The assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria-Hungary and his wife Sophie by a Serbian nationalist leads to a declaration of war by Austria-Hungary on Serbia. A web of alliances and political interests sweeps the rest of Europe, including Britain with its Empire, into war. IWM Q 91848.
The assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie.
Germany invades neutral Belgium and Britain declares war. IWM Q 42033.
Britain declares war.
23–26 August: Battles of Mons and Le Cateau. The small British Expeditionary Force (BEF) delays the German advance at Mons and Le Cateau. IWM Q 53213.
26–29 August: Battle of Tannenberg. The German Army defeats Russian forces, which had invaded East Prussia. IWM HU 57551.
Battle of Tannenberg.
Battle of Heligoland Bight. In the first naval action of the war, three German cruisers are sunk by the Royal Navy. IWM Q 64301.
Battle of Heligoland Bight.
Battle of the Marne. The German offensive is finally halted on the River Marne by French and British forces, 50km east of Paris. IWM Q 51489.
Battle of the Marne.
10–13 September: Battle of the Masurian Lakes. German forces claim their second victory of the war over the Russians but suffer heavy casualties. Image courtesy of Photos of the Great War.
Battle of the Masurian Lakes.
14–28 September: Battle of the Aisne. The Allies fail to break the strong German line and both sides extend their defences north in what becomes known as ‘the race to the sea.’ IWM Q 60707.
Battle of the Aisne.
16 October – 11 November: First Battle of Ypres. German forces try to take the Belgian town of Ypres. Allied forces successfully defend it, but both sides suffer heavy casualties. IWM Q 57213.
First Battle of Ypres.
Battle of Coronel. German cruisers destroy a small British squadron off Chile. British battlecruisers destroy the German squadron in the Battle of the Falkland Islands on 8 December. IWM Q 64301.
Battle of Coronel.
German warships bombard Scarborough, Hartlepool and Whitby, killing 134 people. IWM HU 128023.
German warships bombard north east coast.
Unofficial ceasfires and fraternisation known as the 'Christmas Truce' in certain parts of the Western Front. IWM Q 50719.
British and German battlecruisers meet in the inconclusive Battle of Dogger Bank in the North Sea. IWM Q 22687.
Battle of Dogger Bank.
Allied warships begin attempt to enter the Dardanelles and reach the Turkish capital Constantinople. After three battleships are sunk in March, the attempt is abandoned. IWM Q 13233.
Allied warships try to reach Constantinople.
10-13 March: Battle of Neuve Chapelle. Indian forces play a key role in Commonwealth gains to the south of the Ypres Salient.
Battle of Neuve Chapelle.
22 April – 25 May: Second Battle of Ypres. The German Fourth Army tries to take Ypres, using poison gas for the first time. They inflict 70,000 Allied casualties but fail to take the town. IWM Q 1451.
Second Battle of Ypres.
Following the failed attempt to force the Dardanelles, Commonwealth and French troops begin to land on the Gallipoli peninsula, Turkey. IWM Q 102538.
Commonwealth and French troops land at Gallipoli.
The British liner Lusitania is torpedoed off Ireland by a German U-boat (submarine), with the loss of 1,202 people, including 128 from the neutral United States. IWM Q 43227.
The British liner Lusitania is torpedoed off Ireland.
Italy enters the war on the Allied side. IWM Q 26158.
Italy enters the war.
23 June–7 July: First Battle of the Isonzo. Italian forces launch the first of 11 unsuccessful attacks on Austrian forces. IWM Q 53875.
First Battle of the Isonzo.
German forces in South-West Africa (now Namibia) surrender. IWM Q 52393.
German surrender in South-West Africa.
6-12 August: August Offensive at Gallipoli. Commonwealth forces land at Suvla Bay and attack at Helles, Lone Pine and Chunuk Bair, but fail to break Ottoman lines. IWM Q 13340.
Commonwealth forces in Mesopotamia (now Iraq) advance to Baghdad. Three months later they are besieged in Kut and surrender in April 1916. IWM Q 24168.
Commonwealth forces in Mesopotamia advance to Baghdad.
Allies begin offensives in Loos and Champagne which last until 6 November. Small gains are made, with nearly 100,000 casualties. IWM Q 60733.
Allies begin offensives in Loos and Champagne.
Evacuation of Gallipoli. The final Commonwealth forces leave the peninsula. IWM Q 61505.
Evacuation of Gallipoli.
German forces in Cameroon surrender. IWM Q 32951.
German surrender in Cameroon.
21 February – 18 December: Battle of Verdun. German forces attack the French salient at the fortified town of Verdun. In the longest battle of the war, there are 550,000 French and 434,000 German casualties. IWM Q 69619.
Battle of Verdun.
Battle of Jutland. In the only clash between the main British and German battle fleets, over 2,500 German and 6,000 British sailors are killed. NMRN 1995.114.1.
