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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

Image text

"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

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June 28 to December 31, 1914

The Assassination of the Heir

Using a pistol that would be traced to Serbia, the Bosnian Gavrilo Princip shot Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the throne of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and his wife Sophie von Hohenberg in the Bosnian city of Sarajevo on Sunday, June 28, 1914, killing them both.

The 17-year-old Princip hoped for a Union of Southern Slavs in the Balkans, the mountainous region south of Austria-Hungary that had been under the control of the Ottoman Empire. For the last hundred years, the peoples of the Balkans had been wresting nationhood from the Turks: Greece, Serbia, Bulgaria, Romania, Montenegro, had all achieved independence while driving the Ottomans almost entirely out of Europe. The 1878 treaty that had created Serbia had also given Austria-Hungary authority to administer Bosnia-Herzegovina with its large population of ethnic Serbs. Austria-Hungary had thwarted the desire of nationalists in Serbia and Bosnia-Herzegovina by incorporating the province into its own empire in 1908. To a Serb nationalist, Austria-Hungary had supplanted one oppressor with another.

Turkey continued to lose its European lands. With its allies Montenegro, Greece, and Bulgaria, Serbia defeated Turkey in the First Balkan War of 1912-13, and significantly expanded its territory and population. Within polyglot, multinational Austria-Hungary, many saw Serbia as a threat to its existence. The Empire tried to appeal to restive populations within Bosnia, improving roads and railway, with some success. Even so, when the aging Emperor Franz Josef visited the province in 1910, there had been an attempt on his life. Franz Ferdinand's well-publicized visit to the province to observe military maneuvers in 1914 was seen as a cementing of ties of the province to the Empire. In killing the heir, Princip believed he was striking a blow for Slavic independence. In doing so, he removed one of the primary opponents to those in Vienna who advocated war with Serbia.


The Great Powers in Europe were divided into two alliances, the Triple Entente of France, Russia, and Great Britain, and the Triple Alliance of Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Italy.

The Triple Entente was based on the alliance of France and Russia, pursued most vigorously by France, which feared facing Germany alone in war, and which did much to finance Russia's recovery after the Russo-Japanese war of 1905. Although Britain and France were the greatest colonial powers, and frequently competed, France did not challenge Britain's naval power as Germany did after the turn of the century. Agreements between France and Russia explicitly committed each to militarily assisting the other in the event of war. Although England made no such commitment, British and French military staffs coordinated plans in the event of a European war, something that, in 1914, would surprise many members of the British cabinet.

On May 23, 1915 Italy declared war on Austria-Hungary, its former ally as a member of the Triple Alliance. Clasping the hands of the German and Austro-Hungarian emperors Wilhelm II and Franz Josef, Italy

The Triple Alliance was built on the relationship between the German and Austro-Hungarian Empires. Some in Berlin saw this as a pan-German alliance countering the Slavs of Russia and the Balkans, but a significant part of Austria-Hungary's population was Slavic. Italy joined the alliance in 1882, but it had an uneasy relationship with Austria-Hungary, primarily because of Italian hopes to incorporate Italian-speaking parts of Austria-Hungary, including Trentino, Alto Adige, and Trieste.

July 1914

The great powers of Europe had repeatedly managed through crises without a major war in the years before the assassination of the Archduke, and there was a certain amount of formality in responses from European capitals as July came and passed. Because he had married outside of the ruling families, his wife was judged to be beneath his station. Because of the marriage and the Archduke's insistence that he be buried with his wife, the Austro-Hungarian authorities treated the murdered couple shabbily. The burial was not imperial, and heads of state were first invited to, then uninvited from, the services.

On July 5, Kaiser Wilhelm and Chancellor Bethmann Hollweg promised German support for Austria-Hungary in its response to Serbia. Wilhelm, bellicose and full of bluster, moderated as days passed. On July 15, French president Poincaré left for a state visit to Russia.

The Sarajevo investigation quickly found roots of the plot in Serbia from which three of the conspirators had come, bringing guns and bombs. The Viennese press first referred to those arrested as "Bosnians," then changed to "Serbs."

On July 23 Austria-Hungary delivered an ultimatum to Serbia, demanding unconditional acceptance within 48 hours. The terms shocked governments in European capitals, and some attempted to intervene. The Tsar wrote to the Kaiser. Britain tried to organize a peace conference.

