Vladimir Lenin arrived in Russia after a decade of self-imposed exile.

Lenin, the leader of the Bolshevik Party, had left Russia in 1907 after Tsar Nicholas II cancelled many of the reforms he had promised following the 1905 revolution. While abroad he remained busy organising Bolshevik groups and publishing Marxist works, but following the February Revolution and the abdication of the Tsar in 1917 he began making plans to return to Russia.

The country had been weakened by the exhausting toll of the First World War and this, combined with disastrous food shortages, had prompted the popular revolt that overthrew the Tsar. In his place the Provisional Government ruled the country, and they opted to continue the war effort despite strong opposition from the Russian people.

German officials were keen to further destabilise the situation. Despite being at war, Lenin and other Bolshevik exiles were granted permission to return to Russia from Switzerland through Germany in a ‘sealed train’. This meant that Lenin and his companions were never legally recognised as being in Germany.

The group then took a ferry to Sweden followed by a second train to Finland, arriving at Finland Station in Petrograd on 16 April. The next day Lenin published the April Theses in which he denounced both the Provisional Government and the First World War, and claimed that Russia was “passing from the first stage of the revolution…to its second stage, which must place power in the hands of the proletariat and the poorest sections of the peasants.”

Less than seven months later the Bolsheviks overthrew the Provisional Government in the October Revolution.

The Canadian Corps successfully captured Vimy Ridge in the First World War.

Vimy Ridge was a 7km ridge that had been held by the Germans since the Race to the Sea in 1914. French forces had made numerous attempts to seize the ridge over the next two years at the cost of approximately 150,000 casualties. However, due to the need to move French troops to Verdun, in October 1916 the position was taken over by the four divisions of the Canadian Corps.

By early 1917 the war had become one of attrition. Desperate to break the stalemate, French and British commanders planned a major offensive near the city of Arras to divert German forces from the main French offensive further south. The Canadians were tasked with seizing Vimy Ridge, which the Germans had heavily fortified.

The Canadian Corps under the command of Lieutenant-General Sir Julian Byng, and with the assistance of numerous British support units, carefully rehearsed their attack in the preceding weeks. They studied detailed maps and aerial photographs of the enemy lines, laid communication cables, dug a series of tunnels leading directly to the front lines, and stockpiled shells for the enormous artillery barrage that was to precede the assault.

Over 1 million shells were fired at the German lines for a week before the attack. Referred to by German troops as ‘the week of suffering’, the bombardment destroyed many of their defences and left them exhausted. At 5:30 am on 9 April the first wave of Canadian troops advanced behind a creeping artillery barrage through sleet and snow. They captured most of their objectives on the first day, and took control of the final target – a heavily fortified mound known as the Pimple – by nightfall on 12 April.

On the 31st March 1905, Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany landed in the Moroccan city of Tangier and expressed his support for the Sultan’s independence from foreign powers. The diplomatic crisis that followed, now widely known as the First Moroccan Crisis, contributed to the tensions that led to the outbreak of the First World War ten years later.

The Kaiser’s speech in Tangier was a direct challenge to the French Foreign Minister, Théophile Delcassé, who had previously secured wide European support for control of Morocco. Despite initial reservations, both Spain and Britain – the latter through the signing of the Entente Cordiale – accepted French control of Morocco.

The Kaiser’s speech in Tangier promoted an ‘open-door’ policy regarding Morocco, and sought an international conference to discuss the matter. The French – who believed that their control of the country was now a foregone conclusion – opposed this suggestion, but with the threat of war growing eventually agreed.

The subsequent Algeciras Conference that took place between January and April 1906 was a diplomatic disaster for Germany. Of the thirteen nations present, only Austria-Hungary supported Germany’s position. Even Italy, who was a member of the Triple Alliance alongside Germany, sided with the French.

Although a compromise agreement was eventually reached, Kaiser Wilhelm emerged bitterly humiliated.  His attempt to drive a wedge between France and Britain had failed spectacularly, and had in effect turned the Entente Cordiale into a loose military alliance. The Anglo-Russian Entente followed in 1907, combining with the Franco-Russian Alliance to form the Triple Entente. The Second Moroccan Crisis in 1911 subsequently created further tensions between Europe’s power blocs.

On the 11th March 1918 the first confirmed case of what was to become known as Spanish Flu was identified at Camp Funston in Fort Riley, a huge military facility in Kansas. Within 18 months the disease had become a pandemic that infected up to a third of the entire world’s population. With between 10-20% of all infected persons dying, modern estimates place the flu as taking anywhere between 20 to 100 million lives.

The exact geographical origin of the disease has never been identified, but the first confirmed case was company cook Private Albert Gitchell in Kansas who reported to the camp’s infirmary when he woke in the morning. By midday 107 soldiers had been admitted with the same symptoms.

The outbreak came while American soldiers were being shipped to Europe to fight in the First World War. The conditions in the trenches of the Western Front accelerated the spread of the virus, and contributed greatly to it becoming a pandemic.  Poor hygiene and nutrition provided a fertile breeding ground for the flu, which soon made its way into the civilian populations of Europe as well.

