Key Events of the First World War

Part of the First World War For Dummies Cheat Sheet

Many different battles were fought in the First World War and a case can be made for the importance of them all. This list includes some of the most important ones, which had an impact on the whole shape of the war.

  • 1914

    • 28 June: Austro-Hungarian Archduke Franz Ferdinand is shot in Sarajevo, the capital of Bosnia-Herzegovina

    • 23 July: Austria-Hungary issues an ultimatum to Serbia

    • 29 July: Austria-Hungary invades Serbia

    • 1 August: Germany declares war on Russia

    • 4 August: Germany invades Belgium; Britain declares war on Germany

    • August: The Russians are heavily defeated by the Germans at Tannenberg; the British retreat from Belgium after holding up the German advance at the Battle of Mons

    • September: The Germans are turned back from Paris after the Battle of the Marne; the Russians besiege the Austro-Hungarians at Przemysl

    • October: The Race to the Sea – the Germans and the British and French try to outflank each other but end up with an unbroken line of trenches along the whole Western Front

    • November: The German raider Emden is sunk by the Australian cruiser HMAS Sydney; the Germans defeat a British invasion of German East Africa at the Battle of Tanga

    • December: British and German soldiers declare an informal Christmas Truce amidst the deadlock of the Western Front

  • 1915

    • March: The Allied naval attack on the Dardanelles commences; the Russians take Przemysl; the British attack on the Western Front at Neuve Chapelle

    • April: Italy signs the Treaty of London and agrees to join the war on the Allied side; Allied troops land at Gallipoli; the Germans use poison gas during the Battle of Ypres

    • May: The British passenger ship Lusitania is sunk by a German U-boat; the first Zeppelin raid on London takes place

    • September: The Russian Tsar, Nicholas II, takes sole command of the Russian army

    • October: Allied troops land at Salonika; British nurse Edith Cavell is executed in Brussels by the Germans; Bulgaria enters the war on Germany’s side

    • October‒November: Austria-Hungary crushes Serbia

  • 1916

    • February: Britain introduces conscription; the Germans attack at Verdun

    • April: The British surrender at Kut al-Amarah, in Mesopotamia; the Easter Rising takes place in Dublin

    • 31 May: The British and German fleets fight the indecisive Battle of Jutland off the coast of Denmark

    • June: The Russian Brusilov Offensive breaks through Austrian lines in Poland; the Arab Revolt against Turkish rule begins

    • 1 July: The Allies attack the Germans on the opening day of the Battle of the Somme

    • August: Romania enters the war on the Allied side but is quickly defeated

    • September: The British use tanks for the first time, in the Battle of the Somme

    • December: David Lloyd George becomes the British Prime Minister

  • 1917

    • January: The French General Nivelle launches his disastrous offensive

    • February: The Russian Revolution overthrows Tsar Nicholas II

    • April: Canadian troops take Vimy Ridge; the United States enters the war; after the failure of General Nivelle’s offensive, the French army mutinies

    • June: The British take Messines Ridge; German bomber attacks are made on London

    • July: The Kerensky Offensive – Russia’s last attack of the war – fails

    • October: The British attack at Passchendaele; the Italians are defeated by the Austro-Hungarian army at Caporetto; the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia begins

    • November: The British launch the first massed tank attack, against the Germans, at the Battle of Cambrai

    • December: The British take Jerusalem from the Turks

  • 1918

    • January: US President Woodrow Wilson outlines his Fourteen Points for peace

    • March: The German Spring Offensive (The Kaiser Battle) begins; the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk confirms Russian withdrawal from the war

    • July: The German advance towards Paris is stopped at the River Marne

    • August: The British attack at Amiens and push the Germans back to the Hindenburg Line

    • September: French and American attacks on German positions take place in the Meuse-Argonne region

    • October: The Italians attack the Austro-Hungarians successfully at Vittorio Veneto; the British defeat the Turks at the Battle of Megiddo and conquer Palestine

    • November: The German Kaiser, Wilhelm II, abdicates; an armistice is agreed between the Germans and the Allied commander, Marshal Foch

  • 1919

    • January: The Paris Peace Conference opens

    • 28 June: Germany signs the Treaty of Versailles

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