World War I Timeline

Timelines are one of our favorite history tools and an important element of the Layers of Learning curriculum.  Here are some WWI events to add to a timeline.  You may find more from your reading.  You can put the timeline squares on a wall or in a notebook.


  • June 28, 1914- Archduke Ferdinand is assassinated
  • August 1, 1914- Germany declares war on Russia
  • August 3, 1914 – Germany declares war on France and Belgium
  • August 4, 1914- Germany invades Belgium, British protest Belgium’s neutrality by treaty, Germans reply “it is nothing but a piece of paper”, British declare war on Germany
  • Jan 1915 – First German Zeppelin raid on England
  • May 7, 1915- Sinking of the Lusitania, a passenger ship carrying Americans, by a German U-boat
  • Feb 21-Dec 18, 1916- Battle of Verdun takes over one million casualties, but ends in a stalemate after months of fighting
  • July 1-Nov 18, 1916- Battle of the Somme takes an estimated one million casualties, no clear winner
  • Jan 19, 1917- British intercept a telegram supposedly sent from the German Reich to Mexico, urging Mexico to go to war against the U.S.
  • March 15, 1917- Tsar Nicholas of Russia abdicates
  • April 6, 1917- U.S. declares war against Germany
  • April 9, 1917- Canadian troops take Vimy Ridge
  • July 3, 1917- First U.S. troops land in France
  • July 6, 1917 – Lawrence of Arabia leads successful attack on the port of Aqaba, Jordan
  • Dec 26, 1917- British capture Jerusalem from the Turks
  • Jan 8, 1918 – Woodrow Wilson reveals his 14 points
  • May 23, 1918- German shells fall on Paris
  • April 1, 1918 – RAF (Royal Air Force) is founded
  • Nov 9, 1918- Kaiser Wilhelm II abdicates and Germany forms Wiemar Republic
  • Nov 11, 1918- Armistice is signed ending WWI

And here is the set of printable World War I Timeline squares.


A Little History

Also known as the Great War and the War to End All Wars (sure wish that had worked out), the First World War changed everything.

It had absolutely nothing to do with America, yet America fought in it and emerged the world leader.  It signaled the end of British supremacy and completely changed the map of Europe yet again.  It carved up and created many of the subsequent problems in the Middle East.  And it brought huge advances in new ways to kill more people quicker than ever before.

This is a painting by artists Wilie Stower of the Battle of Dogger Bank, 1915. In the battle the British flag ship, HMS Lion, was heavily damaged. The German raiding fleet was surprised by the British who had obtained intelligence of the raid. One German ship was sunk with all hands on board. The rest of the German fleet escaped.  Image in the public domain.

WWI started because of European leaders’ posturing for power.  The various nations had made alliances with one another in order to become more powerful than the opposition.  When the Archduke Ferdinand of Austria was shot by a Serbian member of the Black Hand, the Austrians declared war on the Serbians.  The Serbians were allies with the Russians who came to their aid.  When the Russians joined the fray, the Germans came to the aid of their ally, the Austrians.  Germany knew the French and British would soon enter the war on the side of the Russians and decided to invade preemptively through Belgium, which had tried to remain neutral.  Very soon nearly all of Europe was embroiled in a war for power that no one really wanted.

On the Web

I found a whole series of great printable resources for World War I here.

And here is an excellent animated map of the Western Front from the BBC.

This is a map of the Western Front in 1914. Image by the US military academy, public domain.

Library List

This war, including its causes, technological advances, conditions and outcomes is fascinating.  You’ll want to start with some of the great books about the war like World War I from DK ,  World War I: A Primary Source History, Going to War in World War I by Adrian Gilbert, The First World War by Andrew Wrenn, and Over The Waves by Marianne Olson.  For some great WWI fiction try  Rilla of Ingleside by L.M. Montgomery, The Singing Tree by Kate Seredy, and  All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque.

Additional Layers

  • Discuss the concept of war with your kids.  What are reasons people go to war?  Are there good reasons and bad reasons?  When is it okay for a country to declare war?  What are the consequences of going to war?  Of not going to war?
  • Read biographies of famous people who lived during this time.
  • Learn about the history of the airplane, which was invented just before WWI, and played an important part in the war.
  • Find out what else was going on in the world during WWI in Asia, Africa, S. America, Oceania.
  • Discuss conscription with your kids and decide how you feel about it.  Should a government have the power to force young men to go to war?  Why or why not?
  • The United Nations we have today was first dreamed of by Woodrow Wilson at the end of World War I.  Learn more about the United Nations, what they do and what powers they have and do not have.  What is the purpose of the UN?  Do you think having the UN is good or bad or perhaps irrelevant? Why?

More From Layers of Learning

Learn about the WWI battle of Mons with these printable play figures and a salt dough map.  Comes complete with a romantic legend.
Learn about the WWI battle of Mons with these printable play figures and a salt dough map. Comes complete with a romantic legend.

Periscopes were used in WWI in U boats and in the trenches.  Build one yourself.
Periscopes were used in WWI in U boats and in the trenches. Build one yourself.

We have other timelines too.  Try this Civil Rights timeline.
We have other timelines too. Try this Civil Rights timeline.


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