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First World War Centenary: A Time Line

The following material forms part of a Research Paper titled First World War Centenary:  A Time Line, prepared by Dr John Weste, Director, South Australian Parliament Research Library.


This paper presents information as to the key dates and incidents in World War One in a series of timelines to mark the centenary of the outbreak of war in August 1914. Significant use has been made of photographs from the Parliament Research Library’s old and rare book collection, predominantly the Observer and Advertiser newspapers. It also concludes with a list of important on-line resources including further information about the location of war memorials and honour boards in South Australia, and details of South Australian servicemen who fought in the 1914-1918 conflict. Throughout this paper, the emphasis is placed upon South Australia’s role, response to, and perceptions of, the War.

In the booklet the timeline is presented as three distinct strands with each being colour-coded to represent international, Australian and South Australian events. Further, relevant photographs and text extracts are labelled with borders in the matching colour to make it clear whether the reference is international, Australian or South Australian.

The newspaper articles are presented here for their eye-catching headlines and effectiveness in conveying the gist of a story. The same, and even more so, can be said for the photographs, in addition to sating the curio value of looking at how people filled the streets of Adelaide and regional towns a century ago. The cost of this style of presentation is that the smaller text of the articles (or annotation to a photograph) is not always readable. If you would like to read the fine print of an article simply adjust the zoom settings on the ‘view’ panel if reading on-line; for those reading the paper version, a magnifying glass may well be needed.

This paper does not purport to present a detailed history of the causes behind the outbreak of War nor is it a study of the course of the War and its effects both on the men and women at the frontlines or those men, women and children who remained in Australia. It is important to remember, too, that the conscious use of South Australian sources from the 1914-19 period presents events from the perspective of these sources. For example, German bullishness as the sole cause of the final lunge into war and it is the ‘Hun’ who uniquely debases culture and debauches civilised mores. Conversely, the British Empire and its Allies presented as put-upon victims seeking justice, fair redress and, at all times, fight with honour and decency.

Needless to say, the War and its causes were not that simple or clear cut. Historians now speak of degrees of responsibility: it was Gavrilo Princip and his fellow Serbian Black Hand-trained plotters who assassinated Archduke Franz Ferdinand and provided Austria-Hungary with an excuse to attack Serbia; it was Austria which determined upon a localised war with Serbia then prevaricated only to attack anyway without clear knowledge of Russia’s likely reaction; it was Germany which provided the ‘blank cheque’ that encouraged Austrian recklessness making broader escalation of the Balkan Crisis possible (and then later provoked international outrage by invading France through neutral Belgium); it was Russia who began secret preparatory mobilisation which, while short of war, made possible concrete moves to war in an atmosphere of less-than-sincere diplomacy; it was the French political and military leadership which had prior knowledge of Russia’s resolution for war and in turn posited, for Great Britain’s benefit, that France’s own mobilisation was something less than war contrary to Russo-Franco agreements; and it was Britain who feigned neutrality while favouring the Franco-Russian side encouraging the latter’s recklessness and leaving the Germans unclear as to Britain’s eventual position on war. This lengthy list (and, obviously, it could be much longer) can further be complicated by considering the extent to which each step was the result of malice and a desire for war or simple, however tragically regrettable, blundering and confusion. 1

1   See, for example, Sean McMeekin July 1914, New York: Basic Books, 2013 pp 390 – 403.

To provide the reader with some historical context to the photographs and excerpts of text that appear in the booklet, a brief summary of each year’s key events is presented via the links below.  These in turn, are linked to a gallery of scanned articles relevant to each year:

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