1918 finally saw the end of the "war to end all wars" with the signing of the armistice on November 11,1918. Germany's harsh treatment at the hands of the Allies would lead to further problems in the future, however.
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- Wilson announces 14 points for peace
US president Woodrow Wilson today spoke to Congress, outlining his 14 points that America wished to achieve with the war. Among the points are open diplomacy, free trade and national self-determination - all points which have been on the wish list of British and American liberals for some time. The speech followed an unsuccessful Inter-Allied conference which failed to agree on war aims.
- Lenin creates Red Army, security police
Vladimir Lenin has secured the Bolshevik grip on power in Russia by creating the Red Army and a security police called the Cheka. The army has dissolved the Duma following its refusal to form a government of worker's councils. The Cheka is arresting prominent public figures.
- Trotsky wavers over peace with Germans
An armistice between Germany and Russia ended today, and the Germans are marching into Estonia and threatening Petrograd. Trotsky has been wavering over signing terms with the Germans at Brest-Litovsk. While protesting he would not sign a "peace of landlords and capitalists", he also protested that Russia "cannot... continue a war begun by Tsars and capitalists." Lenin outvoted Trotsky, and is determined to have peace. Trotsky has again offered to accept peace terms, but the German advance continues.
- Australian cavalry wins strategic victory at Jericho
Australian cavalry captured the Biblical town of Jericho today. The small town is strategically important, situated as it is only five miles from the River Jordan. It was Turkey's advance base for defending Palestine, and a key element of their supply chain. The Allies can now use the riverside road to advance towards Syria.
- Russia signs peace treaty with Central Powers
Today Bolshevik Russia signed a humiliating treaty with Germany and its allies at Brest-Litovsk, ceding much territory including Poland, Lithuania, and lands in Caucasia to Germany and Turkey.
- Successful German offensive
Freed from their obligations on the Eastern Front, the Germans have reinforced their Western troops and launched a major offensive. 3 million men are engaged in an attempt to smash the Allied defenses before American troops arrive on the scene. 80,000 prisoners have been taken, and the Germans have advanced by 40 miles. The British line in Arras has been breached, and the French chief of their General Staff, Ferdinand Foch, has taken over control of the Allied effort.
- The Royal Air Force is formed
The Royal Flying Corps and the Royal Naval Air Reserve have merged to form the Royal Air Force, or RAF. The British are keen to revenge recent German raids on London, which killed hundreds.
- Red Baron finally shot down
Germany's most famous air ace, the Red Baron Manfred von Richthofen was killed yesterday during the second battle of the Somme. He was buried with full military honours today. His red Fokker triplane had shot down a record 80 Allied aircraft. His squadron, Richthofen's Circus, also held a fearsome reputation.
- Protests at Irish conscription
Workers downed tools as protests took place across Ireland against conscription. Nationalists are angry at British plans to extend compulsory army service to the island. Sinn Fein held a large rally in Dublin, and 20,000 people signed an anti-conscription petition in Cork.
- Mission to block Ostend harbour fails
British attempts to sink the cruiser Vindictive in Ostend harbour, Belgium, thus blocking it from use by U-boats, has failed after the ship ran aground. Last month they had employed similar tactics to block Zeebrugge when they sank several blockships, preventing access to the port and canal. The more recent mission also saw a submarine loaded with explosives rammed into the harbour wall. The British had used a new form of fireworks as a smokescreen to foil enemy gunfire as the ships approached.
- Italy defeats Austria at Piave River
The Italian army inflicted a decisive defeat on the forces of Austria-Hungary today at the Piave River in north-east Italy. The battle may prove to be Austria's last major assault in the war, as their forces were beaten back by artillery and the Italian counter-attack
- Russia sees battle between Red and White armies
Post-revolutionary Russia is under threat from so-called White Russians. An independent Czech Legion of 45,000 men led by anti-Bolsheviks is advancing westwards from Siberia, and in the Ukraine there is a White Volunteer Army led by Tsarist generals who have joined with independent Cossacks. In Murmansk in the north, 130 marines have occopied the port to prevent it falling to the Germans. The Red Army is thus caught between several different opposing forces, on several different fronts.
- Paris under fire from 65 miles away
The huge German howitzer nicknamed "Big Bertha" is shelling the French capital from 65 miles away, although its accuracy is not at all precise. The 420mm weapon uses 1,764-pound shells, and any errors in target estimates are amplified over the vast distance the shells travel. The gun has already killed 800 Parisians since it began its bombardment on March 24. It is moved by rail at night, or hidden under earth at the side of hills. This is the fourth such gun, made by the German arms manufacturer Gustav Krupp, and named after his wife.
