1918 was, of course, the year that the carnage and the bloodshed at last came to an end. After the guns stopped firing at 11am on November 11th, those men who had been fortunate enough to survive found themselves in a world totally different to the one their predecessors occupied when they marched off to war in 1914. This new world was a world left in a state of shock at the scale of the slaughter and facing an uncertain future, a world of democracy and political ideologies without many of the Kings and Emperors that had kept the old order ticking over for centuries.
Before all this could happen, however, there was still the matter of bringing an end to the war, which in early 1918 still showed little sign of breaking free from the trench stalemate that had held the two sides in place almost since the beginning. The Western Front would prove to be the decisive theater in these final struggles, with the Germans gambling everything on a series of all-out offensives that they hoped would smash their British and French foes and achieve that elusive final victory. Despite having crucial extra manpower freed up by the ending of the war in the east, the Germans were seriously struggling to meet the demands of their war effort and had little choice but to act quickly and decisively in the west. With American troops now flooding into France and soon to take up their positions in the Allied frontline, the balance of military power was set to swing permanently against the Central Powers.
The German Spring Offensives caught the Allies off balance, penetrating deep into their territory and finally resuming a degree of mobile warfare on the Western Front after more than three years of stalemate. The Germans did not break through completely, however, and the Allies held on. By August it was clear that the German attacks had run out of steam and from then on it was all downhill for the Kaiser's reich. The Allies, now reinforced by large numbers of American troops, began to push the Germans out of France and back into Belgium. As Austria-Hungary collapsed, the Ottomans sued for peace and their own country was consumed by revolutionary chaos Germany's military and political leaders at last agreed that the war had to be ended.
January 1st 1918
- Politics, Finland: The Bolshevik government in Russia recognises the Finnish declaration of independence which had been issued the previous month.
January 8th 1918
- Politics, United States: In a speech before a joint session of the United States Congress, President Woodrow Wilson outlines his vision for post-war Europe, a vision known as the Fourteen Points. It aims to avoid destructive wars in the future and is based upon the principles of national self-determination and collective security, with disputes to be settled by an international body.
January 20th 1918
- Naval War, Aegean Sea: The former German warships Goeben and Breslau, which have been under Ottoman control since 1914, attempt to sortie into the Aegean Sea but end up running into an enemy minefield. Breslau sinks after hitting a mine and the Goeben is forced to run itself aground in order to avoid the same fate. She is later towed away to safety by the Ottomans.
January 24th 1918
- Home Front, Germany: Some 200,000 workers in Berlin and other German cities go out on strike, protesting against the worsening conditions on Germany's home front. The demands of the war effort and the debilitating effects of the British naval blockade mean that many Germans are starving and both economy and society are reaching breaking point.
February 18th 1918
- Eastern Front, Russia: Fighting on the Eastern Front resumes after Russia's armistice with the Central Powers, signed on December 23rd 1917, breaks down.
February 21st 1918
- Middle East, Palestine: British forces advancing northwards through the Ottoman province of Palestine capture the city of Jericho.
March 3rd 1918
- Politics, Russia: Leon Trotsky, representing the new Bolshevik regime in Russia, signs the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk. This peace treaty takes Russia out of the war against the Central Powers for good. Although the terms of the peace are very harsh on Russia, requiring them to hand over all Polish, Ukrainian and Baltic territories to Germany, it relieves a great deal of pressure on the Bolsheviks and allows them to focus on the civil war against anti-Communist "White" forces. The ending of the war in the east also allows Germany to transfer massive amounts of men and equipment to the Western Front, giving her a crucial numerical advantage over the Allies there.
March 21st 1918
- Western Front, France: The Germans on the Western Front, their numbers bolstered by troops transferred from the east, begin a series of massive attacks against the Allies that become known collectively as the Spring Offensive. The attacks are the brainchild of Germany's Chief Quartermaster General and co-Commander-in-Chief, Erich Ludendorff. Ludendorff knows that this is the last chance to achieve a German victory before American manpower tips the balance irreversibly in favour of the Allies so he and the German high command have decided to risk everything in an all-or-nothing gamble to win the war.
