1871 - Following the defeat of France in the Franco-Prussian War, Germany is unified as an Imperial federation of states, led by the King of Prussia (Kaiser Wilhelm I). This spurs a new era of population growth and rapid industrialization. The Germans also forcibly annex the provinces of Alsace and Lorraine from France.
1882 - Germany, Austria-Hungary (Hapsburg Empire) and Italy form the Triple Alliance.
1891 - The Russian Empire and France form their own alliance in reaction to the Triple Alliance.
1898 - Germany begins to build up its navy to challenge the British Navy's long-standing global supremacy.
January 1902 - Britain and Japan form a naval alliance.
April 1904 - The British reach a strategic agreement with France which includes mutual military support in the event of war.
January 1905 - Troops of Russian Czar Nicholas II fire upon peaceful demonstrators in St. Petersburg killing hundreds in what comes to be known as Bloody Sunday.
May 1905 - Russia suffers a military defeat at sea by newly industrialized Japan, thwarting Russia's territorial ambitions toward Manchuria and Korea.
October 1905 - Continuing political unrest in Russia, including a general strike, results in the creation of a national legislative assembly (Duma) by the Czar.
February 1906 - H.M.S. Dreadnought is launched by Britain, marking the advent of a new class of big-gun battleships. The Germans follow suit and begin building similar battleships as an all-out arms race ensues between Germany and Britain.
August 1907 - The British reach a strategic agreement with Russia.
October 1908 - Austria-Hungary, backed by Germany, annexes Bosnia-Herzegovina. Neighboring Serbia, with the backing of Russia, voices its objection in support of the Serbian minority living in Bosnia.
March 1909 - Germany forces Russia to endorse the annexation of Bosnia-Herzegovina by Austria-Hungary.
1910 - Germany surpasses Britain as the leading manufacturing nation in Europe. The United States remains the world leader, surpassing all of the European manufacturing nations combined.
October 1912 - The Balkan War erupts in southern Europe as Serbia leads an attack by members of the Balkan League (Serbia, Bulgaria and Greece) against the Ottoman (Turkish) Empire to drive the Turks out of Europe.
May 1913 - The Balkan War ends with the Turks driven out of southern Europe. A peace settlement is then drawn up by the major European powers that divides up the former Turkish areas in southern Europe among the Balkan League nations. However, the peace is short-lived as Bulgaria, desiring a bigger share, attacks neighboring Greece and Serbia. Romania then attacks Bulgaria along with the Turks. This Second Balkan War results in Bulgaria losing territory and the Serbians becoming emboldened, leaving the Balkan region of southern Europe politically unstable.
June 28, 1914 - Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the Austrian throne, and his wife, visit Sarajevo in Bosnia. A bomb is thrown at their auto but misses. Undaunted, they continue their visit only to be shot and killed a short time later by a lone assassin. Believing the assassin to be a Serbian nationalist, the Austrians target their anger toward Serbia.
July 23, 1914 - Austria-Hungary, with the backing of Germany, delivers an ultimatum to Serbia. The Serbs propose arbitration as a way to resolve dispute, but also begin mobilization of their troops.
July 25, 1914 - Austria-Hungary severs diplomatic ties with Serbia and begins to mobilize its troops.
July 26, 1914 - Britain attempts to organize a political conference among the major European powers to resolve the dispute between Austria-Hungary and Serbia. France and Italy agree to participate. Russia then agrees, but Germany refuses.
July 28, 1914 - The Austro-Hungarian Empire declares war on Serbia.
July 29, 1914 - Britain calls for international mediation to resolve the worsening crisis. Russia urges German restraint, but the Russians begin partial troop mobilization as a precaution. The Germans then warn Russia on its mobilization and begin to mobilize themselves.
July 30, 1914 - Austrian warships bombard Belgrade, capital of Serbia.
July 31, 1914 - Reacting to the Austrian attack on Serbia, Russia begins full mobilization of its troops. Germany demands that it stop.
August 1, 1914 - Germany declares war on Russia. France and Belgium begin full mobilization.
August 3, 1914 - Germany declares war on France, and invades neutral Belgium. Britain then sends an ultimatum, rejected by the Germans, to withdraw from Belgium.
August 4, 1914 - Great Britain declares war on Germany. The declaration is binding on all Dominions within the British Empire including Canada, Australia, New Zealand, India and South Africa.
August 4, 1914 - The United States declares its neutrality.
