Next in Timeline: Treaty of Copenhagen
The First World War was a conflict that lasted six years and involved many of the major world powers fought over four continents. This was the first war ever to be truly global in scale, thus its name as a "world war". This war involved the Entente of France, Italy and Russia against the Central Powers of Germany, Austria-Hungary, and the Ottoman Empire. The only major world powers that managed to stay apart form the war were Great Britain and the United States, as they kept a policy that supported none. The losses were massive, as the fighting often occurred in disease-ridden trenches with tens of thousands of soldiers dying in a single charge. The war saw the proliferation of many new war weapons, including the first versions of the tank and the creation of poison gas. This was also the last major war where cavalry was used in great number, as they were replaced by the tank. The war ended in a victory for the Central Powers, and the Entente were forced to give up many colonial possessions, including most of Indonesia and many Pacific Islands.
As with many wars the causes of the First World War are many and intertwined into a confusing mass. Here are the main causes of the First World War:
- With the creation of the German nation, it became obvious that they were the most powerful nation on continental Europe. This caused tensions to rise between nations, as the balance of power that had finally been established after the Napoleonic Wars was ruined.
- The French were desperate to regain their position as the most powerful nation in Europe, and were most angry about the Germans occupying Alsace-Lorraine, which both they and the Germans viewed as their own rightful territory. The region had a massive manufacturing base, making both countries very keen on keeping it.
- In the period before the First World War, many nations had declared themselves independent from the Ottoman Empire, creating a power vacuum in the Balkan area. Both Russia and Austria-Hungary immediately moved to secure alliances and gain dominance, escalating tensions between them. Austria-Hungary occupied Bosnia, angering the Russian Empire and threatening their ally of Serbia. This became a trigger waiting to happen.
- With the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand, the heir to the Austria-Hungarian crown, the Empire responded by sending a list of demands to Serbia, who they accused of the assassination. The demands were meant to be completely unreasonable, and to give Austria-Hungary an excuse to declare war. When the Serbians refused two of the ten demands, it was certain that war would come
Declaration of War
On July 28, 1914, the Austria-Hungarian Empire declared war on Serbia. The Russian, unwilling to see their ally in the Balkans be eliminated, declared war on the Austria-Hungarian Empire and began their mobilization a day later. Germany, honoring their alliance with Austria-Hungary, mobilized on July 30. This gave the French an opportunity to declare war on Germany, hoping to gain back the region of Alsace-Lorraine. Italy, with alliances to both sides, decided for the moment to remain neutral and wait for the right moment to decide. The United States continued their isolation without a thought, ruining the French hope that they would immediately join the war.
In the days immediately following the declaration of war, the three countries of Germany, Britain, and Belgium entered a series of heated negotiations. If the Schefflen Plan was to be carried out, German forces needed to pass through Belgium and flank the French forces. However, Belgian neutrality was re-enforced by the British as set out in the Treaty of London. The Germans asked for permission to move troops through Belgium, but the scale at which they were going to be doing it worried Belgium and the British. As French forces attacked Alsace-Lorraine, the Germans desperately offered both countries large sums of money and territory once the war was over. The British agreed, and the Anglo-German Pact was cemented. Only a few days behind schedule, German forces were allowed to move through Belgium to carry out their plan.
Invasion of Serbia
The first days of the war saw an immense Austria-Hungarian shelling of Belgrade, but not much in the days afterword. However, on the 12th of August, the Fifth and Sixth Austria-Hungarian armies advanced across the Serbian border, around 270,000 troops in all. However, even though the Austria-Hungarian forces were superior in number and in equipment, they committed a grievous tactical error by attacking through the northern hills of Serbia, rather than the plains to the west. This prompted the Second Serbian Army to engage the Austria-Hungarians at the Battle of Cer, which lasted four days and ended in a Serbian victory forcing the Austria-Hungarians back. This defeat caused the Austria-Hungarian forces to spend the next few weeks regrouping, and they invaded again on September 7th, across the Drina River. Two bridgeheads were established, and both the Fifth and Sixth armies continued their advance against the Serbian forces. In an attempt to stop the advance before it was too late, the Serbians redirected their First Army to counterattack, which ended in a bloody stalemate. After a few more minor battles, the front settled down into a month and a half of trench warfare with no gains by either side.
