In 1915, the war is just beginning. Contrary to popular statements by political leaders of the time, the war has not been finished by Christmas 1914. The Triple Entente spends the year trying desperately to gain any sort of advantage over Germany, with little avail. Almost every British offensive this year fails. France has a slightly better time, but their gains are lost almost as quickly as they are achieved. Meanwhile, Germany is able to push the Russians out of Poland and focus more on the Western Front. This year also marked the entry of both Italy and Bulgaria. Far from over, The Great War appears to be just beginning.
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- Germany begins an air assault on the United Kingdom.
Great Yarmouth and King's Lynn in England are targeted by two German zeppelins. While there were mild casualties, the real outcome of the attack was psychological. It would cause the British people became fearful of the idea of such raids. Many future reported sightings would end up being false alarms, but not before they caused widespread panic. Eventually, Britain would begin using faster planes to catch the giant airships. With mounted guns, zeppelins stood little chance of defense1 and its use as a weapon was diminished.
- The Central Powers first use poison gas on the Eastern Front.
In the Battle of Bolimov, Germany launches shells filled with methylbenzyl bromide at Russian soldiers. France had used the same compound against the Germans five months prior, but to little effect. Likewise, the Germans found problems with their own chemical weapons. Most of the liquid froze before it could detonate on enemy soldiers.
- The Second Battle of Masurian Lakes begins.
In an attempt to gain favour with it's Balkans allies and take strong advances eastward, Germany sanctions a surprise attack on Russian troops in central Poland. Led by Paul von Hindenburg they manage huge advances early on. Another German force blocks off any Russian retreat and within two weeks, the remaining troops have surrendered. Over fifty thousand Russian casualties are reported.
- Germany's blockade of Great Britain begins.
The waters around Great Britain are declared a “war region” by the German government. This places any merchant vessels, including those of neutral countries, at risk of attack by German U-Boats. The blockade lasted mere months, as doubts quickly became realized about sinking neutral civilian ships. The political events2 surrounding the War Zone quickly became complex.
- Allied attack of Dardenelles begins.
Winston Churchill (at the time: First Lord of the Admiralty), desiring a quick method of removing the Ottoman Empire from the war, had plans made for a naval strike on the Straights of Dardenelles. Although many commanders advised against a purely navel attack of the straights, Churchill went ahead with the plan. Multiple failed attempts, coupled with the medical problems the Rear-Admiral leading the fleet, caused the removal of the fleet by mid-March. The navel assault would mark the beginning of the Battle of Gallipoli.
- The German advance through Poland is held off.
German troops from the Masurian Lakes battle have begun moving towards Russian, only to be stopped by a counterattack by the Russian Twelfth Army. This attack is instrumental in keeping the German forces from reaching Russian soil.
- Britain announces a blockade of all German ports.
In response to the Germany's attempted blockade, the British Grand Fleet is called out to keep resources and trade from entertain Germany. The result is a stalemate with neither side having a particular advantage over the other. Even though Britain was able to maintain their blockade and hold Germany's navy in port, it meant that the Grand Fleet was unable to be of much use elsewhere.
- The Second Battle of Ypres begins.
German troops attack the city of Ypres in an attempt to distract the Entente from the Eastern front. It was also another attempt by Germany to test the viability poisonous gas as a weapon. After the failure at Bolimov, nobody expected the gas attacks to work as well as they did. Initially, German troops ran right into the gas. Although the gas attack proved a success, the attack on Ypres ended in failure3. It hadn't been expected that Germany's forces would be able to make any great breakthroughs and no reinforcements were made available.
- Battle of Gallipoli becomes a ground assault.
Landing troops of along the shores of the Dardanelles, the British find that the Central Powers have a strong defense set up. With Triple Alliance holding the upper shores it was difficult to move troops forward. Even with massive munitions shortages, the Germans were able to hold the straight due poor planning from the British. Many British colonies, including Australia and New Zealand, have large amounts of troops invested in this offensive. ANZAC will prove to see many casualties in the months to come.
- The secret Treaty of London is signed.
The Triple Entente, as well as Italy, have been in secret talks for over a month now. The main subject on the table is territories Italy will receive, if they declared war against the Triple Alliance. In addition, Britain gave Italy a loan of fifty-million pounds to help with the war effort.
- The Battle of Gorlice-Tarnow begins.
This battle marks the beginning of a strong German offensive that manages to drive the Russians back along the Eastern Front. The Triple Entente makes huge amounts of progress in pushing the Russians to retreat further and further. Not only does this mark a turning point on the Eastern front, but also a turning point in Russian thinking towards the war. By the time they manage to make a suitable defense, they've lost almost two million soldiers.
