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World War 1: Why did Italy not fight until 1915?

World War 1: Why did Italy not fight until 1915?


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Today I learnt history about World War 1 and I have a question that has been bothering me.

According to what I have studied, the Triple Alliance (1882-1915) was an alliance between Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Italy. And the term of the alliance is that if Italy was attacked by a power, Austria-Hungary and Germany would assist her. And likewise, if Austria-Hungary and Germany were attacked, Italy would assist them too.

How did Italy cancel the "agreement" in the Triple Alliance? I meant there were "fights" and "agreements in advance". Why did not Italy and how did it have the right not to participate into the WWI?


The core of the Triple Alliance was Germany and Austria-Hungary who promised to protect each other against attack by any third party. Italy was an "adjunct" member, who promised and was promised protection against attack only by France. But Italy "opted out" because Austria-Hungary had violated a clause in the treaty to consult with Italy before changing the status quo in the Balkans (Austria-Hungary did not do so before attacking Serbia.)

The Achilles heel of the alliance was that Italy and Austria-Hungary basically hated each other, perhaps even more than either hated France. Each feared "retaliation" by the other; Italy in Venice, Austria-Hungary in Tyrol.

Italy "got around" to joining the Allies in 1915 when they promised her Tyrol and Trieste as spoils of war. (Ironically, Germany and Austria-Hungary even offered her South Tyrol to rejoin them.)


Why did Italy join the Allies in 1915?

On 23 May 1915, Italy declared war on its former ally, Austria-Hungary. The Triple Alliance was reduced to an alliance between Germany and Austria-Hungary and Europe no longer seemed quite as finely balanced into two opposing camps as it had at the outbreak of war. But why did Italy abandon the Central Powers?

Italy had always been the shakiest member of the European alliance system. By 1914, the Triple Entente of Russia, France and the United Kingdom had developed into a working alliance. They faced the Triple Alliance of Germany, Austria-Hungary and Italy. Germany and Austria-Hungary’s military alliance was solid. Its strength was forged from a messy combination of compromise, necessity, exigency and shared geographic and political goals.

These factors did not apply as clearly to Italy. In fact, there were real tensions between Italy and Austria-Hungary – a shared border, competing irredentist claims over Alpine and Adriatic territory and the prospect of territorial gains in the Balkans as a crumbling Ottoman Empire rolled back to its Anatolian heartlands.

The result was that Germany and Austria-Hungary were never quite able to glue Italy into their alliance system as firmly as the other great powers fitted into theirs. Italy’s ambiguous position was brought into sharp focus at the outbreak of war – whilst other European powers were sucked into the vortex of conflict, Italy remained neutral. On 2 August 1914, the Italians issued a Declaration of Neutrality.

Only nominally considered to be a great power by the other members of that European club, Italy suddenly found herself courted by both sides. The stakes were high – for the Central Powers, Italian naval power, if combined with the navies of the Ottoman Empire and Austria-Hungary, could significantly shift the Mediterranean balance of power. France would be forced to devote precious land and sea resources to defend its shared border and the British would face the prospect of their vital Suez Canal lifeline being cut off.

On the Entente side, adding Italy would not only free up the Mediterranean resources to be deployed against the main German threat but also open up an entirely new 600 kilometre long front with Austria-Hungary. The Allies, understanding the strength of Germany, had consistently tried to pierce the perceived soft underbelly of Austria-Hungary.

In the end, the Allies could promise Italy what Austria-Hungary could not bring herself to permit. Under the terms of the Treaty of London, signed in April 1915, Italy was promised a cornucopia of territorial gains. In the north, a belt of territory stretching from Trentino through the South Tyrol to Trieste would become Italian.

Perhaps more enticingly they were promised Balkan gains that revived dreams of an Italian Empire. The additions, evoking the glories of Rome and the Venetians, would see Italian control of parts of Dalmatia, numerous islands along Austria-Hungary’s Adriatic coast, the Albanian port city of Vlore (known in Italian as Valona).

In addition, they were promised a protectorate over a vast swathe of Albania and the prospect of further territory from the Ottoman Empire. Finally, concrete financial assistance was provided in the form of a loan of £50 million from the Allies.

Italy thus entered into the First World War with the mouthwatering prospect of feasting on the territorial remains of two decaying empires. It would be sorely disappointed with the outcome. By the end of the war, 615,000 Italians had been killed in action or died of wounds. Its prize for all that spilt blood and spent treasure was far less than had been promised control of South Tyrol and Trieste.

Italy entered the peace negotiations with high hopes but ended up leaving Versailles with very little. Disappointment, resentment and anger would sow the bitter seeds for future fascist foreign policy and an Italian desire to right the wrongs of the First World War in any future conflict.


