Top 10 major battles of World War I

World War I opened up new frontiers in International Warfare due to the battles fought between significant global superpowers.

The Great War which started with the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand by Gavrilo Princip brought massive devastation. Almost 9 million combatants and 7 million civilians were involved directly or indirectly.

Numerous battles such as the Battle of Tannenberg, the Brusilov Offensive, the Battle of first Marne, the Battle of Jutland, and many others led to more than 17 million casualties with 20 million wounded and captured.

Here is the list of top 10 significant battles of World War I.

Also Read: Top 10 Military leaders of World War 1

10. First Battle of Marne 

 First Battle of Marne ww1 battle
Date:September 6 to 12, 1914
Casualties:483,000 people (German: 220,000 and Allied Forces: 263,000)

The First Battle of the Marne is the counter-offensive of the British and the French along the Marne River. It was fought from September 6 to September 12, 1914. This battle is famously known as the Miracle on the Marne.

The Marne battle was fought on the north and east of Paris. Germans invaded Belgium and were pushing through France and were threatening Paris. 

British and the French armies were already facing considerable casualties in the process of stopping the Germans from invading. They united with each other at the Marne River and tried to stop Germany.

With the effort of the French and the British forces, Germany had to abandon the plan of Schlieffen and also faced massive casualties. 

The First Battle of Marne saved Paris from Germans and pushed them away by 45 miles and is considered as the strategic victory for the French, which led them to continue with the war.

9. Battle of Verdun

battle of Battle of Verdun ww1 battle
Date:February 21 to December 18, 1916
Casualties:more than 800,000 ( French: over 400,000 and German: over 400,000)

The Battle of Verdun, the longest and costliest fought battles of World War I, began on February 21 and ended on December 18, 1916.

It started when the German attacked the French town of Verdun. Germans, under the command of General Erich Von Falkenhayn, opened with a 10-hour long attack(bombardment).

The attack intended to make the French bleed white and to end the trench warfare that began in 1914. Erich targeted the town, Verdun, as he knew the French would fight back ferociously for the city.

While the French were fighting for Verdun, the British were left alone towards the Western Front. Later, the French were able to slow the Germans down.

With the start of another battle, the battle of the Somme, Germans could not send more troops to the French town, Verdun, and the struggle had to be called off.

The Battle of Verdun had no progress on both sides, but the Germans and the French suffered from almost a million casualties.

8.  Battle of Gallipoli

ww1 battle Battle of Gallipoli
Date:February 19, 1915, to January 9, 1916
Casualties:473,000 ( Turkish: 253,000 and Allied Forces: 220,000)

The Battle of Gallipoli, famously known as the Gallipoli Campaign or Dardanelles Campaign, took place as a campaign on the Gallipoli peninsula. It started from February 19, 1915, and ended on January 9, 1916.

It was the significant victory of the Ottoman Empire during World War I. The Campaign was advanced by the allied to weaken the Ottoman Empire by taking over the strategic straights and proceeding further.

The Gallipoli Campaign had British, Indian, French, Australian, New Zealand, and Canadian forces against the Turkish Ottoman Empire which was on Germany’s side. 

The side of the British sailed a massive fleet at the 65-mile Dardanelles water strait which would link their planned capture, Istanbul and the Mediterranean( the Ottoman Capital).

The Battle of Gallipoli had massive casualties on both sides: Turkish lost 251,309 men and the Allied forces lost 141,547 men.

7. Battle of the Somme

Battle of the Somme ww1 battle
Date:February 19, 1915, to January 9, 1916
Casualties breakdown( British: over 420,000 ; French: about 200,000 , and German: over 500,000)
Overall CasualtiesOver 1 million

The Battle of the Somme was from July 1 to November 18, 1916. It was the battle intended to relieve pressure on the French who fought the Battle of Verdun.

Before the battle of Somme under the commander of the British Army, Douglas Haig, the British had a week-long bombardment on the defensive lines of German.

