Exercise 1: Alliance System Exercise 2: Arms Race

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Exercise 1: Alliance System
Exercise 2: Arms Race
Exercise 3: The Balkans
Exercise 4: Assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand
Exercise 5: The Schlieffen Plan
Exercise 6: Trench Life
Exercise 7: New Technology
Exercise 8: Home Front
Exercise 9 : Women in the War
Exercise 10: America Joins the War
Exercise 11: The End of the War

The Alliance System

Triple alliance 1882

· Germany, Italy and Austria-Hungary

· Keep France isolated.

· agree to support each other in the event of an attack from France or Russia.

Triple Entente 1907

· Signed through fear of Germany

· End of British Isolation

· The Kaiser’s attitude had united Britain, France and Russia

Europe was now divided into two hostile ‘armed camps’. Some Historians believe that the existence of these alliances made it more likely for a war involving one of these countries, would lead to war between all of the Great Powers.

Britain had adopted a policy of “splendid Isolation” as her empire and navy offered sufficient protection against invasion. Britain entered into agreements with France and Russia, putting aside their differences; however Britain was not committed to supporting her Entente partners in the event of a War. Therefore the Triple Entente was not a formal alliance.

Germany was adopting an aggressive attitude towards the other European powers. As a result, the Kaiser brought the great powers of Russia, Britain and France together and encircled Germany as a result.

Britain was upset at Germany for interfering in their Empire by supporting the Boer’s during the Boer War. They also tried to form alliances with other countries at the time in order challenge British supremacy.


  1. Why did Germany seek to form alliances with Italy and Austria-Hungary?

  2. What is meant by the term “Alliance”?

  3. What is the difference between the Triple Alliance and Triple Entente?

  4. Why did Britain adopted a policy of Splendid Isolation?

  5. Explain why Britain decided to make “international friends”.

The Arms Race
Part 1: The Naval Race
Britain Empire and Island State made the Royal Navy especially important. The British adopted a “two power standard”, where the British Navy would match at least any two other powers combined. Germany sought its place in the sun, and wanted to therefore challenge Britain’s Empire and its naval supremacy. The invention of a new type of battleship, The Dreadnaught, started a Naval Race as it made all other battleships obsolete.
































  1. Look at the two maps of Britain and Germany. Explain why Britain felt that Germany building up a Navy was a direct challenge to Britain.

  2. What was the Two Power Standard?

  3. Why did the Naval Race begin and who built the strongest navy by 1914?

Part 2: Arms Race
An Arms race is a competition between two or more nations to build the most powerful weapons and armies.
As technology developed armies were becoming more equipped with better weapons and Generals were using new tactics to great effect. During the American Civil War and the Franco-Prussian War, new technology was used to great effect. These wars demonstrated the impact of new technology on traditional warfare. They showed how swiftly a well equipped army could defeat a major power. Countries spent vast amounts of money on defence.
Both France and Germany developed huge conscript armies. This meant ALL young men HAD to undergo military training, after which they would enter the ‘reserves’ of men who could be called upon to fight.

So what new technology was being developed?
Machine Gun – Fires 600 bullets a minute, same as 250 men with rifles

• Artillery – Cannons which fire huge explosive shells that can kill many men in one shot.

• Transport – Use of modern transport methods such as trains to transport large numbers of troops and weapons efficiently.




1 300 000

5 000 000


740 000

4 000 000


400 000

1 200 000


770 000

800 000


400 000

700 000

*when Russia fully mobilises the army is over 5,000,000 strong, with a further 20,000,000 ready if total mobilisation occurred.


  1. Why do you think an arms race began during the early 20th century in Europe?

  2. What events highlighted the benefits of using new technology in war?

  3. Why did these events highlight the benefits of using new technology?

  4. What benefits do having large conscript armies would bring to Germany and France during a long lasting war?

  5. What message do you think spending money on new weaponry and increasing the size of your army sends to your rivals?

  6. Of the three new technologies available, which two would you equip to your army?

Give reasons why you would use this weaponry and a reason for not using the other technology.

