GCSE History Revision: World War One: What Happened?
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Everything you need to know about: World War One: What Happened?
Tension between the European countries had been building before World War one, with disputes over land and allegiances, power struggles and the forging of alliances. Many said it was only a matter of time before a war broke out. On 28th June, 1914 (Serbia’s National Day) a Serbian murdered the Austrian Archduke, Franz Ferinand and his wife, Sophie whilst they were on tour in Sarajevo, Bosnia. This outraged Austria-Hungary and gave them the excuse they had been waiting for.
On July 5th 1914, Austria asked German government to support them against a possible war against Russia, as Russia was allied with Serbia and was bound to support them in any war. Germany agreed to back Austria in everything they did, providing a ‘blank cheque’ of resources and support. With this reassurance, Austria provided Serbia with an ultimatum and when Serbia disagreed with one of the conditions Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia. The Russian army mobilised on July 30th and on August 1st, Germany declared war on Russia, following their Schlieffen Plan (a war plan, drawn up in 1897, anticipating war with both France and Russia at the same time). Germany were forced to make a ‘pretext’ to declare war on France when they didn’t mobilise their army. Following the Schlieffen plan, Germany required passage through Belgium to reach France, but when Belgium refused Germany forced their way through. The Schlieffen plan didn’t factor Britain’s treaty with Belgium, made in 1839, which declared they would defend Belgium. Keeping their promise, Britain declares war on Germany on 4th August 1914. The American’s held back from the war but when a German U-boat sank the British passenger ship Lusitania, killing over 100 American citizens and the ever increasing attacks made on innocent citizens became overwhelming, they finally joined the allied forces in 1917.
By the end of 1914, both had ‘dug in’ creating a network of trenches that divided the two armies, with a patch in the middle called ‘no man’s land’. These trenches were called the Western Front and stretched from the English Channel, over 700KM to Switzerland. This was a new kind of warfare which made it too dangerous to fight on open ground and lasted three years until the Armistice on November 11th 1918. The armistice drew up several treaties for the countries to sign. The most well-known is the Treaty of Versailles. It blamed Germany for the war and imposed terms and conditions considered by many to be both harsh and crippling to Germany’s future. David Lloyd George, the British prime minister said the politicians were to blame rather than the German people as a whole. Sydney Bradshaw Fay later said it was due to nationalism, imperialism, militarism and alliances that the war began. The signing of the peace treaty would eventually be one of the causes of war.
SUMMARY: Franz Ferdinand was murdered by a Serbian on 1914. This made Austria-Hungry angry and alliances were formed ready for war. Austria-Hungry was supported by Germany and Serbia allied themselves with Russia. When Germany attacked Belgium, Britain joined the allied forces. A stalemate followed with thousands of miles of trenched dug to defend the Western Front boundaries. Years of trench warfare followed, in a machine led battle where thousands were killed daily. USA joined the war in 1917 and in 1918 the German army were pushed back. German general knew they had been defeated and signed and Armistice on 11th November 1918.
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