Battle of the Frontiers
According to Plan XVII, French forces were to invade the region of Alsace-Lorraine to liberate it from Germany. In the original plan, the First and Second armies would attack Lorraine while the Third, Fourth, and Fifth Armies would attack towards Luxembourg, the Fifth Army had to be removed due to the BEF leaving France earlier that year. On August 7th, the French forces attacked Alsace, advancing toward the town of Mulhouse. It was seized the next day, but a German counter-attack forced the French to divert another four divisions to the attack. The main attack commenced a week later, as the First and Second Armies attacked the Lorraine area. They initially gained ground, but the German defense under the command of Prince Ruppretch was much stronger than the French had anticipated, so the advance started to peter out. Against the Schefflien Plan, Ruppretch ordered his troops to counter attack and forced the French troops back to their starting lines by August 22nd. meanwhile the northern offensive into the Ardennes began to weaken as the Fifth Army received permission to leave the attack and reinforce the Belgian border when it became obvious that Belgium had let German troops pass through it. The main attack commenced on the 21st of August, but was repelled easily and resulted in heavy French losses. The French forces abandoned the idea of Plan XVII as it became obvious that the German forces moving through Belgium were massive.
The Great Retreat
On the 19th of August, the first elements of the German Third Army crossed into French territory after their passage through Belgium. Initially, resistance was minimal, as the main French forces were still attempting to invade Lorraine. The French Fifth Army took a stand around five miles south of the city of Mezieres, occupying a long ridge that overlooked the city and the river that flowed through it. The German Third Army, along with elements of the Second, appeared in Mezieres on the 21st, and the battle commenced the following day. initially, the Fifth Army held their position, resultant from their height advantage, and the German forces retreated back towards the town late that day to regroup. However, Perone, commander of the III Corps, sought to push the Germans back even further, and due to muddled communications, believed he had Lanrezac's authority to advance. The attack on the German camp was easily repulsed, and left the western positions almost undefended, allowing the Third Army to sweep through the area. This jeopardized the eastern defenses, and forced them to retreat, ending the Battle of Mezieres in a decisive German victory. The next week saw a grand French retreat, with only minor skirmishes along the way. The Germans continued to advance, and finally met resistance as they neared Paris. The German advance continued until the Battle of the Marne, where the French were finally able to get a victory.
Invasion of East Prussia
In East Prussia, only two German armies, the Eighth and the Ninth, defended, on the premise that the Russians would take a very long time to mobilize and that France would be crushed by the time Russia finally was ready for war. It ended up that the Russians were able to mobilize extremely quickly, and on August 7th, they invaded East Prussia with the First and Second armies. In the Battle of Gumbinnan, the German forces were soundly defeated, and it became obvious that the Germans had to do something fast. Hindenburg and Ludendorff were put in command of the East Prussian forces, and planned to counterattack immediately. In a brilliant battle at the city of Tanennburg, the German Eighth Army was able to surround and demolish the Russian Second Army, and then turn around and force the First Army out of Prussia. The Russian invasion had been a complete failure.
End of 1914
Battle of the Marne and French counteroffensiveAs German forces advancced towards Paris, they lost cohesion chasing the retreating German forces. A gap between the First and Second Armies soon appeared, and the French quickly came up with a plan to exploit it. The French Sixth Army was ordered to attack the flank of the German Fifth army on September 1st, and on the 2nd, the battle started. While experiencing advances initially, they soon became pressed by the numerical superiority of the German forces. As the Sixth Army kept the gap open, the Fifth began to rush through it, hoping that the breach would hold long enough for them to attack the flanks of both the First and the Second Armies. The battered Sixth Army held, and the Germans were forced to retreat in what became known as the "Miracle of the Marne". The French then launched a massive counter-attack, which successfully forced the German First and Second Armies to retreat farther. however, the counteroffensive slowed down as the French overextended their supply lines, and the front began to stabilize just south of the Aisne River, where both sides began to build massive fortifications. The southern front remained relatively unchanged, as assaults by both sides failed to cause any breaches and gain ground. the massive trench systems characteristic of the First World War began to be dug out, where they would fight for the next two years.
Race to the Sea
As it became apparent that neither side was going to be able to advance in the heavily defended fronts, both sides turned to the north, where they both attempted to outflank each other. the Battle of Roye was the most significant battle in the Race to the Sea, occurring on September 12th. The French forces managed to catch the Sixth Corps of the First German Army on its flank, and immediately the attack was launched. While initially successful, the German forces managed to hold while re-enforcements arrived, forcing the French back and ending the hope of a breach. The Race to the Sea continued through the next months, as the battle lines slowly became more and more extended. The Front Lines generally followed the Somme River, all the way to the English Channel. For the remaining months, little was changed and few attacks were launched as either side waited for the other to move.