- Western Front, France: The first attack of Ludendorff's Spring Offensive, Operation Michael, is launched against the British Fifth Army on the River Somme, near the town of Saint Quentin. The aim of this attack is to break through the Allied frontline at the crucial weak point where the British and French armies meet, splitting the British from the French and capturing the city of Amiens, a key strategic transportation hub for the Allies.Within two days of the beginning of the assault, spearheaded by a concentrated artillery bombardment and elite stormtrooper units, the Germans have broken through in several places and the British are in full retreat.
- Western Front, Paris: The French capital, Paris comes under fire from the German "Paris Gun", a massive long-range heavy siege gun built by the German munitions manufacturer, Krupp. The gun allows the Germans to shell Paris from 75 miles away.
March 26th 1918
- Politics, Western Front: m French general Ferdinand Foch is appointed as Supreme Commander of all Allied forces on the Western Front, giving some much-needed uniformity and coordination to an Allied command that had been previously divided between General Philippe Pétain (France), Field Marshal Sir Douglas Haig (United Kingdom) and General John Pershing (United States), with no one person in overall control. Foch's authority is later extended to include the Italian Front as well.
March 29th 1918
- Western Front, Paris: 88 French civilians are killed and another 68 are injured when a shell fired by the Paris Gun hits the St-Gervais-et-St-Protais Church, causing its roof to collapse in on the congregation during the Good Friday service.
April 1st 1918
- Air War, United Kingdom: The British army's Royal Flying Corps is merged with the Royal Naval Air Service to form the Royal Air Force.
April 5th 1918
- Western Front, France: Ludendorff calls off Operation Michael after the British on the Somme manage to re-establish and hold the line, halting the German advance at the village of Villers-Bretonneux, just eleven miles east of Amiens. The German troops are exhausted having advanced such a long distance in just a few days. Bringing supplies and artillery forward across the shell-blasted 1916 Somme battlefields, which the Germans have recaptured, is turning out to be a major logistical headache, Sapping the Germans' momentum and making it difficult for them to consolidate their gains.
April 9th 1918
- Western Front, France/Belgium: Germany launches the second assault of Ludendorff's Spring Offensive, Operation Georgette, also known as the Battle of the Lys and the Fourth Battle of Ypres. The aim of this operation is to break through the Allied line in the area around Ypres and Arras, which has been left vulnerable by the transfer of British forces to the Amiens sector, and cut off the British army's main supply routes by capturing the French Channel ports. Two Portuguese divisions collapse in the face of the German onslaught and the Allies are forced to fall back, giving up all the land around Ypres that they had gained in 1917, including the Messines and Passchendaele Ridges. Ypres itself, however, still remains in Allied hands.
April 11th 1918
- Western Front, Belgium: As his troops are pushed back by the Germans in the Ypres sector, the British commander, Sir Douglas Haig, issues his famous order of the day: "With our backs to the wall and believing in the justice of our cause, each one of us must fight on to the end." It is feared that the Germans will be able to reach Dunkirk, Calais and Boulogne within a week if the British are not immediately reinforced with French forces. Fortunately for the Allies, the British are managing to hold a line on the River Lys and the German advance is runing out of steam.
April 21st 1918
- Air War, Western Front: Germany's leading fighter ace, Manfred "The Red Baron" von Richthofen is fatally wounded by Allied anti-aircraft fire during a dogfight near Amiens. He is able to land his plane on the Allied side of the lines before dying and is buried with full military honours by the British. Richthofen is replaced as commander of the Jagdgeschwader 1 fighter unit by Wilhelm Reinhard. After his own death in a flying accident on July 3rd, Reinhard is replaced as commander by the future Nazi Air Minister, Hermann Göring.
April 29th 1918
- Western Front, France/Belgium: Ludendorff calls a halt to Operation Georgette as it becomes clear that the Germans are not going to break through to the Channel ports. Despite having gained significant territory in the Ypres salient and around the Franco-Belgian border, the Germans have failed to capture either Ypres or the important rail hub of Hazebrouck.
