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Centuries of colonialism had spread Europeans around the world, and 20th
century developments in transportation were shrinking the globe. World War I
pitted diverse nations and cultures against each other in a way no other conflict
At the start of the war, the largest of the European belligerents were all colonial
powers -- they had people and valuable assets stationed in countries all over the
Earth. These multinational interests, along with overseas alliances and the
modernization of sea transport, are what put the "world" in World War I. Enemy
nations attacked each other's colonies and fleets, and laborers and soldiers
were recruited from colonized countries, and brought to the front lines. Allied
countries -- many former colonies -- shipped soldiers and supplies into battle,
coordinating with their European counterparts. And, despite the fact that the
Western Front is the best-known theatre of World War I, the Eastern Front -- the
battle between the Central Powers and the Russian Empire -- was equally
devastating and consequential, resulting in millions of deaths and divisions that
continue to affect the region to this day.
Russian Czar Nicholas II at the Front along with the six-foot-six tall Russian Army Commander-in-Chief Grand Duke Nicholas (standing in car) and Count Dobrinsky.
Although the Czar had no military aptitude, he relieved the Grand Duke in September 1915 and took personal command of the world's largest army, with 16 million
men mobilized--an army sprawled across the gigantic Eastern Front. The Czar's preoccupation with military matters and his extended absence from the home front
led to a worsening of Russia's internal political situation, weakening his power and helping to pave the way for revolution. Below: A sign of the declining fortunes of
the Czar's army--15,000 Russian prisoners in German hands at Augustow.
A sign of the declining fortunes of the Czar's army--15,000 Russian prisoners in German hands at Augustow.
Annamese (colonial troops from French Indochina) disembarking at Camp Saint-Raphael. Over the course of the war, nearly 100,000 Indochinese were deployed in
Europe, most as laborers, but several thousand also served in combat battalions.(Bibliotheque nationale de France)
German Vice Admiral Graf Maximilian von Spee's cruiser squadron, leaving Valparaiso, Chile, on November 3, 1914, following the Battle of Coronel. During the
battle, von Spee's group defeated a Royal Navy squadron commanded by Rear-Admiral Sir Christopher Cradock, sinking two cruisers and killing more than 1,500
men. One minth later, the British tracked down von Spee's group and started the Battle of the Falkland Islands, sinking or capturing all of the German ships, killing
more than 1,800, including the german Vice Admiral.(U.S. Naval Historical Center)
Convoy of Spahis, North African light cavalry soldiers, in Francport, France, October 29 1914. (Library of Congress)
Troops from India after their arrival in France to join the British in the trenches of the Western Front. Over a million Indian soldiers served with the British during the
war in France, Belgium, the Middle East and elsewhere. ca. 1915. (Library of Congress)
Algerian soldiers in Europe during World War I. (Library of Congress)
A Japanese siege gun brought up for the bombardment of Tsingtao (Qingdao), China in 1914. One of the detachment is receiving orders by telephone from the battery
commander. Tsingtao was then a German port, under attack by the British and their allies, the Japanese.(Illustrated War News, 1914)
A railroad bridge near Riga, Latvia, demolished by Russians. German engineers built a makeshift walkway for the infantry.(Der Weltkrieg im Bild/Upper Austrian
Federal State Library)
Russia entered World War I with an army which was massive but badly armed. Russia suffered quick body blows from Germany and went on to one disaster after
another. It lost 1,650,000 men killed, 3,850,000 wounded and 2,410,000 prisoners before the 1917 revolution which ousted the tsar and ended Russia's part in the war.
Here reservists, accompanied by relatives, are called up in St. Petersburg as the army was assembled. (AP Photo)
Gallipoli. Soldiers from the United Kingdom, France, Australia, New Zealand, India, Newfoundland, and more engaged Ottoman forces in the Dardanelles in 1915,
seeking control of the strait to the Black Sea and the surrounding land. The campaign was disastrous for the Allies, who withdrew after suffering more than 50,000
deaths.(Library of Congress/Central News, The War of the Nations, New York Times)
Australian troops charge a Turkish trench at Gallipoli. The amphibious landing on the Gallipoli Peninsula in April 1915 by British, Australian, New Zealand and French
troops was the biggest-ever troop landing at the time. After progressing off the beaches, Allied troops encountered Turkish troops under the command of Mustafa
Kemal who effectively rallied the Turks to dig in and hold their positions. The resulting deadlock produced classic trench warfare but under very harsh desert-style
conditions including blistering daytime heat followed by frosty cold nights, typhus outbreaks, dysentery, insect swarms, dehydration and malnutrition. Such
conditions, combined with insufficient reinforcements and the resiliency of the Turks under Kemal, wore down the Allies.