Due to wartime censorship, governments limited reports on the virulence of the flu and played down the death toll. However, newspapers in neutral Spain faced no such limitations, resulting in people believing Spain was suffering disproportionately high cases which led to it gaining the name Spanish Flu.

With even the lowest estimates placing the number of deaths from Spanish Flu at 20 million, the pandemic killed more people than had died on all sides in the First World War itself.

On the 3rd March 1918 the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk was signed between Russia and the Central Powers. The treaty ended Russia’s participation in the First World War and was negotiated by the new Bolshevik government.

By the winter of 1917 the Russian economy was in tatters as a result of the strain of maintaining the war effort. Tsar Nicholas II had abdicated in February, but the subsequent Provisional Government was overthrown in the Bolshevik Revolution later that year after they continued to fight alongside the Entente Powers.

The Russian Bolsheviks vehemently opposed the war and received some support from Germany in their efforts to seize power. For example they had allowed Vladimir Lenin to return from exile in Switzerland to lead the revolution against the Provisional Government.

After seizing power Lenin appointed Leon Trotsky as Commissar of Foreign Affairs, but peace negotiations with the Central Powers were fraught with difficulties: the situation was so bad that, in mid-February, Trotsky declared ‘neither war nor peace’. He intended Russia to stop fighting, but not sign a peace treaty: this incensed the Germans who responded by restarting their advance into Russia in Operation Faustschlag. Concerned by the speed of the German attack, Lenin threatened to resign if Russia didn’t accept the new peace terms delivered on the 23rd February.

The Treaty was a humiliation for Russia: she lost approximately one million square miles of land including fertile farmland, natural resources and industry, as well as approximately a third of the entire Russian population. The Treaty was cancelled as part of the Armistice with Germany on the 11th November 1918.

On 6 February 1918 the Representation of the People Act received Royal Assent, marking the start of female suffrage in Great Britain. The bill had been passed in the House of Commons by 385 votes to 55 and gave women over the age of 30 who owned property the right to vote. While it therefore denied the vote to a large number of women, it was still a watershed moment in the history of gender equality in the UK.

A traditional explanation for parliament supporting the bill is that it acted as a ‘reward’ for the vital work done by women during World War One. Adherents of this interpretation argue that the Suffragettes had actually damaged the suffrage movement through their violent actions. These included committed arson, vandalism, and other high-profile protests that included the death of Emily Davison at the horse racing Epson Derby of 1913. This interpretation therefore argues it was only the work done by women during the First World War, such as in munitions factories, driving buses, or working on farms that persuaded Parliament to support women’s suffrage.

Conversely, in France where women did equally important war work, they did not win the right to vote. A counter-argument therefore exists that says this is because there was no pre-war suffragist movement in France – and certainly nothing to equal the militancy of the Suffragettes. Adherents of this interpretation therefore argue that the work of the Suffragettes and Suffragists before 1914 had been vitally important to women winning the right to vote years later. The actions of the Suffragettes had shocked many people in Britain, and no-one was keen to return to the violence of pre-1914. In the aftermath of violence that had erupted in Russia and led to the Communist Revolution, the British establishment wanted to avoid that possibility at home. This interpretation therefore argues that passing a relatively moderate female suffrage section in the 1918 Representation of the People Act kept the suffragists happy and delayed more radical reform – such as full and equal voting rights for men and women.

The 1918 Representation of the People Act was, therefore, an important but rather conservative measure. Firstly it only gave the vote to women over 30, since many politicians believed that their age meant they were 1much less likely to support radical politics since they were more likely to be married with children. This meant that many of the women who had worked in the fields and in munition factories during the war did not get the right to vote as they were generally younger than the minimum age. Secondly only women who were property owners qualified for the vote, meaning that even the educated middle-class women who had supported the Suffragettes before 1914 were excluded since many of them had gone into white-collar work after 1920 and lived in rented property away from their parents as a sign of their independence.

The bill passed through the House of Lords by 134 votes to 71 after Lord Curzon, the president of the National League for Opposing Women’s Suffrage, made it clear that he would not oppose it and risk clashing with the Commons. Consequently it received Royal Assent from George V on 6 February 1918, increasing the electorate to about 21 million of whom 8.4 million were women.

The women’s suffrage movements welcomed the 1918 Representation of the People Act with prominent campaigner Millicent Fawcett describing the act as the greatest moment of her life. However, the act still showed a clear division between men and women since the same act gave all men over the age of 21 the right to vote, while those who had been on active service in the armed forces could vote from 19. Therefore, women were still not political equals even after the 1918 act. True suffrage equality only came in 1928.

The Brunner Mond chemical factory had been built in 1893 to manufacture caustic soda and soda crystals. However, declining demand for caustic soda meant that production ceased in 1912 and parts of the factory stood idle. Due to a crippling shell shortage following the onset of the First World War, the War Office chose to use the spare capacity at the Silvertown site to purify TNT for explosive shells.

