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Black And White Photos Of World War I [18+]

World War I (WWI or WW1), also known as the First World War, or the Great War, was a global war originating in Europe that lasted from 28 July 1914 to 11 November 1918. More than 70 million military personnel, including 60 million Europeans, were mobilised in one of the largest wars in history. Over 9 million combatants and 7 million civilians died as a result of the war.

The trigger for the war was the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria, heir to the throne of Austria-Hungary, by Yugoslav nationalist Gavrilo Princip in Sarajevo on 28 June 1914. This set off a diplomatic crisis when Austria-Hungary delivered an ultimatum to the Kingdom of Serbia, and entangled international alliances formed over the previous decades were invoked. Within weeks, the major powers were at war and the conflict soon spread around the world.

On 28 July, the Austro-Hungarians declared war on Serbia. As Russia mobilised in support of Serbia, Germany invaded neutral Belgium and Luxembourg before moving towards France, leading the United Kingdom to declare war on Germany. After the German march on Paris was halted, what became known as the Western Front settled into a battle of attrition, with a trench line that changed little until 1917. On the Eastern Front, the Russian army was successful against the Austro-Hungarians, but the Germans stopped its invasion of East Prussia. In November 1914, the Ottoman Empire joined the Central Powers, opening fronts in the Caucasus, Mesopotamia and the Sinai. In 1915, Italy joined the Allies and Bulgaria joined the Central Power; Romania joined the Allies in 1916, as did the United States in 1917.

On 4 November 1918, the Austro-Hungarian empire agreed to an armistice, and Germany, which had its own trouble with revolutionaries, agreed to an armistice on 11 November 1918, ending the war in victory for the Allies.

Take a look at this gallery of black and white photos of World War I. Warning! This post contains photos of injured and dead people that are difficult to view. You have been warned!

Also check: The Employment Of Women During World War I

1. Nine European Sovereigns at Windsor for the funeral of King Edward VII in May of 1910, four years before the war began. (Source: W. & D. Downey)

Nine European Sovereigns at Windsor for the funeral of King Edward VII in May of 1910, four years before the war began

Standing, from left to right: King Haakon VII of Norway, Tsar Ferdinand of Bulgaria, King Manuel II of Portugal, Kaiser Wilhelm II of the German Empire, King George I of Greece and King Albert I of Belgium. Seated, from left to right: King Alfonso XIII of Spain, King-Emperor George V of the United Kingdom and King Frederick VIII of Denmark.

2. In this photo, taken in Sarajevo on June 28, 1914, a visiting Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife, Czech Countess Sophie Chotek, are departing a reception at City Hall. (Source: AP Photo)

In this photo, taken in Sarajevo on June 28, 1914, a visiting Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife, Czech Countess Sophie Chotek, are departing a reception at City Hall

Earlier that morning, on the way to the hall, their motorcade had been attacked by one of a group of Serbian nationalist assassins, whose bomb damaged one car and injured dozens of bystanders. After this photo was taken, the Archduke and his wife climbed into the open car, headed for a nearby hospital to visit the wounded. Just blocks away though, the car paused to turn around, directly in front of another assassin, who walked up to the car and fired two shots, killing both Franz Ferdinand and his wife.

3. Assassin Gavrilo Princip (left) and his victim Archduke Franz Ferdinand, both photographed in 1914. (Source: Osterreichische Nationalbibliothek)

Assassin Gavrilo Princip (left) and his victim Archduke Franz Ferdinand, both photographed in 1914

Princip, a 19 year old Bosnian Serb who killed the Archduke, was recruited along with five others by Danilo Ilic, a friend and fellow Bosnian Serb, who was a member of the Black Hand secret society. Their ultimate goal was the creation of a Serbian nation. The conspiracy, assisted by members of Serbia’s military, was quickly uncovered, and the attack became a catalyst that would soon set massive armies marching against each other around the world. All of the assassins were captured and tried. Thirteen received medium-to-short prison sentences, including Princip (who was too young for the death penalty, and received the maximum, a 20 year sentence). Three of the conspirators were executed by hanging. Four years after the assassination, Gavrilo Princip died in prison, brought down by tuberculosis, which was worsened by harsh conditions brought on by the war he helped set in motion.

4. A Bosnian Serb nationalist (possibly Gavrilo Princip, more likely bystander Ferdinand Behr), is captured by police and taken to the police station in Sarajevo, on June 28, 1914, following the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the Austrian-Hungarian throne, and his wife. (Source: National Archives)

A Bosnian Serb nationalist (possibly Gavrilo Princip, more likely bystander Ferdinand Behr), is captured by police and taken to the police station in Sarajevo

5. In this photo, taken in August of 1914, Prussian guard infantry in new field gray uniforms leave Berlin, Germany, heading for the front lines. Girls and women along the way greet and hand flowers to them. (Source: AP Photo)

Prussian guard infantry in new field gray uniforms leave Berlin, Germany, heading for the front lines

6. Belgian soldiers with their bicycles in Boulogne, France, 1914. (Source: Bibliotheque nationale de France)

Belgian soldiers with their bicycles in Boulogne, France, 1914

Belgium asserted neutrality from the start of the conflict, but provided a route into France that the German army coveted, so Germany declared it would “treat her as an enemy”, if Belgium did not allow German troops free passage.