An Australian bringing in a wounded comrade to hospital. Dardanelles Campaign, ca. 1915. (NARA/US War Dept)
The evacuation of the Bay of Suvla, Gallipoli campaign. (Bibliotheque nationale de France)
Russian cossacks on horseback, ca 1915. (Library of Congress)
Infantry lines North of Jerusalem, near Nebi Samuel, 1917. The Battle of Jerusalem ended up with British forces taking control of Jerusalem from the Ottoman
Empire. (Library of Congress)
Serbian troops go forward to meet the Austrian invaders upon the outbreak of war in 1914. The outnumbered Serbs fended off three separate invasions by the
Austrians while inflicting heavy causalities.
An aerial view of Jerusalem, ca. 1917. (James Francis Hurley/State Library of New South Wales)
New Zealand Mounted Riflemen guard a German contingent of prisoners, captured in Palestine, near Jericho, in 1918.(Library of Congress)
The reading of a proclamation at the Tower of David in Jerusalem, December 11, 1917 -- two days after the Ottoman Army had surrendered and handed the city over
to Allied troops. See this same location today on google maps street view. (Library of Congress/Underwood & Underwood, War of the Nations, New York Times,
A rare aerial photo showing a poison gas attack in progress--in this case by the Allies against the Germans. Both sides routinely used gas attacks as the war wore
on, and the initial shock value lessened somewhat with the development of gas masks.
Young Russian women, having won distinction at the front with decorations, are part of the staff of instructors to inspire new recruits. February, 1918. (Library of
The Russians arrive in Marseille. France had asked Russia for help on the Western Front, and Russia responded by sending five Special Brigades -- nearly 45,000
soldiers -- in 1916. (Bibliotheque nationale de France)
A military camp for Australian soldiers in Egypt, during WWI. (State Library of South Australia)
German and Austrian prisoners of war in Russia. A few of the more than 1,800,000 Central Powers forces captured on the Eastern Front during the war. (Library of
Russian prisoners of war. (Library of Congress)
An Eastern Front battlefield, littered with the bodies of soldiers (possibly Russian or Serbian), killed in their shallow shell-scrapes. Each man has had his personal
equipment removed and his M.91 Mosin-Nagant thrown to the side by advancing Central Powers troops. (Brett Butterworth)
Ready for Russian rush - German machine guns devastated the masses of Russians rushing at them in attack. By the end of the first winter one Russian in four
went into the field without a gun. Here German infantrymen aim their machine guns at the Russians from a trench on the Vistula River in Russia, in 1916. (AP Photo)
Slavo-British troops with Lewis guns. These troops were native Russians in British uniforms and commanded by the British. A British officer is on the right of the
gunner in the photo. (National Archives)
Austrian soldiers mete out punishment to Russian prisoners. Austria-Hungary took over a million prisoners of war during the Great War, the vast majority being
Russians. Using POW labor, the Austro-Hungarians built large POW and civilian internment camps, usually near near major railway lines, which supported the
transportation of prisoners and supplies. (Brett Butterworth)
Serbian soldiers man a hilltop trench. (Library of Congress/International News Service, The War of the Nations, New York Times)
gas masks in use in Mesopotamia in 1918. (Bibliotheque nationale de France)
The War at Sea
Moving troops and supplies by sea was vital to all armies involved in the
war. The battle for control of the seas led to an arms race, new deadly
tactics, and unprecedented loss of life at sea.
