The key players
One hundred years after the conclusion of the First World War, EMMA BOWDEN looks at the pivotal figures in the conflict
SIR DOUGLAS HAIG Field Marshal, British Commander
Field Marshal Sir Douglas Haig became Commander in Chief of British troops on the Western Front in late 1915. His plans for the Battle of the Somme in 1916, which led to a high number of British casualties, made him a controversial figure. In 1918, he launched an offensive against the Germans which claimed thousands of Allied lives but broke German lines and led to victory.
FRANZ FERDINAND Archduke Of Austria
Archduke Franz Ferdinand became heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne in 1896, after the death of his father Karl Ludwig. Franz and his wife were assassinated on a trip to Sarajevo, Bosnia, which had been annexed by Austria-Hungary. His country, supported by Germany, swiftly declared war on Serbia. Germany declared war on Russia, Serbia’s ally, days later and invaded France via Belgium.
KAISER WILHELM II Emporer Of Germany
Wilhelm II supported Austria’s in invasion of Serbia in 1914, but a allegedly wanted to scale back Germany’s military plans when
Britain entered the war. His German fo forces were keen to press on and began to exclude him from military decisions. Wilhelm was forced to abdicate following at the end of the war, making him the last Kaiser of Germany. He went into exile in the Netherlands.
WOODROW W WILSON American President
In 1917, German submarines sank several American ships, which led to the involvement of the United States. President Woodrow Wilson had previously sought to be neutral, but, following the German offensive, the US joined forces with the Allies. Following the armistice, President Wilson was instrumental in the creation of a new League of Nations, which was established in 1920.
HH ASQUITH British Prime Minister
Appointed Prime Minister of Britain in 1908, Asquith, a Liberal, brought in welfare reforms including pensions and unemployment insurance. His wartime decisions were initially popular, but he lost support due to munitions shortages. Military failures and the introduction of conscription, contributed to his resignation in 1916. He was replaced by the Secretary of State for War, Lloyd George.
LORD KITCHENER British Secretary Of State For War
Prior to Lloyd George’s appointment,
Lord Kitchener was appointed Secretary of State for War when fighting broke out in 1914. He launched the famous “Your country needs you” poster campaign. This led to him becoming popular with the public, but his support for the failed Gallipoli campaign soured his reputation. He drowned in June 1916, when his ship was sunk by a German mine.
TSAR NICHOLAS II Ruler of Russia
At the outbreak of the war in 1914, Nicholas II, sided with Britain and
France against Austria-Hungary and Germany. His strict rule made him unpopular in Russia, but early military victories helped sustain him. In 1917, he lost support of the army and these tensions led to the Russian Revolution in the same year. He was ousted from power and executed alongside his wife and five children on July 17, 1918.
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Troops’ lives were in the hands of their leaders