TimelineMapsSearch QuotationsSearch Images

Follow us through the World War I centennial and beyond at Follow wwitoday on Twitter

World War I

An embossed postcard of southern South America showing the Republics of Argentina, Chile, and Uruguay, southern Paraguay and Brazil, Cape Horn, and the Falkland Islands, a British territory claimed by Argentina as Islas Malvinas and the site of the Battle of the Falkland Islands on December 8, 1914.
Text:
Rep. Argentina
Cabo de Hornos
Islas Malvinas
Rep. Argentina
Cape Horn
Malvinas Islands / Falkland Islands

An embossed postcard of southern South America showing the Republics of Argentina, Chile, and Uruguay, southern Paraguay and Brazil, Cape Horn, and the Falkland Islands, a British territory claimed by Argentina as Islas Malvinas and the site of the Battle of the Falkland Islands on December 8, 1914.

Image text

Rep. Argentina

Cabo de Hornos

Islas Malvinas

Rep. Argentina

Cape Horn

Malvinas Islands / Falkland Islands

Other views: Larger, Larger, Back


Select a Calendar for an overview of that year


1914

Black and white postcard with an embossed floral border, and a calendar for 1914. Two girls play at a water trough fashioned from a log, ribbons in their hair, and toy boats floating. On the trough, a poem:
"This little card I send, and pray
That round about your path each day
The light of love may shine alway."
E. Hutchinson
806J   Copyright.   Beagles' Postcards
Reverse: Post Card and logo for Beagles' Best Postcards
Best in the World
Dear Dorris
I have great pleasure in sending you this card once more trusting to find you in good health. Your(s?) Ca???? Sills

Black and white postcard with an embossed floral border, and a calendar for 1914. Two girls play at a water trough fashioned from a log, ribbons in their hair, and toy boats floating. On the trough, a poem:
"This little card I send, and pray
That round about your path each day
The light of love may shine alway."
E. Hutchinson
806J Copyright. Beagles' Postcards © Beagles' Postcards

1915

Calendar from the French magazine Le Petit Journal with scenes including (clockwise from top left) the capture of a German battle flag by Zouaves and Chasseurs à pied, a French artillery crew manning a 75mm. field gun, a dragoon moving into position, a heavier gun firing, entrenched troops, and marines advancing. The calendar includes Roman Catholic holy days, saints days, fête nationale (Bastille Day), and the time of sunrise and sunset. Illustration by L. Bomblec (?).
Text:
Le Petit Journal
est
Le Journal Républicain
le plus impartial et le mieux informé
le plus répandu des journaux du monde entier
Romans feuilletons des ecrivains les plus célèbres
Calendrier
1915
Le Petit Journal
is
The Republican Journal
the most impartial and well informed
the most widespread of newspapers in the world
Serialized novels of the most celebrated writers
calendar
1915

Calendar from the French magazine Le Petit Journal with scenes including (clockwise from top left) the capture of a German battle flag by Zouaves and Chasseurs à pied, a French artillery crew manning a 75mm. field gun, a dragoon moving into position, a heavier gun firing, entrenched troops, and marines advancing. The calendar includes Roman Catholic holy days, saints days, fête nationale (Bastille Day), and the time of sunrise and sunset. Illustration by L. Bomblec (?).

1916

Children dressed as Allied soldiers run to bring the New Year, 1916. France carries the 1, the United Kingdom (in a kilt) and Belgium — his national roundel on his hat — the 9, Serbia and Russia the 1 of the decade, and Italy the 6. Japan, bearing a flag, hurries to catch up. A folding calendar card for 1916 by G. Bertrand.
Reverse: the calendar for 1916
Inside:
With best wishes for a happy Christmas with love from Wallis

Children dressed as Allied soldiers run to bring the New Year, 1916. France carries the 1, the United Kingdom (in a kilt) and Belgium — his national roundel on his hat — the 9, Serbia and Russia the 1 of the decade, and Italy the 6. Japan, bearing a flag, hurries to catch up. A folding calendar card for 1916 by G. Bertrand.
Reverse: the calendar for 1916
Inside:
With best wishes for a happy Christmas with love from Wallis

1917

1917 Wedgwood Calendar Tile with the U.S. Navy Yard in Boston
Text:
Section of United States Navy Yard, Boston
Reverse:
1917 Calendar
Jones, McDuffee & Stratton Co.
Crockery, China, & Glass Merchants
33 Franklin St., Boston, U.S.A.

1917 Wedgwood Calendar Tile with the United States Navy Yard in Boston on the face, and the 1917 calendar on the reverse.

