Top 10 Bloodiest Battles of World War 1

There were more than 100 battles fought in the World War 1. The war lasted for 4 years that started on 28 July 1914 and ended on 11 November 1918. There were over 9 million combatants and 7 million civilians were directly or indirectly involved. World War 1 has some of the bloodiest battles in the history that result in over 17 million casualties and 20 million wounded. The war also introduces some of the advanced weaponry such as machine guns -Maxim MG 08, aircraft – zeppelin. Here is the top 10 bloodiest battle of World War 1.

10. Hundred Days Offensive (7,000,000 Casualties)

Hundred Days Offensive world war 1

Hundred Days Offensive was a series of offensive delivered by the Allies. Spring Offensive from March to July 1918 had advanced Germans Deep into France. They were only about 75km away from Paris. However, this speedy penetration had left them lacking in ammunition and food while the Allies were gathering thousands of soldiers and artillery in the city of Amiens. With this, they were able to surprise the German forces and reclaim 13 km of territory in just one day. The Germans were gradually forced back beyond Hindenburg Line. Then, on 11 November 1918, Germans signed the armistice, bringing WWI to an end.

As the ending battle, the Hundred Days Offensive is significant. This, however, did not come cheap. Over 1,800,000 people were either dead or injured as a result. Casualties on both sides amounted to more than 7,000,000.

9. Spring Offensive (1,539,715 casualties)

Spring Offensive world war 1

When Russia signed an armistice, the Germans were able to move their troops to the Western Front where they launched a series of offensives. This was called the Spring Offensive, also known as Ludendorff Offensive after the top commander who planned massive and, what he thought, decisive attacks, to defeat the Allies before the American resources could join them. They gained a lot of ground. In fact, this has been the deepest advances made on either side since 1914.

Spring Offensive started on 21 March of 1918 with heavy bombardment and millions of shellfire. They attacked with great speed. However, food and artilleries could not keep up with the speeding armies and the German offensives petered out on 18 July 1918, but, not before they lost over 230,000 of their own. there were Over 1,539,715 total casualties in this battle

8. Battle of Somme (600,000+ casualties)

Battle of Somme was meant to relieve some pressure on the French fighting the battle of Verdun. Before the battle, the German lines were bombarded. This did not work. Therefore, when the British soldiers advanced on the first of July, 1916, they became easy victims of the Germans. Yet, they continued with their offensive and by the end of this battle on 18 November 1916, they were some 9.7km into the German-occupied territory.

The British suffered about 600,000+ casualties, 20,000 of them were dead, the very first day. The Germans too had over 500,000 victims on their side. With over a million casualties, this battle marked the true horrors of warfare.

7. Battle of Verdun (400,000+ casualties)

Battle of Verdun was the longest battle of World War I and also the costliest. It lasted from 21 February to 19 December 1916. German General Erich von Falkenhayn planned to ‘Bleed French White’ in this battle. Verdun town was significant to the French. He knew they would fight for it ferociously. With all the French are battling on this side, the British would be left alone on the Western Front. The Germans advanced well in the beginning, but with reinforcements, French was able to slow them down. When the battle of Somme started, Germans could no longer afford new troops to Verdun and the offensive was called off.

Though French were not bled dry, they did suffer some 400,000+ casualties and so did the Germans. Near million people were dead or wounded with no progress on either side.

6. Battle of Passchendaele

Canadians: 15,600, British: 275,000 casualties German: 220,000 killed and wounded.

Battle of Passchendaele is officially known as the Third Battle of Ypres. It started on 31 July and continued up to 6 November for 1917. This 3 months of bloody struggle won the British empire Passchendaele, a village only five miles from the starting point of Ypres town with too many losses on both sides. General Douglas Haig believed that the German troops were near collapse and a strong push would result in victory. Success in taking over the Messines Ridge further encouraged Haig and further preparation was made. The infantry attack began on 31st July and the British were advancing well, but the heaviest rain seen in the last 30 years turned the war corroded land into a quagmire, especially since the surrounding drainage systems were destroyed as well. Rifles clogged up, tanks were immobilized and the bog became so deep that men and horses drowned in it.

Different attacks in August, September, and October showed little progress. Finally, after claiming what was left of Passchendaele village, the offensive was called off as a success. By this time, near million people were either dead or injured. About 3-4 hundred thousand casualties on both the British and German side makes the total victims of this war over 800,000.

5. Serbian Campaign (300,000 Serbian armies, 800,000 Serbian civilians)

Serbian Campaign ww1 battle

It started with the invasion of Serbia by Austria-Hungary. On 28 June 1914, Gavrilo Princip, a Bosnian,  was assassinated Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the Austria-Hungary throne. This gave rise to several conflicts and Serbia was given July Ultimatum, a set of 10 demands of which only 8 were agreed upon. Thus, Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia on 28 July of the same year. UK, France, Russia, and Germany soon joined in and war-front extended from River Danube to the south of Macedonia and to the north.

