World War 1 Timeline 2016-2017


Battle of Tannenberg

August 26, 1914 - August 30, 1914

Combatants: Russia vs. Germany
Outcome: Decisive German victory

The Battle of Tannenberg was fought between Russia and Germany. The battle resulted in the almost complete destruction of the Russian Second Army and the suicide of its commanding general, Alexander Samsonov.

The Russian Empire tried to neutralize Germany on the Eastern Front with one decisive blow. Amassing two armies against a much smaller German force, the Russians optimistically thought they could quickly occupy Eastern Prussia and its strategic capital Königsberg.

Instead, despite being outnumbered 2-to-1, the Germans under the command of Paul von Hindenburg and Erich von Ludendorff outflanked the Russians and destroyed the Second Army within a week. The ensuing Battle of the Masurian Lakes resulted in the destruction of the First Army and netting Germany nearly 100,000 Russian prisoners of war.

Russia would never threaten Germany on the Eastern Front for the duration of the First World War. In fact, Russian forces would not set foot on German soil again until the final months of World War II.

The Battle of Heligoland Bight

August 28, 1914

Combatants: British vs. Germany
Outcome: British victory

The First Battle of Heligoland Bight was the first naval battle of the First World War, fought on August 28, 1914, between the United Kingdom and Germany. The battle took place in the south-eastern North Sea when the British attacked German patrols off the north-west German coast.

The battle occurred in a partially enclosed body of water known as Heligoland Bight, which was used to shelter several bases of the German High Seas Fleet and also offered a good starting-off point for attacks against the British Isles. The German fleet had rarely ventured far from port. British commander Reginald Tyrwhitt was given the task of leading a small fleet of British ships, including two light cruisers and a number of destroyers, into the bight in order to lure German ships to chase them out to sea, where a larger British force, commanded by Vice Admiral Sir David Beatty, would be waiting to confront them.

Around seven o’clock on the morning of August 28, 1914, Tyrwhitt’s squadron began the operation by sinking two German torpedo boats. As the British attack had not caught the German fleet entirely by surprise, its defense was ready, and Tyrwhitt soon found his men outgunned by a German force, including six light cruisers, who used the thick fog hanging over the bight to partially conceal themselves and fire unexpectedly on the British ships.

The powerful British squadron subsequently sank three German cruisers and damaged three more, causing a total of 1,200 German casualties. Britain, on the other hand, lost only 35 sailors, and all of their ships remained afloat.

The First Battle of the Marne

September 6, 1914 - September 12, 1914

Combatants: Germany vs. France and British Empire (Allied)
Outcome: Decisive Allied victory

On September 6, 1914, sapproximately 30 miles northeast of Paris, the French 6th Army under the command of General Michel-Joseph Manoury attacks the right flank of the German 1st Army, beginning the decisive First Battle of the Marne at the end of the first month of World War I.

The entire German strategic aim on the Western Front was based on the Schlieffen Plan, drawn up nearly a decade earlier. Germany would seek a quick victory by violating Belgium's neutrality, advancing to the seashore, and then turning south toward Paris, forcing French capitulation by occupying its capital.

French and British forces halted the German advance on the Marne, resulting in perhaps the most important victory in the First World War. Germany would not be able to breach the Allied defensive position for the remainder of the war as both sides settled into prolonged trench warfare.

Allied victory also came at a high price as France alone suffered 250,000 casualties with over 80,000 killed in just a single week of battle.

The Second Battle of the Masurian Lakes

February 7, 1915 - February 22, 1915

Combatants: Germany vs. Russia
Outcome: German victory

Also know as the Winter Battle of the Masurian Lakes.

During a snowstorm, General Fritz von Below and Germany s Eighth Army launch a surprise attack against the Russian lines just north of the Masurian Lakes on the Eastern Front.

The second battle marked the beginning of an aggressive strategy against Russia conceived by the German commander Paul von Hindenburg, who reasoned that if the Central Powers could manage a string of decisive victories on the Eastern Front, it could knock Russia out of the war and concentrate on the real challenge: confronting Britain and France in the west.

