Neutrality and intervention
Intervention by Japan and TurkeyIntervention came in three waves, Japan and Ottoman Turkey coming first. Japan had been allied to Britain since 1902. As this was a defensive agreement, it was not obliged to intervene, but when the British requested naval assistance Japan’s Foreign Minister saw an opportunity to overrun Germany’s colonies in China and the North Pacific, which after declaring war on 23 August 1914 Japan duly did. Turkey, in contrast, secretly allied with Germany in August 1914 but entered the war only in October. The nationalist ‘Young Turks’ who dominated its government wanted to reverse two centuries of decline. They considered the German army the strongest in Europe and feared Russia, from which they suspected France and Britain would not protect them. Turkey’s entry massively extended the fighting, which spread to Gallipoli (where Allied forces in 1915 tried unsuccessfully to reach Constantinople), to the Caucasus, and also to Mesopotamia (now Iraq), Arabia, and Palestine.
Intervention by Italy
Synopsis of our obligations to our allies and others
Map indicating Britain's obligations to its Allies and others, included in a secret memorandum prepared in the British Foreign Office, 1918.View images from this item (14)
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Intervention by Bulgaria, Romania and GreeceNone the less, Italy’s entry increased the pressure on the Austrians, and in autumn 1915 German troops assisted them in overrunning Serbia and its ally Montenegro, which Austria-Hungary had failed to accomplish unaided. Bulgaria, which resented Serbia’s control of Macedonia, simultaneously entered the war on Germany’s side. Allied forces tried to help Serbia by landing at Salonika (Thessaloniki), but arrived too late. Another stalemated front opened in the mountains north of the city. In August 1916, in contrast, Romania joined the Allies, who had promised it the Hungarian territory of Transylvania. But it too was quickly defeated and occupied. Finally the Allies brought in Greece in 1917, by intervening in Greek politics and backing the nationalist politician Eleutherios Venizelos against King Constantine, who wanted to stay neutral. All of the Balkan countries had now been drawn in.
Intervention by the USAIn the final wave of interventions, shipping and trade were central. Germany declared war on Portugal (March 1916), an ancient British ally, after it seized the German merchant ships in its harbours. But the biggest intervention was that of the US. President Woodrow Wilson had asserted neutral rights against the Allies (who were trying to cut off trade with the Central Powers) and the Germans (whose submarines attacked neutral shipping). In 1917 the US declared war on Germany over the submarine issue, though also because of a German offer to Mexico to ally against America and because of Wilson’s ambition to reform the global political system and create a League of Nations after the war. In turn American intervention encouraged others such as China and Brazil to follow suit.
Postcard of German zeppelin that crashed on Fanø
Postcard showing the German Zeppelin L3 after it crashed on the Danish island of Fanø, 1915.View images from this item (1)