Assess the importance of developments in military technology as a factor in the changing nature of military strategy in the period c1850 –c1985.
The development of military technology can undoubtedly alter the way in which a war or battle is fought. Major military innovations have allowed for strategies to be adapted and refined. For example the invention of tanks allowed for strategic usage of movement to end the stalemate of World War One. The advances in technology have reformed the way in which a war is fought in the air as well as on the ground and sea. If one side was in control of more advanced technology, it could be said they had a greater advantage over the enemy, with increased military capability. However the relationship between the technology and the strategy behind its deployment is essential. For the technology to achieve its goal, the planning, conduct and organisation must be beneficial. Technology however is not entirely responsible for the changes in military strategy, Leadership and tactics also play a part, but which is ultimately the most accountable?
The key technology that fundamentally affected the battles of the Crimean war was the invention of an effective rifle. Neil Stewart states that “The greatest change in land warfare was the substantial increase in the range, accuracy and firepower of the percussion cap rifles and the rifled artillery.” This resulted in the attacking force standing little chance of succeeding and enabled the British to fight from greater distances with a higher chance of hitting the enemy. The infantrymen no longer had to load one bullet at a time, as a magazine could now take up to nine bullets in their magazine. This meant loading time was reduced and the British were more likely to cause greater damage to the enemy over a shorter period. Furthermore Massie announces “The introduction of the Minie rifle and then the Enfield, revolutionised the battlefield. The ordinary infantry soldier now possessed a weapon long-ranged and accurate enough to enable him to operate it independently.” This shows that now lines of infantry were now not needed and concentrated fire was not used. From the Crimean war, it is clear one strategy should never have been used. The charge of the light brigade saw a cavalry charge against infantry and artillery. A report by Lieutenant-General Liprandi states “The English cavalry appeared, more than 2,000 strong…The enemy made a most obstinate charge…notwithstanding the well-directed fire from six guns of the light battery No. 7, and that of the men armed with carbines…In this attack the enemy had more than 400 men killed and sixty wounded, who were picked up on the field of battle, and we made twenty-two prisoners.” Thus by the First World War, the cavalry were no longer used to attack against enemies laden with artillery.
The dominance of the machine gun in the First World War led to great strategic changes. Whereas a rifle could fire around fifteen rounds a minute, a machine gun could fire six hundred. The stalemate of the War meant that the guns could be set up in permanent positions resulting in the war becoming a defensive one. Stewart states “Unprotected troops could not expose themselves to this deadly onslaught of fire for long…and this meant digging into the ground.” This explains how trenches became a popular method of escaping machine gun fire. Trenches were not only a defensive method, but were ideal for launching an attack from within. The machine gun meant that military strategy was now in fact to keep killing until there was nothing left of the enemy, otherwise known as a war of attrition. The Battle of the Somme was designed to simply mow down as many of the German enemy as possible and try to break their morale. However this tactic proved to unsuccessful by Corporal W. Shaw. Shaw states “Our artillery had been bombing their line for six days and nights…the result was we never got anywhere near the Germans…they were...
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