Hindenburg’s strategy called for two armies–the Eighth and Tenth–to be deployed in East Prussia against Russia’s Tenth Army, commanded by General Thadeus von Sievers, which consisted of four corps positioned north of the Masurian Lakes. On February 7, 1915, Below’s Eighth Army attacked the Russian left flank in the driving snow and quickly overwhelmed the Russian lines, easily advancing against the enemy position from the south.

On the second day of the battle, General Hermann von Eichorn and Germany s Tenth Army came at the Russians from the north, severely outnumbering and nearly surrounding Sievers army, which had retreated into the Augustow forest. Faced with tremendous opposition, the Russian XX Corps managed to hold off the German advance for more than two weeks–long enough for the three remaining Russian corps to escape–before finally surrendering to the Germans on February 21, 1915.

Further German progress eastward was halted, however, when the Russian Twelfth Army attacked the German right flank on February 22, and the victory at the Masurian Lakes ended up having little strategic impact on the Eastern Front.

The Russians suffered 56,000 casualties in the Winter Battle of the Masurian Lakes; an estimated 100,000 more had been taken prisoner.

Many German troops suffered from exposure due to the extreme cold, but the German casualties were low.

The Battle of Gallipoli

February 19, 1915 - January 9, 1916

Combatants: British Empire and France (Allied) vs. Ottoman Empire
Outcome: Ottoman victory

The Gallipoli Campaign, also known as the Dardanelles Campaign, the Battle of Gallipoli or the Battle of Çanakkale, was a campaign of World War I that took place on the Gallipoli peninsula in the Ottoman Empire.

The British thought little of Ottoman Empire's capabilities and decided to amass troops mostly from Australia and New Zealand to launch a landing on the beaches of Gallipoli Peninsula on the Dardanelles Straits.

But the landing party never met its objective. The Allied forces were unable to shake the Turks out of their fortresses while taking on heavy casualties. Despite several more attacks from different locations, the Allies failed to secure safe passage through the Straits and eventually had to evacuate after 8 1/2 months of fruitless warfare.

Despite the loss of the battle, it had a galvanizing effect on Australia and New Zealand and these colonies' respective nationhood in the future.

The Battle of Verdun

February 21, 1916 - December 18, 1916

Combatants: Germany vs. France
Outcome: French victory

The German commander-in-chief General Erich von Falkenhayn’s considered England to be Germany’s most important enemy. He believed England would collapse as soon as France, their most important ally, would be defeated. That is why a target had to be found that would be so important to the French, that they would be willing to sacrifice their entire army. Verdun was chosen because it played an important part in the line of defense and it was the Northern gate to the Champagne plain and Paris.

When trench warfare reduced the Western Front into a hopeless stalemate, the German high command looked to the eastern end of the battle front to break the deadlock. The Germans hoped to lure the French out of their entrenched positions to counter-attack and thus exposing themselves to be annihilated.
But despite appalling losses, the French held on to the fortress in Verdun and the sides engaged in a nine-month battle with staggering casualties. In all, the Germans mounted four separate attacks but were unable to dislodge the French. Germany would get to within five miles of Verdun, but no closer, before commander Erich von Falkenhayn was dismissed and the siege called off.

The casualties from Verdun and the impact the battle had on the French Army was a primary reason for the British starting the Battle of the Somme in July 1916 in an effort to take German pressure off of the French at Verdun.

The Battle of Jutland

May 31, 1916 - June 1, 1916

Combatants: British Empire vs. Germany
Outcome: Inconclusive

In the first and only major naval battle of the First World War, the Royal Navy's Grand Fleet and the German High Seas Fleet met in the North Sea and fought to a draw. The British sent out 151 ships to meet the Germans' 99 west of Denmark's Jutland Peninsula. At the end of the two-day battle, 14 Royal Navy ships were sunk, including three battle cruisers, compared to 11 mostly smaller German boats.

