World War One Timeline


June 28: Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the throne of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, is assassinated in Sarajevo, which leads to Austria-Hungary declaring war on Serbia.

August 1:  Germany, Austria-Hungary’s ally, declares war on Russia, an ally of Serbia.

August 3: Germany declares war on France and invades France’s neighbour, Belgium. Royal Naval Reservists, among them men from Beer, answer the Admiralty's call to arms.

August 4: The British Empire, which had guaranteed to defend Belgium, declares war on Germany.

August 23: Germany invades France.

August 26: Russian army suffers heavy defeat at hands of Germany at Battle of Tannenberg.

September 6: Start of the Battle of the Marne between French and German forces.

October 10: The German army occupies the Belgian city of Antwerp.

October 18: First Battle of Ypres sees French, Belgian and British troops try to prevent Germany breaking through towards the English Channel ports of Calais and Boulogne.

October 29: Turkey enters the war on the side of the Central Powers of Germany and Austria-Hungary, and its fleet attacks Russian Black Sea ports including Odessa.

December 8: Battle of the Falkland Islands sees Admiral Graf Maximilian Von Spee’s ships attempt to attack the British radio and coaling stations on the islands. But he comes up against a large number of Royal Navy cruisers, including the Invincible, and 2,200 German sailors die as four German ships are lost.

December 21: A German aeroplane attacks Dover, the first instance of an air raid on British soil.

December 25: Famously, troops facing each other across the front lines of the Western Front declare an unofficial truce for Christmas. Enemies sing carols together and even play football.


January 1: The Allies launch a new year offensive in the Artois and Champagne regions.

January 19: Zeppelin airships carry out air raids on Great Yarmouth, Sheringham and King’s Lynn on the east coast of England. The German Kaiser initially banned raids on London, fearing his Royal cousins may be killed.

February 4: Germany declares all waters around Great Britain and Ireland to be a war zone, meaning even shipping from neutral countries could be attacked by U-boat submarines.

March 10-13: The Battle of Neuve Chapelle, which effectively ends in a stalemate, sees 11,200 allied casualties, and a similar number on the German side. On the first day, almost a third of the British Army’s supplies of shells is fired at the enemy.

March 28: U-boat U-28 sinks the British passenger ship Falaba, and 100 people lose their lives, including a US citizen.

April 22: The second Battle of Ypres sees the use of poison gas for the first time, with German troops firing chlorine gas at French and Algerian troops.

April 25: The Gallipoli campaign is launched with British and Empire and French troops landing in Turkey.  Each side sees heavy losses, with around 55,000 dead on each side and more than 100,000 wounded.

May 9: Almost 1,200 passengers and crew lose their lives as the U-20 fires a torpedo at the British liner RMS Lusitania in the Atlantic. The event causes outrage in the US, as more than 100 American citizens were among the victims.

May 23: Italy declares war on the Austro-Hungarian empire.

June 7: Lt Warneford of the RNAS destroys a Zeppelin, the LZ-37 in mid-air, the first time one is bought down by an aeroplane.

July 9: The Allies finally take the German colony of South West Africa after 11 months of fighting.

August 4: On the Eastern Front, the Germans advance on the city of Warsaw, which had been ruled by Russia for the previous 100 years.

September 25: The launch of the Allied offensive on the Western Front sees the start of the Battle of Loos.

October 9: Austrian troops occupy Belgrade.

October 12: On the orders of a German court martial, Edith Cavell is shot in Brussels. The British nurse had been found guilty of assisting Allied soldiers escape from German-occupied parts of Belgium.

 October 14: Bulgaria and Serbia declare war on each other.

October 15: Britain declares a state of war against Bulgaria.

November 11: British forces advance on Baghdad, Iraq.

December 15: The British Commander in Chief in France, Field Marshall Sir John French, resigns, to be replaced by Sir Douglas Haig. French went on to be appointed Commander-in-Chief of Home Forces, and was made Viscount French of Ypres.

December 31: The last units of the Indian Expeditionary Force leave the Dardanelles, as the Allies withdraw from Turkey.


January 6: HMS King Edward VII is sunk by a mine off the north of Scotland, with the loss of one life.

February 21: The Battle of Verdun starts. It was to rage across 1915 with huge losses for both France and Germany.

