This year marked the beginning of The Great War, although nobody had realized it yet. There was still the firm belief that the war would only last a couple of months. 1914 showed the failure of diplomacy on many fronts, as war is declared by the big players of Europe. Once the war begins, Germany is in a flux of retreat and retake. The Triple Entente makes no major gains this year. And by Christmas, doubts about the length of the war begin to surface.
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- Archduke Ferdinand is Assassinated.
In Sarajevo, Gavrilo Princip, a man supplied by the Black Hand, kills Franz Ferdinand, heir to the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and his wife, Sophie Von Chotkovato. One failed assassination attempt, by Nedjelko Cabrinovic, alerts Ferdinand to the plot. Instead of hiding, he goes to the hospital to see the men injured in the attempt. Sheer dumb luck placed Princip in a position to attack the archduke. After shooting and killing Ferdinand, he attempted to kill himself as ordered. Ferdinand's men managed to subdue him before he could turn the gun on himself. After interrogation, all signs pointed towards Serbia's Black Hand.
- Austria-Hungary sends demands that Nikola Pasic hand over members of the Black Hand.
The three key leaders of Archduke Ferdinand's assassination fled to Serbia, hoping to be protected. Milan Ciganovic, Voga Tankosic and Dragutin Dimitrijevic are to be put to trial by members of the Austria-Hungary government, instead of by Serbia, as their constitution demands.
- Serbian Prime Minister Nikola Pasic refuses Austria-Hungry's ultimatum.
A ten point ultimatum writen by the Austria-Hungary Minister for Foriegn Affairs is sent to Serbia. Most of Austria-Hungary's 'requests' are agreed to, with the exception of allowing Serbian citizens to be tried away from home. Pasic claims it unconstitutional and further-more, against international criminal law.
- Austria-Hungary declares war on Serbia.
Franz Joseph of the Austro-Hungarian Imperial Army is put under pressure by his chiefs of staff to use military forces in order to force Serbia's hand. Meanwhile, Russia has promised aid to Serbia if it is placed under attack by Austria-Hungary. Immediately the Russian military is placed on alert to go to Serbia, awaiting the "go" order.
- Russia's army is sent to aid Serbia.
In 1908, Austria decided to annex two nations. Herzegovina and, more noteworthy, Bosnia. The countries most affected by this were Russia and Serbia. Russia allowed it, due to military concessions from Austria. Serbia, on the other hand, was completely opposed. Soon, they began to move military forces against Austria. It took the complete departure of Russian support before Serbia realized it was getting in too deep. And when they pulled out and Serbia allowed the annex, Russia promised to support Serbia in future military conflicts in order to keep the peace. So, when Serbia asked Russia for assistance, Russia was obligated to help.
- Germany declares war on Russia.
Tsar Nicholas Romanov of Russia and Kaiser Wilhelm Hohenzollern of Germany have been corresponding via telegraph1 for three days now. Romanov has been pleading with Wilhelm to do what he can to convince the Central Powers against war. It comes down to Wilhelm placing the responsibility of maintaining the "peace of Europe" on Romanov and Russia ceasing military operations. Germany demands such action or they will be forced to mobilize their own army. To which Romanov responds: "It is technically impossible to stop our military preparations". When Germany's deadline for a message reporting that all Russian troops have been pulled back passes, Kaiser Wilhelm is forced to declare war on Russia when troops move too close along German borders. It didn't help that the Russian Tsar's hand was forced by his military staff because of Russia's growing armed forces (they had the largest Army and Airforce, as well as an expansive Navy). In the end, Wilhem was "obliged to mobilise" the German army.
- Germany declares war on France.
Due to the tricky militant nature of Europe at the time, both Germany and Russia had alliances in case war was declared on either of them. Germany grouped together with Austria-Hungary and Italy to become the Triple Alliance. Russia was part of the Triple Entente which included Britain and France. When Germany decided to go to war with Russia, they were deciding to go to war with France as well. Britain, as it would seem, was going to sit on the fence for a little while longer to decide whether or not to get involved with the war.
- Britain declares war on Germany.
In order for Germany to succeed in it's war on France, invading Belgium was neccessary2 in German eyes. More then that, rushing through Belgium to reach the French city of Lille to capture it with the same speed. So, when Belgium began putting up a resistance to the German offensive, Germany declared war. Britain, motivated by the attack on neutral Belgium, finally declares war on Germany. Now, the entire Entente was involved in the European War.
- The Battle of Mulhouse begins.
French and German forces collide in one of the first Battle of the Frontier. Germany had acquired the city of Alsace years prior during the Franco-Prussian War3 and it was considered a strategical point in that the French would be able to guard their flank from the city. Not to mention regaining lost territory from the Germans as a matter of pride. General Bonneau takes the city and all of France sees it as a huge victory for the Entente.
- Germany retakes Alsace.
German reinforcements arrive outside of the city and without sufficient troops to fight off the invading force, General Bonneau withdraws from the city. Two days after the French victory, the city is lost. Forces finally arrive to support a recapture, but by then the city is long lost and French forces must evacuate. Bonneau is removed from his position and replaced by Paul Pau, who was pulled out of retirement to lead the Army of Alsace4.
- Plan XVII is abandoned.
France had decided that the middle of Germany's front would be the weakest. The French were counting on the Germany would be so focused on the rest of their forces that a force moving directly towards Germany would be too strong for enemy forces to repel. Unfortunately, the plan failed miserably when it was determined that the German army was far too large to be moved by the French offensive. Thousands of French soldiers died during the mad rush towards Germany, because of German machine guns. Finally, on the 24th, French forces are ordered to retreat from German territory.
- The Battle of Tannenberg begins.
