First World War Central Powers

First World War Central Powers


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The Brutal Realities of World War I

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In August 1914, both sides expected a quick victory. Neither leaders nor civilians from warring nations were prepared for the length and brutality of the war, which took the lives of millions by its end in 1918. The loss of life was greater than in any previous war in history, in part because militaries were using new technologies, including tanks, airplanes, submarines, machine guns, modern artillery, flamethrowers, and poison gas.

The map below shows the farthest advances of Axis and Allied forces on the fronts to the west, east, and south of Germany and Austria-Hungary. Most of the war's major battles took place between those lines of farthest advance on each front. Germany’s initial goal was to knock the French out of the war by occupying Belgium and then quickly march into France and capture Paris, its capital. German troops could then concentrate on the war in the east. That plan failed, and by the end of 1914, the two sides were at a stalemate. Before long, they faced each other across a 175-mile-long line of trenches that ran from the English Channel to the Swiss border. These trenches came to symbolize a new kind of warfare. A young officer named Harold Macmillan (who later became prime minister of Britain) explained in a letter home:

Perhaps the most extraordinary thing about the modern battlefield is the desolation and emptiness of it all. . . . Nothing is to be seen of war or soldiers—only the split and shattered trees and the burst of an occasional shell reveal anything of the truth. One can look for miles and see no human being. But in those miles of country lurk (like moles or rats, it seems) thousands, even hundreds of thousands of men, planning against each other perpetually some new device of death. Never showing themselves, they launch at each other bullet, bomb, aerial torpedo, and shell. And somewhere too . . . are the little cylinders of gas, waiting only for the moment to spit forth their nauseous and destroying fumes. And yet the landscape shows nothing of all this—nothing but a few shattered trees and 3 or 4 thin lines of earth and sandbags these and the ruins of towns and villages are the only signs of war anywhere.

The glamour of red coats—the martial tunes of fife and drum—aide-de-camps scurrying hither and thither on splendid chargers—lances glittering and swords flashing—how different the old wars must have been. The thrill of battle comes now only once or twice in a [year]. We need not so much the gallantry of our fathers we need (and in our Army at any rate I think you will find it) that indomitable and patient determination which has saved England over and over again. 1

World War I was fought between the Central powers and the Allied powers simultaneously on several fronts in western Europe, eastern Europe, and the Middle East. See full-sized image for analysis.

The area between the opposing armies’ trenches was known as “No Man's Land” for good reason. Fifty years after the war, Richard Tobin, who served with Britain’s Royal Naval Division, recalled how he and his fellow soldiers entered No Man’s Land as they tried to break through the enemy’s line. “As soon as you got over the top,” he told an interviewer, “fear has left you and it is terror. You don’t look, you see. You don’t hear, you listen. Your nose is filled with fumes and death. You taste the top of your mouth. . . . You’re hunted back to the jungle. The veneer of civilization has dropped away.” 2

Unlike the war on Germany’s western front, the war on the eastern front was a war of rapid movement. Armies repeatedly crisscrossed the same territories. Civilians were frequently caught in the crossfire, and millions were evacuated from their homes and expelled from territories as armies approached. On both sides of the conflict, many came to believe that what they were experiencing was not war but “mass slaughter.” A private in the British army explained, “If you go forward, you’ll likely be shot, if you go back you’ll be court-martialed and shot, so what the hell do you do? What can you do? You just go forward.” 3

The carnage was incomprehensible to everyone, as millions of soldiers and civilians alike died. Historian Martin Gilbert details the loss of life:

More than nine million soldiers, sailors and airmen were killed in the First World War. A further five million civilians are estimated to have perished under occupation, bombardment, hunger and disease. The mass murder of Armenians in 1915 [see reading, Genocide Under the Cover of War], and the [Spanish] influenza epidemic that began while the war was still being fought, were two of its destructive by-products. The flight of Serbs from Serbia at the end of 1915 was another cruel episode in which civilians perished in large numbers so too was the Allied naval blockade of Germany, as a result of which more than three-quarters of a million German civilians died. 4

The chart below provides estimates of the number of soldiers killed, wounded, and reported missing during World War I. Exact numbers are often disputed and are nearly impossible to determine for a variety of reasons. Different countries used different methods to count their dead and injured, and some methods were more reliable than others. Records of some countries were destroyed during the war and its aftermath. Also, some countries may have changed the number of casualties in their official records for political reasons. The numbers of civilians from each country killed during the war are even more difficult to estimate. The numbers in the chart reflect the estimates made by most historians today (see reading, Negotiating Peace in Chapter 3).


Guided History

The First World War was set in motion with the assassination of one man, the Archduke Franz Ferdinand, following a period of political tension within Europe. Many European countries did not expect to be committed to a highly truculent war from 1914-1918. As the war raged on towards its record setting 5,380,000 casualties, morale on the home front in both the Central Powers and the Allies sank. Great Britain, France, Russia, Germany, and Austria-Hungary turned to various forms of propaganda as a tool to popularize support for involvement in World War I. Propaganda played a significant factor in keeping armies from withering away due to lack of recruits and support. In turn, national propaganda moved empires and spurred on nations to take a lead role in World War I. The time frame of such propaganda promoting World War I involvement is specifically limited to the war era of 1914-1918.

Three main sections compose this research guide General Overview of World War I, Propaganda in the Allied Forces, and Propaganda in the Central Powers. The first section contains general overviews of World War I to establish a general knowledge and historical context. I have included sources that focus on military strategy for basic understanding of the physical war along with home front sources that provide a better understanding of war era dynamics at home. Within the two propaganda specific sections I focused on five countries total in order to compile cohesive and productive sources. Propaganda in the Allied Forces contains sources from each country France, Great Britain, and Russia in various forms for an over all view of what citizens would encounter on a daily basis. Propaganda in the Central Powers contains sources from each country as well Germany and Austria-Hungary to pursue a less common view point studied in World War I.

World War I studies limited to the militarily victorious Allies’ point of view are dominant in the United States today. However, without taking into account both points of view biased studies form. This research guide is purposed to serve as a starting point for a well rounded inquiry into the propaganda used to propel World War I.

Allied forces propaganda poster. Publicized in Great Britain to boost home front morale and strengthen alliances.

General Overview of World War I

Researching World War I: a Handbook

This research guide analyzes all aspects of World War I, from training new recruits to home front rationing, in great detail. Each chapter covers one country socially, economically and politically using a plethora of scholarly facts. Higham and Showalter repeatedly compare and contrast World War I with other wars around the globe, such as the Russo-Japanese War, to analyze military strategy and domestic morale. In addition to presenting factual overviews put into historical context, Higham and Showalter provide the reader with an abundance of supplemental sources that offer the opportunity to further research a specific topic in depth.

Higham, Robin, and Dennis E. Showalter, eds. Researching World War I: A Handbook. Westport: Greenwood Press, 2003.

A History of the Great War

Lt. Col. John Buchan’s four volume series explores the history of World War I, The Great War, from a militaristic point of view. Buchan possessed access to classified information as the Director of the Department of Information for the British government while developing these volumes. Volume two contains maps of battles true to the World War I era that add to this source’s value. Although Buchan put together A History of the Great War based on the Great Britain’s view point he offers his information without the dilution of time.

Buchan, John. A History of the Great War in Four Volumes. Vol. 2, A History of the Great War. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1922.

World War I- Britannica Academic Edition

The Britannica Online Encyclopedia offers a bias-free scholarly source for information on World War I . This site also contains links to specific subjects within World War I including maps of battles, informational videos on political boarders, posters used as propaganda, and interactive activities to further explore the subject.

The First World War Documentary

Produced as a free documentary, this source examines the political unrest in the origins of World War I. It analyzes pre-war political tension around the Austrian Empire and Serbia as necessary, and continues through to the formation of the Allies and the Central Powers military alliances. Although this video discusses theories, it remains neutral and unbiased.

