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World War 1: A Short Timeline 1916


1916 began with all sides planning assaults: Germany wanted to grind French manpower down through a war of attrition, forcing them to defend the symbolic Fortress of Verdun at horrific cost, while the Entente aimed to breakthrough on the Somme. In the East, the Germans planned to hold firm while different Russian armies planned attacks. Meanwhile, Romania enters the war as an Entente power.

• February 21 - December 18: Battle of Verdun, fought by French and German troops at massive cost and no overall gains.
• April 4: Alexi Brusilov given command of Russia's southern front. (EF)
• May 4: Germany makes the Sussex Pledge to the US, promising to stop sinking Merchant ships without warning; they add that this isn't permanent.
• May 31: Battle of Jutland between British and German fleets - the only major naval battle of the war is a tie.
• May 14 - June 10: Austrian Trentino Offensive against Italy, no gains. (IF)
• June 4-October 17: The Brusilov Offensive, an initially successful assault which shatters the Austrian army. (EF)
• June 5: Kitchener, the British Minister for War and face of the 'Your Country Needs You' posters is killed at sea.
• July 1: On the first day of the Battle of the Somme, the attacking British troops suffer 60,000 casualties, mostly in the first hour. (WF)
• July 1 - November 19: Battle of the Somme, an Allied offensive on the Western Front.
• August 27: Romania declares war on the Central Powers. • August 29: Falkenhyn dismissed from German command, mainly due to the continuing failure at Verdun. He is replaced by Hindenburg and Ludendorff; they now control almost all German and Austro-Hungarian forces on the Eastern and Western Fronts.
• September 3: United army of Germans, Turks and Bulgarians invades Romania, led by Mackensen, undermining any Romanian hopes of success; Mackensen eventually captures Bucharest.
• September 8: Germany switches tactics from offense to defense in depth along the Western Front.
• September 15: Tanks are used for the first time, by the British at Flers-Courcelette, Somme. (WF)
• September 23: Germany begins constructing the Hindenburg Line, a substantial defensive system. (WF)
• December 6: David Lloyd George named Prime Minister of Britain; remains until 1922.
• December 9: The Central Powers defeat Romania, gaining vital supplies.
• December 12: Robert Nivelle replaces Joffre as French C-in-C (WF); he's convinced he can win.
• December 18: US President Wilson sends his Peace Note to the belligerents.
• December 26: Germany, in reply to Wilson's Note, suggests a peace conference.
• December 30: The Entente refuse to discuss peace without a German commitment to reparations.

Although Verdun and the Somme cost around a million casualties each, there are no notable gains by the end. Meanwhile, collapse has begun in the East, where the Brusilov offensive destroyed the armies of both Austria and Russia, leaving the former a German auxiliary and causing the latter a million further casualties. In addition, Romania - an Entente knife in Germany's back - is swamped by the Central Powers who gain valuable oil and grain.

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