Click to enlarge: Eastern Front 1914-18

WWI Eastern Front...

This was a significant front as it encompassed the entire frontier with Romania, Austria-Hungary, Bulgaria and Germany. These significant three geopolitical aspects made the Eastern Front stretch from the Baltic Sea through to the Black Sea. It is easy to miss the influences of the successes and failures in battles on the Eastern Front which had direct bearing on the successes and failures in battles in the other two fronts [Western and Southern Fronts]. The Eastern Front waged on for three years, six months and two weeks from 17th August 1914 through to 3rd March 1918.

The results are mixed - the Brusilov Offensive was the worst crisis for Austria-Hungary Empire and the greatest victory for the Allies [Triple Entente]. This was though amongst the most lethal offensives in world history [4th June 1916 to 20th September 1916]. Overall though the Central Powers won on the Eastern Front until the end of WW1. The collapse of the Russian Empire [which led to a Russian Revolution] resulted in three key treaties: Treaty of Brest-Litovsk created Ukraine, Treaty of Brest-Litovsk created new borders for Russia, and the Treaty of Bucharest dealt with creating an enlarged Romania after Balkan issues with the Ottoman Empire.


The strategy for Russia was both bold and interesting. Up to WW1 on Continental Europe, Germany without a doubt was the most powerful state. Russia elected for a two-pronged assault and ignored the German forces amassing in the North. A bold plan which failed both times, as each time it overstretched their supply logistics and caused them defeats and damage from the much more superior German artillery. The two prongs though were to create strong influences for good in the other fronts. The 1914 Russian invasion of Galicia relieved the pressure for Serbia considerably and the 1916 Brusilov Offensive was a victory that hugely helped the Allies and specifically the Italians.

This was a formidable battle line between the two seas; there was a front line of some 990 miles. Typically the Western Front was dominated by trenches, the Southern Fronts were pockets of positional strongholds and the odd trench, however the Eastern Front was mostly fluid and trenches weren't as such deployed.

The tactics for the Central Powers was clear - take Serbia, which they did temporarily with one tenth of the Austria-Hungary Army. Belgrade was taken and occupied which was only achieved with heavy losses early on in WW1. Then for the last few months of 1914 the Serbians strengthened their resolve in the Battle of Kolubara and drove out the Central Powers' occupation of its capital. This was in part possible as most of the Austria-Hungary Army was engaged on the Southern Fronts against Italy. This did not last. Bulgaria now supported Austria-Hungary armies as did the provinces [then states of the Austria-Hungary Empire] of Slovenia, Croatia and Bosnia. These additional combatants were divided to fight Russia and Italy too. Montenegro supported Serbia - but with 600,000 troops now this was a crushing force and Serbia was crushed at the Battle of Kosovo; Serbian forces retreated to Albania. This retreat towards the Adriatic Coast led to the Austrians also defeating the Montenegrin forces in the Battle of Mojkovac in the two days of that retreat [6th and 7th January 1916]. The surviving Serbian soldiers fled to Greece by sea. Leaving Serbia conquered and divided up between Austria-Hungary Empire and Bulgaria. Montenegro was taken by the Austria-Hungary Empire.

In a tactical move a Franco-British force landed at Salonica [Greece] in late 1915 before this defeat and urged support to the Allies. After a short armed confrontation [Noemvriana] with royalists the King of Greece abdicated and his second son took power. With Alexander in place they officially joined the War on the side of the Allies - hence why the Serbians had fled there.

Russia mounted a strategic offensive known as the June Advance against the Central Powers on 4th June 1916 to 20th September 1916. This is what historians refer to as the Brusilov Offensive against what today is called the Ukraine; in the general vicinity of the towns Lviv, Kovel and Lutsk. The field commander General Aleksei Brusilov secured for the Russians one of its greatest feats of arms during WW1 [and for the Allies a real victory]. Brusilov's strategy was clear - he ordered a surprise assault along a 300 mile front line. His techniques would unfortunately be applied elsewhere in the war as the Germans instantly saw the effectiveness of these tactical advances on the weaker sections enabling a well-perpared strike force to follow through. By 8th June, the Russians had taken 200,000 prisoners and Lutsk fell. The Germans again exploited captured railroads and resupplied swiftly. By 24th June they had checked the Russian advance. Brusilov reacted strongly and four days later squashed this halt and pushed on to the Carpathian Mountains [20th September 1916]. The results were exactly as Brusilov wanted; this forced Germany to halt its attack on Verdun and switch these resources to fight him. He also wanted to break the back of Austria-Hungary forces such that they militarily would be unable thereafter to mount an effective operation alone; which he did achieve at huge cost all round. The Allies and Germany though went on to learn from these early Brusilov tactics and applied them to great operational effect in WW1 and WW2.