March 24: The French passenger ship SS Sussex is torpedoed, with the loss of at least 50 lives. A number of American citizens were on board and US public opinion is again outraged.

March 30: The Russian hospital ship the Portugal is sunk by a torpedo fired by the U-boat U-33.

April 20: Russian troops arrive in Marseilles, destined to help the French on the Western Front.

April 29: A five-month siege at Kut-al-Amara in Mesopotamia ends as 13,000 near-starving British and Indian soldiers surrender to the besieging Turkish army.

May 16: Universal conscription is introduced in Britain, requiring most men between 19 and 40 to register for military service.

May 31: At the Battle of Jutland, the fleets of the British and German navies clash with the loss of 14 British and 11 German ships. Although both sides claimed victory, the result was that the Royal Navy maintained its dominance to the North Sea and its blockade of Germany was not lifted.

June 4: Russian General Brusilov launches an offensive against Austro-Hungarian troops, forcing the Germans to move troops away from the Western Front to help their ally.

July 1: The first day of the Battle of the Somme sees 18,800 British soldiers killed, the worst death toll in the nation’s military history. The battle was to last until November, with only slight gains for the British and French.

July 30: In the United States, the Black Tom munitions plant in New Jersey, producing ammunition for British and French forces, explodes. The force of the blast even damages the Statue of Liberty. German sabotage was blamed.

August 27: Romania declares war on the Central Powers and launches an invasion of Austria-Hungary.

August 28: Italy, already at war with Austria-Hungary, declares war on Germany.

September 1: A combined force of German, Turkish and Bulgarian troops invades Romania.

September 4: Dar es Salaam, the capital of German East Africa (now in Tanzania) is surrendered to the British following a naval bombardment.

September 15: The British use tanks on a battlefield for the first time, as the new weapons are deployed on the Somme.

September 16: The German army on the Eastern Front pushes back General Brusilov’s offensive, with the Russians eventually losing a million men. This adds to unrest back in Russia.

October 10: Romanian troops are forced out of Hungary by the Central Powers, who push into Romania.

October 24: Following a massive artillery bombardment, French forces attack the Germans at Verdun.

November 18: The Battle of the Somme ends with the British and French having advanced a few miles. Casualties on both sides surpassed half a million men.

December 6: Romania’s capital city, Bucharest, falls to Austro-German forces.

December 7: Lloyd George becomes Prime Minister of the UK and his Cabinet starts to organise the nation for ‘Total War’.

December 15: The French force the Germans out of Louvemont and Bezonvaux, ending the threat to Verdun. During a battle lasting 10 months, in which the Germans failed to capture Verdun, more than a million men have become casualties.


January 19: A telegram sent in code to the German ambassadors in the US and Mexico suggests that Germany is trying to tempt Mexico, and possibly even Japan, into the war, by promising that in the event of victory Mexico could have the southern states of Texas, New Mexico and Arizona. The code was, however, broken by the British, who sent a copy to the government of the USA.

February 1: Unrestricted submarine warfare makes a return with the Germans trying to starve Britain of imports.

February 3: A U-boat sinks the American grain ship Housatonic, prompting the US to sever diplomatic ties with Germany.

February 25: Kut-al-Amara is retaken by the British who then push the Turkish forces back, and capture Baghdad.

March 8: In the East, a protest in St Petersburg against the authorities becomes the start of the revolution which was to transform Russia and, eventually, shape the lives of millions for years to come.

 March 15: Czar Nicholas II of Russia abdicates, leaving behind a Provisional Government aiming for a new democratic system.

March 15: In an attempt to bring order to the front line, the Germans in part of the Western Front withdraw to the Siegfried Line, also known as the Hindenburg Line. They destroy everything that had to be left behind.

April 6: The USA enters the conflict by declaring war on Germany, after President Woodrow Wilson says “the world must be made safe for democracy.”

April 9: British, Canadian and Australian troops make a rapid push north of the Hindenburg Line, advancing 3.5 miles, with the Canadians taking Vimy Ridge. But the Germans are able to halt the advance, and the result is that the allies suffer 150,000 casualties.

April 16: Vladimir Lenin arrives in Russia after 12 years in exile, on a train provided by the Germans who hoped his political agitation would mean Russia pulling out of the war.

May 19: The Provisional Government in Russia plans a new offensive against the Germans.

