A Brief History
World War I (and the revolutions that occurred during it) was without any doubt one of the largest, deadliest, and most significant war in human history. It was also not without its more bizarre and epic moments…
On October 9, 1911, an accidental bomb explosion in China lead to the ultimate fall of China’s last imperial dynasty.
World War I
On July 28, 1914, the Austro-Hungarian Empire declared war on Serbia, starting World War I. When a Serbian nationalist assassinated the Archduke (heir to the throne) of the Austrian empire to protest Austro-Hungarian occupation of Serbian territory, he never could have seen the incredible consequences of the worst war in human history (until World War II).
On August 12, 1914, World War I was merely 2 weeks old and apparently the German and Belgian armies did not yet realize the futility of using mounted cavalry in an age of rapid firing repeating rifles and automatic machine guns.
On August 17, 1914, the World War I Battle of Stallupönen was fought between the Imperial German army and the Imperial Russian army near Nesterov, Russia.
On August 25, 1914, during the opening stages of World War I German soldiers burned the Library of the Catholic University of Leuven in Belgium, destroying a treasure of ancient, Medieval, and Renaissance works.
On December 24, 1914, British and German soldiers facing each other across No Man’s Land in the trenches of World War I confounded their superiors by leaving their trenches and walking out to meet and greet their enemies in a spirit of Christmas brotherhood.
On January 24, 1915, the British Royal Navy Grand Fleet fought a sizable naval engagement against elements of the German Imperial High Seas Fleet in the North Sea at an area called Dogger Bank.
On January 31, 1915, the German Army, in violation of the 1899 Hague Declaration Concerning Asphyxiating Gases, launched 18,000 artillery shells containing xylyl bromide tear gas against Russian positions, the first truly large scale use of poison gas in combat.
On March 18, 1915, the Allied naval operation at the Dardanelles, the straits that provide entry to the Black Sea from the Mediterranean, ended in one of the worst defeats of the British Royal Navy when 3 battleships were lost and another 4 capital ships were seriously damaged.
On March 27, 1915, the woman history has come to know as Typhoid Mary was placed into involuntary quarantine for the rest of her life!
On April 22, 1915, the Imperial German Army used chlorine gas in large quantities for the first time at Ypres, in Belgium, targeting French colonial troops.
On July 24, 1915, the SS Eastland, a passenger ship only 265 feet long and 38 feet wide, rolled over while tied up at dock, killing 848 people, the greatest loss of life in any Great Lakes maritime disaster.
On July 25, 1915, the somewhat appropriately named Lanoe Hawker became the first British aviator to shoot down 3 enemy planes in 1 day, earning himself the Victoria Cross.
August 12, 1915 marks the date of a story – which is not actually just a simple story – which tells of the vanishing of a group of British soldiers during the now infamous Gallipoli campaign, World War One.
On August 29, 1915, US Navy salvage crews raised the submarine, F-4, from the seabed off Honolulu where she had sunk with all hands on March 25, 1915, the first USN sub lost and another in a long list of Naval “Oops Moments.”
On September 30, 1915, the aviation world achieved a milestone of sorts when the first incident of a combat airplane being shot down by ground fire took place over Serbia.
On July 1, 1916, the five month Battle of the Somme began with horrific results for the British Army, leaving 19,240 men dead on the battlefield and another 36,230 wounded on only the first day!
On August 2, 1916, Austrian saboteurs managed to sink the Italian battleship, Leonardo da Vinci as the great ship lay in Taranto harbor.
On November 21, 1916, the new and improved version of the Titanic became the largest ship sunk during World War I!
On November 21, 1916, in the waters of the Aegean Sea near the Island of Kea, the British hospital ship HMHS Britannic struck a naval mine and sank, becoming the largest vessel sunk during World War I.
On December 29, 1916, possibly the most cracked clergyman of all time finally met his doom, having been poisoned, shot, and drowned, thereby rivaling Blackbeard for the claim of bearded bad-ass who most went out “like a boss”!
On September 23, 1917, Imperial Germany lost one of its greatest flying aces when Leutnant Werner Voss was shot down and killed over West Flanders, outnumbered 8 to 1 and refusing to run!
On October 31, 1917, during World War I, the war that brought the mass use of machine guns, armored vehicles, airplanes and poison gas into warfare, a singular battle stands out as an anachronism when the British Egyptian Expeditionary Force sent infantry and cavalry units against the Yildirim Army Group (Ottoman Turks and Germans) defending the town of Beersheba in the Negev region of what is now Israel.
On November 20, 1917, a combined Allied offensive (British and French) stepped off against the Germans at Cambrai, France (Nord Department).
On January 9, 1918, in Southern Arizona near the border with Mexico at a place called Bear Valley, one of the last battles of the American Indian Wars (1540-1924) was fought.
