44 Amazing Photographs of Soldiers of the Great War

World War I or the First World War, often abbreviated as WWI or WW1, was a global war originating in Europe that lasted from 28 July 1914 to 11 November 1918. Contemporaneously known as the Great War or “the war to end all wars”, it led to the mobilisation of more than 70 million military personnel, including 60 million Europeans, making it one of the largest wars in history, and also one of the deadliest conflicts in history, with an estimated 8.5 million combatant deaths and 13 million civilian deaths as a direct result of the war. Resulting genocides and the related 1918 Spanish flu pandemic caused many millions of deaths worldwide.

On 28 June 1914, Gavrilo Princip, a Bosnian Serb Yugoslav nationalist and member of the Serbian Black Hand military society, assassinated the Austro-Hungarian heir Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo, leading to the July Crisis. In response, Austria-Hungary issued an ultimatum to Serbia on 23 July. Serbia’s reply failed to satisfy the Austrians, and the two moved to a war footing. A network of interlocking alliances enlarged the crisis from a bilateral issue in the Balkans to one involving most of Europe. By July 1914, the great powers of Europe were divided into two coalitions: the Triple Entente, consisting of France, Russia, and Britain; and the preestablished Triple Alliance of Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Italy. The Triple Alliance was only defensive in nature, allowing Italy to stay out of the war until 26 April 1915, when it joined the Allied Powers after its relations with Austria-Hungary deteriorated. Russia felt it necessary to back Serbia, and approved partial mobilisation after Austria-Hungary shelled the Serbian capital of Belgrade, which was a few kilometres from the border, on 28 July 1914. Full Russian mobilisation was announced on the evening of 30 July; the following day, Austria-Hungary and Germany did the same, while Germany demanded Russia demobilise within twelve hours. When Russia failed to comply, Germany declared war on Russia on 1 August 1914 in support of Austria-Hungary, the latter following suit on 6 August 1914. France ordered full mobilisation in support of Russia on 2 August 1914. In the end, World War I would see the continent of Europe split into two major opposing alliances; the Allied Powers, primarily composed of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, the United States, France, the Russian Empire, Italy, Japan, Portugal, Greece, Serbia and Montenegro; and the Central Powers, primarily composed of the German Empire, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the Ottoman Empire and Bulgaria.

Germany’s strategy for a war on two fronts against France and Russia was to rapidly concentrate the bulk of its army in the West to defeat France within 6 weeks, then shift forces to the East before Russia could fully mobilise; this was later known as the Schlieffen Plan. On 2 August, Germany demanded free passage through Belgium, an essential element in achieving a quick victory over France. When this was refused, German forces invaded Belgium on 3 August and declared war on France the same day; the Belgian government invoked the 1839 Treaty of London and, in compliance with its obligations under this treaty, Britain declared war on Germany on 4 August. On 12 August, Britain and France also declared war on Austria-Hungary; on 23 August, Japan sided with Britain, seizing German possessions in China and the Pacific. In November 1914, the Ottoman Empire entered the war on the side of Austria-Hungary and Germany, opening fronts in the Caucasus, Mesopotamia, and the Sinai Peninsula. The war was fought in (and drew upon) each power’s colonial empire also, spreading the conflict to Africa and across the globe.

The German advance into France was halted at the Battle of the Marne and by the end of 1914, the Western Front settled into a war of attrition, marked by a long series of trench lines that changed little until 1917 (the Eastern Front, by contrast, was marked by much greater exchanges of territory). In 1915, Italy joined the Allied Powers and opened a front in the Alps. Bulgaria joined the Central Powers in 1915 and Greece joined the Allies in 1917, expanding the war in the Balkans. The United States initially remained neutral, though even while neutral it became an important supplier of war materiel to the Allies. Eventually, after the sinking of American merchant ships by German submarines, the declaration by Germany that its navy would resume unrestricted attacks on neutral shipping, and the revelation that Germany was trying to incite Mexico to initiate war against the United States, the U.S. declared war on Germany on 6 April 1917. Trained American forces did not begin arriving at the front in large numbers until mid-1918, but the American Expeditionary Force ultimately reached some two million troops.

Increasing war-weariness in Russia led to the 1917 February Revolution, with the Tsar replaced by a Provisional Government, who remained committed to the war. However, widespread desire for peace resulted in the October Revolution, in which the Bolsheviks seized power; in March 1918, they signed the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, taking Russia out of the war. Large numbers of German combat troops were transferred to the Western Front, where they took part in the March 1918 German Spring Offensive. Despite initial success, they were soon halted by ferocious defence and heavy casualties; with American reinforcements running at 10,000 men per day, German manpower reserves were exhausted. In August, the Allies launched the Hundred Days Offensive and although the German army continued to fight hard, it could no longer halt their advance. The Central Powers began to collapse; Bulgaria was the first to sign an Armistice on 29 September, followed by the Ottomans on 31 October, then Austria-Hungary on 3 November. Isolated, facing revolution at home and an army on the verge of mutiny, Kaiser Wilhelm abdicated on 9 November and the new German government signed an armistice on 11 November 1918, bringing the fighting to a close.