Personal Perspectives: World War I

Personal Perspectives offers a general insight of World War I by threading together groups of experiences. This resource covers a vast range of views pulling from British Indian soldiers, allied medical personnel, and women on the home front. Timothy C. Dowling successfully puts individual views, tinted with bias, into perspective. He confronts the hardest aspect to comprehend about a war, the effect it had in an individual’s personal life.

Dowling, Timothy C. Personal Perspectives: World War I. Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO, 2005.

Daily Life During World War I

This source evaluates World War I through personal experiences in a collective format. Heyman exploits the views of military members as well as families left behind to face supply demands, covering both spheres of World War I. Due to the elephantine scope of the war this book narrows it’s scope to the western front. Despite only addressing the popular western front, Heyman does not limit himself to trench warfare and includes the experiences of navy personnel involved in submarine warfare and air force pilots in combat in the sky. Daily Life During World War I presents a thorough chronology of events and an abundance of further readings on various subjects.

Heyman, Neil F. Daily Life During World War I. Westport:Greenwood Press, 2002.

The Last Great War: British Society and the First World War

Adrian Gregory’s The Last Great War: British Society and the First World War is an investigation of the course of the war for Great Britain’s civilian population. This source does not cover all aspects of the war. In fact, it backs away from most of the political concerns of the era. Rather than a purely factual textbook, it is both a general synthesis examining some of the cultural attitudes and experiences of civilians during the war and a captivating analytical study of some of the war’s more controversial social, religious, and economic debates. Although Gregory apologizes for not detailing the concerns of uniformed men directly and neglecting “military history, strictly defined,” The Last Great War effectively analyzes World War I on the home front.

Gregory, Adrian. The Last Great War: British Society and the First World War. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2008.

Propaganda in the Allied forces- France, Great Britain and Russia

More Songs by the Fighting Men

This source, published in 1917, is a collection of poems produced from World War I soldiers Sapper De Banzie, Sub-Lieut. Bewsher, Sergt. Brooks, Lieut. Carstairs, Corpl. Challenger, Pte. Chilman, Lieut. Choyce, second Lieut. Clements, M.C. second Lieut. Cook, second Lieut. Cooper, Sergt. Coulson, Pte. Cox, and Capt. Crombie among others. The British government publicized poetry from military personnel as a form of support for soldiers throughout the war. This collection of poetry ranges in subject from love interests at home to serene scenes of nature juxtaposing barren battle fields.

MacDonald, Erskine, ed. More Songs by the Fighting Men. London: Erskine MacDonald Ltd., 1917.


First World War Central Powers - History

This photo gallery is a companion work to my e-book, Pursuit of an "Unparalleled Opportunity": The American YMCA and Prisoner-of-War Diplomacy among the Central Power Nations during World War I, 1914-1923. The images include a wide range of photographs, drawings, paintings, maps, and other images from Austrian, Hungarian, Bulgarian, German, and Turkish prison camps during the First World War which illustrate the daily life of Allied war prisoners in and outside of prison facilities. The text and database images show the activities in these camps and address the general topics of capture, prison camp order and operations, nutrition, fire safety and prevention, welfare and relief services, entertainment, education, sports, religion, medical care, hygiene and sanitation, postal systems, labor, finances and banking, crime and punishment, repatriation, and post-war relief work for Russian war prisoners. A detailed overview of the subject headings and key terms used in the categorizing the collection are provided in an appendix. While life in Central Power prison camps was difficult for Allied POW's, German and Austro-Hungarian authorities attempted to follow international law and promote the health and welfare of war prisoners under their care. Exceptions to this thesis were few in number and often implemented by individual camp commandants. In contrast to Allied POW experiences in World War II, Entente prisoners received far better treatment and care in the Great War. Complete introduction- First World War Central Power Prison Camps- is available.


Central Powers

The Allies described the wartime military alliance of Germany, Austria-Hungary, Bulgaria and the Ottoman Empire as the 'Central Powers'. The name referred to the geographical location of the two original members of the alliance, Germany and Austria-Hungary, in central Europe. The Ottoman Empire joined the alliance in November 1914 and the last member of the quartet, the Kingdom of Bulgaria, entered the war on the side of the Central Powers in October 1915.

As well as providing the alliance with its name, the geographical position of the German and Austro-Hungarian empires also gave the Central Powers at least one very important strategic advantage over the Allies they were fighting. It was much easier for the Germans and Austro-Hungarians to move troops, equipment and supplies from one battle front to another because they could do much of this on their domestic railway networks.

For example, the Germans could move 10 infantry divisions from the Eastern Front to the Western Front via a relatively straightforward journey across Germany. It was no more difficult for the Austro-Hungarians to move five infantry divisions from the Eastern Front to the Italian Front, or to the Salonika Front in the Balkans.

Compare this situation with the difficulties faced by the Allies in moving men, equipment and supplies from one battle front to another. This usually involved long circuitous routes across or around multiple countries, each with different rail networks and logistical procedures. It was also likely to require transport by sea, which posed its own set of risks, notably from German and Austrian submarines. So while it could take two or three weeks to transport a British Army unit and its equipment from the United Kingdom to the Salonika Front, the Austro-Hungarians, and the Germans if need be, could move reinforcements there in less than a week.

The military term for this strategic advantage of the Central Powers is 'operating on interior lines'. It was used to most dramatic effect in early 1918, when the rapid transfer of large numbers of German divisions from the Eastern Front to the Western Front enabled the great German spring offensive in the west.


Theatres of conflict

Opening hostilities

Confusion among the Central Powers

The strategy of the Central Powers suffered from miscommunication. Germany had promised to support Austria-Hungary's invasion of Serbia, but interpretations of what this meant differed. Previously tested deployment plans had been replaced early in 1914, but the replacements had never been tested in exercises. Austro-Hungarian leaders believed Germany would cover its northern flank against Russia. Germany, however, envisioned Austria-Hungary directing most of its troops against Russia, while Germany dealt with France. This confusion forced the Austro-Hungarian Army to divide its forces between the Russian and Serbian fronts.

On September 9, 1914 the Septemberprogramm, a possible plan that detailed Germany's specific war aims and the conditions that Germany sought to force on the Allied Powers, was outlined by German Chancellor Theobald von Bethmann-Hollweg. It was never officially adopted but some of its elements formed the basis for German demands at the end of the war.

African campaigns

Colonial volunteers in German East Africa, 1914.

Some of the first clashes of the war involved British, French, and German colonial forces in Africa. On August 7, French and British troops invaded the German protectorate of Togoland. On August 10, German forces in South-West Africa attacked South Africa sporadic and fierce fighting continued for the rest of the war. The German colonial forces in German East Africa, led by Colonel Paul Emil von Lettow-Vorbeck, fought a guerrilla warfare campaign during World War I and only found out about the wars end two weeks after the armistice took effect in Europe.

Serbian campaign

Serbian artillery positions in the Battle of Kolubara.

Austria invaded and fought the Serbian army at the Battle of Cer and Battle of Kolubara beginning on August 12. Over the next two weeks, Austrian attacks were thrown back with heavy losses, which marked the first major Allied victories of the war and dashed Austro-Hungarian hopes of a swift victory. As a result, Austria had to keep sizable forces on the Serbian front, weakening its efforts against Russia. Serbia’s defeat of the Austro-Hungarian invasion of 1914 counts among the major upset victories of the last century.

German forces in Belgium and France

German soldiers in a railway goods van on the way to the front in 1914. A message on the car spells out "Trip to Paris" early in the war all sides expected the conflict to be a short one.

At the outbreak of the First World War, the German army (consisting in the West of seven field armies) carried out a modified version of the Schlieffen Plan. This marched German armies through neutral Belgium and into France, before turning southward to encircle the French army on the German border. Since France had declared that it would "keep full freedom of acting in case of a war between Germany and Russia", Germany had to expect the possibility of an attack by France on one front and by Russia on the other. To meet such a scenario, the Schlieffen Plan stated that Germany must try to defeat France quickly (as had happened in the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-71). It further suggested that to repeat a fast victory in the west, Germany should not attack through the difficult terrain of Alsace-Lorraine (which had a direct border west of the river Rhine), instead, the idea was to try to quickly cut Paris off from the English Channel and British assistance, and take Paris, thus winning the war. Then the armies would be moved over to the east to meet Russia. Russia was believed to need a long period of mobilization before they could become a real threat to the Central Powers.