May 7th 1918
- Politics, Romania: Romania is forced to sign the Treaty of Bucharest as the withdrawal of Russia from the war has left the Romanians powerless to resist the Central Powers. The treaty is never ratified.
May 27th 1918
- Western Front, France: The Germans launch the third phase of the Spring Offensive, Operation Blücher-Yorck. The German attack takes place on the River Aisne between Soissons and Rheims, the objective being to push southwest towards Paris and draw in French forces to defend the capital. Ludendorff hopes that this diversion of French reinforcements will leave the struggling British vulnerable in their sectors to the north, allowing for a possible resumption of the Michael and Georgette offensives at some later date.
June 1st 1918
- Western Front, France: The United States Army sees its first significant action of the war as two American divisions, including a brigade from the Marine Corps, fight alongside the French Sixth Army for control of Belleau Wood near the town of Château-Thierry. Belleau Wood is just forty miles northeast of Paris and marks the furthest point of the German advance during the Blücher-Yorck offensive. The battle ends on June 26th.
June 6th 1918
- Western Front, France: Ludendorff calls a halt to Operation Blücher-Yorck. Yet again the Germans have gained a large amount of territory, reaching the River Marne for the first time since 1914, but have failed to achieve a breakthrough. Germany has also lost many of her best assault troops in the offensive, incurring 130,000 casualties in all (roughly the same figure as the Allies). German manpower is now stretched to the absolute limit, with the high command finding it increasingly difficult to make up the losses.
June 9th 1918
- Western Front, France: The final phase of Ludendorff's Spring Offensive, Operation Gneisenau, is launched. The attack yields token territorial gains for the Germans but the German army is fast reaching the limits of its endurance. The Allies have also regrouped since the early shocks of the Spring Offensive and are now soaking up the pressure effectively. A surprise French counter-attack at Compiègne on June 11th leads to the calling-off of the German offensive after just three days.
June 10th 1918
- Naval War, Adriatic Sea: An attempt by the Austro-Hungarian navy to break the Italian naval blockade of the Adriatic Sea is abandoned after the dreadnought battleship Szent István is sunk by Italian torpedo boats.
June 13th 1918
- Italian Front, Italy: Austro-Hungarian forces in Italy attempt to cross the Piave River and break the Allied defensive line but are repelled by the Italians and their Anglo-French reinforcements. The attack, which ends on June 23rd, is a total disaster for the Austro-Hungarians, who suffer more than 100,000 casualties.
July 15th 1918
- Western Front, France: The German army on the Western Front launches what will turn out to be its final offensive action of the war, the Second Battle of the Marne. The Germans attempt to break out of the salient created by Blücher-Yorck but are thwarted by an effective French defence and total Allied air superiority.
July 17th 1918
- Politics, Russia: Russia's former Tsar Nicholas II, his wife, their five children and several members of their household are executed by the Bolsheviks in the cellar of the Ipatiev House, the secure compound where they were being held in the Siberian town of Ekaterinburg. The decision to kill the Imperial Family was made in order to prevent them from falling into the hands of approaching anti-Bolshevik White forces.
July 18th 1918
- Western Front, France: As the Second Battle of the Marne rages on, French and American forces launch a major counter-attack against the west side of the Blücher-Yorck salient that threatens to roll up the Germans from the rear. Ludendorff orders an evacuation of the salient and by August 7th the Germans have pulled back to their starting positions on the River Aisne. The Second Battle of the Marne is a crucial victory for the Allies, who inflict 168,000 casualties on the Germans and take 30,000 prisoners. More importantly, the German army has now lost all offensive capability and its reserves are all but used up. The initiative is now firmly in the hands of the Allies.
August 6th 1918
- Politics, France: The Allied supreme commander, General Ferdinand Foch is promoted to Marshal of France.
August 8th - 11th 1918
- Western Front, France: British and Commonwealth forces launch the Battle of Amiens, attacking the German salient created by Operation Michael. The Allied attack, which involves a well-coordinated use of artillery, aircraft and tanks to support the advancing infantry, is a resounding success and the Germans are forced to withdraw. Ludendorff famously refers to August 8th as "the black day of the German army".
