World War I

World War I
Clockwise from the top: The aftermath of shelling during the Battle of the Somme, Mark V tanks cross the Hindenburg Line, HMS Irresistible sinks after hitting a mine in the Dardanelles, a British Vickers machine gun crew wears gas masks during the Battle of the Somme, Albatros D.III fighters of Jagdstaffel 11
Date28 July 1914 – 11 November 1918 (1914-07-28 – 1918-11-11)
(4 years, 3 months and 2 weeks)
LocationEurope, Africa, the Middle East, the Pacific Islands, China, Indian Ocean, and off the coast of South and North America

Allied Powers victory

  • Formation of new countries in Europe and the Middle East
  • Transfer of German colonies and regions of the former Ottoman Empire to other powers
  • Belligerents
    Allied Powers
    Central Powers:
    Commanders and leaders
    Allied Powers leaders:Central Powers leaders:
    • Russian Empire 12,000,000
    • British Empire 8,841,541[1][2]
    • French Third Republic 8,660,000[3]
    • Kingdom of Italy 5,615,140
    • United States 4,743,826
    • Kingdom of Romania 1,234,000
    • Empire of Japan 800,000
    • Kingdom of Serbia 707,343
    • Belgium 380,000
    • Kingdom of Greece 250,000
    • First Portuguese Republic 80,000
    • Kingdom of Montenegro 50,000
    Total: 42,959,850[4]
    • German Empire 13,250,000
    • Austria-Hungary 7,800,000
    • Ottoman Empire 2,998,321
    • Kingdom of Bulgaria 1,200,000
    Total: 25,248,321[4]
    Casualties and losses
    • Military dead: 5,525,000
    • Military wounded: 12,831,500
    • Total: 18,356,500 KIA, WIA and MIA
    • Civilian dead: 4,000,000

    ...further details.

    French Third Republic 1,397,800 killed[5]
    British Empire 1,114,914 killed[5]
    Kingdom of Italy 651,000 killed[5]
    Russian Empire 1,811,000 killed[5]
    Kingdom of Romania 250,000[5]-335,000 killed[6]
    Empire of Japan 415 killed[5]
    Kingdom of Serbia 275,000 killed[5]
    Belgium 58,637[5]-87,500 killed[6]
    United States 116,708 killed[5]
    Kingdom of Greece 26,000 killed[5]
    First Portuguese Republic 7,222 killed[5]

    Kingdom of Montenegro 3,000 killed[5]
    • Military dead: 4,386,000
    • Military wounded: 8,388,000
    • Total: 12,774,000 KIA, WIA and MIA
    • Civilian dead: 3,700,000

    ...further details.

    German Empire 2,050,897 killed[5]
    Austria-Hungary 1,200,000 killed[6]
    Ottoman Empire 771,844 killed[5]
    Kingdom of Bulgaria 87,500 killed[5]

    World War I (often abbreviated as WWI or WW1), also known as the First World War or the Great War, was a global war originating in Europe that lasted from 28 July 1914 to 11 November 1918. Contemporaneously described as the "war to end all wars",[7] more than 70 million military personnel, including 60 million Europeans, were mobilised in one of the largest wars in history.[8][9] An estimated nine million combatants and seven million civilians died as a direct result of the war, while it is also considered a contributory factor in a number of genocides and the 1918 influenza epidemic, which caused between 50 to 100 million deaths worldwide.[10] Military losses were exacerbated by new technological and industrial developments and the tactical stalemate caused by gruelling trench warfare. It was one of the deadliest conflicts in history and precipitated major political changes, including the Revolutions of 1917–1923, in many of the nations involved. Unresolved rivalries at the end of the conflict contributed to the start of the Second World War about twenty years later.[11]

    By 1914, the European powers were divided into two coalitions: the Triple Entente, consisting of France, Russia and Britain and the Triple Alliance of Germany, Austria-Hungary and Italy. The Triple Alliance was primarily defensive in nature, allowing Italy to stay out of the war in 1914, while many of the terms of both agreements were informal and contradicted by others; for example, Italy renewed the Triple Alliance in 1902 but secretly agreed with France to remain neutral if it was attacked by Germany.[12] As the war widened, the Entente added Italy, Japan and eventually the United States to form the Allied Powers, while the Ottoman Empire and Bulgaria joined Germany and Austria to create the Central Powers.

