All the great powers, in the decades before the start of the war, developed and mass- produced modern and powerful weapons.
All the great powers, in the decades before the start of the war, developed and mass- produced modern and powerful weapons.
The assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo, by terrorist Gavrilo Princip, decreed the end of the fragile balance of the belle epoque and the beginning of the diplomatic crisis that would lead to the outbreak of war.
Collective euphoria and excitement in the streets and squares of Europe accompanying the declaration of war and military mobilization.
The German response to real or alleged atrocities committed by Kaiser's troops in Belgium. German propaganda, published in several languages and in the international press, emphasized that the occupation forces of Belgium, had respected both the civilian population and the historical monuments. At the same time, the Germans accused the Belgian soldiers and civilians of carrying out a guerrilla war, violating the conventions of war.
In addition to the global spread of the conflict, the Great War brought a further innovation: from the summer of 1914, the conflict on the Western Front became a war of position and attrition with the excavation of thousands of miles of trenches. Trench warfare also prevailed on the Italian front . On other fronts, such as Eastern Europe, the trench warfare could not be diffused because of the length of the front.
The decision to intervene in the war or to remain neutral generated a heated political debate in Italy.
The celebration and the myth of the fallen soldiers soon became a characteristic element of the legacy of the Great War. In the first postwar period, the clash of Langemarck and the sacrifice of the young German volunteers were exaggerated and mythologized by the Nazi regime beyond the true extent of the battle.
Christmas 1914, when the truce happened. One year later the soldiers weren't so lucky.
The outbreak of war sped up the development of aviation. The aerial bombardment of civilian targets was first used in the Great War. A dramatic preview of what would happen in subsequent conflicts.
To respond to the economic blockade imposed by the Entente, Germany used the submarines on a large scale. The ship sinking left the merchant shipping of the Allies in serious difficulty. However, the continuation of the war and the adoption of armed convoys caused the German efforts to be useless.
Due to the extension of the Eastern front, from the summer of 1914, the war was marked by advances and retreats by both sides, resulting in the capture of a large number of prisoners. The civilian population was extremely involved in this mobile front .
During World War I, chemical weapons appeared on the battlefield : insidious and deadly against the enemy. At Ypres, in Belgium, chemical weapons were used so extensively that the city gave its name to one of them, the Yperite.
On May 24, Italy entered the war. The initial enthusiasm of the interventionist minority and confidence in a quick and victorious advance on Gorizia, Trieste and then Vienna were soon disproved.
In June, a long series of bloody Italian offensives began on the Isonzo front. Forced to attack on unfavourable terrain, with few machine guns and a shortage of heavy artillery, Italian troops were soon forced to an exhausting war of position.
The epic of the German naval squadron in the Far East is undoubtedly one of the more adventurous episodes of the First World War. Despite many early successes, courage and determination of the crews and the ability of Admiral Graf Maximilian von Spee, the Kaiserliche Marine had quickly succumbed to the British superiority.
The war of the forts was a brief clash between the Austrian and Italian fortresses along the border. The violent Italian bombings, despite considerably weakening the opposing defenses, failed to defeat the Austro-Hungarian fortresses, which proved to be real "land battleships."
The Zimmerwald Conference produced an important manifesto condemning the Great War. The thesis of Lenin, Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg, that the conflict would turn into a revolution, would have had great success in Russia two years later.
The beginning of the war on the Eastern front caused massive displacement of civilian populations. Some were evacuated by the Austro-Hungarian authorities, to move them away from the front and others fled for fear of the Tsarist army.
When Italy entered the war, civilians of Trentino were forced to abandon their homes and their countries. They were sent away towards Galicia and Moravia, but also in Genoa and Messina.
The landing at Gallipoli was one of the bloodiest operations of the Great War, if compared to the amount of troops involved and the small extension of the front. The sacrifice of the Australian and New Zealand troops became a founding myth for these young nations.
The Trentino Salient was the scene of the White War. The rugged terrain of the area made this war a confrontation marked out by sudden attacks of a few hundred soldiers, putting to the test individual skills and military mountaineering.
One of the most characteristic aspects of the military health care during the First World War, was the largest mobilization of women in the Red Cross or other similar organizations. In hospitals behind the lines thousands of nurses they provided aid and comfort to the wounded soldiers and veterans of the war in the trenches.
The images in the gallery, taken from German magazines of the time, offers examples of the British and French colonial troops, where the exotic curiosity mingled with racist propaganda.
The Easter Rising was an attempt by Irish Republican militants to obtain independence from Britain with the force of arms. Guided by the Irish Republican Brotherhood, the rebels occupied the key points and symbolic of Dublin and proclaimed the Irish Republic independent of the General Post Office. The revolt was put down in six days, and its leaders were tried by a court martial and executed.
If the Germans lined up on the Western Front the Grosse Bertha, the Austro-Hungarians readapted a huge naval gun renamed Der Langer Georg , the Long George, firing from Caldonazzo Lake on a rail-carriage. Massively used during Strafexpedition, it contributed to the Austrian artillery superiority over the Italians.
