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Five facts about the First World War

AWM EZ0141


Posted on July 18 2017

While there is so much to learn about the First World War, here are five interesting facts to get you started:

1. How did it start?

It’s a difficult one to unpick, even for the experts, but the assassination of Arch Duke Franz Ferdinand of Austria-Hungary in Sarajevo on 28 June 1914 is often cited as the tipping point. Tensions in Europe had been high for some time, but the assassination led to a series of events that resulted in Austria-Hungary declaring war on Serbia on 28 July 1914. Germany then declared war on Russia on 1 August 1914. Other nations followed, according to the provisions in their respective alliances, including Great Britain and its Dominions.

2. What were the two major alliances?

The armies lined up in two main blocs: the Allied Powers and the Central Powers. The Central Powers began as an alliance between Germany and Austria-Hungary. The Allied Powers began as an alliance between France, Britain and Russia.

3. Which other countries became involved?

The German effort was boosted by the Ottoman Empire (Turkey and the Middle East) and Bulgaria. The Allied Powers were joined by the United States, Japan, Italy, Belgium, Brazil, Greece, Montenegro, Romania, Serbia, Portugal, China.

4. When did Australia join the war?

When Britain declared war against Germany in August 1914, Australia, as a Dominion of the British Empire, was automatically also at war. While thousands rushed to volunteer, most of the men accepted into the Australian Imperial Force in August 1914 were sent first to Egypt, not Europe. Australians landed at Gallipoli on 25 April 1915, before arriving in France in 1916.

5. Who fired first?

The first round was most likely fired in Serbia at the end of July 1914. From 4 August, Germany invaded Belgium and there was fierce fighting near Liège. The Belgian Armed Forces slowed the German advance and created time for the British and French to marshal their forces, however, many civilians suffered and their towns became known as martyr cities – Dinant, Aarschot, Tamines, Leuven and Dendermonde.  

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