First World War Timeline: 1916



8th January End of Gallipoli campaign Allied evacuation of Helles marks the end of the Gallipoli campaign.
24th January Conscription starts in the UK Introducing conscription, the British Government passes the Military Service Act, to become law on 25 May.
21st February Battle of Verdun The Battle of Verdun starts with a German offensive against the Mort-Homme Ridge. The German plan is to ‘bleed the French dry of men and resources’. The battle lasts 10 months and over a million men become casualties.
5th April Battle of Kut The third and final Allied attempt to relieve Kut flounders in the mud along the Tigris, with 23,000 Allied casualties.
29th April Kut garrison surrenders Besieged garrison at Kut in Mesopotamia surrenders after 143 days and 3,000 British and 6,000 Indian troops go into captivity. The majority of these die of disease and starvation in prison camps.
31st May Battle of Jutland The German High Seas Fleet is forced to retire despite inflicting heavier losses on the Royal Navy (14 ships and 6,100 men), but the German fleet remains irreparably damaged for the rest of the war.
4th June Russian Brusilov offensive The Russian Brusilov Offensive begins on the Eastern Front. It nearly cripples Austria-Hungary out of the war.
5th June Lord Kitchener killed Lord Kitchener sails for Russia on board HMS Hampshire. The ship is mined off Orkney and Kitchener is lost along with 643 other crewmen and general staff.
1st July The British offensive on the Somme begins The Battle of the Somme sees 750,000 Allied soldiers unleashed along a 25 mile front. By the end of the day nearly 60,000 are dead, wounded or missing for very little gain. It is the worst single day’s fighting in British military history.
19th Julyimage
Battle of Fromelles The attack, designed to exploit weaknesses in the German defences supporting the Somme defence to the south, was the début of the Australian Imperial Force on the Western Front and is described as “the worst 24 hours in Australia’s entire history”. Of 7,080 BEF casualties, 5,533 losses were incurred by the 5th Australian Division; German losses were 1,600–2,000, with 150 taken prisoner.
23rd Julyimage
Battle of Pozieres The Battle of Pozieres Ridge marks the second Somme Offensive. On 23 July the 1st Division attacked and captured the German-occupied village, making an advance of over 1,000 yards. The successful capture of the village pushed a bulge in the British line, thereby allowing German artillery to relentlessly shell the Australian positions from multiple sides. The 1st Division suffered heavily under the bombardment, incurring 5,285 casualties over five days. In the next phase of the battle, the 1st, 2nd, and 4th divisions rotated in and out of the line, making attacks of varying sizes to the north. The Australian divisions all suffered heavy casualties. Official historian Charles Bean famously said that Pozieres Ridge “is more densely sown with Australian sacrifice than any other place on earth”.
15th September Tanks used for first time The Battle of Flers-Courcelette signifies the start of the third stage of the Somme Offensive. Tanks are used for the first time. Despite initial gains the Allies fail to break through German lines.
28th Octoberimage
Australian first conscription referendum With casualties on the Western Front soon outstripping enlistment, political leaders in Australia raised the issue of conscription. The issue was put to the Australian people in a referendum, and was narrowly rejected with a margin of 49 per cent for and 51 per cent against.
18th December Battle of Verdun ends It is the longest and costliest battle on the Western Front. It is said that the French lost over 360,000 and the Germans nearly 340,000.
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