Minutes before the deadline, Serbia accepted all but one term — that representatives of the Austro-Hungarian government be involved in Serbia in suppressing anti-Austrian activity . This one condition was enough. The Austrian ambassador returned to Vienna. On July 28, 1914, Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia. The next day its gunboats bombarded Belgrade, Serbia's capital.

War Plans

When the major powers went to war in 1914, they followed war plans that had been developed over years.

The German von Schlieffen Plan assumed the country would face a two-front war against both France and Russia. Although Russia could bring enormous numbers of troops to war, German military planners thought it could only do so slowly. The planners aimed to engage in two sequential single-front wars. According to the plan, Germany would achieve a quick victory over France while Russia was mobilizing, then shift forces from the west to the east over Germany's excellent rail system.

No. 1. L

The Schlieffen plan correctly assumed the French plan, that France would attack Germany in Alsace and Lorraine, the provinces France lost to Germany in the Franco-Prussian war. Here, on its left wing, Germany would fight a defensive war, giving ground to the French if necessary to keep the offensive right wing strong. On the right, German forces would cross through Luxembourg, Belgium, and the Netherlands, moving rapidly across the countries to the North Sea before turning south into France, and then east, enveloping Paris and the bulk of the French army coming to her defense. With France defeated in a matter of weeks, Germany could transport troops by rail to face, and defeat, a Russia that had finally mobilized.

The Schlieffen Plan ignored the effect of any British land forces opposing the German advance, and required the invasion of three neutral countries. As modified after the author's death, it left the Netherlands untouched.

Neutral Belgium had gained its independence from the Kingdom of the Netherlands in the 1830. Treaties guaranteeing Belgium's independence and neutrality were signed by Great Britain, France, and predecessors to the German Empire.

Other than the Schlieffen plan, as modified by von Moltke, there was no other German plan. It assumed that Belgium would not offer resistance that would delay or otherwise affect the execution of the plan.

Great Britain's army was not structured for a European land war, but the French and British military developed plans to counteract a German assault on France. Naval plans assigned redeployments and responsibilities of each navy. The staffs also planned for a British land force deploying to France. When war came, many British politicians would be surprised at the extent of the joint military plans. The French would be dismayed by the failure of Britain to execute them immediately.

Russian war plans assumed the country would be at war with both Germany and Austria-Hungary.

Austro-Hungarian plans included a plan for war against both Russia and Serbia, with one army held is reserve to be deployed to the primary front. Both Germany and its Austro-Hungarian ally assumed the cooperation of the other, but did not coordinate plans.

To Berlin! Rifles of the %+%Organization%m%93%n%Entente Allies%-% hoist helmeted German skulls, the largest of which wears %+%Person%m%93%n%Kaiser Wilhelm%-%

Mobilizing troops of the major powers, putting them on a war footing, required complex schedules and operations: from the announcement, to the start of mobilization, the calling up of reserves, the cancelling of leaves for active service, the military command of the trains, were all predicated on train schedules. Put in motion, these machines of millions of men were hard to stop. Nor were they intended to be: the plans of France, Germany, Russia, and Austria-Hungary put their forces on the offensive, not the defensive.

Engaging the Machines

Russia could not mobilize against Austria-Hungary only, or so the Tsar was told, so he authorized general mobilization, that is, along the German border as well as that with Austria-Hungary. Germany had no other response to Russian mobilization than war. Putting the Schlieffen plan into execution on August 1, Germany declared war on Russia, and opened its attack on France by invading Luxembourg. France ordered general mobilization effective the next day. On August 3, Germany declared war on France.

Across Europe, people and parliaments were generally supportive, with crowds rallying in the streets. Some German Social Democrats opposed the war at a party meeting, but supported it in the Reichstag. In Vienna, crowds turned out in support. Most people expected a short war that would see them occupying the enemy's capital by year end. In Britain, there was significant opposition to going to war.

6,000,000 men went into the first battles, numbers far greater than in any previous war. The British had recently fought the Boer War, and the Russians the Russo-Japanese War, but Europe, outside of the Balkans, had been at relative peace for a long time, and most of the generals had not seen war.

The Conquest of Belgium

On August 2, as French mobilization began, Germany requested free passage through Belgium, claiming that France were going to attack Germany through Belgium. Belgium refused the German request. On August 4, German forces crossed the border into Belgium, violating its neutrality, an action that changed the debate in Britain which, that day, declared war on Germany.