The land war in Europe became a destructive machine, consuming supplies,
equipment, and soldiers at massive rates. Resupply ships from the home
front and allies streamed across the Atlantic, braving submarine attacks,
underwater mines, and aerial bombardment. Battleships clashed with each
other from the Indian Ocean to the North Sea, competing for control of
colonial territory and home ports. New technologies were invented and
refined, such as submarine warfare, camouflaged hulls, and massive water-
borne aircraft carriers. And countless thousands of sailors, soldiers,
passengers, and crew members were sent to the bottom of the sea.
The former German submarine UB 148 at sea, after having been surrendered to the Allies. UB-148, a small coastal submarine, was laid down during the winter of
1917 and 1918 at Bremen, Germany, but never commissioned in the Imperial German Navy. She was completing preparations for commissioning when the armistice
of November 11 ended hostilities. On November 26, UB-148 was surrendered to the British at Harwich, England. Later, when the United States Navy expressed an
interest in acquiring several former U-boats to use in conjunction with a Victory Bond drive, UB-148 was one of the six boats allocated for that purpose. (US National
Evacuation of Suvla Bay, Dardanelles, Gallipoli Peninsula, on January 1916. The Gallipoli campaign was part of an Allied effort to capture the Ottoman capital of
Constantinople (modern-day Istanbul). After eight bloody months on the peninsula, Allied troops withdrew in defeat, under cover of fire from the sea. (Bibliotheque
nationale de France)
In the Dardanelles, the allied fleet blows up a disabled ship that interfered with navigation. (Bibliotheque nationale de France)
The British Aircraft Carrier HMS Argus. Converted from an ocean liner, the Argus could carry 15-18 aircraft. Commissioned at the very end of WWI, the Argus did not
see any combat. The ship's hull is painted in Dazzle camouflage. Dazzle camouflage was widely used during the war years, designed to make it difficult for an enemy
to estimate the range, heading, or speed of a ship, and make it a harder target - especially as seen from a submarine's periscope. (National World War I Museum,
Kansas City, Missouri, USA)
United States Marines and Sailors posing on unidentified ship (likely either the USS Pennsylvania or USS Arizona), in 1918. (National World War I Museum, Kansas City
A mine is dragged ashore on Heligoland, in the North Sea, on October 29, 1918. (U.S. national Archives)
A Curtiss Model AB-2 airplane catapulted off the deck of the USS North Carolina on July 12, 1916. The first time an aircraft was ever launched by catapult from a
warship while underway was from the North Carolina on November 5, 1915. (US Navy)
British submarine HMS A5. The A5 was part of the first British A-class of submarines, used in World War I for harbor defense. The A5, however, suffered an
explosion only days after its commissioning in 1905, and did not participate in the war. (Library of Congress)
The USS Pocahontas, a U.S. Navy transport ship, photographed in Dazzle camouflage, in 1918. The ship was originally a German passenger liner named the
Prinzess Irene. She was docked in New York at the start of the war, and seized by the U.S. when it entered the conflict in April 1917, and re-christened
Pocahontas. (San Diego Air and Space Museum)
Last minute escape from a vessel torpedoed by a German sub. The vessel has already sunk its bow into the waves, and her stern is slowly lifting out of the water.