Serbia and the Salonika expedition, 1915–17

Austria’s three attempted invasions of Serbia in 1914 had been brusquely repulsed by Serbian counterattacks. By the summer of 1915 the Central Powers were doubly concerned to close the account with Serbia, both for reasons of prestige and for the sake of establishing secure rail communications with Turkey across the Balkans. In August, Germany sent reinforcements to Austria’s southern front and, on Sept. 6, 1915, the Central Powers concluded a treaty with Bulgaria, whom they drew to their side by the offer of territory to be taken from Serbia. The Austro-German forces attacked southward from the Danube on October 6 and the Bulgars, undeterred by a Russian ultimatum, struck at eastern Serbia on October 11 and at Serbian Macedonia on October 14.

The western Allies, surprised in September by the prospect of a Bulgarian attack on Serbia, hastily decided to send help through neutral Greece’s Macedonian port of Salonika, relying on the collusion of Greece’s pro-Entente prime minister, Eleuthérios Venizélos. Troops from Gallipoli, under the French general Maurice Sarrail, reached Salonika on October 5, but on that day Venizélos fell from power. The Allies advanced northward up the Vardar into Serbian Macedonia but found themselves prevented from junction with the Serbs by the westward thrust of the Bulgars. Driven back over the Greek frontier, the Allies were merely occupying the Salonika region by mid-December. The Serbian Army, meanwhile, to avoid double envelopment, had begun an arduous winter retreat westward over the Albanian mountains to refuge on the island of Corfu.

In the spring of 1916 the Allies at Salonika were reinforced by the revived Serbs from Corfu as well as by French, British, and some Russian troops, and the bridgehead was expanded westward to Vodena (Edessa) and eastward to Kilkis but the Bulgars, who in May obtained Fort Rupel (Klidhi, on the Struma) from the Greeks, in mid-August not only overran Greek Macedonia east of the Struma but also, from Monastir (Bitola), invaded the Florina region of Greek Macedonia, to the west of the Allies’ Vodena wing. The Allied counteroffensive took Monastir from the Bulgars in November 1916, but more ambitious operations, from March to May 1917, proved abortive. The Salonika front was tying down some 500,000 Allied troops without troubling the Central Powers in any significant way.


Why did Italy enter World War 1?

Italy belonged to the triple-alliance with Germany and Austria-Hungary since 1882 and should have declared war on the triple-entente according to their pact, but used a clause to remain neutral. Instead they made a treaty in London 1915 to get some territories with Italian-speaking population from Austria-Hungary, against whom they declared war 23/5 1915. Thus leaving their alliance to join the side of the entente.

The fighting spirit was weak and war effort not very successful until reinforced in 1918, but at the peace treaty, Italy did receive South Tyrol, Istria, Trentino and Trieste basically as promised.
Italy joined world war one on the side of the allies against there previous allies in order to keep the goodwill of major countries and avoid neighbor conflict saying that the treaty they signed only counted for defense, ( in other words they found a loop-hole). Italy had little choice because of its neighbors locations and bigger standing army, and the fact that they were on a peninsula and could easily be taken by the steel ships of major countries, the Germans were more concentrated on submarines and austria-hungry had no boats, because they had no ports.


World War 1: Why did Italy not fight until 1915? - History

On November 8, 1915, Brigadier General Blackden sent off the first Jamaican contingent under the command of Major W. D. Neish to serve in the First World War. "Some of you may be killed," he cautioned, "many will be wounded, but in bidding you farewell, I hope that those who fall may fall gloriously, their faces to the foe, victory gleaming on their bayonets." As the band played "Soldiers of the King," and prayers for their welfare and safe return home were said, 500 men sailed slowly off into the unknown looking for adventure, a chance to serve God and country. The world had been at war for over a year.

Most of the Jamaicans who served were between the ages of 19 and 25. Frank Cundall, in Jamaica's Part in the Great War, described these nine contingents and the over 10,000 Jamaicans, as being comprised of four types of men - (i) those who had already chosen the Navy or Army as their career, (ii) those who were in the West India Regiment, comprising Jamaicans under British officers, (iii) those who, on the outbreak of war, abandoned their occupations and went on their own, and (iv) the Contingent Men, like those first 500, who formed the British West Indies Regiment. Recruiting meetings were held in each parish, public calls to duty were listed in newspapers, and in 1917, following glowing commendations on the services of Jamaican units of the British West Indies Regiment's eleven battalions, a conscription law was eventually passed in the House. It was never put to use. Every man who went to the front from Jamaica was a volunteer. Many went out of patriotism, but just as many went out of a desire to simply "get out" and start a new chapter in their lives. At the time in Jamaica, unemployment was high and wages were low - men received 9 pence a day to cut cane.

Together soldiers from the West Indies represented sons of gentry and sons of labourers. There were lawyers, doctors, engineers, farmers, carpenters, clerks, blacksmiths, shoemakers, tailors, mason, printers, builders, coachmen and grooms. The troops were trained in English camps - their long spells of work broken by competitive games of cricket and football. They saw action in Africa, Europe, the Mediterranean and the Middle East. The 2nd Battalion of the West India Regiment (then established for over 100 years) gained yet further Battle Honours in Belgium, France, Italy, Egypt and Palestine.

