From the very beginning, the war grew rapidly out of control. New styles of warfare, like the use of gas and heavy artillery, produced new kinds of horror and unprecedented levels of suffering and death. As a Germans army crossed into Belgium, heading for Paris, the Russian Army - moving faster than the German generals had anticipated -- was already pushing into East Prussia. The German forces on the Eastern Front, however, quickly defeated the Tsar's army at the Battle of Tannenberg.
Poison gas attack, Flanders, Belgium
In the west, as the German army invaded Belgium, rumors and stories quickly spread of the atrocities the German soldiers inflicted upon Belgium civilians.
The French, believing the German thrust into Belgium to be a fake, launched their own offensive on the eastern border between France and Germany the operations were disastrous, with the French army losing 27,000 soldiers in a single day.
When the German invasion of France failed to take Paris or destroy French and British resistance on the river Marne, stalemate quickly followed, and a line of trenches soon stretched along the war's Western Front from the Swiss Alps to the English Channel. Christmas Eve of 1914 saw an extraordinary truce between the men fighting in the trenches that had been called "the last twitch of the 19th century."
The Trenches: Symbol of the Stalemate
Soldiers dug in on the Western Front, used dark humor to lighten the strain of living in a trench.
I've a Little Wet Home in a Trench
I've a little wet home in a trench
Where the rainstorms continually drench,
There's a dead cow close by
With her feet in towards the sky
And she gives off a terrible stench.
Underneath, in the place of a floor,
There's a mass of wet mud and some straw,
But with shells dropping there,
There's no place to compare,
With my little wet home in the trench.
Folklore song which originated from life in the trenches. Sung to the tune of My Little Grey Home in the West.
More on Trench Warfare
Top Photo: German soldiers crossing from Belgium into France, 1914