August 4-16, 1914 - The Siege of Liege occurs as Germans attack the Belgian fortress city but meet resistance from Belgian troops inside the Liege Forts. The twelve forts surrounding the city are then bombarded into submission by German and Austrian howitzers using high explosive shells. Remaining Belgian troops then retreat northward toward Antwerp as the German westward advance continues.
August 6, 1914 - The Austro-Hungarian Empire declares war on Russia.
August 6, 1914 - French and British troops invade the German colony of Togo in West Africa. Twenty days later, the German governor there surrenders.
August 7, 1914 - The first British troops land in France. The 120,000 highly trained members of the regular British Army form the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) commanded by Field Marshal John French.
August 7-24, 1914 - The French desire to score a quick victory ignites the first major French-German action of the war. The French Army invades Alsace and Lorraine according to their master strategy known as Plan XVII. However, the French offensive is met by effective German counter-attacks using heavy artillery and machine-guns. The French suffer heavy casualties including 27,000 soldiers killed in a single day, the worst one-day death toll in the history of the French Army. The French then fall back toward Paris amid 300,000 total casualties.
August 8, 1914 - Britain enacts the Defense of the Realm Act (DORA) granting unprecedented powers to the government to control the economy and daily life.
August 12, 1914 - Great Britain and France declare war on Austria-Hungary. Serbia is invaded by Austria-Hungary.
August 17, 1914 - Russia invades Germany, attacking into East Prussia, forcing the outnumbered Germans there to fall back. This marks the advent of the Eastern Front in Europe in which Russia will oppose Germany and Austria-Hungary.
August 20, 1914 - German troops occupy undefended Brussels, capital of Belgium. Following this, the main German armies continue westward and invade France according to their master strategy known as the Schlieffen Plan. It calls for a giant counter-clockwise movement of German armies wheeling into France, swallowing up Paris, and then attacking the rear of the French armies concentrated in the Alsace-Lorraine area. Under the overall command of Helmuth von Moltke, Chief of the German General Staff, the Germans seek to achieve victory over France within six weeks and then focus on defeating Russia in the East before Russia's six-million-man army, the world's largest, can fully mobilize.
August 23, 1914 - Japan declares war on Germany. The Japanese then prepare to assist the British in expelling the Germans from the Far East. German possessions in the South Pacific include a naval base on the coast of China, part of New Guinea, Samoa, and the Caroline, Marshall and Mariana Islands.
Battle of Tannenberg
August 26, 1914 - On the Eastern Front, German troops in East Prussia under the new command of Paul von Hindenburg and Erich Ludendorff oppose the Russian 2nd Army. Aided by aerial reconnaissance and the interception of uncoded Russian radio messages, the Germans effectively reposition their troops to counter the initial Russian advance. Five days later, after surrounding the Russians, the battle ends with a German victory and the capture of 125,000 Russians. Following this success, the Germans drive the Russians out of East Prussia with heavy casualties. The impressive victory elevates Hindenburg and Ludendorff to the status of heroes in Germany.
August 30, 1914 - German possessions in the Far East are attacked as New Zealand troops occupy German Samoa. Three days later, Japanese forces land on the coast of China, preparing to attack the German naval base at Tsingtao (Qingdao). A month later, the Japanese begin their occupation of the Caroline, Marshall and Mariana Islands.
Battle of the Marne
September 5-12, 1914 - On the Western Front, Paris is saved as French and British troops disrupt the Schlieffen Plan by launching a major counter-offensive against the invading German armies to the east of Paris. Six hundred taxi cabs from the city help to move French troops to the Front. Aided by French aerial reconnaissance which reveals a gap has developed in the center of the whole German advance, the French and British exploit this weakness and press their advantage. The Germans then begin a strategic withdrawal northward as the Allies pursue. Each side repeatedly tries to outmaneuver the other and gain a tactical advantage as they move northward in what becomes known as the Race to the Sea.
September 7, 1914 - In the Far East, a German naval squadron, commanded by Graf von Spee severs the British Pacific communications cable.
September 8, 1914 - The French government enacts nationwide State of War regulations which include total control over the economy and national security, strict censorship, and suspension of civil liberties.
September 17, 1914 - On the Eastern Front, Austrian forces steadily retreat from the advancing Russian 3rd and 8th armies fighting in southern Poland and along the Russian-Austrian border. The Germans then send the newly formed 9th Army to halt the Russians. This marks the beginning of a pattern in which the Germans will aid the weaker Austro-Hungarian Army.