The British West Indies Regiment (BWIR)

The British West Indies Regiment (BWIR) was known as a "coloured" regiment and as such was often the victim of racial discrimination. Eugent Clarke, a Clarendonian BWIR veteran, who in 1999 at the age of 105 received France's Legion d'Honour for meritorious service in WWI, remembered how when his ship had to put in at Halifax in Nova Scotia due to the dominance of German ships in certain waters, many members of the BWIR had their first contact with snow and frostbite. They remained clothed in tropical lightweight khaki uniforms, denied issue of the heavier weight uniforms of British soldiers (which were on board) until half of the battalion had already died. Clarke was one of 200 lucky survivors, and he was sent with others to Bermuda to convalesce before heading over to Europe. Once there conditions did not improve much. The men of the BWIR were generally restricted to carrying out hard labour, digging trenches, carrying supplies to men at the fronts. Some, mainly those stationed in the Middle East, were allowed to serve as combat troops. In the meantime all continued to suffer from severe weather conditions, frostbite, measles and mumps. One thousand of the over ten thousand that left Jamaica never returned.

History of the Jamaica Militia

Jamaica's participation in Europe's wars was nothing new. This time, however, Caribbean waters were not a main battleground. This historical connection began in the 1600s when the first militia regiments were formed after the island was captured by Cromwell's English troops in 1662. The "State of Jamaica under Sir Thomas Lynch," (1683) includes the following description of the militia:
"the militia in this island is better arm'd and much better disciplin'd than in England, and do much more duty, as waiting on the Governors, guarding the Forts, especially at Port Royal, where there are Ten Companies of about 200 each, one of which watched every Night. All the Militia is commanded by the Governor, as Captain General, according to his Majesties Powers and the Act of Militia. There's Eight Regiments in the Eight Provinces, and a Troop of Horse in every Province…. Every man between the ages of 15 and 60 had to enlist and remain enlisted in the foot or horse and provide his own horse and ammunition, each in the place of his abode."
Except for a small artillery element manning harbour fortifications, the militia was disbanded in 1906 under the belief that their services would not be needed since the world was at peace and "the populations of the West Indies could not possibly be of any consequence in any imaginable war of the near future." A reserve regiment took its place.

Sending troops to the Front

On August 5, 1914, England declared war on Germany not long after the assassination of the heir to the Austrian throne. This time, however, submarines and tanks and dreadnoughts appeared on the world stage ushering in a new stage of warfare. There was never any doubt that Jamaica would show solidarity with the rest of the Empire. As the Governor, Sir William Manning, said at an August 13th meeting of the Legislative Council: "I feel that Jamaica will loyally and patriotically assume her part in maintaining the integrity of our Empire, and will comport herself gallantly to-day as she has done in the past." A decision to create a reserve regiment in every parish to guard against foreign invasion was immediately taken and well-received by the public. One Mr. William Wilson, unable to volunteer himself wrote to The Gleaner on April 23, 1915 - "if 99 other men will subscribe 30 pounds each I will give an equal amount and send 200 native-born Jamaicans to the front." Over 90 pounds were raised and a war contingent committee formed. The target was 500 men for the First Contingent. By the end of June, 748 volunteered and 442 were accepted. The government agreed to be responsible for the expenses of recruiting, training and transport separation allowances, as well as disabilities, gratuities and pensions.

Jamaican women did their part, too. They organized Flag Day fundraisers, a War Relief Fund and sewed woolen garments for soldiers. In addition to the women's funds, there were others including the Gleaner Fund and Palace Amusement Co.'s Palace War Fund. Thousands of pounds were collected. Over 4000 packages of fruits, 71 bags of sugar, 49 cases of ginger, four casks of rum, and two cases of playing cards were shipped to military hospitals, and distributed locally to men manning Jamaica's coastal forts.

On November 11, 1918 armistice was declared, signaling the end of four years of war. His Majesty's Government recalled with gratitude the share of men of Jamaica in the final victory in Palestine and "expressed to the people of Jamaica and her Dependencies (The Cayman Islands and the Turks and Caicos) the Mother Country's high appreciation of the military effort they have made, their cheerful acceptance of compulsory service to the common cause and their unfailing support in the great struggle…." According to Cundall, many soldiers returned to Jamaica with money, after having already sent home considerable amounts. All soldiers were also eligible to obtain loans to buy land, or if soldiers already owned land, to build houses, purchase stock and cultivate. Re-employment Committees were created in every parish with information on pay and pension, the treatment of invalids and the disabled, as well as arrangements to obtain work.

