Armies During The First World War!

Armies During The First World War

German Army

Germany was recognized as having the most efficient army in the world. It utilized mass conscription for short-term military service followed by a longer period in the reserves. Emphasis was placed on high-quality training while maintaining a high number of experienced senior officers. While Kaiser Wilhelm the Second was the official commander-in-chief, the army chief of staff, Helmuth von Moltke was the effective leader in the field. He was followed by Erich von Falkenhayn from 1914 to 1916 and then Paul von Hindenburg from 1916 to 1918. In 1914, the German Army had 700,000 men. But within a week, the reserves were called up for service and 3.8 million men were mobilized. By mid-1916, 2.85 million soldiers were serving on the Western Front while 1.7 million served on the Eastern Front. There were 8 army commands and a further 10 created during the war. Total mobilization during the war for Germany totaled 11 million soldiers. When the First World War came to an end in November 1918, the German army had suffered an estimated 5 million casualties, including 1.8 million dead. The Treaty of Versailles following the war would restrict the German army to just 100,000 men.

Ottoman Army

The Ottoman Army was made up of Anatolian Turks, Arabs, Armenians Kurds, and Syrians. They were defeated during the Balkan wars from 1912 to 1913 showing a need to modernize their army. This was achieved by German Liman Von Sanders who became inspector general of the Turkish army in January 1914. Full mobilization in 1914 was at 1.250.000 soldiers. With 36 divisions organized into three armies, Attempts were made to increase the size of the army but constant assertions meant that full strength was never above forty-three divisions. The War Minister Enver Pasha had control over the Turkish Don Forces But the influence of the Germans had increased as the war progressed. The Ottoman armies’ greatest success was at Gallipoli. But was less successful fighting the British on the Mesopotamian front. Overall wartime deaths are placed at approximately 771.840 for the Ottoman Army.

Australian Army

Australia’s Regular Army was formed in 1901 with all males of combat age required to undertake military training regularly. When the First World War began Australia immediately offered to supply Britain with 20,000 troops while the Regular Army was organized for home defense a new overseas force called the Australian Imperial force the AIS was created. The AIF left Australia on November 7th, 1914, and was sent to Egypt to train with British weapons Australian and New Zealand forces were formed together to make the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps. They were sent to Gallipoli under the command of General William Birdwood by the time they had to evacuate in January 1916 one-third of the Anzac force had been killed after Gallipoli the infantry began to move to the Western Front taking part in several major battles. The cavalry meanwhile were transferred to Palestine and played an important role in the Battle of Gaza. in 1918 as the German army launched its spring offensive all of the AIF divisions in France were engaged in the attempt to stem the tide. In May 1918 General John Monash and the Australian Corps led an important counter-offensive Hamel they would use the peaceful penetration strategy which was a cross between trench raiding and patrolling. Australia contributed 322,000 soldiers in the first world war with a high casualty rate of 210,000 of whom 60,000 Australians were killed

Indian Army

When the war broke out in 1914, there was growing political unrest in India against British rule. Germany had even tried to stir up anti-British movements and rebellion, however, such fears were put to rest when India rallied to Britain’s cause. It was believed that India’s proposal of independence could best be served this way. Lord Kitchener had been a commander and chief in India before the war and established an Indian Army of 10 divisions. Indian troops were sent to the western front under British command in September 1914 and fought at the first battle of Ypres. By 1915, they had sustained many casualties as well as fighting at the Western front, The Indian Army fought at Mesopotamia, Gallipoli, Palestine, East Africa, and Egypt. 1.5 million Indians would volunteer in the service for the army with 800,000 troops fighting in the war, and 72,000 men killed. India was not rewarded in independence or self-government from British rule after the war, which would stimulate the Mahatma Gandhi independence movement further.

Serbian Army

In 1901 male Serbians between the ages of 21 and 46 were required for compulsory military service. by 1912 this provided 260,000 men for the army which was 10% of the adult population. at the beginning of the first world war in 1914, Serbia had 360,000 men, it managed to resist three successive Austro-Hungarian offensives however at the cost of the exhaustion of almost all of its manpower forcing the army to recruit men up to the age of sixty Serbia desperate for help eventually received it in late 1915 Greek Prime Minister Eleftherios Venizelos invited British and French troops to Salonika which was a direct link to Belgrade and therefore the best route to send allied aid to Serbia. With German and Bulgarian troops on the frontier, Salonika was soon transformed into an entrenched zone similar to the Western Front the advancing central power forces could not be slowed down by the arrival of Allied troops in Macedonia the joint Austro-Hungarian and Bulgarian invasion in October 1915 forced the Serbian army to retreat to the Albanian mountains. By January 1916 approximately 200,000 Serbian soldiers and civilians had been evacuated to Corfu. in late 1918 the Serbian army took part in the Vardar offensive defeating the Bulgarian army. It is estimated that 265,000 Serbian soldiers died during the first world war which made up 25% of all mobilized men.