On August 5, with German forces in the country, Belgian King Albert requested and received the support of the Belgian Parliament in defending their country against the invasion. While the Belgian Army went into the field, Belgium's defense was heavily reliant upon it fortresses, at Dinant, Namur, Liège, and the fortress city of Antwerp. These slowed the German advance, cost many German lives, and delayed and drew strength from the assault on France, but they did not prevent Germany's conquest of Belgium.

The Serbian and Eastern Fronts — Austria-Hungary Goes to War

Revenge! Austro-Hungarian troops charge into battle to revenge the assassination of Archduke %+%Person%m%7%n%Franz Ferdinand%-%. His spirit watches over them. From a drawing by Ludwig Koch.

After Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia on July 28, Commander-in-Chief Conrad began to execute his war plan that called for a defensive posture against Russia with three armies while launching an offensive against Serbia with three, including its reserve army. With seven of its eight armies attacking France, Germany requested support from its ally and an offensive against Russia. On August 6, Austria-Hungary declared war on Russia, and redeployed its Second Army to the Russian Front.

With only two of its planned three armies, Austria-Hungary crossed the Danube into Serbia on August 11, only to be driven out of the country. Before the year was out, Serbia had raided Austria-Hungary, and Austria-Hungary had invaded Serbia twice more, in September and November, taking, and then losing Belgrade. Serbia defeated the three 1914 invasions, and ended the year in control of its capital of Belgrade.

Responding to Germany's request for an offensive against Russia, Conrad invaded Russia on August 20 from Galicia, northeastern Austria-Hungary, on the Russian side of the Carpathian Mountains. In four battles between August 23 and September 11, the Austro-Hungarians initially drove back the Russians, but were finally outmaneuvered and overwhelmed. The Russians repeatedly transmitted unencrypted messages, which saved some of the Austrian army, but by the end of October, Conrad had lost Galicia, much of Austria-Hungary's rolling stock, and 350,000 of his 900,000 men.

The Eastern Front — Russia Invades Germany

As seven of its eight armies tried to quickly defeat France, Germany held its eastern border with one army deployed in East Prussia. Knowing there were two Russian armies facing them, the Germans planned to defeat each in turn. Russia mobilized more quickly than Germany had expected and, encouraged by the French, went on the offensive, invading Germany and defeating German forces at Gumbinnen on August 20. The battle both brought the war into Germany, and panicked the commander of the German army in the east. Chief of the General Staff von Moltke replaced him with General Paul von Hindenburg, who was brought from retirement, and assigned General Erich Ludendorff as his chief of staff. These two men would eventually command all German forces.

German General Paul von Hindenburg luring a Russian army into the Masurian Lakes. In the %+%Event%m%40%n%Battle of Tannenberg%-%, the Germans destroyed the Russian Second Army, killing 50,000 and taking 90,000 prisoners. The Russian First Army managed to escape the same fate in the %+%Event%m%41%n%First Battle of the Masurian Lakes%-%.

The Russians continued their advance into East Prussia, the First Army under von Rennenkampf from the east, and the Second under Samsanov from the south. After Gumbinnen, von Rennenkampf advanced cautiously, and the Germans turned to battle the army threatening them from the south. The Russians did not coordinate their movements, and communicated by telephone and wireless in clear text. Samsanov advanced into an area broken by many lakes which naturally dispersed his army. When his forces encountered German forces on August 26, Samsanov’s right (which should have been covered by von Rennenkampf), was thrown back. On August 27, his left wing collapsed. Rather than falling back to defend his forces, he continued to advance. By August 29, the Germans had encircled most of the Russian Second Army, and taken 90,000 prisoners in the Battle of Tannenberg.

The Germans tried to next destroy the First Army, but in the First Battle of the Masurian Lakes, von Rennenkampf was able to hold most of his army together, though suffering very heavy casualties, and retreat, falling back to the Russian border.

The Western Front: The Battle of the Frontiers

France and Germany executed their war plans in the Battle of the Frontiers, the battles on the borders of France and Germany, and France and Belgium, with France's attempt to drive into Germany across their shared border, and Germany’s invasion of France along its Belgian border to seize Paris and envelop the French Army.