"Some of you may be killed, he cautioned, many will be wounded, but in bidding you farewell, I hope that those who fall may fall gloriously, their faces to the foe, victory gleaming on their bayonets. "

According to veteran Eugent Clarke who, along with thousands of other BWIR troops were held for close to a year at the end of the war by the British War Office at a camp in Taranto, Italy, when they returned home, times were just as hard as they had been before the war. It was still hard to get work and that work was still heavily agricultural based. Up to one-third of the veterans went to Cuba where prices for cutting cane were higher. This disillusionment came after the even greater one of Taranto, where Clarke and his fellow BWIR soldiers were virtually kept prisoner in large barracks which still stand, by their British Commanding Officer who, as a result of colour prejudice, not only assigned them hard labour but also demeaning labour such as cleaning toilets for white troops. He also refused to allow day passes and recreational time.

On December 6, 1918 tensions at Taranto reached a boiling point and the soldiers of the BWIR who did not understand why they had not been sent home and wanted nothing more than to go home, mutinied. They attacked their officers and severely assaulted their unit commanders, sending shock waves throughout the British Army. After four days the mutineers surrendered and the entire regiment suffered the humiliation of being disarmed. The mutineers were severely punished, one was shot, one executed by firing squad and another sentenced to time in prison. When the last of the BWIR troops were finally repatriated in September 1919, they were accompanied by three cruisers in order to prevent unrest once the ships docked at ports in Jamaica, Barbados and Trinidad. These BWIR soldiers were not given a heroes welcome because there was simply great fear on behalf of colonials that these soldiers, well-trained and now more politically aware, could create havoc for the status quo under which colonial life was governed.

Today, the Caribbean's World War I veterans are well remembered in the region, but not in Britain where a rewriting of history to include the coloured man's point of view is slowly taking place. In Jamaica memorials were eventually erected around the island for those 1000 men who lost their lives. These include a 20-foot monument in the yard of the Montego Bay Parish Church, a 20-foot one in Morant Bay, an obelisk in St. Ann's Bay, another in Kingston at Wolmer's School, and a chapel at Jamaica College. War memorials were also hung at Manning's School, Savanna-la-Mar, and Mico Training College, Kingston. Jamaica's National War Memorial, a 1.5 ton, 29-foot cross, made of Jamaica stone quarried at Knockalva with panels of marble from Serge Island, inscribed "To the men of Jamaica who fell in the Great War, 1914-18. Their name liveth forevermore" was erected in 1922 in what was then called Memorial Square, on Church St. in Kingston. At its November 11th unveiling onlookers crowded the streets, even filling the roofs of nearby government buildings. Near the monuments stood the relatives of those men who had fallen in the Great War.

In 1953 this cenotaph (a monument erected in honour of person(s) buried elsewhere) was moved to its present location in the National Heroes Park section of what is still officially called King George VI Memorial Park. It is guarded by soldiers from the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) and a ceremonial Changing of the Guard accompanied by the music of one of the JDF's military bands and one of The Jamaica Regiment's Corps of Drums takes place the first Sunday of each month at 9 a.m. Each day from 8 a.m. - 9 a.m. two sentries carry out their drills that are open to the public. On Remembrance Sunday each November, wreaths are laid on the memorial to commemorate the gallantry of those who served.

For information on the JDF see www.jdfmil.org

Sources: F. Cundall, Jamaica's Part in the Great War, 1915-1918. (London: IOJ, by the West India Commission, 1925), M. Needham for permission to use copyright material on the Jamaica Military Band and the Jamaica Regiment Band, M. Goodman and V. Rushton. "A Jamaica Past, being a Glimpse into History's Last Surviving Bloodiest battlefields - A Visit with Jamaica's Last Surviving World War I Veteran." Jamaican Historical Society Bulletin, vol 11, (3), 52-57. The BBC, Channel 4, 3-part documentary, "Mutiny" 1999.

Coming November 26: The series explores the grand hotels of Jamaica

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Contents

By 1914, trouble was on the rise in Europe. Many countries feared invasion from the other. For example, Germany was becoming increasingly powerful, and the British saw this as a threat to the British Empire. The countries formed alliances to protect themselves, but this divided them into two groups. Germany and Austria-Hungary had been allies since 1879. They had then formed the Triple Alliance with Italy in 1882. France and Russia became allies in 1894. They then joined with Britain to form the Triple Entente.

In 1908, Austria-Hungary had taken over Bosnia, a region next to Serbia. Some people living in Bosnia were Serbian, and wanted the area to be part of Serbia. One of these was the Black Hand organization. They sent men to kill Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria when he visited Sarajevo, the capital of Bosnia. They all failed to kill him with grenades while he passed through a large crowd. But one of them, a Serbian student named Gavrilo Princip, shot him and his pregnant wife with a pistol.

Austria-Hungary blamed Serbia for the assassination. Germany supported Austria-Hungary and promised full support should it come to war. Austria-Hungary sent a July Ultimatum to Serbia, listing 10 very strict rules they would have to agree to. Many historians think that Austria-Hungary already wanted a war with Serbia. Serbia agreed to most of the ten rules on the list, but not all of them. Austria-Hungary then declared war on Serbia. This quickly led to a full-scale war. [8] Both countries' allies became involved in the war in a matter of days.

