First World War Timeline of significant events
Archduke Franz Ferdinand assassinated
Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne assassinated at Sarajevo along with his wife, Sophie, Duchess of Hohenberg, by a Bosnian Serb, Gavrilo Princip
Austria-Hungary accuses Serbia of complicity in the assassination.
Kaiser William II
Kaiser William II promises German support for Austria-Hungary against Serbia.
Austria-Hungary sends troops to the Serbian border.
Austria-Hungary declares war on Serbia.
Great Britain warns Germany that it cannot remain neutral.
Austrians bombard Belgrade, the Serbian capital. German patrols cross the French border.
French order military mobilisation.
Germany declares war on Russia. Italy and Belgium announce neutrality.
Germany declares war on France.
Great Britain gives the order for troops to mobilise.
Germany declares war on Belgium.
Britain declares war on Germany. United States announces neutrality.
Lord Kitchener made War Secretary.
The first British casualties of the war.
150 men are lost when the Royal Navy cruiser HMS Amphion is sunk by German mines in the North Sea.
British Expeditionary Force
First members of the British Expeditionary Force land in France.
Defence of the Realm Act (DORA) passed; ‘for securing public safety’
Originally brought in to cover sensitive military information, as the War goes on its scope allows for the regulation of almost all aspects of the home front, including British Summer Time and pub opening hours.
Your King and Country Need You
The call for 100,000 men to join Kitchener’s New Army is made under the slogan ‘Your King and Country Need You’. The call is answered within two weeks.
Royal Flying Corps
First squadrons of Royal Flying Corps arrive in France.
“Contemptible Little Army”
Kaiser’s alleged order for destruction of British “contemptible little army”
German troops occupy Brussels.
Battle of Mons
British Expeditionary Force starts its retreat.
British Flying Corps claim first ‘kill’ when three planes force down a German reconnaissance plane.
The British Expeditionary Force suffer 7,812 casualties at the Battle of Le Cateau and are forced to continue their retreat. Russian army defeated at Tannenburg and Masurian Lakes.
Battle of the Marne
Battle of the Marne checks the German advance. Over ½ million men are casualties; 250,000 French, 250,000 German and 13,000 British. September 6 -10
First Battle of Ypres
October 19 – November 17
Turkey enters the War in support of Germany.
Battle of Coronel
Off coast of Chile. A major blow to the Royal Navy with the sinking of HMS Good Hope and HMS Monmouth and the loss of almost 1,600 men.
Trenchwarfare begins to dominate the Western Front and trenches are established along its entire length from Switzerland to the North Sea, 440 miles. This line changes very little during the four years of the War. Britain lost almost 1million men during the War, the majority along the Western Front.
British troops from India enter Basra and secure oil supplies to maintain the Navy.
Battle of the Falkland Islands
The Royal Navy regains its superiority and takes revenge for the Battle of Coronel with the sinking of 3 German cruisers involved. Only one German ship escapes.
Bringing the War to Mainland Britain
German warships bombard the coastal towns of Hartlepool, Whitby and Scarborough, killing 137 civilians, bringing the War to mainland Britain.
Dover bombed by German aeroplane. It is the first airborne attack on Britain.
A spontaneous truce breaks out along the trenches of the Western Front. Both sides leave their trenches, sing carols and songs and exchange cigarettes, chocolate, bread and other gifts. Football matches famously take place and even a hare hunt for Christmas dinner. The opportunity is also taken to bury dead…
Zeppelin raids take place on Great Yarmouth and King’s Lynn, killing 5 civilians.
German U-boat blockade of Britain begins.
All shipping is vulnerable, including that of neutral countries.
Allied naval bombardment of Turkish forts in the Dardanelles and Gallipoli begins.
12,800 Allied men lost in the offensive at Neuve Chapelle. Blame attached to poor quality and lack of supply of British shells, starting the ‘Shell Crisis’. More shells fired in the single offensive than in the whole of the Boer War.
Second battle of Ypres begins
First use of poison gas by Germany.
Allied troops land on Gallipoli Peninsular.
Austro-German offensive at Galicia.
The British liner ‘Lusitania’ is torpedoed off Ireland and sunk by a German U-boat. 1,198 men, women and children drowned including 124 American civilians, causing a diplomatic crisis between Germany and the USA.
