The Course of the War 1914 − 1918

The 5 phases of World War One.

The War had five phases:

The War of Movement (August ‒ September 1914)

  • The Germans invaded France, but were stopped at the Battle of the Marne (September 1914).
  • The British Expeditionary Force (BEF) helped to stop the Germans at the Battle of Mons (23 August 1914).
  • The Russians invaded Germany but were destroyed at the Battle of Tannenberg (August 1914).

Battle of Mons: The first defeat

The Race to the Sea (September ‒ November 1914)

On the Western Front, both sides dug a 400-mile line of trenches from Switzerland to the English Channel. Soldiers had to put up with constantly being wet, being pestered by rats, and illnesses.

Stalemate (1915)

  • There was a stalemate (neither side could defeat the other).
  • On the Western Front, attacks on the German trenches led to huge casualties.
  • Britain's attempt to open up a 'Second Front' at Gallipoli in Turkey was a failure.

The War of Attrition (1916 ‒ 1918)

The two sides simply tried to wear each other down:

  • Huge battles, eg Verdun and the Somme in 1916, Passchendaele in 1917, lasted many months. Thousands of men died or were wounded.
  • New weapons, eg poison gas, tanks and aeroplanes failed to make much effect.
  • There were terrible conditions in the trenches and many casualties from machine gun and artillery fire.
  • The British blockaded German ports to try to starve the Germans into surrender. In October 1918 there was a revolution in Germany.
  • German U-boats tried to starve the British by sinking merchant ships – but this angered the Americans.
  • German Zeppelins and Gotha planes bombed London.

The Fighting Ends

  • The United States of America entered the war in 1917.
  • On 21 March 1918, the Germans launched Operation Michael – a huge last-ditch attack.
  • On 8 August 1918, the German Army's 'Black Day', when their attack was defeated.
  • The Allies, with the Americans, began to push back the Germans. The Allies and Germany signed a ceasefire, or 'armistice', at 11am on 11 November 1918.
  • On 28 June 1919, The Treaty of Versailles was signed by the Germans.

Jeremy Paxman describes how, when the war ended, people took to the streets