May 27: Angered by the war of attrition and conditions in the trenches, many soldiers on the French front lines start to mutiny. Commander in Chief Petain orders arrests and executions. But he also extends troops' leave and halts major offensives for a time.

June 13: German aircraft attack London, killing 158 people and wounding 425.

June 25: American soldiers arrive in France.

July 1: In a disastrous move, the Russian advance on the German lines collapses in disarray.

July 2: Greece declares war on the Central Powers.

July 31: The Third Battle of Ypres, also known as the Battle of Passchendaele, starts with British troops advancing in the face of heavy German artillery.

September 1: At Riga, the Germans storm forward against the Russian defenders, who are forced into a rapid retreat.

October 24: German and Austrian troops force their way deep into Italy, helped by poison gas attacks, capturing 250,000 defenders. Among the attackers was Oberleutnant (Lieutenant) Erwin Rommel, who won a medal for his part in the offensive.

October 31: A group of Arab fighters, led by TE Lawrence, join the British assault on Turkish lines in Palestine.

November 6: Canadian troops capture Passchendaele.

November 7: The Provisional Government in Russia is overthrown by the Bolsheviks, whose leader, Lenin, declares Russia will withdraw from the war.

November 11: The Germans plan a series of huge assaults on British and French lines in the hope of ending the war before large numbers of American troops arrive in Europe.

December 9: The British capture Jerusalem, which had been in the hands of the Turkish Ottoman Empire for 400 years.

December 17: Forty-four German divisions start to move West after Russia pulls out of the war.


January 8: US President Woodrow Wilson lays out his “Fourteen Points” for peace.

March 21: After 6,000 pieces of artillery pound British lines for five hours, the Germans attack along a 60-mile front on the Somme, but fail to capture key targets including Arras and Amiens.

April 1: The Royal Air Force is founded as the Royal Flying Corps and the Royal Naval Air Service merge.

April 9: In another massive attack, the Germans win back Passchendaele and reach close to the outskirts of Ypres. The Germans suffer 330,000 casualties.

May 27: The Germans launch a third major attack on the Western Front, this time moving towards the French in the hope of cutting off the British in the north. The attack is at first successful and the Germans make rapid advances, coming to within 50 miles of Paris. But the Allies pour reinforcements, including fresh American troops, into the region.

June 9: The Germans once again launch an attack towards Paris, but are held back by French and American soldiers.

July 16: A German offensive against the French city of Reims is rebuffed by the French, aided by the US.

July 18: The French and Americans launch an attack on German lines along the River Marne, forcing the invaders back.

August 8: The British Army, with more than 400 tanks, pushes towards the Germans near Amiens, forcing the defenders to bring in their last reserve troops.

August 21: British forces push the Germans back at Arras and on the Somme.

September 27: British, Australian and American troops break through the German Hinderburg Line.

September 28: In a rapid advance, British and Belgian forces take Dixmude and Messines in the fourth and last Battle of Ypres. On the same day, senior German military generals tell the Kaiser he must end the war.

September 29: Bulgaria becomes the first of the Central Powers to sign an armistice with the Allies.

October 4: The Germans request US President Woodrow start talks leading to an armistice based on his Fourteen Points.

October 7: Poland, until then part of the Russian Empire, declares itself an independent state.

October 17: The King of Belgium enters the retaken city of Ostend.

October 23: President Wilson says no talks on peace can take place with the existing German leadership still in place.

October 30: Turkey signs an armistice with the Allies.

November 1: Allied armies continue their march eastward, liberating more of Belgium.

November 3: The Germany navy is hit by a large mutiny as sailors refuse to set sail from the ports of Kiel and Wilhelmshaven to take part in what they see as a pointless last-ditch action against the Royal Navy.

November 3: The Austro-Hungarian empire signs an armistice with Italy, leaving Germany as the only Central Power still fighting.

November 9: A German republic is announced as the Kaiser’s government collapse. The Kaiser seeks refuge in neutral Holland.

November 11: At Compiegne, the Germans sign an Armistice which would be due to come into effect at 11am that day.

November 12: In northern Rhodesia, German forces attack British troops, unaware of events in Europe the previous day.


January 18: The Paris Peace Conference opens.

April 28: The League of Nations is founded.

June 28: At Versailles near Paris, a treaty formally ending the war is signed.

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