August 17th 1918
- Western Front, France: The Allied attack front is widened even further as the French Tenth Army attacks the Germans south of the Somme, around the town of Noyon.
August 21st 1918
- Western Front, France: British forces on the Somme recapture the town of Albert from the Germans.
August 26th 1918
- Western Front, France: The British First Army, stationed north of the Somme sector, launches the Second Battle of Arras, further widening the Allied front of attack.
August 29th 1918
- Western Front, France: The French capture Noyon from the Germans.
- Western Front, France: British forces cross the old Somme battlefields of 1916 and capture Bapaume from the Germans.
September 12th 1918
- Western Front, France: The German military situation on the Western Front becomes critcal as the British achieve another victory at the Battle of Havrincourt. The German high command decides to abandon what remains of their 1918 gains and withdraw to the Hindenburg Line, the strong defensive positions from which they launched the Spring Offensive.
September 15th 1918
- Balkan Front, Serbia: British, French and Greek forces in the southern Balkans attack and break through the Bulgarian lines at Dobro Pole in the former Serbian province of Macedonia. The defeat triggers a revolt in the Bulgarian army but they and their German allies are able to halt the Allies at Dorian on September 19th. Tough military pressure remains on Bulgaria, however, and soon its forces begin to crumble.
September 21st 1918
- Middle East, Palestine: The British complete the conquest of Palestine and are now poised to attack further north into Syria.
September 26th 1918
- Western Front, France: Marshal Foch orders an offensive against the southern sector of the Hindenburg Line west of Verdun. The Meuse-Argonne Offensive, conducted by French and American forces, continues until the end of the war and brings further significant, albeit costly, successes for the Allies.
September 28th 1918
- Western Front, Belgium: The northern Allied army group commanded by King Albert I of Belgium attacks the German positions around Ypres, quickly penetrating enemy lines and advancing over six miles on the first day. The offensive ends on October 2nd due to logisical problems, with the Allies having advanced up to eighteen miles in some places.
September 30th 1918
- Politics, Bulgaria: Following the collapse of its forces in the Balkans, Bulgaria becomes the first of the Central Powers to sign an armistice with the Allies.
October 1st 1918
- Middle East, Syria: British forces capture the city of Damascus, the capital of the Ottomans' Syria province..
October 8th 1918
- Western Front, France: Canadian forces break through the Hindenburg Line at the Second Battle of Cambrai. With all its reserves exhausted and its final key defensive position breached, the German army has no choice but to fall back.
October 14th 1918
- Western Front, Belgium: King Albert's Allied forces in the north resume their offensive with the Battle of Courtrai, penetrating deep into Belgium. By October 19th, Oostend, Lille, Douai, Zeebrugge and Bruges had been recaptured from the Germans. The entire Belgian coastline is now in Allied hands, with the Western Front now ending at the Belgian-Dutch border.
October 15th 1918
- Western Front, Belgium: Adolf Hitler, an Austrian-born corporal serving in the 16th Bavarian Reserve Infantry Regiment of the German Army, is caught along with several colleagues in a mustard gas attack. Hitler is left temporarily blinded and spends the rest of the war in a field hospital.
October 20th 1918
- Naval War, Germany: Germany suspends its submarine campaign.
October 24th 1918
- Naval War, Germany: Germany's Imperial Naval Command under Admiral Reinhard Scheer and Admiral Franz von Hipper, based at the port of Kiel, issues orders for the High Seas Fleet to set sail for a final battle against the British Royal Navy.
- Italian Front, Italy: The Italians and their Anglo-French allies launch a major series of attacks against the Austro-Hungarian forces in the Trentino and northeastern Italy. The offensive, knows as the Battle of Vittorio Veneto, continues for ten days with the Italians making excellent progress in all areas against disintegrating enemy resistance.
- Politics, Austria-Hungary: The autonomous government of Hungary, which now believes the war to be a lost cause, defies Imperial authority by ordering all Hungarian elements of the Austro-Hungarian army to abandon the fighting on the Italian Front and return home.