Both sides claimed victory. lasting impact of this battle came from what didn't happen; another naval battle never took place for the rest of the war as Kaiser Wilhelm II was unwilling to risk his fleet to challenge the supremacy of the Royal Navy. The German absence on the high seas allowed the Royal Navy to impose its blockade until well after the war's end. The invention of aircraft carriers would soon render battleships obsolete.

The Battle of the Somme

July 1, 1916 - November 18, 1916

Combatants: British Empire and France (Allied) vs. Germany
Outcome: Allied victory

The Battle of the Somme was one of the largest battles that occurred during World War I. It took place near the Somme River in France.

An agreement among the Allies in December 1915 that they should launch a coordinated onslaught on three fronts in 1916. The attack on the Western Front would be made at the junction of the British and French sectors in the Somme region of France. These plans had to be reconsidered, however, when the Germans launched their own offensive at Verdun in February 1916. The Battle of Verdun reduced the size of the French contribution and imposed the need to relieve the pressure on the French.

Sir Douglas Haig, the British Expeditionary Force’s commander-in-chief, oversaw preparations for the offensive. The opening stanza would be a five-day preparatory bombardment of the enemy line (bad weather would extend this to seven days). This was expected to leave the defenders incapable of resisting the waves of infantry that would eventually advance towards them. Once the line was breached, waiting cavalry divisions would erupt into the German rear areas. The trench warfare stalemate would be irrevocably broken.
The plan failed on several counts. Preparatory bombardment alerted the Germans to the impending attack, giving them the opportunity to move reserves to the threatened area. These were in position to fill any gaps and prevent a decisive advance even if the forward lines were breached.

The Battle of Arras

April 9, 1917 - May 16, 1917

Combatants: British Empire vs. Germany
Outcome: British Victory

The Battle of Arras, also known as the Second Battle of Arras, was a British offensive on the Western Front during World War I. British troops attacked German defences near the French city of Arras on the Western Front.

The Second Battle of Asisne

April 16, 1917 - May 1917

Combatants: France vs. Germany
Outcome: German victory

The Second Battle of the Aisne was the main part of the Nivelle Offensive of April 1917. Robert Nivelle’s plan was for a huge attack on the German forces along the River Aisne, which would, he stated, be successful in 48 hours with the loss of just 10,000 men. Nivelle argued that the defeat would be so shattering for the Germans that they would sue for peace.

On April 4 a seemingly inconsequential attack by the Germans against French lines took place. However, the Germans captured a copy of the plan for the Nivelle Offensive.

The area around the Aisne River that was held by the Germans was littered with many deep quarries. The Germans also knew that the attack would be preceded by a large artillery onslaught – 7,000 guns in all. Therefore, they moved as many men as was possible into the quarries while the bombardment took place. They also placed 100 machine guns in every kilometer of the front giving them a devastating amount of fire.

On the first day of the attack, the French lost 40,000 men.

There were successes; one part of the Hindenburg Line was captured at Chemin des Dames – but at great expense.

Nivelle did eventually scale back the size of the attacks but all attacks were finally called off on May 9. Though the French had captured land previously held by the Germans (in places they had advanced about 5 miles) and had captured 147 German artillery guns and taken 20,000 German POW’s, they themselves lost 187,000 men. The French army was in disarray and mutinies were experienced in 68 out of the 112 divisions in the French army.

The Third Battle of Ypres

July 31, 1917 - November 10, 1917

Combatants: British Empire, France and Belgium (Allied) vs. Germany
Outcome: Allied victory

Also known as the Battle of Passchendaele, it was the Allies' third encounter with the Germans in Flanders, this time an offensive intended to force a general retreat. With Germany nearing victory over Russia, the Allies wanted to throw the Germans back before they could be reinforced by divisions transferred from the Eastern Front.

The Allies' designs of a quick resolution failed to materialize. This time they were foiled by the weather. The region was hit by the heaviest rainfall in over 30 years, turning most battlefields into muddy patches. The Allies finally reached Passchendaele after 16 weeks of fighting in the quagmire of mud and slime.