Italy declares war on Austria-Hungary.
Rising casualties cause unrest in Britain.
The ‘Shell Crisis’ causes discontent with the level of Government support for front line troops. The pressure forces the Liberal Government of Prime Minister Asquith to step down and a coalition government is formed.
First Zeppelin raid
First Zeppelin raid on London kills seven and injures over 30 showing that Germany can attack the British mainland and capital, causing a crisis of moral on the home-front.
Britain loses 6,000 men as they push inland from the beaches of Gallipoli.
Lloyd George sworn in Minister of Munitions.
British troops reach the Euphrates river in Mesopotamia.
Germany uses flame throwers for the first time in Ypres.
The Germans annex Warsaw.
Britain loses 5,000 men in the Battle of Scimitar Hill, Gallipoli
Battle of Loos
Start of the Battle of Loos. Britain uses gas for the first time, but it is blown over their own troops. Seven are killed and 2,625 injured.
British and Canadian troops break the German line at Loos, but heavy loses mean limited advantage can be made. Canadians receive over 9,000 casualties.
British and French troops land in Salonika in neutral Greece to enable the aid of Serbian forces in the Balkans
British nurse Edith Cavell is executed by German firing squad after helping prisoners of war escape from Belgium to Holland. She becomes a martyr and is adopted as a heroine in Britain.
The ‘Bradder Hat’
Steel helmets are adopted on the British front. The design is reputedly based upon the hat used by lead and tin miners and referred to in Derbyshire as the ‘bradder hat’.
Battle of Ctesiphon
After inflicting heavy casualties on Turkish troops at the Battle of Ctesiphon, south of Baghdad, British troops are low on supplies and are forced to retire to the town of Kut. The Turkish give chase and besiege the town.
Sir Douglas Hague
Sir Douglas Hague replaces Sir John French as Commander in Chief of the British Expeditionary Force.
The Allies complete the evacuations at Suvla Bay and Anzac Cove, Gallipoli without a single casualty and without Turkish troops being aware of the operation. 83,000 men are evacuated. Gallipoli was the first major military action by ANZAC, Australian and New Zealand forces. (Australian and New Zealand Army Corps)
A first attempt is made to relieve the besieged British troops in Kut, Mesopotamia. The British force the Turkish to withdraw, but sustain 4,000 casualties.
End of the Gallipoli campaign with the successful evacuation of Helles with only one casualty.
Military Service Act
Military Service Act passed which imposes conscription on all single men aged 18 to 41, except those in essential wartime occupations, the medically unfit, religious ministers and conscientious objectors.
Zeppelins pass over Derbyshire. Derby and Burton-on-Trent bombed.
Battle of Verdun
Start of the Battle of Verdun. The German plan is to ‘bleed the French dry of men and resources’. The battle lasts for 10 months and inflicts over 1 million casualties.
Women’s National Land Service Corps inaugurated
Germany declares war on Portugal.
Austria-Hungary declares war on Portugal
23,000 Allied casualties
A third and last attempt to relieve the besieged forces at Kut, Meopotamia, sustaining 23,000 Allied casualties.
Irish Rebellion starts with Sinn Feiners seizing Dublin’s Post Office.
British forces surrender
Besieged British forces surrendered to Turkish forces at Kut, Mesopotamia, after 143 days. 3,000 British and 6,000 Indian troops are taken prisoner, most die of starvation and disease in prison camps.
Dublin rebels surrender.
Daylight Saving Time
First day of ‘Daylight Saving Time’ scheme, British Summer Time, introduced to give longer daylight working hours, particularly for farmers.
Battle of Jutland.
Despite losing 14 ships and over 6,000 men, the British navy inflicts great damage on the German fleet which does not recover for the rest of the War.
Russian Brussilov Offensive
Start of the Russian Brussilov Offensive on the Eastern Front which was meant to aid the Allies at the Somme by diverting German forces away from the Western Front.
Lawrence of Arabia
T. E. Lawrence, Lawrence of Arabia, helps the Arab revolt against the Turks in Hejaz. Lord Kitchener sets sail for Russia on HMS Hampshire. The ship hits a mine off the Orkney Islands and 643 men, including Kitchener, are lost.
