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The 10 Bloodiest Battles Of World War One

2018 marks the hundred year anniversary of the conclusion of the First World War, easily one of the most important and, rather sadly, one of the bloodiest the globe has ever seen. For the very first time in history, the entire world felt the full force of modern warfare in some form or another with new strategies and technologies coupling to ramp up the size of battles and skirmishes to an entirely unimaginable level. The war that was meant to be over by christmas ended up scarring the world in ways never before imaginable.

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#1 Battle of Tannenberg

Quite possibly the most lopsided and decisive battle of the entire conflict, the battle of Tannenberg dominated the Russian front in the war's first month (August 1914) and would leave a scar on the Russian military that it never truly recovered from. Led by the famous duo generals Von Hindenburg and Ludendorff, the German army defeated the numerically superior Russians, inflicting a massive 170,000 casualties on their enemy and capturing countless amounts of valuable supplies. 

#2 The Battle of Arras

A largely forgotten battle when stacked next to the 'blockbuster' battles of the Somme and Verdun for example, the battle of Arras marked itself on history's blood books with a total amount of nearly 300,000 casualties on both sides. Weary of the conflict and aware of their superior numbers, it was hoped that an Allied offensive by British and French forces in 1917 would bring the vital blow that would knock Germany out of the war. 

#3 Gallipoli Campaign

The most pointless slaughter in British military history, the Gallipoli campaign was a programme designed to relieve pressure on the European theatres of the war by going through and knocking out the Turkish Ottoman Empire. In a showing of military incompetence that resulted from arrogant racial beliefs about their enemies general mishandling of offensives and stubbornness towards admitting defeat, the Gallipoli campaign resulted in nearly 500,000 casualties on both sides.  

#4 The First Battle of the Marne

In what would later be called the 'Miracle of the Marne' the first battle of the Marne was the battle that came to define the Western Front of the First World War. In what was essentially a last-ditch effort to halt the German advance any further into France, the battle marked the first time British forces were used in the conflict. Despite the juggernaut of the German army gaining the initial upper hand, the battle resulted in a substantial victory for the French and the Allies as both sides dug in and prepared for four years of trench warfare. 

#5 The Serbian Campaign

Serbia had been right at the heart of the action in the years preluding the First World War and was the number one enemy of both the Austro-Hungarian Empire and the Ottoman Empire. With the war's outbreak, it was clear that Serbia would feel the full force of the Central Powers. With support from Germany and Bulgaria on one side and Britain and France on the other, the Serbian Campaign proved to be a bloody and long-winded battle for those wishing to occupy the country, with Serbia, and all her peoples, being absolutely decimated in the process. 

#6 The Battle of Passchendaele

With a total casualty list of 850,000, it seems like a crime that a battle as bloody as Passchendaele has largely been forgotten by most in society. With some of the most horrific conditions seen across the entire war, the battle is seen by many as the personification of the ineptitude of the Allied generals during the war. In a series of Allied 'bite and hold' operations of small territorial gains, the battle would also come to symbolise the grind and bloody nature of trench warfare. 

#7 Battle of Verdun

Perhaps the most famous battle in the entire war along with the Somme, the Battle of Verdun was born from a German strategy of 'bleeding the French' out of the war. That is to say, inflict the maximum amount of damage on a culturally iconic spot until it is impossible for the French to remain in the war. If nothing else comes to symbolise the severe brutality of modern warfare, the Battle of Verdun's total casualty list of nearly a million men should continue to put a bloody mark on the history books for those who read them.

#8 The Battle of the Somme

The most infamous and bloody battle in British military history, the Battle of the Somme has come to symbolise the entire conflict for those on the Western trench front of the war. Losing 60,000 casualties in the first day alone, the Somme was meant to be the attack that would eventually lead to the end of the war and remains one of the most audaciously large offensives of the entire conflict. With over a million casualties across both sides of the conflict, its place in infamy is well deserved.  

#9 Spring Offensive of 1918

Depleted, weary and all too aware of an incoming wave of fresh American troops, the Spring Offensive of 1918 was the German's one final roll of the dice in trying to push for a victory. Like battering against a rotten wooden door, the Germans initially made some really good progress and it looked like the fate of the war might have been decided. However, the German supply trains could not keep up with the fast paced nature of the assault and the Allies were allowed to dig in and defend their positions. In total, over the spring offensive, there was over 1.5 million casualties. 

#10 Hundred Days Offensive

The true beginning of the end of World War One, the Hundred Days Offensive was a series of skirmishes and battles that resulted from the German failure to make a substantial breakthrough in their Spring Offensive of 1918. The ultimate counter attack that marked the end of trench warfare, the Allies, with the help of fresh American troops, pushed the Germans back along the Hindenburg Line and triggered calls for peace. Easily the most destructive offensive of the war, the casualty list rose to nearly two million on both sides. 

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Written by James Metcalfe

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