World War I was a global conflict fought between the Central Powers of Germany, Austria-Hungary, the Ottoman Empire and Bulgaria; and the Allies which was a coalition of many nations, most prominently the Great Britain, France, Russia, Japan and Italy. It began on July 28, 1914 and ended on November 11, 1918. The immediate events leading to World War I were the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the presumptive heir of the Austro-Hungarian Empire; and the July Crisis. 1914, the first of four years of WW1, saw many important events. Germany had great success in its initial campaigns but was stopped in its planned invasion of Paris by the Allies; while Austria-Hungary was defeated in its Serbian campaign. Moreover, war began in Africa with the invasion of Togoland by Britain and France; and in Asia with the declaration of war by Japan on Germany. Here is a timeline of events of World War I in 1914.
28: Assassination in Sarajevo
For over a decade now Serbian nationalism is on the ascendancy in the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The revolutionaries are backed by many in Serbia who aim to break off Austria-Hungary’s South Slav provinces and combine them to form Yugoslavia. On 28th June, 1914, Austro-Hungarian heir Archduke Franz Ferdinand is assassinated by Bosnian Serb Gavrilo Princep in the Bosnian capital of Sarajevo. This assassination, carried out by Serbian revolutionary group Black Hand, would spark the Great War.
5: ‘Blank Cheque’ assurance from Germany
A week after the assassination, Austria-Hungary is considering the course of action against Serbia, who have a powerful ally in the Russians. On 5th of July, Kaiser (emperor) Wilhelm II of Germany pledges unconditional support for its ally Austria-Hungary in any action it wants to take against Serbia. This so-called “blank cheque” or “carte blanche“ is pivotal in Austro-Hungarian future approach.
7: Austria-Hungary decides on an Ultimatum for Serbia
On 7th of July, a Council of Joint Ministers in Austria-Hungary decide to present demands on Serbia before any mobilization of the armed forces. It is felt that this provides a proper “juridical basis for a declaration of war”.
23: July Ultimatum is presented to Serbia
Austria-Hungary places a series of ten demands on Serbia in what would be called the July Ultimatum. The demands are made intentionally unacceptable, in an effort to provoke a war. Serbia is given 48 hours to reply.
28: Austria-Hungary declares war on Serbia
On 28th of July, 1914, dissatisfied with Serbia’s answer to Austro-Hungary’s ultimatum, Emperor Franz Joseph of the Austro-Hungarian Empire declares war on Serbia.
30: Russia orders mobilization
Russia has been backing Slav nationalism in the Balkans for decades now. It orders mobilization in support of Serbia on the 30th of July. Tsar Nicholas cannot back down on Serbia but wants to avoid provoking a general war. In a series of letters exchanged with Kaiser Wilhelm of Germany, the two proclaim their desire for peace, and each attempts to get the other to back down.
1: Germany declare war on Russia
With information that Russia is mobilizing, Kaiser Wilhelm II orders mobilization of German troops and declares war on Russia on August 1.
2: France orders full mobilization
France orders mobilization in support of Russia while Germany occupies Luxembourg. On the same day Germany sends an ultimatum is sent to Belgium, demanding right of way through any part of their country.
3: Germany declares war on France
Germany have deployed a modified version of their Schlieffen Plan. It aims to quickly end the French threat on the German western front with flanking maneuvers from Belgium and Luxemburg. On 3rd August 1914, Germany declares war with France.
4: Germany invades Belgium and Britain declares war on Germany
On being denied access through Belgium, Germany invades Belgium. This is a violation of the 1839 Treaty of London, where the Great Powers of Europe including Prussia had guaranteed the neutrality of Belgium. At 7 pm, Britain issues its own ultimatum to Germany demanding a commitment by midnight to end the German offensive in Belgium. The ultimatum is rejected and Britain declares war on Germany at midnight.
6: Austria-Hungary declares war on Russia
Emperor Franz Joseph signs the Austro-Hungarian declaration of war on Russia while Serbia declares war on Germany.
7: Battle of Frontiers begins
The Battle of Frontiers refers to a series of battles fought in Southern Belgium and France in the early stages of WWI. On the 7th of August, the French engage in their first offensive at the Battle of Mulhouse, which marks the beginning of the Battle of Frontiers. The battles would continue for close to a month and will be highly successful for the Germans.
9: Invasion of Togoland in Africa
The French and the British launch an invasion on the German colony of Togoland in West Africa.
11: France declares war on Austria-Hungary
12: Great Britain declares war on Austria-Hungary
15 – 19: Battle of Cer
The first battle in the Austro-Hungarian invasion of Serbia begins on the midnight of August 15. After a fierce four-day battle, the Austro-Hungarians were forced to retreat with 23,000 casualties and the Allies have their first victory in WWI.
17: Russia invades Germany
The Russians have agreed with the French to attack Germany within 15 days of mobilization. Two Russian armies invade Germany on the 17th entering East Prussia.
23: Japan declares war on Germany
On the 15th of August, 1914, Japan issued an ultimatum to Germany, asking it to withdraw its warships from Chinese and Japanese waters and transfer control of Tsingtao to Japan. The warning was ignored and, on the 23rd, Japan declares war on Germany.
