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Allies of World War I

Group of victorious countries of World War I

Top 10 Allies of World War I related articles

Allies/Entente Powers

Allies/Entente Powers on 1 August 1914:
  Countries of the Allies/Entente Powers
  Colonies, occupations, protectorates, and territories of the Allies/Entente Powers
Allies/Entente Powers on 11 November 1918:
  Countries and non-state actors of the Allies/Entente Powers
  Colonies, condominiums, occupations, protectorates, and territories of the Allies/Entente Powers

Associated Allies and co-belligerents:

StatusMilitary alliance
Historical eraWorld War I
• Established
• Disestablished
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Anglo-Portuguese Alliance
Treaty of London (1915)
Franco-Russian Alliance
Anglo-Japanese Alliance
Entente Cordiale
Anglo-Russian entente of 1907
Franco-Japanese Treaty of 1907
Anglo-Portuguese Alliance
Anglo-Japanese Alliance
Entente Cordiale
Franco-Polish alliance (1921)
European diplomatic alignments shortly before the war

The Allies of World War I or Entente Powers were the coalition of countries led by France, Britain, Russia, Italy and Japan against the Central Powers of Germany, Austria-Hungary, the Ottoman Empire, Bulgaria and their colonies during the First World War (1914–1918).

By the end of the first decade of the 20th century, the major European powers were divided between the Triple Entente and the Triple Alliance. The Triple Entente was made up of France, Britain, and Russia. The Triple Alliance was originally composed of Germany, Austria–Hungary, and Italy, which remained neutral in 1914. As the war progressed, each coalition added new members. Japan joined the Entente in 1914. After proclaiming its neutrality at the beginning of the war, Italy also joined the Entente in 1915. The term "Allies" became more widely used than "Entente", although the Principal Allies of France, Britain, Russia, Italy, and Japan were sometimes known also as Quintuple Entente.[1] The colonies and occupations of the countries that fought for the allies were also part of the Entente Powers such as British India (now India, Myanmar [Burma], Bangladesh and Pakistan), French Indochina (now mostly Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam) and Japanese Korea (North and South Korea).

The United States joined in 1917 (the same year in which Russia withdrew from the conflict) as an "associated power" rather than an official ally. Other "associated members" included Serbia, Belgium, Montenegro, Asir, Nejd and Hasa, Portugal, Romania, Hejaz, Panama, Cuba, Greece, China, Siam (now Thailand), Brazil, Armenia, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Haiti, Liberia, Bolivia, Ecuador, Uruguay and Honduras.[2] The treaties signed at the Paris Peace Conference, 1919 recognized the United Kingdom, France, Italy, Japan and the United States as the 'principal Allied powers'.

Allies of World War I Intro articles: 54


1914 Russian poster depicting the Triple Entente

When the war began in 1914, the Central Powers were opposed by the Triple Entente, formed in 1907 by the British Empire, the Russian Empire and the French Third Republic.

Fighting commenced when Austria invaded Serbia on 28 July 1914, purportedly in response to the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to Emperor Franz Joseph; this brought Serbia's ally Montenegro into the war on 8 August and it attacked the Austrian naval base at Cattaro, modern Kotor.[3] At the same time, German troops entered neutral Belgium and Luxembourg as dictated by the Schlieffen Plan; over 95% of Belgium was occupied but the Belgian Army held their lines on the Yser Front throughout the war. This allowed Belgium to be treated as an Ally, in contrast to Luxembourg which retained control over domestic affairs but was occupied by the German military.

In the East, between 7–9 August the Russians entered German East Prussia on 7 August, Austrian Eastern Galicia. Japan joined the Entente by declaring war on Germany on 23 August, then Austria on 25 August.[4] On 2 September, Japanese forces surrounded the German Treaty Port of Tsingtao (now Qingdao) in China and occupied German colonies in the Pacific, including the Mariana, Caroline, and Marshall Islands.

Despite its membership of the Triple Alliance, Italy remained neutral until 23 May 1915 when it joined the Entente, declaring war on Austria but not Germany. On 17 January 1916, Montenegro capitulated and left the Entente;[5] this was offset when Germany declared war on Portugal in March 1916, while Romania commenced hostilities against Austria on 27 August.[6]

On 6 April 1917, the United States entered the war as a co-belligerent, along with the associated allies of Liberia, Siam and Greece. After the 1917 October Revolution, Russia left the Entente and agreed to a separate peace with the Central Powers with the signing of the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk on 3 March 1918. Romania was forced to do the same in the May 1918 Treaty of Bucharest but on 10 November, it repudiated the Treaty and once more declared war on the Central Powers.

