The First World War began in 1914 after the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand. It involved most of Europe, Russia and the United States. This war ended in 1918 with the German army defeated in France, as well as the defeat of its allies Austria-Hungary and Ottoman Turkey. This timeline highlights some of the conflict's key dates.
June 28, 1914 – Aug 4, 1914
In late June, Archduke Ferdinand was assassinated. A month later Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia, suspecting that Serbians were behind it. Germany pledged full military support for Austria-Hungary, before Russia mobilized its army in the East. Consequently, in August Germany declared war on both Russia and France; and after German troops advanced into Belgium Britain also joined the war. The First World War had begun.
After the Russian army advanced into East Prussia, it took on the German army at the Battle of Tannenberg. There hundreds of thousands of Russian soldiers were lost in a defeat that left the Russians in disarray. In September, the rest of the Russian army in Prussia was also defeated at the Battle of Masurian Lakes, which ensured the withdrawal of remaining troops from Germany.
By September, the German army had reached the Marne. Victory in France was seemingly close until the Battle of the Marne. There French and British troops halted the First Army's advance toward Paris.
February 19, 1915 – December 19, 1915
After the Battle of the Marne, both sides dug-in. Britain and France looked for other potential fronts, and the Dardanelles (Gallipoli) Campaign began in February, which lasted for much of the year. The Entente began the operation by bombarding fortifications in the Dardanelles with battleships. However, after losing battleships a ground campaign supposed to defeat Ottoman Turkey followed. By the end of the year, the U.K. and France began withdrawing troops from Gallipoli. The Ottoman Empire remained undefeated until 1918.
February 21st, 1916 – July 1st, 1916
There were some of the largest battles of the war during this period. In February, the Battle of Verdun began, which was the longest single battle of the war that lasted for a number of months with hundreds of thousands lost. This was also followed by a battle at the Somme in July, which was another costly battle for both sides in France.
The largest naval battle of this war also emerged off the coast of Jutland in May. At the Battle of Jutland the Royal Navy lost a number of battleships, a larger tonnage of ships than the Germans, but still retained its economic blockade.
February 1, 1917 – April 6, 1917
In February 1917, the Imperial German Navy began a new U-boat campaign to defeat Britain by sinking its merchant ship supplies. The campaign was initially very effective, but increased convoy support for the U.K.'s merchant ships was enough to cut losses. On April 6 the USA declared war on the German Empire.
October 1917 – December 5, 1917
The tsar abdicated the throne in February, and the Bolsheviks returned to Russia soon after. The Russians had dissolved the monarchy, and in October the Communists seized the Winter Palace. Lenin promised to withdraw Russia from the war, so after the October Revolution his party began peace negotiations with the Germans.
Not until the Bolsheviks and Germans signed the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, in March 1918, was the war in the East entirely over. This treaty ceded lots of territory to Germany in Eastern Europe, and now the high command could re-enforce its armies in Western Europe. As such, a new German advance in France began in March that continued until July as the French and British armies retreated to the River Marne.
France, Britain and the U.S. halted the German onslaught at the Second Battle of the Marne in July. This was the beginning of the end as the Germans withdrew. This was also one of the first battles to involve the Americans, and with their reinforcements now at hand the Entente began to plan its own advances.
The Battle of Amiens began on August 8. The Entente struck at the German sector of Amiens with tanks, aircraft and cavalry that provided support for infantry. The Entente armies advanced quickly as the Germans fell back and surrendered in numbers. Thousands of soldiers waved the white flag in a battle that ended any chances of German victory.
The war with Ottoman Turkey ended on October 30. A string of British victories in the Middle East from 1917 to 1918 left Turkey's army defeated. In late 1917 they occupied Jerusalem, and in September 1918 Britain won the Battle of Megiddo.
After its crushing defeat at Amiens, the German army retreated in France. By November, the Entente armies had reached the Hindenburg Line. The Entente could now potentially advance into Germany, so the German High Command began peace negotiations at Foch’s carriage in France. Kaiser Wilhelm 2nd abdicated on the November 9. The war ended with an armistice that came into effect on November 11, 1918.
The First World War ended in victory for France, Britain and the United States. The demise of the German army also ensured the defeat of its allies in Eastern Europe and the Middle East. As such, postwar treaties dissolved the German Empire, Austria-Hungary and Ottoman Turkey.