Canadian Army

In 1914, Canada had just 3,000 regular soldiers. But with an impending war in Europe, the government asked for volunteers to join a Canadian Expeditionary Force or CEF. By October, 30,000 Canadian soldiers had reached Britain for training at Salisbury Plain. The First Canadian division arrived on the Western front in February 1915. Seen action at Ypres while reinforcing the British and Allied forces there, more and more Canadians volunteered for service in the Army. And by 1916, 2 more divisions were sent to France. Under command of General Julian Byng, the Canadian Corps captured the strategically important Vimy ridge in April 1917. General Arthur Currie, who replaced Byng in June 1917, led the Canadian Corps through the Amiens Offensive, the Canal du Nord, and further victories on the Western Front later in the War. Around 600,000 Canadians enlisted in the Army during the First World War, with two-thirds serving overseas. Overall, the CEF had 210,000 casualties of which 56,500 were killed.

Russian Army

It is claimed that Russia had the largest army in the world at the outbreak of the First World War, with 5.9 million men. However, Russia’s Poor roads and Railway infrastructure made the deployment of these soldiers difficult. Before the War, General Yuri Danilov had developed Plan 19, which argued that on the outbreak of war, Germany would focus on fighting France, therefore Russia should immediately invade East Prussia, with four armies. However, others pointed out that Austria-Hungary was also a threat, and potentially a greater one than Germany. Plan 19 was altered; two armies would attack East Prussia instead of four, with the others defending Russia from the Austro-Hungarian army. During the early part of the First World War, Russia mainly focused on the Eastern Front with some detachments serving on the Balkan front, and the Western Front. The Battles of Tannenberg and at The Woods were early defeats for the Russian Army. High death rates in the Army made conscription difficult, and conscription riots and demonstrations helped bring an end to the Tsar’s government in February 1917. The failed Russian Kerensky offensive in July 1917, was a military catastrophe and destroyed any morale left in the Russian army and the image of the provisional government, which had taken over. The October revolution brought Lenin and the Bolsheviks into governmental power in Russia in the same year. They ended Russia’s participation in the War, by negotiating with Germany, ending the fighting on December 16, 1917.15 million Soldiers served in the Russian army during the First World War, with casualties estimated to be 1.8 million killed, and 3 million wounded.

Italian Army

Conscription was introduced by the Italian government in 1907 by 1912 the Italian army was 300,000 strong but there was a shortage of experienced NCOs and trained officers. in July 1914 General Luigi Cadorna became chief of staff of the Italian army. the Italian government originally declared neutrality but on the outbreak of the first world war general, Cadorna began building up the Italian Army concentrating his forces on the borders with Austria-Hungary. a secret meeting was held in England on 26 April 1915 ending in the Italian government agreeing to enter the war in return for financial help and land under the control of Austria-Hungary. by the spring of 1915 general Luigi Cadorna had 25 infantry and 4 cavalry division’s even though there was a shortage of artillery Cadorna launched attacks on Austria-Hungary in May 1915. the Austro-Hungarian forces dug in and the Italian army suffered heavy casualties Cadorna had a substantial victory at Gorizia in August 1916. but the Austro-German Caporetto offensive a year later in October 1917 was disastrous for the Italian army with 300,000 men lost general Luigi Cadorna was replaced by General Armando Diaz. general Armando Diaz was pressured to launch an offensive which he finally did on the 23rd of October 1918 at Vittorio Veneto. the Italian army finally took the town of Vittorio Veneto and its enemy the Austro-Hungarian army had collapsed. 5.2 million men served in the Italian Army during the first world war with 420,000 killed and almost 955,000 wounded.