Russia joined the war on Serbia's side because the people of Serbia were Slavic just like Russia and the Slavic countries had agreed to help each other if they were attacked. Since the Russian Empire was a large country it had to move soldiers closer to the war, but Germany feared that Russia's soldiers would also attack Germany. Russia did not like Germany because of things Germany had done in the past to become stronger. Germany declared war on Russia, and began to carry out a plan created long before to fight a war in Europe. Because Germany is in the middle of Europe, Germany could not attack to the east towards Russia without weakening itself in the west, towards France. Germany's plan involved quickly defeating France in the west before Russia was ready to fight, and then moving her armies to the east to face Russia. Germany could not quickly invade France directly, because France had put a lot of forts on the border, so Germany invaded the neighboring country of Belgium to then invade France through the undefended French/Belgian border. Great Britain then joined the war, saying they wanted to protect Belgium. Some historians think that even if Germany had stayed out of Belgium, the British would have still joined the war to help France.

Soon most of Europe became involved. The Ottoman Empire (now Turkey) joined the war on the side of Germany and Austria-Hungary. It is not clear why they entered or chose to fight on their side, but they had become friendly to Germany. Although Italy was allied with German and Austria-Hungary, they had only agreed to fight if those countries were attacked first. Italy said that because Austria-Hungary had attacked Serbia first, they did not need to fight. They also had started to dislike Austria-Hungary, so in 1915, Italy joined the war on the Allied Powers' side.

Germany was allied with Austria-Hungary. Russia was allied with Serbia. The German government was afraid that because Austria-Hungary had attacked Serbia, Russia would attack Austria-Hungary to help Serbia. Because of this, Germany felt it had to help Austria-Hungary by attacking Russia first, before it could attack Austria-Hungary.

The problem was that Russia was also friends with France, and the Germans thought the French might attack them to help Russia. So the Germans decided that they could win the war if they attacked France first, and quickly. They could mobilize very quickly. They had a list of all the men who had to join the army, and where those men had to go, and the times of every train that would carry those men to where they would have to fight. France was doing the same thing, but could not do it as quickly. The Germans thought that if they attacked France first, they could 'knock France' out of the war before Russia could attack them.

Russia had a big army, but Germany thought that it would take six weeks to mobilize and a long time before they could attack the Central Powers. That wasn't true, because the Russian Army mobilized in ten days. Also, the Russians drove deep into Austria.

Britain was allied with Belgium, and became quickly involved in the war. Britain had promised to protect Belgian neutrality. Germany passed through Belgium to reach Paris before Russia could mobilize and open up a second front against them. On August 4, 1914, Britain declared war against Germany in support of Belgium. Britain had the biggest empire (it ruled over a quarter of the world). If Germany conquered France, it might take Britain and France's colonies and become the most powerful and biggest empire in the world.

Britain was also worried about Germany's growing military power. Germany was developing its large army into one of the most powerful in the world. The British Army was quite small. The British Royal Navy was the largest and best in the world, and in the 19th century that was enough to keep other naval powers from attacking. Germany was a land power, and Britain was a sea power. But now the Germans were building a large navy. This was seen as a threat to Britain. However, the decision to declare war was taken under its alliance with Belgium in the Treaty of London (1839). The Government might have decided differently. No-one foresaw how long the war would last, and what the terrible costs would be.

The Ottoman Empire (Turkey) went into the war because it was secretly allied to Germany and two Turkish warships manned by German Navy personnel bombarded Russian towns.

Britain also fought against Turkey because the Ottoman Empire was supporting Germany. Britain did not have any animosity towards the Turks. [10] However, by fighting the Turks in the Mesopotamia region (in what is now called Iraq), in the Arabian Peninsula and other places, Britain was able to defeat them with help from the British Indian Army. [11] Later, after the War ended, Britain was able to get some areas from the old Turkish empire which was breaking up, and to add them to the British Empire. [11]

Greece went into the war because its leader supported the Allied cause. Greece and Serbia had become independent, but many Greeks still lived in lands that were once Greek but were now in the Turkish Ottoman Empire. Having recently won the Balkan Wars, the Greeks especially wanted to control other land to the north that was under Bulgarian and Turkish rule, so they declared war. Turkey killed most of the Greek army as the Greeks tried to regain parts of Turkey. Another war started when the Greeks bombed a train. Turkey swept Greece back into their own territory. From then on the Greeks never again declared war, while Turkey had one of the biggest armies in the world.

Bulgaria, like Greece and Serbia, was owned by Turkey before Bulgaria broke away from Turkey. Bulgaria claimed a lot of Turkish land as belonging to Bulgaria. The Serbians and Greeks felt cheated because they felt the land belonged to Greece or Serbia. The Greeks and Serbians took back the land which angered Bulgaria and led to the country becoming allies with Turkey. They declared war on Serbia and Greece, but Bulgaria lost this war.

The Russian Revolution makes Russia fight Germany and the Bolsheviks at the same time. Russia surrendered to Germany due to the fact that the Russians were fighting against the Soviets as well. It needed to get out of the war, so they payed Germany lots of German marks to make them stop fighting between them so they could focus on fighting the Soviets.