As the trench warfare continued, the Austria-Hungarian forces finally attack the battered Serbian forces. the Serbians offered heavy resistance, but were forced to retreat. the capital city of Belgrade was lost on December 2nd, and the entire Fifth Army moved into the city, hoping to catch the Serbian flank. However, this left the Sixth Army completely alone against the Serbian forces, and they quickly took advantage of it. Resupplied and refreshed Serbian troops counterattacked the Sixth Army, breaking it within a matter of days. The Fifth Army hurried to flank the remaining forces, but was forced to retreat. The invasion ended at the starting point, with absolutely no change in borders and over 400,000 casualties combined. The Serbian waited, for they knew that another Austria-Hungarian attack would occur soon.
Invasion of Russian Poland
As the Austria-Hungarian forces were being pushed hard by the superior Russian forces in the Campaign in Galicia, it became decided that more German forces would be put on the Eastern Front, forming the German Ninth Army. The German subsequently began to push into Russian Poland, distracting the Russians and succeeding on taking off some pressure from the Austria-Hungarian forces. The new Ninth Army advanced with the First Austria-Hungarian Army, coming within 12 miles of Warsaw. However, the four Russian Armies opposing them were able to decisively defeat the Central Powers forces in The Battle of Vistula River. Some other minor battles ensued, with the Russian commonly emerging victorious, yet the Russians were not able to capitalize on their victories and the front remained near Warsaw into the winter.
1915-The Year of Stalemates
Caucasus CampaignOn January 12th, 1915, the Russian Empire decided that it was finally ready to engage the Ottoman Empire for the greatly contested Caucasus area. On the same day, Russian forces moved into the Ottoman Empire, consisting of two wings, the I Corps, and on the left, the IV Corps. The defending army, the Ottoman Third Army, was told to counterattack immediately, and on the 21st of January, the forces counterattacked, initially met with failure but within days started to push the Russians back. for the next two weeks, the forces remained in deadlock about 15 miles into Ottoman territory. However, on February 9th, the Battle of Sarakamish resulted in a massive defeat for Ottoman forces, as they were routed and many were taken captive. During the next two months, both battered armies sat, with mild skirmishes breaking out every few days. The Russians attempted to ask France for naval support, but the French fleet was destroyed in the Battle of the Bosporus. Meanwhile, even more dire news came. The Ottoman First and Second Armies had finally been freed up to assist the shattered Third. The Russians immediately petitioned to have more units sent to assist the now severely outnumbered comrades, but the news came that the German forces were inflicting defeats upon the Russians, and so the forces had to be sent there. The Russian commander made the decision to retreat back into the Caucuses mountain range, recruiting around 25,000 Georgian rebels along the way to help fight. The Georgians for a long time had been oppressed by the Muslim Ottoman Empire, and were desperate to regain their freedom. This shabby force took up positions along the major valleys from the Caspian Sea to the Black Sea. Main defenses were set up along the Kut River in the East. and the Rioni River in the West. For the next month, the Third Army waited for the First and Second to arrive, giving it time to completely resupply and refresh. On March 17th, the Ottoman forces began their advance, hoping to secure a region that they had lost to the Russians. On March 23rd, Lake Gokcha was seized after minimal fighting, and by March 25th, the First Army had neared their first objective, the city of Ozurgeti. A siege of the city began, as the defense force of 7500 managed to fend off a force of 25,000 until April 21st, when they finally surrendered. At this time, the Ottoman second Army, in charge of the central front, launched a three-pronged attack on the Kut River fortifications, hoping that the overwhelming pressure would break the line. The first prong attacked near Khasuri, the second near Gori, and the third just west of Tilfis. Within a week, all three prongs were soundly defeated by the stout defenders, and the Second Army was sent reeling, ending its capacity to enact massive counterattacks. The First Army was likewise routed in their attack on the Rioni River on the Fifth of May. After these attacks, the invasion slowed down, and for the period from June-December the only attacks were a Russian counterattack around Borjomi, resulting in mild success and a second offensive in the Kut region that ended in failure
In the beginning of 1915, the Germans convinced Austria-Hungary that the conquest of Serbia was paramount, as the Ottomans were being invaded by Russian forces. During the first nine months of the year, the front remained stagnant, as Serbia desperately tried to rebuild its army to prepare for the invasion that it knew was coming. The focus in this period was on Bulgaria, as both sides tried to convince it to join their side. In September, however, the country decided to join the side of the Central Powers, having had two recent wars with Serbia. On October 7th, combined German and Austria-Hungarian forces attacked northern Serbia, opening with a massive shelling. Merely a week later, Bulgarian forces attacked along the entire eastern side of Serbia, meeting with little resistance. In the Battle of Morova, the Second Serbian Army was demolished by the First Bulgarian, and from there, the situation became untenable. What followed was a massive retreat into Albania, which was astonishingly successful despite the complete disorganization of the Serbian Army. The result was that the Serbians managed to save 155,000 troops, who were evacuated to various Greek islands.