    Between 1908 and 1914, the Balkans had been destabilised by the combination of a weakened Ottoman Empire, the 1912–1913 Balkan Wars and competing Russian and Austro-Hungarian objectives.[13] On 28 June 1914, Gavrilo Princip, a Bosnian Serb Yugoslav nationalist, assassinated the Austro-Hungarian heir Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo, leading to a diplomatic crisis.[14][15] On 23 July, Austria-Hungary issued an ultimatum to Serbia; interlocking alliances quickly drew in all the major European powers with their respective colonial empires and the conflict rapidly spread across the globe.

    On 25 July, the Russian government issued orders for the 'period preparatory to war'; after Austria-Hungary shelled the Serbian capital of Belgrade on the 28th, partial mobilisation was approved of the military districts nearest to Austria, including Kiev, Kazan, Odessa and Moscow.[16] General Russian mobilisation was announced on the evening of 30 July; on the 31st, Austria-Hungary and Germany did the same, while Germany demanded Russia demobilise within 12 hours.[17] When Russia failed to comply, Germany declared war on 1 August, with Austria-Hungary following suit on 6th; France ordered full mobilisation in support of Russia on 2 August.[18] French entry into the war stemmed from a combination of the desire to regain the provinces of Alsace-Lorraine ceded after the 1870–1871 Franco-Prussian War, concern at Germany's increasing power and military commitments agreed with Russia.[19]

    German strategy for a war on two fronts against France and Russia was to concentrate the bulk of their army in the West to defeat France within four weeks, then shift forces to the East before Russia could fully mobilise; this was later known as the Schlieffen Plan.[20] On 2 August, Germany demanded free passage through Belgium, an essential element in achieving a quick victory over France.[21] When this was refused, German forces entered Belgium early on the morning of 3 August and declared war with France the same day; the Belgian government invoked the 1839 Treaty of London and in compliance with its obligations under this, Britain declared war on Germany on 4 August.[22][23] On 12 August, Britain and France also declared war on Austria-Hungary; on the 23rd, the Empire of Japan joined the Allied Powers, seizing the opportunity to expand its sphere of influence by capturing German possessions in China and the Pacific. On 24 August, Serbia won a major victory over the Austro-Hungarians at the Battle of Cer.

    The German advance into France was halted at the Battle of the Marne and by the end of 1914, the Western Front settled into a battle of attrition, marked by a long series of trench lines that changed little until 1917. On the Eastern Front, two Russian armies entered East Prussia on 17 August, in compliance with their 1912 agreement with France to attack Germany within 15 days of mobilisation.[24] The Germans were forced to divert troops from the West but successfully repulsed this invasion by victories at Tannenberg and the Masurian Lakes; however, the Russians occupied the Austro-Hungarian province of Eastern Galicia.

    In November 1914, the Ottoman Empire joined the Central Powers, opening fronts in the Caucasus, Mesopotamia and the Sinai Peninsula. In 1915, Italy joined the Allied Powers and Bulgaria joined the Central Powers. Romania joined the Allied Powers in 1916. After the sinking of seven US merchant ships by German submarines, and the revelation that the Germans were trying to incite Mexico to make war on the United States, the US declared war on Germany on 6 April 1917.

    The Russian government collapsed in March 1917 with the February Revolution, and the October Revolution followed by a further military defeat brought the Russians to terms with the Central Powers via the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, which granted the Germans a significant victory. After the stunning German Spring Offensive along the Western Front in the spring of 1918, the Allied Powers rallied and drove back the Germans in the successful Hundred Days Offensive. On 4 November 1918, the Austro-Hungarian empire agreed to the Armistice of Villa Giusti, and Germany, which had its own trouble with revolutionaries, agreed to an armistice on 11 November 1918, ending the war in victory for the Allied Powers.

    By the end of the war or soon after, the German Empire, Russian Empire, Austro-Hungarian Empire and Ottoman Empire ceased to exist. National borders were redrawn and Germany's colonies were parcelled out among the victors. During the Paris Peace Conference of 1919, the Big Four powers (Britain, France, the United States and Italy) imposed their terms in a series of treaties. The League of Nations was formed with the aim of preventing any repetition of such a conflict. This effort failed, however, as weakened successor states, renewed nationalism, economic depression, and feelings of humiliation (particularly in Germany) eventually contributed to the start of World War II.