Most people thought the war would be short. They thought the armies would move around quickly to attack each other and one would defeat the other without too many people getting killed. They thought the war would be about brave soldiers — they did not understand how war had changed. Only a few people, for example Lord Kitchener said that the war would take a long time.

In the beginning of the war, Italy was in the Central Powers. But then Italy changed the side of the Entente Powers because they had promised land across the Adriatic sea.

Germany's generals had decided that the best way to defeat France was to go through Belgium using a plan called the Schlieffen Plan. This was invented by the German Army Chief of Staff, Alfred Von Schlieffen. They could then attack the French army at the north side and the south side at the same time. The German Army went into Belgium on August the 4th. On the same day, Great Britain started a war on Germany, because Britain was a friend of Belgium. The British had said some time before, in 1839, that they would not let anyone control Belgium, and they kept their promise.

When the Germans got to the Belgian city of Liège, the Belgians fought very hard to stop them from coming into the city. The Germans did finally push the Belgians out of the city, but it had taken longer than the German generals had planned. Then the Germans attacked the north side of the French army. The French and the British moved men up to fight the Germans. They could do this because the Belgians had fought so long at Liège. But the Germans pushed the French back at the frontiers, and the British held the Germans back at Mons, but afterwards they also fell back to join up with the retreating French army, until they were stopped at the river Marne. This was the First Battle of the Marne or Miracle of the Marne.

In the East, the Russians had attacked the Germans. The Russians pushed back the Germans, but then the Germans defeated the Russians at the Battle of Tannenberg.

Trench warfare killed great numbers of soldiers. New weapons, such as machine guns, and long-range artillery had an increased rate of fire that cut down huge numbers of soldiers during mass charges, a tactic leftover from older warfare. The men on both sides took spades and dug holes, because they did not want to be killed. The holes joined up into trenches, until the lines of trenches went all the way from Switzerland to the North Sea. In front of the trenches, there was barbed wire that cut anyone who tried to climb over it, and land mines that blew up anyone who tried to cross. Late in the war, poison gas was also an important weapon.

The new machine guns, artillery, trenches and mines made it very difficult to attack. The generals had fought many wars without these, so they ordered their armies to attack in the old style of marching in rows- allowing the enemy to shoot them down easily. At the Battle of the Somme in 1916 60,000 British men died in a single day. It was one of the bloodiest days in the history of the British army. Late in the war the British and French invented tanks and used them to attack entrenched Germans but could not make enough of them to make a big difference. The Germans invented special Sturmabteilung tactics to infiltrate enemy positions, but they also were too little, too late.

The British used whistles to communicate to other soldiers, so before they shelled the German trenches, they would sound the whistle. However, the Germans caught on to this tactic after a while, so after the shelling, when the British soldiers came to finish off the German soldiers, the Germans were ready with their machine guns, because they knew the British were coming.

Airplanes were first used extensively in World War I. Airplanes were not used very much in fighting before World War I. It was the first war to use airplanes as weapons. Airplanes were first used for reconnaissance, to take pictures of enemy land and to direct artillery. Generals, military leaders, were using airplanes as an important part of their attack plans at the end of the war. World War I showed that airplanes could be important war weapons.

Airplanes in World War I were made of wood and canvas, a type of rough cloth. They did not last for a long time. They could not fly very fast at the beginning of the war. They could only fly up to 116 kilometers per hour, or 72 miles per hour. At the end of the war they could fly up to 222 kilometres per hour (138 miles per hour). But they could not fly as fast as planes today. Guns were put on planes for the first time during the war. Pilots, people who fly the plane, used the guns to shoot enemy planes. One pilot used metal sheets, pieces of metal, to armor his airplane. Other pilots began using metal sheets, too. Pilots also made their airplanes better with machine guns, guns that shoot bullets much faster. Machine guns made fighting harder and more dangerous between airplanes.

Pilots had to wear certain clothes when flying an airplane in World War I because they flew high where the air is cold. The pilot's clothes kept them warm and protected them from the wind and cold. Pilots wore a leather coat to protect their bodies. They wore a padded helmet and goggles, large glasses with special lenses, to protect their head and face. They wore a scarf around their neck. The scarf kept the wind from blowing against their neck when they turned their head.

The German leaders decided to use submarines. These submarines were named U-boats, from the German word Unterseeboot (meaning underwater boat). The U-boats attacked passenger ships such as RMS Lusitania carrying civilians to the United Kingdom. They did not follow the laws of war, because the British would be able to easily destroy them if they did. America was selling weapons to Germany's enemies but not to Germany, thus not being neutral ("neutral" means to not take a side during a conflict). Many American and British noncombatants were killed by the submarines.