September 22, 1914 - The first-ever British air raid against Germany occurs as Zeppelin bases at Cologne and Düsseldorf are bombed.
First Battle of Ypres
October 19-November 22, 1914
October 19, 1914 - Still hoping to score a quick victory in the West, the Germans launch a major attack on Ypres in Belgium. Despite heavy losses, British, French and Belgian troops fend off the attack and the Germans do not break through. During the battle, the Germans send waves of inexperienced 17 to 20-year-old volunteer soldiers, some fresh out of school. They advance shoulder-to-shoulder while singing patriotic songs only to be systematically gunned down in what the Germans themselves later call the "massacre of the innocents." By November, overall casualties will total 250,000 men, including nearly half of the British Regular Army.
October 29, 1914 - The Ottoman Empire (Turkey) enters the war on the side of the Germans as three warships shell the Russian port of Odessa. Three days later, Russia declares war on Turkey. Russian and Turkish troops then prepare for battle along the common border of the Russian Caucasus and the Ottoman Empire.
October-November, 1914 - Germans and Austrians launch a combined offensive against the Russians on the Eastern Front. The German 9th Army targets Warsaw, Poland, but is opposed by six Russian armies and withdraws. The Austrians attack the Russians in Galicia (a province in northeast Austria) with indecisive results. However, the Russians fail to press their advantage at Warsaw and instead begin a split counter-offensive moving both southward against the Austrians in Galicia and northward toward Germany. The German 9th Army then regroups and cuts off the Russians at Lodz, Poland, halting their advance and forcing an eastward withdrawal by the Russians.
November 1, 1914 - Austria invades Serbia. This is the third attempt to conquer the Serbs in retaliation for the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand. This attempt fails like the two before it, at the hands of highly motivated Serbs fighting on their home ground. The Austrians withdraw in mid-December, after suffering over 220,000 casualties from the three failed invasions.
November 1, 1914 - The British Navy suffers its worst defeat in centuries during a sea battle in the Pacific. Two British ships, the Monmouth and Good Hope, are sunk with no survivors by a German squadron commanded by Admiral Graf von Spee.
November 3, 1914 - Kaiser Wilhelm appoints Erich von Falkenhayn as the new Chief of the German General Staff, replacing Helmuth von Moltke who is sacked due to the failure of the Schlieffen Plan.
November 5, 1914 - France and Britain declare war on the Ottoman (Turkish) Empire.
November 6, 1914 - In the Persian Gulf, a major British offensive begins as the 6th Indian Division invades Mesopotamia. The objective is to protect the oil pipeline from Persia. Two weeks later they capture the city of Basra.
November 7, 1914 - In the Far East, the German naval base at Tsingtao is captured by the Japanese, aided by a British and Indian battalion.
Trench Warfare Begins
December 1914 - The Western Front in Europe stabilizes in the aftermath of the First Battle of Ypres as the Germans go on the defensive and transfer troops to the East to fight the Russians. The 450-mile-long Western Front stretches from the Channel Coast southward through Belgium and Eastern France into Switzerland. Troops from both sides construct opposing trench fortifications and dugouts protected by barbed wire, machine-gun nests, snipers, and mortars, with an in-between area called No Man's Land. The Eastern Front also sees its share of trenches as troops dig in after the Russians hold off the Germans in Poland and the Austrians hold off the Russians at Limanowa. The 600-mile Eastern Front stretches from the Baltic Sea southward through East Prussia and Austria to the Carpathian Mountains.
December 8, 1914 - The Battle of Falkland Islands occurs as British Navy warships destroy the German squadron of Admiral Graf von Spee in the South Atlantic off the coast of Argentina. Von Spee and two sons serving in his squadron are killed.
December 10, 1914 - The French begin a series of attacks along the Western Front against the Germans in the Artois region of northern France and Champagne in the south. Hampered by a lack of heavy artillery and muddy winter conditions, the French fail to make any significant gains and both offensives are soon suspended.
December 16, 1914 - Britain suffers its first civilian casualties at home in the war as the German Navy bombards the coastal towns of Whitby, Hartlepool and Scarborough, killing 40 persons and wounding hundreds.
December 25, 1914 - A Christmas truce occurs between German and British soldiers in the trenches of northern France. All shooting stops as the soldiers exit their trenches, exchange gifts, sing carols and engage in a soccer game. This is the only Christmas truce of the war, as Allied commanders subsequently forbid fraternization with orders to shoot any violators.
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