Major Battles Of World War 1 (WW1)

While the Great War did not prove to be the war to end all wars, it did deliver unprecedented devastation as well as a new generation of contemporary military technologies. The combat in World War I between the world’s main nations opened up new frontiers in international conflict. Numerous atrocities were committed during World War I, which lasted from 1914 to 1918. The following are the top ten major battles of World War 1.

The assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in 1918 by 19-year-old Gavrilo Princip is widely regarded as the cause for the outbreak of the war. Throughout the conflict, horrible battles were fought between the world’s great nations, fights exacerbated by the relatively new advent of the machine gun. This article looks at some of the war’s engagements that had long-lasting consequences.

World War 1
World War 1

10. Battle of Tannenberg (August of 1914)

Tannenberg was fought between Russian and German soldiers in August 1914. It is notable for being the war’s first action on the Eastern Front. Grand Duke Nicholas headed the Russian army, which had come to the aid of French soldiers under attack by the Germans. Although the Russian army was expected to win by a landslide owing to being larger and more powerful, the Germans won. By the end of the month, the Germans had captured 92,000 prisoners and destroyed half of Russia’s second army. The Germans turned on General Rennenkampf’s army in September and pushed it out of East Prussia.

The Russians lost around 250,000 men and military assets. The only positive result of the Battle of Tannenberg was that the Germans were diverted from attacking France. During the First Battle of Marne, this allowed the French to mount a counter-attack.

9. First Battle of Marne (September of 1914)

In September 1914, the First Battle of Marne signalled the end of the German advance into France and the beginning of trench warfare, which became synonymous with World War One. Germany’s Field Marshal Alfried Von Schlieffen devised a scheme to capture France by striking from Lille. The army would then go west along the English Channel before turning south to cut off the French evacuation. If the plan worked, German troops would encircle and conquer Paris from the north. A French advance in Lorraine, however, caused the Germans to counter-attack, forcing the French to retire behind a built barrier. The French defensive was strengthened, and reinforcements were sent to the left wing. After the departure of 11 divisions to battle in Belgium and East Prussia, the German northern wing forces were depleted.

When General Alex von Kluck’s German 1st Army targeted targets north of Paris, they had to move via the Marne Valley, exposing themselves. On September 3rd, French General Joseph Joffre ordered a halt to the French withdrawal, but three days later he reinforced the left flank and began an offensive. General Kluck was compelled to pause his advance in order to bolster his weak flank at Meaux. On September 9th, when the German ambassador, Bernhard Bullow, learned that the British army was advancing between his 2nd and 1st armies, he ordered Kluck’s forces to evacuate. The First Battle of the Marne was the outcome of a counterattack by the 5th and 6th French and British armies. The battle-weary Germans, deprived of supplies, were forced to retire completely by the 11th of September, retreating north along the Lower Aisne River. It was a huge strategic success for France to save Paris from German control and force them 45 kilometres away, allowing them to continue the war.

8. Battle of Gallipoli (1915-1916)

In 1915-1916, combined British, French, Indian, New Zealand, Australian, and Canadian forces launched the eight-month-long Battle of Gallipoli to destroy Turkish Ottoman Empire forces that aided Germany. The British and their allies planned to sail a vast navy through the Dardanelles, a 65-mile maritime corridor connecting the Mediterranean to Istanbul, the Ottoman metropolis they sought to conquer. The purpose of the strategy was to force the Ottoman Empire to submit. The tactic failed miserably, in part due to the allies’ antiquated fleet, and numerous ships were sunk by Ottoman fire and mines.

58,000 Allied soldiers were killed in the Battle of Gallipoli. There were 29,000 British and Irish troops, together with 11,000 Australian and New Zealand troops. Over 100,000 Ottoman Turkish soldiers were also slain, with approximately 300,000 injured men on both sides. Mel Gibson’s 1981 film Gallipoli immortalised the Gallipoli campaign. As a result of the Ottoman victory, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk rose to prominence as lieutenant colonel of the 19th Turkish division. He was called the founding father of the present Turkish Republic in 1923.