- The tsar and his family are murdered
The Romanov family of the Russian tsar, Nicholas II, were shot and bayoneted today by the new Bolshevik rulers of Russia, in a cellar in Ekaterinburg. The town is strongly pro-Bolshevik, and lies in the Ural mountains. The family had been taken there on May 30.
- Elastic defence helps Allies
After a lull on the western front caused by an influenza epidemic, the German attack of July 15 has been repulsed by an allied counter-attack. The French General Petain has used the concept of elastic defence to lure attackers onto a lightly-defended front line, backed up by heavier defenders in the rear which then attacked the enemy's over-extended supply lines. The German General Ludendorf has had his forces badly eroded, just as American troops arrive in France.
- Black day for Germany
Ludendorf admits it is "the black day of the German army as 20 divisions of British, American, Canadian, Australian, and French troops crush the Germans near Amiens. Tanks and aircraft now play a key role in these attacks, and German troops are surrendering in large numbers - 30,000 so far.
- Allies break through on Western front
The Allied forces are breaking through German lines all along the Western front. Impressive breakthroughs have been made by the Belgians and other Allies in Flanders, and German troops are putting up only token resistance throughout Belgium. Palestine has also seen Allied victories, with the British under Edmund Allenby defeating a large Turkish force, taking thousands of prisoners and advancing 350 miles, with help from Arabs under Emir Feisal. Bulgaria, too, has surrendered to Allied troops advancing from northern Greece.
- Lawrence of Arabia gains victory in Damascus
The British Major T E Lawrence, and his friend Emir Feisal have led a force of Arab horsemen onto the streets of Damascus, Syria, as General Allenby's army also arrived there. Lawrence had fought the Turks by the Arabs' side, offering tactical guidance and friendship during the long march from Arabia, often on camels.
- Allied victory on the Italian front
Today saw victory for the Italian commander Armando Diaz at Vittorio Veneto, after he led his forces in a major assault on October 24 on two Austro-Hungarian armies in the area.
- Germany revolts as Kaiser flees
Kaiser Wilhelm II today abdicated and fled to the Netherlands with his wife and court, as revolution grips his country. Socialists are demonstrating in the streets, soldiers are deserting, and sailors at Kiel have mutinied. Social Democrats appear to have temporary control of the Reichstag, the German parliament.
- Allies are victorious as Germany signs armistice
At the eleventh hour of the eleventh day... A party of Germans today signed a peace treaty in railway carriages in Compiegne. The guns fell silent at 11.00 am. The treaty's harsh terms demand that Germany hand over many guns, planes and U-boats, trains, and lorries. Its navy will be interned in British waters (see Scapa Flow). The Allies will occupy the Rhineland and continue their blockade of Germany. Ludendorf had all but abandoned the fight in mid-October, begging the Kaiser for an armistice before the front collapsed. U-boats continued their operations until November 9, and in the end it was Mattias Erzberger, a civilian politician, and two minor generals who signed the treaty.
Britain celebrated Victory Day with an explosion of public exuberance, as flares were sent off, factories closed, and church bells rang. The whole population erupted on to the streets, celebrating, setting off fireworks, cheering and lifting up servicemen to shoulder-height. There was dancing in the streets, flags flown from all the Allied nations, and the King and Queen drove through London to Hyde Park, attracting huge crowds. Prime Minister Lloyd George was cheered at Downing Street. Blackout restrictions were lifted as cities suddenly lit up in a blaze of light.
- The end of the Hapsburg Empire
Charles I of Austria has "relinquished participation" in the administration of Austria and Hungary, effectively ending the Habsburg Empire of Austria-Hungary. Czechoslovakia had declared its independence on October 28 and Hungary on 31 October. The Kingdom of Yugoslavia will be formed on December I.
- Surrender of German fleet
Today saw the remarkable sight of large numbers of undamaged German ships and U-boats sailing into British waters and surrendering to the Royal Navy. Scores of vessels anchored in the Firth of Forth, while 39 U-boats surrendered at Harwich.
- Death toll of Great War is over ten million
The "war to end all wars" has brought a higher death toll than any previous conflict, and involved more countries in its battles. Britain has lost 750,000 men, and the Empire a further 200,000. France lost nearly twice as many, from a smaller country, and suffered from the occupation of a hostile power. Russia, Gemany, and Austria-Hungary all had huge losses. The mechanisation of warfare has had a terrible toll on humanity.
- Portuguese president shot
Portuguese president Sidonio Paes, elected in December 1917, and seen as a staunch ally of Britain and France, has been shot dead by an assassin.
- British women vote for first time
For British women a long wait has come to an end as they finally voted today in a British election, which re-elected Lloyd George and a coalition government.
20th Century Day by Day, Dorling Kindersley Ltd, London, 2000
With thanks to Albert Herring