The ultimatum expired on 4 August and Britain duly declared war. It retreated after an initial engagement close to the Belgian border at Mons, then took part in a successful counter-attack on the river Marne in early September. Already fighting Russia, Germany now faced a trench-based war of attrition on two fronts. For the British army on the Western Front, the town of Ypres in Flanders was crucial, because it screened the Channel ports through which the army was supplied from Britain.
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The Germans tried unsuccessfully to break the line at Ypres in a battle which lasted until 22 November. British forces suffered 54, casualties. Germany formed an alliance with the Ottoman Empire on 2 August , but the Turks resisted German pressure to enter the war until the end of October when it shelled Russian ports on the Black Sea. Britain, France and Russia responded with declarations of war. The Ottoman Empire in turn declared a military 'jihad' in November.
The implications for Britain, with a vulnerable empire stretching across the Middle East to India and including a large Muslim population, were considerable. The failure of British naval efforts to break through the Dardanelles and so threaten Istanbul, the capital of the Ottoman Empire, led to a decision to land troops on the Gallipoli peninsula.
A combined force of British, New Zealand, Australian and French colonial troops were unable to break out of their beachheads and the campaign ultimately ended in defeat, with all troops evacuated by the end of the year. The British passenger liner 'Lusitania' was torpedoed by a German submarine and sank with the loss of 1, lives. Of those, were American civilians, but despite strong pressure US President Woodrow Wilson declared that the United States was 'too proud to fight'.
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The sinking aroused widespread anti-German feeling in Britain. Liberal Prime Minister Herbert Asquith formed a coalition government following the 'Shell Crisis', which was sparked press reports of shell shortages at the front. The principal beneficiaries of this coalition in terms of the top jobs remained the Liberals rather than the Conservatives. While the French attacked further south, the British struck at Loos, using chlorine gas for the first time in their initial attack.
However, the wind was not favourable, and gains were limited.
The battle continued until mid-October. In addition to raising a large army, Britain needed to allocate its manpower rationally between military service and wartime production to meet the demands of 'total war'. Conscription enabled it to do both. Opposition to the measure in the House of Commons was limited 36 votes to , but parliament still acknowledged the rights of the individual in allowing conscientious objection. Irish nationalists, supplied with German rifles, rebelled at Easter and seized key buildings in Dublin, including the post office where their final stand was made.
Most of the population was unsupportive and the rebellion was crushed within a week. The British executed the leaders, inadvertently making martyrs of the rebels and inspiring those who followed. British troops invaded Mesopotamia Iraq , then part of the Ottoman Empire, at the end of The rapid advance on Baghdad outstripped itself and the troops fell back to Kut-el-Amara, where they were encircled. Efforts to relieve the garrison failed and it surrendered. British prestige in the Middle East plummeted. The British lost more ships than the Germans, but the German fleet was rendered unable to put to sea again, thereby ensuring British naval supremacy remained intact.
The Allies planned a series of coordinated offensives for On the Western Front, the French and British attacked astride the river Somme, where their two armies met.
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On 1 July, the British army suffered its worst casualties in a single day - 57, men, of whom nearly 20, were killed. The battle continued until 18 November The static trench warfare of the Western Front prompted the British to develop a self-propelled vehicle that could cross barbed wire and trenches and protect those inside from enemy fire. The 'Mark 1' tank was first employed during the Battle of the Somme, at Flers-Courcelette, but it was not until November that they were employed in decisive numbers. Once problems with reliability were overcome, the British and French used their new weapon to considerable effect against the Germans.
Prime Minister Herbert Asquith opposed the creation of a smaller war committee to run the war effort on a daily basis.
His Liberal colleague and Minister for Munitions David Lloyd George, with the support of the Conservatives, used the split to force Asquith out and replace him as prime minister. Lloyd George set up a war cabinet whose members were freed from other cabinet duties. Faith in the original commander-in-chief of the British Expeditionary Force, Sir John French, had been dwindling - not least owing to his belated release of the reserves in the Battle of Loos. By sinking all merchant ships, regardless of nationality, the Germans hoped to starve the British into submission in six months.
They failed and the campaign prompted the United States, the principal neutral power, to declare war on Germany on 6 April The main British offensive for was designed to clear the German threat to the Channel ports and to break through to the Germans' own communications.
The fighting continued until 18 November, ending on the ridge at Passchendaele. By then, unusually heavy rains and the destruction of the landscape by heavy shelling had turned the ground to an impassable morass of mud.
In a letter to a leading member of the British Jewish community, Foreign Secretary Arthur Balfour stated the British government's support for a Jewish national home in Palestine, the first such declaration by a world power. A provisional government of liberals and moderate socialists was established, but it also failed on the battlefield and was overthrown in a carefully planned coup by the Bolsheviks, who promised 'peace, bread and land' to the war-weary Russian people.
