Two of the bloodiest battles of the First World War are fought on the Western Front in 1916. These are the Battle of Verdun and the Battle of Somme. They result in around 2 million casualties but still the stalemate on the Western Front continues. On the Eastern Front, General Aleksei Brusilov of Russia leads the highly successful Brusilov Offensive against the Central Powers. It achieves its goal of halting the German attack at Verdun on the Western Front as they have to send divisions to the Eastern Front. Other important events of WW1 in 1916 include end of the Gallipoli Campaign in favor of the Ottoman Empire; the Battle of Jutland, the largest naval conflict of the First World War; and the beginning of the Arab Revolt in the Ottoman Empire. Here is a timeline of events in World War I which took place in 1916.
5: Austria-Hungary invade Montenegro
As Serbia retreat to Albania, the Austro-Hungarian forces from southern Bosnia-Herzegovina threaten to cut off the Serb escape routes over the Albanian mountains to the coast. It is here when their allies in Montenegro help to cover this retreat by holding off Austrian forces. In retribution Austro-Hungarians invade Montenegro in early January 1916.
9: The Gallipoli campaign ends
After almost a year of effort to get a stronghold in the Gallipoli peninsula, the Allies finally decide to evacuate, giving the Ottomans a major victory in World War I.
10: Battle of Erzurum begins
The Imperial Russian Army begin a major winter offensive against the Ottomans in an attempt to capture the strategic city of Erzurum.
25: Montenegrin Army surrendered to the Austrians
27: United Kingdom introduces conscription
The United Kingdom has been the only European State with a voluntary army. Almost a year and a half into the war and with volunteers drying up, the government decides to introduce conscription under the Military Service Act.
16: The Erzurum offensive ends
Ottoman forces, in winter quarters, suffer a series of unexpected reverses and the Russians emerge victorious. The Russians are now into the Trebizond Campaign as the next logical step.
21: Battle of Verdun begins
German 5th Army attacks the French defensive positions on the hills north of Verdun-sur-Meuse in north-eastern France. The longest and most devastating battle of the First World War begins.
1: U Boats in support of the High Seas fleet
German Navy returns to a strategy of using the U-boats to erode the Grand Fleet’s numerical superiority. The strategy involves the High Seas fleet maneuvering to lure the Grand Fleet into a U-boat trap.
9: Portugal enters World War I
Britain is an important market for Portuguese products, Portugal though neutral, is aligned with its own interests. In February 1916, Portugal complies with the British request to confiscate the German ships interned in Portuguese ports. This invites a German declaration of war on Portugal and its entry in the First World War.
10: Germany suspends its U Boat strategy
After several operations bear little success in March and April, Germany suspends its submarine operations.
16: Sykes-Picot Agreement is signed
A secret agreement is signed between United Kingdom and France, to which the Russian Empire assents. The agreement concerns the division of territory in the Middle East after the downfall of the Ottoman Empire.
31: Battle of Jutland
The only major naval surface engagement of the First World War involving 250 ships and close to 100,000 men takes place off Denmark’s North Sea coast. The German High Seas Fleet under Admiral Reinhard Scheer takes on the British Grand Fleet in the Skagerrak (Jutland). Both sides claim victory as the British lose more ships and twice as many sailors but succeed in containing the German fleet.
4: Brusilov Offensive begins
The battle of Lutsk marks the beginning of the largest and most successful Allied offensive in World War I. Fought on the Eastern front in present day Ukraine between Russia and the Central Powers, the offensive takes its name after the commander who led it, General Aleksei Brusilov.
5: Arab Revolt begins in Hejaz
Forces commanded by Hussein ibn Ali’s (Sharif of Mecca) sons Ali and Feisal, attack the Ottoman garrison at Medina in an attempt to seize the holy city and its railway station. This marks the beginning of the Arab revolt in the Ottoman Empire.
10: Siege of Medina begins
One of the longest sieges in history begins when Sharif Hussain, the Hashemite ruler of Mecca captures Mecca, and lays siege to Medina with the help of the Allied powers. Ottoman commander and governor of Medina, Fahreddin Pasha, is the defender of Medina. The siege will last for more than 2 and a half years until 1919, a time when WWI is over.
1: Battle of Somme begins
On the western front the British and French begin the Somme offensive. This first great British offensive in WWI, would cost them more than 57,000 casualties on the very first day. The battle would go down among the bloodiest fought in military history.
4: Arabs capture the city of Mecca
27: Romania enter the war on the side of the Entente
After the death of King Carol in 1914, Romania’s latest King Ferdinand and its political elite favored the Entente. The Allies wanted Romania to join its side in order to cut the rail communications between Germany and Turkey, and to cut off Germany’s oil supplies. Romania on the other hand eyed the territory of Transylvania and its 3,000,000 Romanians which were under the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The Romanians thus sign a treaty with the Allies on 17th August and declare war on the 27th.
28: Italy declares war on Germany
29: Paul von Hindenburg replaces Erich von Falkenhayn as German Chief of Staff
In view of the unsatisfactory results at Verdun, coupled with reverses on the Eastern Front, German Commander in Chief Erick von Falkenhayn is replaced by Paul von Hindenburg.
20: Brusilov Offensive ends
The Brusilov offensive is a resounding Russian success on the Eastern Front and achieves its goal of halting the German attack at Verdun on the Western Front.
18: Battle of Somme ends in a stalemate
The battle near the Somme River ends without any conclusive result. More than three million men have fought over four and a half months in the battle, and one million men are wounded or killed on both sides; making it one of the bloodiest battles in human history.
21: Francis Joseph I, Emperor of Austria, and King of Hungary dies, and is succeeded by Karl I
13: Robert Nivelle replaces Joseph Joffre as Commander-in-Chief of the French Army
Disappointing results of the Anglo-French offensive on the Somme in 1916 and the costly stalemate on the Western Front has depreciated the position of Joseph Joffre in French political circles. He is replaced as the Commander-in-Chief of the French Army by Robert Nivelle.
18: Battle of Verdun ends
The longest battle of the First World War ends in another stalemate. No tactical or strategic advantage has been gained by either side with French suffering an estimated 550,000 casualties and the German losses at 434,000.