Men can be seen sliding down ropes as the last boat is pulling away. Ca. 1917.(Nara /Underwood & Underwood/U.S. Army)
German submarines in a harbor, the caption, in German, says "Our U-Boats in a harbor". Front row (left to right): U-22, U-20 (the sub that sank the Lusitania), U-19
and U-21. Back row (left to right): U-14, U-10 and U-12. (Library of Congress)
British cargo ship SS Maplewood under attack by German submarine SM U-35 on April 7, 1917, 47 nautical miles/87 km southwest of Sardinia. The U-35 participated
in the entire war, becoming the most successful U-boat in WWI, sinking 224 ships, killing thousands.(Deutsches Bundesarchiv)
The German cruiser SMS Emden, beached on Cocos Island in 1914. The Emden, a part of the German East Asia Squadron, attacked and sank a Russian cruiser and a
French destroyer in Penang, Malaysia, in October of 1914. The Emden then set out to destroy a British radio station on Cocos Island in the Indian Ocean. During that
raid, the Australian cruiser HMAS Sydney attacked and damaged the Emden, forcing it to run aground. (State Library of New South Wales)
The German battle cruiser Seydlitz burns in the Battle of Jutland, May 31, 1916. Seydlitz was the flagship of German Vice Admiral von Hipper, who left the ship during
the battle. The battle cruiser reached the port of Wilhelmshaven on own power. (AP-Photo)
A German U-boat stranded on the South Coast of England, after surrender. (Keystone View Company)
Imperial German Navy's battle ship SMS Schleswig-Holstein fires a salvo during the Battle of Jutland on May 31, 1916 in the North Sea.(AP Photo)
"Life in the Navy", Fencing aboard a Japanese battleship, ca 1910-15. (Library of Congress)
The "Leviathan", formerly the German passenger liner "Vaterland", leaving Hoboken, New Jersey, for France. The hull of the ship is covered in Dazzle camouflage. In
the spring and summer of 1918, Leviathan averaged 27 days for the round trip across the Atlantic, carrying 12,000 soldiers at a time. (U.S. Army Signal Corps)
The Zeebrugge Raid took place on April 23, 1918. The Royal Navy attempted to block the Belgian port of Bruges-Zeebrugge by sinking older ships in the canal
entrance, to prevent German vessels from leaving port. Two ships were successfully sunk in the canal, at the cost of 583 lives. Unfortunately, the ships were sunk in
the wrong place, and the canal was re-opened in days. Photograph taken in May of 1918. (National Archive/Official German Photograph of WWI)
Russian battleship Tsesarevich, a pre-dreadnought battleship of the Imperial Russian Navy, docked, ca. 1915. (Library of Congress)
HMS Audacious crew board lifeboats to be taken aboard RMS Olympic, October, 1914. The Audacious was a British battleship, sunk by a German naval mine off the
northern coast of Donegal, Ireland. (CC BY SA Nigel Aspdin)
Wreck of the SMS Konigsberg, after the Battle of Rufiji Delta. The German cruiser was scuttled in the Rufiji Delta Tanzania River, navigable for more than 100 km
before emptying into the Indian Ocean about 200 km south of Dar es Salaam.(Deutsches Bundesarchiv)
German submarine surrendering to the US Navy. (Library of Congress)
Sinking of the German Cruiser SMS Bluecher, in the Battle of Dogger Bank, in the North Sea, between German and British dreadnoughts, on January 24, 1915. The
Bluecher sank with the loss of nearly a thousand sailors. This photo was taken from the deck of the British Cruiser Arethusia. (U.S. National Archives)
The Western Front Part II, and Armistice
Nearly four years of deadly stalemate on the Western Front slowly came to an
end in 1918, as Allied armies pushed into Germany at enormous cost, leading
the Central Powers to finally seek an armistice.
In early 1917, British and French troops were launching futile offensives
against German lines in Belgium and France, suffering greatly. The Central
Powers were building their defensive capabilities, but launching limited
offensives -- continuing a stalemate costing thousands of lives every month.
Over the next year, a treaty between Russia and the Central Powers freed up
German resources, but American troops began arriving in France by the
thousands, and Allied command became more unified and effective. The tide
began to turn decisively in July 1918, beginning with the Battle of Amiens,
followed by the "Hundred Days Offensive", where Allies pushed German and
Austro-Hungarian troops beyond the Hindenburg Line, forcing the Central
Powers to seek a cease-fire. On November 11, 1918, all fighting ceased on
the Western Front, after four years, and some eight million casualties.
Mother and child wearing gas masks, French countryside, 1918. (Bibliotheque nationale de France)
A soldier of Company K, 110th Regt. Infantry (formerly 3rd and 10th Inf., Pennsylvania National Guard), just wounded, receiving first-aid treatment from a comrade.
