From Verdun and the Somme to Jutland and Gallipoli

Wounded soldiers at the Somme
© IWM

The First World War was a conflict like no other and unprecedented in the history of warfare to that point.

Between 1914-1918, Europe’s largest empires fought a new kind of war with modern weapons, masses of troops and huge death tolls.

From the largest naval battle and the longest battle, to the most deadly battle, and the battle that marked the end of mobile warfare on the Western Front, there were many significant battles during the First World War.  

Gallipoli, the Battle of Jutland, the Battle of Verdun and the Battle of the Somme are among the many battles we explore in our video below. 

From the longest, deadliest and most difficult battles of the First World War to the battles which would define nations and change warfare forever, discover the 10 most important battles of the First World War.

Watch on YouTube: Battles of the First World War: Top 10 most important 

Please note: This video is age-restricted and only available on YouTube.

Ten First World War battles

Learn more about ten First World War battles and the experiences of those involved in them: 

  • Troops of the 1st Battalion, Middlesex Regiment (Duke of Cambridge's Own) under shrapnel fire from German artillery on the Signy-Signets road, 8 September 1914. The man with the goggles belongs to the Intelligence Corps. He is badly wounded in the head and his face is covere with blood.
    © IWM (Q 51489)

    The First Battle of the Marne

    The First Battle of the Marne (6 -10 September 1914) marked the end of mobile warfare on the Western Front. Following their retreat, the Germans re-engaged Allied forces on the Aisne, where fighting began to stagnate into trench warfare. 

  • A panoramic photograph of the 42nd (East Lancashire) Division in Gully Ravine, Gallipoli, September 1915. Panorama made up from Q 13399 and Q 13400.
    © IWM (Q 13400A)

    The Gallipolli Campaign

    The Gallipoli campaign (25 April 1915 - 9 January 1916) was the land-based element of a strategy intended to allow Allied ships to pass through the Dardanelles, capture Constantinople (now Istanbul) and ultimately knock Ottoman Turkey out of the war. 

  • An aerial view of ships of British Guard Fleet in the Firth of Forth 1916
    © IWM (Q 20633)

    The Battle of Jutland

    The Battle of Jutland (31 May - 1 June 1916) was the largest naval battle of the First World War, involving 250 ships and around 100,000 men. It was the only time that the British and German fleets came to blows. 
     

  • French troops manning a captured German Maxim gun at Fort Douaumont, Verdun, 1916.
    © IWM (Q 69971)

    The Battle of Verdun

    The Battle of Verdun (21 February - 18 December 1916) became the longest battle in modern history. It was originally planned by the German Chief of General Staff, Erich von Falkenhayn to secure victory for Germany on the Western Front. The aim was to crush the French army before the Allies grew in strength through the full deployment of British forces.

  • Russian troops resting in captured Austro-Hungarian trenches, summer 1916.
    © IWM (Q 98440)

    The Brusilov Offensive

    The Brusilov Offensive (4 June - 20 September 1916) was the most successful Russian operation and one of the most successful breakthrough offensives. 

  • Battle of the Somme © IWM Q70164
    © IWM Q70164

    The Battle of the Somme

    The Battle of the Somme (1 July - 18 November 1916) was a joint operation between British and French forces intended to achieve victory over Germany on the Western Front after 18 months of trench deadlock.

  • Assault on Passchendaele 12 October - 6 November: A derelict tank stuck in the mud.
    © IWM (CO 2241)

    The Third Battle of Ypres

    The Third Battle of Ypres (31 July - 10 November 1917) is also known as Passchendaele and has shaped perceptions of the First World War on the Western Front. The Ypres Salient was one of the most intensely fought-over sections of the Western Front. 

  • A batch of 4000 British prisoners captured behind Bapaume and Arras at a collecting point in front of Arras, March 1918.
    © IWM (Q 51464)

    The German Spring Offensives

    The German Spring Offensives (21 March - 18 July 1918) ) represented a calculated gamble for Germany in trying to tip the balance on the Western Front once and for all. 

  • A crowd of German prisoners taken by the British Fourth Army in the Battle of Amiens. Near Abbeville, 27 August 1918.
    © IWM (Q 9271)

    The Battle of Amiens

    The Battle of Amiens (8 - 11 August 1918) marked the beginning of the Hundred Days Campaign; a four-month period of Allied success. 

  • The Battle of Megiddo, September 1918: The remains of Kadem Station, a terminus of the Hejaz railway, which was set on fire by the retreating Germans and Turks, 30th September 1918.
    © IWM (Q 12371)

    The Battle of Megiddo

    The Battle of Megiddo (19-25 September 1918) marked the beginning of the final British-led offensive in the Sinai and Palestine Campaign. It successfully combined cavalry, infantry, artillery, armoured vehicles and aircraft to achieve a decisive victory over the Ottoman Turks and their German allies.

Related content

French troops manning a captured German Maxim gun at Fort Douaumont, Verdun, 1916.
© IWM (Q 69971)
First World War

10 Significant Battles Of The First World War

From the largest naval battle, and the longest battle, to the most painful and infamous battle, and the battle that marked the end of mobile warfare on the Western Front, discover 10 significant battles of the First World War that took place between 1914-1918.

A map shows the British plan to invade the Gallipoli peninsula. Winston Churchill is superimposed on top.
First World War

What went wrong at Gallipoli?

On the 9th of January 1916, the last remaining Allied troops on the Gallipoli peninsula were evacuated. Despite catastrophic predictions, the withdrawal went off without a hitch and the entire force escaped with only a few casualties. It was the only bright spark in a campaign marked by failure. In this episode of IWM Stories, Alan Wakefield explores what went wrong at Gallipoli and why the evacuations were the only success.

An officer of the 10th Battalion, Cameronians (Scottish Rifles) leads the way out of a sap and is being followed by the party.
Image: IWM (Q 5100)
First World War

Life in the trenches of the First World War

When it comes to the First World War there's one thing that instantly comes to mind - trenches. Muddy, rat-infested hell holes with death around every corner. Places so bad that only going over the top could be worse. Trenches dominate our perspective. But are our perceptions really accurate?

Invitation card to a screening of the film 'Battle of the Somme', at the Scala Theatre, Charlotte Street, London, August 1916.
© IWM (HU 59419)
Battle of the Somme

How the Battle of the Somme was Filmed

Tens of thousands of soldiers went 'over the top' at 7.30am on 1 July 1916 on the first day of the Battle of the Somme. Nearly 20,000 British soldiers died that day, which looms large in the collective national memory of the First World War. Cameramen Geoffrey Malins and John McDowell were there to record footage that became the cinematic sensation, Battle of the Somme.