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The First World War was not caused by just one event, it was caused by a build up of tension in Europe between the different countries, and it only took an irrelevant trigger to start what is arguably the bloodiest war of all time.
The tension was built up between Germany and France, and Austria-Hungary and Russia due to their history and their current feelings towards each other. When Germany formed the Triple Alliance in 1882 it really irked the Russians and the French, both feeling threatened by this tremendous new power.
In order to stay even with this new power in Europe, Britain, France and Russia joined together in the Triple Entente. This was not a treaty as such but instead it was a feeling of mutual sympathy, whereby all countries agreed they were on the same side. This may seen surprising because Britain and France had been enemies for centuries in the past but they all recognised the threat of this new power and recognised the mutual benefit of a kind of alliance.
It is important to understand that Britain did not really need to join the Triple Entente, or even the war itself, where originally there was no threat to Britain. But it was the threat to the British navy that really annoyed them. This was because for hundreds of years the British had had by far the best navy, and the new navy by the Germans was no good news, it was the first to rival the British’s in a very long time.
Dreadnoughts were a relatively recent type of ship. The idea being they were indestructible. Britain had built 19 already, and had 13 being built. Germany had 13 already and 7 being built. However, because it is thought that the German dreadnoughts had stronger armour the two navies are therefore pretty reasonably matched.
On the 28th June, 1914, Archduke Franz Ferdinand had two attempted assassinations. In the first attempt a grenade was thrown into his open carriage while he was touring Sarajevo, the capital of Yugoslavia. He threw it back! Later that day, he and his wife were both shot, by a man called Gavrilo Princip.
At the beginning of July, Austria wanted to attack Serbia, however, before they did this they wanted to sort it out with Germany, to check it was okay. Germany offered Austria a ‘Blank Cheque’, they would agree whatever, and said they would give their full support, regardless of the choice.
On the 28th July Austria declared war on Serbia. On the 29th July, Russia used this as an excuse to mobilise there troops. On the 30th, Germany made an ultimatum to Russia to withdraw their troops within 24 hours or they would go to war. Russia ignored Germany and because on the 1st August, Russia still had not withdrawn their troops, they declared war.
In response to this Germany decided to declare war on France, for being an ally. On the 4th, Britain declared war on Germany, under the pretext it was because of the German infringement of Belgium independent decades before.
After this extraordinary week the stage was set for the most awful war which killed millions. The battle being between Germany, Austria-Hungary and Italy against Britain, France and Russia. The two sides were pitched against each other ready for this incredible war which finished in 1918, and which permanently left its mark on the world.