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1914 - 1916

Going to War

At the start of the First World War, many believing it would be like previous conflicts, thought that it would be bloody, but last just a few months. They planned for an offensive war not expecting to fight more than a single large campaign.

Going to WAr
1914 - 1916
Going to war videos

A professional army composed of volunteers, the British army at the start of the war was relatively small compared with that of Germany and France. 

At the start of WW1 Germany had an army of almost two million men, with a further two million in reserve. France had about 750,000 in its army, and Britain’s army only 250,000 men.

The over optimistic "Excursion to Paris" graffitti on the train does not even anticipate much of a fight.



The British and French planned a large joint offensive for the Summer of 1916. However, the Germans struck first further south at Verdun in February 1916, believing the French would hold on at all costs to the historically significant group of fortresses.

Verdun videos

French soldiers marching to Verdun. However, they were ill prepared for what happened next, when the offensive opened on 21 February 1916.

German stormtroopers storming to Verdun. They believed that the French would be forced to fight to the last for Verdun. Its loss would badly damage French prestige.

Reinforcements and vital supplies were rushed to Verdun. A new spirit of "They shall not pass!" was instigated as defences were quickly reorganised and inspired.


The Somme offensive started on the 1st July 1916, but due to Verdun now had a much reduced French participation. The largely untested British soldiers suffered over 57,000 casualties. This was the worst day in the history of the British army.

Somme video

The Somme offensive started on the 1st July 1916. On the first day, British soldiers suffered over 57,000 casualties; 19,000 were killed or died of their wounds.

German flamethrowers penetrated the Allied trenches and began dismantling their defences with devastating results.

The Somme offensive continued with smaller attacks by the Germans targeted at area deemed more vulnerable or highly strategic.

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