World War I Facts

World War I Facts
World War, I also known as the First World War, was a global war centered in Europe that began on 28th July 1914 and lasted until 11th November 1918. The war lasted exactly four years, three months and 14 days. Before World War II began in 1939, World War I was called the Great War, the World War or the War to End all Wars. 135 countries took part in World War I, and more than 15 million people died. See the fact file below for more information about World War I.
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World War 1 was a military conflict lasting from 1914 to 1918 which involved nearly all the biggest powers of the world. It involved two opposing alliances – the Allies and the Central Powers. The countries of the Allies included Russia, France, British Empire, Italy, United States, Japan, Rumania, Serbia, Belgium, Greece, Portugal and Montenegro. The countries of the Central Powers included Germany, Austria-Hungary, Turkey and Bulgaria.

The WW1 facts listed on this page are amazing and very interesting when you consider that the events happened in very recent history.

WW1 Facts for Kids

  • World War I began on June 28, 1914. World War 1 was triggered on 28 June 1914 by the assassination of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria and his pregnant wife Sophie. Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria was the nephew of Emperor Franz Josef and heir to the throne of Austria and Hungary. The assassination was planned by a Serbian terrorist group, called The Black Hand and the man who shot Franz Ferdinand and his wife was a Bosnian revolutionary named Gavrilo Princip.
  • A primary cause of WW1 was a difference over foreign policy. Although the assassination of Franz Ferdinand triggered WW1, that was only the immediate cause. Differences over foreign policy between the major world powers was the underlying cause of the war.
  • WW1 had many causes:
    • A tangle of alliances made between countries, to maintain a balance power in Europe, which brought about the scale of the conflict.
    • The Bosnian Crisis where Austria-Hungary took over the former Turkish province of Bosnia in 1909 angering Serbia.
    • Countries were building their military forces, arms and battleships.
    • Countries wanted to regain lost territories from previous conflicts and build empires.
    • The Moroccan Crisis where Germans were protesting in 1911 against the French possession of Morocco.
  • World War I was known by a number of different names. Other names for World War 1 include ‘The War to End All Wars’, The War of the Nations, WW1 and ‘The Great War’.
  • The Americans joined World War 1 after 128 Americans were killed by a German submarine. In 1915, the British passenger sip Lusitania was sunk by a German submarine. In all, 1,195 passengers, including 128 Americans, lost their lives. Americans were outraged and put pressure on the U.S. government to enter the war. President Woodrow Wilson wanted a peaceful end to the war, but in 1917, when the Germans announced that their submarines would sink any ship that approached Britain, Wilson declared that America would enter the war and restore peace to Europe. The United States entered the war on April 6, 1917.
  • 8 million soldiers died in WW1 and 21 million were injured. 65 million troops were mobilized during during the war, 8 million troops died and 21 million troops were wounded. 58,000 British soldiers were lost on the first day at the Battle of the Somme. Chemical weapons were first used in World War I. The chemical was mustard gas.
  • The United States only spent seven and a half months in actual combat. The U.S. was in the war in actual combat for only seven and a half months during which time 116,000 were killed and 204,000 were wounded. In the Battle of Verdun in 1916, there were over a million casualties in ten months.
  • By 1918, German citizens were striking and demonstrating against the war. The British navy blocked German ports, which meant that thousands of Germans were starving and the economy was collapsing. Then the German navy suffered a major mutiny. After German Emperor Kaiser Wilhelm II abdicated on November 9th, 1918, the leaders of both sides met at Compiegne, France. The peace armistice was signed on November 11th. By the end of the war four empires — the Russian empire, the Ottoman empire, the German empire, and the Austro-Hungarian empire had collapsed because of the war.
  • In 1919, The Treaty of Versailles officially ended the WW1. The Treaty required that Germany accept full responsibility for causing the war; make reparations to some Allied countries; surrender some of its territory to surrounding countries; surrender its African colonies; and limit the size of its military. The Treaty also established the League of Nations to prevent future wars. The League of Nations helped Europe rebuild and fifty-three nations joined by 1923. But the U.S. Senate refused to let the United States join the League of Nations, and as a result, President Wilson, who had established the League, suffered a nervous collapse and spent the rest of his term as an invalid.
  • Germany joined the League of Nations in 1926, but many Germans were very resentful of the Treaty of Versailles. Germany and Japan withdrew from the League of Nations in 1933. Italy withdrew three years later. The League of Nations was unable to stop German, Italian, and Japanese from expanding their power and taking over smaller countries. Many believe World War I never really ended, and that World War II never would have happened if not for WW1.

More Interesting Facts about WW1

The Scout C WW1 plane, flown by Lanoe Hawker on 25 July 1915

The Scout C WW1 plane, flown by Lanoe Hawker on 25 July 1915

  • An explosion on the battlefield in France was heard in England. Most of World War One was fought in mud and trenches, but a group of miners would also dug underground tunnels and detonate mines behind the enemy’s trenches. In Messines Ridge in Belgium, these miners detonated over 900,000lbs of explosives at the same time, destroying the German front line. The explosion was so loud and powerful that it was heard by the British Prime Minister David Lloyd George – 140 miles away in Downing Street.
  • WW1 journalists risked their lives to report on the war. The Government tried to control the flow of information from the frontline during the war and journalists were banned from reporting. The War Office considered reporting on the war as helping the enemy and if journalists were caught, the faced the death penalty. A handful of journalists did risk their lives to report on the war and the harsh realities that the soldiers faced.
  • 12 million letters were delivered to the frontline every week. Even during times of war, it only took two days for a letter to be delivered from Britain to France. A purpose-built mail sorting office was created in Regent’s Park before the letters were sent to the trenches on the frontline. By the time the war ended, over two billion letters and 114 million parcels had been delivered to the trenches!
  • Plastic surgery was invented because of WW1. One of the earliest examples of plastic surgery came during World War I when a surgeon by the name of Harold Gillies helped shrapnel victims with terrible facial injuries. Shrapnel caused many facial injuries in WW1 and the twisted metal would inflict far worse injuries than the straight-line wounds of a bullet. Dr Gillies pioneered the early techniques for facial reconstruction.
  • The youngest British soldier in WW1 was just 12 years old. Over 250,000 underage soldiers were allowed to fight in World War 1. The youngest was a boy named Sidney Lewis who was just 12 years old but lied about his age to join. There were many thousands of underage boys who enlisted and most lied about their age. Some joined for the love of their country, while others did it to escape from the lives and the poor conditions they lived in.
  • Blood banks were developed during World War I. It was during WW1 that the routine use of blood transfusion was used to treat wounded soldiers. Blood was transferred directly from one person to another. In 1917, a US Army doctor by the name of Captain Oswald Johnson established the first blood bank on the Western Front. He used sodium citrate the prevent the blood from coagulating and becoming unusable. The blood was kept on ice for as long as 28 days and was transported when needed to casualty clearing stations for use in life-saving surgery on soldiers who had lost a lot of blood.
  • 9 out of 10 British soldiers survived the trenches. British solders were rarely in the firing line in WW1. They moved around the trench system constantly and were usually kept from the dangers of enemy fire. Most British soldiers life in World War I would have regular routine and boredom.
  • Army generals had to be banned from going ‘over the top’. One common stereotype is that ordinary solders were used by the higher ups – lions led by donkeys as the saying goes. The donkeys being the incompetent generals who didn’t spend any time on the frontline while thousands of solders – the lions – were killed. Actually, so many British generals wanted to fight and they had to be banned from going over the top because they were being killed and the experience of a general was too important to lose.