The situation of Greece was very confused, as though they were neutral, their king favored the Germans. despite the attempts by the Prime Minister to continue peace, the general sentiment leaned towards the Central Powers side. They allowed the French to evacuate the Serbians and let them settle in their country, but soon the French and the Greeks began to oppose each other. The Greeks demanded that the French leave, while the French insisted that the Greeks demobilize. Through the next two months, the problem remained unsolved.
Gorlic-Tarnow offensive and the Russian RetreatIn Late 1914, the Russians had continued to press the Austria-Hungarian forces in Silesia, threatening both Central Powers. The next few months were peaceful, as a harsh winter prevented any operations. In April 1915, the Germans planned to launch an offensive in Galicia to force the Russians to withdraw. The newly formed German 11th Army along with the Austria-Hungarian 4th Army were able to gain a decisive victory against the Russian Third Army, crushing it completely, and forcing Russians out of Austria-Hungary, ending the threat. Then, the Central Powers attacked across the entire front, as four German armies along with four Austria-Hungarian armies pressed back the severely outmanned Russian forces. Brest-Litovsk was captured on the 25 of August, and Vilna was captured on the 19th of September.
The Italian Front
after years of pressing diplomacy by both sides, in May 1915, Italy decided to renounce its ties to Germany and Austria-Hungary, and declared war on the Central Powers. The Italian troops initially outnumbered the Austria-Hungarian three to one, but were not well trained and lacked modern equipment. They launched an offensive on two fronts, one north into the Austrian Alps, and another east to the Isonzo River. After initial gains, the first offensive halted as the Italians were not able to break the heavy offensives on either front. During the rest of the year, five offensives were launched in the Isonzo region, dubbed the first five Battles of the Isonzo. Each offensive lasted a few weeks, and resulted in massive casualties with each side. All five barely gained any ground, as thousands of soldiers were expended for nothing. During this period, another 12 divisions were sent by the Austria-Hungarians, roughly evening out the forces that opposed each other.
The Battle of Abbeyville
On February 21st, 1915, the Germans launched the first offensive of the year in the western front. The goal was to fight the French back across the Somme, eventually ending in a massive flanking maneuver that would hopefully roll up the entire French line. The attack started with a 24 hour artillery barrage, which weakened the French but did not break them. The following day, German troops stormed across no-mans-land, but were met with machine gun fire from the resilient French defenders and took heavy casualties. eventually, the Germans reached the French lines and what ensued was a bloodbath. Over the next week, both sides fought for control over the frontline trenches, but eventually the Germans were forced to retreat. The battle ended with 25,000 casualties for the Germans and 17,000 for the French.
On April 3rd, 1915, the French launched their first major offensive of the year in the Verdun area. Portions of the Second and Third French Armies opposed the Fifth German Army. Again, the assault began with a massive artillery bombardment, so the German troops knew what was coming. Soon after, French troops poured out of their trenches and assaulted the first line of German ones. Over the next six days, the Germans were pushed back five miles by the resolute French forces. However, on April 14th, the offensive stopped because of German counterattacks. Over the next month, the line held but the French soon lost their numerical advantage as new forces appeared for the Germans. For the rest of the year, the French were slowly pushed back, fighting for every yard of ground, not letting the Germans escape without casualties. The offensive resulted in an average of three miles advanced at the cost of 100,000 French casualties and a similar number of German ones.
The Aisne Offensive
On June 2nd, with the failure of the Verdun offensive apparent, the French launched another attack in an area north of Siossons, catching a weaker spot in the German defenses. The assault began with a shorter artillery barrage than normal, leaving the Germans only partially prepared, and allowing the French forces to make substantial gains in the first day. The good fortune continued over the next week as the re-enforcements for the Germans misinterpreted their orders and appeared on a well-defended part of the front. However, as Siossons itself fell under siege starting June 25th, the French were unable to break the stoic German resistance, and the assault suffered from its flank not being secure, forcing it to halt. The gains made in the northern sections were kept for the rest of the year, but the southern forces were pushed back almost to their start by German counterattacks.