  1. Which country do you think was most prepared for war by 1914?

  2. How important a factor was the Naval and Arms Races in starting WW1? Give reasons for your decision.

The Balkans
The Balkans is an area in south-east Europe which had been part of the Turkish Empire for hundreds of years.
● The Turkish Empire lost control of the Balkans, with Greece winning independence in 1820s. Then in 1878, Romania, Serbia, Bulgaria and Montenegro were granted independence.
● Although most of the people who lived in these newly independent countries were SLAVS (a large group of people living in eastern Europe of Indo-European origin), they competed against each other from the start. This rivalry was based on mistrust and hatred that went back hundreds of years.
●As the Turkish Ottoman Empire became weaker; the other European powers looked to advance their interests in the region mainly Russia, Austria-Hungary and later Serbia.
● RUSSIA – was a Slav nation. Russia wanted to bring about a Slavic federation under Russian Leadership. The independent states in the Balkans were encouraged to look to Russia for Support. Russia also wanted to set up a port on the Mediterranean Sea during the winter months when the Russia Northern ports are frozen.
●AUSTRIA- HUNGARY – Pan-Slavism was a concern for this Empire. Rivalry with Russia had existed for a long time. The Austrian empire was Multinational (containing people of many nationalities) and many groups within the Empire wanted to be independent. If one group gained independence then it would undermine the whole Empire. Therefore Austria wanted to retain control over her lands in the Balkans and, if necessary, extend them.
●SERBIA – the most powerful of the newly independent states. The Serbs were dissatisfied that many Serbs living in neighbouring Bosnia, an area that the Austrian Empire had occupied since 1875. Serbia wanted to make Bosnia part of a ‘Greater Serbia’.

  1. Describe the main changes in the Balkans between 1870 and 1900.

  2. Explain why there was a danger of War in the Balkans by the beginning of the twentieth century.

  3. What were the major worries for Austria-Hungary and their Empire at the time?

  4. What was Russia’s interest in the Balkans?

  5. Why were Serbia unhappy with their position in the Balkans? And why would this affect Austria-Hungary?

Assassination of Franz Ferdinand
Black Hand – Serbian Terrorist group with the aim of creating a greater Serbia by means of Violence!

The head of the Black Hand group was the Chief of Serbian Military intelligence Colonel Dragutin Dimitrijevic, codenamed APIS. They trained young Serbs how to use weapons effectively.

Sarajevo – Capital city of Bosnia. Bosnia had been annexed (taken over) by Austria in 1908. Bosnia had many different nationalities including Serbs, Croats & Slavs.

Archduke Franz Ferdinand - The archduke was the heir to the Austrian throne occupied by his Uncle Emperor Franz Josef. Archduke Franz Ferdinand believed in addressing the grievances of the ethnic minorities in the Empire especially those in Bosnia. He wanted to create a better relationship between Austria and the people of Bosnia by giving them the right to self-govern their country.
28th June 1918
From the beginning of their visit the royal couple were cheered everywhere they went.  They were visiting Sarajevo to celebrate their wedding anniversary.  Security was lax as there were no soldiers on duty and only a few police.  At 10.10 am a tall man wearing a long black coat and hat threw a hand grenade and at the Archdukes car.  The driver saw the bomb coming and accelerated his car so it missed him.  The bomb bounced underneath the next car in the procession and injured about 20 people.  The damaged car was pushed onto the pavement.

Even though someone had just tried to kill him, the Archduke decided to carry on with his royal visit.  Unknown to him there were at least two other men waiting to try and assassinate him.  One man failed because he could not get the bomb out of his pocket. The people next to him were jammed against his side.  However, the third assassin was lucky enough to succeed in killing the Archduke.

During the two failed attempts to kill the Franz Ferdinand another young assassin called Gavrillo Princip, a 19 year old Serb, was waiting for his chance to kill him.  He was a member of the Black Hand and at first he thought that his other friends had been successful.  When he saw the Archduke’s car go flying by he felt depressed and decided to have a cup of coffee in a nearby cafe.  In his pocket was a revolver.  He had fired a few practice shots the day before, but had missed the target.  Besides, he had never been taught at a moving target.

At 10.45 am the Archduke decided to cut short his reception at the town hall and decided to visit a policeman injured in the bomb attack on his car.  During the journey to the hospital the car with his bodyguards took a wrong turning.  The Archduke’s driver slammed on the brakes to try and catch up with the other car.  However, the car engine stalled outside the cafe where Princip was having his cup of coffee.  Princip could not believe his luck.  He pushed through the crowd and pulled out his revolver.  A policeman saw him and tried to stop him but was hit by someone behind him.  Princip jumped onto the car’s running board and fired at point blank range.  He missed the Archduke and shot his wife.  He tried again and finally succeeded.  As he died the Archduke cried to his wife ‘Sophie, Sophie don’t die.


1.  Copy and complete the table below.  Make sure it is big enough to fit your evidence in.



Agree / Disagree

Evidence and facts to support your choice

Princip was a highly trained killer.



Princip was lucky to have succeeded.



Princip was acting on his own when he assassinated the Archduke.



Princip was a nationalist.



