It all began with the death of the heir to the Austro-Hungarian empire, the Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo. Killed on June 28, 1914 by Gavrilo Princip, a Bosnian Serb Yugoslav nationalist, the assassination led to a period known as the July Crisis.
On the 25th day of that month, Russia’s government ordered preparations for a period of war after Austria-Hungary decided to bomb the Serbian capital of Belgrade. General Russian mobilization was announced on the 30th of July. Austria and Germany mobilized the next day, with Germany ordering Russia to demobilize within 12 hours. Germany declared war on August 1, and Austria declared just six days later.
France had military commitments with Russia and anxiety about the increasing power of Germany. As well, the country was known to want to regain control of the provinces of Alsace-Lorraine, which were let go in the Franco-Prussian war of 1870-71. The French would declare war on August 2.
Germany’s initial plan for a war on two fronts, known as the Schlieffen Plan, included a quick four week war against France, and then mobilization east to defeat Russia before they could get fully prepared to defend. The plan against France required passage through Belgium, however.
When this was refused, German forces invaded Belgium on August 3. The move against Belgium enacted military commitments of the 1839 Treaty of London, and on August 4, Britain entered the conflict and declared war against Germany.
In Sept. 1914, a German biologist and philosopher Ernst Haeckel was quoted saying that there was no doubt the feared European War would now develop into the first World War.
In 2018, we mark the 100th anniversary of the end of the Great War. It lasted from July 1914 until the 11th of November 1918. The war to end all wars involved the movement of approximately 70 million military personnel. The combat led to the death of approximately nine million combatants and seven million civilians.
In 1914 Europe divided into two powers, including the Triple Entente of France, Russia and Britain, and the Triple Alliance of Germany, Austria-Hungary and Italy. As the war progressed, Italy, Japan and eventually the United States aligned with what would be known as the Allied powers, while the Ottoman Empire and Bulgaria joined Germany and Austria.
The continued cost of the war created local discontent in Russia, and after a change of government, they signed a treaty with the German led powers, and Russian military resistance generally fell apart. Germany focused on the Eastern front, but the allies pushed back in a time known as the Hundred Days Offensive.
On the 28th of September, 1918, German leaders asked for an armistice. On Nov. 4, the Austro-Hungarian empire, with revolution at home and a military no longer interested in fighting, signed an agreement to disarm.
On November 11, 1918, Germany signed.