Varennes-en-Argonne, France, on September 26, 1918. (U.S. Army/U.S. National Archives)
German soldiers (rear) offer to surrender to French troops, seen from a listening post in a trench at Massiges, northeastern France.(Reuters/Collection Odette
A French soldier aiming an anti-aircraft machine gun from a trench at Perthes les Hurlus, eastern France.(Reuters/Collection Odette Carrez)
British soldier in a flooded dug-out, on the front lines, France. (National Library of Scotland/John Warwick Brooke)
French soldiers stand in German trenches seized after being shelled on the Somme, northern France in 1916.(Reuters/Collection Odette Carrez)
Two Tanks knocked out of action near Tank Corner, Ypres Salient, October 1917. (Frank Hurley/State Library of New South Wales)
Wounded British prisoner supported by two German soldiers, 1917. (Bibliotheque nationale de France)
Scene at the French town of Barastre during World War I. Shows a bridge over the river Selle, built by New Zealand engineers in 13 hours under shell fire. An
ambulance and mounted troops are crossing the bridge. Photograph taken October 31, 1918.(Henry Armytage Sanders/National Library of New Zealand)
British soldier cleaning a rifle, Western Front. His growth of beard suggests he may have been continuously in the trenches for several days. (National Library of
Trench position Chemin des Dames, May 1918. Two German soldiers (the closest one wearing a British sergeant's overcoat) move through a temporarily abandoned
French trench (occupied by the British), collecting useful items of equipment. Dead English and German soldiers lie in the trench, the area littered with gear and
weaponry from both sides. (Brett Butterworth)
Worn out Germans, now in French captivity and happy to be alive.
Soldiers in a field wave their helmets and cheer on Armistice Day, November 11, 1918, location unknown. (AP Photo)
Toward the end of 1918, the Central Powers began to collapse. The Allies had pushed them out of France during the Hundred Days Offensive, and strikes, mutinies
and desertion became rampant. An armistice was negotiated, and hostilities ended on November 11, 1918. Months of negotiation followed, leading to a final Peace
Treaty. Here, Allied leaders and officials gather in the Hall of Mirrors at the Palace of Versailles for the signing of the peace Treaty of Versailles in France on June 28,
1919. The peace treaty mandate for Germany, negotiated during the Paris Peace Conference in January, is represented by Allied leaders French premier George
Clemenceau, standing, center; U.S. President Woodrow Wilson, seated at left; Italian foreign minister Giorgio Sinnino; and British prime minister Lloyd George. (AP
Americans in the midst of the celebration on the Grand Boulevard on Armistice Day for World War I in Paris, France, on November 11, 1918. (AP Photo/U.S. Army
The announcing of the armistice on November 11, 1918, was the occasion for a monster celebration in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Thousands massed on all sides
of the replica of the Statue of Liberty on Broad Street, and cheered unceasingly. (NARA)
The First Battalion of he 308th Infantry, the famous "Lost Battalion" of the 77th Division's Argonne campaign of the Great War, march up New York's Fifth Avenue
just past the Arch of Victory during spring of 1919. (AP Photo)
A Marine kisses a woman during a homecoming parade at the end of World War I, in 1919. (AP Photo)
A French officer stands near a cemetery with recent graves of soldiers killed on the front lines of World War One, at Saint-Jean-sur-Tourbe on the Champagne front,
eastern France. (Reuters/Collection Odette Carrez)
In this photo taken on Tuesday, June 17, 2014, red poppies bloom in the walls of World War I trenches in Diksmuide, Belgium. The red poppy was one of the first
flowers to bloom in the churned up soils of World War I, and was soon widely accepted throughout the allied nations as the flower of remembrance to be worn on
June 28, 2014, marked the 100th anniversary of the assassination of Archduke
Franz Ferdinand. Assassin Gavrilo Princip fired the first shot in what was to
become a horrific years-long bloodbath. However, after the sound of gunfire
was silenced on Armistice Day, the deaths continued to mount. Revolutions
spawned in Russia and Germany, arbitrary redrawing of national borders set
the stage for decades of conflict, harsh reparation demands inspired the rise of
Nazi Germany and the onset of World War II.
June 28, 1919 - At the Palace of Versailles in France, a German delegation signs the
Treaty formally ending the war. Its 230 pages contain terms that have little in common
with Wilson's Fourteen Points as the Germans had hoped. Germans back home react
with mass demonstrations against the perceived harshness, especially clauses that
assess sole blame for the war on Germany.
July 31, 1919 - The Weimar Republic is born in Germany from a new constitution which
provides for a liberal democracy. The government consists of two houses of Parliament
(Reichstag) and a president elected by the people. The president can dissolve the
Reichstag and rule by decree in the event of an emergency.