October 29th 1918
- Politics, Germany: German sailors at the port of Wilhelmshaven refuse the Naval Command's orders to put to sea, believing that there is little point in risking their lives when the end of the war is so obviously close and that a naval attack would jeopardise peace negotiations. The mutinies are brought under control after two days but the attack against the British is called off as it is felt that the crews' loyalty can no longer be relied upon.
- Politics, Germany: As the German military situation on the Western Front continues to collapse, Erich Ludendorff resigns as Chief Quartermaster General and is replaced by Wilhelm Groener. Both Groener and the army Chief-of-Staff, Paul von Hindenburg are now of the opinion that the war must be ended.
October 30th 1918
- Middle East, Mesopotamia: As British troops enter the vital oil town of Mosul in northern Mesopotamia, the Ottoman Empire signs the Armistice of Moudros with the Allies, bringing an end to the fighting in the Middle East.
October 31st 1918
- Politics, Hungary: Hungary terminates its personal union with Austria, officially dissolving the Austro-Hungarian state. There is now nothing left of the former Habsburg realm except for the majority-German Alpine and Danubian provinces.
November 3rd 1918
- Politics, Italy: The Austrians sign a general armistice with Italy and the rest of the Allies. It comes into effect the following day.
- Politics, Germany: A second more widespread German naval mutiny breaks out, this time in Kiel itself. Within a few days the mutinous sailors are in control of the city and several other uprisings break out all over Germany, bringing the country to the brink of revolution.
November 7th 1918
- Politics, Germany: As the revolutions triggered by the sailors' mutiny reach Bavaria, King Ludwig III and his family leave the capital Munich and flee over the Austrian border to Salzburg. The socialist politician Kurt Eisner declares the foundation of a Bavarian Republic the following day, making Ludwig the first of the German monarchs to be deposed.
November 8th 1918
- Politics, Germany: Duke Ernst August III of Brunswick abdicates.
November 9th 1918
- Politics, Germany: Kaiser Wilhelm II abdicates as both German Emperor and King of Prussia before going into exile in the Netherlands, where he will remain until his death in 1941. The remaining German monarchs that haven't already abdicated quickly follow in his footsteps as the various revolutionary upheavals overwhelm them; all will be gone by the end of November.
- Politics, Germany: Prince Max of Baden resigns as Chancellor of Germany and is replaced by the Social Democratic Party leader, Friedrich Ebert.
- Politics, Germany: Shortly after the Kaiser's abdication is announced, the Social Democrat politician Philipp Scheidemann, hoping to prevent the Communists from seizing the initiative, proclaims the creation of a German Republic from a balcony of the Reichstag Building in Berlin. The co-leader of the Spartacist League, Karl Liebknecht proclaims a Communist Republic at almost the same time.
- Politics, Germany: Grand Duke William Ernest of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach abdicates.
- Politics, Germany: Grand Duke Ernest Louis of Hesse and by Rhine abdicates.
November 10th 1918
- Politics, Germany: Duke Bernhard III of Saxe-Meiningen abdicates.
November 11th 1918
- Western Front, Belgium: Canadian forces in Belgium recapture the city of Mons, the site of the British Expeditionary Force's first battle against the Germans in August 1914.
- Politics, France: A German delegation led by the politician Matthias Erzberger signs an armistice with the Allies in Marshal Foch's railway carriage at the forest of Compiègne, northeast of Paris. The armistice is set to come into effect six hours later at 11am.
- Western Front, France/Belgium: The Armistice of Compiègne comes into effect at 11am and the fighting on the Western Front ceases, finally bringing an end to the war. The last soldier to die in the conflict is believed to be the American Henry Gunther, who was killed less than a minute before the cease-fire.
- Politics, Austria: The Habsburg Emperor Charles I renounces his right to participate in Austria's affairs-of-state and relieves all Austrian state officials of their oath of loyalty to him. He issues a similar proclamation for Hungary on November 13th but does not officially abdicate either throne.
