By 1914 Kaiser Wilhelm's II's Germany had built a high seas fleet capable of challenging the Royal Navy. "I believe war is inevitable with Britain . . . and the sooner the better" said Helmuth von Moltke in 1912 and the Kaiser agreed. "Jews and mosquitoes are a nuisance that humanity must get rid of in some way or another" wrote Kaiser Wilhelm II. "I believe the best way would be gas!".
Germany under the Kaiser planned the invasion of France and Belgium with the intention of subjugating them.
The historian John Rohl claims the Kaiser expressed his intention as "a united States of Europe under German leadership" Such an achievement would have spelled mortal danger for Britain.
To help you have a clear overall knowledge of what happened during the years 1914 to 1918 I have created a monthly calendar of each year giving the most important events.
I have added explanatory notes against some of these dates, but to read about particular battles or political events please go to Bibliography
The Assassination of Archduke Franz Joseph and his morganatic wife Duchess of Hohenburg during their visit to Sarajevo.
Assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand at Sarjevo.
Austrian ultimatum to Serbia and is rejected.
Britain's offer to mediate in Austrian Crisis rejected as insolent.
Germany orders general mobilisation.
Germany declares war on Russia.
Paul von Hindenberg (left) appointed Chief of General Staff and Erich von Ludendorff (right) appointed as First Quarter-Master General and war is declared upon the Czar
German ultimatum to Belgium.
Germany invades Luxembourg.
Germany invades France.
Germany declares war on France.
Germany invades Belgium.
British ultimatum to Germany.
Britain declares war on Germany.
Sir John Jellicoe Takes over as Commander of the British Fleet.
Lord Kitchener becomes Secretary of State for War and
Sir John French appointed to Command British Expeditionary Force
Churchill as First Lord of the Admiralty and The First Sea Lord, Lord Fisher.
Austria-Hungary declares war on Russia.
British Expeditionary Force lands in France.
Defence of the Realm Act passed.
Britain and France declare war on Austria-Hungary
Austria-Hungary Forces invade Serbia
First RFC Squadrons fly to France
After the German army had invaded Belgium and France in August 1914 and it was forced to retreat at the river Marne. A status quo the ensued. The German army dug in opposite to the French and English army in trenches that stretched from the coast of Flanders to the Swiss border.
The Germans then kept calm on the western front and concentrated their main military effort on the Eastern Front where Major-General Hoffman cut the Russian army to pieces and won the Battle of Tannenburg with inferior forces.
German forces capture Brussels
Battle of Mons
Battle of Le Cateau
Battle of Tannenberg begins
Heligoland Bight Naval action begins
Women's Emergency Corp created, also
Women's Volunteer Reserve,
Women's Defence Relief Corp,
Women's Central Committee on Women's Employment.
The first Battle of the Marne begins
Battle of Aisne begins
Sinking of three Cressy Class Cruisers with the loss of 1,500 lives
Women's Hospital Corps Founded
In October 1914, when Antwerp was falling to the Germans, Churchill, in spite of being the First Lord of the Admiralty, characteristically rushed in person to organise its defence. When it fell, the public saw only a disillusioning defeat, but in fact the prolongation of its resistance for almost a week enabled the Belgian Army to escape and the crucial Channel ports to be saved.
Fall of Antwerp to the Germans
First Dominion and Commonwealth Troops arrive in Britain
. . . . First battle of Ypres begins and goes on until November 22nd
National Union of Women Worker's Police Patrols
recognised by the Home Office
Thousands of miles of trenches were dug.
Battle of Coronel
Russia declares war on Turkey
Britain and France declare war on Turkey
£350,000,000 War Loan Bonds issued
British Indian Force occupies Basra.
Women's Police Volunteers founded
Battle of the Falkland Islands.
German Air Attacks on North Eastern Britain
Began 3 days of German Sea Plane Air attacks on Dover.
Royal Naval Auxiliary Sea Planes raid Cuxhaven Zeppelin sheds
Christmas Truce, with carols and fraternisation along the two thirds of the 400 mile trench battle fronts.
At Christmas, 1914, there occurred several informal truces at various points along the trench-lines of Northern France and Belgium fraternisation with the troops of both sides singing carols. Precise knowledge of events is limited by the amount of direct, eyewitness testimony but there are enough trustworthy reports (and even a few photographs) to prove that it was not entirely an isolated happening.
The image of opposing soldiers, shaking hands with each other on one day and then killing each other the next is part of the memory of the Great War. It was, perhaps, a last example of open-handed chivalry before the squalor and horror of the next three years changed the old world for ever.
In early 1914 no-one had the slightest idea that a calamity was to befall the world. The turmoil in Ireland was the cause of most political anxieties in the UK. For years there had been talk amongst the internationally minded political cognoscenti of an eventual 'showdown' between hostile European alliances - but when it came with the assassination of the Austrian Archduke (what absurd titles these are to be sure!) it was to strike with an appalling vengeance and was to be the cause of immense social changes. No-one - not even Churchill - foresaw what the consequences would be.
In Britain, volunteers were called for to fight - conscription only came later - and early battles were at an almost Napoleonic tempo, but with very high casualty rates . . . and then the war settled into a trench war stalemate that was to continue for four horrible years.
The navy 's role was not to be the decisive force as all had expected, but it played its part in preventing and enforcing blockades.
The year ended with a Christmas front line truce and camaraderie amongst the belligerents along the entire front from the channel to Switzerland - which proved that these ordinary men would never have fought each other had they any say in the matter!
The purpose of these pages is to tell the story of Churchill's life - not to give a detailed account of the wars he was involved in, for that is a vast subject.
Month by month factual and photographic calendars of the Ist World War 1914. 1915. 1916. 1917. 1918.
It is important to remember that heavy censorship of news took place throughout them, and therefore knowledge of many of these events was not available until long after they happened - or until after the wars had ended. Morevover, the experiences of the soldiers were so terrible, that of the the few who returned, none spoke of them for many many years.
Explanatory notes are given against some of these dates, but to read about particular battles or political events please go to Bibliography
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