Germany also wrote a secret telegram note to Mexico in code suggesting that the two countries work together to attack the United States. This note is called the Zimmerman Telegram because it was sent by Arthur Zimmerman. It offered Mexico land in the southwestern United States that the United States took in previous wars. Spies from the United Kingdom found out about the note and told the United States. American people became angry and many decided that they wanted their country to enter the war against Germany. For the Zimmermann Telegram as well as the sinking of American ships by German U-boats, on April 6, 1917 the United States declared war against Germany and joined the Allies. [12]

The defeat of Russia on the Eastern Front caused unrest inside the Empire.

The First Russian Revolution Edit

In 1917, there was a revolution in Russia. The Tsar Nicholas II had to say he would not be Tsar any more, and that the people should have power. At first it was thought that Russia would fight harder now that the Tsar was gone. However, the Russian people did not want to fight anymore, because there was not sufficient food, appropriate armament, or adequate roads to supply its army. The war had been putting burdens on them, and many of them were poor and hungry. They began to hate their new government because it would not stop the war.

The Second Russian Revolution Edit

Then, there was the October Revolution. Two factions fought to rule over Russia. The Mensheviks lost against the Bolsheviks. The leader of the Bolsheviks was Vladimir Lenin (1870-1924) a Communist who followed the ideas of Karl Marx. The new government asked the Germans for peace and signed a peace treaty called Brest-Litovsk with the Central Powers in March 1918 at the city of Brest-Litovsk. The Germans and Russians stopped fighting. This gave Germany land in Eastern Europe and the Baltic Sea including the Baltics, Poland, Ukraine and Belarus. Finland also gained independence during the treaty.

After the war, the Germans had to agree to the Treaty of Versailles. Germany had to pay approximately $31.5 billion [13] in reparations. They also had to take responsibility for the war. Part of the treaty said the countries of the world should come together to make an international organization to stop wars from happening. This organization was called the League of Nations. The United States Senate did not agree with this, even though it was the idea of the US president, Woodrow Wilson. Woodrow Wilson tried to tell the American people that they should agree, but the United States never joined the League of Nations. Problems with the Treaty in Germany would later lead to the World War II.


The forgotten British soldiers of Italian WWI battle

Many tourists visit northern France and Belgium to see the cemeteries where soldiers killed in World War I are buried, but other British WWI war graves are less well-known or remembered, as army chaplain Andrew Martlew observes.

If the soldiers who lie in the British military cemetery at Granezza had died a few months earlier, their graves would have had a constant stream of visitors and their memorials at Tyne Cot or the Menin Gate would have been part of our national folklore.

But in the mountains of northern Italy, I was the first British person to sign the visitors' book this year, and hardly anyone remembers that the British fought alongside the Italians in World War I.

In the autumn of 1917, the British Army was fighting the third Battle of Ypres, the one they called Passchendaele.

The Italians were fighting the Austrians, and the Germans, at the twelfth Battle of the Isonzo, the one they called Caporetto - and they were losing, terribly.

Ernest Hemingway tells the story in A Farwell To Arms, and an English nurse is at the heart of that book - but the British soldiers who came to strengthen the new front line seem to have disappeared from sight.

They came straight out of the trenches of Flanders, from the cold and rain, the mud and the poison gas.

As they travelled down through France, the days got warmer.

In Italy, they had oranges and figs thrown to them as they marched to reinforce the Italian line.

Some were lucky, they moved into trenches that were on warm, dry hills.

Others were not so fortunate. The swamps north of Venice meant a return to the familiar mud, with the added joys of mosquitoes and malaria.

But in the early spring they left the Venetian plain and marched towards the foothills of the Alps which rise, without preamble, straight from sea-level to 3,000ft (900m) and more.

They managed the ascent by marching for 20 minutes then stopping for 10, through an achingly long day. And they found a very different world.

In many places, the pinewoods were still standing as they are now. Cool and shady today, but then still covered with snow and liable to burst into flames during Austrian artillery bombardments.

And the trenches are still there too.

If you know where to look, and are prepared to scramble up steep hillsides, you can still trace the trench systems. But they are nothing like the military engineering of Flanders.

No complex dugouts with wooden walls and beds for officers. Here the trenches were hewn and blasted out of solid rock.

They zigzagged without military sense as they followed fissures in the limestone. And when incoming artillery fire struck the rock, shrapnel from the shells was augmented by razor-sharp splinters of rock.

And there they stayed, up in the hills of the Asiago Plateau, through the summer of 1918, until 1 November.

Early that morning, with so little notice that the British troops did not get their pre-battle cup of tea, they attacked, and found the Austrian Army crumbling before them.

They became the first British troops to cross the pre-war boundaries into enemy territory. They advanced so fast that it was two days before their rations caught up with them - through woods, up and down precipitous slopes that dropped hundreds of feet at a time until, on 4 November 1918, their armistice was signed.

But there had been a cost.

Not the slaughter of the Somme, perhaps, but the sons of 712 families lie in the five small cemeteries in the woods along unpaved roads in the hills around Asiago.