The Brusilov offensive, well planned and carried out with innovative infiltration tactics, put at risk the positions gained by the Central Powers on the Eastern Front. It succeeded in easing the pressure on the French and Italians, however, because of heavy losses, marked the beginning of the crisis of the Czarist Empire. A crisis which would then led Russia to the revolution, after a little more than a year.
The Battle of the Somme was the first big clash which took part the Kitchener's Army. The breaking through of German lines failed and the front remained essentially immobile, despite the million of losses suffered by the Allied and Germans forces. However, despite the tactical stalemate, strategically the battle was a British success, which forced the Germans to ease the pressure on Verdun.
The Sixth battle of the Isonzo led to the conquest of Gorizia, but failed in breaking through in depth the Austrian lines. Overall it was a substantial Italian victory – despite the heavy losses - which helped to improve the morale of the troops and the home front.
"I was exhausted, but I could not sleep. The professor of greek came to find me. He was depressed. Even his battalion had attacked, far left, and been destroyed, like ours. He spoke to me with his eyes closed. - I'm afraid to go mad, - he said. - I go crazy. Someday, I will kill myself. You have to kill yourself.
I did not know to tell him anything. I felt the waves of madness come closer and disappear. At times, I could hear the lapping of the brain in the skull, like water shaken in a bottle." (From Un anno sull'altopiano, by Emilio Lussu).
Despite the efforts and the very high losses, the German offensive on Verdun led to a stalemate, clashing with tough French resistance. For France Verdun would represent both the symbol of victory in the Great War, and the terrible sacrifices sustained.
During the Great War, the image of women was a key element of propaganda: both for the militancy of women in patriotic organizations, whether for the iconographical use of the female body to generate consensus about the ongoing conflict.
AA.VV., Donne nella Grande Guerra, Libreria Editrice Goriziana, Gorizia, 2012
The First World War had as main protagonists fighters. It was not until the "Second" that the level of involvement of civilians assumed increasing importance, so much so that the majority of victims between 1939 and 1945 is counted among them. However, even in 1914-1918 civilians were involved in depth and in large numbers.
During the Great War 1.1 million civilians were displaced from the Habsburg Empire's border areas. Of these, at least 130,000 were accommodated in Barackenlager: these refugee camps were large, built to accommodate the poorest refugees and provide them with minimum social services. In these “cities” they were built huge wooden shacks destined to housing from 100 to 250 refugees. These structures were then flanked churches, schools, restrooms, administrative offices and factories, at least outwardly recreating an urban look.
During the Great War, the Hindenburg Line was a vast and armed defense system built by the Germans in the north-west France. This decision was taken by the General Hindenburg and Ludendorff during the final stages of the battle of the Somme. Conceived as a strategic retreat line, it marked the first attempt to change the defensive tactics in order to save men and materials, waiting to unleash the decisive offensive once liquidated Russia. Considered inviolable, during the Hundred Days Offensive was overcome in several points by the Allied troops.
The rioting broke out early February 23, 1917 in Petrograd and saw thousands of women take to the streets because of food shortages and living conditions: it was the birth of the revolutionary movement. The seeds of the next October revolution had been thrown and the obstinacy of the new provisional Governments in pursuing an unpopular and disastrous war would have further radicalized the popular discontent.
After the exit of Russia from the war, the US intervention in World War I shifted again tip the balance in favor of the allied powers. However, in the initial stages the contribution was mostly moral, due to the slowness with which American troops were deployed in Europe. Also regarding armaments American troops - with the exception of rifles - were fully equipped with English and French materials, whose factories were already producing armaments in surplus for its armed forces. Decisive from the start was the American contribution in terms of raw materials, food and merchant ships.
The mobilization that followed the outbreak of war not only involved soldiers at the front but had major repercussions on the economy: industries exponentially increased their production potential, demand for raw materials often exceeded the availability of the nations, women replaced the men in factories, agricultural production fell, while in the cities the availability of consumer goods decreased. The economic crisis triggered by such imbalances had dramatic repercussions already during the war, especially in Germany and Austria-Hungary.
The battle of Mount Ortigara was the biggest clash at high altitude, fought during the First World War. Despite the failure of the operation, Ortigara has become a central episode in the Italian epic of the Great War and in the formation of the myth of the Alpini Corps.
This series of pictures show who were the "mass-soldiers" of the First World War and how they spent their time in the narrow spaces of the trenches. Despite the terrible impact of the position war, often the will to survive and to look beyond the horrors of the trench and of the nobody's land left space to moments of leisure and cheerfulness. To this end, the words that Emilio Lussu turned to Mario Rigoni Stern in 1970 after the vision of the movie Many Wars Ago from his novel A Year on the High Plateau were significant.
During the Great War, women were called to replace men in a variety of tasks: from money management, farm labor, to factories. However, many of them also succeeded in covering military roles, not only in the red cross, but also in the firefighters, in the auxiliary bodies of the army or, as was the case in occupied Poland, in paramilitary formations with intelligence tasks.
“We could not believe that we were expected to attack in such appalling conditions. I never prayed so hard in my life. I got down on my knees in the mud and prayed to God to bring me through.”
- Private Pat Burns, 46th Canadian Infantry Battalion, Passchendale, November 1917
The words of soldiers tell us a lot about the conditions in which the battle took place, but the images reflect the dimensional view of the drama consumed in Passchendaele.