1917: a momentous year
When contemplating any event, even large ones such as the Third Battle of Ypres (Passchendaele) or the campaign on the Western Front, it is always worthwhile taking the time to consider the broader picture and the context in which those events took place. The year 1917 saw significant developments that effected the course of the war, and some that would have an impact on general world history in the later 20th Century. The following are those I consider the more important ones.
7 December 1916 - David Lloyd George becomes new Prime Minister of Great Britain.
December 1916 to January 1917 – After massive losses, particularly at Verdun and on the Somme during 1916, Germany puts out peace feelers. USA acts as intermediary, but the Entente, not impressed by the haughty German posture and their demands, reject the offer.
Mid January 1917 - Zimmermann telegram sent by the Germans and intercepted by the British.
1 February - Germany resumes unrestricted submarine warfare (the first period of unrestricted submarine warfare had commenced in December 1915 but was abandoned in April 1916 due to strong US protest).
In Russia, food and fuel distribution breaks down.
Late February to mid March - Germans withdraw to the Hindenburg Line (Operation Alberich).
1 March - US Government releases the details of the Zimmermann telegram to the US press.
11 March - British capture Baghdad.
26 March - First Battle of Gaza in Palestine.
March - Riots and mutiny break out in Petrograd. The Petrograd Soviet and a provisional government are formed. The Russian Tsar abdicates in mid March.
6 April - USA declares war on Germany.
9 April - British Arras Offensive begins.
11 April - First action at Bullecourt.
16 April - Nivelle Offensive begins (until 9 May).
19 April - Second Battle of Gaza in Palestine.
3-17 May - Second Battle of Bullecourt.
May – Parts of the French Army in mutiny after suffering disasterous losses during the Nivelle Offensive.
7 June - Battle of Messines.
1-16 July - Kerensky Offensive on the Eastern Front fails with much of the Russian army in mutiny and refusing to fight on.
31 July - Third Ypres offensive begins. First phase is the Battle of Pilckem Ridge (31 July - 2 August).
16-18 August - Battle of Langemarck. Second phase of Third Ypres offensive.
20-25 September - Battle of Menin Road. Third phase of Third Ypres offensive.
26 September to 3 October - Battle of Polygon Wood. Fourth phase of Third Ypres offensive.
4 October - Battle of Broodseinde. Fifth phase of Third Ypres offensive.
9 October - Battle of Poelcapelle. Sixth phase of Third Ypres offensive.
12 October - First Battle of Passchendaele. Seventh phase of Third Ypres offensive.
24 October to 9 November - Battle of Caporetto. Austro-Hungarians and Germans make a major breakthrough on the front in northeastern Italy, sending the Italians reeling back. A major collapse in this theatre is feared.
26 October to 10 November - Second Battle of Passchendaele. Eighth and final phase of Third Ypres offensive. Canadians finally capture Passchendaele.
31 October - Battle of Beersheba in Palestine. Australian Light Horse win a famous victory. (See also article 'Charge of the 4th Light Horse Brigade at Beersheba').
7 November - Bolsheviks seize power in Russia.
7 November - Third Battle of Gaza in Palestine.
20 November - Battle of Cambrai (initial British success relying heavily on a mass tank attack).
30 November - German counterattack drives British back and all gains in Cambrai sector are lost.
6 December - Rumania (allied to the Entente) ceases hostilities.
9 December - Allies capture Jerusalem.
17 December - Formal armistice signed between Russia and Germany.
3 March 1918 - Treaty of Brest-Litovsk formally ends Russia's war with Germany. With the collapse of Russia and her subsequent withdrawal from the war, Germany had by late 1917 started moving most of its troops from the Eastern Front to the Western Front, in preparation for the planned Spring offensive in 1918.
But that is a story for next year...