World War 1 Timeline – 1917

by Ben Johnson

Important events of 1917 during the fourth and penultimate year of the First World War, including the Battle of Cambrai which saw a surprise tank attack by the British (pictured above).

19 Jan The British intercept and decode a telegram from the German Foreign Secretary Arthur Zimmermann to Mexico urging her entry into war against the United States. The American states of Texas, Arizona and New Mexico were to be offered to the Mexican government in return for such assistance.
1 Feb Germany resumes unrestricted U-boat warfare. All allied and neutral ships were to be sunk on sight. Over the next month close to a million tons of shipping would be lost. Lloyd George orders Royal Navy convoys to protect merchant ships destined for Britain.
3 Feb The United States of America severs diplomatic ties with Germany.
24 Feb The Cunard passenger liner S.S. Laconia sailing from New York to Liverpool is sunk off the Irish coast by a German U-boat.
The Zimmermann Telegram is passed to the United States government by the British, it contains details of the German proposal of an alliance with Mexico against America.
11 March British troops capture Baghdad.
15 March As a consequence of the Russian Revolution, Tsar Nicholas II abdicates.
2 April U.S. President Woodrow Wilson addresses Congress and asks the House of Representatives to declare war on Germany.
6 April The United States of America declares war on Germany.
9 April The Nivelle Offensive begins.
13 April Canadian troops capture Vimy Ridge. The Canadians had seized ground of great military importance, and inflicted heavy casualties on the German Army.
16 April Lenin arrives in Russia.
End April The Nivelle and Chemin des Dames Offensives end in disastrous failures for the French. The high levels of casualties cause unrest throughout the French army with a month long series of mutiny’s breaking out. General Nivelle is sacked, ending his career.
28 May U.S. Brigadier General Pershing leaves New York for France.
7 June The British detonate 19 large mines containing some 455 tonnes of explosive under the Messines Ridge in Belgium. The resulting explosions could be heard as far away as London and Dublin. More than 10,000 German soldiers are killed and much of the fortifications along the ridge are destroyed, as well as the town of Messines itself.
26 June The first U.S. troops, men of the 1st Division, begin to arrive in France.
27 June Greece enters the war on the side of the Allies.
2 July U.S. Brigadier General Pershing makes his first request for an army of 1,000,000 men.
6 July Aquaba is captured by Arabs led by T.E.Lawrence (of Arabia).
11 July Brigadier Pershing revises his army request figures upwards ‘slightly’ to 3,000,000 men.
31 July The main offensive of the Third Battle of Ypres (Passchendaele) begins. The Allies suffered about thirty-two thousand casualties – killed, wounded or missing – in this one action
6 Nov British and Canadian forces finally reach Passchendael and so the Third Battle of Ypres ends.In the three and half months of the offensive, British and Empire forces had advanced barely five miles and had suffered horrendous casualties.
7 Nov On the Alpine Front between Italy and Austria-Hungary, the 12th, and final Battle of Isonzo ends in terminal failure for the Italian army. Austria-German forces (among them a young Erwin Rommel) breakthrough at Caporetto. Italian losses total more than 300,000. At least 60,000 soldiers from both sides were killed by avalanches.
The Bolsheviks overthrow the Russian government and install a Communist one under Lenin.
20 Nov Battle of Cambrai begins with a surprise mass tank attack by the British. This demonstrated for the first time that the impenetrable German Hindenburg Line could in fact be breached.
7 Dec The United States declares war on Austro-Hungary.
9 Dec The British capture Jerusalem from the Turks. Edmund Allenby enters the city on foot in respect for the Holy City and quickly posts guards to protect all the sites held sacred by the Christian, Muslim and Jewish religions.
Edmund Allenby marching into Jerusalem
Edmund Allenby entering the city of Jerusalem
22 Dec Bolshevik Russia opens peace negotiations with Germany at Brest-Litovsk (now Brest, Belarus).

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