General Joseph Joffre, commanding French forces, expected two German drives, the first advancing west from Alsace-Lorraine directly into his forces , and the second into Belgium before turning south into France relatively quickly. He resisted the notion of some of his officers that the German drive into Belgium would continue westward before wheeling into northern France. He followed his own plan, and launched two offensives. The French were initially successful in an attack by the First and Second Armies into Alsace and Lorraine on August 14, but were thrown back. On August 20, the Third, Fourth, and Fifth Armies attacked in the forested hills of the Ardennes with 100,000 cavalry as the Germans are strengthening their forces, advancing for two day before being being thrown back. With the Germans moving west across Belgium at as much as 30 miles per day, Joffre finally began to shift some of his forces to his increasingly clearly threatened left wing.

Great Britain

The greatest protests against involvement in the war took place in London. This changed with Germany’s invasion of Belgium, and Britain declared war on Germany on August 4.

German postcard of the British Expeditionary Force, the BEF, landing in France in August 1914, greeted by a French officer.

Many British politicians were unaware of the extensive contacts between and joint planning by the French and British military staffs. Naval plans called for the French fleet to withdraw from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean (critical for British passage through the Suez Canal), and for the British to defend France’s Atlantic coast. When war came, the British Navy was well positioned for this duty, as it had been on maneuvers in the North Sea in July, and First Lord of the Admiralty Winston Churchill had kept the fleet at sea in the weeks leading to war.

The joint army plans called for Britain to place ground forces on the continent fighting with France. As Germany's move through Belgium more than doubled the length of the French front, Joffre desperately needed these forces.

The British Expeditionary Force of approximately 100,000 men under the command of Sir John French landed in France, and moved according to their 1911 plan, putting them on the French left, and in position by August 20.

The Allied Retreat

French General Lanrezac who commanded the French Fifth Army holding the French left had correctly predicted the extent of the German movement to the west, and moved further west, as did the British extending Lanrezac's line. The Allies moved north as the Germans advanced on them. The German First, Second, and Third Armies — a total of 34 divisions — advanced on the 14 divisions of the French left – the French Fifth Army with 10 divisions and the British force with 4. The First German Army had stopped its sweep to the west and prematurely turned south. On August 23, the advancing British ran headlong into them in Mons, Belgium. The British held their ground for the day before retreating the next. Still retreating, exhausted, one BEF corps stood their ground on August 26 at Le Cateau, France, before resuming their retreat. The Germans thought they were retreating to the coast to leave France and moved to the southwest in pursuit.

No. 2. La March sur Paris — The March on Paris. September 2, 1914. Having lost his footing on the French border, with German hands on his throat, French Commander Joffre leans back, arm protectively around Paris.

As the French Fifth Army was pivoting to relieve the British by launching their own attack, they were struck by the Germans in the Battle of Guise. This slowed the German advance, but left the France Fifth Army facing three German armies.

There were no fighting on the Western Front for the next seven days as the French and British retreated across the front. Sir John French had poor relations with the French, and was ready to leave the field and return to the coast and England. Joffre turned to the government to apply political pressure to assure Sir John's support. Secretary of State for War Kitchener forced him to stay.

Many German generals were triumphant. They had substantially defeated Belgium, and the French and British were falling back. Buoyed by his success in France, loath to give ground in Alsace-Lorraine, and concerned by the German defeat at Gumbinnen, Moltke transferred units to the Eastern Front from the right wing of his invasion force in France. Other troops invested the fortresses at Givet, Mauberge, and Antwerp, to which the Belgian Army had retired. These moves diminished the number of German troops available for the advance even as the German supply lines became increasingly over-stretched.

Moltke did not visit the front, but remained at his headquarters in Luxembourg losing touch with commanders. Some among the German general staff observed that the Allies were retreating in an orderly fashion. Not seeing substantial prisoners, guns, battle flags, and other signs of victory, von Moltke sent Major Hentsch, a staff officer, to get a better understanding of the situation.

As Moltke remained in his headquarters, Joffre traveled the front, reconfiguring and redeploying his forces, forming and disbanding the short-lived Armies of Alsace and Lorraine, sacking some generals while calling others out of retirement, negotiating with the British commander, and asking his generals when they would be ready to resume the offensive. He created the French Sixth, Seventh and Eighth Armies, and tried to find a line from which at which launch his counterattack. He replaced General Lanrezac in command of the Fifth Army with Franchet d’Esperey who said he would be ready to attack on September 6.

Fearful of losing Paris, the government had put General Gallieni in command of the garrison defending the capital, and decamped to Bordeaux. The new French Sixth Army was being formed north of the French capital.