German and Russian forces collide outside of Tannenberg. Due to complete incompetence by the Russian command, Germany was completely aware of the Triple Entente's plans. Not only did the Germans win, they managed to capture nearly a hundred thousand troops. General Alexander Samsonov had led the battle and, when he realized all was lost, shot himself.
- The Battle of the Marne holds off German advance.
The French, fearing the advancing German troops, pull many civilians and governemnt officials out of Paris. The French army is moved to an area south of Paris, along with reinforcements from the British Expeditionary Force. Over three separate German lines were moving in on the capital city, but the British and French troops managed to divide the German armies enough to hold them off for four days. Various civilians in Paris played crucial parts in moving troops to the front line, including taxi services and people with vehicles who stayed behind.
- Germans successfully retreat from Paris.
The German forces, moving too quickly for an Entente strike, managed to escape the French victory at Paris with an organized retreat towards German territory. The losses on both sides were massive. Together, the BEF and French's Fifth and Sixth lost almost a quarter of a million troops. Still, the battle proved to be a victory of the Triple Entente, in that they stopped the Schlieffen plan from becoming a reality.
- Belgian troops retreat to Antwerp.
The resistance in Beligum had, for the past two months, gone poorly. Germany's advantages, including better arms and more troops, were too much for Beglium's army. An organized retreat to the city of Antwerp had been going on for the past two weeks. Preparations to hold off the German offensive, including British reinforcements, begin.
- Antwerp falls to German forces.
Antwerp was thought to be one of the best defended cities in Beligum. Germany, knowing this, had ignored Antwerp's maze of forts on the initial blitz towards France. Finally, with the end of the Schlieffen plan, the Germans had the opportunity to siege the city. While British troops had delayed the taking of the city, it had proved barely enough to hold the Germans back. Belgian officials, as well as most of the civilians, are evacuated to Ostend. Antwerp is, finally, surrendered.
- The First Battle of Ypres begins.
After the fall of Antwerp, the British Expeditionary Force pulled troops towards Ypres. The Germans had been attempting an offensive strike towards the English Channel, where the British were ferrying all their supplies through. An attack against the port cities would severely cripple the BEF's assistance in the war. The plan, partially designed by John French5, was recapture lost Belgian ground. Unfortunately, it just took days for the German Army to launch their own offensive on the Belgium troops at the Yser River.
- Belgium holds of German advances.
German General Erich Falkenhayn orders troops towards the port cities of Dunkirk and Calais. The Belgian Army, facing horrible odds, tried to stop the German attack. When Falkenhayn's forces are proven too much for the battered Belgians, King Albert I6 suprised the German Army by flooding the front lines of the advance. While it wasn't a permanent stop, it held Falkenhayn back, at least briefly.
- The Ottoman Empire joins the Triple Alliance.
After months of negotiating with various European nations, the Ottoman Empire decides that the Russian army proves to be too great a threat to ignore and finally signs an agreement with Germany for protection. After various meetings with other countries, including Britian, the Ottoman Empire reveals itself to be a member of the Triple Alliance by attacking Russian naval bases on and around the Black Sea. In the next couple of days Russia, France and Britian declare war on the Ottoman Empire.
- The Christmas Truce is negotiated.
Both sides agree to allow soldiers into No Mans Land to gather the masses of bodies. As well, an agreement is made for a single-day ceasefire. On Christmas Day, for the first time since the war had started, not a gun was fired on the front. Soldiers on both sides of the trenches begin singing Christmas songs.
--- Ending Notes ---
1: Nicholas Romanov and Wilhelm Hohenzollern sent off a series of telegrams to each other over the course of three days, starting on July 29th. They were signed "Nicky" and "Willy" respectively. Thus, the two ruler's crossing telegraph messages were nicknamed The "Willy-Nicky" Correspondence. Such was the nature of telegraph machines that often, one would receive a message briefly after sending one of his own, only to realize it was hours old. This break-down in communications was not the cause of Germany's declaration of war, but it certainly made it more difficult for the pair to discuss the matters at hand.
2: When the Triple Entente formed, in 1904, Germany began to fear a military move from the three allied countries. Alfred von Schlieffen wrote up an attack that would send most of Germany's forces to the France. He believed that, if France surrendered early on, Russia and Britain would back out. Thus, the invasion of Belgium was a neccessity if they were to remove France from the picture early on in the war.
3: At the end of the Franco-Prussian War Germany walked away with Alsace and Lorraine. The Treaty of Frankfurt basically gave up the two areas, while leaving some of the industrial plants in French control.
4: The Army of Alsace was made up of seven divisions of infantry and cavalry, as well as a major force from the French's First Army. It managed to last two months under Pau's command, before the French Commander-in-Chief pulled them out and had them join the Sixth Army.
5: Sir John French was the commander of the British Expeditionary Force, during the first two years of World War One. while he had a history as a good commander, it wasn't until he was actually on the field that he was tested. The Battles of the Frontiers showed that he had little knack for strategy. Generals under him began to ignore his orders if they disagreed. Eventually, his mistakes took note to the British relieved him of field command.
6: Albert Leopold Meinrad, King Albert the First, personally took control of the Belgian Army during World War I. During the intial months of the war he managed to hold off German troops against impossible odds, time and time again. His efforts against Germany gave France and Britain the edge needed to hold Germany off at many battles, including the Battle of the Marne.
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Great Battles of World War I by Anthony Livesey
A Histroy of the Great War; 1914-1918 by C.R.M.F. Cruttwel
An Everything's Most Wanted Bounty inspired wu.
Thanks mauler for the Quest!
Thanks spiregrain, Blush Response and TenMinJoe for proofreading!