These changes meant the Allies who negotiated the Treaty of Versailles in 1919 included France, Britain, Italy, Japan and the US; Part One of the Treaty agreed to the establishment of the League of Nations on 25 January 1919.[7] This came into being on 16 January 1920 with Britain, France, Italy and Japan as permanent members of the Executive Council; the US Senate voted against ratification of the Treaty of Versailles on 19 March, thus preventing the USA from joining the League.

Allies of World War I Background articles: 27


Statistics of the Allied Powers (1913) and enlisted soldiers during the war[8]
(million km2)
($ billion)
Mobilized personnel
First Wave: 1914
Russian Empire Russia (inc. Poland) 173.2 21.7 257.7 12,000,000[9]
Finland 3.2 0.4 6.6
TOTAL 176.4 22.1 264.3
French Republic France 39.8 0.5 138.7 8,410,000[9]
French colonies 48.3 10.7 31.5
TOTAL 88.1 11.2 170.2
British Empire United Kingdom 46.0 0.3 226.4 6,211,922[10]
British colonies 380.2 13.5 257 1,440,437[11][12]
British Dominions 19.9 19.5 77.8 1,307,000[11]
TOTAL 446.1 33.3 561.2 8,689,000[13]
Empire of Japan Japan 55.1 0.4 76.5 800,000[9]
Japanese colonies[14] 19.1 0.3 16.3
TOTAL 74.2 0.7 92.8
Serbia, Montenegro and Bosnia and Herzegovina 7.0 0.2 7.2 760,000[9]
Second Wave (1915–16)
Kingdom of Italy Italy 35.6 0.3 91.3 5,615,000[9]
Italian colonies 2.0 2.0 1.3
TOTAL 37.6 2.3 92.6
Portuguese Republic Portugal 6.0 0.1 7.4 100,000[9]
Portuguese colonies 8.7 2.4 5.2
TOTAL 14.7 2.5 12.6
Kingdom of Romania 7.7 0.1 11.7 750,000[9]
Third Wave (1917–18)
United States of America United States 96.5 7.8 511.6 4,355,000[9]
overseas dependencies[15] 9.8 1.8 10.6
TOTAL 106.3 9.6 522.2
Central American states[16] 9.0 0.6 10.6
Republic of the United States of Brazil 25.0 8.5 20.3 1,713[17]
Kingdom of Greece 4.8 0.1 7.7 230,000[9]
Kingdom of Siam 8.4 0.5 7.0 1,284[10]
Republic of China 441.0 11.1 243.7
Republic of Liberia 1.5 0.1 0.9
Aggregate statistics of the Allied Powers (in 1913)[18]
(million km2)
($ billion)
November 1914
Allies, total 793.3 67.5 1,096.5
UK, France and Russia only 259.0 22.6 622.8
November 1916
Allies, total 853.3 72.5 1,213.4
UK, France and Russia only 259.0 22.6 622.8
November 1918
Allies, total 1,271.7 80.8 1,760.5
Percentage of world 70% 61% 64%
UK, France and US only 182.3 8.7 876.6
Percentage of world 10% 7% 32%
Central Powers[19] 156.1 6.0 383.9
World, 1913 1,810.3 133.5 2,733.9

Principal powers

British Empire

The British Empire in 1914

For much of the 19th century, Britain sought to maintain the European balance of power without formal alliances, a policy known as splendid isolation. This left it dangerously exposed as Europe divided into opposing power blocs and the 1895–1905 Conservative government negotiated first the 1902 Anglo-Japanese Alliance, then the 1904 Entente Cordiale with France.[20] The first tangible result of this shift was British support for France against Germany in the 1905 Moroccan Crisis.

The 1905–1915 Liberal government continued this re-alignment with the 1907 Anglo-Russian Convention. Like the Anglo-Japanese and Entente agreements, it focused on settling colonial disputes but by doing so paved the way for wider co-operation and allowed Britain to refocus resources in response to German naval expansion.[21]

HMS Dreadnought; the 1902, 1904 and 1907 agreements with Japan, France and Russia allowed Britain to refocus resources during the Anglo-German naval arms race.

Since control of Belgium allowed an opponent to threaten invasion or blockade British trade, preventing it was a long-standing British strategic interest.[d][22] Under Article VII of the 1839 Treaty of London, Britain guaranteed Belgian neutrality against aggression by any other state, by force if required.[23] Chancellor Bethmann Hollweg later dismissed this as a 'scrap of paper,' but British law officers routinely confirmed it as a binding legal obligation and its importance was well understood by Germany.[24]

The 1911 Agadir Crisis led to secret discussions between France and Britain in case of war with Germany. These agreed that within two weeks of its outbreak, a British Expeditionary Force of 100,000 men would be landed in France; in addition, the Royal Navy would be responsible for the North Sea, the Channel and protecting Northern France, with the French navy concentrated in the Mediterranean.[25] Britain was committed to support France in a war against Germany but this was not widely understood outside government or the upper ranks of the military.