The gains were minimal and the cost was high, the Allies forced the Germans to fight yet another defensive battle when they could less afford casualties. With America's entry into the war imminent, the Allies now had the upperhand in the continuing battles.

The Battle of Caporetto

October 24, 1917 - November 12, 1917

Combatants: Germany and Austria-Hungary (Central Powers) vs. Italy
Outcome: Central Powers victory

The combined German-Austro-Hungary forces launched their surprise attack at 2 a.m. and overwhelmed Italian defenses immediately. Already suffering from low morale, many Italians went into a frantic retreat and the rest surrendered willingly, with 265,000 taken prisoner. The Central Powers came close to threatening Venice, but had to halt because of extended supply lines.

The Battle of Cambrai

November 20, 1917 - December 7, 1917

Combatants: British Empire and United States (Allied) vs. Germany
Outcome: German victory

The Battle of Cambrai was the first battle in modern warfare where a combined force of infantry, artillery and tanks were deployed. While tanks have been tried in earlier battles, in Cambrai they were used in mass formations as the British brought 476 of them across a 6-mile front in an attempt to surprise and overwhelm the Germans in their defensive positions.
In the beginning, the British achieved stunning success, advancing quickly with their mobile units. But the Germans quickly recovered from their initial shock and then counter-attacked the vulnerable gaps in the British lines. After two weeks of fighting, the German regained all the ground lost by using Stormtrooper assault tactics recently adopted successfully against Russia and Italy.

The Battle of Amiens

August 8, 1918 - August 12, 1918

Combatants: British Empire, France and United States (Allied) vs. Germany
Outcome: Decisive Allied victory

After victory in the East in the spring, the Germans transferred their troops westward in a last-ditch effort to knock out the Allies or at least claim a position of strength to extract peace terms. But now supplied by fresh American troops and materiel, the Allies held off every German charge, including at the Second Battle of the Marne, which ended on Aug. 6.

On Aug. 8 the Allies counter-attacked. Launching 31 combined divisions of British, French and American troops, they advanced 7 miles across the front on the first day alone. It marked the beginning of the Hundred Days Offensive that extended to the end of hostilities.

The loss of the Battle of Amiens resulted in mass surrendering of German troops and convinced the German high command that the war could no longer be won. The generals secretly began pushing for peace while retreating toward the German frontier, until the guns finally fell silent on Nov. 11.

The Battle of St. Quentin Canal

September 29, 1918 - October 10, 1918

Combatants: Allies vs.Germany
Outcome: British victory

The Battle of St Quentin Canal was a pivotal battle of World War I and involved British, Australian and American forces in the spearhead attack and as a single combined force against the German Siegfried Stellung of the Hindenburg Line.

The Germans utilised the St Quentin Canal as an additional defensive barrier forward of the Hindenberg Line.

An American operation launched to secure the start line on September 27, 1918 was unsuccessful due to their failure to properly clear dugouts and trenches. The same mistakes were repeated by the 27th Division when the actual attack was launched two days later. The 3rd Australian Division, trying to advance to its own start line, became embroiled in the fight for the Americans' first objective. With all of the tanks destroyed or disabled, and the uncertain position of the forward troops preventing the use of artillery, the battle degenerated into a struggle for individual strong points, fought with bombs, bayonets and Lewis guns, that lasted for another three days. The 30th American Division, attacking further to the south, was more successful, enabling the 5th Australian Division to pass through and capture the heavily fortified village of Bellicourt.

Even further south the British 9th Corps had managed to cross the canal, breach the Hindenburg Line, and begin advancing upon the Beaurevoir Line. This action threatened to outflank the positions along the tunnel, resulting in a gradual German withdrawal that began on the night of September 30. By October 2 a gap of approximately 17 kilometers had been opened in the Hindenburg Line. The operation had cost the 3rd and 5th Australian Divisions 2,577 casualties.