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The war elsewhere in Europe

 

The Western Front's dominant role in Western historiography of the First World War has led - with the exception of the Gallipoli campaign - to the neglect of other European theatres of conflict. Little is widely known, for example, about the Italian Front, or about the fighting in the Balkans. Even the great conflict between Russia and the Central Powers on the Document packEastern Front remains largely, as Churchill wrote, an 'unknown war'.

 

The Eastern Front
The scale of conflict on the Eastern Front was massive. At the Battle of Glossary - opens new windowTannenberg in August 1914, which restored full German control over eastern Prussia, 30,000 of the advancing Russians were killed and a further 100,000 taken prisoner. When Russian forces took the Austrian fortress of Glossary - opens new windowPrzemysl in March 1915, the spoils of victory were equally impressive. They captured 120,000 Austrian prisoners, including nine generals, and 700 pieces of artillery.

The war in the East, unlike the attritional stalemate in the West, took place on a vast military front where the fortunes of both sides fluctuated dramatically. In June 1916, for example, Russian forces under Glossary - opens new windowBrusilov began a bold offensive against the Glossary - opens new windowCentral Powers. Within a month, at least one-third of the Austrian army had been captured. Russian advances persuaded Romania to join the Entente in August, prompting Glossary - opens new windowKaiser Wilhelm II to declare that the war was lost for Germany.

Yet the Glossary - opens new windowBrusilov offensive quickly ground to a halt. The Germans launched a successful counter-attack in Romania and occupied Bucharest on 6 December. A few months later, Brusilov - the hero of the previous summer - was advocating the tsar's abdication as the only means of saving the Russian war effort.

 

Italy and the Balkans
Despite their smaller scale, the other military fronts in Europe were by no means insignificant. The Italian Front, concentrated in the two mountain regions around South Tyrol and the Glossary - opens new windowIsonzo river, was deadlocked for much of the period between 1915 and 1918. But in the Balkans, where declining Ottoman power had been a destabilising factor since long before 1914, the military situation was more dynamic.
Italian Front - opens new window
Italian Front: Cadorna's
appeal for munitions
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Salonika Front - opens new window
Salonika Front:
troops taking quinine
Smaller powers such as Bulgaria (in 1915) and Romania (in 1916) entered the war with their own territorial ambitions and the armies of the Great Powers quickly became involved. In order to defend its Serbian ally from the advancing Austro-German forces, British and French troops opened the Glossary - opens new windowSalonika Front in Greece in October 1915. The Balkans became a key strategic point for both sides in their struggle to divert enemy troops and resources from the main Western and Eastern fronts.

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Gallipoli
 

However, there was one area in particular on which Allied strategists pinned their hopes for a fresh military breakthrough in 1915. In February, an Anglo-French naval force sailed up the Glossary - opens new windowDardanelles - the strait separating European Turkey and Asia Minor - towards the Ottoman capital of Glossary - opens new windowConstantinople.

In April, when the naval attack proved ineffective, Allied troops landed on the Glossary - opens new windowGallipoli peninsula. The BattlesGallipoli campaign quickly turned into a military disaster. Turkish troops fought tenaciously, and even a second landing of Allied troops in August 1915 failed to breach their defences.

By January 1916, the Allies had pulled out of Gallipoli. More than 100,000 men from all sides - including an estimated 66,000 Turks, 28,000 Britons, 10,000 French, 10,000 Australians and New Zealanders and 1,500 Indians - had been killed in less than nine months of fighting.


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Further research

The following references give an idea of the sources held by The National Archives on the subject of this chapter. These documents can be seen on site at The National Archives.

Reference
Document
AIR 1/465/15/312/148: Intelligence reports on enemy aviation on Italian Front, Nov 1917-Dec 1918.
FO 286/617-625: British mission to provisional Greek government in Salonika, 1917.
PRO 30/57/84: Kitchener papers on Italy and war, 1915-16.
WO 32/5122: Report by British army officer on military situation in Serbia, 31 Oct 1915.
WO 106/765, 809, 819: War Office material on Italian Front, 1916-18.
WO 106/1343, 1345, 1347: War Office material on Salonika Front, 1916-18.

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