First Battle of Reims
On September 16th, the Germans were prepared for another major offensive. This one was to be directed south of Reims, with the hope that a breakthrough could be achieved and the Germans could advance back to their pre-Battle of the Marne locations. The attack was conducted by a massive artillery barrage, followed by a charge of 150,000 German soldiers. The French lines were broken with heavy casualties, but the French were able to make an ordered retreat to the supply trenches, using them as a defense from which to launch a counterattack. On October 4th, the French attacked in all sectors of the Reims area, pushing the Germans back in the flanks but not able to break the defense in the center. The offensive and counteroffensive ended with a small portion of the front hanged by merely a few miles, at the cost of tens of thousands of casualties.
1916-The Year of Death
In the beginning of 1916, the Russian naval forces were relieved to find out that Italian naval forces would help take out the numerically strong yet technologically weak Ottoman Navy. On March 3rd, 1916, Italian forces decisively defeated an Ottoman force of the coast of Malta. Following this up, on March 24th, a second battle ensued as the Ottoman Navy attempted to surround the Italian Navy while it was docked in Crete. The attempt proved unsuccessful, resulting in a major strategic victory for the allies. In the Black Sea, the Russian Fleet was able to catch the Ottoman forces unawares of the coast of Varna, destroying them and leaving the Black Sea in Russian hands. The final major naval battle, on April 8th, resulted in the complete destruction of the Ottoman Navy, leaving the way open for the Allies.
The Trebizond landings
As the Russians received news that they were about to be broken in the Caucasus, along with sending re-enforcements, they planned a massive naval landing on a strip of the shore from the city of Ordu to the city of Rize. Merchant ships, designed to go close to land, were outfitted to hold as many troops as possible. This fleet was commandeered and organized in the Sea if Azov, and was launched across the Black Sea on June 3rd. Three days later, on June 6th, the fleet stopped about 15 miles from the coast and prepared to launch the troop carrying merchant vessels. Early in the morning of June 7th, forces began to land at three locations along the front. 10,000 soldiers were landed at Rize, 5000 west of Trebizond, and another 3000 near Ordu. The defenses were light, however the Russian had forgotten to take into account the steep cliffs in many of these areas, and therefore the troops spent the entire day scaling these cliffs and secured beachheads at most one mile deep. Over the next days, the forces advanced, and on June 16th, Trebizond was captured after the garrison surrendered. News came that the Ottoman First Army had been ordered to leave the Caucasus Front and combat the threat to the west. The Russian forces desperately began to dig in, as their mere number of less than 19,000, with no heavy equipment to speak of, was soon to be attacked by a full Army. The Russian commander, Captain Vladimir, desperately tried to convince his highers that they needed to retreat, or a bloodbath would ensue. No response was given, and as a loyal Russian officer, Vladimir ordered his men to hold fast. Beginning on June 28th, the Ottomans began repeated attacks on the Russian lines, but were unable to break through. Over the next month, the severely outnumbered Russians, without any real equipment and little supplies, held fast, inflicting decisive defeat after defeat on the Ottoman forces. Finally, on August 4th, they surrendered, but not before inflicting 40,000 casualties on the ottomans while receiving 8000 themselves. The Defense of Trebizond would go down in the record of history in the same way that the Charge of the Light Brigade or the Battle off the Alamo did, as miracles, showing immense bravery against all odds.
