Government of Canada
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CHAPTER 4: Unending Seige

Canada in 1914 (2 pages)

The First World War

French field hospital, 1914

French field hospital, 1914
(Click image to enlarge)

In July and August 1914 several countries, including France, Great Britain, Russia, Belgium and their colonies, went to war against the Central Powers of the German and Austro-Hungarian empires. Italy joined them in May 1915. In December 1917 Russia signed a separate peace treaty, but the United States was already replacing it on the battlefields, having been at war alongside the Allies since April of that year.

At the end of this violent upheaval, empires would disappear, new countries would be created and a League of Nations would revive the ideal of universal peace. The great enigma of this war between peoples has never found a satisfactory explanation: How was it that so many millions of combatants could be kept on the battlefields under such horrible conditions? They were not, after all, warriors by trade. A vortex of death would crush them in battle and drag them into the great post-1918 mass movements that would hatch another cataclysm.