The Great War

The Great War

The birth of modern warfare was brutally forged on the battlefields of World War I. The combination of new weapons, strategies and tactics combined with the old European style of conducting warfare provided a bloody and deadly testing ground for a new model in warfare. Old alliances, formed in the century prior united nations and states together to combat one another on battlefields that would encompass the world. World War I would forever alter the landscape of Europe and would give birth to new ideas that would change the way old Europe had conducted itself for generations, as well as form ideas and political parties that would later seize power in the vacuum of defeat that would lead to a second world war a generation later.

The start of the war has largely been attributed to the assassination of heir presumptive to the Austro-Hungarian dynasty, Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie by the hands of Serbian dissidents. The Austrians declared war on the small Serbian state, which led to the Russians responding and declaring war on Austria-Hungary. This led to the domino effect of each side declaring war on each other, eventually culminating in Germany declaring war on France and launching an invasion through Belgium which led to the British getting involved in the conflict.

While history has largely covered the war on the western front, the conflict was waged around the globe. At the start of the war, the British and Germany had large empires that spread encompassed the globe. In Africa, British soldiers, supported by aboriginal troops fought against German troops who were also supported and supplied by their colonial counterparts. In Asia and the Pacific, Germany had small garrisons both on mainland China, as well as island outposts in the Pacific. British, Japanese and commonwealth forces seized these locations from Germany. In the Middle East, the British and French found themselves battling the Ottoman Empire. The Ottoman’s posed a grave threat to the Suez Canal, which was a vital logistical route for the British supporting operations in Europe from their colonial holdings in India. With the aid of Arab rebels, British forces were able to conduct operations against the Ottoman’s, with Lawrence of Arabia gaining great fame from his exploits in the Middle East.

Prior to the war the British and Germans also found themselves in an arms race regarding the construction of battleships. Britain had long been the ruler of the high seas, but Germany, with a growing overseas empire understood the need for a strong and large navy. The two came to blows in the Battle of Jutland in which both sides deployed their battleships in the greatest naval battle of World War I.  By 1917, with the introduction of the United States into the conflict the war turned in favor of the allies. Victory would be achieved on 11 November 1918, and it would see the end of the German Empire, the Austria-Hungarian Empire, and the eventual collapse of the Ottoman Empire. The war to end all wars though it would not be, and within a generation war would again be fought on the battlefields of Europe and around the globe.

Look for more information regarding the history of World War I in the upcoming Strategy & Tactics issue #294 with the article “World War I” and join the conversation on Facebook!

About The Author

Kyle is a Military Historian and Senior Editor at Strategy & Tactics Press. A fourth-generation combat Veteran, Kyle retired from the United States Army in 2010. He specializes in military operations from 1945-Present and has written extensively regarding the future of asymmetrical warfare.

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