So with a shift now here, the Macedonian Front was mostly static with French and Serbian forces recapturing Bitola on 19th November 1916 at the Monastir Offensive [at cost]. This cost though was worth it as it brought stability to the front.

Serbian and French forces finally in September 1918 defeated [actually the only WW1 defeat of] the Bulgarians at the Battle of Dobro Pole. This, to be fair was made possible after most of the German and Austria-Hungary armies had been withdrawn. The Bulgarians called for German reinforcements and mounted on 29th September 1918 an attempt to push back and reclaim the line, but the German troops arrived far too battle-weary and the line was lost. 

This strategically opened the road to Budapest and Vienna for Allied forces to mount a huge offensive against the Central Powers. Hindenburg and Ludendorff concluded this was strategically a damaging defeat at the Macedonian Front and as such quickly insisted on an armistice. A peace settlement was swiftly secured.


Europe being at war gave the Ottoman Empire the opportunity it needed to commit widespread ethnic cleansing and genocide of Christian indigenous populations of Syria, Greece and Armenia. The Ottoman Empire signed a pact with Germany in August 1914, thereby enabling real threats to the Suez Canal, hence creating a real threat to British interests [India] and Russia [Caucasian]. Strategically The Central Powers knew this was a key step to ensure control of an important re-supply shipping route.

The British and French reacted strongly to the Ottoman Empire joining the Central Powers and immediately called in support from Australia and New Zealand. The British also had Assyrian and Arab tribesmen on side and set forth plans for a strategic battle line at Gallipoli and Mesopotamia. By 1915 this was a reality and the Gallipoli Campaign was not going well. The ANZACS [Australian and New Zealand Army Corps], along with the British and French were beaten back by the Ottoman Empire. The British regrouped and the Mesopotamian campaign got the push it needed after it too had a disastrous 1915 to 1916 battle at the Siege of Kut. All efforts from the Allies were now put to take Baghdad which was achieved in March 1917. The Allies had the Assyrian and Arab tribesman supporting this push; The Ottoman Empire had the Tucoman and Kurdish tribesmen.

The Ottoman Empire swung into the control of the Suez and called on the German Empire for troops and support after little progress throughout 1915 and 1916. ANZACs & 52nd [lowland] Infantry divisions secured a win at the Battle of Romani. This was a crucial win as it enabled the British to mount a British Empire Egyptian Expeditionary Force to advance across the Sinai Peninsula... thereby by December 1916 pushing back the Ottoman and German Empire in the Battle of Magdhaba. A month later the Battle of Rafa on the border between Egyptian Sinai and Ottoman, Palestine was also won.

In contrast to these Battles was the Ottoman Empire's aspiration to reclaim the Caucasus regions in Central Asia along with potentially more land grab for its own aims. The Supreme Commander though strategically made one of the Ottoman Empire's key mistakes of WW1 with massive losses (86%) at the Battle of Sarikamish. December 1914, 100,000 Ottoman troops and the mountainous Russian positions were a bloodbath.

Oil reserves around the Caspian Sea were important Petroleum supplies to Russia and the British Empire. Persia [modern-day Iran], had strong ties with British and Russian Empires. Germany knew this and convinced the Ottoman Empire in December 1914 to invade Persia to jointly control the oil. This was to become a bitter conflict until 1918 with the Assyrian and Armenian forces supporting the Russian and British [and ultimately to a victory]. The Ottoman and German Empires on the other hand had a whole host of support from Kurdish and Azeri forces, plus tribes most notably of Luristanis, Khamseh, Qahqai and Tangistanis. This was hard-won but not without serious consequences. When Russia withdrew in 1917 it effectively left a void and virtually cut off the Assyrian and Armenian forces from the rest of the Allies, with lack of strong supplies and support they fought and fled their way backward to northern Mesopotamia - seriously outnumbered by the Ottomans and their Central Powers' Allies.

Before leaving the war Russia drove the Turkish out of Caucasus throughout most of 1915 to 1916. The Arab Revolt which was supported and in part instigated by the British Empire in June 1916 led to the decisive Battle of Mecca and the fall of Damascus and the Ottoman Empire. The Senussi Campaign was a little guerrilla war along the border with Italian Libya and British Egypt. When the British dispatched 12,000 this was quickly crushed ending in mid-1916.

The losses where 650,000 for the Allies and 725,000 for the Ottoman Empire. The loss of Damascus led to the two and a half year occupation by the Ottoman Empire under the Siege of Medina ending in surrender.


The Caucasus Front commanded by the Grand Duke Nicholas equally saw the importance of the Railways for supplies and troops and planned extensive resupply to the Front from Russian Georgia using the Trans-Siberian Railway in early 1917. In March 1917 though the Czar abdicated and this casused the Caucasus Army to fall apart in the ensuing Russian Revolution. {note this was February in the pre-revolution calandar used in Russia - and is often referred to as the February Revolution!}.

