Modern History Study:
Reasons for stalemate on the Western Front:
* Failure of the Schlieffen plan – Whilst the Schlieffen plan dealt with war on two fronts, its failure was instrumental to the stalemate on the Western Front. Germany fell short of achieving a quick and decisive victory over France and Britain in which they had hoped for. The German Army’s initial advance was halted by Belgium, who allowed Britain and Russia to mobilise their troops.
* The Battle of the Marne – German attacks on Paris was resisted by France and Britain in the Battle of the Marne. This has resulted in the temporary phase of trench warfare where the German Army “dug in” to defend themselves from the advancing Allies.
* Race to the Sea – French Commander Joffre and German Commander Falkenhayn realised the advantage was positioned in the North between the Aisne and the Sea. This has led to the Race to the Sea, where the Allies and Germany tried to outflank each other in their attempt to reach this crucial position. By the end of 1914, the initial offensive approach to war had become more defensive. The war of mobility soon changed to the war of attrition, where both sides tried to wear down the enemy.
* War expectations and the nature of modern warfare - Many assumptions were outlined leading up to the war. Propaganda posters suggested that the war would be of aggression, which was not true. Germany assumed that war timetabling would be successful in which they predicted the time for every other nation to mobilise their troops.
The nature of trench warfare and life in the trenches:
* Structure – Sandbags were aligned for protection and strength. Barbed wire was used to slow the enemy down. Holes were dug on the sides for soldiers to lie down. Trenches were designed in a ‘zigzag’ pattern for soldiers to avoid the severity of attacks and explosions. Duckboards were placed to keep soldiers out of the mud. * Systems – varied in size, comfort and quality. Consisted of front line trench, support trench and reserve trench. They were subject to severe flooding. * Life in the trenches – noisy, uncomfortable, dangerous, dirty, boring. They were infested with lice and rats. Sicknesses include trench fever, trench feet, pneumonia, tuberculosis and frostbite.
Strategies and tactics to break the stalemate:
The Allies adopted an offensive strategy to break the stalemate on the Western Front. This included large frontal attacks on German trenches, artillery bombardment, infantry advances and cavalry charges. However, such offensives failed to achieve a breakthrough.
The development of new weapons such as mustard gas, machine guns, stokes mortar, trench mortar, and flamethrowers marked an important phase of the war.
The war of attrition has led to total war, economic blockades and propaganda. The nation’s resources have been consumed to maintain the war effort.
Opening new fronts against Central Powers were also effective.
Tactics employed by Britain include a creeping barrage of tanks and aeroplanes. Germany had used storm troopers to help break the stalemate in 1918.
Verdun: Took place in 21 February 1916 – November 1916
Falkenhayn wanted to “bleed France white” of manpower by launching massive attacks on the narrow stretch of land known as Verdun. This was Germany’s tactic to win the war of “attrition”. However, Verdun became a symbol of French pride and the will to resist. France counter-attacked Germany and thus became victorious. Despite their win, the French morale decreased and fighting spirit was destroyed. The French government was badly shaken and close to collapse. 400000 French soldiers and 500000 German soldiers died as a result of this battle.
Somme: Took place in 1 July 1916 – November 13 1916
The British agreed to an offensive near the Albert area in the Somme, and attempted to draw German troops away from the “mincing machine” of Verdun. British and French forces...
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