As late as 1 August, a clear majority of the Liberal government and its supporters wanted to stay out of the war.[26] While Liberal leaders H. H. Asquith and Edward Grey considered Britain legally and morally committed to support France regardless, waiting until Germany triggered the 1839 Treaty provided the best chance of preserving Liberal party unity.[27]

Canadian Army recruitment poster

The German high command was aware entering Belgium would lead to British intervention but decided the risk was acceptable; they expected a short war while their ambassador in London claimed troubles in Ireland would prevent Britain from assisting France.[28] On 3 August, Germany demanded unimpeded progress through any part of Belgium and when this was refused, invaded early on the morning of 4 August.

This changed the situation; the invasion of Belgium consolidated political and public support for the war by presenting what appeared to be a simple moral and strategic choice.[29] The Belgians asked for assistance under the 1839 Treaty and in response, Britain declared war on Germany on 4 August 1914.[30] Although Germany's violation of Belgium neutrality was not the only cause of British entry into the war, it was used extensively in government propaganda at home and abroad to make the case for British intervention.[31] This confusion arguably persists today.

The declaration of war automatically involved all dominions and colonies and protectorates of the British Empire, many of whom made significant contributions to the Allied war effort, both in the provision of troops and civilian labourers. It was split into Crown Colonies administered by the Colonial Office in London, such as Nigeria, [e] and the self-governing Dominions of Canada, Newfoundland, New Zealand, Australia and South Africa. These controlled their own domestic policies and military expenditure but not foreign policy.

Indian soldiers of the 2nd Rajput Light Infantry on the Western Front, winter of 1914–15

In terms of population, the largest component (after Britain herself) was the British Raj or British India, which included modern India, Pakistan, Myanmar and Bangladesh. Unlike other colonies which came under the Colonial Office, it was governed directly by the India Office or by princes loyal to the British; it also controlled British interests in the Persian Gulf, such as the Trucial States and Oman. Over one million soldiers of the British Indian Army served in different theatres of the war, primarily France and the Middle East.

From 1914 to 1916, overall Imperial diplomatic, political and military strategy was controlled by the British War Cabinet in London; in 1917 it was superseded by the Imperial War Cabinet, which included representatives from the Dominions.[32] Under the War Cabinet were the Chief of the Imperial General Staff or CIGS, responsible for all Imperial ground forces, and the Admiralty that did the same for the Royal Navy. Theatre commanders like Douglas Haig on the Western Front or Edmund Allenby in Palestine then reported to the CIGS.

After the Indian Army, the largest individual units were the Australian Corps and Canadian Corps in France, which by 1918 were commanded by their own generals, John Monash and Arthur Currie.[33] Contingents from South Africa, New Zealand and Newfoundland served in theatres including France, Gallipoli, German East Africa and the Middle East. Australian troops separately occupied German New Guinea, with the South Africans doing the same in German South West Africa; this resulted in the Maritz rebellion by former Boers, which was quickly suppressed. After the war, New Guinea and South-West Africa became Protectorates, held until 1975 and 1990 respectively.

Russian Empire

Russian troops marching to the front

Between 1873 and 1887, Russia was allied with Germany and Austria-Hungary in the League of the Three Emperors, then with Germany in the 1887–1890 Reinsurance Treaty; both collapsed due to the competing interests of Austria and Russia in the Balkans. While France took advantage of this to agree the 1894 Franco-Russian Alliance, Britain viewed Russia with deep suspicion; in 1800, over 3,000 kilometres separated the Russian Empire and British India, by 1902, it was 30 km in some areas.[34] This threatened to bring the two into direct conflict, as did the long-held Russian objective of gaining control of the Bosporus Straits and with it access to the British-dominated Mediterranean Sea.[35]

Russian recruiting poster; the caption reads 'World on fire; Second Patriotic War'

Defeat in the 1905 Russo-Japanese War and Britain's isolation during the 1899–1902 Second Boer War led both parties to seek allies. The Anglo-Russian Convention of 1907 settled disputes in Asia and allowed the establishment of the Triple Entente with France, which at this stage was largely informal. In 1908, Austria annexed the former Ottoman province of Bosnia and Herzegovina; Russia responded by creating the Balkan League in order to prevent further Austrian expansion.[36] In the 1912–1913 First Balkan War, Serbia, Bulgaria and Greece captured most of the remaining Ottoman possessions in Europe; disputes over the division of these resulted in the Second Balkan War, in which Bulgaria was comprehensively defeated by its former allies.