1918

1918 YMCA folding calendar card of two child French and American soldiers dancing beneath a ball of mistletoe and the words "With much Love", by Ray or R.A.Y.
The back cover is a 1918 calendar and the YMCA logo and "Devambez. Gr. Paris". The months are in English and French.
On the inside, two toy soldiers - French and American - holding hands beneath the words 'Best Wishes from "Over Here"' and "1918". Hand written is, "Best Love and Wishes to Little Sister from Big Brother."

1918 YMCA folding calendar card of two child French and American soldiers dancing beneath a ball of mistletoe and the words "With much Love", by Ray or R.A.Y.

Tuesday, December 8, 1914

"It must have been a very pretty picture. A blue cloudless sky, the atmosphere extraordinarily clear, the two battlecruisers forcing their way through a calm sea, white water boiling in their wakes, masses of black oily smoke from their funnels, against which the many white ensigns showed up in striking contrast. Ever and anon the roar from the forward turret guns and heaving masses of chocolate-coloured cordite smoke tumbling over the bows, a long wait, and tall white splashes growing out of the sea behind the distant enemy."

"We got about fifty onboard. We were busy getting out clothes, etc for them, and by dinnertime we had several in the mess. Most of them could not sleep that first night, the scenes in their ships were so terrible. To see one's best friend rush on deck, one huge wound covered with blood, and just have time to send his love home, is terrible. But we were all good friends after the fight, and agreed that we did not want to fight at all, but had to. Over 2,000 of them must have been killed or drowned, but they fought magnificently, and their discipline must have been superb." *

Wednesday, December 8, 1915

"By the end of 1915, with no sign of the promised breakthrough, morale was beginning to flag. 'It's maddening the way people think,' commented Alfred Joubert (124th Infantry) on 8 December. They've gone off the idea of war and many talk about surrendering. . . . Happily they don't suit action to the word.' Meanwhile Sous-lieutenant Pierre Masson (261st Infantry) wrote with considerable prescience: 'an immense weariness seems to be weighing on everyone and neither side can feel triumphant. We wondered if perhaps we were heading for a worse catastrophe: one of morale.'" *

Friday, December 8, 1916

"England is very proud of the pluck, endurance, and determination of her munition girls—The twenty-six women who were killed and the thirty wounded in that explosion in a North of England factory on Tuesday night had, like thousands of other munitions workers, faced the possibility of that fate hourly, and probably faced it with jest. Yet knowing that, and realising their kinship with the men who keep their souls unshaken in the trenches, we may marvel at the courage, and above all at the perfect discipline, which after the disaster kept the other girls in the factory imperturbably at their work." *

Saturday, December 8, 1917

"On the morning of December 8th [1917] large numbers of the inhabitants, with the remaining religious chiefs, were personally warned by the police to be ready to leave at once. The extent to which the Turks were prepared to clear the city is shown by the fact that out of the Armenian community of 1,400 souls 300 received this notice. The tyrannical Djemal Pasha, when warned that vehicles were unavailable for the transport of the unhappy exiles to Shechem or Jericho, telegraphed curtly that they and theirs must walk. The fate of countless Armenians and many Greeks has shown that a population of all ages suddenly turned out to walk indefinite distances under Turkish escort is exposed to outrage and hardship which prove fatal to most of them; but the delay in telegraphing had saved the population, and the sun had risen for the last time on the Ottoman domination of Jerusalem, and the Turks' power to destroy faded with the day." *

* Quotation contexts and sources

At the End

During the four and half years of the Great War from the summer of 1914 to November 11, 1918, over eight million combatants and six million civilians died. In battle, they were killed by new and increasingly powerful weapons, 70% by artillery fire, and in higher percentages than in Europe's wars of the previous century. Civilians died from starvation, from being shelled and bombed, and from genocidal operations against ethnic minorities.

In the war and its aftermath, the empires of Germany, Austria-Hungary, Russia, and Turkey were destroyed, and new nations were born and reborn.

New technologies were invented and young ones advanced rapidly - the airplane, poison gas, the machine gun, the tank, flame-throwers, submarines. Industrial production of the technologies, of shells, of bullets, of barbed wire, grew to unprecedented levels.

Societies changed. Women entered the wage labor market to free men up for combat and to meet the production demands of the war. Passports, identity cards, and increased border controls became increasingly common.

When the war itself ended, related wars continued: in Russia, Civil War between the new Bolshevik government and its enemies, both foreign and domestic; in Turkey, war by Greece to seize islands in the Aegean Sea and parts of the mainland of Turkey itself; in Ireland, war for independence from Great Britain.

