First World War Timeline of significant events

28 June 1914

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

29 June 1914

Austria-Hungary accuses Serbia of complicity in the assassination.

05 July 1914

Kaiser William II

Kaiser William II promises German support for Austria-Hungary against Serbia.

20 July 1914

Austria-Hungary sends troops to the Serbian border.

28 July 1914

Austria-Hungary declares war on Serbia.

29 July 1914

Great Britain warns Germany that it cannot remain neutral.

Austrians bombard Belgrade, the Serbian capital. German patrols cross the French border.

01 August 1914

French order military mobilisation.

Germany declares war on Russia. Italy and Belgium announce neutrality.

03 August 1914

Germany declares war on France.

Great Britain gives the order for troops to mobilise.

04 August 1914

Germany declares war on Belgium.

Britain declares war on Germany. United States announces neutrality.

05 August 1914

Lord Kitchener

Lord Kitchener made War Secretary.

06 August 1914

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.

07 August 1914

British Expeditionary Force

First members of the British Expeditionary Force land in France.

08 August 1914

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.

11 August 1914

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.

13 August 1914

Royal Flying Corps

First squadrons of Royal Flying Corps arrive in France.

19 August 1914

“Contemptible Little Army”

Kaiser’s alleged order for destruction of British “contemptible little army”

20 August 1914

German troops occupy Brussels.

23 August 1914

Battle of Mons

British Expeditionary Force starts its retreat.

25 August 1914

British Flying Corps claim first ‘kill’ when three planes force down a German reconnaissance plane.

26 August 1914

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.

06 September 1914

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

19 October 1914

First Battle of Ypres

October 19 – November 17

29 October 1914

Turkey enters the War in support of Germany.

01 November 1914

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.

22 November 1914

Western Front

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.

23 November 1914

British troops from India enter Basra and secure oil supplies to maintain the Navy.

08 December 1914

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.

16 December 1914

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.

24 December 1914

Dover bombed by German aeroplane. It is the first airborne attack on Britain.

25 December 1914

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…

19 January 1915

Zeppelin raids take place on Great Yarmouth and King’s Lynn, killing 5 civilians.

18 February 1915

German U-boat blockade of Britain begins.

All shipping is vulnerable, including that of neutral countries.

19 February 1915

Allied naval bombardment of Turkish forts in the Dardanelles and Gallipoli begins.

10 March 1915

‘Shell Crisis’

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.

22 April 1915

Second battle of Ypres begins

First use of poison gas by Germany.

25 April 1915

Allied troops land on Gallipoli Peninsular.

02 May 1915

Austro-German offensive at Galicia.

07 May 1915


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.

23 May 1915

Italy declares war on Austria-Hungary.

25 May 1915

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.

31 May 1915

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.

04 June 1915

Britain loses 6,000 men as they push inland from the beaches of Gallipoli.

16 June 1915

Lloyd George

Lloyd George sworn in Minister of Munitions.

21 June 1915

British troops reach the Euphrates river in Mesopotamia.

30 July 1915

Germany uses flame throwers for the first time in Ypres.

04 August 1915

The Germans annex Warsaw.

21 August 1915

Britain loses 5,000 men in the Battle of Scimitar Hill, Gallipoli

25 September 1915

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.

27 September 1915

9,000 casualties

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.

05 October 1915

British and French troops land in Salonika in neutral Greece to enable the aid of Serbian forces in the Balkans

12 October 1915

Edith Cavell

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.

31 October 1915

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’.

22 November 1915

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.

15 December 1915

Sir Douglas Hague

Sir Douglas Hague replaces Sir John French as Commander in Chief of the British Expeditionary Force.

20 December 1915


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)

04 January 1916

4,000 casualties

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.

08 January 1916

Gallipoli campaign

End of the Gallipoli campaign with the successful evacuation of Helles with only one casualty.

24 January 1916

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.

31 January 1916

Zeppelins pass over Derbyshire. Derby and Burton-on-Trent bombed.

21 February 1916

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.

06 March 1916

Women’s National Land Service Corps inaugurated

09 March 1916

Germany declares war on Portugal.

15 March 1916

Austria-Hungary declares war on Portugal

05 April 1916

23,000 Allied casualties

A third and last attempt to relieve the besieged forces at Kut, Meopotamia, sustaining 23,000 Allied casualties.

24 April 1916

Irish Rebellion

Irish Rebellion starts with Sinn Feiners seizing Dublin’s Post Office.

29 April 1916

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.

30 April 1916

Dublin rebels surrender.

21 May 1916

Daylight Saving Time

First day of ‘Daylight Saving Time’ scheme, British Summer Time, introduced to give longer daylight working hours, particularly for farmers.

31 May 1916

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.

04 June 1916

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.

05 June 1916

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.

01 July 1916

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.

14 July 1916

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.

23 July 1916

The second Somme Offensive

The second Somme Offensive on the village of Pozieres. Allies sustain 17,000 casualties, mostly Australian.

28 August 1916

Italy declares war on Germany

02 September 1916

First Zeppelin is shot down over Britain by the Air Corps.

09 September 1916

Battle of the Somme continues

British troops capture the strategically important village of Ginchy, commanding a full view of the Somme battlefield.

15 September 1916

Third Somme Offensive and the first use of tanks at the Somme

26 September 1916

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.

13 November 1916

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.

07 December 1916

Lloyd George becomes British Prime Minister.

12 December 1916

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.

18 December 1916

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.

03 February 1917

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.

21 February 1917

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.

24 February 1917

Turkish troops abandon Kut and retreat to Baghdad

11 March 1917

British take Baghdad

12 March 1917

Russian Revolution begins

Provisional Government formed

15 March 1917

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.