7. Battle of Jutland (Spring of 1916)

The combat of Jutland, often regarded as the biggest naval combat of the First World War, took place on May 31st and 1st, 1916, pitting the British against the German fleet’s so-called “dreadnought” battleships. It was a horrific war involving 250 ships and over 100,000 troops. The battle was fought in the North Sea, where German Admiral Reinhard Scheer hoped to entice both Admiral Sir David Beatty’s Battlecruiser Force and Admiral Sir John Jellicoe’s Grand Fleet into the combat. Scheer’s plan was to destroy Beatty’s force before Jellicoe arrived. According to Imperial War Museum archives, this was avoided because the British were informed by their code-breakers and dispatched their troops early.  Those first encounters between Beatty’s force and German high seas fleet caused losses of several ships.

Beatty’s flagship, the HMS Lion, as well as the HMS Indefatigable and the HMS Queen Mary, were all sunk by the Germans. When German shots impacted their ammunition store, they detonated. In the face of defeat, Beatty fled until Jellicoe arrived with the main fleet. Outgunned Germans retreated to their motherland. The British lost 14 ships and had 6000 casualties, while the Germans lost 11 ships and had over 2500 casualties. After then, the Germans never really threatened British control in the North Sea. It also ensured British control of the sea lanes, allowing Britain to establish a blockade that ultimately to Germany’s defeat in 1918. Several films have been produced on the Battle of Jutland, the most recent of which broadcast on the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) in 2016.

6. Battle of Verdun (1916)

The Battle of Verdun, which began on February 21st and finished on December 19th, 1916, was one of World War One’s longest and bloodiest confrontations. Almost three-quarters of the French army was participating in this fight. The German forces, led by General Erich Von Falkenhayn, began bombarding French forts and trenches with artillery fire from 1200 guns, according to the Verdun Memorial Museum. The General attempted to halt the trench fighting that had begun in 1914 in order to allow his soldiers to deploy. In the early days, the Germans pushed past the French front lines and took over Fort Douaumont without a fight. Despite severe shelling, French troops held their ground and overcame the Germans. General Henri Petain of France was picked to protect and lead the men in Verdun. He improved traffic flow on the route from Bar-le-Duc to Verdun, allowing personnel, supplies, and artillery to be delivered to the front lines. This route was utilised by around 4000 trucks, 2000 autos, 800 ambulances, 200 buses, and vans. As a result, when the Germans launched an attack on the left bank of the Meuse on March 6, 1916, they were unable to breach the French front line, despite severe combat on Le Mort Homme that lasted into April. However, by the end of June, the Germans had taken Fort Vaux.

On July 1st, the French and British launched an offensive on the Somme, relieving German pressure on French forces at Verdun. The Germans sought but failed to capture Verdun on July 11 and 12. In the autumn of 1916, the French counter-attacked and reclaimed Fort Douaumont, and a few days later, they entered Fort Vaux, which the Germans had abandoned. From December 15th to 18th, the French stormed and nearly retook territory they had lost since February 21st. Both sides suffered over 700,000 casualties as a result of the fight, with 305,000 killed or missing and over 400,000 wounded.

5. Battle of Passchendaele (1917)

The Third Battle of Ypres, popularly known as the Battle of Passchendaele, was famous not only for the enormous number of dead but also for the massive mud. This battle occurred at Ypres, a town near the British lines. Field Marshal Douglas Haig desired for a British offensive in Flanders after receiving word that a German blockade would impede British combat efforts. He intended to go to Belgium and attack the German submarines stationed there. The success of an attack on and control of the Messines Ridge in June 1917 bolstered the British even further. On July 31, British forces launched an offensive on Ypres. The shelling caused the clay to crumble and ruined the drainage systems. In contrast to the right wing, the attack’s left wing was successful. The biggest rains in 30 years converted the loose earth into mud, clogging weapons and halting tank operations in the days that followed. Many soldiers and horses were lost in the mud.

