World War One, also called WWI, was a global conflict that lasted from 1914 to 1918 that claimed millions of lives. The main conflict of WWI was between the Central Powers (mainly Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Turkey) against the Allies: France, Russia, Great Britain, Belgium, and more, with the Allies eventually winning. Here’s a summary of how WWI broke out.
What Caused WWI?
Several major events that occurred in the region were the catalyst for what eventually became WWI.
The first event was the assassination of Austrian emperor, Archduke Franz Ferdinand. The Balkan Wars of 1912 and 1913 caused Serbian nationalists to dream of “liberating” the South Slavs of Austria-Hungary. They believed that assassinating Archduke Franz Ferdinand would further their cause.
At 11:15 am on June 28, 1914, a Serb assassinated Franz Ferdinand and his wife in Sarajevo, Bosnia. This forced Austria-Hungary to impose harsh restrictions – and eventually declare war – on Serbia, while Germany promised to support Austria-Hungary in the war. This news was met with backlash from other countries like Russia and France.
On August 1, after Russia ordered military mobilization against Austria-Hungary, Germany declared war on Russia. Germany also declared war on France on August 3.
On 4 August 1914, Germany invaded Belgium. Although Great Britain was previously uninvolved in the conflict, since Britain was allies with Belgium, they declared war on Germany to help protect Belgium. Within the next few days, various other countries began declaring war on each other, marking the outbreak of WWI.
Fighting in WWI
Interestingly, at the start of WWI in 1914, most European people did not feel frightened. Instead, they felt jubilant and patriotic! This is because each person believed their own country would win the war, and that the war would be over by the end of the year. In reality, this could not have been more wrong – WWI lasted till 1918, with tens of millions of casualties.
One of the features most associated with WWI is the trenches – long ditches where the two opposing sides would face each other on the battlefield. These trenches would often be unsanitary and cramped, with issues like giant rats and lice infestations.
WWI was also the first time that powerful, new weapons like artillery and tanks were used in war. These weapons were so powerful, in fact, that one could hear the artillery being fired in Europe from all the way in Great Britain!
The End of WWI
At 11:00 am on November 11 1918, Germany signed an armistice with the Allies, marking the end of four long years of fighting. To this day, Armistice Day is commemorated on November 11 every year, and people wear red poppies to honor the lives lost in WWI.
Despite the belief that WWI would be the “War to End All Wars”, unfortunately, this was not the case – about 20 years later, the Second World War (WWII) broke out. The World Wars are indeed an important reminder that we should never take the global peace and security we experience daily for granted.