Battle of the Somme
Start of the Battle of the Somme. Three quarters of a million Allied troops advance along a 25 mile front. In one day, 60,000 British troops are wounded or dead. Very little advance is made. It is the largest single day’s loss of life in British military history.
End of the first Somme Offensive
The British troops break the German line, but do not deploy the cavalry fast enough to take full advantage. 9,000 men are killed.
The second Somme Offensive
The second Somme Offensive on the village of Pozieres. Allies sustain 17,000 casualties, mostly Australian.
Italy declares war on Germany
First Zeppelin is shot down over Britain by the Air Corps.
Battle of the Somme continues
British troops capture the strategically important village of Ginchy, commanding a full view of the Somme battlefield.
Third Somme Offensive and the first use of tanks at the Somme
Battle of Thiepval
Tanks again play a role in the Battle of Thiepval village. A Memorial to the Missing, who have no known grave, and who died in the Somme before the 20th of March 1918 is located at Thiepval.
Fourth Phase of the Somme Offensive
The fourth phase of the Somme Offensive, the Battle of the Ancre. The village of Beamont Hamel is captured by British troops who take almost 4,000 prisoners.
Lloyd George becomes British Prime Minister.
Negotiations to end the war begin
Germany issues a proposal to begin negotiations to end the War. On December 30, 1916, the Allies reject the proposal, which they deem unworthy of serious consideration.
Battle of Verdun ends
The Battle of Verdun started on February 21st and ended on December 18th, 1916. It was the longest battle of the War and estimates put casualties at close to 1 million men over 10 months.
USA cuts diplomatic relations with Germany as German U-Boats continue to threaten American ships. An intercepted message also reveals that Germany is attempting to provoke Mexico into an attack on the USA.
The Great German Withdrawal
The Great German Withdrawal , known as Operation Alberich, begins. German troops withdraw from Serre, Miraumont, Pys and Warlencourt, establishing the Hindenburg Line, a much stronger defensive position.
Turkish troops abandon Kut and retreat to Baghdad
British take Baghdad
Russian Revolution begins
Provisional Government formed
Tsar Nicholas II abdicates
Moscow is controlled by Russian revolutionaries. Disarray in the Russian army allows Germany to concentrate more troops on the Western Front.
First Battle of Gaza
British troops attempt, but fail, to isolate Turkish forces from their homeland.
USA declares war on Germany
Troops are readied for war.
Battle of Arras
First phase of Battle of Arras begins. British successfully employ new artillery tactics. Canadians take Vimy Ridge. April 9 -14
Battle of the Aisne
Second Battle of the Aisne. A disaster for the French Army, involving 1.2 million troops and 7,000 guns, it achieved little in the way of territorial gain. Mutinies begin in the French army.
Second battle of Gaza
After the first failed attack, a second is mounted against heavily protected Turkish positions, the second attack was a greater failure with 6,000 lost.
Second phase of Battle of Arras begins
The Battle of Messines Ridge
The attack was a precursor to the much larger Third Battle of Ypres, known as Passchendaele. It was preceded by the detonation of 19 huge mines, totaling around 500 tons, under the German lines. The explosion was the loudest man made sound in history, apparently heard in Dublin and by…
Daylight German bomber raid on London. 162 people were killed and 432 injured.
First American troops arrive in France
After crossing the Nefu desert, the Arabs, with T.E. Lawrence, liberate Aqaba in Jordan, opening the route north for the Arab army and isolating the Turks in Mesopotamia.
Authorisation for the formation of the British Tank Corps
Third Battle at Ypres
Start of the Third Battle at Ypres. Referred to more commonly as ‘Passchendaele’, the Third Battle of Ypres was the final great battle of attritional trench warfare of the War
Battle of Lens
Canadian troops take a small, but strategic hill and hold out against five German counter offensives. The Allies lose 9,200 men.
Third Battle of Verdun
French troops recaptured both “Mort-Homme Hill” and the “Côte 304” and occupy the underground tunnels that connect the German front and rear lines.
The Third Battle of Ypres
British and French troops take the Poelcapelle, north of Ypres. 25mm of rain falls in two days onto already saturated ground and turns the battle field into a quagmire. Wounded men remain on the battlefield as conditions make it too difficult to remove them.