The only existing German plan for a two-front war had German armies marching through Belgium. Germany wanted free escort through Belgium (and originally Holland as well, which plan Kaiser Wilhelm II rejected) to invade France. Neutral Belgium rejected this idea, so the Germans decided to invade through Belgium instead. France also wanted to move their troops into Belgium, but Belgium originally rejected this "suggestion" as well, in the hope of avoiding any war on Belgian soil. In the end, after the German invasion, Belgium did try to join their army with the French (but a large part of the Belgian army retreated to Antwerp where they were forced to surrender when all hope of help was gone).

The plan called for the right flank of the German advance to bypass the French armies (which were concentrated on the Franco-German border, leaving the Belgian border without significant French forces) and move south to Paris. Initially the Germans were successful, particularly in the Battle of the Frontiers (August 14–24). By September 12, the French, with assistance from the British forces, halted the German advance east of Paris at the First Battle of the Marne (September 5–12), and pushed the German forces back some 50 km. The last days of this battle signified the end of mobile warfare in the west. The French offensive into Southern Alsace, launched on August 20 with the Battle of Mulhouse, had limited success.

In the east, the Russians invaded with two armies, surprising the German staff who had not expected the Russians to move so early. A field army, the 8th, was rapidly moved from its previous role as reserve for the invasion of France, to East Prussia by rail across the German Empire. This army, led by general Paul von Hindenburg defeated Russia in a series of battles collectively known as the First Battle of Tannenberg (August 17 – September 2). But the failed Russian invasion, causing the fresh German troops to move to the east, allowed the tactical Allied victory at the First Battle of the Marne. The Central Powers were denied a quick victory in France and forced to fight a war on two fronts. The German army had fought its way into a good defensive position inside France and had permanently incapacitated 230,000 more French and British troops than it had lost itself. Despite this, communications problems and questionable command decisions cost Germany the chance of early victory.

Asia and the Pacific

Men in Melbourne collecting recruitment papers, 1914.

New Zealand occupied German Samoa on August 30, 1914. On September 11, the Australian Naval and Military Expeditionary Force landed on the island of Neu Pommern, which formed part of German New Guinea. On October 28, the cruiser SMS Emden sunk the Russian cruiser Zhemchug in the Battle of Penang. Japan seized Germany's Micronesian colonies and, after the Siege of Tsingtao, the German coaling port of Qingdao in the Chinese Shandong peninsula. Within a few months, the Allied forces had seized all the German territories in the Pacific only isolated commerce raiders and a few holdouts in New Guinea remained.

Western Front

Trench warfare begins (1914–1915)

Sir Winston Churchill with the Royal Scots Fusiliers, 1916

Military tactics before World War I had failed to keep pace with advances in technology. These advances allowed for impressive defence systems, which out-of-date military tactics could not break through for most of the war. Barbed wire was a significant hindrance to massed infantry advances. Artillery, vastly more lethal than in the 1870s, coupled with machine guns, made crossing open ground extremely difficult. The Germans were the first to use lethal poison gas on a large scale it soon became used by both sides, though it never proved decisive in winning a battle. Its effects were brutal, causing slow and painful death, and poison gas became one of the most-feared and best-remembered horrors of the war. Commanders on both sides failed to develop tactics for breaching entrenched positions without heavy casualties. In time, however, technology began to produce new offensive weapons, such as the tank.

After the First Battle of the Marne (September 5–12, 1914), both Entente and German forces began a series of outflanking maneuvers, in the so-called "Race to the Sea". Britain and France soon found themselves facing entrenched German forces from Lorraine to Belgium's coast. Britain and France sought to take the offensive, while Germany defended the occupied territories. Consequently, German trenches were much better constructed than those of their enemy Anglo-French trenches were only intended to be "temporary" before their forces broke through German defences.

In the trenches: Royal Irish Rifles in a communications trench on the first day on the Somme July 1, 1916.

Both sides tried to break the stalemate using scientific and technological advances. On April 22, 1915 at the Second Battle of Ypres, the Germans (violating the Hague Convention) used chlorine gas for the first time on the Western Front. Algerian troops retreated when gassed and a six-km (four-mi) hole opened in the Allied lines, which the Germans quickly exploited, taking Kitcheners' Wood, before Canadian soldiers closed the breach. Tanks were first used in combat by the British during the Battle of Flers-Courcelette (part of the wider Somme offensive) on September 15, 1916 with only partial success the French introduced the revolving turret of the Renault FT in late 1917 the Germans employed captured Allied tanks and a number of their own design.

Trench warfare continues (1916–1917)

Neither side proved able to deliver a decisive blow for the next two years. Around 1.1 to 1.2 million soldiers from the British and Dominion armies were on the Western Front at any one time. A thousand battalions, occupying sectors of the line from the North Sea to the Orne River, operated on a month-long four-stage rotation system, unless an offensive was underway. The front contained over 9600 km (5965 mi) of trenches. Each battalion held its sector for about a week before moving back to support lines and then further back to the reserve lines before a week out-of-line, often in the Poperinge or Amiens areas.

Canadian troops advancing behind a British Mark II tank at the Battle of Vimy Ridge.

A French assault on German positions. Champagne, France, 1917.

Officers and senior enlisted men of the Bermuda Militia Artillery's Bermuda Contingent, Royal Garrison Artillery, in Europe.

Throughout 1915–17, the British Empire and France suffered more casualties than Germany, because of both the strategic and tactical stances chosen by the sides. Strategically, while the Germans only mounted a single main offensive at Verdun, the Allies made several attempts to break through German lines.

The British Grand Fleet making steam for Scapa Flow, 1914

On July 1, 1916 the British Army endured the bloodiest day in its history, suffering 57,470 casualties, including 19,240 dead, on the first day of the Battle of the Somme. Most of the casualties occurred in the first hour of the attack. The entire Somme offensive cost the British Army almost half a million men.

A battleship squadron of the Hochseeflotte at sea

Protracted German action at Verdun throughout 1916, combined with the bloodletting at the Somme (July and August 1916), brought the exhausted French army to the brink of collapse. Futile attempts at frontal assault came at a high price for both the British and the French poilu and led to widespread mutinies in 1917, after the costly Nivelle Offensive (April and May 1917).

Tactically, German commander Erich Ludendorff's doctrine of "elastic defence" was well suited for trench warfare. This defence had a lightly defended forward position and a more powerful main position farther back beyond artillery range, from which an immediate and powerful counter-offensive could be launched.

Ludendorff wrote on the fighting in 1917, "The 25th of August concluded the second phase of the Flanders battle. It had cost us heavily . The costly August battles in Flanders and at Verdun imposed a heavy strain on the Western troops. Despite all the concrete protection they seemed more or less powerless under the enormous weight of the enemy's artillery. At some points they no longer displayed the firmness which I, in common with the local commanders, had hoped for. The enemy managed to adapt himself to our method of employing counter attacks . I, myself, was being put to a terrible strain. The state of affairs in the West appeared to prevent the execution of our plans elsewhere. Our wastage had been so high as to cause grave misgivings, and had exceeded all expectation".

On the battle of the Menin Road Ridge, Ludendorff wrote, "Another terrific assault was made on our lines on the 20th of September . The enemy's onslaught on the 20th was successful, which proved the superiority of the attack over the defence. Its strength did not consist in the tanks we found them inconvenient, but put them out of action all the same. The power of the attack lay in the artillery, and in the fact that ours did not do enough damage to the hostile infantry as they were assembling, and above all, at the actual time of the assault".

In the 1917 Battle of Arras, the only significant British military success was the capture of Vimy Ridge by the Canadian Corps under Sir Arthur Currie and Julian Byng. The assaulting troops could – for the first time – overrun, rapidly reinforce, and hold the ridge defending the coal-rich Douai plain.