September 1919 - Corporal Adolf Hitler is ordered by the German Army to investigate a
small political group in Munich called the German Workers' Party. Hitler soon joins the
group and begins to build it up, later changing its name to the National Socialist German
Workers' (Nazi) Party. The anti-democratic group vehemently opposes the Treaty of
Versailles and claims the German Army was not defeated on the battlefield but was
betrayed by a "stab in the back" wrought by disloyal politicians on the home front.
March 1920 - Freikorps groups attempt but fail to overthrow Germany's democratic
government during the Kapp Putsch.
April 1921 - The Reparations Commission announces Germany must pay the Allies $28
billion over 42 years, via annual payments of cash and goods such as coal and timber.
April 1922 - Germany and Soviet Russia conclude the Treaty of Rapallo allowing for
economic collaboration. Secret clauses in the treaty provide for German military activities
prohibited by the Treaty of Versailles, including weapons manufacturing, to be done in
January 1923 - After Germany falls behind on its war reparation payments, French and
Belgian troops occupy the Ruhr industrial region inside Germany. Workers there react by
walking off the job. In a defiant show of support, the German government sends money
to the out-of-work protestors. However, this soon leads to ruinous inflation and
devaluation of the German deutsche mark--eventually four billion to the dollar--as the
government prints an unlimited amount of money to satisfy its needs.
November 9, 1923 - Three thousand Nazis led by Adolf Hitler, and aided by former
General Erich Ludendorff, attempt but fail to overthrow Germany's democratic
government by staging an armed Putsch in Munich. Hitler is then sentenced to prison
where he composes Mein Kampf a book outlining his racial, political and military
philosophies, including the need for Germany to forcibly expand its borders eastward into
Russia. The Nazis remain a fringe group until the worldwide economic collapse of 1929
causes political turmoil in Germany that generates popular support for Hitler, resulting in
the election of Nazis to the government.
Adolf Hitler, age 35, on his release from Landesberg Prison, on December 20, 1924. Hitler had been convicted of treason for his role in an attempted
coup in 1923 called the Beer Hall Putsch. This photograph was taken shortly after he finished dictating "Mein Kampf" to deputy Rudolf Hess. Eight
years later, Hitler would be sworn in as Chancellor of Germany, in 1933. (Library of Congress)
cast First World War centenary: WW I in Photos (3)
images credit www.
Music The Green Fields of France - Eric Bogle
thanks for watching
The Green Fields of France
Well how do you do, Private William McBride
Do you mind if I sit here down by your grave side?
A rest for awhile in the warm summer sun,
I've been walking all day and I'm nearly done.
And I see by your gravestone that you were only 19
when you joined the glorious fallen in 1916.
Well, I hope you died quick and I hope you died clean
Or, William McBride, was it slow and obscene?
Did they beat the drum slowly?
did they sound the pipes lowly?
Did the rifles fire o'er ye as they lowered you down?
Did the bugle sing 'The Last Post' in chorus?
Did the pipes play 'The Flowers o' the Forest'?
And did you leave a wife or a sweetheart behind?
In some loyal heart is your memory enshrined
And though you died back in 1916
To that loyal heart are you always 19.
Or are you just a stranger without even a name
Forever enclosed behind some glass-pane
In an old photograph torn and tattered and stained
And fading to yellow in a brown leather frame?
Well, the sun it shines down on these green fields of France,
The warm wind blows gently and the red poppies dance.
The trenches are vanished now under the plough
No gas, no barbed wire, no guns firing now.
But here in this graveyard it is still No Man's Land
And the countless white crosses in mute witness stand.
To man's blind indifference to his fellow man
And a whole generation that was butchered and downed.
And I can't help but wonder now Willie McBride
Do all those who lie here know why they died?
Did you really believe them when they told you the cause?
Did you really believe them that this war would end war?
The suffering, the sorrow, some the glory, the shame -
The killing and dying - it was all done in vain.
For Willie McBride, it's all happened again
And again, and again, and again, and again.
Did they beat the drum slowly?
did they sound the pipe lowly?
Did the rifles fire o'er ye as they lowered you down?
Did the bugle sing 'The Last Post' in chorus?
Did the pipes play 'The Flowers o' the Forest'?