Austro-Hungarian Army

Austria and Hungary both had their own standing armies. In 1914 Austria had 40,000 soldiers and Hungary, 30,000. The Imperial and Royal Army made up a further 350,000 men and gave their allegiance direct to Emperor Franz Josef. Recruits were these three armies was achieved by conscription, while the army was officially under the control of Emperor Franz Josef, by 1914 the chief of staff Count Franz Conrad was firmly in control. He favored aggressive foreign policy and military force to solve Austria-Hungary’s territorial disputes with Italy and Serbia. When the First World War began Austria-Hungary could mobilize 2.25 million men. It sought to expand the size of the army by recruiting all across the empire in fifteen different languages. The diversity of the army could sometimes be a problem, as 80% of all officers were German speakers. Germans and Hungarians were the two largest ethnic groups in the army, while Czechs, Poles, Ukrainians, Croats, and Serbs, Romanians, Slovaks, Slovenes, and Italians all made up the rest of the soldiers in the military. Army morale was often low, and nationalist sentiments increased as the war went on such as the mass surrender by a Czech unit to Russia in April 1915. When Franz Josef died on 21st November 1916 he was succeeded by his great-nephew Karl I. He sacked Count Franz Conrad in 1917, replacing him with Arz von Straussenburg. However, the morale of the army was still at an all time blow and nationalistic unrest continued the army began to disintegrate. On the 3rd of November 1918, Kaiser Karl I signed a peace settlement with the allies, and then abdicated. It is estimated that 1.54 million men in the Austro-Hungarian army were killed during the war.

British Army

At the start of the 20th century, the British Army was a small body of volunteer regulars. The Boer War had provoked British war minister Richard Haldane, to create the BEF or the ‘British Expeditionary Force’ in case it was necessary to take part in a foreign war. By August 1914, Britain had 247,500 regular troops with a 120,000 of these in the BEF. On top of this, Britain also have 224,200 reservists and 268,770 territorials available. On the outbreak of the First World War, Lord Kitchener was appointed war minister. He began a recruiting campaign for volunteers which was initially very successful with an average of 33,000 men joining every day. In fact, this high demand even created problems with a shortage of guns and equipment until 1916. By January 1916, 2.6 million men had volunteered for the British Army. But still, due to heavy losses on the Western Front, the government decided to introduce conscription with the Military Service Act. 1.6 million men were wounded in the British Army during the First World War with approximately 662,000 killed.

United States Army

In 1914, the United States Army consisted of 98,000 men and on top of this, 27 thousand troops in the National Guard. At the end of 1914, General Leonard Wood helped form the National Security League and argued for conscription. President Woodrow Wilson responded to this by increasing the standing army to 140,000 soldiers. When the USA declared war in April 1917, the American Expeditionary Force or the AEF was sent to the Western Front under the command of General John Pershing. The Selective Service Act, which was drafted by Brigadier General Hugh Johnson at this time, was passed by Congress. This law authorized President Woodrow Wilson to raise a volunteer infantry force of no more than four divisions. Males between the ages of 21 and 30 were required to register for military service. By September 12th, 1918, almost 24 million men had registered, with four million men eventually drafted into the armed services and a half serving in the war overseas. By July 1918, there were over a million soldiers in France. They would defend the Western Front during the Third Battle of the Aisne in May, and at the Marne in June. They would also take part in joint allied attacks at lamb out and Canal du Nord and then finally launched their own offensives at Saint-Mihiel and Meuse-Argonne. 2 million US troops reached Europe, however, a large number arrived too late to participate. Approximately 200,000 African-Americans served in the United States Army in Europe such as the famous Harlem Hellfighters. Because of segregation, they would fight with the French Army during the War. Overall, the American Expeditionary Force suffered 264,000 casualties during the War, with an estimated 112,500 deaths.

French Army

In January 1914 the French Army had 47 divisions, the strength of the Army consisted of 777,000 French and 46,000 colonial troops in 21 Regional Corps. French Troops were deployed within France and along the eastern frontier as part of plan Seventeen which was a strategy devised by general Ferdinand Foch and General Joseph Joffre, for the invasion of Germany. With the fear of war with Germany becoming a reality, 2.9 million men were mobilized during the summer of 1914. The first months of the war saw heavy losses on the western front forcing the French government to conscript men up to the age of 45 as the war progressed the structure of the French army changed. By 1918 40% of French troops on the western front were artillerymen. The increased demand and use of machine guns, armoured cars, tanks, and planes lowered the numbers in the infantry. A total of 8.7 million Soldiers had been called up to fight in the French army by the end of the war. France suffered 4.2 million casualties including 1.3. million dead.