First World War Centenary: A Time Line
by Dr John Weste, Director, South Australian Parliament Research Library
This third year of war was marked by a series of highly significant international developments. The United States entered the War on the side of the Allies and, by the middle of the year, American troops had landed in Europe. However, as the Allies gained one new partner, they lost another with revolution in Russia overwhelming the Romanovs in March and ending with the Bolsheviks under Lenin’s leadership taking power in the October Revolution. A Russo-German Armistice was signed in December.
The strain of the War on France became all the more apparent as a series of mutinies shook the French military over April-May 1917. Order was eventually restored and the Allies resumed the offensive, notably at the First Battle of Passchendaele (part of the Third Battle of Ypres) in July and the Second Battle of Passchendaele in October. In the Middle East, British forces captured Baghdad and much of Mesopotamia though a stalemate reigned in Southern Palestine. In November, the ‘Balfour Declaration’ promised support for a Jewish national home in Palestine. On the East European front, Austro-Hungarian and German forces inflicted a major on defeat on Italy and broke Italian lines to force a retreat.
Australia’s Commonwealth government made a second attempt at introducing conscription through a referendum, but again failed to achieve the desired result with the majority for the noes increasing. There were no more attempts to introduce conscription during the War. Australian infantry remain engaged in heavy fighting on the Western front, including at Bullecourt, Messines and in the the Third Battle of Ypres, and, in the Middle East, the Anzac Mounted Division was involved in fighting in the Sinai and attacks on Gaza.
The German question remained an important one for South Australia as the State Parliament acted, literally, to wipe any reference to the history of German settlement from the map. The Nomenclature Act legislated to remove all place names that reflected enemy origin on the grounds of being obnoxious. At the height of war, anything deemed to constitute racial memories and feelings other than British was perceived as divisive and requiring extinction. The final version of the Discharged Soldiers Settlement Act was also passed by Parliament to, where appropriate, provide training and land for those returned servicemen who sought an agrarian existence following demobilisation.