World War I

world war

The long-simmering tensions of an increasingly crowded world boiled over into a global conflict. By its end, the Central Powers (Austria-Hungary, Germany, Bulgaria and the Ottoman Empire) had been defeated and the Triple Entente – Great Britain, France and Russia – had emerged as the dominant force in Europe. The war sowed the seeds for a second and even deadlier world war just two decades later. It also introduced new weapons of destruction, such as tanks, battleships and military aircraft. It also ushered in the age of mass citizen armies as governments conscripted millions of men to serve their countries in wartime.

The war begins when the assassination of Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand by a Serbian nationalist fanatic sparks a regional conflict between Austria and Serbia, triggering a chain reaction that draws in most of Europe’s major powers including Britain’s massive empire which includes India, Australia and parts of Africa. In April 1917 the previously isolationist United States joins the fight, mainly motivated by the fear of German submarines attacking American shipping in the Atlantic.

As the conflict enters its final years the Allies win significant victories at sea, especially in the battle of Midway which significantly weakens Japanese naval power. The USA begins an escalating air campaign against the enemy homeland and introduces strategic bombing to the conflict. The British are forced to evacuate the occupied low countries in an epic operation which becomes known as the “Dunkirk Miracle”. In November 1942 at Stalingrad a German army is cut off and destroyed by a massive Soviet encirclement under Montgomery. The Commonwealth forces defeat the Italians in Abyssinia and Somaliland with TORCH.