Wednesday, November 11, 2020, marks the 102nd year since the First World War ended through the signing of the Armistice by the Central Powers at exactly 5:01 a.m., Paris time. The treaty was to take effect at 11:00 a.m. the same day. As a matter of fact, the Eleven-Eleven roundabout in Calabar, Cross River State in Southern Nigeria, is named after this event.
Also known as World War I or the Great War, the First World War was a universal war centered in Europe. The War to end all Wars began on July 28, 1914, and lasted until November 11, 1918.
The war was fought for exactly four years, three months, and fourteen days. While a total of 135 countries took part in the First World War, around 38 million people died.
The Great War also involved nearly all the biggest military powers of the world, involving the British Empire, United States, Russia, France, Italy, Japan, Rumania, Serbia, Belgium, Greece, Portugal, and Montenegro as the Allies while Germany, Austria-Hungary, Turkey, and Bulgaria were the Central Powers.
Now let’s check out some interesting facts about the First World War.
The Assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria triggered the First World War
On June 28, 1914, the Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria was assassinated along with his pregnant wife Sophie. The Archduke was the heir to the throne of Austria and Hungary and nephew of Emperor Franz Josef. The couple was assassinated by Gavrilo Princip, a Bosnian revolutionary, who shot Ferdinand and his wife.
Differences Over Foreign Policy
In as much as the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand instigated the war, that was not the underlying reason. Although there were many reasons for the war, differences over foreign policy among the world powers were the primary cause of the war.
Other causes include a quest to maintain a balance-power in Europe, the 1909 Bosnian Crisis, the 1911 Moroccan Crisis, and countries who wanted to regain lost territories and subsequently build their empires.
The United States did not join the war until 1917
In 1915, the Lusitania, a British passenger ship, was sunk by a German submarine that killed 1,195 passengers including 128 Americans. Many Americans were angry and pressured the U.S. government to declare war on the Germans but President Woodrow Wilson wanted a peaceful end to the war.
However, in 1917, when the Germans declared that they would sink any ship that approached the British Isle, Wilson announced the entrance of the United States into the war in order to restore peace to Europe. So, on April 6, 1917, America joined the Allies to fight in the war.
Casualties of the War
During the First World War, around eight million soldiers died and about 21 million were injured. Troops numbering 65 million were mobilised during the war. In fact, Britain lost 57,470 men on the first day at the Battle of the Somme. The War also witnessed chemical weapons for the first time during the First World War. The mustard gas was a popular chemical used.
Although the United States only spent seven and a half months in actual combat, around 116,000 soldiers were killed and 204,000 men were wounded. In the 1916 Battle of Verdun, over a million casualties were recorded in ten months.
The First World War saw the collapse of Four Empires
At the twilight of the war in 1918, many Germans were already demonstrating against the war as they were starving in the midst of a collapsing economy.
As a result, the German Emperor Kaiser Wilhelm II stepped down on November 9, 1918, as the leaders of both the Allies and Central Powers met at Compiegne, France.
On November 11, the peace armistice was signed and World War One ended. The end of the Great War ultimately saw the collapse of four empires; the German empire, the Austro-Hungarian empire, the Russian empire, and the Ottoman empire.
Although the Treaty of Versailles in 1919 officially ended the First World War, many of its witnesses, however, believed it was a farce and that the Second World War wouldn’t have happened if the First World War never took place in the first place, or if it actually ended all wars.
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