The British attacks began on August 16th, but were ineffective. After a month-long pause, assaults resumed on September 20th when the weather improved. The British gained the ridge east of Ypres on September 26th, with the battles of Menin, Road Ridge, and Polygon Wood, as well as the Battle of Broodseinde on October 4th. On November 6, British and Canadian soldiers took control of the Passchendaele hamlet. This provided Haig the grounds to call a halt to the offensive and declare triumph. Despite the fact that Passchendaele was only five miles from the beginning of Haig’s onslaught. Passchendaele was a three-month fight that killed 325,000 British and allied soldiers and 260,000 Germans.

4. Battle of Caporetto (Fall of 1917)  

The battle of Caporetta, also known as the Isonzo’s 12th battle, saw Austro-Hungarian and German forces break through Italian fortifications in northern Isonzo after surprising the Italian soldiers. Following the Italian defeat, Chief of Staff Luigi Cadorna was fired and the administration was changed. When their exhausted Austrian and Hungarian allies faced collapse at Gorizia following the 11th battle of the Isonzo, led by Cadorna, their commander Arz Von Straussenberg requested assistance from the German Third Supreme Command, led by Paul Von Hindenbrug and Erich Ludendorff, to conduct a coordinated operation. When Cadorna learnt about the German engagement through deserters and aerial observation in mid-September 1917, he halted his own advance and went on the defensive.Otto vob headed six German divisions. The nine Austrian divisions of the Third Supreme Army were supplemented below.

Because the Italians were weak, the Germans picked a 25-kilometer-long frontal attack line in front of Caporetta, north of Gorizia along the Isonzo, as the optimum place for the combined onslaught. Luigi Capello, the Italian commander, was ordered to construct a defensive line but instead massed his soldiers to assault Von Below’s army on its southern flank, east of Gorizia. Around 2 a.m. on October 24, 1917, joint Austrian, Hungarian, and German forces struck and shocked the Italians at Tolmino. The attack swiftly breached the barricades of the Italian Second Army. By the end of the day, German, Austrian, and Hungarian troops had advanced 25 km, breaching the Italian lines with grenades, flamethrowers, and infiltration tactics. Attacks on the River Tagliamento put a large number of Italian soldiers under attack, causing Capello to recommend a withdrawal, which Cadorna refused. The majority of Italian forces were instructed by Cadorna to cross the river, which took four days and concluded on October 30, 1917. Austrian, Hungarian, and German resources were spent, making further offensive impossible. As a result, Cadorna ordered the Italian men to retire to the Piave River. The Italians lost 300,000 people, 90% of them were captives. As a result, Cadorna was sacked, and Marshal Armando Diaz was appointed in his place. Vittorio Orlando succeeded incumbent Paolo Boselli as Prime Minister.

3. Battle of Cambrai (1917)  

The combat of Cambrai, fought in northern France between the British and Germans from November 20th to December 4th, 1917, was the first time combat tanks were utilised on a large scale in warfare. Tanks collaborated with air power and heavy artillery. The nineteen British divisions established had around 476 tanks, 324 of which were battle tanks and the remainder supply and service vehicles. On November 20, 1917, at dawn, the British Third Army started an attack against the Germans at Cambrai. Eight British divisions surprised three German divisions and were the first to take 7500 prisoners. General Julian Byng’s third army struck the German Hindenburg defensive line to alleviate pressure on French soldiers.Despite early victories, the British were quickly overwhelmed by German counterattacks aided by terrible weather.

The British had advanced 5 kilometres and taken control of many towns. However, by the end of the first day, more than half of the British tanks had been destroyed. Even as the combat escalated, this slowed British progress. The British reached the peak of Bourlon Ridge on October 28th. Two days later, German soldiers began a counter-offensive, employing heavy artillery and infantry tactics. According to the Imperial War Museum, the British army was forced to retire after only conquering the villages of Havrincourt, Ribécourt, and Flesquières. The Battle of Cambrai paved the path for increasing weaponry and armoured warfare in the years since. Both the Germans and the British suffered around 45,000 casualties. This is World War One’s third significant combat.

