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A timeline of the First World War

28 June 1914

Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the throne of the Austro-Hungarian Empire was assassinated in Sarajevo.  Austria-Hungary blamed Serbia.

28 July 1914

Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia.  European countries were linked by a series of alliances.  One after another they responded and the war escalated.  Austria-Hungary, Germany and Italy were grouped as the Central Powers.  In opposition to them, Britain, France and Russia were grouped as the Triple Entente.

4 August 1914

Germany invaded neutral Belgium, the event which triggered Britain’s declaration of war to defend her ally.

7 August 1914

Four British divisions went to France to stop the German advance.  They were partially successful at the Battle of Mons and the Battle of the Marne. 

15 September 1914

As British troops and their allies attempted to outflank Germans and their allies, trenches were dug by both sides.  They continued to expand across northern France.  Trenches were easier to defend than attack, so even in these early weeks of the war a stalemate was developing.

19 October 1914

A battle in the mediaeval town of Ypres caused many deaths.  Because the European countries most heavily involved had worldwide empires, countries thousands of miles away from Europe began to find themselves involved.  It started to be described as the first ‘world’ war.

25 December 1914

An unofficial truce allowed the soldiers of both sides to retrieve dead bodies in the ‘no man’s land’ between the trenches.  Troops from enemy sides met and conversed.  There were reports of gifts exchanged, carols sung and football matches played.

25 April 1915

Allied troops began a nine-month battle at Gallipoli, in Turkey, before finally withdrawing.  The Australian and New Zealand Army Corps suffered catastrophic casualties during the landings and the days which followed, now commemorated each year as ANZAC Day.

7 May 1915

Having announced in February that any ship approaching Britain was a target, a German U-boat submarine sank the passenger ship Lusitania, with the loss of 1,198 civilian lives.  The Germans then withdrew their fleet to ports, fearing that this would bring the USA into the war.

31 May 1915

German Zeppelin airships dropped bombs on London, bringing the first casualties on British soil.

15 September 1915

The Battle of Loos was typical of the stagnant but bloody conflict across northern France (the ‘Western front’).  The British used gas in an attempt to inflict mass destruction on German troops, but shifting winds caused 60,000 casualties among allied troops instead.

9 February 1916

In order to break the stalemate on the Western front, conscription was introduced for men between 18 and 41 in Britain.  A recruiting drive for volunteers had previously attracted one million British men to fight (‘Your country needs you’).  Conscription added 3.5 million British to the armed forces.  About 3 million people from the British Empire also fought.

21 February 1916

The Battle of Verdun, which lasted ten months and cost a million casualties, began.  It marked the beginning of a year of inconclusive fighting that included the Battle of the Somme, from July to November, and a battle at sea near Jutland in July.  The introduction of tank warfare did not produce the hoped-for breakthrough.

1 July 1916

The first day of the Battle of the Somme.  On this day the British army suffered 60,000 casualties.  It has been the biggest loss of life during one day in British military history.

19 January 1917

A telegram from the Russian foreign secretary to Mexico urging her to attack the USA was intercepted and decoded by the British, raising the tension in North America.

1 March 1917

The Women's Land Army was formed.  It brought together a number of organisations that had helped British women find paid work on farms which needed workers because so many young men had gone abroad to fight.  By this stage women had been volunteering for these roles for two years.  By the end of the war 300,000 women were working on the land.

6 April 1917

The USA declared war on Germany.

31 July 1917

Battle was joined once more at Ypres (Passchendaele).  Over four months, catastrophic casualties were again suffered on both sides for negligible gains.

7 November 1917

In the second of two revolutions in Russia, Lenin and the Bolshevik regime came to power.

3 December 1917

The new Russian government signed an armistice with Germany, effectively taking Russia out of the war.

9 December 1917

After a summer during which Allied armies had increasingly gained control in Turkey and the Middle East, British troops seized Jerusalem from the Turks and their allies.

8 January 1918

The President of USA, Woodrow Wilson, announced a fourteen-point plan that he believed would create a path to peace.

21 March 1918

In Europe German armies launched the first of five offensives designed to win the war before American troops swelled the numbers in the trenches.  These continued until June, but when initial successes failed to break the Allied lines, recognition began that the war was approaching its endgame. 

8 August 1918

Counter-offensives by British, American and Allied troops began to push the German army into retreat, freeing much of France and Belgium.  German troops being transported from Russia to the Western front started to desert.

30 October 1918

Turkey signed an armistice, bringing war in the Middle East to an end.

11 November 1918

Two days after the German chancellor abdicated, Germany and the Allies signed an armistice effectively bringing the war to an end.

28 June 1919

Following a peace conference in Paris in February to discuss the post-war world, a treaty was signed at Versailles between delegates from Germany and the Allies.

19 July 1919

The Cenotaph was unveiled in London as a national memorial to remember and mourn those who had died in this ‘war to end all wars’.

What the Bible says about it

An extract from the Bible:

Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord ...
He will teach us his ways,
so that we may walk in his paths ...
He will judge between the nations
and will settle disputes for many peoples.
They will beat their swords into ploughshares
and their spears into pruning hooks.
Nation will not take up sword against nation,
nor will they train for war anymore.

Where to find it:

Isaiah 2:3,4

About these words:

About 700 years before Jesus, Isaiah looks to God as one whose nature is inclined toward ending violence.

And they said...

Bruce Kent, British theologian and peace activist:

One day it is going to dawn on the human race that war is as barbaric a means of resolving conflict as cannibalism is a means of coping with diet deficiencies.

Pope John XXIII, 1881–1963:

For a Christian who believes in Jesus and his gospel, war is an iniquity and a contradiction.

Ernest Hemingway, north American novelist and World War I veteran, 1899-1961:

There were many words that you could not stand to hear and finally only the names of places had dignity.  Abstract words such as glory, honour, courage, or hallow were obscene.

open book with names

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