Though the British were easy targets for the Germans, the British and the French started the battle by their offence and ended the battle (July – November) taking over about 9.7km of the territory that was occupied by the Germans.

It was a joint operation between the French and the British forces to take over the Germans on the Western Front. The result of this battle is one of the most painful and infamous parts of WWI for the British.

The battle lasted for about 140 days with attacks and counter-attacks with a massive loss on both sides. The overall casualties exceeded 1 million with British: 420,000, French: 200,000, and German: 500,000. 

6. Battle of Tannenberg 

Battle of Tannenberg ww1
Date:October 24 to December 19, 1917
Casualties:More than 600,000

The Battle of Tannenberg was fought during the first month of World War I on August 26 to August 30, 1914. It was a battle fought between the 8th Army of Germany and the 2nd Army of Russia.

Russian 2nd Army was under the command of General Samsonov which led to South-West to pin an outnumbered 8th Army of Germany. They did not succeed, and ultimately, Germans attacked the Russians near Tannenberg (August 26).

The Battle of Tannenberg destructed the advancing Russian 2nd Army and 1st Army. It was a massive loss for Russia as they faced about 170,000 casualties, the suicide of its commander, and capture of more than 350 large Russian guns. 

The Russians were off-balance till the Spring of 1915. Though the Germans were outnumbered, they faced a minimal loss during this battle. They had about 12,000 casualties.

This battle was the first battle of World War I that was fought on the Eastern Front. 

5.  Battle of Caporetto  

ww1 Battle of Caporetto
Date:October 24 to December 19, 1917
Casualties:More than 600,000

Battle of Caporetto was fought from October 24 to December 19, 1917, and is also known as the 12th Battle of the Isonzo, Battle of Karfreitag, and Battle of Kobarid. It was fought amongst the Central Powers and the Kingdom of Italy on the Italian front.

The Austrian-Hungarian and German forces broke through the Italian defences in northern Isonzo after they caught the Italian soldiers by surprise. With the Italian defeat, the Chief of Staff – Luigi Cadorna was dismissed, and there was a change of government. 

A 25-km long line in front of Caporetto, north of Gorizia along Isonzo was a chosen point of German to attack the Italians as the Italians were weak on the combined offensive. 

The battle led to massive casualties. Italian lost about 40,000 with imprisonment of 265,000 men and Austro-Hungarian and Germans had about 70,000 injuries.

4. Battle of Arras 

Battle of Arras ww1 battle
Date:April 9 to May 16, 1917
Casualties:278,000 ( British: 158,000 and German: 120,000)

The Battle of Arras is famously known as the Second Battle of Arras was fought on April 9 to May 16, 1917. 

It was initially planned after the bloodbaths at the Somme and Verdun together by the Russian, the French, and the British. As the situation of the Allied deteriorated, the Russians pulled out of the operation.

The British attacked the Germans near the French city of Arras on the Western Front. It was the longest advance gotten by the British since the beginning of trench warfare. 

The Battle of Arras resulted in the loss of 158,000 men on the British side and about 120,000 men on the German side. Though the result of the battle is still not visible, it is supposedly a British victory. 

Germans have built new defensive positions and resumed a stalemate after the battle. The British also learned lessons relating to infantry coordinations, tanks and artillery that were useful for their fighting in 1918.

3. Brusilov Offensive

ww1 battle Brusilov Offensive
Date:April 9 to May 16, 1917
Casualties:278,000 ( British: 158,000 and German: 120,000)

The Brusilov Offensive was named after the commander in charge of the Southwestern Front of the Imperial Russian Army, General Aleksei Brusilov. It is famously known as the June Advance and was fought from June 4 to September 20, 1916.

June Advance is considered as the most lethal offensive in World History, worst crisis, and the greatest feat of arms of the Russian Empire during World War I.

The Allies, at the Chantilly Conference, in December 1915, launched simultaneous offensives against the Central Powers. After the massive disaster of Lake Naroch Offensive, Aleksei proposed another huge attack against Austria-Hungary in Galicia.