In all this, the Serbians suffered the most. There 300,000 Serbian armies were dead, and almost 800,000 Serbian civilians lost their life. Their loss was about 25% in comparison to 17, 15, 11.5 and 10 percent in France, Germany, Russia, and Italy respectively. Most of them were males. This horror came to an end when Austria-Hungary agreed to an armistice on 4 November 1918.

4. The first Battle of Marnes (483,000 casualties)

The first Battle of Marnes

The first battle of Marnes was fought to the north and east of Paris in September 1914. Belgium had already been invaded by the German. They were then, pushing through a France causing a threat to Paris. Attempt to stop the German army had already cost the British and French heavy casualties. It seemed inevitable for Paris to fall into the German forces too. Desperate to stop the German advance, British and French forces united on the Marnes river, just outside Paris.  Six French field armies and one British army, together, succeeded to hinder German advancement into France. As a result, the Germans faced heavy casualties due to which they were obliged to abandon the Schliffen plan and retreat. This event came to be known as the “Miracle on the Marnes”.

Despite the Allied victory, the battle altogether cost 483,000 casualties; the Allied forces suffered 263,000 casualties, and the Germans 220,000. The battle also leads the Germans to retreat and unite and build strong defenses for protection against attack. The Allies response lead to the bloody trench warfare.

3. Battle of Gallipoli (Allies lost. 220,000 men and the Turks lost 253,000)

Battle of Gallipoli of world war 1

By 1915, the war in the West had bogged down. Both the sides were losing men in pointless assaults against the strong defensive opposition. Additionally, Russia’s shocking defeat at Tannenberg had placed it in a difficult situation limiting its ability to act. As a result, its Allies were losing a valuable contributor to the war effort. With the casualties escalating, the Allies decided to open up a second front. To threaten Ottoman- the capital city of Constantinople, Sir Winston Churchill, then First Lord of the Admiralty, decided to attack the Dardanelles (known as Turkey in the modern days).  There was two purpose behind opening up the second front. Firstly, the allies hoped it would help break the deadlock on the Western Front, and secondly, they wanted to bring relief to the beleaguered Russians by opening up a sea route for resupply. When initial naval attacks failed, the Allies decided on an amphibious assault to crush the Ottoman army.  The allies considered the Turks to be weak and were anticipating them to collapse after minimal level of casualty.  However, the exact opposite happened.

The Turkish troops dug in and resisted, impeding the Allied landings.  This leads to the failure of the allies to fulfill their objective. The Gallipoli front eventually bogged down into the same trench warfare as seen on the Western Front as British, Australian and New Zealand forces clashed with the Turks, The allies lost. 220,000 men and the Turks lost 253,000. The Ottoman Empire earned a stunning victory.

2. Battle of Arras (British :158,000|German: 20,000)

ww1 battle - Battle of Arras

By 1917, the Western Front had been at a stalemate for two years. Casualties infinitely mounted as a result of bloody battles, including the slaughterhouse at Verdun and the Somme. Millions of lives were lost on both sides. Europe was eventually wearing-out of war. The Allied high command needed to break the German lines and advance.  The German army was numerically inferior. Breaking the German lines would result in an immediate victory of the allies. Hence, a plan was formed to assault the German trenches at the town of Arras and the French in the south. The allies hoped that they would finally break the deadlock on the Western Front and gain victory.  The Battle of Arras opened on 9 April 1917. Initially, the effort was directed towards capturing a strategically important Vimy Ridge by Canadian forces and to major gains by British forces in the center.  However, when the battle closed on 16 May 1917, the British advance had been stymied.

The British lost 158,000 casualties in the assault, to a German loss of 120,000. Supposedly a British victory, the ultimate result of the battle still remains ambiguous.

1. Battle of Tannenberg (Russians: 170,000 | Germans 12,000)

Battle of Tannenberg

The Battle of Tannenberg was fought between Russian second army and German eight armies from 26 August to 30 August 1914, during the first month of World War I. After the Russian’s debacle in its invasion of East Prussia, they managed to inflict defeat of the Germans at Gumbinnen. Russia’s plan was to destroy the German eight armies by encircling it. Its second army was attacking to the south-east and the first army to the north. The first army, however, halted to which the Germans responded by attacking the exposed second army. Despite being outnumbered, the Germans, manage to inflict a huge defeat on the Russians at Tannenberg.

The war leads to complete destruction of the Russian Second Army and the suicide of its commanding general, Alexander Samsonov. The Russians suffered 170,000 casualties to the Germans 12,000.

See Also,

Top 10 causes of World War 1

Final Conclusion

Wars are disastrous. But every cloud has a silver lining. If WWI destroyed, it also paved way for major changes. As Lawrence Sondhals put it ‘World War One was the cause, catalyst, trigger and accelerator of revolutionary change on an unprecedented scale’. But humans never learn. They would soon be involved in an even more widespread battle for six years.

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