4th August 2014 marks 100 years since Britain officially entered world war one. Whilst most people will recognise this as a symbolic date, just what happened 100 years ago today, why did it happen and why is it important in the history of Great Britain and the world? Adaptable Travel will help to explain these events below and how you can help to educate your students on WW1.
What happened on 4th August 1914?
Although 4th August 1914 is marked as a milestone to British involvement in WW1, it is fair to say Great Britain was involved in WW1 at earlier dates and the wheels were certainly already in motion. Roll-back to June 28th 1914, and the assassination of the heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, Franz Ferdinand, by the Serbian nationalist secret society. This action is now accepted as the catalyst which set the wheels in motion for the start of WW1.
Below is a summary of the train of events that led to the start of WW1 and Britain's involvement with the war, which very early on was coined the 'Great War':
• 28 July 1914 - Austria-Hungary, declared war on Serbia in response to Seribia’s refusal to accept all terms of the ultimatum following the assassination of Franz Ferdinand.
• Russia, whom had a treaty with Serbia, joined the war against Austria-Hungary and over a course of six weeks mobilised troops.
• 1st August 2014 - Germany, who was an ally of Austria-Hungary (and whom it had encouraged to wage war on Serbia) viewed the Russian mobilisation as an act of war against Austria-Hungary, and was itself quick to declare war on Russia.
• 3rd August 2014 - France, with a treaty allied to Russia, was now at war with Germany and Austria-Hungary. This very quickly led to Germany invading the neutral Belgium as a strategic shortcut to Paris.
• 4th August 2014, Britain now enters into the war. This was by subject of a loose treaty with France , which placed a "moral obligation" upon her to defend France. Thus, Britain declared war against Germany on 4 August 1914. In addition to France, Britain had a treaty to defend neutral Belgium, and this prompted the King of Belgium to appeal to Britain for assistance on 4th August 1914. Later that day, Britain officially declared itself in defence of Belgium and France, and therefore was at war with Germany and with Austria-Hungary.
The war was now escalating.
What happened after 4th August 1914 to escalate the war?
Britian, still with many colonies around the globe, was instantly offered assistant from many including Australia, Canada, India, New Zealand and South Africa. United States would not enter the war until 1917, before which the US President, Woodrow Wilson declared a neutral stance, not wanting to get involved in the ‘war in Europe’.
Japan, with a military agreement in place with Britain, declared war on Germany on 23rd August 1914, to which Austria-Hungary responded by declaring war on Japan – the war was becoming global. Italy initially managed to avoid becoming embroiled in the escalating war due to citing a sub-rule which meant their treaty to defend Germany and Austria-Hungary was only in the event of a ‘defensive war’. Instead Italy declared a policy of neutrality. The following year, in May 1915, Italy joined forces with the allies, and rejected Germany and Austria-Hungary.
Why did WW1 Escalate?
Never has there been such a case of ‘it being obvious in hindsight’. The tangled web of alliances certainly played a crucial part in escalating the war from a localised, limited war between Austrian-Hungary and Serbia, into a world war. Many of these alliances were the result of the actions of the German leader, Otto von Bismark some 43 years prior in 1871, in his desire to create a unified ‘German Empire’. A French-British allegiance at the same time led Bismark to create ‘The Three Emperors League’ containing Germany, Austria-Hungary and Russia in 1973. Russia withdrew from this allegiance in 1878 and later declared allegiance to Britain, which left the ‘Dual Alliance’ with Germany and Austria-Hungary. The Dual Alliance specifically cited each other would declare war on Russia should either nation be involved in a war in any way with Russia, either directly or indirectly – hence this later proving a major catalyst to the escalation of WW1.
Other alliances between Britain and Japan largely came about due to Germany’s aim of colonising parts of the globe, specifically Africa. Britain was seemingly gaining closer and closer ties with Europe, which undoubtedly hastened the start of the war. These closer ties was signified with the ‘Entente Cordiale’ – an agreement with France in 1904 to end previous disputes between the two nations, and more importantly placed a ‘moral obligation’ upon each nation to aid each other in the event of war. This agreement was later added to with the ‘Anglo-Russian Entente’ with similar terms now in place between Britain and Russia – in effect a three-fold allegiance known as ‘Triple Entente’. Other allegiances were signed, such as between Britain and Belgium and Anglo-French Naval Convention. All of these tretaies and declarations of allegence simply led to the escalation of WW1 later down the line.
Why is it called the ‘Great War’?
The term the ‘Great War’ is often used to describe WW1. The word ‘great’ is a positive word ensuing ‘good’ – not befitting of the evil of this war. So why was WW1 coined the ‘Great War’? It was widely believed that, even before the conflicts started, WW1 would be on such a scale that it would be the war to end all wars, that to say it would enforce peace upon the world. 135 countries took part in WW1 and more than 15 million people lost their lives as a result of the war. So great in scale and great in that another war of this scale would not follow again. This proved a premature term given just a few years later, World War 2 erupted.
What can we teach students about World War Once?
There is no substitute for seeing a place in real life – and with Belgium playing such a pivotal role in WW1, this is the best place to allow your students to learn about WW1 and put it into context. Adaptable Travel have an experienced team, many of whom are educated in history and as such understand the context of WW1. In addition, we have pulled together a team of highly skilled of expert battlefield guides who are highly skilled in accompanying students on school trips to Belgium and the battlefields of Ypres and Somme. We understand it is difficult for students to imagine the scale of what they see, so with the help of our guides and our free full colour WW1 study pack we are confident that a school trip to Ypres and Somme will be one to remember and educate, and bring together an understanding of tghe tangled web of politics that culminated in World War One and what took place next.
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