First World War: Immediate Cause
Archduke Francis Ferdinand Episode
On the surface, the immediate cause of the First World War was something about Archduke Francis Ferdinand episode. June 28, 1914, was the date on which the spark took place which culminated in the First World War. Archduke Francis Ferdinand was the crown prince of the Austrian throne. He visited Sarajevo, a city of Bosnia-Herzegovina in Balkan region. Serbia considered Bosnia-Herzegovina as its territory.
As we have read that the nationalism was at its peak after the Balkan Wars. There was a widespread Pan-Slavism movement. Every Balkan State was starving for its freedom. This led to the formation of the Balkan league in 1911. In this scenario, when the Austrian crown prince with his wife went to visit Sarajevo, a city in Bosnia. A bomb was thrown at the Archduke Francis Ferdinand’s car. The bomb missed the intended target. Then, a young man, holding a gun stepped from the crowd lining the streets. Finally, Archduke Francis Ferdinand and his wife were shot.
Princip, the Bosnian student who shot Archduke Francis Ferdinand in Sarajevo, was a member of the one nationalistic secret society. He explained,
…The main motive which guided me in my deed was the avenging of the Serbian people… I am a nationalist. I aimed to free the Yugoslavs, for I am a Yugoslav…
Reaction of the Austro-Hungarian Empire
At the royal court of the Vienna, the centre of the Austro-Hungarian Empire interpreted the assassination of Archduke Francis Ferdinand and his wife as a threat to the very existence of the Empire. The Austrian Empire was in shock. The delegates at the Vienna court thought if one group rebelled the rest would quickly follow.
The Austrian people and government accused Serbia, which was the neighbour of Bosnia, for this incident. Afterwards, the investigation took place for this episode. Austria found out that Serbian Government was not completely responsible for the assassination, but was not fully unaware of the preparations made for it.
According to the report, Austria found that Serbia was the centre of all the nationalist agitation. Finally, on July 23, 1914, Austria responded to this assassination by sending its troops to attack the independent state of Serbia. When Austria attacked Serbia, after 5days on 28 July 1914, the all allied powers stood with their allies. Eventually, this led to the whole world into the fire of the First World War.
Beginning of First World War
We have read about the alliance politics, that European powers made during the previous years of the First World War. Because of the alliance formation among the European powers, this attack on the Serbia by the Austria took the violent and the disastrous form of First World War.
Major events of the First World War
Alliance between Germany and Austria
According to the terms of the Dual Alliance treaty, 1879, between the Germany and Austro-Hungarian Empire, it became necessary for the Germany to jump into the First World War to support Austria. Though this was the declared reason of the Germany to jump into the First World War, the real reason was, Germany wanted to dominate the entire Europe. At the end of the 19th century, Germany was the industrial power. Soon, it became the fantasy of Germany to go for the territorial expansion. This war proved an opportunity for Germany to show its military power.
Russia sided with Serbia
In Russia, the Tsar government, jumped into the First World War against Austria to help their fellow Slavs in Serbia. Tsar was also seeking for the opportunity to attack Austria and other European powers as he was not happy with the terms of Treaty of San-Stefano and defeat in Crimean war. Tsarist Russia was keen to have it’s authority on the Black Sea as it was very near to the heart of the world trade route. So, Tsarist Russia sided with the Serbia, declaring that it was his moral duty to fight for the cause of fellow Slavs.
Germany’s Extravagant Expedition in Europe and response from European Powers
On the 1st August 1914, Germany declared war on Russia because the military power of Russia was seemed invincible at that time. So, Germany sent its armed forces in the First World War to establish what it believed to be its rightful place as a major world power.
On 3rd of August 1914, Germany attacked France via Belgium. Germany attacked France because it was the ally of Russia (Franco-Russian military convention, 1892). When Germany attacked France via Belgium, Britain as a friend of Belgium came forward to save sovereignty of the Belgium (Treaty of London, 1839). Britain declared the war against Germany.
On 4th of August 1914, Germany invaded Belgium. Though Britain attacked Germany with the declared agenda of saving the sovereignty of the Belgium, the real motive was to suppress the rise of Germany as the industrialised and economic power. Britain wanted to ascertain its supremacy in the world. But at the same time, Germany also jumped into the First World War with lots of aspiration. This never dying spirit for the supremacy led this war for approximately four years.
