Detailed Timeline of
Great War/World War I (1914
A New Terrible Type of Warfare, New
Nations Created in Europe
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World War I
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Austria’s Ferdinand Assassinated in
Bosnia – Trigger to War (June 28, 1914):
Ferdinand, the heir to the Austria-Hungarian throne was assassinated
while visiting Sarajevo, Bosnia by a Bosnian Serb revolutionary. The
culprit escaped into Serbia. Serbia and Bosnia were in the midst of a
pro-Slav movement, which opposed Austrian possession of Slav lands in
the Balkans, such as Bosnia. Austria elected to deal harshly with
Serbia, offering a list of steep demands. Austria-Hungary’s demands
included strict Serbian compliance with an investigation, harsh
punishment against the suspected revolutionary group (the Young
Bosnians), all with close Austrian oversight. Serbia was on the verge of
accepting in order to avoid war over the matter, but was reassured
support by Russia, who jumped on the opportunity to assert its will and
influence in the Slavic nations of the Balkans. Austria consequently
delared war on Serbia. Russia followed with a declaration of war on
Austria-Hungary, setting into motion a chain reaction which brought the
other European powers into the conflict, bringing to a head the tensions
that had been building up for decades, instigating WWI.
(Timeline Continued Below)
Causes of World War I
1. Colonial Rivalries. European powers shared an insatiable
appetite for expansionism and wealth creation. Natural resources were
required to feed their growing industrialization capabilities. Most land
throughout the world the could be feasibly conquered was already under
European colonial control, leaving colonial powers to fight over
increasingly limited territory, such as the African interior. By the
late 1800s, bitter rivalries developed as colonial powers butted heads
with greater frequency.
2. Arms Race. As economic rivalries and colonial competition came
to a boiling point, nations began to build their military arsenals at an
unprecedented rate. Armament build-ups continued to spiral out of
control as European powers sought to gain a military advantage over one
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3. Unmitigated Nationalism. European kingdoms had given way to
nation-states throughout the 1800s following the Napoleonic Wars,
lending widespread support to colonial, economic and military expansion.
The Napoleonic Wars taught Europeans that it was critical to consolidate
and strengthen one’s nation in relation to potential rivals.
Furthermore, new nations and new colonial powers such as the German
Empire and Italy (formed comparatively recently, during the mid-1800s)
were especially fervent, as they had been under foreign domination for
so long, and were eager to reverse the situation. Their tactics became
increasingly brutal and hostile as they felt compelled to play catch up
with established colonial powers such as the United Kingdom, France and
4. Complex Network of Alliances. As tensions grew, alliances were
formed. Nearly all of the European powers were mobilized and prepared to
go to war at the drop of a hat. As Germany grew in strength, France and
the UK formed an alliance to keep it in check. By the late 1800s,
Germany was threatening UK naval dominance. France had just lost an
important region to Germany from their loss in the Franco-Prussian War
of 1870, and remained vulnerable to this still-growing power along their
eastern border. Russia and Austria-Hungary had become distrustful of one
another, as both were interested in gaining control over the Balkans.
France and the UK recruited Russia to their alliance to force Germany
into a two-front war in the event of hostilities, while Russia sought
help in order to counterbalance the Austrian threat. Consequently,
Germany and Austria-Hungary became natural bedfellows. They recruited
the Ottoman Empire based in Turkey to neutralize Russia, with the
promise of regaining lost Balkan territories used as a carrot.
5. The Catalyst. The Balkans had become a tinder box, as both
Austria and Russia had designs on the region. When the heir to the
Austrian throne was assassinated in Bosnia in 1914, Austria reacted
harshly, resulting in war. Serbia was prepared to concede to Austria,
but Russia made a strong showing of support, giving it courage to
standup to Austria. Austria then declared war, and all the treaties and
alliances were triggered, initiating The Great War (WWI).
Austria Invades Serbia to Begin War
(August 12, 1914): Austria-Hungary
launches invasion of Serbia to start the Great War (WWI). In July,
Austrian heir to the throne was assassinated in Bosnia (part of
Austria-Hungary Empire), as part of a pan-Slavic movement based out of
Serbia, with the objective of limiting Austrian influence and control in
the Balkans. Russia encouraged Serbia to resist Austria-Hungary’s
subsequent demands, which included investigating and prosecuting the
suspected group, under the oversight of the Austrians. Consequently,
Austria invaded in August. Russia subsequently invaded Austria-Hungary,
limiting its ability to conquer Serbia. In which case, Serbia was able
to repel the Austrian offensive until late 1915.
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Primary Combatants as of
Germany Invades Belgium/France –
Beginning Trench Warfare
(August 14, 1914): Germany invades
Belgium as part of its plan to quickly defeat France, enabling it to
divert most of its military resources to the eastern front to fight
Russia. In order to out-flank the French military, which would
concentrate along shared border and around Paris, it needed to launch
from inside Belgium. Therefore, Belgium’s neutrality was not honored.