Naval war

At the start of the war, the German Empire had cruisers scattered across the globe, some of which were subsequently used to attack Allied merchant shipping. The British Royal Navy systematically hunted them down, though not without some embarrassment from its inability to protect Allied shipping. For example, the German detached light cruiser SMS Emden, part of the East-Asia squadron stationed at Qingdao, seized or destroyed 15 merchantmen, as well as sinking a Russian cruiser and a French destroyer. However, most of the German East-Asia squadron—consisting of the armoured cruisers SMS Scharnhorst and SMS Gneisenau, light cruisers SMS Nürnberg and SMS Leipzig and two transport ships—did not have orders to raid shipping and was instead underway to Germany when it met British warships. The German flotilla and SMS Dresden sank two armoured cruisers at the Battle of Coronel in November 1914. These ships would be used to attack allied shipping in the Atlantic once they had made it safely passed the Falkland Isands.

Soon after the outbreak of hostilities, Britain began a naval blockade of Germany. The strategy proved effective, cutting off vital military and civilian supplies, although this blockade violated accepted international law codified by several international agreements of the past two centuries. Britain mined international waters to prevent any ships from entering entire sections of ocean, causing danger to even neutral ships. Since there was limited response to this tactic, Germany expected a similar response to its unrestricted submarine warfare.

The 1916 Battle of Jutland (German: Skagerrakschlacht, or "Battle of the Skagerrak") developed into the largest naval battle of the war, the only full-scale clash of battleships during the war, and one of the largest in history. It took place on May – June 1, 1916 in the North Sea off Jutland. The Kaiserliche Marine's High Seas Fleet, commanded by Vice Admiral Reinhard Scheer, squared off against the Royal Navy's Grand Fleet, led by Admiral Sir John Jellicoe. The engagement was a great victory for the Germans who, outmanoeuvred the larger British fleet, managed to inflicted more damage to the British fleet than they received. The Germans successfully broke the blockade with the Action of August 1916, resulting in the bulk of the Grand Fleet remaining confined to port for the duration of the war.

German U-Boats attempted to cut the supply lines between North America and Britain. The nature of submarine warfare meant that attacks often came without warning, giving the crews of the merchant ships little hope of survival. The United States launched a protest, and Germany changed its rules of engagement. After the sinking of the passenger ship RMS Lusitania in 1915, Germany promised not to target passenger liners, while Britain armed its merchant ships, placing them beyond the protection of the "cruiser rules", which demanded warning and placing crews in "a place of safety" (a standard that lifeboats did not meet). The U-Boats had sunk more than 5,000 Allied ships, at a cost of 199 submarines

U-155 exhibited near Tower Bridge in London after the First World War.


World War I also saw the first use of aircraft carriers in combat, with HMS Furious launching Sopwith Camels in a successful raid against the Zeppelin hangars at Tondern in July 1918, as well as blimps for antisubmarine patrol.

Southern theatres

War in the Balkans

Austro-Hungarian troops executing captured Serbians. Serbia lost about 850,000 people during the war, a quarter of its pre-war population.

Faced with Russia, Austria-Hungary could spare only one-third of its army to attack Serbia. After suffering heavy losses, the Austrians briefly occupied the Serbian capital, Belgrade. A Serbian counterattack in the battle of Kolubara, however, succeeded in driving them from the country by the end of 1914. For the first ten months of 1915, Austria-Hungary used most of its military reserves to fight Italy. German and Austro-Hungarian diplomats, however, scored a coup by persuading Bulgaria to join the attack on Serbia. The Austro-Hungarian provinces of Slovenia, Croatia and Bosnia provided troops for Austria-Hungary, invading Serbia as well as fighting Russia and Italy. Montenegro allied itself with Serbia.

Serbia was conquered in a little more than a month, as the Central Powers, now including Bulgaria, sent in 600,000 troops. The Serbian army, fighting on two fronts and facing certain defeat, retreated into northern Albania. The Serbs suffered defeat in the Battle of Kosovo. Montenegro covered the Serbian retreat toward the Adriatic coast in the Battle of Mojkovac in January 6–7, 1916, but ultimately the Austrians conquered Montenegro. The 70,000 surviving Serbian soldiers were evacuated by ship to Greece.

In late 1915, a Franco-British force landed at Salonica in Greece, to offer assistance and to pressure the government to declare war against the Central Powers. Unfortunately for the Allies, the pro-German King Constantine I dismissed the pro-Allied government of Eleftherios Venizelos before the Allied expeditionary force could arrive. The friction between the King of Greece and the Allies continued to accumulate with the National Schism, which effectively divided Greece between regions still loyal to the king and the new provisional government of Venizelos in Salonica. After intensive diplomatic negotiations and an armed confrontation in Athens between Allied and royalist forces (an incident known as Noemvriana), the King of Greece resigned, and his second son Alexander took his place. Venizelos returned to Athens on May 29, 1917 and Greece, now unified, officially joined the war on the side of the Allies. The entire Greek army was mobilized and began to participate in military operations against the Central Powers on the Macedonian front.

Bulgarian soldiers in a trench, preparing to fire against an incoming airplane

After conquest, Serbia was divided between Austro-Hungary and Bulgaria. In 1917, the Serbs launched the Toplica Uprising and, for a short time, liberated the area between the Kopaonik mountains and the South Morava river. The uprising was crushed by the joint effort of Bulgarian and Austrian forces at the end of March 1917.

In the beginning, the Macedonian Front was mostly static. French and Serbian forces retook limited areas of Macedonia by recapturing Bitola on November 19,� following the costly Monastir Offensive, which brought stabilization of the front.

Serbian forces eventually surrendered, after most of the British and French troops had withdrawn. The Bulgarians held the line at the Battle of Dobro Pole, and, days later, they decisively defeated Greek forces at the Battle of Doiran. After the Allied surrender across Europe, Greece capitulated on September 29, 1918. Hindenburg and Ludendorff concluded that the strategic and operational balance had now shifted decidedly in favor of the Central Powers.

Ottoman Empire

The Ottoman Empire joined the Central Powers in the war, the secret Ottoman-German Alliance having been signed in August 1914. It threatened Russia's Caucasian territories and Britain's communications with India via the Suez Canal. The British and French opened overseas fronts with the Gallipoli (1915) and Mesopotamian campaign. In Gallipoli, the Ottoman Empire successfully repelled the British, French and Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZACs). In Mesopotamia after the disastrous Siege of Kut (1915–16), British Imperial forces reorganised and but never captured Baghdad in March 1917.

A British artillery battery emplaced on Mount Scopus in the Battle of Jerusalem.

Further to the west, the Suez Canal was successfully defended from Ottoman attacks in 1915 and 1916 in August, a joint German and Ottoman force was defeated at the Battle of Romani by the Anzac Mounted and the 52nd (Lowland) Infantry Divisions. Following this victory, a British Empire Egyptian Expeditionary Force advanced across the Sinai Peninsula, pushing Ottoman forces back in the Battle of Magdhaba in December and the Battle of Rafa on the border between the Egyptian Sinai and Ottoman Palestine in January 1917.

Russian forest trench at the Battle of Sarikamish

Russian armies generally had the best of it in the Caucasus. Enver Pasha, supreme commander of the Ottoman armed forces, was ambitious and dreamed of re-conquering central Asia and areas that had been lost to Russia previously. He was, however, a poor commander. He launched an offensive against the Russians in the Caucasus in December 1914 with 100,000 troops insisting on a frontal attack against mountainous Russian positions in winter, he lost 86% of his force at the Battle of Sarikamish.

General Yudenich, the Russian commander from 1915 to 1916, drove the Turks out of most of the southern Caucasus with a string of victories. In 1917, Russian Grand Duke Nicholas assumed command of the Caucasus front. Nicholas planned a railway from Russian Georgia to the conquered territories, so that fresh supplies could be brought up for a new offensive in 1917. However, in March 1917 (February in the pre-revolutionary Russian calendar), the Czar was overthrown in the February Revolution and the Russian Caucasus Army began to fall apart.

