This year marks the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War, a conflict that cost around 10 million lives and changed forever the lives of those who experienced it at home or on the battlefields of Europe.

Throughout the year, the EADT will be retelling stirring tales of bravery from the frontline and highlighting the terrifying moments that those back home endured, worrying about their loved ones as they listened for the far-off rumble of guns from mainland Europe.

Was your grandfather a war hero? Do you have carefully preserved photos from that time? Share your stories with feature writer Steven Russell.

Timeline of the First World War

1914

June 28:
Sarajevo:Postman’s son Gavrilo Princip shoots dead Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the Austro-Hungarian empire, and his wife. Princip wants a nation of united Yugoslavs, free from Austro-Hungarian rule.

July 28:
Austria-Hungary declares war on Serbia, which it blames for the assassination. There is already tension about Germany’s military might and ambitions to extend its territory. The growth of nationalism across Europe and territorial disputes have also left feelings running high, and key diplomatic alliances have already been formed. One between Britain, France and Russia is known as the Triple Entente. The banding together of Germany, Austria-Hungary and Italy is the Triple Alliance. Germany, its designs on invading France, enters Belgium.

August 4:
Britain, which had promised to defend neutral Belgium, declares war on Germany. A British Expeditionary Force of about 80,000 troops goes to France to tackle the German incursion. The first major action is the Battle of Mons, near the Belgian/French border. An estimated 5,000 Germans are killed. Politicians and military officials reckon the war will be over by Christmas.

August 12:
Britain declares war on Austria-Hungary.

September:
The allies win the week-long Battle of the Marne, near Paris, which sees more than one-million troops fighting on each side.

Casualties are high.Extensive networks of trenches are built in France and Belgium. They are difficult to attack and the fighting effectively reaches an impasse. October and November: Allied victory at the first Battle of Ypres in Belgium.

1915

January:
Two German Zeppelin airships bomb Great Yarmouth and King’s Lynn. Britain extends its Defence of the Realm Act, giving the Government power to take over property for military use, control the pay and conditions of British workers, and censor newspapers.

April:
Poisonous gas is used – on both sides – at the second Battle of Ypres.

Late April:
Start of the eight-month Gallipoli campaign. British and French forces (including troops from Australia, New Zealand and India) try unsuccessfully to establish a sea route to Russia through (what is today) Turkey and fail to capture Constantinople, capital of the Ottoman empire. There are well over 200,000 casualties on each side.

Italy switches sides, fighting with Britain and its allies. Britain blockades German ports, causing shortages of food and other supplies. German submarines attempt to spread terror. In May, off southern Ireland, the passenger liner Lusitania is sunk. Among the near-1,200 victims are more than 100 Americans.

May:
Liberal Herbert Asquith’s Government faces accusations from the army about inadequate supplies. After a Cabinet split prompted by “The Great Shell Shortage”, Asquith becomes head of a coalition Government.

May 31:
Bombs are dropped on London from Zeppelins. The first such attack on the capital claims 28 lives and injures 60. By the end of May the following year, Zeppelins will be responsible for the deaths of at least 550 civilians in Britain.

Autumn:
Women are recruited to jobs traditionally carried out by men, such as working on buses and trains.

1916

February 9:
To boost its troop numbers, Britain starts conscripting men aged from 18 to 41.

February 21:
Start of the Battle of Verdun (in north-east France, near the Belgian border) which lasts until a week before Christmas. It is a victory for France but the country sees about 156,000 of its troops killed, with about 143,000 deaths on the German side.

May 21:
“British summertime” is brought in so factories and munitions suppliers are more productive.

May 31-June 1:
The Battle of Jutland, west of Denmark, is the war’s biggest naval battle and the only full-scale fight between battleships.Britain loses 14 vessels and Germany 11. The respective death tolls are about 6,000 and approximately 2,500. Historians later say the fight caused considerable damage to German ships and gave Britain greater control of the seas.

July 1:
Start of the Battle of the Somme, which lasts until the middle of November and is one of the bloodiest battles ever. It is won by British and French forces, but there are more than one million casualties and deaths. On the first day, Britain suffers about 60,000 casualties. British tanks go into action for the first time, at the Somme.

1917

February:
German forces fall back to defensive positions called the Hindenburg Line in France. It gives them a chance to rebuild their numbers.German triumphs in the east help trigger two revolutions in Russia, with Tsar Nicholas II abdicating. By the autumn, the Bolsheviks are in power, under Lenin – paving the way for a peace treaty between Russia and Germany.

April 6:
America declares war on Germany. Allied troops make a significant push. At the Battle of Arras, in France, for instance, British soldiers win ground but at a price: about 158,000 casualties and losses.

June:
With anti-German feeling growing, the British royal family changes its official name after a proclamation by King George V. It’s goodbye to Saxe-Coburg-Gotha as the House of Windsor is born.

July to November:
The Battle of Passchendaele is fought for the control of key ridges near the Belgian city of Ypres. It’s an allied victory, though not a total success. Estimates of casualties and losses are put at between about 200,000 and nearly 450,000 on the allied side, and 217,000 to about 410,000 for Germany.

1918

April 1:
The Royal Air Force and Women’s Royal Air Force are formed.

Three weeks later:
Fighter pilot Baron Manfred von Richthofen, Germany’s infamous “Red Baron”, is shot down and killed.

Spring:
German forces, bolstered by troops who had been fighting Russia, begin a major push on western front.

July-August:
An allied counter-attack at the second Battle of the Marne in France, involving several hundred tanks, leaves about 139,000 enemy soldiers dead or injured.

August:
The Battle of Amiens begins what comes to be known as the Hundred Days Offensive – an unstoppable advance. It effectively marks the end of trench warfare and sees troops on the move. Allied soldiers gain more than seven miles on the first day and many Germans surrender.

November 11:
At 11am, in the Forest of Compiègne about 60km north of Paris, an armistice (a suspension of hostilities) is signed.

June 28, 1919:
The Treaty of Versailles officially ends the war. The total number of military and civilian casualties is said to top 37million.


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Pay your respects to the fallen war heroes from your community, submit a photo of the war memorial in your village or town and we will display it here at some point during the year in honour of those who fought for our freedom.

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