Believing the British were now out of the battle, and not realizing the strength of the French forces in and near Paris, German General von Kluck (commanding the German First Army) turned east north of Paris to pursue the French Fifth Army. In his eagerness, he continued advancing on August 31, as the German Second Army held its position, opening a 20-mile gap between the two armies.

The Battle of the Marne: Generals Galliénni and French drive the invading Germans back from their approach to Paris, first to the Petit Morin, then the Grand Morin, then the Marne. The British Expeditionary Force (BEF) under Sir John French crossed the Grand Morin on September 7 and 8, 1914 arriving on the Petit Morin on the 8th. GalLiénni commanded the garrison of Paris, and had launched the initial French attack northeast of the capital on September 5.

The Battle of the Marne

Having made poor use of his cavalry and aircraft, von Kluck was unprepared when, on September 5, Gallieni and the French Sixth Army attacked from Paris, striking his right flank. Von Kluck turned to face this threat, increasing the gap with the German Second Army. When Franchet d’Esperey and the British counterattacked on September 6, the gap between the two German armies was filled only by some German cavalry. The British and French advanced cautiously, but a night attack by Franchet d’Esperey on September 8 put the German Second Army at risk of being outflanked, and further increased the gap between the First and Second Armies. When Hentsch visited the Second Army, he agreed with its commander's decision to retreat. Continuing to the German First Army, Hentsch found it dangerously isolated, and ordered it to retreat in coordination with the First Army.

When Hentsch reported back to von Moltke, the General ordered the Third Army to retreat in conjunction with the Second. Finally visiting the front on September 11, von Moltke ordered a general retreat of all his five armies west of Verdun. Defeated in the Battle of the Marne, the Germans fell back to the high ground on the north side of the Aisne River. From September 14 to 18, Joffre launched costly and fruitless frontal attacks on the German forces, and then tried to outflank them, beginning the "Race to the Sea."

The Enemies Attempt to Outflank Each Other: The Race to the Sea

At the end of the German retreat, the German right and the Allied left ended in open country near Noyon, France. For two months, the opposing armies tried to outflank each other, shaping a snaking line nearly due north across France through mid-October, into Belgium, and to the English Channel. The rivers they crossed, the cities, towns, regions, and geographic features seized by one side or another, would be fought over for four more years: the Somme River, Péronne, Arras, Flanders. The Germans took many of the high points in this low-laying land — Lorretto Heights, Vimy Ridge, Messines Ridge — high ground that would cost many lives to hold and to take.

Retreating from Antwerp before its fall on October 10, the Belgian Army helped hold the coast and the Channel ports, critical to supplying British forces on the continent. Struggling to hold a line on the Yser River and a small corner of Belgium, the Belgians opened the floodgates of the Yser on October 28, inundating the surrounding lowlands, and stopping the German advance. Frustrated on the Yser, the Germans attacked to the south. In the First Battle of Ypres, they near broke through a part of the line held by the British regular army, which, though reinforced by the French, was shattered.

By November 24, when the fighting slowed, the Germans and the allied French, Belgians and British faced each other across a line stretching from the English Channel to Switzerland. The enemies entrenched.

War in the Air

In 1914, eleven years after the Wright Brothers first flew, single- and double-seat planes were used by some armies similarly to cavalry — for reconnaissance, to find the enemy, and see what he was up to. Von Kluck and his German First Army, who could not find the British after the Battle of Mons, and who did not see the French forces forming in and near Paris, were not using airplanes. Planes were also used to register artillery, observing and reporting their effects so guns could be recalibrated. Fighter planes did not yet exist, but pilots and observers were armed, and fired on each other, for the most part with little effect. Planes also dropped small bombs on both military and civilian targets.

On October 9, 1914 Antwerp was bombed by a Zeppelin. German forces occupied the city the next day. Postcard with an inset portrait of Count von Zeppelin.

Military balloons had been used for observation as early as 1794. Although France and other nations had airships, the German Zeppelins, and a similar airship the Schütte-Lanz, were the most advanced. Unlike the balloon, fundamentally a gas bag with few means of controlling its flight, airships had rigid internal metal or wood structures, engines for propulsion, and control surfaces to navigate. Germany used its Zeppelins for reconnaissance and to bomb military and civilian targets.