Instigated by the Arab bureau of the British Foreign Office, the Arab Revolt started with the help of Britain in June 1916 at the Battle of Mecca, led by Sherif Hussein of Mecca, and ended with the Ottoman surrender of Damascus. Fakhri Pasha, the Ottoman commander of Medina, resisted for more than two and half years during the Siege of Medina.

Along the border of Italian Libya and British Egypt, the Senussi tribe, incited and armed by the Turks, waged a small-scale guerrilla war against Allied troops. The British were forced to dispatch 12,000 troops to oppose them in the Senussi Campaign. Their rebellion was finally crushed in mid-1916.

Total Allied casualties on the Ottoman fronts amounted 650,000 men. Total Ottoman casualties were 725,000 (325,000 dead and 400,000 wounded).

Italian participation

Austro-Hungarian mountain corps in Tyrol

Italy had been allied with the German and Austro-Hungarian Empires since 1882 as part of the Triple Alliance. However, the nation had its own designs on Austrian territory in Trentino, Istria, and Dalmatia. Rome had a secret 1902 pact with France, effectively nullifying its alliance. At the start of hostilities, Italy refused to commit troops, arguing that the Triple Alliance was defensive and that Austria–Hungary was an aggressor. The Austro-Hungarian government began negotiations to secure Italian neutrality, offering the French colony of Tunisia in return. The Allies made a counter-offer in which Italy would receive the Southern Tyrol, Julian March and territory on the Dalmatian coast after the defeat of Austria-Hungary. This was formalised by the Treaty of London. Further encouraged by the Allied invasion of Turkey in April 1915, Italy joined the Triple Entente and declared war on Austria-Hungary on May 23. 15 months later, Italy declared war on Germany.

Militarily, the Italians had numerical superiority. This advantage, however, was lost, not only because of the difficult terrain in which fighting took place, but also because of the strategies and tactics employed. Field Marshal Luigi Cadorna, a staunch proponent of the frontal assault, had dreams of breaking into the Slovenian plateau, taking Ljubljana and threatening Vienna. Cadorna's plan did not take into account the difficulties of the rugged Alpine terrain, or the technological changes that created trench warfare, giving rise to a series of bloody and inconclusive stalemated offensives.

On the Trentino front, the Austro-Hungarians took advantage of the mountainous terrain, which favoured the defender. After an initial strategic retreat, the front remained largely unchanged, while Austrian Kaiserschützen and Standschützen engaged Italian Alpini in bitter hand-to-hand combat throughout the summer. The Austro-Hungarians counterattacked in the Altopiano of Asiago, toward Verona and Padua, in the spring of 1916 (Strafexpedition), but made little progress.

Beginning in 1915, the Italians under Cadorna mounted 11 offensives on the Isonzo front along the Isonzo River, northeast of Trieste. All 11 offensives were repelled by the Austro-Hungarians, who held the higher ground. In the summer of 1916, the Italians captured the town of Gorizia. After this minor victory, the front remained static for over a year, despite several Italian offensives. In the autumn of 1917, thanks to the improving situation on the Eastern front, the Austro-Hungarian troops received large numbers of reinforcements, including German Stormtroopers and the elite Alpenkorps.

Depiction of the Battle of Doberdò, fought in August 1916 between the Italian and Austro-Hungarian army.

The Central Powers launched a crushing offensive on October 26, 1917 spearheaded by the Germans. They achieved a victory at Caporetto. The Italian Army was routed and retreated more than 100 km (62 mi) to reorganise, stabilising the front at the Piave River. Since the Italian Army had suffered heavy losses in the Battle of Caporetto, the Italian Government called to arms the so-called '99 Boys (Ragazzi del '99): that is, all males who were 18 years old. In 1918, the Austro-Hungarians failed to break through in a series of battles on the Piave River, and but finally decisively defeated the Italians in the Battle of Vittorio Veneto in October of that year. Italy surrendered in early November 1918.

Romanian participation

Marshal Joffre inspecting Romanian troops

Romania had been allied with the Central Powers since 1882. When the war began, however, it declared its neutrality, arguing that because Austria-Hungary had itself declared war on Serbia, Romania was under no obligation to join the war. When the Entente Powers promised Romania large territories of eastern Hungary (Transylvania and Banat), which had a large Romanian population, in exchange for Romania's declaring war on the Central Powers, the Romanian government renounced its neutrality and, on August 27, 1916 the Romanian Army launched an attack against Austria-Hungary, with limited Russian support. The Romanian offensive was initially successful, pushing back the Austro-Hungarian troops in Transylvania, but a counterattack by the forces of the Central Powers drove back the Russo-Romanian forces. As a result of the Battle of Bucharest, the Central Powers occupied Bucharest on December 6, 1916. Fighting in Moldova continued in 1917, resulting in a costly stalemate for the Central Powers. Russian withdrawal from the war in late 1917 as a result of the October Revolution meant that Romania was forced to sign an armistice with the Central Powers on December 9, 1917.

In January 1918, Romanian forces established control over Bessarabia as the Russian Army abandoned the province. Although a treaty was signed by the Romanian and the Bolshevik Russian government following talks from March 5–9, 1918 on the withdrawal of Romanian forces from Bessarabia within two months, on March 27, 1918 Romania attached Bessarabia to its territory, formally based on a resolution passed by the local assembly of the territory on the unification with Romania.

Romanian troops during the Battle of Mărăşeşti

Romania officially made peace with the Central Powers by signing the Treaty of Bucharest on May 7, 1918. Under that treaty, Romania was obliged to end the war with the Central Powers and make small territorial concessions to Austria-Hungary, ceding control of some passes in the Carpathian Mountains, and grant oil concessions to Germany. In exchange, the Central Powers recognised the sovereignty of Romania over Bessarabia. Total Romanian deaths from 1914 to 1918, military and civilian, within contemporary borders, were estimated at 748,000.

The role of India

Template:Further2 Contrary to British fears of a revolt in India, the outbreak of the war saw an unprecedented outpouring of loyalty and goodwill toward the United Kingdom. Indian political leaders from the Indian National Congress and other groups were eager to support the British war effort, since they believed that strong support for the war effort would further the cause of Indian Home Rule. The Indian Army in fact outnumbered the British Army at the beginning of the war about 1.3 million Indian soldiers and labourers served in Europe, Africa, and the Middle East, while both the central government and the princely states sent large supplies of food, money, and ammunition. In all, 140,000 men served on the Western Front and nearly 700,000 in the Middle East. Casualties of Indian soldiers totalled 47,746 killed and 65,126 wounded during World War I. The suffering engendered by the war, as well as the failure of the British government to grant self-government to India after the end of hostilities, bred disillusionment and fueled the campaign for full independence that would be led by Subhas Chandra Bose and others.

Russian troops awaiting a German attack

Eastern Front

Initial actions

While the Western Front had reached stalemate, the war continued in East Europe. Initial Russian plans called for simultaneous invasions of Austrian Galicia and German East Prussia. Although Russia's initial advance into Galicia was largely successful, it was driven back from East Prussia by Hindenburg and Ludendorff at Tannenberg and the Masurian Lakes in August and September 1914. Russia's less developed industrial base and ineffective military leadership was instrumental in the events that unfolded. By the spring of 1915, the Russians had retreated to Galicia, and, in May, the Central Powers achieved a remarkable breakthrough on Poland's southern frontiers. On August 5, they captured Warsaw and forced the Russians to withdraw from Poland.

Russian Revolution

Despite the success of the June 1916 Brusilov Offensive in eastern Galicia, dissatisfaction with the Russian government's conduct of the war grew. The offensive's success was undermined by the reluctance of other generals to commit their forces to support the victory. Allied and Russian forces were revived only temporarily by Romania's entry into the war on August 27. German forces came to the aid of embattled Austro-Hungarian units in Transylvania, and Bucharest fell to the Central Powers on December 6. Meanwhile, unrest grew in Russia, as the Tsar remained at the front. Empress Alexandra's increasingly incompetent rule drew protests and resulted in the murder of her favourite, Rasputin, at the end of 1916.