On January 31, 1918, Britain’s Royal Navy “fought” a battle with itself in the Scottish Firth of Forth near the Isle of May, a series of naval accidents in the dark and the mist that led to the loss of 104 British sailors killed.
On February 5, 1918, American US Army soldier Stephen W. Thompson while flying as a machine gunner in a French airplane shot down a German aircraft, the first ever air to air combat victory by an American member of the US Military.
On March 4, 1918, the USS Cyclops kept a date with destiny!
On April 20, 1918, Baron Manfred von Richtofen shot down the last enemy airplanes of his short but spectacular career.
On April 24, 1918, at the Second Battle of Villers-Bretonneux in Northern France, 3 British tanks met 3 German tanks in the first known instance of tank vs. tank combat in military history.
On June 1, 1918, the Battle of Belleau Wood began in France near the River Marne.
On June 22, 1918, a passenger train carrying US military troops plowed into the rear end of the Hagenbeck-Wallace Circus train that had stopped on the tracks for repairs.
On August 8, 1918, the Allied offensive known as the “Hundred Days Offensive” began with the start of the Battle of Amiens.
On August 13, 1918, Opha Mae Johnson became the first of 305 women that proved it is true, women can do and be anything when they enlisted in the United States Marine Corps Women’s Reserve, the first female Marines in US history.
On October 8, 1918, United States Corporal Alvin C. York killed 28 German soldiers and captured 132 in France’s Argonne Forest during World War I making York one of America’s most decorated soldiers of the war.
On October 8, 1918, 2nd Lt. Ralph Talbot of Massachusetts earned the coveted Medal of Honor, the highest American military honor.
On November 9, 1918, in the face of catastrophic defeat after 4 years of debilitating war, Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany abdicated his throne and went into exile in the Netherlands.
On November 11, 1918, Germany signed an armistice agreement with the Allies in a railroad car in the forest of Compiègne, France, officially ending fighting at the eleventh hour on the eleventh day in the eleventh month, but fighting did not actually end at that exact time and nor did the war!
On December 28, 1918, Constance Markievicz, while an inmate in Holloway prison, London, England, made history as the first woman elected to British House of Commons as a Member of Parliament (MP).
On June 21, 1919, the reactionary establishment of the city of Winnipeg, the province of Manitoba, and the federal government of Canada overreacted to a peaceful labor strike and attacked striking workers (largely war veterans) with the Royal Northwest Mounted Police.
On July 19, 1919, England celebrated Peace Day in honor of winning World War I.
On August 25, 1920, the Polish army prevailed over the Russian-Soviet army at The Battle of Warsaw, actually a series of battles that the Poles would later call their victory “a miracle.”
On August 28, 1921, the Red Army disbanded the Ukrainian Makhnovshchina, an anarchist free Ukrainian territory in the Ukraine.
On October 25, 1924, the Daily Mail, a London based British newspaper, published a fake letter called “the Zinoviev letter,” a letter said to be from Grigory Zinoviev, a Moscow based leader of the Communist International.
On October 7, 1925, baseball great and Hall of Fame pitcher Christy Mathewson died of tuberculosis brought on by a weakening of his respiratory system due to accidental exposure to poison gas during World War I.
On June 17, 1932, 17,000 United States military veterans of World War I and 25,000 of their friends and family gathered in Washington, D.C. to demand early payment of their service certificate war bonuses.
On September 23, 1968, a World War I veteran eventually canonized as a saint passed away…after having apparently endured the stigmata for several years!
On August 27, 1982, far away from Anatolia, Justice Commandos of the Armenian Genocide killed Turkish diplomat Atilla Altıkat in Ottawa, Ontario, as vengeance for the Armenian Genocide of 1915.
On August 24, 1994, an extraordinary American warrior was commissioned a second lieutenant in the US Air Force. Eugene Bullard, born in Columbus, Georgia in 1895 had fought in World War I for the French Foreign Legion, and in 1917 became the first ever African-American to be a military pilot, one of only 2 pilots of African origin in World War I.
On August 23, 2007, the bodies of the remaining Romanov family members were found near Yekaterinburg, Russia, the remains being mere skeletons.
On February 27, 2011, World War I veteran Frank Buckles died at 110 years old, just one of the many cracked things about his life!
Question for students (and subscribers): Which event from the timeline above did you find most interesting and why? Please let us know in the comments section below this article.
Your readership is much appreciated!
For more information, please see…
Massie, Robert K. and Barbara W. Tuchman. The Guns of August: The Pulitzer Prize-Winning Classic About the Outbreak of World War I. Presidio Press, 2004.
Remarque, Erich Maria and A W. Wheen. All Quiet on the Western Front. Ballantine Books, 1987.
Trumbo, Dalton. Johnny Got His Gun. Bantam, 1984.