Battle of Passchendaele
Australian and New Zealand troops are bogged down in the mud and suffer terrible losses for no territorial gain.
Last Zeppelin raid on British mainland over London. 5 of the 13 Zeppelins brought down.
Battle of Caporetto
Italian Army was heavily defeated by Austro-German attack.
Second battle of Passchendaele begins
Rain had fallen on every day since 19 October. 20,000 Canadian troops begin the advance, but quickly get bogged down, eventually retreating to within 100 yards of their starting point. A second attack took place in later days with little gain at a cost of 12,000 Allied casualties.
A second offensive on the town of Passchendaele begins. Reinforced by British troops the Allies take the town in torrential rain.
Battle of Beersheba
British troops capture 1,800 Turkish troops at the Battle of Beersheba, clearing the way for the advance on Jerusalem.
Russia’s Bolshevik Revolution
British troops capture Gaza. Russia’s Bolshevik Revolution, forces led by Vladimir Ilyich Lenin overthrow the provisional government of Alexander Kerensky.
Battle of Passchendaele ends.
Begun on July 31, over three months of fighting saw an advance of 5 miles with 500,000 casualties, including 140,000 dead.
Battle of Cambrai
An early example of combined mechanised warfare; the Royal Flying Corps bomb German positions and anit-tank guns, clearing the way for tanks to break through.
Britain captures Jerusalem from the Turks, ending 673 years of Turkish rule.
Russia signs armistice with Germany
Foodrationing begins in UK
Unrest with the War in Austria-Hungary boils over into riots in Vienna and Budapest.
Treaty of Brest-Litovsk
A peace treaty is signed between Russia and Germany; the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk. This frees German troops to fight on the Western Front.
Second Battle of the Somme
A huge German offensive known as Die Kaiserschlacht takes place south of Arras. Over five hours the Germans fire one million shells, more than 3,000 shells every minute. The bombardment is followed by an attack by elite storm troopers. At the end of the first day, around 20,000 British soldiers…
German offensive reaches the Somme line
One of the largest air battles of the War takes place with 70 aircraft.
Germans only 12 miles from Amiens
German offensive along the River Scarpe
The German advance is halted, but with high casualties. The Americans play a vital role in the Battle.
General Foch appointed Allied Commander on the Western Front.
Royal Air Force formed
Major German offensive in the Somme ends
Almost 40 miles of territory has been taken.
Second German offensive begins in Flanders
Second German offensive begins in Flanders with a four-and-a-half hour bombardment of British forces in Armentieres to begin the Battle of the Lys. Germans advance quickly, punching a hole 3.5 miles wide through the British line. They also take almost 6,000 prisoners from a Portuguese division. Germans use 2,000 tons…
Naval raid on Zeebrugge and Ostend
End of the Battle of Lys
Three British Divisions hold off an offensive by 13 German Divisions and inflict very heavy losses.
After earlier un-successful raids on Ostend and Zeebrugge, a second raid on Ostend scuttles HMS Vindictive at the harbour entrance making it unuseable for German cruisers.
Last German air raid on London
The Largest raid of the War, with 33 aircraft, the raid kills 49 civilians and wounds 177 more. Germans also bomb British hospitals at Etaples resulting in 300 casualties.
Third Battle of Aisne
The first two battles were Allied attacks, mainly French, the Third Battle of Aisne, from 27 May-6 June, was the final large-scale German attempt to win the War before the American army arrived. French forces were driven back to Marne, but hold after American reinforcements arrive.
Fourth German offensive
The German 18th Army attacks in the direction of Paris. The assault is stopped as French and American troops successfully counter-attack and the offensive ceases after four days.
Second Battle of the Piave River, Italy
A massive offensive by the Austro-Hungarian army. Italian and British troops drive back the attack and both sides suffer terrible losses. The Allies inflict such losses on the Austro-Hungarian army that it is destroyed. The defeat is the beginning of the dismantling of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. June 15-23
Hospital ship Llandovery Castle is torpedoed
All lifeboats, except one, are rammed by the attacking submarine.