2. Why did the Black Hand want to kill the Archduke and how did this relate to their objective?

3. Think about arguments FOR and AGAINST the view that

“Serbia was to blame for the assassination!”

The Schlieffen Plan

The Germany Army Chief of Staff, Alfred von Schlieffen was asked to plan a way of preventing a war on two fronts. His initial plan was produced late in 1905. He believed that it was a priority to defeat France quickly, forcing them to surrender before Russia had a chance to mobilize her armed forces.

In full knowledge of French defences, Schlieffen proposed attacking France through Holland, Belgium and Luxembourg – the Benelux countries. Schlieffen planned to use 90% of German military forces to deliver a knock out blow to France. The remaining 10% would defend the eastern border of Germany against Russian attack.


● Russia would take at least 6 weeks to mobilise.

● France would be easily defeated in 6 weeks.

● Belgium would not resist any German attack.

● Britain would remain neutral.

Von Molkte replaced Von Schlieffen in 1906, and made some alterations to the plan. His version avoided invading Holland, instead concentrating attack through Belgium. According to Von Molke, the Belgium army would be unable to resist a powerful German military, and German forces would rapidly enter France.

The Reality

On 2nd August 1914, the German army invaded Luxembourg and Belgium according to the Schlieffen Plan.

The Germans were held up by the Belgium army, backed up by the BEF (British Expeditionary Force) which arrived extremely quickly.

Russia mobilised in just 10 days and Germany was forced to withdraw troops from the Schlieffen Plan to defend her eastern border.

Germany did not take the chance to take Paris, instead decided to attack east of the capital.  They were met by French at the battle of the Marne (5-11 Sept) which halted the German advance.


  1. In your opinion did the creation of the Schlieffen Plan make war more likely to occur ? Give reasons for your answer

  2. Why did the Schlieffen Plan fail ? Give reasons for your answer

Trench Life

The war on the Western Front was a war of attrition (constant wearing down to weaken or destroy). Hundreds of thousands of men volunteered usually in Pals Battalions made up of friends or work colleagues. Soldiers spent two to three weeks at a time in front line trenches

Life in the trenches was not pleasant. The following were common:

●Mud and water lined the trenches leading to gangrene and trench foot

●There were lice and rats

●Soldiers were often blinded from gas attacks

● To eat, there was only corned ‘bully’ beef and dry biscuits

● There was constant noise from shelling

● There was lots of snipers

● Many soldiers suffered from shell shock

Daily Routines for soldiers included:

Weapon cleaning, digging & repairing trenches, sleep in ‘dug outs’, delouse of others (removing lice), boredom (most of the time there was no attack), most work such as spy patrols and repairs were done at night leading to sleep deprivation and exhaustion.

Going over the top - was the job of the British and French soldiers to try and push the Germans out of their entrenched positions and into a retreat.

The new weapons of WW1 favoured defence, the tactics used led to suffering and hardship for the side carrying out an offensive:

Artillery fire was meant to clear the way for the troops however it warned the enemy of an attack and churned up the ground.

● When soldiers went over the top they often got caught in the barbed wire

● They could easily be gunned down by machine guns
There were huge casualties as a result.


  1. Identify and explain 5 problems that soldiers had to put up with on the Western Front.

  2. Imagine you are a soldier on the Western Front; write a letter home describing life in the trenches.

  3. Why was capturing an enemy trench so difficult?

New Technology
World War One changed the face of warfare. The Army Generals of many countries tried to use old ‘traditional’ tactics however with the creation of modern devastating weaponry; this led to huge numbers of causalities.
At the start of the war the basic weapons used were Rifles, pistols and bayonets. Officers were equipped with pistols and swords.

Machine Guns
The machine gun meant that open conflicts were not possible. The machine gun would tear through any army that stood in front of it.

The machine gun could fire up to 600 bullets per minute and battalions of machine gunners were set up to defend trenches. These weapons were too heavy and immobile to be used as an offensive weapon.


These are big, heavy guns which fire large shells designed to destroy buildings or fortifications or kill large numbers of soldiers.

These guns could fire over a range of 20 miles.

Poison Gas

Poison Gas was first used by the Germans at Ypres in 1915. Both sides used poison gas during WW1. The main types of gas used were

Mustard – Burns the lungs of the victim and any exposed area of skin with sweat would have horrific burns and blisters.
Chlorine – released in a cloud which would attack the lungs forming hydrochloric acid.
Phosgene – attacks the lungs and causes the lungs to flood with fluids leaving the victim slowly drowning to death


Tanks using tracks rather than wheels could go over rough ground and plough through barbed wire. The armoured body meant ordinary gun fire could not stop them.

