Modern History Notes

Topics: World War I, Treaty of Versailles, Trench warfare Pages: 20 (6746 words) Published: June 23, 2013
WWI Summary

➢ War on the Western Front:

✓ The Reasons for the stalemate on the Western Front:

Stalemate: Situation where neither side could make a successful breakthrough on the Western Front. The Schlieffen Plan; was the German strategic plan that was to be put into action if there was war against both France and Russia simultaneously. The Franco-Russian Alliance: alliance of 1893 stated that if either France or Russia were attacked by Germany, the other would assist it.

▪ When war broke out in August 1914, it was expected that the war would be over by Christmas. ▪ The reality of encirclement from the Entente powers forced Germany’s military planners to develop the Schlieffen plan. ▪ Under The Schlieffen Plan, Germany would seek to knockout France in a massive, lighting attack while just holding off the Russians in the east, and then, with France defeated, would deal with the Russians in what was likely to be a longer campaign. ▪ In 1911, the new German army commander, Moltke, decided to modify the plan. He decided that the German troops would not move through the Netherlands as German interests would be better served by keeping the Dutch neutral – Trade can continue during wartime. Also Moltke weakened the hammer-swing to strengthen the hinge. This would prove disastrous as for the plan to have any chance of success; the swing through Belgium had to be massive and rapid. ▪ Quote: “Moltkes substantial modification…probably doomed the German campaign in the west before it was ever launched”. (L.C.F Turner). [pic]

The Failure of the Schlieffen Plan;
▪ The modifications made to the Schlieffen Plan by Moltke proved fatal. The bottleneck that occurred at Aachen and Liege allowed Belgian + French time to mobolise; British also sent troops to Belgium. ▪ Moltke lost his nerve and began to divert more troops away from the hammer-swing to the hinge, thus further weakening the thrust through Belgium. ▪ Belgian resistance proved far stouter than the Germans had anticipated. ▪ British forces fought the Germans at Mons, though defeated; they succeeded in further slowing the German advance. ▪ Moltke ordered his forces to swing round to the east of Paris, but the German advance was finally halted in September 1914 at the Battle of the Marne. ▪ Germany failed to knock out France and now faced a 2-front war. ▪ After the defeat at the Marne, the Germans retreated back to the River Aisne and dug in. From then on both sides attempted to out-flank each other by getting around each other’s end of trenches. This was known as ‘the Race to the Sea’. All they achieved was to create a line of trenches from the Swiss Alps, to the English Channel. ▪ Both sides were dug in and neither could break through the enemy’s lines, thus creating a Stalemate on the Western Front.

✓ The Nature of trench warfare and life in the trenches dealing with experiences of Allied and German soldiers:

▪ Trenches were first seen as temporary so they weren’t built well, especially the British and French ones, but as the war wore on, they became more complex. ▪ Both British and German trenches developed and stretched back for kilometers. There were often reinforcement and supply trenches behind the front lines, with communication trenches connecting them. There was barbed wire, observation posts and machine-gun nests on the front line. This made it almost impossible to break through the enemy lines. ▪ Trenches were often zigzagged to add more lines of fire at an attacker and to lessen the effect of a shell burst of grenade, and allowed parts of the trench to still be defended even if the enemy occupied another section. ▪ No-mans land was the area between two enemy trenches. It was as narrow as 50 metres or as wide as 8-10 kilometres. It was a hazardous area as going ‘over the top’ of one’s trench made one a target for sniper fire. Also, no-mans land was full of craters from explosives and was also sometimes riddled...
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