In March 1917, demonstrations in Petrograd culminated in the abdication of Tsar Nicholas II and the appointment of a weak Provisional Government, which shared power with the Petrograd Soviet socialists. This arrangement led to confusion and chaos both at the front and at home. The army became increasingly ineffective.

Signing the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk (9 February 1918) are: 1. Count Ottokar von Czernin, 2. Richard von Kühlmann, and 3. Vasil Radoslavov

Discontent and the weaknesses of the Provisional Government led to a rise in the popularity of the Bolshevik Party, led by Vladimir Lenin, which demanded an immediate end to the war. The successful armed uprising by the Bolsheviks of November was followed in December by an armistice and negotiations with Germany. At first, the Bolsheviks refused the German terms, but when German troops began marching across the Ukraine unopposed, the new government acceded to the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk on March 3, 1918. The treaty ceded vast territories, including Finland, the Baltic provinces, parts of Poland and Ukraine to the Central Powers. Despite this enormous apparent German success, the manpower required for German occupation of former Russian territory would have brought about the failure of the Spring Offensive, however, they secured food or other materiel.

Central Powers proposal for starting peace negotiations

On the way to Verdun. "They shall not pass" is a phrase typically associated with the defense of Verdun.

In December 1916, after ten brutal months of the Battle of Verdun and a successful offensive against Romania, the Germans attempted to negotiate a peace with the Allies. Soon after, U.S. President Woodrow Wilson attempted to intervene as a peacemaker, asking in a note for both sides to state their demands. Lloyd George's War Cabinet considered the German offer to be a ploy to create divisions amongst the Allies. After initial outrage and much deliberation, they took Wilson's note as a separate effort, signalling that the U.S. was on the verge of entering the war against Germany following the "submarine outrages". While the Allies debated a response to Wilson's offer, the Germans chose to rebuff it in favour of "a direct exchange of views". Learning of the German response, the Allied governments were free to make clear demands in their response of January 14. They sought restoration of damages, the evacuation of occupied territories, reparations for France, Russia and Romania, and a recognition of the principle of nationalities. This included the liberation of Italians, Slavs, Romanians, Czechoslovaks, and the creation of a "free and united Poland". On the question of security, the Allies sought guarantees that would prevent or limit future wars, complete with sanctions, as a condition of any peace settlement. The negotiations failed and the Entente powers rejected the German offer, because Germany did not state any specific proposals. To Wilson, the Entente powers stated that they would not start peace negotiations until the Central powers evacuated all occupied Allied territories and provided indemnities for all damage which had been done.

1917–1918

French troopers under General Gouraud, with their machine guns amongst the ruins of a cathedral near the Marne, driving back the Germans. 1918

Developments in 1917

Events of 1917 proved decisive in ending the war, although their effects were not fully felt until 1918.

The British naval blockade began to have almost no impact on Germany. In response, in February 1917, the German General Staff convinced Chancellor Theobald von Bethmann-Hollweg to declare a blockade zone around the British Isle's, with the goal of starving Britain out of the war. This initially they wanted to resume submarine warfare but these plans were rejected. German planners estimated that unrestricted submarine warfare would cost Britain a monthly shipping loss of 600,000 tons. The General Staff acknowledged that the policy would almost certainly bring the United States into the conflict, but calculated that British shipping losses would be so high that they would be forced to sue for peace after five to six months. In reality, tonnage sunk rose above 500,000 tons per month from February to July. It peaked at 860,000 tons in April. After July, the newly re-introduced convoy system became extremely effective in reducing the German naval threat. Britain was safe from starvation, while German industrial output fell but the United States troops never joined the war.

German film crew recording the action.

On May 3, 1917 during the Nivelle Offensive, the weary French 2nd Colonial Division, veterans of the Battle of Verdun, refused their orders, arriving drunk and without their weapons. Their officers lacked the means to punish an entire division, and harsh measures were not immediately implemented. Then, mutinies afflicted an additional 54 French divisions and saw 20,000 men desert. The other Allied forces attacked, but sustained tremendous casualties. However, appeals to patriotism and duty, as well as mass arrests and trials, encouraged the soldiers to return to defend their trenches, although the French soldiers refused to participate in further offensive action. Robert Nivelle was removed from command by May 15, replaced by General Philippe Pétain, who suspended bloody large-scale attacks.

The victory of Austria–Hungary and Germany at the Battle of Caporetto, led the Allies to convenve the Rapallo Conference at which they formed the Supreme War Council to coordinate planning. Previously, British and French armies had operated under separate commands.

In December, the Central Powers signed an armistice with Russia. This released large numbers of German troops for use in the west. With German reinforcements, the outcome was to be decided on the Western Front. The Central Powers knew that they could not win a protracted war, but they held high hopes for success based on a final quick offensive. Furthermore, the leaders of the Central Powers and the Allies became increasingly fearful of social unrest and revolution in Europe. Thus, both sides urgently sought a decisive victory.

Ottoman Empire conflict in 1917

The United States

At the outbreak of the war, the United States pursued a policy of non-intervention, avoiding conflict while trying to broker a peace. When a German U-Boat sank the British liner RMS Lusitania on May 7, 1915 with 128 Americans among the dead, President Woodrow Wilson insisted that "America is too proud to fight" but demanded an end to attacks on passenger ships. Germany complied. Wilson unsuccessfully tried to mediate a settlement. However, he also repeatedly warned that the U.S. would not tolerate unrestricted submarine warfare, in violation of international law. Former president Theodore Roosevelt denounced German acts as "piracy". Wilson was narrowly reelected in 1916 as his supporters emphasized "he kept us out of war".

President Wilson before Congress, further affirming his stance on keeping the U.S. neutral on February 3, 1917.

Austrian offer of separate peace

In 1917, Emperor Charles I of Austria secretly attempted separate peace negotiations with Clemenceau, with his wife's brother Sixtus in Belgium as an intermediary, without the knowledge of Germany. When the negotiations failed, his attempt was revealed to Germany, resulting in a diplomatic catastrophe.

German Spring Offensive of 1918

German General Erich Ludendorff drew up plans (codenamed Operation Michael) for the 1918 offensive on the Western Front. The Spring Offensive sought to divide the British and French forces with a series of feints and advances. The German leadership hoped to strike a decisive blow that would cripple Allied fighting on the Western front. The operation commenced on March 21, 1918, with an attack on British forces near Amiens. German forces achieved an unprecedented advance of 60 km (37 mi).

British and Portuguese prisoners in 1918.

British and French trenches were penetrated using novel infiltration tactics, also named Hutier tactics, after General Oskar von Hutier. Previously, attacks had been characterised by long artillery bombardments and massed assaults. However, in the Spring Offensive of 1918, Ludendorff used artillery only briefly and infiltrated small groups of infantry at weak points. They attacked command and logistics areas and bypassed points of serious resistance. More heavily armed infantry then destroyed these isolated positions. German success relied greatly on the element of surprise.

The front moved to within 120 km (75 mi) of Paris. Three heavy Krupp railway guns fired 183 shells on the capital, causing many Parisians to flee. The initial offensive was so successful that Kaiser Wilhelm II declared March 24 a national holiday. Many Germans thought victory was near. After heavy fighting, the offensive was halted. Even without sufficient tanks or motorised artillery, the Germans were able to consolidate their gains. This situation was not helped by the supply lines now being stretched as a result of their advance. The sudden stop was also a result of the four Australian Imperial Force (AIF) divisions that were "rushed" down, thus doing what no other army had done: stopping the German advance in its tracks.

British 55th (West Lancashire) Infantry Division troops blinded by tear gas during the Battle of Estaires, April 10, 1918.

General Foch pressed to using all remaining reserves. These units were assigned to the depleted French and British Empire commands on March 28. A Supreme War Council of Allied forces was created at the Doullens Conference on November 5, 1917. General Foch was appointed as supreme commander of the allied forces. Haig and Petain retained tactical control of their respective armies Foch assumed a coordinating rather than a directing role, and the British and French commands operated largely independently.