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2. German Spring Offensives on the Western Front (1918)

During the spring of 1918, German General Erich Ludendorff ordered his troops to attack the Western Front, a 400-mile stretch of land stretching from the Swiss border to the North Sea. The Russians contributed to the 500,000-man force headed by the dependable Ludendorff. Knowing that a German invasion was on the way, the British fortified their coasts, as did the French to their south. An poor British trench system, however, caused a breach in the British line around Cambrai, which was defended by General Hubert Gough’s fifth army. On March 21, 1918, the Germans began an attack against the Fifth Army, launching a million artillery shells in five hours. The Germans increased their attacks by using elite storm troopers equipped with deafening flame throwers, which scared the British. When the Germans surged through the Fifth Army lines on the first day of the fighting, 21,000 British soldiers were seized. This German assault was the most significant major breakthrough in three years of Western Front fighting, and Gough ordered the Fifth Army’s evacuation. The British also handed up control of the Somme region to the Germans. This attracted the attention of the Germans, who moved three Krupps cannons from 120 km away to shell the city. After around 183 shells landed in Paris, citizens began to leave. Their march on Paris prompted German Emperor Friedrich Wilhelm II to declare March 24th a success, with many Germans believing the war had ended. The Germans’ approach to Paris, on the other hand, was hindered by a lack of supplies other than weaponry.

Ludendorff directed the very effective German 18th Army to march on Amiens, a vital railway city, with the hope of obstructing the British and their allies. However, the 18th army ran out of supplies, and horses intended for the advance and transport to Amiens were slaughtered for sustenance. The Germans went through Albert on their way to Amiens, where they robbed the businesses because to hunger. The march on Amiens came to a halt, shocking the tired Ludendorff. The German Spring Offensive gained important land, but the Germans suffered a 230,000-man casualty rate in March and April. The German Army couldn’t handle those numbers. By the end of March 1918, 250,000 Americans had joined their British counterparts on the Western Front. General John Pershing’s unwillingness to command his forces alongside French or British leaders limited their effectiveness. Despite these allies’ efforts, the German army had suffered substantial fatalities by June 1918. When a disillusioned Ludendorff ordered the final German offensive of World War I on July 15, 1918, the Germans had suffered massive losses at Marne as a result of a French ambush and counterattack. Between March and July 1918, the Germans lost a million troops. This is World War I’s second significant combat.

1. Battle of the Somme (1916)  

From July 1st to November 18th, 1916, a massive cooperation effort by British and French soldiers against the Germans took place in northern France’s Somme region. To counter the German breakthrough at Verdun, coalition leaders French Joseph Joffre and British General Douglas Haig staged the Battle of the Somme in December 1915. According to Imperial War Museum documents, the British began the offensive but were met by a German defence that had been developed over time. Despite mobilising 100,000 troops to overrun the German defences and a seven-day bombardment before to the 1st July offensive, the British were unable to accomplish the results predicted by General Haig’s military command. The Battle of the Somme was a battle of attrition, with the British advance covering only three square miles in 141 days.

Over a million people were maimed, abducted, or murdered by opposing forces. But it was the 57,470 losses on the first day of the Battle of the Somme, including 19,240 army personnel, who had the greatest psychological impact on the British. As a result, it was the deadliest day in British military history. On the first day, the German army suffered 6000 casualties, the most of which were caused by French soldiers stationed on the Somme’s southern bank. Analysts argue that the British losses on the Somme were caused by the employment of untrained volunteers as infantry, as well as a lack of artillery during the seven-day bombardment, which did not harm German soldiers who were protected in deep trenches. As a result, German forces were able to reorganise, counterattack, and recapture most of the lost area. In barely five months, almost a million men from the French, British, and German armies were killed or injured.

What Were the Major Battles of World War I?

Three of WWI’s biggest engagements were the Battle of the Somme, the Battle of Caporetto, and the Battle of Verdun.

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