Below are the key points of some major battles of World War I.


  • Germany vs. France
  • Germans commanded by General Falkenhayn.
  • French commanded by General Pétain, then General Mangin from 24 September.
  • February to December 1916
Where Why
  • Verdun occupied a vital position on the heights above the Meuse River at the eastern extremity of the trench line in France.
  • Great national symbol for France.
What Happened
  • Very intense German artillery bombardment of the outlying forts.
  • French fell back to prepared positions.
  • Germans captured a number of French forts.
  • French gained control of skies in April
  • September: French recaptured Douaumont and Thiaumont.
  • French ended up with same land as before the battle.
  • No strategic advantage to either side.
  • French lost 350, 000
  • Germans lost 330, 000.


  • British and German Fleets
  • Germans: Vice Admiral Scheer led High Seas Fleet Battle Squadron.
  • Hipper commanded 5 battlecruisers and 4 cruisers.
  • British: Admiral John Jellico led Grand Fleet squadrons; Admiral Beatty commanded squadron of battle cruisers
  • Summer of 1916; 31 May and 1 June.
  • North Sea, off the southwestern coast of Norway.
  • Off the Danish coast of Jutland.
  • Germans planned to ensnare British battle cruisers to stop supply blockade.
  • Wanted to fight a small group of British ships to ensure victory.
What Happened
  • Britain intercepted and partially decoded German signal for beginning of operation.
  • first 50 minutes British suffered severely, the Indefatigable was sunk.
  • Beatty's battle cruisers joined in and German cruisers suffered.
  • German destroyers sent to launch a torpedo attack.
  • British Queen Mary sunk; lost the Germans.
  • British found Germans and formed the horizontal line of a "T"
  • Germans held up well; sunk the Invincible.
  • Germans escaped through brilliant retreat manoeuvre
  • 11 out of 110 German vessels lost.
  • 14 out of 149 British vessels lost.
  • 1545 German casualties.
  • 6274 British casualties.
  • German fleet made no further attempts to break the Allied blockade.


  • Britain, France and Belgium vs. Germany.
  • FIRST: 30 October-24 November, 1914
  • SECOND: 22 April-25 May, 1915
Where Why
  • Ypres was in the way of the German path to the French ports of Calais and Dunkirk on the English Channel.
  • SECOND: Ypres was the key point of an Allied salient that blocked a German approach to the English Channel.
What Happened
  • FIRST: British occupied Ypres.
  • Germans attacked Ypres (bombardment).
  • Allies outnumbered.
  • November: Germans capture Messines-Wytschaete Ridge overlooking the Ypres Salient.
  • Stemmed after 34 days of heavy fighting.
  • SECOND: Germans used poisonous chlorine gas for the first time.
  • Five weeks of fighting.
  • Stalemate was reached.
  • Germans ended the battle.
  • FIRST: Initiated the long period of trench warfare on the western front.
  • Ypres Salient formed.
  • Great damage to Ypres.
  • SECOND: Germans lost less men: 35, 000 but ended the battle.
  • British had 60, 000 casualties.
  • Ypres destroyed.

Passchendaele (Third Battle of Ypres)

  • Allies (mostly Britain) vs. Germans.
  • British commander-in-chief General Haig.
  • Allies included Canada, New Zealand.
  • 31 July - 10 November, 1917
  • Village of Passchendaele, near Ypres, Belgium.
  • British offensive directed against enemy installations.
What Happened
  • June: British forces take the strategically important village of Messines, the heights of which commanded miles of German-occupied territory.
  • Prolonged rainfall
  • Heavy Allied bombardment
  • 31 July-Nov. 10: battlefield had been transformed into a swamp.
  • Canadian infantrymen captured Passchendaele.
  • Allies halted offensive
  • German lines pushed back only 8km.
  • Passchendaele turned into a swamp.
  • Each side suffered some 250, 000 casualties.