23: Battle of Galicia begins
The battle of Galicia refers to a series of battles in the Austro-Hungarian offensive in Russian Poland in the early stages of war. The first maneuvers under the Austro-Hungarian I and IV army were successful. However, on the southern front, Russian III and VIII Army completely rout the Austro-Hungarians forcing them out of Galicia and occupying Lemberg by mid-September 1914.
26: German troops surrender the colony of Togoland
After delaying the invasion for several days and fighting battles at Agbeluvhoe and Chra, German defenders surrender the colony of Togoland.
26 – 30: Battle of Tannenberg
The German VIII Army faces off with the Russian II Army in the Battle of Tannenberg, resulting in a catastrophic defeat of the Russians.
5: World’s first naval-launched air raids
Japan’s seaplane carrier Wakamiya conducts the world’s first naval launched air raids from Kiaochow Bay off Tsingtao, which is located in China.
5 – 12: First Battle of Marne
The First Battle of Marne marks the end of a series of battle victories for the Germans in the Battle of Frontiers. A counter-attack by six French armies and the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) along the Marne River forces the Imperial German Army to retreat. The Allied victory is a strategic failure of the Schlieffen plan which aimed at quickly defeating France on Germany’s western front.
7 – 14: First Battle of Masurian Lake
The German Eighth Army under Paul von Hindenburg invades Russian First and Second Armies in the First Battle of Masurian Lake. The Eighth Army is highly successful and hands a catastrophic defeat to the Russians effectively ejecting all Russian troops from German soil.
14: Change of command in Germany
The health of German Chief of General Staff Helmuth von Moltke the Younger fails after defeat in the First Battle of Marne. He is thus replaced by Erich von Falkenhayn.
16: Siege of Przemyśl begins
As the Austro-Hungarians fall back to the Carpathian Mountains in the Russian invasion, the fortress at Przemyśl is the only Austrian post that has held out. It is now completely behind Russian lines and besieged.
17: Race to the Sea begins
On the Western Front, Allied forces are engaged with the Germans in the Battle of the Aisne. By the 17th both the armies begin what is called as the “Race to the Sea”; reciprocal attempts are made by the both the armies to advance the northern flank of the enemy through the provinces of Picardy, Artois and Flanders.
19: First Battle of Ypres begins
The race to the sea ends as the Germans and the Allies approach the North Sea and face each other in the First Battle of Ypres.
28: Battle of Penang
German cruiser SMS Emden sinks 2 Allied ships in the Strait of Malacca.
29: Ottomans enter WWI with Black Sea Raid
The Ottoman Empire, with help from the Germans, conduct a naval sortie against Russian ports in the Black Sea. This marks the entry of the Ottoman Empire in World War I.
31: The siege of Tsingtao begins
The port of Tsingtao in China is the home base of German Navy’s East Asia Squadron. In the first Anglo Japanese operation of WWI the port is put under a siege.
1: Russia declares war on the Ottoman Empire
Following the attack on its Black Sea ports, Russia declares war on the Ottoman Empire. Ottoman forces will fight the Entente in the Balkans and the Middle Eastern theater of World War I.
1: Battle of Coronel
East Asia Squadron of the Imperial German Navy led by Vice-Admiral Graf Maximilian von Spee defeats the British Royal Navy squadron, off the coast of Chile.
2: Serbia declares war on the Ottoman Empire
5: The French and the British declare war on the Ottoman Empire
7: The siege of Tsingtao ends in a German defeat
16: Battle of Kolubara commences
In the September “Battle of Drina”, Austro-Hungarian Sixth Army was able to get a foothold in Serbia. The Battle of Kolubara begins on the 16 of November when the Austro-Hungarians under the command of Oskar Potiorek reach the Kolubara River. The battle will continue for a month.
22: Battle of Ypres ends
Fought in November-December of 1914 in West Flanders, Belgium, the Battle of Ypres ended in a bloody stalemate and marked the beginning of trench warfare along the Western Front of WWI. The Western Front thus became a continuous trench system of more than 400 miles (640 km) from the North Sea coast of Belgium to the northern Swiss border.
8: Battle of the Falkland Islands
After the defeat at Coronel, Britain sends a large force to destroy the victorious German cruiser squadron. As German Admiral Spree’s plans to raid the British supply base at Stanley in the Falkland Islands, the British fleet is awaiting him. On the 8th of December, the Royal Navy under Admiral Sir John Fisher hands a catastrophic defeat to the Germans fleet.
16: Battle of Kolubara ends
The Battle of Kolubara ends in a Serbian victory. The Austro-Hungarians are firstly forced to retreat to Belgrade and then to abandon the city between the 14th and 15th. Both sides suffer heavy casualties but the defeat is a big blow for Austria-Hungary, which had hoped to occupy Serbia by the end of 1914.
17: First Battle of Artois begins
The French assault against the Germans begins on the Western Front. It’s the first offensive move by either side on this front after the Battle of Ypres in October November.
20: First Battle of Champagne begins
A battle begins in the Champagne region of France on the southern flank of the western frontier. This is three days after the Battle of Artois on the northern flank; being the second offensive by the Allies to break the deadlock on the western front since mobile warfare has ended in the Battle of Ypres.
22: Battle of Sarikamish begins
The Ottoman offensive and invasion of the Russian Caucasus is met with resistance near the town of Sarikamish.