The tank if used effectively could break the stalemate of trench warfare. However there were problems with tactics and reliability.


  1. Why the British tactics at the start of the War not work unlike in previous wars?

  2. How effective a weapon was the Machine Gun during WW1?

  3. Poison gas used in war was illegal. Why do you think the British decided to use this weapon?

  4. Why do you think Poisonous gas was illegal?

  5. How effective was the tank during WW1?

Give reasons for your answers

Home Front
The Home Front during World War One refers to life in Britain during the war itself. Front saw a massive change in the role of women, rationing, the bombing of parts of Britain by the Germans (the first time civilians were targeted in war), conscientious objectors and strikes by discontented workers. The whole nation was under the jurisdiction of DORA (Defence of the Realm Act). The First World War was the first ‘total war’. This means that everyone’s life was affected. Many families lost a soldier relative

Left: Zeppelin ship bombed cities from the sky

Anti-German Propaganda

It was vital to convince people that the Germans were barbarians or ‘Huns’. Therefore newspapers printed horrific accounts of so-called German crimes such as murder and rape. Newspapers published artist impressions of women being crucified and children having their arms cut off.

This tactic worked well as a wave of hatred for anything German swept throughout Britain. Of course most of these tales were untrue.

Men were persuaded to join as there was great confidence in victory for Britain and no news of the horrors of Trench life. Those who failed to join were subjected to psychological pressure.

●Parents and girlfriends urged young men to join and called them cowards if they refused.

● White Feather placed on those who refused as a symbol of cowardice.

●Conscience Posters appeared
As news of the horrors of the war reached home the number of volunteers began to drop. As the war dragged on the need for new soldiers increased and conscription was introduced in January 1916 and extended in May 1916 to include married men aged between 18 and 51. Those who refused were called ‘conscientious objectors’ or ‘conchies’. Life was made very difficult was these men. They faced punishment such as stretcher-bearers at the front line or other duties such as ambulance work. Those who refused to take part in any part of the war were sent to prison or labour camps. Of the 6,261 sentenced, 71 died of the harsh treatment.


  1. What did Germany hope to achieve by bombing the civilian population of Britain?

  2. Why was the Defence of the Realm Act (DORA) introduced?

  3. Why did the British Government produce anti-German propaganda? How effective was this propaganda?

  4. Describe the different types methods used to try and convince men to join the army?

  5. Do you think this was the right thing to do?

  6. What was a “Conchie”? Why were these men treated so harshly?

By 1914 nearly 5.9 million were working out of the 23.8 million females in Britain.

In World War I, for example, thousands of women worked in munitions factories, offices and large hangars used to build aircraft. Women were also involved in knitting socks and preparing hampers for the soldiers on the front, as well as other voluntary work, but as a matter of survival women had to work for paid employment for the sake of their families.

Nursing became the one and only area of female contribution that involved being at the front and experiencing the horror of war. In Britain the Queen Alexandra's Royal Army Nursing Corps, First Aid Nursing Yeomanry and Voluntary Aid Detachment (VADs) were all started before World War I. The VADs were not allowed in the front line until 1915.

Not only did they have to keep ‘the home fires burning’ but they took on voluntary and paid employment that was diverse in scope and showed that women were highly capable in diverse fields of endeavor. There is little doubt that this expanded view of the role of women in society did change the outlook of what women could do and their place in the workforce. However the extent of this change is open to historical debate.

Many women worked as volunteers serving at the Red Cross and encouraging the sale of bonds and the planting of "victory gardens".

The sense of a Home Front grew more acute as World War One ground on. In February 1917, German U-boats sank 230 ships bringing food to Britain, and over half a million tons of shipping in March. This, with the need to release even more men from agriculture to serve at the front, led to the creation of the Women's Land Army. Their task was to maximise the output from the land to feed the nation and counteract the effect of the U-boats.

Some farmers resisted this measure and the Board of Trade had to send officers around the country to persuade farmers to accept women employees. The strategy was successful, and by the end of 1917 there were over 260,000 women working as farm labourers.


  1. Explain how the First World War affected women?

  2. Describe some of the different types of jobs women did during the First World War.

  3. How important a role did women play in helping the British win World War 1?

  4. What do you think were the attitudes of the men during WW1 towards women doing “men’s jobs”.

  5. Write a newspaper article describing the role of women during WW1 and how well they did in keeping Britain moving forward. Must have a slogan as a heading.