Russia's industrial base and railway network had significantly improved since 1905, although from a relatively low base; in 1913, Tsar Nicholas approved an increase in the Russian Army of over 500,000 men. Although there was no formal alliance between Russia and Serbia, their close bilateral links provided Russia with a route into the crumbling Ottoman Empire, where Germany also had significant interests. Combined with the increase in Russian military strength, both Austria and Germany felt threatened by Serbian expansion; when Austria invaded Serbia on 28 July 1914, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Sazonov viewed it as an Austro-German conspiracy to end Russian influence in the Balkans.[37]

In addition to its own territory, Russia viewed itself as the defender of its fellow Slavs and on 30 July, mobilised in support of Serbia. In response, Germany declared war on Russia on 1 August, followed by Austria-Hungary on 6th; after Ottoman warships bombarded Odessa in late October, the Entente declared war on the Ottoman Empire in November 1914.[38]

French Republic

French bayonet charge, 1914; huge casualties in the early months of the war had to be replaced by French colonial troops.

French defeat in the 1870–1871 Franco-Prussian War led to the loss of the two provinces of Alsace-Lorraine and the establishment of the Third Republic. The suppression of the Paris Commune by the new regime caused deep political divisions and led to a series of bitter political struggles, such as the Dreyfus affair. As a result, aggressive nationalism or Revanchism was one of the few areas to unite the French.

The loss of Alsace-Lorraine deprived France of its natural defence line on the Rhine, while it was weaker demographically than Germany, whose 1911 population was 64.9 million to 39.6 in France, which had the lowest birthrate in Europe.[39] This meant that despite their very different political systems, when Germany allowed the Reinsurance Treaty to lapse, France seized the opportunity to agree the 1894 Franco-Russian Alliance. It also replaced Germany as the primary source of financing for Russian industry and the expansion of its railway network, particularly in border areas with Germany and Austria-Hungary.[40]

French Zouaves of the Army of Africa

However, Russian defeat in the 1904–1905 Russo-Japanese War damaged its credibility, while Britain's isolation during the Second Boer War meant both countries sought additional allies. This resulted in the 1904 Entente Cordiale with Britain; like the 1907 Anglo-Russian Convention, for domestic British consumption it focused on settling colonial disputes but led to informal co-operation in other areas. By 1914, both the British army and Royal Navy were committed to support France in the event of war with Germany but even in the British government, very few were aware of the extent of these commitments.[41]

French artillery in action near Gallipoli, 1915

In response to Germany's declaration of war on Russia, France issued a general mobilization in expectation of war on 2 August and on 3 August, Germany also declared war on France.[42] Germany's ultimatum to Belgium brought Britain into the war on 4 August, although France did not declare war on Austria-Hungary until 12 August.

As with Britain, France's colonies also became part of the war; pre-1914, French soldiers and politicians advocated using French African recruits to help compensate for France's demographic weakness.[43] From August to December 1914, the French lost nearly 300,000 dead on the Western Front, more than Britain suffered in the whole of WWII and the gaps were partly filled by colonial troops, over 500,000 of whom served on the Western Front over the period 1914–1918.[44] Colonial troops also fought at Gallipoli, occupied Togo and Kamerun in West Africa and had a minor role in the Middle East, where France was the traditional protector of Christians in the Ottoman provinces of Syria, Palestine and Lebanon.[45]

Empire of Japan

Japanese troops attacking the German Treaty Port of Tsingtao in 1914

Prior to the Meiji Restoration in 1868, Japan was a semi-feudal, largely agrarian state with few natural resources and limited technology. By 1914, it had transformed itself into a modern industrial state, with a powerful military; by defeating China in the First Sino-Japanese War during 1894–1895, it established itself as the primary power in East Asia and colonized the then-unified Korea and Formosa, now modern Taiwan.

Concerned by Russian expansion in Korea and Manchuria, Britain and Japan signed the Anglo-Japanese Alliance on 30 January 1902, agreeing if either were attacked by a third party, the other would remain neutral and if attacked by two or more opponents, the other would come to its aid. This meant Japan could rely on British support in a war with Russia, if either France or Germany, which also had interests in China, decided to join them.[46] This gave Japan the reassurance needed to take on Russia in the 1905 Russo-Japanese War; victory established Japan in the Chinese province of Manchuria.

The Japanese carrier Wakamiya conducted the first ship-launched aerial attack in 1914.