World War I was a significant turning point in the political, cultural, economic, and social climate of the world. The war and its immediate aftermath sparked numerous revolutions and uprisings. The Big Four (Britain, France, the United States, and Italy) imposed their terms on the defeated powers in a series of treaties agreed at the 1919 Paris Peace Conference, the most well known being the Treaty of Versailles with Germany. Ultimately, as a result of the war, the Austro-Hungarian, German, Ottoman, and Russian Empires ceased to exist, and numerous new states were created from their remains. However, despite the conclusive Allied victory (and the creation of the League of Nations during the peace conference, intended to prevent future wars), a second world war followed just over twenty years later. (Wikipedia)

Portrait of a British soldier taken prisoner by the Germans, April 1918.
Portrait of a British soldier captured during the Spring Offensive, March-April 1918.
British soldier taken prisoner by the Germans, April 1918.
British soldiers taken prisoner by the Germans, April 1918.
Portrait of a British prisoner of war, a soldier of one of the light infantry regiments, captured by the Germans during the Spring Offensive, March 1918.
Portrait of a British soldier, taken prisoner by the Germans, probably in April 1918.
Three British prisoners captured in Armentieres, 9-18 April 1918.
A portrait of a German soldier in uniform, taken at a photo studio.
A group of German soldiers. One of them is operating a telephone.
A group portrait of German soldiers.
German soldier poses happily in the barrel of the long range Paris Gun (Paris-Geschütz) which bombarded Paris during the Spring Offensive, 1 May 1918.
German soldiers taking a shower after a spell in the trenches.
German troops getting ready for some sleep in their dugout on the Western Front.
German troops playing cards and having a rest in St. Quentin. They are mixture of soldiers of the 210th and 212th Infantry Regiments.
A German soldier helping Italian women to do their washing. They are wringing out clothes together.1917.
A Musketier from 8. Badisches Inf-Rgt Nr. 169 in Feldmarschmäßig or full marching order.
29th June 1917 – Black German Soldier in the Landwehr Infantry-Regiment No.25″
28th June 1917: Portrait Of A Portuguese Soldier.
The Dead Observer
Soldiers in an old trench near Gavrelle playing with their pet dog, 27th June 1917.
Women British Red Corss Society, Voluntary Aid Detachment (VAD) ambulance drivers, Etaples, 27th June 1917. The ambulance was presented by the Owners and Workmen of the Royal Forest of Dean Coalfield.
Two Women British Red Cross Society, Voluntary Aid Detachment (VAD) ambulance drivers. The vehicle is one of the Yorkshire Mine Workers’ Convoy. Etaples, 27th June 1917.
In a British Red Cross Society, Voluntary Aid Detachment (VAD) Dressing Station at Abbeville, 27th June 1917.
Romanian soldiers on a railway bridge. One soldier carries a child across.
A German disabled soldier learning how to operate a spade with an artificial arm, probably at a school of training for German disabled soldiers at a Westphalian hospital.
An invalided soldier with an artificial arm attempting to write while another one is looking on. Note two Australian convalescent soldiers in the background.
A doctor takes a plaster cast of the remainder of an amputee’s right leg at Queen Mary’s Hospital, Roehampton, Surrey, in preparation for fitting a specially made artificial limb.
Disabled British soldiers at the workshops of J E Hanger at Roehampton, Surrey, learn to walk again using their newly fitted artificial legs, ca.1917.
Chaplain of 72nd Canadian Battalion talking to a Canadian soldier up the line. April, 1918.
French soldiers making wreaths to place on graves. Battle of Amiens. August, 1918
French soldiers examining Sopwith 1F.1 ‘Camel’ of the R.A.F. which landed inside Canadian lines near Amiens, France, August 1918
Canadian soldiers having a quiet game of cards during the Battle of Amiens. August 1918
Soldiers of the 48th Battery walking along the skyline. Toronto, Ont. 12 Apr. 1916
Canadian soldier with burns caused by mustard gas. 1917-1918
Wounded Canadian soldier in No. 2 Hospital, with visitor and attending nurses. Le Tréport, France. 1916.
French soldiers visit their home village and are reunited with their families. March, 1917
French soldiers visit their home village and are reunited with their families. March, 1917
French soldiers visit their home village and are reunited with their families. March, 1917
Canadian soldiers returning from Vimy Ridge. May 1917
Goods which can’t be bought. Canadian soldier resting in a shop window on shelled village, telling his friends how the boys made Fritz quit. July, 1917.
A Canadian Post in front of Mons meets a German wagon containing four escaped German soldiers, who are being taken to Mons, so that they can give information regarding the retreating enemy. November, 1918.
Washing day on the bank of the Scarpe. Feuchy, 5 June 1917.
Troops of the 10th Battalion, Royal Fusiliers in a captured dug-out at Feuchy cross roads. Feuchy was captured by the 9th Division, 9 April 1917.
Royal Engineers laying a light railway over captured ground near Feuchy, April 1917.

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