In 1914 Zeppelins bombed the Belgian fortress city Antwerp, and the French cities of Nancy, Calais, and Paris. The Allies did not have planes capable of flying high enough to interfere with them. Most of the Zeppelins destroyed in 1914 were damaged by high winds.

Turkey Enters the War

Turkey had begun forging closer ties with Germany after the Young Turks took power in 1908, and a German military mission had begun improving the Turkish military in 1913. When two German battleships entered Turkish waters in the Dardanelles leading to the Black Sea, the Allies' concern about Turkish intentions was heightened. Up to 70% of Russian shipping passed from the Black Sea to the Mediterranean, and the country's other European ports were ice-bound for part of the year. Loss of free passage to the Mediterranean would isolate Russia for months at a time.

As a neutral nation, Turkey was obligated to impound the German military vessels. Instead, Germany turned the ships over to Turkey, which welcomed them into the Turkish navy. Goeben, the greater of the ships, was superior to Russian ships in the Black Sea, and could also threaten British and French ships in the Mediterranean.

The new Dreibund, or Triple Alliance of Austria-Hungary, Germany, and Turkey. The original Triple Alliance included Italy rather than Turkey, but Italy declared neutrality on August 3, 1914, then war on Austria-Hungary on May 24, 1915. The Austro-Hungarian soldier on the left is holding the Hapsburg flag. Illustration by HR.

With no formal declaration of war, Turkey entered the war on October 29 when its new ships sank Russian ships in the Black Sea and shelled Russian ports. Russia declared war on Turkey on November 2, and attacked Turkey across the common border in the mountains of eastern Turkey, near the Caucasus Mountains. The preliminary battles of Turkey and Russia were indecisive, with each side gaining and giving ground and losing about 7,000 men until winter set in and fighting stopped. The halt was temporary.

One of the Young Turks, Turkish War Minister, Ismail Enver Pasha devised a plan for a winter attack on Russia. Having fought the First and Second Balkan Wars in 1912 and 1913, much of the Turkish Army was in western Turkey, and, to execute Enver's plan, crossed the country to the east. The soldiers were neither trained nor dressed for the conditions under which they would fight and, in large numbers, die. Advancing at high altitudes and in sometimes blizzard conditions, the Turks lost many to exposure. In a battle that lasted from December 24 to January 15, 1915, the Turks lost an estimated 75,000 men in the Battle of Sarikamish.


In its attempts to find another vulnerable part of the Ottoman Empire, and to defend its access to oil, Britain landed 5,000 Indian Army troops at Fao, south of Basra and on the Persian Gulf on November 6, 1914, under General John Nixon. The Turks had a comparable number of troops in the area. Claiming that expanding territory would enhance security, Nixon began advancing north and east from his base. He sent one corps to Ahwaz, Persia to protect the oil pipeline running to the Gulf. The British began moving north, and took Basra on November 21.

The Eastern Front — the Battles of Ivangorod and Lodz

In the Battles of Ivangorod and Lodz in October, German and Austro-Hungarian forces swept eastward in Polish Russia and Galicia taking and retaking territory before being driven back by a fully-mobilized Russian army. As the Russians stood before continuing their drive, the Germans struck on their right wing, threatening to envelop and destroy a Russian army. Although the Russians managed to escape, they retreated to the east, ceding much of western Poland.

Losses were high in these November and December battles, the Germans losing 100,000, the Russians 530,000. The Russians captured over 60,000 Austro-Hungarian prisoners. The Austrian First Army lost 40,000 to 50,000 men. Austro-Hungarian losses in Galicia alone between September and December, 1914 were as high as 1,000,000.

The War at Sea

The British Royal Navy had been on maneuvers in the North Sea when the Archduke was assassinated, and stayed at sea rather than returning to port, effectively controlling the Sea, and barring access to the German High Seas Fleet. With a weaker surface fleet, Germany's threat to Britain's navy and control of the sea was dramatically demonstrated on September 22, 1914, when German submarine U-9 sank three British armored cruisers. The British fleet retired, virtually abandoning the North Sea, allowing German ships to shell towns on the English coast.

1914 Print of Naval armament expenditures for 1888 and 1913 for Great Britain, France, Italy, the United States, Russia, Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Japan.