7. French soldiers gather around a priest as he blesses an aircraft on the Western Front, in 1915. (Source: Bibliotheque nationale de France)

French soldiers gather around a priest as he blesses an aircraft on the Western Front, in 1915

The conflict was the first large-scale example of modern warfare. Technologies still use in battle today were introduced in large scale forms then, some (like chemical attacks) were outlawed and later viewed as war crimes. The newly-invented aeroplane took its place as an observation platform, a bomber, and an anti-personnel weapon, even as an anti-aircraft defense, shooting down enemy aircraft.

8. A display showing the varying stages of the helmet-making process for Stahlhelms for the Imperial German Army. The table was set up outside a steel helmet factory in Lubeck, Germany (Source: National Archives/Official German Photograph)

A display showing the varying stages of the helmet-making process for Stahlhelms for the Imperial German Army

9. A Belgian soldier smokes a cigarette during a fight between Dendermonde and Oudegem, Belgium, in 1914. (Source: Bibliotheque nationale de France)

A Belgian soldier smokes a cigarette during a fight between Dendermonde and Oudegem, Belgium, in 1914

10. German soldiers celebrate Christmas in the field, December, 1914. (Source: AP Photo)

German soldiers celebrate Christmas in the field, December, 1914

11. The front in France, a scene on a battlefield at midnight. Opposing armies were sometimes situated in trenches just yards apart from each other. (Source: Nationaal Archief)

The front in France, a scene on a battlefield at midnight

12. An Austrian soldier, dead on a battleground, 1915. (Source: Bibliotheque nationale de France)

An Austrian soldier, dead on a battleground, 1915

13. Austro-Hungarian troops executing Serbian civilians, likely ca. 1915. (Source: Brett Butterworth)

Austro-Hungarian troops executing Serbian civilians, likely ca. 1915

14. The Japanese fleet off the coast of China in 1914. (Source: Bibliotheque nationale de France)

The Japanese fleet off the coast of China in 1914

Japan sided with the United Kingdom and its allies, attacking German interests in the Pacific, including island colonies and leased territories on the Chinese mainland.

15. View from an airplane of biplanes flying in formation. (Source: U.S. Army Signal corps/Library of Congress)

View from an airplane of biplanes flying in formation

16. The Salonica (Macedonian) front, Indian troops at a Gas mask drill. (Source: Nationaal Archief)

The Salonica (Macedonian) front, Indian troops at a Gas mask drill

17. Unloading of a horse in Tschanak Kale, Turkey, equipment for the Austro-Hungarian army. (Source: Osterreichische Nationalbibliothek)

Unloading of a horse in Tschanak Kale, Turkey, equipment for the Austro-Hungarian army

18. The French battleship Bouvet, in the Dardanelles. (Source: Bibliotheque nationale de France)

The French battleship Bouvet, in the Dardanelles

It was assigned to escort troop convoys through the Mediterranean at the start of the war. In early 1915, part of a larger group of combined British and French ships sent to clear Turkish defenses of the Dardanelles, Bouvet was hit by at least eight Turkish shells, then struck a mine, which caused so much damage, the ship sank within a few minutes. While a few men survived the sinking and were rescued, nearly 650 went down with the ship.

19. British soldiers on motorcycles in the Dardanelles, part of the Ottoman Empire, prior to the Battle of Gallipoli, 1915. (Source: Bibliotheque nationale de France)

British soldiers on motorcycles in the Dardanelles, part of the Ottoman Empire, prior to the Battle of Gallipoli, 1915

20. A dog belonging to a Mr. Dumas Realier, dressed as a German soldier, in 1915. (Source: Bibliotheque nationale de France)

A dog belonging to a Mr. Dumas Realier, dressed as a German soldier, in 1915

21. “Pill box demolishers” being unloaded on the Western Front. (Source: Australian official photographs/State Library of New South Wales)

Pill box demolishers being unloaded on the Western Front

These enormous shells weighed 1,400 lbs. Their explosions made craters over 15 ft. deep and 15 yards across.

22. A motorcycle dispatch rider studying the details on a grave marker, whille in the background an observation balloon is preparing to ascend. (Source: Brett Butterworth)

A motorcycle dispatch rider studying the details on a grave marker, whille in the background an observation balloon is preparing to ascend

The writing on the marker says in German: “Hier ruhen tapfere franzosische Krieger”, or Here rest brave French warriors.

23. British artillery bombards German positions on the Western Front. (Source: Library of Congress)

British artillery bombards German positions on the Western Front

24. A German soldier throws a hand grenade against enemy positions, at an unknown battlefield during World War I. (Source: AP Photo)

A German soldier throws a hand grenade against enemy positions, at an unknown battlefield during World War I

25. A stretcher bearer patrol painfully makes its way through knee-deep mud near Bol Singhe during the British advance in Flanders, on August 20, 1917.

A stretcher bearer patrol painfully makes its way through knee-deep mud near Bol Singhe during the British advance in Flanders, on August 20, 1917

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