Battle of Jutland
The ‘Brusilov Offensive’ breaks the Austro-Hungarian Army and forces their German allies to send troops, but Russian casualties are high.
The ‘Brusilov Offensive’.
Proclamation of Arab Revolt by Sayyid Hussein bin Ali, the Emir of Mecca, prompts a British-led advance to the Palestine border.
Proclamation of Arab Revolt
Commonwealth and French forces begin a major offensive on the Somme. The battle lasts until 18 November and claims over a million Allied and German dead. IWM Q 4203.
First day of the Battle of the Somme.
3-5 August 1916: Romani. German and Ottoman forces attack the British base of Romani in the Sinai, but are driven off by counter-attacks.
German and Ottoman forces attack Romani.
First use of tanks on the battlefield, by Commonwealth forces at Flers-Courcelette, during the Somme offensive. IWM Q 2488.
First use of tanks on the battlefield.
Germany announces resumption of unrestricted submarine warfare. U-boats attack merchant ships without warning. IWM Q 53052.
Germany announces resumption of unrestricted submarine warfare.
23 February: Following the Battle of the Somme, the German Army withdraws to a new, stronger defensive position known as the Hindenburg Line. IWM Q 29906.
German Army retreat to the Hindenburg Line
British-led forces retake Kut, followed by Baghdad the following month. IWM Q 25224.
British-led forces retake Kut.
Russian Revolution begins. The Tsar abdicates and a provisional government is established. IWM HU 52729.
Russian Revolution begins.
The USA enters the war on the Allied side, in part because of American loss of life in German submarine attacks. IWM Q 2330.
The USA enters the war on the Allied side.
9 April – 3 May: Battle of Arras. Commonwealth forces begin an offensive in support of a plan devised by new French Commander-in-Chief, Robert Nivelle. Several important gains are made, including Vimy Ridge. IWM Q 5095.
Battle of Arras.
16 April – 9 May: Second Battle of the Aisne. In the disastrous French part of the ‘Nivelle Offensive’, 355,000 casualties are sustained. IWM Q 55315.
Second Battle of the Aisne.
Battle of Messines. The British Second Army takes Wytschaete-Messines ridges in an attack supported by 20 mines dug under the German trenches. The blasts kill around 10,000 men and are heard in London. AWM E 649.
Battle of Messines.
Third Battle of Ypres begins. This major Commonwealth offensive in Flanders lasts until 6 November. Some 310,000 casualties are suffered, and the offensive is called off after the capture of Passchendaele. IWM Q 6046.
Third Battle of Ypres.
Battle of Caporetto. German and Austrian forces launch a surprise attack on the Italians, killing, wounding or capturing 320,000 men and advancing 70 miles. IWM Q 60408.
Battle of Caporetto.
Egyptian Expeditionary Force, including British and Anzac units, capture the key town of Beersheba on the road to Jerusalem. IWM Q 50575.
Bolsheviks led by Vladimir Lenin seize power from the provisional government in Russia. IWM Q 69409.
Bolsheviks seize power from provisional government in Russia.
Battle of Cambrai begins. The first mass tank attack in history achieves complete surprise, but German counterattacks mean most of the ground gained is lost by the time the battle ends on 7 December. IWM Q 6287.
Battle of Cambrai begins.
General Allenby enters Jerusalem after a series of victories over the Turkish Army in Palestine. IWM HU 96872.
General Allenby enters Jerusalem.
Bolsheviks sign peace treaty at Brest-Litovsk. German armies in the east transfer to the Western Front for a new offensive. IWM Q 45331.
Bolsheviks sign peace treaty at Brest-Litovsk.
German forces launch offensives to try to end the war before US forces arrive in France. Five major attacks are halted and by 17 July the German Army is exhausted. IWM Q 55020.
Germans launch the Spring Offensives.
22-23 April: British naval raids on German submarine and destroyer bases at Ostend and Zeebrugge. IWM Q 22842.
British naval raids at Ostend and Zeebrugge.
Battle of Megiddo. Commonwealth forces in Palestine rout the Turkish Army and go on to take Damascus and Aleppo. IWM Q 12519.
Battle of Megiddo.
Allied offensive on the Western Front begins. In a series of battles, German forces are driven back across France and Belgium. IWM Q 9639.
Allies' final offensive on the Western Front begins.
24 October – 4 November: Battle of Vittorio Veneto. Italian forces defeat the Austro-Hungarian Army, which suffers 500,000 casualties. IWM Q 26697.
Battle of Vittorio Veneto.
Sailors in the German fleet mutiny.
German fleet mutiny.
Allied victories force Bulgaria, the Ottoman Empire, and Austria-Hungary to sue for peace. After the success of the huge Allied offensive in France and Belgium, Armistice with Germany is signed at Compiègne, bringing hostilities to an end on the Western Front. IWM Q 42481.
Armistice with Germany.