Brusilove intended on knock-out Austria-Hungary and to relieve the pressure away from the French(Verdun) and Italians(Isonzo). On June 4, 1916, Austria-Hungarian Troops were attacked by the Russians which began with an accurate artillery bombardment.

The Brusilov Offensive led to a tremendous loss of lives where Russian lost almost 1000,000 men, Germans lost 148,000 men, and Austria-Hungary lost 613,587 men. It was the worst crisis war for Austria-Hungary and a notable victory for the Triple Entente.

2. Third Battle of Ypres

Battle of ww1 Third Battle of Ypres
Date:May 31 to June 1, 1916
Casualties:Almost 10,000 ( British: Over 6000 and German: Over 2500)

The Third Battle of Ypres fought from July 31 to November 6, 1917, is also known as the Battle of Passchendaele. It got its disgrace due to the massive casualties and widespread mud.

The British Field Marshal Sir Douglas Haig set plans to launch an offensive in Flander, after the failure of the Allied Nivelle Offensive(May 1917). 

It was intended for the capture of a significant rail junction which was a few miles to the east and then retook the Belgian ports which were in support of Unrestricted Submarine Warfare – a German Campaign.

On July 31, the British Fifth Army with the support of the Second Army, along with the French First Army, launched an offensive from the Ypres Salient. They had success initially but were hampered with the heavy rains descend on the region.

The drainage system was destroyed due to the bombardment, which led to muddy conditions tanks and clogged rifles. It made the situation worse and resulted in the halting of movement also drowned many horses and men.

The halted Battle of Passchendaele resumed on August 16, but there was no significant gain with stalemate for over a month. The battle ended with a massive number of casualties of more than 510,600 from all sides.

1.  Battle of Jutland 

Battle of Jutland ww1
Date:May 31 to June 1, 1916
Casualties:Almost 10,000 ( British: Over 6000 and German: Over 2500)

The Battle of Jutland began from May 31 and ended on June 1, 1916. It was the most massive naval battle during World War I. It was a bloody event which involved about 250 ships and around 100,000 men.

The battle started with the hopes of German High Seas Fleet to weaken the Royal Navy by launching an ambush on them in the North Sea. 

German Admiral Reinhard Scheer had a plan to draw in Admiral Sir David Beatty Battlecruiser Force and Admiral Sir John Jellicoe’s Grand Fleet.

Germans were able to destroy a few flagships of Beatty including HMS Indefatigable, HMS Lion, and HMS Queen Mary. They were blown after the German shells hit them.

In the Battle of Jutland, the British lost their 14 ships and had about 6000 casualties, and the Germans lost their 11 ships and had more than 2500 casualties.

After the Jutland event, Germans never challenged the British for control of the North Sea where the British had their shipping lanes secured. It led a blockade and a defeat for Germany in 1918.

Conclusion:

Though there was massive devastation due to World War I, it created the way for significant changes in World History.

It was not just a war, but a catalyst, cause, trigger, and an accelerator of revolutionary change with a surprising degree.

It affected the soldiers mentally and physically with numerous severe injuries and a traumatized condition with shell shock caused due to the horrific experience.

Other significant battles besides those mentioned above include Gorlice Tarnow Offensive, German Spring Offensive, Battle of Cambrai, and Serbian Campaign.

Related Articles
Top 10 Military leaders of World War 1
Paul Von Hindenburg, Germany

Numerous leaders from both sides commanded the battles of World War I: the Allied Powers and the Central Powers. WWI Read more

Top 10 Effects of World War 1
October-Revolution-in-Moscow-Russia-1917

WWI was a conflict between many nations which redrew the maps of the Middle East and Europe. It did leave Read more

Top 10 Causes of World War 1
Imperialism

World War I is also known as 'the war to end all wars.' It took place between July 28, 1914, Read more

Cite this article as: Richard Marrison, "Top 10 major battles of World War I," in HistoryTen, March 13, 2020, https://historyten.com/ww1/major-battles-of-world-war-1/.
About the Author

Leave a Reply