"The Great War"
World War I or "The Great War" as it is still sometimes called, is considered by many to be the first "modern war." To a certain extent, the American Civil War was a terrible precursor to the First World War. The use of rifled cannons, breach loading rifles, trenches, railroad transportation and even observation ballons foreshadowed "The Great War." Both the Civil War and World War One resulted in a terrible loss of life. Over nine milliion troops and over six million civilians were killed in the "Great War." Battle deaths were horrendous. For example, British deaths on the first day of the Battle of the Somme numbered over 19,000. Many were killed by that most deadly weapon of the war-the machine gun. In all, the British lost over 58,000 men in one day.
Most people expected the war to be a glorious adventure and to last only a few months. They were wrong. It was a nightmare that lasted four years and almost completely wiped out an entire generation of young men from various countries. The war started in August, 1914. It was triggered by the assassination of Franz Ferdinand, the Archduke of Austria by a Bosnian Serb. Because of alliances that were signed by countries over the years, Britain, France and Russia soon found themselves embroiled in a deadly conflict with Germany and Austria-Hungary. Soon various parts of the British empire were involved in the war. Germany won some early victories, but it did not take long for advances to grind to a halt. Trench warfare ensued for the next 3 and a half years with each side making suicidal frontal assaults on enemy lines. Between the machine gun and heavy artillery, soldiers ( and horses) were systematically cut to pieces.
By 1917 both sides were exhausted. The Untied States entered the war in 1917. By the fall of 1918, the Allies won victories on all fronts. The use of tanks helped break the German lines. While still primitive in many respects, the tanks were effective. Air support - a major innovation- was used. Finally the Germans signed an armistice on November 11, 1918. The terms of the Treaty of Paris Peace Conference of 1919 and the Treaty of Versailles set the stage for an even deadlier conflict in 1939