Inspired by the writings of Karl Mar, the Bolsheviks established a government based on the 'soviet' governing council. Prime Minister David Lloyd George described this as a 'Christmas present' for the British people at the end of a year when a conclusion to the war seemed remote. The Representation of the People Act enfranchised all men over the age of 21, and propertied women over The electorate increased to 21 million, of which 8 million were women, but it excluded working class women who mostly failed the property qualification.
The terms were humiliating.
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Opposition to the treaty helped ignite the Russian Civil War, which lasted until Following peace with Russia, German commanders planned to use fresh troops from the Eastern Front to attack before American troops began to arrive in the west. After a short but stunning bombardment, the Germans attacked across the old Somme battlefields and made the greatest advance on the Western Front since It was eventually halted east of Amiens, France.
In response, the Allies gave French general Ferdinand Foch overall responsibility for coordinating their armies on the Western Front. The second German offensive of made three major incursions into the Allied line and precipitated a crisis on the Western Front. British Field Marshal Douglas Haig's order of the day on 11 April famously told his men that they must stand and fight 'with their backs to the wall'.
Despite the stunning success of the offensive, the German army had significantly overstretched itself without achieving a decisive victory - a factor that would contribute to its eventual defeat. The 'Spanish flu' epidemic killed more than , people in Britain and up to 50 million worldwide. The British and French, using the greatest concentration of tanks in World War One, advanced up to six miles in a single day. So many German soldiers were forced to surrender that their commander-in-chief General Erich Ludendorff called it 'the black day of the German army'.
General Ferdinand Foch, who had been appointed the supreme commander of the Allied armies on the Western Front on 26 March , coordinated attacks by British, French and American forces. The British broke through the principal German fortified defences, the formidable Hindenburg line, on the following day, and the advance continued unabated into October With the Ottoman army in retreat on three of its four fronts - in Bulgaria, Syria and Iraq - the Turks opened negotiations to surrender.
Unlike the negotiations with the other enemy powers, these were bilateral talks between the British and the Turks, with no French or Russian involvement. By September , Germany was exhausted and saw no prospect of victory. The Allies' terms became progressively harsher as they pressed their advantage on the Western Front, both to ensure the removal of Kaiser Wilhelm II as head of state and to guard against the future renewal of hostilities by Germany.
Despite onerous terms, Germany eventually capitulated and signed an armistice that brought the fighting on the Western Front to a halt at 11am on 11 November This was the first election in which women voted. Although 73 members of Sinn Fein were elected, who included among their number Britain's first woman member of parliament Countess Constance Markievicz, they refused to take their seats.
A distinguished lawyer who had been a member of the Governor General's Council in India, Sir Satyenda Prassano Sinha had been knighted in for his services to the British government. In , he advised on the Government of India Act. He became Baron Sinha of Raipur. Seventy delegates representing the 32 allied and associated powers met to decide on peace treaties following the end of World War One. One of the treaties prepared at the conference, the Treaty of Versailles, imposed harsh reparations on Germany, and is widely considered to have contributed to the eventual outbreak of World War Two.
The harsh British reaction to the Easter Rising allowed Sinn Fein and the 'revolutionaries' to triumph over the moderate Home Rulers in the election. Glasgow had a history of radicalism, and World War One turned it into a centre for organised protest against poor working conditions. The Liberal government feared this mass rally was the beginning of a working class revolution along the lines of the Russian Revolution of The rally was broken up by police, and troops and tanks were deployed on Clydeside.
In reality, the protesters objectives were not that revolutionary - a hour working week and a living wage. The Rowlatt Act extended wartime 'emergency measures', such as detention without trial. Mohandas Gandhi of the Indian Congress Party asked Indians to use non-violent civil disobedience in protest against the act, and to refuse to cooperate with the British government.
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The Montagu-Chelmsford Report offered reform, but not self-rule - despite the sacrifices India had made in the war and US President Woodrow Wilson's declaration regarding national self-determination. A large crowd attending a Sikh religious festival in defiance of British martial law was fired on without warning by troops under the command of Brigadier General Reginald Dyer.
More than people were killed.
The 'Amritsar Massacre' crystallised growing Indian discontent with British rule, which was only heightened when Dyer faced no other punishment than an official censure. Led by Mohandas Gandhi, the Indian Congress Party now became a nationwide movement committed to independence.
With the IRA unable to deliver a decisive victory, and the British government increasingly worried about rising casualties and international criticism over its conduct of the war, a truce was called in July The evacuation of Murmansk in , and the evacuation of Archangel two weeks previously, ended the British attempt to intervene on the anti-Bolshevik 'White Russian' side in the civil war in northern Russia.
American-born Nancy Astor was not the first British woman member of parliament MP , but she was the first one to take her seat. Constance Markievicz became the first woman MP in , but as a member of Sinn Fein she had refused to take her seat. The act created a bicameral parliament, with power shared between British and Indian politicians the so-called 'diarchy' , but the most important ministries were held by Britons.
More reforms were to be discussed in ten years. The Congress Party responded with strikes and boycotts of British goods. This was declared illegal and Congress leader Mohandas Gandhi was imprisoned.