Like all Commonwealth war cemeteries, they are immaculate. Surrounded by walls of rough-hewn grey granite blocks, the grass is neat - the tidy plants along the rows of white headstones waiting to flower in the clear mountain sunlight, and the only sound, beyond the wind whispering through the trees, is birdsong, pure and sweet.

But the memorial that affected me most, as I traced the British progress, was not a British cemetery, nor yet the white arch of marble that towers over the town of Asiago, where both Italian and Austrian bones are interred together.

What touched me most was a modern war memorial in a medieval village a few kilometres from Trentino, at a place where British soldiers stopped at the end of the war.

Carved in black on a gleaming slab of polished cream stone and separated by the upright of a thin black cross are 17 Italian names from WWI - when we were allies - and seven from WWII - when, for some of the time, we were enemies.

Perhaps that is why, as the fascists took control of Italy, the British role in the Italian war was quietly put out of sight.

Although the British cemeteries survived, as silent, perhaps inconvenient, but still protected witnesses of a former alliance. As they do to this day.

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Battles - The Battles of the Isonzo, 1915-17

The battles of the Isonzo were so-named because they were fought along the Isonzo River on the eastern sector of the Italian Front between June 1915 and November 1917.

The Isonzo is located today in present-day Slovenia. During the First World War however the sixty-mile long river ran north-south just inside Austria along its border with Italy at the head of the Adriatic Sea and then (as now) was flanked by mountains on either side.

Primary Sector for Italian Operations

The only practical area for Italian military operations during the war (the rest of the mountainous 400-mile length of the Front being almost everywhere dominated by Austro-Hungarian forces), the Austrians had taken due care to fortify the mountains ahead of the Italians' long-expected entry into the war on 23 May 1915.

Italian Chief of Staff Luigi Cadorna judged that Italian gains (from Gorizia to Trieste) were most feasible at the coastal plain east of the lower end of the Isonzo. However he also believed that the Italian army could strike further north and bypass the mountains either side of the river so as to come at the Austro-Hungarians in the rear.

Inherent Difficulties of the Isonzo

Not that he expected operations in the Isonzo sector to be easy. He was well aware that the river was prone to flooding - and indeed there were record rain-falls during 1914-18.

Further, when attacking further north the Italian army was faced with something of a dilemma: in order to safely cross the Isonzo they needed to knock out the Austro-Hungarian defenders looking on from the mountains above yet to neutralise these same forces they needed first to cross the river - an obstacle that the Italians never succeeded in satisfying.

In the south (along the coastal zone) geographic peculiarities, including a collection of ridges and valleys, conspired additionally to work to the Austro-Hungarian defenders' advantage.

Huge Casualties

Despite the huge effort and resources poured into the continuing Isonzo struggle the results were invariably disappointing and without real tactical merit, particularly given the geographic difficulties that were inherent in the campaign. The sector was chosen chiefly because it offered a greater prospect of Italian territorial gain.

Cumulative casualties of the numerous battles of the Isonzo were enormous. Half of the entire Italian war casualty total - some 300,000 of 600,000 - were suffered along the Isonzo. Austro-Hungarian losses, while by no means as numerous were nevertheless high at around 200,000 (of an overall total of around 1.2 million casualties).

10, 11 or 12 Battles?

It is a matter of debate as to just how many battles comprised the Isonzo. Undeniably innumerable one battle often appeared to merge into another. Some historians have assigned distinct names to a couple of the Isonzo struggles, most notably at Caporetto in October 1917, which would otherwise form the Twelfth Battle of the Isonzo.

This website lists Caporetto as both a standalone battle and as the final battle of the Isonzo thus the twelve battles are listed below. Details of each are available by selecting the appropriate link.

To view maps charting the progress of the campaign fought on the Italian Front click here and here and here and here.


10 Facts About Mobilisation and Recruitment for World War One

Here are 10 facts that tell the story of recruitment and mobilisation to World War One. As the network of alliances pulled more countries into a pan-European conflict, enthusiastic, jingoistic populations rose to support their governments. A sense that war was a noble enterprise, and in many cases high unemployment, drove young men to sign up.

Mobilisation followed pre-set plans which relied on anticipating enemy manoeuvres, and the sense of paranoia this engendered was a key factor in bringing countries into the war. Each wanted to advantage of mobilising first, and feared the possibility of being caught unprepared.


WW1 dates

World War 1 was fought between July 28, 1914 – November 11, 1918

To Goemans, World War I illustrates a modern insight into the nature of war—that it basically takes two sides to fight. One side can always capitulate or accede to the other side’s demands, trying to avoid war. It raises the question of why all players decide to fight.

“I study war not because it’s cool, or because there are big explosions and big weapons, but because it’s truly horrific,” says Goemans. “But at the same time you have to ask also, ‘Why does this form of dispute resolution work? Why does killing hundreds of millions of people make an agreement possible where there was no agreement possible before?’ ”

Alas, the peace that followed the “war to end all wars,” lasted only two decades.


Watch the video: The Italian Front of WWI Every Month (May 2022).


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