Fighting on Multiple Fronts

The Western Front is the best-known battlefield of the First World War, but fighting took place across the globe. 

© IWM Art q7842 Lieutenant john warwick brooke. the british front line west of the trescault before the battle of cambrai, 10th december, 1917.

Life in the Trenches

The Western Front was plagued by trench warfare and conditions were much worse at the beginning of the war. The Allied trenches of 1914 were just deep furrows which provided minimal cover from enemy fire. This was because the generals believed that trench warfare was only temporary as the ‘normal’ war of movement would resume in the spring. 

A condition known as Trench Foot caused by the cold, wet and unsanitary conditions could cause fungal infections and feet were amputated in severe cases. Trenches were often smelly and unsanitary, this was because dead bodies were buried nearby, and there was a huge infestation of rats and lice spreading disease and infection. 



Trenches were never truly developed along the Eastern Front (Russia) as fighting was stretched along a longer front line. This enabled more mobility than experienced on the Western Front.

Capture of Samoa

Samoa, an island in the Pacific Ocean close to New Zealand, was a German colony in 1914. A German wireless station was established on the island, and Australian intelligence found out that it was protected by 80 men and a gunboat. Colonel Robert Logan led 1, 400 New Zealand troops with an escort of three ‘P’ Class cruisers from the Royal Navy’s New Zealand Station to capture Samoa. Samoa was under Allied control by 29th August 1914. After Togoland in West Africa, this was the second territory the Allies gained in the war.

The Siege of Tsingtao

Germany built a port and naval base at Tsingtao, a city in eastern Shandong Province on the east coast of China, and garrisoned by approximately 4,000 troops. Japan was allied with Britain from 1902 and declared war on Germany on 23rd August 1914.  Japan led the Allied successful capture of Tsingtao with a couple of the Royal Navy’s Squadron ships in support. This campaign violated Chinese neutrality and was the only battle to be fought in the Far East during the First World War.

Chinese Labour Corps

© IWM ART 1151 paul nash, chinese working in a quarry.

China proclaimed neutrality from the outset of war, however the ruling powers decreed China had to get involved in the war in 1916. China sent 140,000 labourers to assist the British and French on the front lines in Europe, 100,000 of which served in Flanders, Belgium. Chinese volunteers were paid up to four times more than a labourer back in China, and their work included digging trenches, working in factories and carrying ammunition. China later declared war on Germany and Austria-Hungary in 1917 and the Chinese Labour Corps served under British officers. The war claimed many Chinese lives and many of the victims are buried in cemeteries dotted across the Flemish landscape.