Caucasus CampaignIn the first months of the Caucasus campaign, severe weather prevented any major offensives by either side. However, on April 9th, the Ottomans resumed their attacks on the nearly broken Russians. The Russians were able to channel the attacks down major valleys, thereby eliminating the Ottoman advantage of numbers, but the Russians slowly became more and more weary and the line looked ready to break. On the 15th of August, the Third Ottoman Army achieved a major breakthrough and was able to capture the city of Kasakh, and put the Russian in an even more precarious position. The Russians were ordered to take back the city no matter the cost, as it exposed the flanks of all the Russian fighting forces and allowed an area from which to roll back the Russian line. On April 29th, meager Russian forces were able to take back the city after they managed to cut Ottoman supply lines and the urban fighting caused many Ottoman units to fire on each other. By May 12th, the line was back to where it was at the beginning of the year, Finally on May 18th, it was heard that more re-enforcements would arrive shortly, and the Russian morale was boosted greatly by this, as they became ever more resolute to stay fast. On June 12th, the re-enforcements came in the form of 100,000 troops which joined the 25,000 Russian troops and the 30,000 rebel supporters at the front. Then even better news came: the Russians had landed forces in Trebizond to take the heat off the Caucasus. On June 25th, the Ottoman First Army left for the Trebizond front, leaving only the weary Second to hold up the northern portion of the front. In mid July, the Russian forces started a counterattack across the entire front, quickly wining victories against the Ottoman forces. On August 3rd, the first major city recaptured by the Russians was Batumi, a major port city. After that, the Ottoman forces were able to stall the Russian advance on the northern sector, however, the eastern sector advanced greatly. On October 9th, the Russian forces in the East were forced to halt, as while their flank was to independent Persia, the drastic shortening of the battle line allowed the Ottomans to regroup and put up a defense that lasted the rest of the year. For the remainder of the year, the line stayed in roughly the same place, as both sides were too exhausted to fight any major campaigns.
After the typical harsh Russian winter, the Russian forces began to outnumber their Central Power foes, as mobilization began to near its peak. This caused the Russian commanders to start planning a massive counterattack to force the Central Powers back and give the Russian initiative. The plans culminated in the Brusilov Offensive, which involved a short artillery barrage over the entire 300 mile front, and then the use of small groups of units to target weak points in the lines. It was started in South-west Russia, in the region of Galicia. The attacks began on June 4th, and quickly the Central Powers were being forced back, most notably the Austria-Hungarians. On June 8th, Lutsk was taken, and over 200,000 Russians were freed from being prisoners of war. More Germans were immediately ordered to the front, and the Austria-Hungarians were ordered to pull some troops from Italy to combat the Russians. On June 28th, the offensive was resumed, but it was weak and gained ground very slowly. The Germans continued to move troops from the Western Front, abandoning their attack on Verdun, and were able to stop the Russian advance. The offensive ended on September 20th, and for the rest of the year, fighting was again minimal.
As the Russian looked near to defeating the Central Powers on the Easter Front, and the Second Battle of the Aisine ended in the destruction of the German offensive, preventing them from further attacks, Romania decided the enter the war on the Entente side, hoping to regain Transylvania from the Austrians. On August 27th, three Romanian Armies entered Austria-Hungary, defended by only one army, the First. The First Army was quickly pushed back into Hungary, and it looked like the Central Powers did not have enough forces to combat the invasion. On September 6th, the Bulgarian Third Army, along with ottoman and German elements, pressed from the south, diverting the Romanian Third Army from the attack on Transylvania. On September 15th, after the Central Powers attacks increased, the Romanian offensive was called off and the troops were instructed to defend the country against foreign invasion. In the next month, the Romanian forces were forced back time and time again, and by October 25th, they were back to their starting points.On November 23rd, a surprise attack across the Danube forced the Romanians back to Bucharest, and another offensive through the mountains forced the Romanians to retreat further. Bucharest was captured on December 6th, and by the end of the year, a large portion of Romania was occupied.
Asiago OffensiveAs the first months of the year ended in yet more bloodshed in the Fifth Battle of the Isonzo, the Austria-Hungarians planned to counterattack the Italians in the Asiago region, which was in the North-East of Italy, not on the Isonzo front. The attack started with a barrage from 2000 artillery pieces on May 15th, and then a massive attack along 40 miles of the front followed. The Italians were broken within a few days, and were forced to retreat, threatening to flank the Italian forces on the Isonzo front. However, on June 4th, the Russians began their Brusilov offensive, forcing Austria-Hungarian units to abandon the offensive and join the Eastern Front, ending the advance on June 15th.
Later in 1916, as the Italians were finally able to launch another offensive, another four battle of the Isonzo occurred, the Sixth through the Tenth. The Sixth Isonzo was the first to actually see a significant Italian advance, as they exploited a weak spot in the Austria-Hungarian lines. The next three, however, managed only to further decrease the morale of both armies, and the attacks were ended by the end of 1916. Both sides desperately needed re-enforcements, yet in 1917, with the fall of Russia, the Central Powers would receive the needed re-enforcements.
