World War I on Stamps: Top 10 Things You Should Know

World War I on Stamps: Top 10 Things You Should Know

World War I was the first global conflict which lasted from 28 July 1914 to 11 November 1918. The result was around 20 million deaths (military and civilian) and the destruction without precedent.


#1 Causes of World War I

At the start of the 20th century, Europe was really ready for one large-scale war. There were a number of wars and uprisings prior to World War I, mostly located in Balkans. Still, European powers (German Empire, Austria-Hungary, Ottoman Empire, British Empire, France, Italy, and Russia) were ready to fight for dominance in Europe and their colonies. They only needed a trigger. And when you want it, you’ll find it. It all started with the Austria-Hungary annexation of Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1908. Ottoman Empire rule in Europe was coming to its’ end and Austria-Hungary grabbed the moment to grab some land. Serbia and Montenegro were not happy with that (Bosnia had and still has a number of Serbs inhabitants) and that led to what is known as Bosnian/Annexation/First Balkan Crisis. Besides that, Austria-Hungary was composed of many different nations. Besides Germans and Hungarians, most of them were Slavic (Croats, Serbs, Slovenes, Czechs, Slovaks, Poles, Ukrainians) but also Romanian and Italians. There were many movements in Austria-Hungary, which required more rights for smaller nations or even the formation of national states.


#2 Sarajevo – Assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand

On 28 June 1914, Gavrilo Princip, member of the secret society Black Hand (Crna ruka) shot Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria and his wife Sophie, Duchess of Hohenberg. The motive behind this shooting was the idea of unification of South Slavic lands into Yugoslavia. Before that unification could be possible, some of them (Bosnia, Croatia, Slovenia), should break off from Austria-Hungary first.


World War I

Marshall Islands – 1997/10/15

Part of the 20th Century series

The 20th Anniversary of the “Decade of Revolution and Great War, 1910-1919”

Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria & Sophie, Duchess of Hohenberg

Denomination: 60 cents


#3 28 July 1914 – Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia

After the association, Austria-Hungary wanted to go into war with Serbia and issued the ultimatum which the Kingdom of Serbia partially rejected. That rejection was used as an excuse to declare the war on 28 July 1914.


World War I

Serbia – 2015/12/08

Serbian Post in collaboration with the British Embassy

British Heroines of the First World War in Serbia

Five Scottish women (Evelina Haverfield, Dr. Elsie Inglis, Dr. Elizabeth Ross, Dr. Katherine MacPhail OBE, Dr. Isabel Emslie Galloway Hutton) and one English woman (Captain Flora Sandes) who volunteered in Serbia during World War One

Denominations: 74 Dinars


#4 Allied Powers vs. Central Powers

Austria-Hungary and Serbia had their allies prior the war and they just waited for the war that will be the last big war. We know these two blocks as Allied Powers and Central Powers.

Central Powers were Austria-Hungary, German Empire, Ottoman Empire and Bulgaria (+ some client states of Germany).


World War I

Gibraltar – 2014/02/19

The 100th Anniversary of the Beginning of World War I

British war hero

Lord Kitchener wagging his finger to draw recruits in 1914 – artist Alfred Leete (12p)

Denominations: 12 pence to 1 Pound


Allied Powers were: Serbia, Russia, France, British Empire, Montenegro, Italy, Romania, Japan, United States, Romania, Portugal, Greece, China, Brazil, Siam, Liberia.

Population numbers as well number of military personnel were on the side of the Allies from the start and that difference just grew towards the end of the war.


#5 6 April 1917 – Unites States Join the War

Unites States of America tried to stay neutral (same as later in World War I) because the USA had many citizens of European origins which favored neutrality. They managed to stay natural all the way until 1917.


World War I

USA – 1998/02/03

Part of – Celebrate the Century, 1910s – America Looks Beyond its Borders

Uncle Sam (Sam Wilson?): “I want you for U.S. Army”

Denominations: 32 cents


On 6 April 1917, the USA declared war on Germany outraged by the fact that German U-boats started sinking American merchant ships in North Atlantic. It was 1918 when a significant number of American troops started arriving on the Western Front.


