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World War I: Outbreak of War

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Source: The Express

After the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, war broke out across Europe and the world. But this did not all happen at once. Read through the resources below to learn more about the outbreak of World War I and the series of events that led to the world's first truly global war.

July crisis: chronology (Lumens Learning, n.d.)

A diplomatic crisis among major European powers in 1914 led to the First World War. What happened when? The July Crisis of 1914 describes the chain reaction of events that led to the outbreak of war in Europe. The timeline in this link lays out each event, with links to some individual articles where you can read in more detail.

Origins of the July Crisis: Lighting the Fuse (, n.d.)

The assassination of the Archduke marked the beginning of a period between June 29 and August 1, which has been called the "July Crisis." Read through this article to learn more about this period and how it led to the outbreak of war.

The July Crisis (First World War, n.d.)

The so-called "July Crisis" actually spans the period from the assassination of the Austro-Hungarian heir to the throne, Archduke Franz Ferdinand, on 28 June 1914, to the general declaration of war in early August. Read through this website to learn more. Information is organised under sub-headings to make for easier reading.

The July Crisis (History Crunch, n.d.)

The July Crisis of 1914 unfolded as a series of events following the assassination of Franz Ferdinand. These events would lead to the mobilisation of armies and the outbreak of war. Read through this article to learn more.

Schlieffen Plan (Lumens Learning, n.d.)

Prior to World War I, The Schlieffen Plan established that, in case of the outbreak of war, Germany would attack France first and then Russia.Instead of a ‘head-on’ engagement, which would lead to position warfare of inestimable length, the opponent should be enveloped and its armies attacked on the flanks and rear. Moving through Switzerland’s mountainous terrain would have been impractical, whereas in the North, Luxembourg had no army at all, and the weak Belgian army was expected to retreat to its fortifications. But the execution of the Schlieffen Plan ultimately led to World War I becoming a global war. Read through this article to learn more.

World War I: Schlieffen and his plan (, n.d.)

The French-Russian alliance had raised the prospect that Germany might face a war on two fronts. In response, Kaiser Wilhelm II ordered Alfred Graf von Schlieffen, Chief of the German General Staff, to develop a plan to successfully fight both France and Russia. The strategy Schlieffen developed would have a profound effect on both the scope and the conduct of the war. Read through this article to learn more about the plan.

1914: opening battles - The Schlieffen Plan and the Race to the Sea (The United States World War I Centennial Commission, n.d.)

Germany’s war plan, the Schlieffen Plan, called for it to quickly defeat France and then shift east to fight Russia. Its armies were to sweep down through Belgium and northern France toward Paris, like a giant swinging door. On August 4, Germany invaded Belgium, violating its neutrality. The British upheld their commitment to defend Belgium, and declared war on Germany. Read through this website to learn more.

The Schlieffen Plan (ThoughtCo, 2019, November 24)

When war looked likely in 1914, the Germans decided to put the Schlieffen Plan into effect, declaring war on France and attacking with multiple armies in the west, leaving one in the east. This plan was a huge failure for the Germans and resulted in turning World War I into a global war by bringing Great Britain into the fray. Read through this article to learn more about the plan and why it failed.

Origins and outbreak (The British Library, 2014, January 29)

How did World War One break out? In this article, Professor David Stevenson closely examines the three stages that led to war being declared between Austria-Hungary, Serbia, Germany, Russia, France, and Britain.

The Battle of Liege, 1914 (First World War, n.d.)

The Battle of Liege signified the first land battle of the war, as the German Second Army crossed the frontier into neutral Belgium (since 1839) so as to attack France from the north. The Schlieffen Plan had started. Read through this article to learn more about this opening battle of World War I.

Bloodbath at Liege (Mental Floss, 2014, August 7)

On the Western Front, the first clashes in August and September 1914, known as the Battle of the Frontiers, resulted in breathtaking casualties: By early September, the French Army had suffered roughly 330,000 casualties, including around 80,000 dead, while the much smaller British Expeditionary Force sustained around 30,000 casualties, nearly half its total strength. German casualties were almost as high, topping 300,000 by the end of the first week of September (including the First Battle of the Marne). Read through this article to learn more about the bloody outbreak of war in Europe.

The Scrap of Paper - Enlist Today

Germany’s invasion of Belgium tipped the balance for Britain. At 2pm on 4 August, it issued an ultimatum demanding Germany withdraw its troops. At 11pm, the deadline passed without a reply. Britain declared war. This propaganda poster demonstrates how the invasion of Belgium was used to justify Britain entering the war.

Why Britain is at War

Britain’s entry into war was partially a reaction to larger anxieties about the balance of power in Europe, as well as its own security and position in the world. But by violating Belgium’s neutrality, Germany positioned itself as the belligerent aggressor and made British intervention a moral issue about the rights of small nations. The entry of Britain and its empire made this a truly global war. Europe’s leaders went to war with the general support of their citizens. This was especially important in Britain, where there was no compulsory military service and recruitment would be dependent on voluntary enlistment, as urged in this poster.

The Austro-Hungarian Ultimatum to Serbia

Click on this link to get the English translation of the The Austro-Hungarian Ultimatum to Serbia after the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand.

Austro-Hungarian government's telegram to the government of Serbia on 28 July 1914th Declaration of war.

The royal government of Serbia having not satisfactorily answered the notice that had been handed to it by the minister of Austro-Hungary in Belgrade on the 23rd of July 1914 the imperial and royal government finds itself compelled to provide itself for its rights and interest's protection and to resort therefore to force of arms. Therefore, Austro-Hungary considers itself henceforth in state of war against Serbia. The minister of foreign affairs of Austro-Hungary Count Berchtold

The Daily Mirror, Wednesday, July 29, 1914

This headline reveals that the conflict between Austria-Hungary on Serbia could have devastating consequences for the rest of Europe, suggesting that other countries may be threatened by this outbreak. The newspaper goes on to explain what the “terrible danger” may be, recognising the potential for a wide scale European war. It explains the relationships between countries and eventually shows how Britain may come to be involved: 

“Russia has declared she will not see Serbia crushed. Relations between her and Austria are dangerously strained, and Russian troops are being hurried to the frontier.”

After explaining the chain of relationships between each country, this section of the newspaper finishes by describing the relationship of Britain. In short, the newspaper shows that Britain has a duty to defend Belgium should conflict reach her borders: 

“Britain is joined by close ties, though not by a formal alliance, to France and Russia, who count on her backing. Britain is bound to defend the neutrality of Belgium if her territory is invaded during a Franco-German war.”

In a concise way for the public, the newspaper reveals the order of threat to Europe, and predicts what might happen as a result of the outbreak of conflict. This would have been particularly useful for people who were unaware of how war between Austria-Hungary and Serbia would be a threat to Britain: 

“Russia will defend the Servians by force of arms.”

“Germany would then join the war.”

“France would have to take the side of Russia and Italy that of Austria and Germany.”

“Britain may thus be involved.”

“There is also a possibility that the Balkan States – Romania, Greece and Bulgaria – with Turkey, may join the war.”

Since there was potential for war at this point, the newspaper had a lot of questions to raise to consider the possibility of war. When the public were reading this issue of the newspaper, war was not inevitable, so the newspaper was helping the public get to grips with events and work out the situation in Europe. 

The Daily Mirror headline, Wednesday, August 5, 1914

Before war was declared, an ultimatum was sent to Germany, requesting she remove her troops from neutral Belgium. When this ultimatum was ignored, Britain had no choice but to declare war on the country. Readers of the Daily Mirror would have first read about Britain’s entrance into the war with this headline, which will have shocked the public and left them wondering how the war would unfold.