Published on July 31st, 2017 | by Sarah Jubb
The World At War In 1917
Four years since the start of World War One and fighting was still being waged across the European continent and into the Ottoman Empire. By this point in the war, both sides had become firmly entrenched resulting often in a deadlock.
1917 was the year that saw what is described as one of the bloodiest events of the First World War with the Third Battle of Ypres, or more commonly known as the Battle of Passchendaele. This battle aimed to break away from a poor position as well as capture a rail junction that was a few miles away.
The hope of this from British commander Sir Douglas Haig was that it would disrupt the position of Germany in Flanders by hopefully threatening the German U-boat submarine base at Bruges. Unfortunately, the Germans were able to reinforce their position by the time the battle was launched on 31 July. Rain also hindered movement as it caused exceptionally muddy conditions.
A brief period of dry conditions allowed progress to be made, but further rain later in the year once again caused conditions to deteriorate. The Canadians were eventually able to capture the Passchendaele ridge in November but the offensive was eventually called off. Casualty figures for the battle are often disputed but are estimated to be in the hundreds of thousands for both sides.
The Arrival Of The United States of America
Though it may be surprising to find out, the United States of America did not become actively involved in World War One until 1917. They had maintained an official policy of neutrality until an event from Germany forced their hand into getting involved.
Diplomatic relations between the two nations had already broken down due to Germany breaking a pledge to limit submarine warfare. A telegram from the German Foreign Minister Arthur Zimmermann was intercepted by British cryptographers in January 1917. While this may not seem entirely interesting given the intense events of the war, the telegraph was being sent to the German Minister to Mexico, von Eckhardt. The contents of the telegraph would prove to be disastrous for Germany.
The telegraph encouraged Mexico to enter the war by joining the German cause by offering them United States territory if they did so. Understandably, this angered the United States and resulted in Congress formally declaring war on Germany and their allies on April 6 1917.
T.E. Lawrence And The Capture Of Aqaba
While World War One saw many of its battles taking place on the European continent, there were also battles taking place in other areas of the world. One of these was in the Middle East with the Ottoman Empire, which spread over present day Turkey and most of the Arabian Peninsula.
1917 saw the capture of Aqaba, today in Jordan, from the Ottomans by T.E. Lawrence and the Arab rebels. The Arab force managed to finally take Aqaba in July 1917, allowing it to become a turning point in the Middle Eastern campaign due to its strategic importance as a Red Sea port.
It would be hard to find someone who has not heard of ‘Lawrence of Arabia’ after the 1962 epic historic film that won Best Picture and 6 other Oscars. The film was based on the real life events of T.E. Lawrence, a soldier who helped to mobilise the Arab revolt during the First World War. The film is depicted in the Great British Film Stamp Cover and is often regarded as a classic.
Commemorating 100 Years Since 1917
To commemorate the 100th anniversary of this year, Royal Mail is releasing the next in their World War One stamp series. They are the perfect items for any history enthusiast or collector of memorabilia. Available on the Post Office Shop is the Presentation Pack as well as the Stamp Cards.
For anyone interested in collecting memorabilia for the First World War, we also have a selection of collectible items available in our World War One section that includes coins and stamps.