The politics of 19th Century Europe were complex. (What changed?) It was made up of various Empire spreading across the world, trying to prove each other who obtain the most massive power. They each built up massive armies to stave off war, thinking that everyone else would be too scared to fight against them, or so they thought… Things all changed when a gang of Yugoslav nationalists who didn’t like being part of Austria-Hungary shot the Austro-Hungarian Archduke Franz Ferdinand while he was in Sarajevo.
The Austro-Hungarian Empire declared war on Serbia. Russia came in to aid Serbia, so Germany decided to declare war on Russia! Knowing that France would go to war with Germany, Germany decided to invade France and invaded via neutral Belgium and Luxembourg and because of this, Great Britain stepped in to prevent the Germans getting any closer. It was a mess of allegiances and historic rivalries with two sides forming the allies and the fundamental powers. And so, commenced what became known at the time as The Great War; the war to terminate all wars!
A modern form of warfare evolved as these industrialized armies with engines, machine guns, airplanes, and new chemical gas weapons fought against each other. It was the dawn of modern warfare. At the time, national pride was at an all-time high, and men were proud to go off and fight for their country. It was noted as a sentimental idea to go off and remain a hero! Boys as young as 12 managed to lie their way into the army ranks only to discover it was not such a sweet and honorable thing to die for one country!
Germany marched on Paris but was stopped by the French and both sides dug themselves into trenches in what became known as the Western Front. On the Eastern Front, the Russians invaded Austria-Hungary but were stopped in Eastern Prussia by the Germans. The Ottoman Empire joined in on the site of the Central Powers in 1914. More and More nations from all over the world spearheaded the fight as the war spread across Europe.
Trench warfare was absolutely terrible. Each army would dig an extended network of trenches in the ground, fortifying the front with barbed wire and sandbags. I was a long stalemate where neither side dared advance on the other. Machine guns remain a current and extremely effective weapon. When the time was right, the army would climb over the top and charge across no-man land to the enemy trench and capture it, thus gaining more land and taking another step towards their goal! As a conservative estimate that was the plan…
Spirits were high at least when the first Christmas came by. Both forces climbed out of their trenches to celebrate Christmas together, talk, share stories and play football. When Christmas ended, they would climb back into their trenches to become enemies once again. Conditions in the trenches were dreadful. Soldiers in France and Belgium found their feet rotting away from the constant damp.
In contrast, Australian, New Zealand and Ottoman soldiers fighting in Gallipoli occupied hot trenches where rain and a cold were replaced with dehydration and overheating. The disease was everywhere in the trenches.1916 follow a renewed push on the Western Front from both sides. Thousands of French died at Verdun as the Germans unleashed their chlorine gas. The infamous Battle of the Somme endures an ongoing and grueling battle that lasted from July to November.
The first day exclusively saw over 80,000 men wounded or killed; British, due to terrible attacks. Fundamental errors and contradictions from the high command led to confusion and unclear plans. In places, soldiers weren’t arranged in time to charge so by the time that they got going, the artillery had stopped firing on the Germans, allowing them to fire upon their attackers.
Planes and artillery were supposed to shift the German barbed wire, but the shrapnel was ineffective against the wire. When the order came to go over the top, thousands of men ran out to their death to be caught on the barbed wire and picked off one by the German machine guns. This battle saw the first use of tanks by the British. France and Britain pushed against Germany and gained much ground. By Christmas 1916, no man wanted good cheer wished upon their unknown enemy.
Uprising in Dublin
During 1916 also, before the Somme, Irish Republicans launched an uprising in Dublin in the hopes to catch Britain while they were distracted by the war. It was squashed by Britain but after executing the rebel leaders Irish support for Britain and the war dropped, at least in the south of Ireland. Most Irish troops after that came from the Protestant North. On the sea, Britain mined many patches of international water to cease the movement of German ships.
Germany was blockaded. After many naval battles, Britain tried to stay in control of the seas, above the water at least! Germany was on the attack with the U-boat submarines introducing a further dimension to Naval Warfare; they could attack without warning! They sank many ships including the ship The Lusitanian and because these broke loads of war rules, it ultimately influenced the United States of America to enter the war… two years later!
The British pushed up through the Arabian Peninsula with T.E. Lawrence aka Lawrence of Arabia helping to organize the Arab Revolt against the Ottoman Empire. In 1917, the Russians effected a series of revolutions. In the February Revolution, the Tears were gotten rid of, but Russia remained in the war and the October Revolution, the Bolsheviks took control and brought power to the people and sowed the seeds for Communism in Russia.
The Russian 1917
The Russians concluded a treaty with Germany and pulled out of the war causing an initial difficulty for the enemies of the Central Powers. The Allies, however, became refreshed with reinforcements from the United States of America who decided to enter the war in 1917 after Germany tried to convince Mexico to assault them. Germany required a fierce and effective push before the allies could utilize their advantage.
However, American troops continued to arrive in such significant numbers that Germany army couldn’t last any longer. The allies pushed up from Italy, the Balkans, and the Middle East putting Austria-Hungary, Bulgaria and the Ottoman Empire out of the war. As the allies advanced the Western Front, Germany called for an armistice to halt the fighting, bringing victory to the allies and an end to the war.
The fighting stopped for the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, 1918. It took six months to negotiate terms, and it was decided that the Central Powers were to pay for the damages they had caused in the war. Germany only paid off this debt in 2010. The map of Europe was redrawn. Soldiers who made it home again was changed, men. The horrors haunted them which they had seen in the trenches.
Gas attacks, friends dying by their side and the constant shelling of enemy artillery; they were shell-shocked and so many found it impossible to go back to normal life after the trenches. Many great poets and writers were inspired by their hell in the trenches like Wilfred Owen, J.R.R. Tolkien and Ernest Hemingway of the so-called Lost Generation? Some survived, many did not. The world remains a changed place after the World War.
People had marked the death and destruction that could be dealt with by mankind. The men who left to become heroes came back scarred, or worse never returned at all. The poppy is manipulated to remember the millions who died in this war as it was about the solitary flower to produce in the carnage-ridden wasteland between the trenches. The world presently remains a more sinister place. People hoped it would indeed be the war to end all wars! Unluckily, they were misinterpreted.