Germany enjoyed early success, steamrolling Belgium, and quickly taking
ground inside France. However, France – with the help of UK and Canadian
troops – was able to bog down the German military in trench warfare,
forcing them into a two-front war after all.
Declarations of War:
1. Austria-Hungary Declared War on Serbia: When Serbia declined
to accept harsh demands by Austria after Ferdinand assassination,
Austria-Hungary declared war. Serbia was encouraged to refuse terms by
Russia, who offered support, eyeing an opportunity to gain influence and
control in Slavic Balkans. Slav-dominated Russia believed itself to be
the natural leader of the Slavic world.
2. Russia Mobilized Along Austria-Hungarian Border: As part of
its agreement to protect Serbia, Russia prepared to invade
Austria-Hungary, amassing troops along their shared border.
3. Germany Declared War on Russia and France: The German Empire,
an ally of Austria-Hungary, realized that it would be drawn into a
two-front war with France and Russia. Its only chance at victory was to
quickly strike and defeat France, allowing it to concentrate its troops
along its eastern borders with Russia before it could mobilize its
massive army. It had been calculated that Russia would be the slowest of
the three to mobilize, while France could be forced to surrender fairly
quickly. Therefore, Germany could not afford to wait until Russia
invaded. By then, it would be too late, as France and Russia would be be
fully mobilized on either side.
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4. UK and France Declared War on Germany and Austria-Hungary: As
part of its plan, the German Empire began its invasion to the west
within less than two weeks of declaring war on France. Its military
strategy to defeat France included the conquest of Belgium, a neutral
nation. This action, along with the fact that it was an ally with
France, drew the UK into WWI.
5. Ottoman Empire Joined Central Powers: The German Empire and
Austria-Hungary recruited the Ottoman Empire as war declarations were
being made, enjoining them to their side. The Ottomans were important,
since they would force Russia into a two-front war, diverting some of
their military resources to the south. Plus, they could attack British
assets in the Middle East, while also enabling the Central Powers to
enclose the Balkans on either side. The Ottoman Empire was promised the
return of territory they had lost in the Balkans, as well as territories
lost to the UK in the Middle East.
Naval Battle of Coronel – South America
– Germany vs UK (Nov. 1, 1914): Germans
invade and defeat British naval vessels off the southern coast of Chile,
toward the southern tip of South America. This prompts the UK to send
reinforcements, which meet the German squadron off the coast of the
nearby Falkland Islands, a month later (Dec. 8). The British utterly
destroy the Germans, ending their presence in the region.
Russia Invades German Empire and
Austria-Hungary (1914): Russia
mobilized troops along both its German and Austria-Hungary borders to
support Serbia. Russia had encouraged Serbia to defy Austrian demands,
pledging its aid in an attempt to increase its power and influence in
the Slavic Balkan territories. This prompted Germany and Austria to
declare war against Russia, eliciting the Russian invasions.
(Timeline Continued Below)
Germans successfully defend against
Russian invasion of East Prussia (1914).
Russia Conquers Galacia Portion of
Austria-Hungary (1914): Russians
successfully invade Austria-Hungary, controlling most of Galacia. Forces
Germans to divert more troops to aid its ally.
West Africa: UK and France immediately gain the upper hand in
German colonies of Togo and Kamerun.
South Africa: Germans invade South Africa, counting on support of
Boers (Dutch farmers inherited by the British when they conquered South
African from the Dutch), who had just revolted against UK rule a decade
earlier. UK spends the remainder of 1914 consolidating control and
securing loyalty among the Boers.
East Africa: The Germans successfully defend their colonies of
Tanzania, Burundi and Rwanda.
Ottoman Empire Invades Russia
(1914): The Ottomans joined the Central
Powers just as the war started, with an invasion of Russia, with the
purpose of forcing it into a two-front war. The Ottomans’ motivation was
to regain territories lost in the past century, including Balkan
territories, Middle Eastern territories to the UK, and Caucasus
territories to Russia. Russia gained a decisive upper hand by the end of
UK-German Naval Warfare
(1914): The UK devastates the German
fleet off the west coast of South America, ending the German threat in
that part of the world. The UK also successfully blockades the north
coast of the German Empire, constricting their ability to bring in
needed supplies. However, Germany is successful in harrassing Allied
vessels in the North Atlantic.
United Kingdom imposes a naval blockade
of Germany (1914).
Canada Joins United Kingdom
(1914): Canada quickly joined the
Allies to support the UK, its most important ally in the world, and to
foster a greater sense of nation, as it was still a self-governing
federation under British dominion. Canadia soldiers primarily served in
the trenches in France, fighting against the Germans.
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World War I, (1915)
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