The chief scientist at the factory described the purification process as “manifestly very dangerous” and the company bosses themselves tried to dissuade the government for going ahead with the plan. Despite these concerns, and the fact that the factory was situated in a highly populated area, the Silvertown plant began to produce TNT in September 1915 at a rate of approximately 9 long tons per day.

At 6.52pm on the evening of 19 January 1917, a fire that had broken out in another part of the factory reached the stores of TNT. Approximately 50 tonnes exploded, completely destroying the factory and many nearby buildings. The blast could be heard as far away as Sandringham in Norfolk while molten metal was strewn across several miles, some of which damaged a gasometer in Greenwich and caused a giant fireball as 200,000 cubic metres of gas caught fire.

Over 60,000 properties suffered some form of damage from the blast, but the loss of life was fortunately a lot lower than it could have been. The explosion took place in the early evening when there were not many people in the factory, and people had not yet gone to bed in the upstairs rooms of their homes that suffered the most damage.

On the 8th January 1918, United States President Woodrow Wilson made a speech to Congress in which he outlined his principles for world peace, known as the Fourteen Points. Keen to distance the United States from nationalistic disputes that fuelled European rivalries, he sought a lasting peace by securing terms that avoided selfish ambitions of the victors.

Three days earlier, on the 5th January, British Prime Minister David Lloyd George had outlined British war aims at the Caxton Hall conference of the Trades Union Congress. It was the first time any of the Allies had shared their post-war intentions and, as a result Woodrow Wilson considered abandoning his own speech since many of the points were similar. However, he was persuaded to deliver the speech anyway.

The Fourteen Points were greeted with some reluctance from France in particular. Georges Clemenceau, the French Prime Minister, is said to have remarked that, “The good Lord only had ten!” as a comparison to the Ten Commandments. However, the Fourteen Points speech became an instrument of propaganda that was widely circulated within Germany. Consequently it later served as a basis for the German armistice that was signed later that year.

However, France’s vastly different intentions meant that, when the time the Paris Peace Conference began on the 18th January 1919, there was significant tension between the negotiators. The fact that Wilson himself was physically ill meant that he was less able to argue for peace terms that reflected the Fourteen Points against Clemenceau – the Tiger – and his demands to cripple Germany. Consequently many Germans felt incredible anger over the final terms of the Treaty.

On the 15th November 1917, Georges Clemenceau was appointed Prime Minister of France for the second time. His appointment was something of a surprise, especially as it was made by President Raymond Poincare with whom he had a particularly frosty relationship. Clemenceau had previously held the position until 1909, after which he spent much of his time criticising the government in his own radical newspaper. However, within the first three years of the war three separate Prime Ministers had served and Poincare recognised that Clemenceau’s desire to defeat Germany made him the best replacement.

As 1917 wore on, the French government had become increasingly divided over whether to negotiate peace with Germany. Clemenceau was a fierce critic of this approach, having held a deep-seated hatred of Germany since France’s loss of Alsace-Lorraine in the Franco-Prussian War five years before he was first elected to parliament. His appointment therefore heralded a marked change in government as he sought to consolidate French support behind its troops.

In a speech three days after his appointment, Clemenceau declared, “Nothing but the war. Our armies will not be caught between fire from two sides. Justice will be done. The country will know that it is defended.” This coincided with a clampdown on pacifist opponents and suspected traitors, and he continued to speak in favour of ‘war until the end’ until Germany’s surrender in November 1918. Victory was a double-edged sword: he now needed to negotiate the terms of the peace treaty with Wilson and Lloyd-George, which he described a like being “between Jesus Christ on the one hand, and Napoleon Bonaparte on the other.”

On the 11th November 1918, fighting on the First World War’s Western Front ended when representatives from the Allies and Germany signed the Armistice of Compiègne. Named after the location in which it was signed, the armistice was agreed at around 5:00 a.m. in a railway carriage that was part of Allied supreme commander Ferdinand Foch’s private train. Designed to come into effect at 11:00 a.m. Paris time, the armistice was extended three times before the Treaty of Versailles finally came into force on the 10th January 1920.

President Woodrow Wilson of the USA had outlined his war aims in the Fourteen Points that he announced in a speech in January 1918. These provided a framework for peace, and were a key factor in encouraging Germany to enter negotiations.

By the end of September, the German High Command had realised that the German cause on the Western Front was doomed. The Kaiser was informed of the situation on the 29th September, and by the 5th October the German government had contacted President Wilson of the United States to begin preparations for negotiating an armistice. However, the two sides didn’t come together until the 8th November because Britain, France and Italy were unwilling to enter discussing based on the 14 Points. By this point the German Revolution was about to result in the abdication of Kaiser Wilhelm II.

The negotiation wasn’t really a negotiation: the German delegation was presented with the terms and had no option but to sign. The railway carriage in which they did so was later used by Hitler for France’s surrender to Nazi Germany in 1940.