    The term "First World War" was first used in September 1914 by German biologist and philosopher Ernst Haeckel, who claimed that "there is no doubt that the course and character of the feared 'European War' ... will become the first world war in the full sense of the word,"[25] citing a wire service report in The Indianapolis Star on 20 September 1914.

    Prior to World War II, the events of 1914–1918 were generally known as the Great War or simply the World War.[26][27] Contemporary Europeans also referred to it as "the war to end war" or "the war to end all wars" due to their perception of its then-unparalleled scale and devastation.[28] After World War II began in 1939, the terms became more standard, with British Empire historians, including Canadians, favouring "The First World War" and Americans "World War I".[29]

    In October 1914, the Canadian magazine Maclean's wrote, "Some wars name themselves. This is the Great War."[30] However, while certainly accurate in Canada, this was not so even in Britain; historian John Holland Rose's 1911 account of the 1793–1815 wars against France was titled William Pitt and the Great War.[31] This was validated by Gareth Glover's 2015 book, Waterloo in 100 Objects, in which he states: "This opening statement will cause some bewilderment to many who have grown up with the appellation of the Great War firmly applied to the 1914–18 First World War. But to anyone living before 1918, the title of the Great War was applied to the Revolutionary and Napoleonic wars in which Britain fought France almost continuously for twenty-two years from 1793 to 1815."[32]

    In Germany, "The Great War" was historically used for the 1618–1648 Thirty Years' War, also known as the "Great German War" or "Great Schism". One of the longest and most destructive conflicts in human history, it resulted in eight million fatalities from military action, violence, famine and plague, the vast majority of them in the German states of the Holy Roman Empire.[33] In terms of proportional German casualties and destruction, it was only surpassed by the period from January to May 1945; its enduring visibility is partly the result of 19th-century Pan-Germanism, as an example of the dangers of a divided Germany and a driver in the 1871 creation of the Deutsches Kaiserreich or German Empire.[34] Regardless of terminology, the Thirty Years' War remains the single greatest war trauma in German memory, as demonstrated in debates over naming conventions during the centenary of 1914–1918.[35]

    Other Languages
    Alemannisch: Erster Weltkrieg
    беларуская (тарашкевіца)‎: Першая сусьветная вайна
    emiliàn e rumagnòl: Prémma guèra mundièl
    Esperanto: Unua mondmilito
    estremeñu: I Guerra Mundial
    Fiji Hindi: World War I
    Gàidhlig: An Cogadh Mòr
    客家語/Hak-kâ-ngî: Thi-yit-chhṳ Sṳ-kie Thai-chan
    Bahasa Indonesia: Perang Dunia I
    Basa Jawa: Perang Donya I
    къарачай-малкъар: Биринчи дуния къазауат
    Lëtzebuergesch: Éischte Weltkrich
    مازِرونی: جهونی جنگ اول
    Bahasa Melayu: Perang Dunia Pertama
    မြန်မာဘာသာ: ပထမ ကမ္ဘာစစ်
    Dorerin Naoero: Eaket Eb I
    Nedersaksies: Eerste Wealdkrieg
    नेपाल भाषा: तःहताः १
    Nordfriisk: Iarst Wäältkrich
    norsk nynorsk: Den fyrste verdskrigen
    oʻzbekcha/ўзбекча: Birinchi jahon urushi
    Patois: Wol Waar I
    Plattdüütsch: Eerste Weltkrieg
    qırımtatarca: Birinci Cian cenki
    Simple English: World War I
    slovenščina: Prva svetovna vojna
    Soomaaliga: Dagaalkii koowaad
    српски / srpski: Први светски рат
    srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: Prvi svjetski rat
    Basa Sunda: Perang Dunya I
    Türkmençe: Birinji jahan urşy
    ئۇيغۇرچە / Uyghurche: بىرىنچى دۇنيا ئۇرۇشى
    vepsän kel’: Ezmäine mail'man voin
    Volapük: Volakrig balid
    žemaitėška: Pėrma svieta vaina