- Politics, Poland: The Second Polish Republic is founded, making Poland an independent state for the first time since 1795. Marshal Józef Klemens Piłsudski becomes the country's first "Chief of State" as all German troops are expelled from Polish territory.
- Politics, Germany: Grand Duke Frederick Augustus II of Oldenburg abdicates.
November 12th 1918
- Politics, Austria: The Republic of German Austria is proclaimed, ending nearly six-and-a-half centuries of rule by the House of Habsburg. The new state does not include the German-populated border regions of neighbouring Bohemia (the Sudetenland) as those areas have been occupied by Czech forces.
- Politics, Germany: The exiled former King of Bavaria, Ludwig III issues the Anif Declaration from his new residence at the Anif Palace in Austria, releasing all Bavarian officials and soldiers from their oath of loyalty to him. The new republican government in Bavaria interprets the declaration as an abdication and proclaims a formal end to the 738-year rule of the Wittelsbach dynasty.
- Politics, Germany: Prince Leopold IV of Lippe abdicates.
- Politics, Germany: Duke Joachim Ernst of Anhalt abdicates.
November 13th 1918
- Politics, Germany: King Frederick Augustus III of Saxony abdicates.
- Politics, Germany: Duke Ernest II of Saxe-Altenburg abdicates.
- Politics, Germany: Prince Friedrich of Waldeck and Pyrmont abdicates.
November 14th 1918
- Politics, Czechoslovakia: The Republic of Czechoslovakia is proclaimed as new state which consists of the former Austro-Hungarian provinces of Bohemia, Moravia and Slovakia, areas which contain sizeable German and Hungarian minority populations. The Hungarians had hoped to retain the Slovak lands following the dissolution of the Habsburg Empire but their plans were blocked by the Allies.
- Politics, Germany: Duke Charles Edward of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha abdicates.
- Politics, Germany: Grand Duke Frederick Francis IV of Mecklenburg-Schwerin, who was also serving as regent of Mecklenburg-Strelitz pending the resolution of a succession crisis there, abdicates.
- Naval War, United Kingdom: As per the terms of the November 11th armistice, Germany's submarine fleet is interned by the British.
- Africa, Mozambique: General Paul Emil von Lettow-Vorbeck, commmander of the colonial German army in East Africa which has evaded defeat since the beginning of the war, agrees to a cease-fire with the British after learning of the armistice in Europe.
November 15th 1918
- Politics, Germany: Prince Adolf II of Schaumburg-Lippe abdicates.
November 16th 1918
- Politics, Hungary: The Hungarian Democratic Republic is proclaimed with Mihály Károlyi as its first President.
November 17th 1918
- Western Front, France/Belgium: As per the terms of the armistice agreement, German forces begin to withdraw from the areas of France and Belgium that they still occupy.
- Caucasus Front, Russia: Ottoman forces withdraw from Baku and cede control to the British.
November 21st 1918
- Naval War, United Kingdom: British Vice-Admiral Sir David Beatty accepts the surrender of the German High Seas Fleet. The German vessels are later escorted to the British naval base at Scapa Flow in the Orkneys where they are kept at anchor, awaiting a decision on their future. They are eventually scuttled by their own crews on June 21st 1919 in order to prevent them from being divided up among the victorious allies.
November 22nd 1918
- Politics, Germany: Grand Duke Frederick II of Baden abdicates.
November 23rd 1918
- Africa, Northern Rhodesia: General Lettow-Vorbeck's undefeated African army surrenders honourably to the British at Abercorn in the British colony of Northern Rhodesia. Lettow-Vorbeck later returns home to a hero's welcome and is honoured with a victory parade in Berlin.
- Politics, Germany: Prince Günther Victor of Schwarzburg-Rudolstadt and Schwarzburg-Sonderhausen abdicates.
November 30th 1918
- Politics, Germany: King Wilhelm II of Württemberg abdicates.
December 1st 1918
- Politics, Serbia/Montenegro: Serbia and Montenegro unite with the former Austro-Hungarian Slavic territories to form the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes, which will later become known as Yugoslavia.