Truly a World War

Posted: November 10, 2014 in History


When you hear about World War One, it is likely that it will conjure up images of trenches in Western Europe, or of the battles of the Somme or Ypres. These did of course form a major part of the action that occurred during the war. But it is not the whole story. If it were then World War One would have only been a European affair. The media fascination with the horrors of trench warfare tends to blind us to all the other areas where there was conflict.

In the Pacific, where Japan, Australia and New Zealand fought with forces based in German territories. In Africa, where allied forces based in British, French and Belgian territories battled with those from German governed colonies. Indeed some of the fiercest fighting was on the border of South Africa, when German forces from German South-west Africa (now Namibia) invaded into that country.


Cameroonian troops in World War I

By New York Times, Co. [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons


There was also a major campaign against the Ottoman Empire in the Middle East to prevent them advancing into Egypt to block transport of allied ships through the Suez Canal. This is perhaps best remembered for the exploits of T.E. Lawrence (famed as ‘Lawrence of Arabia’) and his mobilization of Arab forces on the side of the allies, but otherwise is usually forgotten. Finally back in Europe there was the eastern front. The war had begun over political tensions in the Balkans and fighting there continued with the Russians and Romanians fighting the combined forces of Austro-Hungary, Germany and Bulgaria. This front was severely affected by the Russian revolution of 1917 after which the Russians withdrew from the war.


“WWIRussianTroopsReview”. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons –

So World War One was truly a world war fought upon a global stage. It should be remembered when we think about the commemoration of the war and those who died in it at this time. Whilst few of these conflicts realised a death toll like the western front, the numbers of dead are still staggering: 16,000 from Ghana, 32,000 from Kenya and 85,000 from Nigeria died fighting during the African campaigns. This is without considering the casualties on the German side or the horrendous civilian casualties in this campaign. The Oxford History of World War One notes that “In east and central Africa the harshness of the war resulted in acute shortages of food with famine in some areas, a weakening of populations, and epidemic diseases which killed hundreds of thousands of people.

So when we stop to remember the fallen of World War One in this commemoration year, let us spare a thought and a prayer for the forgotten war that was fought around the world and for its fallen and its victims.


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