With Japan as an ally in the Far East, John Fisher, First Sea Lord from 1904 to 1910, was able to refocus British naval resources in the North Sea to counter the threat from the Imperial German Navy. The Alliance was renewed in 1911; in 1914, Japan joined the Entente in return for German territories in the Pacific, greatly annoying the Australian government which also wanted them.[47]

On 7 August, Britain officially asked for assistance in destroying German naval units in China and Japan formally declared war on Germany on 23 August, followed by Austria-Hungary on 25th.[48] On 2 September 1914, Japanese forces surrounded the German Treaty Port of Qingdao, then known as Tsingtao, which surrendered on 7 November. The Imperial Japanese Navy simultaneously occupied German colonies in the Mariana, Caroline, and Marshall Islands, while in 1917, a Japanese naval squadron was sent to support the Allies in the Mediterranean.[49]

Japan's primary interest was in China and in January 1915, the Chinese government was presented with a secret ultimatum of Twenty-One Demands, demanding extensive economic and political concessions. While these were eventually modified, the result was a surge of anti-Japanese nationalism in China and an economic boycott of Japanese goods.[50] In addition, the other Allies now saw Japan as a threat, rather than a partner, lead to tensions first with Russia, then the US after it entered the war in April 1917. Despite protests from the other Allies, after the war Japan refused to return Qingdao and the province of Shandong to China.[51]

Kingdom of Italy

Antonio Salandra, Italian PM March 1914 - June 1916
Alpini troops marching in the snow at 3,000 m altitude, 1917

The 1882 Triple Alliance between Germany, Austria-Hungary and Italy was renewed at regular intervals, but was compromised by conflicting objectives between Italy and Austria in the Adriatic and Aegean seas. Italian nationalists referred to Austrian-held Istria (including Trieste and Fiume) and Trento as 'the lost territories', making the Alliance so controversial that the terms were kept secret until it expired in 1915.[52]

Alberto Pollio, the pro-Austrian Chief of Staff of the Italian Army, died on 1 July 1914, taking many of the prospects for Italian support with him.[53] The Italian Prime Minister Antonio Salandra argued that as the Alliance was defensive in nature, Austria's aggression against Serbia and Italy's exclusion from the decision-making process meant it was not obliged to join them.[54]

His caution was understandable because France and Britain either supplied or controlled the import of most of Italy's raw materials, including 90% of its coal.[54] Salandra described the process of choosing a side as 'sacred egoism,' but as the war was expected to end before mid-1915 at the latest, making this decision became increasingly urgent.[55] In line with Italy's obligations under the Triple Alliance, the bulk of the army was concentrated on Italy's border with France; in October, Pollio's replacement, General Luigi Cadorna, was ordered to begin moving these troops to the North-Eastern one with Austria.[56]

Under the April 1915 Treaty of London, Italy agreed to join the Entente in return for Italian-populated territories of Austria-Hungary and other concessions; in return, it declared war on Austria-Hungary in May 1915 as required, although not on Germany until 1916.[57] Italian resentment at the difference between the promises of 1915 and the actual results of the 1919 Treaty of Versailles would be powerful factors in the rise of Benito Mussolini.[58]

Allies of World War I Statistics articles: 110

Affiliated state combatants

Kingdom of Serbia

In 1817, the Principality of Serbia became an autonomous province within the Ottoman Empire; with Russian support, it gained full independence after the 1877–1878 Russo-Turkish War. Many Serbs viewed Russia as protector of the South Slavs in general but also specifically against Bulgaria, where Russian objectives increasingly collided with Bulgarian nationalism.[59]

When Austria annexed Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1908, Russia responded by creating the Balkan League to prevent further Austrian expansion.[60] Austria viewed Serbia with hostility partly due to its links with Russia, whose claim to be the protector of South Slavs extended to those within the Austro-Hungarian Empire, such as the Czechs and Slovaks. Serbia also potentially gave Russia the ability to achieve their long-held objective of capturing Constantinople and the Dardanelles.[35]

The Serbian Army in retreat, 1915

Austria backed the Albanian revolt of 1910 and the idea of a Greater Albania, since this would prevent Serbian access to the Austrian-controlled Adriatic Sea.[61] Another Albanian revolt in 1912 exposed the weakness of the Ottoman Empire and led to the 1912–1913 First Balkan War, with Serbia, Montenegro, Bulgaria and Greece capturing most of the remaining Ottoman possessions in Europe. Disputes over the division of these resulted in the Second Balkan War, in which Bulgaria was comprehensively defeated by its former allies.

As a result of the 1913 Treaty of Bucharest, Serbia increased its territory by 100% and its population by