This post will discuss the role of the smaller nations that are not usually discussed in WW1 history. I will focus more on Portugal than Romania, but both were heavily affected by the war as well as the flu that hit Europe after the war. Portugal, we must remember has always had close ties with the UK, with trade and military alliances, but in WW1 they tried to remain neutral.
The reason why Portugal found itself allying with the England and France was because of Germany’s U-boat warfare, where they were attacking shipping in English waters. Due to trade between the two countries, the Portuguese were thus affected by this and like America would lose trade because of Germany’s aggressive action in the sea.
Colonial reasons were also another reason as to why they joined the war later on. German and Portuguese troops clashed on the border of Portuguese Angola. Therefore tensions were already there and, it adds to the argument that the First World War was more than just a European conflict. It also shows the Portuguese to still be a colonial power, when we never really think they had much of one!
Portugal would lose around 12,000 men, both Portuguese and African troops from their colonial empire. For a country we know little about in WW1, it can be seen that the number of lives lost is quite staggering. Yes, it is nothing like the amount lost by the British and French troops, colonial or not, but we would then be guilty of putting lives lost just as a statistic!
Although Portugal had been involved in helping the allies during the whole war, they only declared war in March 1916, when tensions had reached breaking point. They would see action on the Western Front in 1917 and would be involved in the fighting.
Romania was allied with Russia and fought against the Central Powers in World War One. Again their involvement was more around 1916-17. There were reasons for why Romania joined the Allies, In return for entering the war in 1916 on the Allied side, the Kingdom of Romania demanded support for its territorial claims over Transylvania, an Austro-Hungarian territory with a Romanian majority. This seems familiar somewhere, perhaps this happens a lot in history, people wanting territory because the people are of one nationality. A certain Lieutenant-Colonel Christopher Thomson, who was sent to Romania to negotiate their entrance in the war, had concerns over their armament and wondered if their joining would hinder the Allied effort. It was however rejected, and the British Government pushed for their involvement.
Romania’s involvement however, cost them dear. Their losses can be added up to 220,000 men. It must be remembered that Romania fought a mainly defensive war, and had to surrender in 1917 when Russia pulled out due to their revolution in October. Romania was therefore all alone and had little choice, signing the treaty of Bucharest in 1917.
Romania however, had the ‘last laugh’, re-entering the war one day before the armistice was signed in 1918, therefore taking part in the treaty of Versailles. A very sneaky and political move by Romania!!
So to conclude, this post is brief, but I cannot tell you each countries involvement in one simple blog post. The aim was to introduce you to the fact that these countries were big participants in WW1 and suffered horrendous casualties as a result. The war was not just between England, France, Germany and Russia, it involved so many other nations and each should be studied to get a more complete picture of the horrific war.