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on 3 July 2014

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What is a World War?
"It is a war involving many large nations in all different parts of the world. "
Was World War 1 truly global? Were all countries involved?
Here's a map of the world!

Green countries indicate that the particular country fought for the , the "good side", or the "side that won". But nobody really wins a war.
Allied Powers
Countries in orange fought for the
Central Powers
, who lost.
So how did all of this start?
Here we have a map of Europe in 1914.
Central Powers
Allied Powers
This is inaccurate because Italy switched sides several times throughout the war. But we'll get to that later.
At the time, Austria and Hungary were combined to form one giant country called the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and the heir to their throne was Archduke Franz Ferdinand.
Sound familiar?
June 28, 1914 - the Archduke arrives in a small country called Bosnia & Herzegovina, visits the capital (Sarajevo)...
and is assassinated.
A 17-year old member of the Serbian nationalist group, the Black Hand, was sent there to assassinate him. His name was .
Gavrilo Princip
The people of Austria-Hungary didn't really like the heir to their throne, so it didn't matter much to them. But, since they were worried about Serbian influence in the Balkans, they decided to use this assassination as an excuse to crush the Serbian nationalist movement once and for all.
The Balkans
"Austria Ready to Attack Serbia, Sends Ultimatum"
Austria-Hungary wanted to make sure Serbia didn't have any influence in the Balkans
They delivered an extremely unreasonable ultimatum to Serbia, in hopes that the country would refuse it and declare war instead
Serbia complied to most of the ultimatum's demands
Austria-Hungary declared that the clauses which Serbia did not accept were reason enough to declare war on the small country
Now for the confusing part!
Austria-Hungary declares war on Serbia.
Russia signed a treaty promising to help the country if it was ever in need, and declares war on Austria-Hungary.
Germany signed a treaty agreeing to help Austria-Hungary if she was ever outnumbered and joins in by declaring war on Russia.
France, bound by treaty to Russia, finds itself at war with Germany and by extension, Austria-Hungary.
Germany invades Belgium in order to get to France quickly as part of their Schlieffen Plan (we will talk about this later). Belgium is neutral, but...
asks Britain for help. Due to moral obligation to help France and a 75-year old treaty to defend Belgium, she declares war on Germany, and by extension, Austria-Hungary.
This is where Canada comes in! As one of Britain's colonies, we were also pulled into the fray the moment Britain declared war.
Central Powers
Allied Powers
The German Empire
The Ottoman Empire



The British Empire
& Her Colonies


United States (1917 onwards)