St Petersburg {Petrograd} was shut down in only 20 days and by the pre-revolution calandar 23rd February 1917 [23rd March 1917] workers had walked out. It took just a further ten days to secure and make official that the rule of the Tsar Nicholas II was over on 2nd March 1917 [2nd April 1917].

Lenin felt by September 1917 [October 1917] that Russia was ready for another revolution under Marxist principles. The Bolsheviks met on the 10th October 1917 and Lenin convinced them that it was time for an armed insurrection. After 24 hours of debate on 12th October 1917 and a vote ten to two in favour, Troops loyal to the Bolsheviks took control of key communications, power, transport, postal and banking sites without gunfire or resistance. Lenin then drove the forces onto the only remaining Winter Gardens to take out the Provisional Government 24th October 1917 to 7th November 1917. After only minor armed conflict, the Bolsheviks were now in power and they were the new leaders in Russia.

Vladimir Lenin announced the end of the War and any involvement in it; furthermore all private land was now owned by the State, and workers would control the factories. The Bolsheviks on 7th November 1917 formally instituted Lenin as the Russian Leader and the ceasefire actually took until 15th December 1917.

Russia decided as part of this, that it would mount a full offensive against Ukraine and the Don region which it did whilst peace negotiations were being drawn up with the Central Powers! Clearly these were to fail on 17th February 1918. When The Central Powers [principally German Empire] was just 85 miles from Petrograd - Lenin had no choice with the long-range super guns of the Germans but to order the Bolsheviks and his Red Army to cease any war activity on the Eastern Front. The Brest-Litovsk Treaty was signed on 3rd March 1918 - and with it the independent sovereignty of Ukraine. Finland had already become independent on December 1917 - although the USA and British Empire had not accepted such. Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania were intended to become separate states but had yet to be affirmed as such.

For three years after this November 1917 uprising, Russia would be embroiled internally with the Bolsheviks in a raging civil war to rid it of Nicholas' doctrines and install those of its Socialist ideals under Lenin's Bolsheviks.


The Battle of Verdun was brutal and after some ten months, with the success of Romania, Germany tried to secure peace with the Allies in December 1916 and US President Woodrow Wilson mediated. The British though saw through Germany's ploy and Lloyd George's War Cabinet continued on under the premise that the German attempt was to divide the Allies and prevent USA from entering the war [submarines were causing it huge losses]. Germany fails to secure USA remaining outside by crucially overplaying its hand, and especially after it deliberately torpedoed RMS Lusitania.

Germany went further and invited Mexico to join the war as Germany's ally - this Zimmermann telegram being picked up by the British who chose to share this with the US Embassy [in the UK]. It was swiftly put before President Wilson who ordered it be published and asked Congress to join the war on 6th April 1917.

The Allied 100-day offensive commenced on 8th August 1918, with the Battle of Amiens. 400 tanks, 120,000 British, Dominion and French Troops created a Black Day for the German Army on the first day, opening up a 15 mile gap in the Front Line. This shifted to the Battle of Albert on 21st August 1918, 70 miles opened up and pushed back to the Hindenburg Line by 2nd September 1918. By 24th September they were pushed back to within two miles of St Quentin.

Hindenburg saw the writing on the wall and was urging peace talks from the 10th September 1918. By 24th September 1918 he was urging Berlin for an armistice.

Meuse-Argonne Offensive was launched by the French and American troops on 26th September 1918, Blanc Mont Ridge was swiftly taken and pushed back German forces towards Belgium. Battle of Cambrai forced the Germans again to fall back towards Germany as British and French forces were equally successful. Bulgaria had signed an armistice now on 29th September - crucially with the collapse of the Balkans - Germany was about to be without fuel and food and by 26th October 1918 Germany was running out of oil. The Allies had oil supplies secured - 80% of which the US was supplying.

German military was faltering and President Wilson demanded a constitutional monarchy and parliament over Germany and this was swiftly agreed to in the early peace negotiations.. The German Empire was no more on 9th November 1918 and the Kaiser fled to the Netherlands. The Collapse of the Central Powers came swiftly afterwards. On 11th November 1918 at 5am an armistice with Germany was signed in a railroad carriage at Compiègne; at 11am on 11th November 1918 the ceasefire came into effect.

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We have added a number of further pages and Picture Galleries to our website for you of The National Memorial Arboretum, the Ypres Salient, Flanders & The Menin Gate, Nord Pas de Calais, Somme, Vimy Ridge, Verdun and:



AREA17:  So that we may all remember those that served, those injured and those that fell for the peace and security of all...