26 March 1917

First Battle of Gaza

British troops attempt, but fail, to isolate Turkish forces from their homeland.

06 April 1917

USA declares war on Germany

Troops are readied for war.

09 April 1917

Battle of Arras

First phase of Battle of Arras begins. British successfully employ new artillery tactics. Canadians take Vimy Ridge. April 9 -14

16 April 1917

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.

19 April 1917

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.

23 April 1917

Second phase of Battle of Arras begins

07 June 1917

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…

13 June 1917

Daylight German bomber raid on London. 162 people were killed and 432 injured.

25 June 1917

First American troops arrive in France

16 July 1917

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.

28 July 1917

Authorisation for the formation of the British Tank Corps

31 July 1917

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

15 August 1917

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.

20 August 1917

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.

09 October 1917

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.

12 October 1917

Battle of Passchendaele

Australian and New Zealand troops are bogged down in the mud and suffer terrible losses for no territorial gain.

19 October 1917

Last Zeppelin raid on British mainland over London. 5 of the 13 Zeppelins brought down.

24 October 1917

Battle of Caporetto

Italian Army was heavily defeated by Austro-German attack.

26 October 1917

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.

30 October 1917

A second offensive on the town of Passchendaele begins. Reinforced by British troops the Allies take the town in torrential rain.

31 October 1917

Battle of Beersheba

British troops capture 1,800 Turkish troops at the Battle of Beersheba, clearing the way for the advance on Jerusalem.

07 November 1917

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.

10 November 1917

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.

20 November 1917

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.

09 December 1917

Britain captures Jerusalem from the Turks, ending 673 years of Turkish rule.

15 December 1917

Russia signs armistice with Germany

01 January 1918

Foodrationing begins in UK

16 January 1918

Unrest with the War in Austria-Hungary boils over into riots in Vienna and Budapest.

03 March 1918

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.

21 March 1918

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…

23 March 1918

German offensive reaches the Somme line

One of the largest air battles of the War takes place with 70 aircraft.

27 March 1918

Germans only 12 miles from Amiens

28 March 1918

German offensive along the River Scarpe

The German advance is halted, but with high casualties. The Americans play a vital role in the Battle.

29 March 1918

General Foch

General Foch appointed Allied Commander on the Western Front.

01 April 1918

Royal Air Force formed

05 April 1918

Major German offensive in the Somme ends

Almost 40 miles of territory has been taken.

09 April 1918

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…

22 April 1918

Naval raid on Zeebrugge and Ostend

April 22-23

29 April 1918

End of the Battle of Lys

Three British Divisions hold off an offensive by 13 German Divisions and inflict very heavy losses.

10 May 1918

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.

19 May 1918

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.

27 May 1918

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.

09 June 1918

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.

15 June 1918

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

27 June 1918

Hospital ship Llandovery Castle is torpedoed

All lifeboats, except one, are rammed by the attacking submarine.

15 July 1918

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…

16 July 1918

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.

01 August 1918

Allied forces land at Archangel

08 August 1918

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

26 August 1918

Battle of the Scarpe

British Army sweeps back over the old Somme battlefield. August 26 – 3 September

19 September 1918

Battle of Samaria

Battle of Samaria opens British offensive in Palestine. Turkish forces collapsed at Megiddo.

22 September 1918

Allied victory in the Balkans

27 September 1918

Second Battle of Cambrai and Battle of St. Quentin begin

29 September 1918

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.

30 September 1918

British and Arab troops take Damascus

Led by the Australian 3rdLight Horse Brigade, and capture 7,000 prisoners.

04 October 1918

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.

08 October 1918

Allied territorial gains continue with an advance from St Quentin to Cambria, driving the Germans back 3 miles. Over 10,000 prisoners are taken.

16 October 1918

Peace demonstrations in Berlin

17 October 1918

Battle of Selle

Allied troops advance across the River Selle. Allies also take Lille and Douai.

18 October 1918

Having liberated Ostend, Belgian troops reach Zeebrugge.

23 October 1918

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.

26 October 1918

General von Ludendorff resigns

30 October 1918

Sailors in the German High Seas Fleet at Jade mutiny and refuse to obey a German Admiralty order to engage the British fleet.

30 October 1918

Turkish army surrenders.

Turkey signs an armistice with the Allies after surrendering to the British in Mesopotamia.

03 November 1918

Austro-Hungary signs an armistice

Austro-Hungary signs an armistice with the Allies leaving Germany isolated in the War. German Navy mutinies at Kiel.

08 November 1918

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…

09 November 1918

Kaiser William II abdicates and flees to Holland

Revolution begins in Berlin.

11 November 1918

Armistice Day

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…

14 November 1918

German forces surrender in East Africa

21 November 1918

German Navy surrenders

Nine battleships, seven cruisers, five battle cruisers and 49 destroyers surrender at Rosyth. 39 U-boats surrender at Harwich.

01 December 1918

British troops enter Germany

12 December 1918

British troops cross the Rhine and occupy Cologne

13 December 1918

American troops cross the Rhine and occupy the bridgehead at Coblenz

18 January 1919

Peace conference meets in Paris.

25 January 1919

Conference accepts principle of League of Nations.

06 May 1919

Conference disposes of German colonies.

21 June 1919

Surrendered German naval fleet scuttled at Scapa Flow, Orkney.

28 June 1919

Treaty of Versailles signed.

(Exactly 5 years after the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, at Sarajevo)

19 July 1919

Cenotaph unveiled in London.

At first a temporary wooden structure, it is replaced in 1920 by the current version.

11 November 1920

Burial of Unknown Warrior at Westminster Cathedral

15 May 1921

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.