German and French troops used the Trench Warfare technique in the First World War. Trench warfare, in which opposing armed forces attacked, counterattacked and defended from relatively permanent systems of trenches dug into the ground. The opposing systems of trenches are usually close to one another. Trench warfare resorted to fighting with superior firepower. In which, the opposing forces dig in the trenches so extensively as to sacrifice their mobility in order to gain protection.
First World War moves on
Soon, German forces reached to the Paris. Battles of Ypres (western front of Belgium) was fought. Finally, the German army marched towards the coastal region of the western Europe. Germany also defeated Russian armies on the Eastern European front.
Austria, Russia, Germany, Ottoman Empire, Serbia, France, Britain were all involved in the war. But the allies (Triple Alliance (1882)- Germany, Austria and Italy) of Germany were not so supportive, it was certainly the only fighting warrior in its allies.
On the other side, Italy watched to see which side the advantage lay, Italy bargained. Ultimately, after six months Italy definitely joined the Triple Entente, 1907- Britain, France and Russia, side against her old allies.
European War became the First World War
In the above description, we have learnt that the most of the European powers were fighting among themselves in the early time of the 20th century. So, what happened as such that this fighting among the major European powers became the First World War?? Was it a really a First World War or was it a war that impacted all countries over the world??
As we know in the 20th century the most of the European powers had their colonies all around the world. It was certainly a multipolar world, in which the imperialism was at its peak. So, it was pretty much natural that this war can not be fought among the European powers only. Indirectly the all colonial possession of different European powers were involved in the First World War.
First World War in Africa and Japan
The European powers were fighting in Africa for the possession over the Togo, Tanzania and Cameroon which were the German colonies in Africa. Japan also wanted to become a superpower. So, Japan attacked the Micronesian and Chinese colonies of Germany.
First World War: Battle of Gallipoli
Gallipoli peninsula was under the Ottoman Empire and Australia was in the possession of Britain. Britain wanted this Gallipoli peninsula under its authority because of its geostrategic location. So, Australian and Newzealand’s combined army attacked the Gallipoli.
Soon, the Ottoman Turks defeated the combined army of Australia and Newzealand. This was the only victorious campaign of the Ottoman Empire during the First World War.
First World War: Role of United States of America
The United States of America entered into the war three years after the fighting had begun. Though it was not willing to enter into the First World War the Germany’s U-boat episode compelled the United States of America to jump into the First World War.
In May 1915 Germany discovered the U-boats. These U-boat were used to attack other civilian boats. In June 1917 Germany used one of its U-boat in the war against Royal British Navy. RMS Lusitania was a British ship carrying American passengers to the United States of America.
The German U-boat attacked this RMS Lusitania. The 1200 civilians died, they all were Americans. This incident aroused the anger in the American masses. It became inevitable for American President Woodrow Wilson to abstain from the war. This incident brought the United States of America into the First World War.
First World War: Battle of Jutland
This was the biggest naval war fought between Britain and Germany. It involved some 250 ships and 100,000 men, fought on Denmark’s North Sea coast was the only major naval war of First World War. The battle began on the afternoon of May 31, 1916, with gunfire between the German and British armies.
British losses amounted to 6,784 men and German losses to 3,058 men. Though the Kaiser Wilhelm-II was pretty much happy with the performance of the German Naval forces. But the German warring ships after this battle were too not in the condition of fighting more wars. So, this war proved a decisive war just like the Battle of Trafalgar, which certainly gave the peace for sometimes in Europe.
Wars, always conclude with a huge economic, political, military crisis and vice-versa is also true. But the most devastating feature of any war is the loss of human resources. Many families lose their near and dear ones in the wars. So, the aftermath of any war is always a weary condition.
This was also true in the case of First World War. There was a huge human casualty. Many soldiers died and many children became orphan. Though the allied powers (Russia, Britain, France, Italy and United States) were victorious in the First World War they too suffered losses from which they never fully recovered. Not only were millions of their soldiers and countrymen died but also their economies shattered. In Russia, Russian Revolution of 1917 started before the ending of the First World War.
So the end of First World War concluded with a kind of peace conference, Paris Peace Conference, 1919. Here allied powers came with the Treaty of Versailles. We will read about the Paris Peace Conference, 1919 and terms of the treaty of Versailles in next coming post.
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