World War 1 Timeline

Main

First Battle of Ypres

1914

Franz Ferdinand assassinated

June 28, 1914

In Sarajevo, capital of Bosnia. A bomb was thrown at the car holding the heir to Austrian throne Franz Ferdinand and his wife, but misses them. They continued their official visit, but a few hours later they are shot with a pistol. The assassin was a terrorist named Gavrilo Princip. At the time, this seemed to hardly affect Briton at all, and no one could have predicted that this would be the event that, with the help of pre-war alliances, would lead to the worldwide carnage which ensued.

Austria declared war on Serbia

July 28, 1914

Briton declared war on Germany

August 4, 1914

Battle of Mons

August 23, 1914 - August 26, 1914

In Mons, France. This was the first battle between the British and the Germans on the Western Front. The British Expeditionary Force (BEF), under its Commander-in-Chief, John French, was moving along the Belgian coast, as they planned to meet French General Lanrezac’s Fifth Army near Charleroi. However, on their way the BEF encountered German cavalry patrols at Soignies. John French immediately made plans to attack the German forces, led by General von Kluck, against intelligence advice and seemingly unaware Germany’s strength and it’s previous victories.

The British were heavily outnumbered, with only 70,000 troops as opposed to the German’s 160,000, and only 300 guns against 600. John French undertook an extended retreat, and he himself recommended complete withdrawal to the coast, but Kitchener, the British war minister, rejected French's suggestion, requiring the BEF to remain in contact with the French forces, retreating to the Marne.

First Battle of the Marne

September 6, 1914 - September 12, 1914

In Marne, France. Having invaded Belgium and passed through into France according to the Schlieffen Plan, Germany was now within 30 miles of Paris. After continuously retreating for 10-12 days whilst trying to defend their outer cities, they reached the south of the River Marne. Both sides were expecting the capital's fall.

The French were saved on the 7th of September by the aid of 6,000 French reserve infantry troops ferried from Paris in streams of taxi cabs, 600 in all. On the night of September the 8th, the French commander General Franchet d'Esperey's Fifth Army launched a surprise attack against the German Second Army, and this served to further widen the gap between the German First and Second Armies.

The next day the German armies began a retreat and were pursued by the French and British. The German armies ceased their withdrawal at a point north of the River Aisne. This battle was a strategic triumph for the French, and it destroyed any hopes the Germans had of bringing the war on the Western Front to a quick end. The casualties, however, were devastating. The French lost 250,000 men, and although there are no official figures outlining the German casualties, it is believed that they suffered similar casualties. There were 12,733 British casualties among the BEF.

Battle of Artois

1915

The Battle of Loos formed a part of the wider Artois-Loos Offensive conducted by the French and British in autumn 1915, sometimes referred to as the Second Battle of Artois.

Battle of Festubert

1915

Second Battle of Ypres

April, 1915 - May, 1915

Battle of the Loos

September 25, 1915 - October 14, 1915

In Loos, France. It was a battle conducted by the French and British against the Germans, and was called off in failure on 28 September. During the battle there were 50,000 British casualties, whereas German casualties were estimated much lower, at around half the British total. The British failure at Loos contributed to the replacement of Douglas Haig, the British commander. The French Commander-in-Chief at the time was Joseph Joffre.

Battle of Verdun

February 21, 1916 - December 16, 1916

In Verdun, France. This battle was the longest single battle of World War 1, and it was the main cause for the British to initiate the Battle of the Somme. Germany headed for Verdun, knowing that the French would pour all their resources into protecting the city, as it was sacred to the French. Their aim was to bleed the French dry of their resources so that they could take Paris.

Chief of staff Falkenhayn was dismissed on the 29th of August, as his pointless attacks were going nowhere. He was replaced by Paul von Hindenburg, who saw no point in continuing on with the battle. The French casualties were an estimated 550,000 and German losses were set at 434,000, and half of this total was fatalities. Nothing was really gained by either side, the only real result being the many casualties.

Battle of the Somme

July 1, 1916 - November 18, 1916

In Somme, France. The British fought it in collaboration with French forces to the south, and on the first day of battle, there were 58,000 British fatalities, a third of which were deaths, which to this day remains a one-day record.

The battle was brought on by the French failure at the Battle of Verdun to relieve pressure on the city. The British and French were in a way successful, although the battle was called off due to poor weather conditions (snow).

During the attack the British and French gained 12 kilometers of ground. In total, there were 420,000 estimated British casualties, 200,000 French casualties, and an estimated 500,000 German casualties.

Battle of Vimy Ridge

1917

Battle of Messine Ridge

1917

Battle of Passchendaele

July 31, 1917 - November 6, 1917

In Ypres, Belgium. Also known as the Third Battle of Ypres, this battle was intended as Sir Douglas Haig's Allied forces breakthrough in Flanders. It resulted in gains for the Allies but nowhere near as many as was anticipated, and these gains came at a great cost of life.

Although progress was painfully slow and the Allies were becoming exhausted, Haig was unwilling to give up. When Passchendaele was finally captured he used this as an excuse to call off the offensive and claim success, although hardly any ground was made in comparison to his goals.

The British Expeditionary Force (BEF) suffered 310,000 casualties, with a lower number of German casualties: 260,000.

Battle of Cambrai

November, 1917

Second Battle of the Marne

July 15, 1918 - August 5, 1918

In Marne, France. This battle was the last major German offensive in World War 1. It was clear that Germany had failed in their attempt into win the war, in fact they had lost ground. Some of the German commanders, including Crown Prince Wilhelm, believed the war was lost by this point.

Erich Ludendorff, effectively the German Chief-of-Staff (although Paul von Hindenburg was the ostensible commander), was convinced that they could still win the war by an attack in Flanders. He aimed to lure Allied forces from Belgium to the Marne in order to divert their attention from the north where they intended to mount their major attack. After the Germans had ultimately failed in their efforts to break through, Ferdinand Foch, the Allied Supreme Commander, launched 24 divisions of the French army alone, in addition to U.S., British and Italian troops and 350 tanks. This counter-offensive was a complete success. On the 20th of July the Germans retreated, and by the 3rd of August they were back where they had started at the Aisne-Vesle rivers.

The casualties were high, especially for Germany, who suffered 168,000 casualties. France suffered 95,000, Britain 13,000 and the U.S. 12,000. As a consequence of the disastrous result in the Marne, Ludendorff's planned Flanders offensive cancelled, and there were no more large-scale attempts to win the war.