It was an extreme case of "one thing lead to another"...
A German newspaper article.
"Allgemeine Mobiliesierung" means "General Mobilization".
Now that you've got the basics, let me introduce you to the Schlieffen Plan. Don't blink or you'll miss it!
Developed by Count Albert von Schlieffen and modified by Helmuth von Moltke
It was essentially a large revolving door designed to swing shut on France
In the 1800s, France had lost a large piece of territory to the German Empire as a part of the Franco-Prussian war (Prussia = before Germany was even a country, it was a collection of small states)
This piece of land was extremely fertile and was valued as good farmland
Called Alsace-Lorraine, the Germans figured that if they invaded France from Belgium (which is a small country, so they didn't expect much resistance), France would retaliate by invading Germany's southern portion - which just happens to be Alsace-Lorraine.
They would then drive through Belgium and cut into France at a southwesterly direction, heading straight for Paris.
Once they got to the capital, they would swing east and close the door shut on the French Army, which would probably be too preoccupied with fighting in Alsace-Lorraine
The German Army would then encircle the French Army and force them to surrender
In addition, this would all be performed in exactly six weeks, the time that it takes for Russia to mobilize.
If the plan succeeded, Germany will have eliminated their largest enemy in the west and would be able to focus their troops and resources on Russia instead of fighting on two fronts.
It failed. Why???
1. The Belgians put up more of a fight than they originally expected.
2. Speedy Russian Counterattacks (the Russians still lost).
The Battles of Tannenberg and Masurian Lakes annihilated most of the Russian Army and forced a surrender. These battles did force Germany to take away troops in France for this cause.
3. A French counterattack on occupied Paris (Battle of the Marne).
Three important people to keep in mind!
Helmuth von Moltke - he put the Schlieffen Plan into action and modified it. His last words were actually, "Remember to keep the right flank strong,", in relation to the Schlieffen Plan.
Erich Ludendorff and Paul von Hindenburg
They were the German generals who caused the Russian surrender, but unfortunately took troops from the right flank of the armies in France in order to defeat Russia. This made the right flank weaker, and the French started beating the Germans back on the Western Front.
Static Warfare
After the Schlieffen Plan failed, the Germans and the French formed defensive lines to form what we call the Western Front. Each side tried to outflank the other, and that made the lines longer and longer until they reached the coastline.
This was called "The Race to the Sea", and was where trench warfare was first introduced and developed.
An aerial view of a series of German trenches.
Note that they run in zigzags, more prominently at the front than at the back. These twists absorb the shock from bombs, artillery shells, and gunfire, ensuring that the explosions are contained in one sector of the trench and do not travel as much as they would if the trench was dug in a straight line.
Trenches were notoriously dirty, crowded, and smelly places. They served as homes for many soldiers, and diseases spread easily. Food was scarce, and much of it was eaten by rats and crows, which were attracted to the smell of rotting flesh and corpses of those who had fallen ill or died. Trenches were reinforced with sandbags, logs, and hard earth, and dugouts would be constructed as shelter from bombs or shellfire.
Trench foot was a problem that plagued many soldiers. When exposed to damp, unsanitary and cold conditions, soldiers' feet would become numb and start to decay.
The Second Battle of Ypres
took place on the first week of April 1915, with the French, British, and Canadians against the Germans
Near the town of Ypres in France, where the Allied Powers' line formed a salient (a slight bulge) into German lines
The first use of chlorine gas in history
The Germans released 160 tons of chlorine gas, which wafted slowly across to the French lines
They didn't know what it was, and by the time soldiers figured out it was poisonous, already 6,000 French colonial troops had been lost
The Germans gained a lot of ground, trying to exploit a hole in the Allied lines
the Canadians were the only ones able to offer any resistance, as other troops had already succumbed to the gas or fled
They urinated in their socks, and the ammonia counteracted the poisonous gas, allowing them to fight on
The Canadians were able to hold the line, and for our sacrifices there is a memorial dedicated to our troops in the town of St. Julien.
The Battle of the Somme
Was an attack on German defenses organized by the Allies to take pressure off of the French, who were fighting a bitter battle surrounded in the castle of Verdun
British called for an assault which resulted in the largest massacre of British troops in one day - 57, 550 casualties
All of the officers who "went over the top" (the top of the trench, referring to an attack on the enemy trench line) were either killed or wounded
Lasted from July to November 1916, also where the Allies' newest weapon, the tank, made its debut (British Mark 1 Male)
Gave Canadian units a formidable reputation
As British Prime Minister Lloyd George wrote, "The Canadians played a part of such distinction that thenceforward they were marked out as shock troops; for the remainder of the war they were brought along to head the assault in one great battle after another. Whenever the Germans found the Canadian Corps coming into the line they prepared for the worst."
So how does Canada play a role in all of this?
The Battle of Vimy Ridge
When all four divisions of the Canadian Expeditionary Force fought together as a whole, representing their country
Seen today as a symbol of unity and nationalistic pride and sacrifice
A week before the attack, every single piece of artillery at the Canadian Forces' disposal opened up fire on the German lines - which demolished most of the German trenches and sapped their morale
The Germans came to call this "the week of suffering"
Employed what is called a creeping barrage, where soldiers advanced right behind their own artillery fire, which formed a protective wall in front of them and prevented the enemy from getting up and firing
Units would leapfrog over one another, holding a defensive line, allowing another unit to move further forward, and then moving in front of them
Each unit would clear up any remaining enemy resistance so the attacking unit would not have to worry about being shot in the back
This required precise timing and coordination with troops
Objective was to take out and seize a German-held escarpment on high ground
Took place from the 9 to 12 of April, 1917
The Battle of Passchendaele
After months of fighting, the Passchendaele ridge still hadn't been captured
Sir Douglas Haig, the commander-in-chief of the BEF, ordered the Canadians to deliver
The Canadians occupied the same positions as they had done in April 1915, nothing on the front had changed much
The attack was to be carried out in a series of three attacks at various intervals, with several days' break in between in order to resupply and relieve each division
These three stages were completed between October 26 and November 10
They worked in close conjunction with the ANZAC, which were tasked to protect their right flank, but miscommunications prolonged the attack
The battlefield was boggy, muddy and covered in water-filled shell craters, which slowed down attacking forces
Passchendaele is remembered as the lowest point in the British war effort, and represents one of the most costly battles of the Western Front
15,654 Canadians were killed trying to take the ridge
"I died in hell - they called it Passchendaele" - Siegfried Sassoon, British poet
Hundred Days Offensive
Final push to drive the Germans out of occupied territories
Does not actually refer to an Allied operation or strategy, but simply represents the rapid series of victories the Allies saw after the Battle of Amiens
The Canadians saw action in several areas throughout August to November 1918
Participated in the Battle of Arras, which in Ludendorff's words was a "black day for the German Army", morale was badly shaken
On September 27, the Canadians finally broke through the Hindenburg Line, the last set of German defenses
The last Canadian to be killed was George Lawrence Price, two minutes before the armistice on November 11, 1918
He is traditionally recognized as the last soldier to be killed in the First World War
The Treaty of Versailles
It was a peace treaty signed on the 28 of June, 1919, exactly 5 years after the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand. This was one of the many treaties signed between the Allied Powers and the Central Powers - the Treaty of Versailles ended the state of war between only Germany and the Allies.
However, it is the most famous, as it blames the entire war on Germany (Article 231, War Guilt clause). Germany was forced to disarm, hand over all its colonies, and surrender parts of its territory to the winning side. In addition, Germany would also pay reparations to some of the countries that formed the Allied Powers.
The Treaty of Versailles forced Germany to pay 132 billion Marks, the equivalent of about 493 billion Canadian dollars today. Evidently, Germany was not able to repay this amount in time and fell into an economic depression. Public discontent paved the way for the National Socialist German Workers Party's rise in the 1930s.
Some of the many demands made in the Treaty of Versailles were:
An evacuation of German troops from Belgium, France and Luxembourg
Allied occupation of the Rhineland (a region of Germany) for fifteen years
A cancellation of the Treaty of Best-Litovsk (when Germany won against Russia and took some of its land)
Parts of Germany given away to Belgium, Poland, France (Alsace-Lorraine is returned), the Czech Republic and Norway
By far the most outrageous and controversial demand made by the Allies was the restriction of Germany's military to 100, 000 men, 15 000 naval personnel and no air force to ensure that they never reached their full potential again. This proved to be disastrous, as a national military the size of a police force could hardly control the riots and street fights that broke out, which eventually lead to confusion, failed uprisings, and finally the National Socialist takeover of the government.
Do you think the Treaty of Versailles was fair?
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