Following Operation Michael, Germany launched Operation Georgette against the northern English Channel ports. The Germans managed to cut off British forces in France from their supply line which ran through the Channel ports of Calais, Dunkirk and Boulogne. The German Army to the south then conducted Operations Blücher and Yorck, pushing broadly toward Paris. Operation Marne was launched on July 15, attempting to encircle Reims and beginning the Second Battle of the Marne. The resulting battle, placing the German armies in striking distance of Paris, marked the begining of the end of the war.

By July 20, the Germans were within shelling distance of Paris, having achieved everything they set out to do. Following this last phase of the war in the West, the Allies never gained the initiative. However, German casualties between March and April 1918 were 270,000, including many highly trained storm troopers.

Ottoman Empire conflict 1918

New states under war zone

Armistices and capitulations

The signing of the armistice.

The collapse of the remaining Allies came swiftly. France was the first to sign an armistice, on August 15, 1918 at Compiègne. On September 2, the British capitulated at Calais to Germany and Austria. The British however signed a separate armistice at Mudros with the Ottoman Empire.

On October 24, the Italians began a push to rapidly recover territory lost after the Battle of Caporetto. This culminated in the Battle of Vittorio Veneto, which marked the end of the Italian Army as an effective fighting force. On October 29, the Italian authorities asked Austria for an armistice. But the Austrian army continued fighting, causing more unrest at home. On November 3, Italy sent a flag of truce to ask for an armistice. The terms, arranged by telegraph with the Austrians in Vienna, were communicated to the Italian commander and accepted. The Armistice with Italy was signed in the Buonconsiglio Castle, near Trient, on November 3. The front lines remained as they were as occupation took place following the Armistice.


The History Book Club discussion

This thread is dedicated to the discussion of the Central Powers of World War I.

The Central Powers included:

Germany · Austria–Hungary · Ottoman Empire · Bulgaria

This thread can discuss any aspect of the involvement of the Central powers in World War I.

This thread is a spot to discuss the following (people, locations, events, books and other publications, battles, historic sites, maps, research information, urls, etc.)

Please feel free to add any and all discussion information related to this topic area in this thread.

Here is a single volume account offering a concise overview of the Germany Army on the Western Front during WW1:

by Ian Passingham
Publishers blurb:
Convinced that both God and the Kaiser were on their side, the officers and men of the Imperial German Army went to war in 1914, supremely confident that they were destined for a swift and crushing victory in the West. The much-vaunted 'Schlieffen Plan' on which the anticipated German victory was based provided for an equally decisive victory on the Eastern Front. But it was not to be. From the winter of 1914 until the early months of 1918, the war on the Western Front was characterised by trench warfare. But the popular perception of the war takes little or no account of the reality of life 'across the wire' in the German front line. A re-examination of the strategy and tactics of the German Army throughout the war, from the commanding generals to the ordinary soldiers at the Front, this book also assesses the implications of the Allied naval blockade on the German home front, the increasing problems of food and fuel shortages and the spectres of nationwide disease, hunger and then widespread starvation in Germany. Ian Passingham gives a unique and fully illustrated insight into the daily life of the German troops facing the British and French between 1914 and 1918 and fills a significant gap in the historiography of the First World War.

Another concise book offering a look at the two most powerful leaders of the Central Powers is "The Warlords: Hindenburg and Ludendorff" by John Lee.

by John Lee
Publishers blurb:
Hindenburg and Ludendorff were two of the greatest generals of the First World War. At Tannenberg in 1914 their brilliance on the battlefield annihilated one Russian army completely, and drove a second from German territory in disarray. They repeated these feats time and again on the Eastern Front, and when Falkenhayn resigned as Chief of the Great General Staff in 1916 (partly through the pair's intriguing against him), Hindenburg was the natural choice to take over. Very soon they became two of the most powerful men in Germany. In a country where literally everything was geared towards helping the war effort, their influence reached into all parts of German life: not only the army but the economy, industry, the transport systems, and the production and distribution of food. Their power was such that they were able to force the resignation of three successive Chancellors and several government ministers. They meddled in foreign policy and affairs of state with such frequency that it was impossible for anyone of note to hold office without their approval. By the end of the First World War, Germany was effectively a military dictatorship. This is the inside story of the German war machine during the Great War. In his concise but incredibly comprehensive history of the war, John Lee shows how Hindenburg and Ludendorff rose to power, and how their iron grip on the nation very soon brought Germany to the brink of starvation, with riots and industrial strikes reaching epidemic proportions. He also shows how their Prussian values not only contributed to Germany's downfall, but paved the way for an even more devastating war 20 years later.

Reviews:
". unpretentious. his narrative is clear and reliable, his maps are excellent. This is, in short, a good introduction to a huge and tragic subject by a very accomplished writer." - Spectator

"An incisive dual biography . The Warlords is very readable and useful . it is the best short book in English on German high command in World War One." - Gary Sheffield (MILITARY ILLUSTRATED)

Another book that may interest readers is Field Marshal Paul von Hindenburg's World War One memoirs "The Great War".

by Paul Von Hindenberg
Publishers blurb:
Paul von Hindenburg, the son of Prussian aristocrats, was educated at the Wahlstatt and Berlin cadet schools, before joining the army in 1865. He fought in the Battle of Königgrätz and in the Franco-Prussian War, and was promoted to the rank of general. Von Hindenburg retired from the army in 1911, but returned to service at the outbreak of World War I. In August 1914, Von Hindenburg defeated the Russians at Tannenburg, overcoming a much larger enemy force. He was promoted to Commander-in-Chief of the German armies in the East, where he achieved a number of significant victories, most notably at the Battle of the Masurian Lakes. Much of this success has been put down to the brilliance of his chief-of-staff, Erich Ludendorff, who served as von Hindenburg's deputy throughout the war. These victories on the Eastern Front caused von Hindenburg to become a cult figure in Germany, where he was seen as the perfect embodiment of Germanic strength and moral decency. Wooden statues of von Hindenburg were built all over Germany, onto which people nailed money and cheques for war bonds. The Great War gives unparalleled insight into German military thinking during World War I, and offers the rare perspective of one of Germany's most senior military figures. This is the first edition of von Hindenburg's memoirs in more than fifty years.

About Field Marshal Paul von Hindenburg:
Field Marshal Paul von Hindenburg, the son of Prussian aristocrats, was educated at the Wahlstatt and Berlin cadet schools, before joining the army in 1865. He fought in the Battle of Königgrätz and in the Franco-Prussian War, and was promoted to the rank of General. Von Hindenburg retired from the army in 1911, but returned to service at the outbreak of the First World War.

I recall borrowing from my library in the 1990s a book written (translated into English) by an officer of the Austro-Hungarian Navy, but I cannot remember its title or author.

Do you recall if he was in subs or surface ships at the time?

I am currently reading: by Theo Aronson(no photo). Although it discusses all the crowned heads of Europe, particular attention is paid to the monarchs of the Central Powers who lost their crowns as a result of WWI. I am about half-way through the book and have found it very well written and extremely interesting since it adds some information of which I had not been aware.

'Aussie Rick' wrote: "Do you recall if he was in subs or surface ships at the time?"

Hi Aussie Rick - I think it was subs and with his home base being Pola I think. If there is anyone who can help me recall it I 'd bet on you :)

Hi Geevee, the only one that springs to mind straight away is this book:

by Georg von Trapp
Description:
Captain von Trapp's narrative of his wartime U-boat exploits has lurked in German and French for generations and now finds an adequate translator into English in one of his granddaughters. He almost certainly always tried to put his best foot forward, and he emerges from his account as a man of great skill, considerable compassion (even for his victims), and sufficient tact and tolerance to handle the kind of polyglot crews that sailed for the Dual Monarchy. In two submarines, the antique U-5 and the French prize, U-14, he became the highest scoring Austro-Hungarian submariner, despite equipment that was sometimes more dangerous to him and his men than to the enemy. He fought on to the end, knowing that the Dual Monarchy he served so well was crumbling. In the end, he gave the last salute of the title when the imperial flag was hauled down for the last time. Appealing to von Trapp family admirers, of course, and also to naval buffs, regardless of how they respond to music.