- John McCrae writes In Flanders Fields
McCrae, a Canadian surgeon, had spent the past seventeen days serving in Ypres. After the death and burial of a young friend, McCrae wrote a poem in memory of soldiers lost. This poem, eventually published in a London newspaper, would become commonplace during Remembrance Day ceremonies. McCrae himself would die on the battlefield just three years later.
- The sinking of the RMS Lusitania.
A British passenger liner, the RMS Lusitania, has been on the ocean for over a week. Departing from Liverpool and heading towards New York, the ship made the journey to America without incident. On the return journey, a German submarine caught sight of the Lusitania and sunk it. Of the nearly two thousand who died, 128 of them were Americans. This failed to push the United States into the war, much to the anger of the British4.
- China concedes to Japan's “Twenty-One Demands” 5.
In January, a twenty-one point ultimatum was sent to China with the threat of war behind it. Japan, using the European conflict as a distraction, demanded large amounts of control and multiple economic sanctions. Influence from the United States forced Japan to give up some of the more ambitious points. Although the Chinese government stalled for as long as they could, they signed two treaties on this date. They would stay in effect until 1921.
- Italy declares war on Austria-Hungary.
As per the treaty signed almost a month ago, Italy finally joins the Triple Entente and goes to war with a member of the Triple Alliance. While they agree to the bare minimum, Italy manages to hold a declaration of war against Germany off.
- Italy begins the Battle of the Isonzo.
Italy didn't have a lot of options for entry points into the war. Most of their plans involved crossing the Isonzo river. This was due, in part, to Italy's desire not to fight unless they gained territory from it. When it was seen that Italy was joined the Triple alliance, Austria-Hungary had fortified the surrounding mountains and made it a tremendously difficult task to cross. This marked the beginning of a series of battles that would last well into the last years of the war.
- Battle of Sari Bair begins.
With the British still thinking that they had a chance the Straight of Dardenelles, another plan was formulated with a speed attack. They thought that success of this battle would leave the British with a pathway to continue the war, as the other fronts had reached deadlocks that were unlikely to change. The Triple Entente never got the opportunity to test that thought. Even with the British coming away with less casualties, it would be the Ottoman defenders who were victorious. Almost none of the initial goals of the Sari Bair plan had been achieved. Although Gallipoli raged for another few months, this battle marked the end of the British offensives in the Dardenelles region.
- US newspapers report American entry into the war.
Both the Washington Post and the Baltimore Sun have stories running that the United States government plans on sending a million soldiers to the war effort. These stories are quickly refuted by members of the American General Staff. In fact, it will be two years before American troops reach Europe.
- German soldiers reach Russian soil.
The Germans still have been gaining momentum from the Gorlice-Tarnow battle. It is used to push the Russians out of Warsaw and Brest-Litovsk. These two places marked the last Russian strongholds in Poland. German troops march northeast into Russia.
- German blockade of Britain is lessened.
Days prior, another passenger liner was hit and sunk by German U-boats. The SS Arabic was carrying American citizens, two of whom were killed. Pressure from the United States causes Germany to cease it's policy of attacking non-neutral ships without warning. This concession would prove to be futile, as Germany didn't always have the chance to keep that promise. In the end, America was forced to think of it's own trade interests and issues that stemmed from that because of the war.
- The Germans cease offensive actions on the Eastern front.
While Germany had toyed with the idea of furthering an assault on Russia soil, they lacked the resources to maintain any worthwhile attack. Since they had achieved their main goal of removing the Russians from Poland, their forces quickly became defense oriented.
- Tsar Nicholas Romanov takes supreme command of the Russia army.
Grand Duke Nikolai Romanov, uncle of Tsar Nicholas Romanov, is removed from command by the Tsar. While nearly every advisor the Tsar spoke with told him that it would be a bad maneuver for him to follow, he did so anyway. This likely had something to do with Rasputin, a monk who had sway over the Tsar's wife and through her, sway over the Tsar himself. Rasputin had said that the Russians would continue losing until the Tsar placed himself in control over the Russian army. It would take him many months before he realized he was in over his head, but by then the February Revolution was already on the way.
- The Battle of Loos begins.
A large British force designed as a major offensive against the Western front is led by Sir Douglas Haig. While Haig wasn't entirely in support of the attack, the numbers were far in the favour of the British and the battle commenced as planned. Where Germans had used gas earlier in the war, Britain now had it's own attempt. Over 140 tons of chlorine gas was launched towards the German line. Unfortunately, drastic changes in winds sent the gas back towards the British. While it did injury over two thousand Britons, only seven died because of it. Regardless, though, the British failed to use their superior numbers to any sort of gain. After the initial attack, they were forced to wait for resupply and reserves. During that time, the Germans were able to better fortify their position. The British offensive was a failure.
