On September 5, 1914, Russia, France, and Great Britain concluded the Treaty of London, each promising not to make a separate peace with the Central Powers. Thenceforth, they could be called the Allied, or Entente, powers, or simply the Allies. Three of these men were the leaders of countries that were heavily involved in the war. These were the American President, Woodrow Wilson, the British Prime Minister, David Lloyd George, and the French Prime Minister, Georges Clemenceau. The British and the French had borne the brunt of the fighting during the war.
- The Germans left death and destruction in their wake as they advanced through Belgium toward France, shooting civilians and executing a Belgian priest they had accused of inciting civilian resistance.
- The term “Big Four” is most commonly used in history to refer to the leaders of the allied countries who had the most input at the peace conference following World War I.
- Fought along the Somme River basin in France, the Second Battle of the Somme is launched by the Germans, hoping to capitalize on the Russian army’s collapse and attacking British trenches with gas and artillery fire.
- Radical right-wing political forces—especially the National Socialist Workers’ Party, or the Nazis—would gain support in the 1920s and ‘30s by promising to reverse the humiliation of the Versailles Treaty.
Four empires—Russia, Germany, Austria-Hungary and the Ottoman Empire—lay shattered, their people facing an uncertain future amid social and political unrest. There were also calls for new states based on Woodrow Wilson’s principle of self‑determination. HISTORY reviews and updates its content regularly to ensure it is complete and accurate. As part of the Hundred Days Offensive, British and Canadian Corps forces strike a decisive victory in Cambrai in northern France, which had been held by Germany since 1914. Surrounded, exhausted and with disintegrating morale, the Germans face the certainty that the war has been lost. In its first attack as a unified force, the Canadian Corps, consisting of the four Canadian divisions, launches an Easter Sunday offensive at Vimy Ridge in northern France, claiming a quick and decisive victory over the Germans in three days.
These leaders wanted to be sure Germany would never again have the power to do what it had done during World War I. They also reminded Wilson that the United States did not enter World War I until April 1917, while the other countries were involved in the war for a much longer period of time. The leaders of the Big Four controlled the discussion that would lead to the development of the Versailles Treaty. The Big Four included David Lloyd George from Great Britain, Georges Clemenceau from France, Vittorio Orlando from Italy, and… In the years following the Treaty of Versailles, many ordinary Germans believed they had been betrayed by the “November Criminals,” those leaders who signed the treaty and formed the post-war government. When German leaders signed the armistice ending hostilities in World War I on November 11, 1918, they believed Wilson’s vision would form the basis for any future peace treaty. Woodrow Wilson (28 December 1856 – 3 February 1924) was elected President of the United States based on domestic issues in 1912, and re-elected in 1916.
Russia then ordered partial mobilization against Austria-Hungary, and on July 30, when Austria-Hungary was riposting conventionally with an order of mobilization on its Russian frontier, Russia ordered general mobilization. Germany, which since July 28 had still been hoping, in disregard of earlier warning hints from Great Britain, that Austria-Hungary’s war against Serbia could be “localized” to the Balkans, was now disillusioned insofar as eastern Europe was concerned. On July 31 Germany sent a 24-hour ultimatum requiring Russia to halt its mobilization and an 18-hour ultimatum requiring France to promise neutrality in the event of war between Russia and Germany.
After the Battle of Dogger Bank in January 1915, in which the British mounted a surprise attack on German ships in the North Sea, the German navy chose not to confront Britain’s mighty Royal Navy in a major battle for more than a year, preferring to rest the bulk of its naval strategy on its U-boats. Neutrality, however, it was increasingly difficult to maintain in the face of Germany’s unchecked submarine aggression against neutral ships, including those carrying passengers. In 1915, Germany declared the waters surrounding the British Isles to be a war zone, and German U-boats sunk several commercial and passenger vessels, including some U.S. ships. At the outbreak of fighting in 1914, the United States remained on the sidelines of World War I, adopting the policy of neutrality favored by President Woodrow Wilson while continuing to engage in commerce and shipping with European countries on both sides of the conflict. Defeat on the battlefield, combined with economic instability and the scarcity of food and other essentials, led to mounting discontent among the bulk of Russia’s population, especially the poverty-stricken workers and peasants. This increased hostility was directed toward the imperial regime of Czar Nicholas II and his unpopular German-born wife, Alexandra.
Battle of Mons: November 11, 1918
After suffering massive casualties, Germany was forced to call off a planned offensive further north, in the Flanders region stretching between France and Belgium, which was envisioned as Germany’s best hope of victory. With Germany able to build up its strength on the Western Front after the armistice with Russia, Allied troops struggled to hold off another German offensive until promised reinforcements from the United States were able to arrive. Though not as impactful as the British Royal Navy or Germany’s U-boats, the use of planes in World War I presaged their later, pivotal role in military conflicts around the globe. The First Battle of the Isonzo took place in the late spring of 1915, soon after Italy’s entrance into the war on the Allied side.