Battle of the Somme
In Februay 1916, the Germans launched their first offensive of the year on the Western Front in the form of the Battle of the Somme. The offensive was much wider than others, and through that the Germans hoped that they would achieve a major breakthrough. The plan was to force the French Sixth Army back to the Somme River, where they would have a harder time creating defenses, and then achieve a breakthrough there, flanking the rest of the French forces. The offensive commenced on February 12th, as a 48 hour artillery barrage from over 2000 guns pulverized the French lines. The advance started in the 14th, but the French had fared better than thought. In the first day, most of the first lines of trenches were captured, and over the next week, the French forces were pushed back almost to the Somme. As the Germans slowed down, the French began local counterattacks, intent on inflicting so many casualties on the Germans that they had to stop the offensive. However, these attacks were fairly unsuccessful, and on March 23rd, the French were forced to retreat across the Somme. However, a error in German command caused the soldiers to halt the advance, and in the few days, the French were able to entrench themselves to withstand a German offensive. Despite this, the Germans continued, and on April 12th, the offensive was renewed but the battle resulted in a bloody mess. On April 17th, the attack was called off, and by June 7th, French attacks forced the Germans to retreat back over the Somme. for the rest of the year, the front remained relatively unchanged, as the focus switched to other areas of the front. For a meager gain of around eight miles across 20 miles of front, the Germans suffered 350,000 casualties and the French 300,000 casualties.
Riems OffensiveIn May 1916, the French were finally prepared to counterattack the gains that the Germans had made the previous year near Reims. The plan was to initiate the attack north of Reims, as the front bulged out and the German forces could be trapped if a breakthrough was achieved. Many elements of the Fourth Army were discretely moved to the north, and the attack commenced with a brief artillery barrage, hoping to catch the German forces south unawares. On May 5th, battle commenced as French forces cut through the German trenches, but were slowed by supply line issues, and on June 12th, the offensive ground to a halt. Therefore, another attack was launched to the south, hoping to avoid the initial units being flanked. this offensive also ground to a halt late-July, and the German counterattacks began to regain ground. before they could break the French, critical German units were recalled to the Eastern Front, allowing the French to keep their gains.
Second Battle of the Aisne
On June 17th, the French began a second offensive, closely following their first of the year. They hoped to catch the German lines near Soissons only lightly defended and capture the city. Main attacks were begun north and south of the previous year's campaign, and initially, the advance was quick. As all the other offensives in the year, this also ground to a halt within a few weeks, and the Germans were presented with an opportunity to crush the French Fifth Army. They counterattacked, but stoic French resistance inflicted massive casualties upon the Germans from the first day, grounding the counterattack. This was a decisive French victory, as the Germans were unable to continue massive offensives throughout the rest of the Year, showing how weak they really were.
1917- Central Advance
As the new year dawned, the Ottomans and Russians again began to exchange fire. On February 2nd, the Ottoman Third Army, completely re-equipped, arrived back at the front, providing dangers for the Russian troops. However, no changes in the front occurred for the next two months, until the supplies that the Russians were sending to their troops began to slow, as a result of a major collapse in the Russian economy. News came that the Bolsheviks had performed a coup and that the Tsar was no longer in power, and instead a weak provincial government had been established. On March 23rd, Russian forces received word that they were to retreat back into the mountains, as supplies would reach them more quickly there. The retreat started on the first of April, as the Russian units slowly pulled back. The Ottomans tried to capitalize on this, but their charge failed as their infantry were left behind and their cavalry were routed by Russian small arms fire. Throughout the spring, Russian forces completed their retreat, and by July 8th, they were back to their positions at the start of 1916. A determined Ottoman attack followed, but the forces were successfully funneled into multiple valleys, where the Ottoman advantage of numbers was eliminated, and the Ottoman Armies were severely hit. For the rest of the year, the front remained as the Ottomans decided to only wait until Russia collapsed.
As the government was extremely weak and the public began to cry out for peace with the Central Powers, the Russians knew that they had to attack quickly or their morale would cause massive desertion and the collapse of Russia. Thus the Kerensky offensive was planned to achieve Russian victory and raise morale, letting the Russians fight on. On July 1st, the attack was launched in Galicia, where the Brusilov offensive had been most successful.The Russian bombardment proved successful, and the Austria-Hungarian lines were breached. The Russian troops proved to be too exhausted for the offensive, and it broke down on the 16th. By July 23rd, the Russians had retreated further than their original positions, and they were saved only by the Germans calling off the attack.
for the rest of the year, the Germans kept their ground, only because the logistical nightmare it would be to occupy more territory. Some landings were made in the North, but proved to be unsuccessful, and only having minor repercussions on the Germans. The Russian economy continued to decline, and a full Bolshevik takeover seemed on the horizon. Germany encouraged this, as the Bolsheviks were eager to have peace
Final Battles of the Isonzo
On May 10th, the Tenth battle of the Isonzo was started, another attempt to break the Austria-Hungarian lines. Italian troops were able to achieve initial success, much more than the previous battles, but supplies failed to arrive at the soldiers and counterattacks on June 3rd managed to recapture most of the land. The offensive was called off June 9th. On August 18th, the Italian Army was again ready to attack, and the Eleventh battle of the Isonzo initiated. The attack was almost as successful as the predecessor, and the Austria-Hungarian forces were far too exhausted to even counterattack. Soon, however, the worst Italian fears were realized as German forces arrived on the Italian front.