Great Britain declared the entire North Sea a military zone as of November 5, 1914, and began implementing a naval blockade of Germany, claiming the right to search neutral ships. Neutral nations such as Netherlands and Sweden, but especially the United States, objected, particularly when Allied ships diverted those of neutral nations to port, rather than searching them on the high seas as international law required. After Germany laid mines around the British Isles, Britain did the same in the North Sea. Britain's diversions became easier to impose when it enforced the provision of safe passage along the English coast.

Britain mined and patrolled the English Channel and northern end of North Sea, and imposed an increasingly restrictive blockade, stopping and boarding ships, originally for military supplies, but increasingly for anything that could have a military use, which, of course, then as now, covers nearly everything.

Germany's Overseas Possessions

Germany came late to acquiring an overseas empire, and was stripped of it quickly. In West Africa Togo was taken on August 27 and German Southwest Africa (by forces from the Union of South Africa under Botha) in November, 1914.

In German East Africa, Paul von Lettow-Vorbeck defeated a force the British sent from India. He fought a successful guerrilla war until 1918, surrendering after the armistice in Europe.

A German officer retches as a French soldier begins to piece together Alsace, lost to Germany in the Franco-Prussian war of 1870-71. The repaired platter of %+%Location%m%105%n%Togoland%-% in Africa was taken by French and British forces on August 27, 1914. %+%Location%m%93%n%Kiautschau%-%, and it port of %+%Location%m%51%n%Tsingtau%-%, a German concession in China, %+%Event%m%16%n%fell%-% to the Japanese and British on November 7, 1914.

In the Far East, Germany had seized Tsingtao and Kiaochow from China in 1898. Japan offered to help Britain take Tsingtao. Japanese and British troops besieged the city. On November 7, 1914, the city fell to the Allied forces.

In the Pacific Ocean, Germany's colonies of Samoa and German Guinea were seized.

Germany's East Asiatic Squadron under von Spee escaped from Tsingtao. The Emden broke off for the Indian Ocean, but the rest of the fleet continued past the German territory of Samoa and across the Pacific. On November 1, there was a naval engagement off Coronel, Chile. The Squadron continued around the Horn to the Falkland Islands off Argentina in the South Atlantic. The Squadron lost the Battle of the Falklands on December 8, 1914.

Having broken off from the Squadron, the Emden passed through the East Indies, sailing south of Java, into the Indian Ocean. It followed the coast of the Bay of Bengal to India's east before continuing south. It was sunk on November 9, 1914.

The SMS Karlsruhe was in the West Indies in 1914, and captured or sank sixteen ships before being destroyed by an internal explosion on November 4.

With the loss of its overseas fleet, there was little protection for the Pacific possessions. Germany lost the South Sea islands — German Guinea and some of the islands of the Bismarck and Solomon Seas to its east by the end of 1914 — to Japan, Australia, Britain, and New Zealand.

December on the Western Front

In December, the French attacked in Champagne, Alsace, and on the Woevre plain east of Verdun. On December 17, Joffre and Foch launched the first of what would be three battles of Artois in an attempt to seize the high grounds of Vimy Ridge and the Loretto Heights at Notre Dame de Lorette. The battle ended after three days of fighting.

Not having anticipated or prepared for a long war, all belligerents had run low on shells and other ordnance.

1914 Ends

Joffre conducted one final assault in Flanders, and failed.

1914 losses were extremely heavy on both sides, for France the heaviest of the war. France suffered 850,000 casualties in 1914, and Germany 800,000, including 18,000 officers. The BEF had 86,237 casualties of 110,000 combatants. Austro-Hungarian losses were reported as 692,195 soldiers, but were probably closer to 1,000,000 with 189,000 dead, 490,000 wounded, and 278,000 prisoners.

Events for 1914-01-01 to 1914-12-31

Event Start Date Event End Date Event
1886-10-03 1914-09-22 Alain-Fournier killed in action on the Meuse
1914-06-28 1914-06-28 Assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand
1914-07-28 1914-07-28 Austria-Hungary declares war on Serbia
1914-07-29 1914-07-29 Austria-Hungary bombards, Belgrade, Capital of Serbia
1914-08-01 1914-08-01 Germany declares war on Russia
1914-08-01 1914-08-01 France orders general mobilization for August 2, 1914
1914-08-02 1914-08-02 French begins general mobilization
1914-08-02 1914-11-11 Turkey Enters the War
1914-08-03 1914-08-03 Germany invades Luxemburg
1914-08-03 1914-08-03 Germany declares war on France