At the Beginning

On Sunday, June 28, 1914, in the city of Sarajevo, in Bosnia-Herzegovina, a province of Austria-Hungary, a team of seven conspirators with grenades, pistols and cyanide capsules/tablets, joined the crowds that had turned out to see Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the throne of Austria-Hungary, and his wife Sophie von Hohenberg. A failed assassination attempt - a grenade that slightly wounded spectators and two in the royal couple's entourage - altered some plans and led to other events. A planned visit to City Hall went ahead, but a decision to visit the victims in hospital necessitating a changed route, a failure to inform the drivers of the change, the lead driver's attempt to back to correct the mistake - put the Archduke's stopped car in front of the most determined of the assassins, the Bosnian Serb Gavrilo Princip. He stepped forward, averted his eyes, and fired twice, shooting the Archduke through the throat and his wife through the groin. The couple was dead within an hour. The gun, the bombs, the cyanide Princip took, and some of the conspirators would be traced to Serbia.

The Archduke was not popular in Austria-Hungary, and the reaction to his death was muted. But Austria-Hungary was a multi-ethnic, polyglot nation with populations that wanted to leave the empire. Princip had acted to advance his vision of a union of South Slavs that included Serbia and Bosnia-Herzegovina. In Vienna, the capital, government officials feared the rise of Serbia, which had been victorious and doubled its size in the Balkan Wars of 1912 and 1913.

Initial concerns in other European capitals of an Austro-Hungarian response to the assassination lessened as July passed. In Petersburg, the Russian capital, government officials felt they must support Serbia if Austria-Hungary acted. The French and Russian governments communicated their support of their alliance and mutual commitment to aid the other in the event of war. The government of Great Britain, the third member of the Triple Entente with Russia and France, heard little that alarmed it. In Berlin, capital of the German Empire, which was allied with Austria-Hungary and Italy in the Triple Alliance, there was support for a quick and limited military action by Austria-Hungary.

Fears

Defeated by Japan in the Russo-Japanese War of 1905, and humiliated in 1908 when it failed its Balkan ally Serbia, and did not prevent Austria-Hungary's incorporation of Slavic Bosnia-Herzegovina, many government officials in Russia felt the country must act in the next crisis when it inevitably arose. Many in the French government wanted to restore the provinces of Alsace and Lorraine it had lost to Germany in the Franco-Prussian war of 1870-71, but feared a Germany that had a population half again as large as that of France, and worked to strengthen its ties with Russia, in part by financing its ally's rapid recovery from the 1905 war. Having seen the creation and rise of the Balkan states of Serbia, Bulgaria, Romania, Montenegro, Albania, and Greece, that had all wrested land and nationhood from the Ottoman Empire, and had come close to eliminating Turkey in Europe, Austria-Hungary feared losing its peoples and territories to these nations and to nations that did not yet exist. Great Britain, with the most powerful fleet in the world, and rule over one quarter of the world's population, but with a small army that was not structured for a European land war, was troubled by Germany's expansion and strengthening of its fleet. Many in the German military thought that war with Russia was inevitable, and that, with the recovery of Russia from the war and revolution of 1915, it should come sooner rather than when Russia had become even stronger. The military also feared a two-front war, facing France to the west, and Russia to the east. The military plan to address this, the Schlieffen Plan, aimed for a rapid defeat of France so that troops could be transported by rail across Germany to face the slowly-mobilizing Russians.

Austria-Hungary's Demands, Mobilization, and War

When Austria-Hungary's response to evidence that Serbia had played a role in the assassination came, there was little time for governments to react. Austria-Hungary submitted demands of Serbia that included unconditional acceptance within 24 hours. As European governments learned of the response, and hurried to react, Serbia accepted all by one of Austria-Hungary's demands, that which most impinged upon its sovereignty. The ambassador receiving the response left immediately for Vienna. On July 28, Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia, and on the next day bombarded Belgrade, its capital.

Russia mobilized its army in support of Serbia, but with a mobilization plan that activated troops facing not only Austria-Hungary but also Germany. On August 1, Germany declared war on Russia and invaded Luxemburg to begin its assault on France. France ordered general mobilization effective August 2, and began executing its plan to attack Germany along their border, through Alsace and Lorraine. On August 3, Germany declared war on France, and requested passage of its troops through Belgium to attack France along its northern border. Belgium, defending the neutrality that France, Germany, and Great Britain had pledged to support, refused. On August 4, Germany invaded Belgium. In Great Britain, where there was significant opposition to the war, the invasion of Belgium shifted the opinion of the public and the government. Britain declared war on Germany.

Across Europe, millions of men were in motion, on trains, horseback, and on foot. France and Britain were bringing troops and laborers from its colonies and the British Commonwealth, France from Algeria, Senegal, and Dahomey, Britain from Egypt and India. Generals had not assembled armies this large before, and had not put them into motion, nor led them into battle. Most generals, most soldiers, most civilians thought the war would end in months, that their their army would be in Berlin, in Paris, in Petersburg, by Christmas, before 1915. Only a few saw this war would be different, and would not end for years.