Modern History Glossary Terms

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Stalemate Deadlock from which neither side can progress

Total war Government’s mobilisation of all its resources to support the efforts of its own troops and undermine those of its opponents

Western Front The area of fighting in western Europe during World War I. It stretched from the English Channel to the Swiss border and encompassed territory in Belgium and northern France.

War of attrition War in which competing sides attempt to achieve victory through the tactic of wearing down their opponents’ armies, fighting power, morale and economies to the point of collapse

Trench warfare form of military conflict in which opposing sides fight one another from trenches facing one another

Dugouts Shelters dug into the sides of the trenches

No man’s land The area separating opposing armies in trench warfare

Salient A military position that bulges forward into enemy-held territory and, as a result, could be vulnerable to attack from three sides

Hindenburg Line the German trench system, devised by Generals Paul von Hindenburg and Erich Ludendorff and constructed in northern France between 1916 and 1917. The system shortened the front line and enabled the Germans to transfer men to reserve trenches. It incorporated concrete pillboxes armed with machine guns. The goal was to maximise the effectiveness of men and munitions at a time when both were in short supply.

Infantry Soldiers that fight on foot, generally with bayonets, machine guns and mortars

Bayonets A knife blade which soldiers attached to their rifles and used in close combat with the enemy

Snipers Marksmen who waited in hiding for opportunities to shoot soldiers in the opposing trenches

Cop a blighty Obtain a wound which was serious enough to require the victim to be sent back to England

Shell shock A psychological disorder with physical symptoms ranging from irritability and poor concentration to inability to move in a coordinated manner

Trench foot A problem caused by long-term exposure to conditions where feet could not be kept dry. Untreated, it would result in amputation.

Trench fever A disease, caused by lice, affecting up to 15 per cent of any army. It kept men out of battle but wasn’t fatal.

Dysentery An illness related to the inflammation of the lining of the large intestine. Symptoms include stomach pains and diarrhoea and perhaps also vomiting. Tactics Actions taken to deal with specific problems and achieve the goal of a particular military strategy

Diphosgene gas Used in artillery shells, its vapours could penetrate gas masks

Creeping barrage The use of a wall of artillery fire immediately in front of the advancing infantry. As the artillery gunners moved forward to destroy enemy trenches, the infantry, following behind, was ready to take control of a trench once the artillery fire had ceased.

Nivelle Offensive General Nivelle’s massive French attack on German lines between Royle and Reims in 1917. It began on 16 April and ended on 9 May. The battle gained no territory and resulted in 187,000 French casualties and troops no longer willing to support their leaders.

Leap frog The tactic of moving by stages, from one objective to another, with new troops moving forward to take on each successive stage

Bite and hold A tactic requiring soldiers to use speed and surprise to occupy a small section of the enemy’s front line and then to defeat counterattacks

Infiltration small-scale assault platoon attacks on poorly defended areas in the enemy front line

Bolshevik Revolution Russian revolution of 1917, which brought to power a government proclaiming to recreate society for the benefit of its workers

Total war a government’s mobilisation of all its resources to support the efforts of its own troops and undermine those of its opponents

Stalemate a deadlock from which neither side can progress

Internal combustion an engine of one or more working cylinders in which the process of combustion takes...
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