At the start of the First World War, Germany hoped to avoid fighting on two fronts by knocking out France before turning to Russia, France’s ally. The initial German offensive had some early success, but there were not enough reinforcements immediately available to sustain momentum. The French and British launched a counter-offensive at the Marne (6-10 September 1914) and after several days of bitter fighting the Germans retreated. 


Germany’s failure to defeat the French and the British at the Marne also had important strategic implications. The Russians had mobilised more quickly than the Germans had anticipated and launched their first offensive within two weeks of the war’s outbreak. The Battle of Tannenberg in August 1914 ended in German victory, but the combination of German victory in the east and defeat in the west meant the war would not be quick, but protracted and extended across several fronts. 


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The Battle of the Marne also marked the end of mobile warfare on the Western Front. Following their retreat, the Germans re-engaged Allied forces on the Aisne, where fighting began to stagnate into trench warfare. 


The opening months of the war caused profound shock due to the huge casualties caused by modern weapons. Losses on all fronts for the year 1914 topped five million, with a million men killed. This was a scale of violence unknown in any previous war. The terrible casualties sustained in open warfare meant that soldiers on all fronts had begun to protect themselves by digging trenches, which would dominate the Western Front until 1918.


2. Gallipoli

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The Gallipoli campaign (25 April 1915 - 9 January 1916) was the land-based element of a strategy intended to allow Allied ships to pass through the Dardanelles, capture Constantinople (now Istanbul) and ultimately knock Ottoman Turkey out of the war. But Allied plans were based on the mistaken belief that the Ottomans could be easily overcome.  

At dawn on 25 April 1915, Allied troops landed on the Gallipoli peninsula in Ottoman Turkey. General Sir Ian Hamilton decided to make two landings, placing the British 29th Division at Cape Helles and the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) north of Gaba Tepe in an area later dubbed Anzac Cove. Both landings were quickly contained by determined Ottoman troops and neither the British nor the Anzacs were able to advance. 

Trench warfare quickly took hold, mirroring the fighting of the Western Front. Casualties mounted heavily and in the summer heat conditions rapidly deteriorated. Sickness was rampant, food quickly became inedible and there were vast swarms of black corpse flies. In August a new assault was launched north of Anzac Cove. This attack, along with a fresh landing at Suvla Bay, quickly failed and stalemate returned.  

In December, it was decided to evacuate – first Anzac and Suvla, and then Helles in January 1916. Gallipoli became a defining moment in the history of both Australia and New Zealand, revealing characteristics that both countries have used to define their soldiers: endurance, determination, initiative and "mateship". For the Ottomans, it was a brief respite in the decline of their empire. But through the emergence of Mustafa Kemal (later known as Atatürk) as one of the campaign"s leading figures, it also led to the foundation of modern Turkey.