Second Battle of the Marne starts
The last German offensive of the First World War and the Second Battle of the Marne is a significant Allied victory. The German aim to win the War with the offensive fails and German forces in fact lose ground. Crown Prince Wilhelm, and other German commanders, believe that the War…
Ex-Tsar Nicholas and family shot at Ekaterinburg
During the night of July 16th / early morning hours of the 17th, the Tsar, his wife, children and servants are herded into the cellar of their prison house and executed by the Bolsheviks, bringing to an end 300 years of the Romanov dynasty.
Allied forces land at Archangel
The Second Battle of Amiens
The French and British armies advance on Amiens. Trench warfare is abandoned for mobile advances and use of tanks. The German forces are in disarray as communications break down and thousands of troops surrender. August 8 -12
Battle of the Scarpe
British Army sweeps back over the old Somme battlefield. August 26 – 3 September
Battle of Samaria
Battle of Samaria opens British offensive in Palestine. Turkish forces collapsed at Megiddo.
Allied victory in the Balkans
Second Battle of Cambrai and Battle of St. Quentin begin
46th North Midland Division play a leading part in breaking the Hindenburg Line
46th North Midland Division play a leading part in breaking the Hindenburg Line regarded as one of the most brilliant exploits of the war. Several towns and villages are taken, Canadian troops capture Bourlon Wood. French and American troops advance between Reims and Verdun, 23,000 prisoners are taken.
British and Arab troops take Damascus
Led by the Australian 3rdLight Horse Brigade, and capture 7,000 prisoners.
Germany and Austria address pleas to American President, Woodrow Wilson requesting an armistice between their countries and the Allies. Wilson responds, on October 14 and 23, stating that the Allies would only deal with a democratic Germany and not an imperial state with what, in effect, is a military dictatorship.
Allied territorial gains continue with an advance from St Quentin to Cambria, driving the Germans back 3 miles. Over 10,000 prisoners are taken.
Peace demonstrations in Berlin
Battle of Selle
Allied troops advance across the River Selle. Allies also take Lille and Douai.
Having liberated Ostend, Belgian troops reach Zeebrugge.
The British launch an attack with the First, Second and Fourth armies
Advancing six miles in two days after stiff resistance. The British are now 20 miles beyond the Hindenburg Line.
General von Ludendorff resigns
Sailors in the German High Seas Fleet at Jade mutiny and refuse to obey a German Admiralty order to engage the British fleet.
Turkish army surrenders.
Turkey signs an armistice with the Allies after surrendering to the British in Mesopotamia.
Austro-Hungary signs an armistice
Austro-Hungary signs an armistice with the Allies leaving Germany isolated in the War. German Navy mutinies at Kiel.
Armistice negotiations begin
The German peace delegation arrives at a railway siding in Compiegne Forest to negotiate the terms for an armistice. The Allies are in no mood to negotiate. Allied Supreme Commander, Ferdinand Foch, is there to dictate the terms to the Germans. The situation in Germany is desperate, the country faces…
Kaiser William II abdicates and flees to Holland
Revolution begins in Berlin.
British capture Mons before dawn. Germany signs an armistice with the Allies at 5.10 am, agreeing to the punitive terms to end the War. The agreement comes into effect at 11am. The last British soldier to be killed in the War was Private George Edwin Ellison of the 5th Royal…
German forces surrender in East Africa
German Navy surrenders
Nine battleships, seven cruisers, five battle cruisers and 49 destroyers surrender at Rosyth. 39 U-boats surrender at Harwich.
British troops enter Germany
British troops cross the Rhine and occupy Cologne
American troops cross the Rhine and occupy the bridgehead at Coblenz
Peace conference meets in Paris.
Conference accepts principle of League of Nations.
Conference disposes of German colonies.
Surrendered German naval fleet scuttled at Scapa Flow, Orkney.
Treaty of Versailles signed.
(Exactly 5 years after the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, at Sarajevo)
Cenotaph unveiled in London.
At first a temporary wooden structure, it is replaced in 1920 by the current version.
Burial of Unknown Warrior at Westminster Cathedral
Royal British Legion formed.
The British Legion was formed on 15 May 1921, bringing together four national organisations of ex-Servicemen that had established themselves after the First World War.