#6 New Weapons and Improvements

Global wars are a great chance to make significant technological improvements. One important reason for that is that during the war there is no need to justify the people why are you spending so much on weapons and you can simply allocate as much money as you like. That happened during WWI and later during WWII.


World War I

Jersey – 2016/08/04

The Great War – 100 Years

Mechanization, Communication, Camouflage, and Deception,

Uniforms, Observation, and Tactics of war

Denominations: 47 to 95 Pence


The most important improvements made during WWI were tanks and airplanes and their usage in combat. While aircrafts were used in military actions before WWI they were significantly improved and new tactics were developed. Tanks were something new and they were the essential part (at least in the plans) to make a breakthrough during trench warfare. Some early tank-concepts were present even in the 15th century and in 20th century tracked tractors were used to assist the military. There were also many experimental designs.

It was not until 15 September 1916 and the Battle of Somme when tanks were used in combat for the first time. British Mark I tanks were used with an idea to break through German lines.


#7 Greatest Battles of World War I

World War I was an extremely bloody conflict like none so far (at least in newer history). There were many great and important battles all over the world, but largest were:


World War I

Jersey – 2015/08/04

The Great War – 100 Years – battles

First Battle of Ypres – 1914, Gallipoli 1915-16, Battle of Jutland – 1916,

The Somme Offensive – 1916, Battle of Aqaba -1917, Passchendaele – 1917

Denominations: 47 to 95 Pence


  • First Battle of the Marne (6 – 12 September 1914)
  • Gallipoli Campaign (17 February 1915 – 9 January 1916)
  • Battle of Jutland (31 May – 1 June 1916)
  • Battle of Verdun (21 February – 18 December 1916)
  • Battle of the Somme (1 July – 18 November 1916)
  • Brusilov Offensive (4 June – 20 September 1916)
  • Third Battle of Ypres (31 July – 10 November 1917)
  • German Spring Offensives (21 March – 18 July 1918)
  • Battle of Amiens (8-11 August 1918)
  • Battle of Megiddo (19-25 September 1918)


#8 1917 – October Revolution in Russia

Russia suffered heavy losses during the war. In 1917 two revolutions took place in Russia – February Bourgeois Democratic Revolution 8–16 March 1917 (Old Style dates 23 February – March 03) and October Revolution (7 November (25 October, Old Style dates) 1917.). After communists went to power (the result of the October revolution) they decided that Russia withdraws from war because this war is a capitalist’s affair.


#9 The Armistice of 11 November 1918

Until that date, Bulgaria, the Ottoman Empire, and Austria-Hungary already signed peace treaties. On the 11th hour, of the 11th day of the 11th month, a peace treaty was signed with Germany in the Ferdinand Foch’s railway carriage in the Forest of Compiègne. That was the final act of World War I and the stage was set for World War II. Notice that this same railway carriage had been used once again, on 22 June 1940. This time Germany was victorious and second “armistice at Compiègne” was signed.


#10 The Result

The result of each war is nothing good. While we could talk about technological advances, the loss of life and the destruction after the war simply can’t compensate it.


World War I

United Kingdom – 2016/06/21

World War I – 1916

Denominations: 1ST and 1.52 Pounds


Besides around 20 million casualties all over the world, there were numerous territorial changes. Many states ceased to exist (e.g. Austria-Hungary), or their significance and names were changed (Germany, the Ottoman Empire, Russia), now states emerged (Yugoslavia, Poland). There were also a lot of changes a few years after World War I (e.g. USSR).


“World War I was not inevitable, as many historians say. It could have been avoided, and it was a diplomatically botched negotiation.” – Richard Holbrooke

“My father Ted fought in North Africa, Italy, and Germany during World War II. My grandfather survived the horrors of the trenches in World War I. I truly believe that one of the E.U.’s greatest achievements is that it has kept its members out of conflict in Europe.” – Richard Branson


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