Battle of Caporetto
On October 23rd, a combined Central Powers barrage crumbled the Italian lines, notably for using the first poison gas on the Italian Front. By the first day, Central forces had advanced 16 miles, breaking every defense the Italians tried to put up.On October 30th, the Italian force began a massive retreat, but the Germans were overextended so they had to stop the advance. The front settled down on the Piava River, over 40 miles from the starting point.
In March of 1917, the German command planned a massive assault on the battle lines near Metz. The front had given the Germans substantial advances before, and the morale boost of forcing the French out of Germany would be extremely beneficial. Thus, during the first week of March, veteran German units known for participating in the hardest of battles were transported to the Metz front, where both side's troops were inexperienced. The attack was launched with the first use of poison gas, and proved to be deadly against the French lines. However, the absence of wind caused the poison to hang in the air, forcing the Germans to delay until the gas cleared, losing them valuable time. However, the French were slow to regroup, and the German attack was extremely successful, as French forces were beaten back again and again. Within the first day, five miles had been cleared even with the delays. Over the next week, French forces retreated out of Germany, and for the first time in the war, the French were back to their starting lines. The Germans wanted to continue the fight, but dug new lines a few miles into French territory as the supply lines had to catch up. The worth of veterans had shown itself greatly in this battle, which ended with 300,000 French casualties and 150,000 German ones.
Second Battle of Verdun
In July of 1916, the French Army was close to defeat, with mutinies starting to appear over the entire front and riots appearing demanding peace. The last chance for the French Army was to launch a successful offensive that would revitalize the troops. It was planned to be at Verdun, the symbol of French power. Reserves were poured into the area, and the French soon had numerical superiority. The problem with the reserves, however, is that they were unused to the vigorous trench warfare, and soon became exhausted, diminishing their capability. Despite this, the French launched their attack with a conventional artillery barrage, lasting 15 hours, and then charged. the first day was bloody for both sides, but the French were able to penetrate the first line of trenches. In the next week, most of the second line was captured, but German re-enforcements prevented the French from continuing their advance. In a last-stand attempt, a final push broke the German defenses with heavy casualties, and the French moved forward again. On August 9th, the French again stopped, as they were too exhausted to carry on. Starting from August 16th, German counterattacks slowly drove the French back, and they were forced back to their lines and even further by the end of the offensive, on October 3rd.
With the news that the French offensive at Verdun had collapsed, the French Army completely lost morale. over 40,000 troops committed mutiny, mostly heading towards Spain. a riot in Marseille left over 200 people dead as the police had to respond with violence, and soon the anger spread. In the Battle of Paris, over 2000 civilians attacked French Army Headquarters and burned the place to the ground, which the law enforcement responded to with slaughter. estimates of the casualties are over 400 killed and multiple thousands wounded. Some French elements on the front simply surrendered, and the Germans captured 15,000 French soldiers without a fight. Supply lines began to be attacked by rebels, causing many units to not receive the food and water needed for survival, causing another 12,000 deaths. On December 15th, 1916, the French forces signed a ceasefire while the terms of peace could be figured out. Fighting continued in some areas, but French and German forces began to abandon the trenches they had fought in for so long, back to their country.
1918-Peace at last
On January 17th, 1918, Italian forces called for a ceasefire in their area of the war, and offered to begin peace negotiations with the central Powers. On January 19th, 1918, the Russian government pleaded to begin negotiations. On January 20th, a ceasefire was created between the ottomans and the Russians, who both desperately needed it. On January 23rd, a ceasefire between the Central Powers and the Russians occurred, ending the last fighting of the war. On January 27th, all parties agreed to attend peace talks in Copenhagen, to occur the next month. Although the peace talks had not started by this time, the war was declared over by the Central Powers on February 9th, and that is considered teh end of the First World War, one of the most devastating in history.