  • FIRST: France vs. Germany
  • French commander in chief, Joseph Joffre; advised by Gallieni, military governor of Paris.
  • SECOND: Allies (largely American) vs. Germany.
  • Allied commander General Ferdinand Foch; Included several American divisions.
  • Planned by German General Erich Ludendorff.
  • FIRST: 6-9 September, 1914.
  • SECOND: 15 July-4 August, 1918.
  • Near the Marne River, NE France.
  • SECOND: Marne and Château-Thierry.
  • FIRST: Germans accidentally wheeled southeast.
  • French took advantage of the exposed flank.
  • SECOND: Part of the plan of General Erich Ludendorff.
What Happened
  • FIRST: Germans, on path to Paris, erred in decoding an order, wheeled SE.
  • French attacked exposed German flank.
  • Joffre ordered troops to front by all available means, including taxicabs.
  • German armies retreated and quelled the threat to Paris.
  • SECOND: Germans attacked to the east and west of Reims.
  • Germans Crossed the Marne west of Reims.
  • Fierce combat at Château-Thierry.
  • German armies forced back across the Marne.
  • FIRST: Halted the German advance into NE France.
  • SECOND: Tipped the balance of power in favour of the Allied forces.
  • Destroyed Ludendorff's plan for a massive attack in Flanders.


  • Britain & France vs. Germany.
  • FIRST: British Commander-in-Chief: General Douglas Haig.
  • French Commander-in-Chief: General Joseph Joffre.
  • German commanders: General Hindenburg and Erich Ludendorff.
  • SECOND: Germans commanded by General Erich Ludendorff.
  • 26 March: French General Ferdinand Foch appointed C-in-C of Allies.
  • FIRST: July-November 1916.
  • SECOND: 21 March-30 March 1918.
  • Strongly fortified German positions along the Somme River, France.
  • FIRST: To relieve the German pressure on Verdun in northeastern France.
  • SECOND: German attempt to drive a wedge in the Allied lines and to capture Amiens before proceeding to Paris.
What Happened
  • FIRST: Germans abandoned Verdun offensive on 16 July, 1916.
  • Haig shelled the Germans for 5 days straight to destroy lines of wire.
  • British went over the top.
  • 60,000 British died in the first day after the shelling - mowed down.
  • First use of the modern tank by the British; useless in rain & mud.
  • End of November the Germans retreated to the Hindenburg Line.
  • SECOND: British forced to retreat to the town of Amiens.
  • Allied forces were skilfully manoeuvred into slowing then halting the German advance.
  • Germans driven back to Hindenburg then further.
  • FIRST: The attack failed because the Germans had the high ground and killed more British; also had stronger barricades than expected.
  • Allies only gained 324 sq. km of territory at the Somme.
  • Often considered the real turning point in the war for the Allies.
  • Allies suffered about 600, 000 casualties.
  • Germans had about 450, 000 casualties.
  • SECOND: 200, 000 British casualties and 190, 000 prisoners
  • 180, 000 German casualties.


  • Russia vs. Germany.
  • Germans: General Hindenburg; Second-in-command General Erich Ludendorff
  • Russians: General Alexander Samsonov
  • 26-30 August 1914.
Where Why
  • Russian attempt to divert the Germans from their offensive against France.
What Happened
  • Russian armies not properly equipped; commanders would not cooperate.
  • Russian armies wiped out.
  • Attack helped France, as German troops were taken from the Western Front.
  • Probably helped prevent a German breakthrough in the West.


  • Britain, France, Australia, NZ vs. Turkey.
  • British: First Lord of Admiralty Winston Churchill; Sir Ian Hamilton (weak commander).
  • Turkish: Mustafa Kemal
  • 25 April 1915-8 Jan 1916.
  • Dardanelles Strait and the tip of the Gallipoli Peninsula near Istanbul (Turkey).
  • Open up a new theatre of war to end French stalemate.
  • Relieve Turkish pressure on Russian forces in the Caucasus.
  • Provide a direct link with Russia via the Black Sea.
What Happened
  • Amphibious landing by Allies.
  • 3 months of stalemate.
  • Turks had the high ground.
  • 205, 000 British casualties.
  • 47, 000 French casualties.
  • 250, 000-300, 000 Turkish casualties.
  • Badly stained Churchill's reputation.
  • Weakened Turks enough for the British to seize Palestine.
  • Distracted Germans from another plan.

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