- The Second Battle of Champagne begins.
Another battle where the defenders are greatly outnumbered, this time with a mainly French force performing the offensive. Compared to Loos, though, this attack seemed that the French may actually make significant gains into the German line. As the battle progressed, though, the French discovered that they couldn't surpass the German defense. Having had weeks to prepare, the German forces had considerable blockades set up. In the end, any ground the French gained over the first week had been lost in the second.
- Bulgaria declares war on Serbia.
At the onset of war. Bulgaria had declared itself as neutral. The motive behind this was to wait until the outcome seemed to favour one side. Still, both the Entente and the Alliance continued to make offers to the neutral nation. When Germany had managed to push Russia out of Poland and effectively control the Eastern front they initiated a secret treaty with Bulgaria. It would give the then-neutral nation large amounts of territory and monetary gain. Thus, Bulgaria joined the battle on the Central Powers side.
- Britain and France declare war on Bulgaria.
Although the Triple Entente had hoped to bring Bulgaria onto their side, they weren't hesitant to declare war on the nation. Within days, Britain, France and Russia had all done so. Soon after, Italy joined their allies and Bulgaria was firmly involved in the war.
- The Serbian army retreats.
When Bulgaria joins the war, they manage to do some serious damage to Serbia. In fact, Serbia has only two options at this point and both would place them out of the war. They could surrender or they could retreat in order to regroup and rejoin the war later. Tens of thousands of Serbians, civilians and military, retreated to Albania. It would be months before the Serbian army was able to help the war effort agian.
- The Oskar II leaves for Europe.
A wealthy businessman, Henry Ford, hoped that he would be able to negotiate a peace settlement and end the war. He sent a ship, the Oskar II, in order to organize a conference in Stockholm. While those in America agreed with the idea, it failed to pique the interest of any of the warring nations and the conference was a flop.
- Douglas Haig takes command of the British Forces in France.
Field Marshall Sir John French's second-in-command, Haig, has been trying for months to get the man removed from his post as Commander-In-Chief of the British Expeditionary Force. It was widely believed that French was a poor leader. Haig would prove to be a more than suitable replacement in the months to come.
- The British retreat from Gallipoli.
After months of failure at the straight of Dardenelles, the British finally begin pulling out troops. Amid poor moral and harsh weather, the retreat begins. Within two weeks, the last British troops will have departed the Gallipoli region. Among them is the surviving ANZAC soldiers. The entire Gallipoli incident will be remembered by Australians for decades to come.
--- Ending Notes ---
1: Germany actually ended up creating a zeppelin which had a higher survival rate. Nicknamed “Height Climbers”, they were smaller, lighter and faster than the traditional airship. When painted completely black, it would become difficult to see them in the night sky. The newer ships were too little, too late in the air war. Zeppelin bombing had never been terribly accurate and got worse from the large heights. The military applications of zeppelins had come to a close.
2: The German government wanted to cut supplies off to Britain, but hoped that the threat alone would keep neutral nations from shipping. Not only did this prove to be false, but enemy nations soon began flying neutral flags and markings in order to get by the blockade. The political dangers of attacking neutral nations became a real problem, especially with the sinking of the Lusitania in May.
3: At Ypres, the French front line faced the majority of the gas attack. Fearing the lives of many of their soldiers, the French quickly retreated. Canadian troops managed to hold off the relatively small German attack and swing the tide of the battle to Entente favour.
4: The Lusitania situation was much more delicate than was known at the time. Although the Germans had fired on the passenger liner, it was said that the single torpedo could not have done such rapid damage to the ship. Causes were everything from claims of contraband munitions being shipped on a passenger liner to deliberate lies by the Germans. In the end, the United States filed a formal protest with the Germans and the situation was left at that.
5: The Twenty-One Demands were an attempt by Japan to gain more power in the Pacific. It would actually give governmental power to Japanese “advisors”. This was the part of the treaty that the other Entente powers fought against. They did this in order to keep some power out of Japan's hands, while the Allies were focused on the European conflict.
6: “My duty to my country, which has been entrusted to me by God, impels me to-day, when the enemy has penetrated into the interior of the Empire, to take the supreme command of the active forces and to share with my army the fatigues of war, and to safeguard with it Russian soil from the attempts of the enemy.”
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In Flanders Fields by Lometa
Great Battles of World War I by Anthony Livesey
A Histroy of the Great War; 1914-1918 by C.R.M.F. Cruttwe
An Everything's Most Wanted Bounty inspired wu.
Thanks mauler for the Quest!
And kthejoker for edits!