Reviews:
"[A] lively, amusing, at-times-gripping memoir of naval warfare in the Mediterranean, and U-boat life. . . . One of its fascinating aspects is the glimpse it offers into the multiethnic makeup of this imperial navy, and the admirable attitudes and behavior of a patriotic officer on the losing side of a great conflict." - The Atlantic

"In his personal account, translated by his granddaughter Elizabeth Campbell, von Trapp captures the feeling of a bygone era where chivalry and love of country were paramount. . . . His amazing exploits in the Great War and life-and-death experiences as a commander of various U-boats will enthrall readers." - Military Heritage

"[von Trapp] almost certainly always tried to put his best foot forward, and he emerges from his account as a man of great skill, considerable compassion . . . and sufficient tact and tolerance to handle the kind of polyglot crews that sailed for the Dual Monarchy. [H]e became the highest scoring Austro-Hungarian submariner, despite equipment that was sometimes more dangerous to him and his men than to the enemy. He fought on to the end, knowing that the Dual Monarchy he served so well was crumbling." - Booklist

"Interesting and informative, the text is a rare history of an Austro-Hungarian involved in War. . . . [To the Last Salute] is highly recommended to those interested in the von Trapp family, the musical The Sound of Music, World War I from an Austro-Hungarian view, and U-boats." - Curled Up With a Good Book

"To the Last Salute is a professional account of submarine operations during World War I by one of the ace skippers of the k-u-k Navy. . . . This work provides an often gripping tale of some long forgotten but interesting naval actions during the Great War." — NYMAS Review


Germany failed to succeed in World War One because of three main reasons, the failure of the Schlieffen plan, nationalism, and the allies’ effective use of attrition warfare. The failure of the Schlieffen plan caused Germanys plan to fight a two front war almost impossible.

Germany entered the “War to end all wars” On about the same time Franz Ferdinand was assassinated. ( 28 June 1914 ) Why Germany entered the war was to seize the moment and take land from France. Plus they were eager for war anyway.


Echoes of the Great War: American Experiences of World War I
"On April 4, 2017&mdashnearly 100 years to the day after the United States entered World War I&mdashthe Library of Congress launched a comprehensive exhibition on the conflict. Entitled Echoes of the Great War: American Experiences of World War I, the exhibition draws on historic documents, photographs, maps, and artifacts from throughout the Library&rsquos collection&mdashincluding items from the Veterans History Project (VHP)."

The National Museum of American History (Smithsonian): World War I
"The year 2017 marks the centennial of the official United States involvement in the First World War. It would not be an exaggeration to say that this world-altering historical event marked the dividing line between historical and modern America. The war drastically changed the world, thrusting the United States onto the global stage and exposing millions of Americans to foreign lands and modern warfare. Immediately after the war erupted in Europe in 1914, though their country remained neutral, Americans became involved in the war effort both individually and through organizations. After war had raged on &ldquoover there&rdquo for almost three years, the United States officially intervened in April 1917."


The First World War : a complete history

Prelude to war -- Wild with joy -- The opening struggle -- From Mons to the Marne -- Digging in : the start of trench warfare -- Towards the first Christmas : mud and slime and vermin -- Stalemate and the search for breakthroughs -- The Gallipolli landing -- The entente in danger -- The central powers in the ascendant -- The continuing failure of the entente -- This war will end at Verdun -- Europe is mad : the world is mad -- The Battle of the Somme : it is going to be a bloody holocaust -- War on every front -- The intensification of the war -- War, desertion, mutiny -- Stalemate in the west, turmoil in the east -- Battle at Passachendaele : revolution in Russia -- The terms of war and peace -- The Central Powers on the verge of triumph -- Germany's last great onslaught -- The battle, the battle, nothing else counts -- The Allied counter-attack -- The turn of the tide -- The collapse of the Central Powers -- The final armistice -- Peacemaking and remembrance -- . to the memory of that great company

At 11:15 on the morning of June 28, 1914, in an outpost of the Austro-Hungarian Empire called Sarajevo, the twentieth century could be said to have been born. The repercussions of the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand -- Emperor Franz Josef's nephew and heir apparent -- by a Bosnian Serb are with us to this day. The immediate aftermath of that act was war. Global in extent, it would last almost five years and leave five million civilian casualties and more than nine million military dead. On both the Allied and Central Powers sides, losses -- missing, wounded, dead -- were enormous. After the war, barely a town or village in Europe was without its monument to the dead. The war also left us with new technologies of death: tanks, planes, and submarines reliable rapid-fire machine guns and artillery motorized cavalry. It ushered in new tactics of warfare: shipping convoys and U-boat packs, dog fights and reconnaissance air support. And it bequeathed to us terrors we still cannot control: poison gas and chemical warfare, strategic bombing of civilian targets, massacres and atrocities against entire population groups. But most of all, it changed our world. In its wake, empires toppled, monarchies fell, whole political systems realigned. Instabilities became institutionalized, enmities enshrined. Revolution swept to power ideologies of the left and right. And the social order shifted seismically. Manners, mores, codes of behavior literature and the arts education and class distinctions: all underwent a vast sea change. In all these ways, the twentieth century could be said to have been born on the morning of June 28, 1914. Now, in a companion volume to his acclaimed The Second World War, Martin Gilbert weaves together all of these elements to create a stunning, dramatic, and informative narrative. The First World War is everything we have come to expect from the scholar the Times Literary Supplement placed "in the first rank of contemporary historians."

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First World War Central Powers - History

Who fought in World War I?

World War I was fought between the Allied Powers and the Central Powers. The main members of the Allied Powers were France, Russia, and Britain. The United States also fought on the side of the Allies after 1917. The main members of the Central Powers were Germany, Austria-Hungary, the Ottoman Empire, and Bulgaria.

Where was most of the fighting?

The majority of the fighting took place in Europe along two fronts: the western front and the eastern front. The western front was a long line of trenches that ran from the coast of Belgium to Switzerland. A lot of the fighting along this front took place in France and Belgium. The eastern front was between Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Bulgaria on one side and Russia and Romania on the other.

Although there were a number of causes for the war, the assassination of Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand was the main catalyst for starting the war. After the assassination, Austria declared war on Serbia. Then Russia prepared to defend its ally Serbia. Next, Germany declared war on Russia to protect Austria. This caused France to declare war on Germany to protect its ally Russia. Germany invaded Belgium to get to France which caused Britain to declare war on Germany. This all happened in just a few days.

A lot of the war was fought using trench warfare along the western front. The armies hardly moved at all. They just bombed and shot at each other from across the trenches. Some of the major battles during the war included the First Battle of the Marne, Battle of the Somme, Battle of Tannenberg, Battle of Gallipoli, and the Battle of Verdun.

The fighting ended on November 11, 1918 when a general armistice was agreed to by both sides. The war officially ended between Germany and the Allies with the signing of the Treaty of Versailles.

  • More than 65 million men fought in the war.
  • Dogs were used in the trenches to carry messages. A well-trained messenger dog was considered a very fast and reliable way to carry messages.
  • It was the first major war where airplanes and tanks were used.
  • Ninety percent of the 7.8 million soldiers from Austria-Hungary who fought in the war were either injured or killed.
  • When the British first invented tanks they called them "landships."
  • The terrorist group responsible for assassinating Archduke Ferdinand was called the Black Hand.
  • Famed scientist Marie Curie helped to equip vans with x-ray machines that enabled French doctors to see bullets in wounded men. These vans were called "petites Curies", meaning "little Curies."

For reference and further reading:

Causes of World War I by John Ziff. 2006.
DK Eyewitness Books: World War I by Simon Adams. 2007.
Leaders of World War I by Stewart Ross. 2003.
Unraveling Freedom by Ann Bausum. 2010.
World War I: An Interactive History Adventure by Gwenyth Swain. 2012.


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