The Great War was the largest conflict in military history of the world. The war saw two major blocks: Central Powers and Entente fight for influence in Europe and rest of the world.

Initial hostilities

Serbian campaign

The war began with Austro-Hungarian attack on Serbia. Despite fierce resistance, and Pyrrhic Serbian victories, in Cer and Drina, battle of Kolubara begun a retreat of Serbian soldiers. Decisive Austro-Hungarian victory in battle of Uzhitse saw disintegration of Serbian Army. In September 16, Bulgaria declared war on Serbia. Serbian capitulation was signed on October 15th. 

Attack on Belgium and France

Germany, having declared war on Serbia on Russia in support of Austro-Hungarian operations, had to be prepared to French attack, as France declared that it "keep full freedom of acting in case of a war between Germany and Russia".  German staff decided that it would be most beneficial to attack France with overhelming forces before they get the chance to organise massive defensive lines. German Chief of the General staff carried out modified version of Schlieffen's plan calling for focusing large majority of troops on the western border and only minimal on Russian border. Von Moltke decided that it would be too risky to engage Dutch army and called for passage through Belgium only, in order to occupy Paris as quickly as possible. Belgium rejected giving German army military access. Germany decided to attack Belgium and invasion begun on 4 August 1914. In first phase of the war, German assault was very successful, bringing German armies very close to Paris, until they were halted in the batle of the Marne, known as Miracle of the Marne, implying that it was greatly an upset victory of the French. Not expecting the war to end very soon, German generals decided to launch a second assault called "Race to the Sea". It involved German and French troops fighting to control French coastline north of Paris, especially Calais, which was an important port, where the British landed their troops and equipment. The operation was largely successful and German Army created the frontline along the Sommes and Aisne rivers. From 1915 year on, mobile warfare ceased and stalemate begun.

Central power advance

Eastern front

The war on eastern front begun with Russian offensive in East Prussia and West Galicia. Both operations were largely successful, with Russian troops having advanced over 200 km in October. The offensive slowed down in the end of the year but by January 1915, Russian Empire occupied cities of Cracow and Danzig. In February, breakthrough came with Austrian troops freed from the Serbian front and Romanian-Bulgarian attack in Besarabia. In May 1915, Russian forces were forced to abandon West Galicia and Italy joining Central Powers freed up German divisions that counterattacked in the north. In late 1915, Russian army was largely in retreat: Warsaw fell in October, Vilnius in November and Minsk in February next year. Lengthening supply lines forced Austro-Hunagarian-German advance to slow down, but by the end of the year 1916, Kiev and Riga fell. In February 1917, Revolution in Russia toppled the government. Throughout 1917, Germany didn't make any major operations and Vladimir Lenin, who took power in November, signed treaty of Brest-Litovsk in March 1918. During the course of the war, minor offensives took place in the Caucasus, between Ottoman Empire and Russia.

Western front stalemate and breakthrough

Inability to stop Russian troops by Austria-Hungary postponed plans to continue invasion of France. Every operation caused huge casualties and the front was almost immobile. Italy joining Central Powers in May 1915 and failure of Schlieffen's Plan enabled Germans to divert more much needed soldiers to Eastern Front. Italian advance met no defences initially and managed to seize Nice, but French soldiers form the north defeated Italians and forced them to retreat back to Italy. For most of 1915 and 1916 saw very little movements on both northern and southern French fronts. 1917 saw some large-scale operations: Battle of Villeneuve-Loubet in February brought Italian-French front back to France and Battle of Verdun moved German forces forwards. Hopes of German victory once again fell, when in April 1917 USA entered war. The Germans knew, that the war is not going in their favor and they need to act quickly. German divisions from the eastern front were brought to the east and large offensive begun in July. Exhausted French military in the south was routed and American and British troops in the north had numerous disadvantage. In August Italians seized Marseille and early 1918, the French were cut off from the Mediterranean. Lyon was conquered in January. Simultaneously, Germans moved slowly towards the Paris. In February France signed capitulation due to staggering 2.1 million military casualties. By the end of 1918, British and American troops were forced out of France. French economy and manpower provisionally aided German war machine. 