America Joins the War

The beginning of 1917 was a vital time for both sides in the war. Russia had heavy losses inflicted on them by the Germans. By 1917 the Russian armies were low in spirits. In addition the winter of 1916-1917 was colder than usual. Food was scarce in cities, families everywhere mourned the loss of fallen loved ones and anger was rising. Many people began to blame the Tsar for Russia’s failures and in March 1917 a revolution broke out and a communist government was set up. The Tsar abdicated Russia and the new Communist Government surrendered to the Germans which was a heavy blow for the Allies. Now Germany could deploy all her troops on the Western Front for an attack on France.

The collapse of Russia was a serious problem for the Allies, but it would have been a lot worse if America had not joined the war.
Why did the USA join the Allies in 1917?

● At the beginning of the War America wanted to be neutral

● USA had large groups of German and Britain living there and did not want internal trouble.

● The best policy was to keep out of the war

● However German submarine attacks on American ships caused an outcry in the United States

● The Lusitania was sunk by Germany and 128 Americans drowned.

● Feelings among most Americans now ran very high after this.

● Germany wanted Mexico to join Germany in an alliance and attack America.

●This caused a storm of anti-German anger. America was moving closer to war.

Soon after this the campaign of unrestricted U-boat warfare led to the sinking of six more American ships. This was the last straw and President Woodrow Wilson declared war on the Central powers on April 6th 1917.


  1. Why did the US stay out of the First World War for so long?

  2. What events helped change public opinion in favour of declaring war against Germany?

  3. Why did Germany’s decision to start a campaign of unrestricted U-boat warfare force Woodrow Wilson to declare war on Germany?

  4. Why did Russia withdraw from the War?

  5. Do you think America joining the war was more or less important now Russia had surrendered?

  6. What benefits do you think the US would bring to the allied war effort? Do you think this makes the Allies more likely to win the War?

End of the War
Collapse of Germany

Although the German Army was still fighting in France & Belgium, events elsewhere finally brought the war to an end.

●British blockade of German Seaports

●Shortages of fuel and chemicals for industry

● Severe food shortages in the last years of the war

● 1917 ‘Turnip Winter’

● 1918 millions of Germans faced starvation

● Hundreds of thousands had died of starvation during the war

● Wave of discontent swept across Germany
Better to surrender and live, than fight and die of starvation?

By 1918 there were strikes and riots as the civilian population demanded an end to the war!

Also Germany’s allies were collapsing. Bulgaria and Turkey surrendered to the Allies. And lastly the Austro-Hungarian Empire surrendered on November 1918 leaving Germany to fight alone.
The German army was being driven back by the Allies and mutinies (revolts) broke out in Germany. The German Sailors seized control of their ships, demanding and end to the war.

The WAR-WEARY troops had had enough!

The Armistice

On November 9th the new German Government asked for an armistice (or cease-fire). The Kaiser had abdicated (fled) to Holland. The Allies made certain demands:

● Germans had to withdraw from Belgium and France

● Surrender all weapons

● Release all POWs (Prisoners of War)

● Surrender all U-Boats and Warships

● Allow Allied troops into Germany
The Germans agreed and the ceasefire began at 11am 11/11/1918.
Crowds celebrated the end of the war all over Europe and further.
Human Cost of the War

Germany 1,900,000 Dead

4,250,000 Wounded

Russia 1,700,000 Dead

4,950,000 Wounded

France 1,400,000 Dead

2,500,000 Wounded

Britain 998.000 Dead

2,300,000 Wounded

Austria 1,300,000 Dead

3,620,000 Wounded

Italy 615,000 Dead

947,000 Wounded
The Treaty of Versailles

The first world war was over however millions of people were dead or injured, countries like France and Belgium were devastated and the main powers had spent too much on the war.

Many people were angry especially in Britain and France and blamed Germany!
The Big Three’

George Clemenceau – French PM


David Lloyd George – British PM


Woodrow Wilson – US President


In reality the treaty was very HARSH.

  1. Germany had to take BLAME for the war – War Guilt Clause

  2. Germany’s armed forces reduced to 100,000 men

  3. No Armoured Vehicles, aircrafts or Submarines

  4. The Rhineland was demilitarised (no German troops allowed)

  5. Germany were forced to pay £6.6 BILLION in reparations (for the damaged caused). It would take until the 1980s to pay this.

  6. No Empire allowed.

  7. The League of Nations set up.


  1. Explain in detail why Germany lost the war.

  2. Why did the Allies demand certain things from the Germans before a ceasefire was signed?

  3. Which country do you feel had suffered the most during the First World War and why?

  4. Explain why each of the different leaders wanted to punish Germany differently?

  5. In your opinion was the Treaty too harsh or was it fair?

  6. What do you think the reaction to this treaty would have been in

    1. Germany

    2. France

    3. Britain

    4. USA

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