During one of history’s bloodiest battles, on the first day alone of the first Battle of the Somme, British forces suffer more than 57,000 casualties, including 20,000 deaths, as they attempt to overrun German trenches and are easily gunned down. Dubbed the Battle of Tannenberg by the victorious Germans in revenge for the 1410 conflict in which the Poles crushed the Teutonic Knights, this would be the country’s biggest win against Russia along the Eastern Front. The battle begins with Russian armies attacking German troops in German East Prussia (now Poland) from the south and the east, which, at first, works. But after intercepting unencrypted radio messages from the Russians, the Germans are able to reorganize their strategy, forcing the Russians into retreat. The Germans pursued the Russians, essentially annihilating the armies with 30,000 casualties and more than 90,000 taken prisoner. The first European clash since 1815’s Battle of Waterloo, the Battle of Mons takes place in Mons, Belgium, with a British Expeditionary Force that numbers about 75,000 fighting an estimated 150,000 Germans in an attempt to hold the Mons-Conde Canal.
It would leave 26,000 Americans dead, with 120,000-plus casualties—the deadliest battle in U.S. history. Air Service planes, the Allies capture tens of thousands of German prisoners and, after four months, Germany finally cedes, beginning its last retreat. World War I brought about massive social upheaval, as millions of women entered the workforce to replace men who went to war and those who never came back. The first global war also helped to spread one of the world’s deadliest global pandemics, the Spanish flu epidemic of 1918, which killed an estimated 20 to 50 million people. World War I took the lives of more than 9 million soldiers; 21 million more were wounded. The two nations most affected were Germany and France, each of which sent some 80 percent of their male populations between the ages of 15 and 49 into battle.
World War I Begins
Blacks serving alongside white soldiers on the front lines in Europe was inconceivable to the U.S. military. Instead, the first African American troops sent overseas served in segregated labor battalions, restricted to menial roles in the Army and Navy, and shutout of the Marines, entirely. Their duties mostly included unloading ships, transporting materials from train depots, bases and ports, digging trenches, cooking and maintenance, removing barbed wire and inoperable equipment, and burying soldiers.
World War I
Thereupon, Great Britain, which had no concern with Serbia and no express obligation to fight either for Russia or for France but was expressly committed to defend Belgium, on August 4 declared war against Germany. Home from his cruise on July 27, William learned on July 28 how Serbia had replied to the ultimatum. At once he instructed the German Foreign Office to tell Austria-Hungary that there was no longer any justification for war and that it should content itself with a temporary occupation of Belgrade. But, meanwhile, the German Foreign Office had been giving such encouragement to Berchtold that already on July 27 he had persuaded Franz Joseph to authorize war against Serbia. War was in fact declared on July 28, and Austro-Hungarian artillery began to bombard Belgrade the next day.
The United States emerged as a world power, and new technology made warfare deadlier than ever before. Memelland was placed under French supervision, and Saarland was placed under the administration of the League of Nations, but France was given control of its coal. Germany was required to accept responsibility for causing all the damage of the war that was “imposed upon [the Allies] by the aggression of Germany…” and to pay an unspecified amount of money in reparations. Woodrow Wilson, French Premier Georges Clemenceau, and British Prime Minister David Lloyd George. Italian Prime Minister Vittorio Orlando was a delegate but was shut out from the decision making. Wilson sought to create an egalitarian system that would prevent a conflagration similar to World War I from ever occurring again.
In an attack by Russian forces against the Austro-Hungarians and Germans in Galicia, the June Offensive (also called the Kerensky Offensive and the July Offensive) operation takes place, ordered by Russian Minister of War Alexander Kerensky against the nation’s popular calls for peace. They are quickly overtaken by an Austro-German counterattack and the Russian army essentially disintegrates. The term “Big Four” is most commonly used in history to refer to the leaders of the allied countries https://accounting-services.net/ who had the most input at the peace conference following World War I. These men had the most influence over the eventual shape of the Treaty of Versailles. The meetings that began January 12 also failed to include representatives from the smaller allies or any neutral countries, though at the wishes of Britain, Japan later joined the group, which became known as the Supreme Council. The Council met daily, sometimes two or three times a day, knowing that the eyes of the world were on them.
Clemenceau wanted to make sure that Germany would not be a threat to France in the future, and he was not persuaded by Wilson’s idealism. Lloyd George favoured creating a balance of powers but was adamant that Germany pay reparations. Sometimes they are referred to as the Allied Powers, sometimes the victors and sometimes the Big Three. With the onset of the Great Depression after 1929, economic unrest destabilized the already vulnerable Weimar Republic government in Germany, setting the stage for Nazi leader Adolf Hitler’s fateful rise to power in 1933.
Nevertheless, in spite of the fact that 32 state legislatures passed resolutions in favor of the treaty, there was intense opposition to it within the U.S. According to French and British wishes, Germany was subjected to strict punitive measures under the terms of the Treaty of Versailles. The new German government was required to surrender approximately 10 percent of its prewar territory in Europe and all of its overseas possessions. The harbor city of Danzig (now Gdansk) and the coal-rich Saarland were placed under the administration of the League of Nations, and France was allowed to exploit the economic resources of the Saarland until 1935. Kaiser Wilhelm II and a number of other high-ranking German officials were to be tried as war criminals. Germans would grow to resent these harsh conditions imposed by the Treaty of Versailles.
Succeeding Paul Painlevé as premier in November 1917, Clemenceau formed a coalition cabinet in which he was also minister of war. He renewed the dispirited morale of France, persuaded the allies to agree to a unified command, big four ww1 and pushed the war vigorously until the final victory. Leading the French delegation at the Paris Peace Conference, Clemenceau insisted on Germany’s disarmament and was never satisfied with the Versailles Treaty.