Other fronts in 1915-1918

In 1915, Italy occupied Albania. In October 1915 Allied attack was launched on Bulgaria in Macedonian Front in Greece. Bulgarian attack, aided by Austro-Hungary and Italy was launched on Greece. The mountainous terrain favoured the defenders, so in 1915-1917 neither of the forces could achieve major progress. In 1918 most of Allied forces aided Western front and in April 1918, Greece fell to allied occupation. In January 1915 begun Sinai and Palestine Campaign, which begun with invasion of Sinai and establishing a frontline on the Suez canal. In early 1917, Italian force landed near Alexandria and surrounded the British. Cairo was conquered in August 1917. British reinforcements from Africa retook Cairo in January 1917. Moving their forces north, the British allowed German guerrilla fighters in German East Africa to take on of large cities - Lindi. By 1918 most of Tanzania was liberated. In January 1918, Italian troops entered Somalia and Eritrea. In September 1918, Italian-German attack was launched on British East Africa. In December 1918, Sudanese revolution broke out. 

End of the war

Final battles

Spain and the Netherlands, seeing the war as a way to expand their empire, joined Central powers. German economy was severely exhausted from prolonged war, so new allies were more than welcomed. Spain took Morocco from defeated France without fight and attacked British possessions in North Africa. British forces, especially navy was unable to help Africa, as it was fighting alongside Americans in the battle of Atlantic Ocean. 1919 saw many British colonies lost. In late 1919, Germans counterattacked the British in Persia. They also attempted to incite Indian revolt against British, called later 2. Sepoy Rebellion. With British Army unable to maintain order in their colonies and navy tied in Atlantic, attack on Britain begun. In November 1919, German, Austro-Hungarian and Italian navies launched decoy attack from Picardie, while main force attacked from Netherlands. Due to difficult weather conditions, and the British unprepared to defend in that region, United Kingdom surrendered 1st January 1920. The Japanese and Americans agreed on armistice, due to heavy losses on both sides and the fact, that either of them was not able to launch an invasion on the other side.

Aftermath: peace treaties


The conditions imposed on the French included monetary reparations and following territorial cessions:

  • Spain received Morocco 
  • Tunisia and Djibouti is ceded to Italy
  • West Africa is split between Germany, Spain and Italy
  • Equatorial Africa is acquired by Austro-Hungary
  • Indochina is given to the Netherlands
  • Part of Lorraine is ceded to Germany (with Mosellle being the border)
  • Italy gets Savoie, Nice and Corsica
  • Roussillon is given to the Spanish

The only two colonies France is able to maintain are Algeria and Madagascar.

United Kingdom

  • Malta and Somalia are given to Italy.
  • Togo and East Africa are given to Germany.
  • Cyprus and Kuwait are ceded to Ottoman Empire.
  • Malacca, North Borneo and all Pacific possessions are ceded to Germany.
  • Sudan is granted independence.
  • Trucial States are ceded to Austro-Hungary, Oman and South Arabia to Italy.

Rest of colonies were kept intact, Indian rebellion was put out after giving India major autonomy. South Africa and Egypt maintained their dominion status, while Australia, New Zealand and Canada (without Newfoundland) were granted independence.


Russia signed separate peace treaty of Brest-Litovsk, where they granted independence Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and Finland. They were obliged to release Ukraine, but it was re-incorporated. Bessarabia was ceded to Romania


Serbia suffered total partition, it was split between Austro-Hungary and Bulgaria with minor chunks given to Italy and Romania.


Montenegro was annexed by Italy


Belgium gave minor concessions to Germany .


Greece lost some territory to Bulgaria, Ottoman Empire and Italy.


Peace ended without any concession between Japan, USA and Central Powers. USA and Japan were given small monetary compensation from Germany .

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