The First World War begun on July 28th 1914 when Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia click here to read my post on the build up of the First World War.
On 3rd November 1914 the North Sea was declared a British military area, the Royal Navy patrolled the sea stopping thousands of foreign merchant ships which were destined for Germany and escorted them into British ports to be searched, if supplies were found which could assist the German war effort they were seized. Germany responded to the blockade by torpedoing merchant and passenger ships belonging to the Allied Powers and even neutral countries if spotted near the British Isles. In 1915 both British passenger liners RMS Lusitania and RMS Arabic were sunk by German U-boat torpedoes killing more than 1,000 people 131 of them Americans. In March 1916 a German U-boat torpedoed the French boat the Sussex, USA President Woodrow Wilson threatened to sever diplomatic relations with Germany if they continued to torpedo unarmed boats, the Germans agreed to stop on the 4th May 1916, this is known as the Sussex pledge.
28th President of the United States of America Woodrow Wilson
On 19th January 1917 British codebreakers intercepted and decrypted a telegram sent by German Foreign Minister Arthur Zimmerman to the German Ambassador in Mexico City Heinrich von Eckhardt, Germany proposed to Mexico that they join the Central Powers as an ally and in return Germany would help Mexico recover the territory it had lost to the USA following the Mexican-American War. The British didn’t share this information with the USA straight away because they didn’t want the Germans to know they had cracked their code. On the 1st February 1917 the Sussex Pledge was violated by Germany who resumed their practice of unrestricted submarine warfare, they believed the USA had jeopardized their neutrality by not intervening with the Allied blockade of Germany and supplying arms and money to the Allied Powers. Prior to this decision German Chancellor Theobald von Bethmann-Hollweg objected claiming the USA would join the war against Germany which would lead to the defeat of the Central Powers, however his protests were ignored.
The Zimmermann Telegram Decoded
On 3rd February 1917 upon hearing the news that Germany resumed their practice of unrestricted submarine warfare President Wilson severed diplomatic relations with Germany however he didn’t declare war on Germany as he was unsure the USA public would back him. During February and March 1917, German U-boats torpedoed American ships killing more innocent people. Finally on 24th February 1917 the British sent the Zimmerman Telegraph to USA President Woodrow Wilson, this news was passed on the American media and published on 1st March 1917 the news of the Zimmerman Telegraph swayed the majority of the American public opinion to join the war.
All of the above was enough to convinced Woodrow Wilson to declare war on Germany on 6th April 1917.
US Department of State – American Entry into World War I link
The National Archives – The Blockade of Germany link
Both pictures link back to their original sites woodrowwilson.org & archives.gov
During the beginning of the 20th Century there were two main power blocks in Europe, Germany and Austria-Hungary, and the Triple Entente – Britain, France and Russia.
The Ottoman Empire or the Sick man of Europe as it was then often referred to was on the decline, it had lost most of its territories, at its peak it included the Balkans, however Greece declared its freedom in 1829 and in 1878 after a war fought between the Russians and the Turks – Montenegro, Serbia, Romania and Bulgaria were given their independence. Serbia wanted to annex Bosnia but it was placed under Austrian-Hungarian control, although it technically was still part of the Ottoman Empire – Until on July 24th 1908 Revolutionary officers called The Young Turks led a coup against the aged and corrupt Sultan Abdul Hamid II of the Ottoman Empire, Austria-Hungary took advantage of this by annexing Bosnia into the Habsburg Empire. Serbia looked to Russia for support but Russia was still recovering from their defeat against Japan in 1905, also Germany we’re prepared to back their ally Austria-Hungary at all costs, and Russia was not looking for another military conflict. Serbian nationalist decided to take matters into their own hands. Dragutin Dimitrijević formed a Secret society named the Black Hand which was dedicated to bring all Southern Slavic territories together. In 1903 he organised the assassination of pro Austrian ruler of Serbia King Alexander I and in 1911 he led an unsuccessful attempt on Austrian Emperor Franz Josef. Soon Dimitrijević set his eyes on the heir to the Austria-Hungary throne Archduke Franz Ferdinand, who once in power planned to stabilise the Austrian-Hungary Empire, which would make Dimitrijević’s plans extremely difficult.
On June 28th 1914 the Archduke Franz Ferdinand is in the back seat of an open top car with his wife during a procession in Sarajevo, Bosnia. A young Bosnian Serb by the name of Gavrilo Princip fired 2 shots murdering them both. After an investigation there was no evidence of direct Serbian involvement in any plot. Austria-Hungary went straight to their powerful allies Germany and was reassured, if Russia mobilised any troops, Germany would support Austria-Hungary. This has been referred to as a blank cheque. Austria-Hungary then sent an ultimatum to Serbia which was so extreme they knew it would be rejected, giving them a reason to go to war. And of course Serbia rejected it. On July 28th 1914 Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia and bombed Belgrade.
Then the military alliances came into play.
30th July 1914– Russia declared war on Austria-Hungary.
1st August 1914 – Germany declared war on Russia. France mobilised its forces.
3rd August 1914 – Germany declared war on France and invaded via neutral Belgium.
4th August 1914– Great Britain declared war on Germany.
6th April 1917 – The United States of America declared war on Germany. click here to read why.
Soon all the major powers in Europe were at war simply because one man shot another.
Source – Infamous Assassinations, The Assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand
Maria Sklodowska-Curie was born in Warsaw, Poland on the 7th November 1867. When she was 12 her mother died of tuberculosis, her father who was a teacher raised Marie and her sister. When Marie left school aged 15, she wanted to go to university to study science, but only men were allowed! She moved to Paris in 1891 and changed her name to Marie Curie, so she’d fit in better. She enrolled in the Sorbonne University – this is where she met Pierre Currie, a professor, they married in 1895.
Pierre Curie and Marie Curie
The Curie’s soon began experimenting on Uranium, Marie called this research radioactivity, after four years the couple discovered radium – a new element. Pierre Currie and Henri Becquerel were nominated for a Nobel Prize for physics in 1903, but Pierre refused to accept the prize unless Marie was recognized for her work, the committee eventually accepted Marie’s contribution and all 3 shared the award. Pierre was unfortunately killed in a road accident in Paris on the 19th April 1906. Marie was devastated by this and took time out to mourn, eventually she took over Pierre‘s role at the Sorbonne University as professor and went on to be awarded another Nobel Prize in 1911, this time in Chemistry for her work discovering Polonium, which she named after her homeland Poland. To this day she is the only person to be awarded two Nobel prizes in two different sciences!
On the 3rd August 1914 Germany declared war on France, many fled Paris but Marie stayed, and when she found out that the entire French army had only 1 x-ray station, she came up with the idea of mobile x-ray units! Marie taught herself to drive and drove the units risking her life to aid the French army, by the end of the war Marie’s units had treated over a million wounded soldiers.
Marie during the Great War
After the war Marie continued her work in Paris and went on to set up a new radium institute in Warsaw. On the 4th July 1934 Marie Curie died aged 67. In 1995 her body along with Pierre’s was relocated to the Panthéon in Paris in honour of their achievements, they were given a full state funeral.
For more information on The Nobel Prize Awards and the founder Alfred Nobel, I wrote a small piece on the topic which can be found here
Source – BBC – The Genius of Marie Curie – link