk Russia signs a separate peace treaty with Germany and her Allies.

MARCH 21: Second battle of the Somme. Germany launches a spring offensive known as the ‘Kaiserschlacht’ along a 50- mile front.

MARCH 22: The Saint Michael Offensive is a German success. Using new “stormtroopers” they smash through British positions taking 16,000 prisoners.

APRIL 5: The second battle of the Somme comes to a halt outside Amiens as British and Australians forces hold the line.

APRIL 9: The Battle of the Lys marks the start of the second German spring offensive.

APRIL 22: The Allies carry out raids on Ostend and Zeebrugge in an attempt to blockade the entrances. Zeebrugge was partially successful but Ostend was not.

APRIL 29:The Battle of the Lys ends with three British divisions holding off 13 German divisions inflicting crippling losses.

MAY 19: The German Air Force launches its biggest attack on London with 49 civilians killed and 177 injured.

MAY 27: Operation Blucher. The third German spring offensive targets the French army along the Aisne River. The Germans come within 50 miles of Paris.

JUNE 9: The Germans launch their fourth offensive but it is halted by the French and Americans.

JUNE 15: The second battle of the Piave River, Italy. Austria launches a massive offensive only to be pushed back by Italian and British troops who destroy the Austro-Hungarian army.

JULY 15: The second battle of the Marne. This marks the final phase of the German Spring Offensive. The Allies counter attack ending German plans for the invasion of Flanders.

AUGUST 8: The second battle of Amiens begins as German resistance starts to crumble.

SEPTEMBER 22: The Great Allied victory in the Balkans.

SEPTEMBER 27: The British and American Offensive on the Cambrai Front sees them break through the Hindenburg Line.

OCTOBER 4: The German and Austrian peace proposal is sent to US President Woodrow Wilson. The President responds with his own list of demands including German withdrawal from all occupied territories.

OCTOBER 17: British and American troops launch attacks at the Battle of the Selle. The Belgians retake Ostend and the whole of the Channel coast in the west of Flanders is liberated.

OCTOBER 30: Turkey signs an armistice with the Allies after surrendering to the British.

NOVEMBER 3: Sailors in the Germany Navy mutiny as Austria-Hungary signs an armistice with the Allies.

NOVEMBER 8: Armistice negotiations between the Allies and Germans start in Marshal Ferdinand Foch’s railway carriage HQ at Compiègne.

NOVEMBER 9: Kaiser Wilhelm II abdicates and flees to Holland as chaos breaks out in Germany.

NOVEMBER 11: ARMISTICE DAY – The Armistice is signed at 5am and comes into effect at 11am. At 10.57am Canadian Private George Lawrence Price is killed while on patrol. He is the last soldier to die in action on the Western Front.

 

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