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Which Turning Point in Ww1 to You Consider to Be the Most Crucial?

By 10efermichael Apr 10, 2013 914 Words
WW1 was a truly global war, with combat taking place in some way or another on each of the worlds 5 populated continents. Over 15 million people died and a further 20 million+ were wounded in what became known as ‘The Great War’. The war itself was by no means one sided and is littered with numerous turning points where, had events occurred differently, the whole direction of the war, and the result, might have differed. It is my opinion that the Battle of the Somme is the most crucial turning point of WW1. This might seem like a strange choice, given that this battle, above all, seems to represent the disastrous stalemate that locked the western front for most of the war. However in this essay I will argue that the Battle of the Somme achieved its central purpose, and began the inevitable decline and eventual defeat of Germany and her Central Powers allies. To begin it is necessary to briefly outline the nature and objectives of the battle itself. The Battle of the Somme was an epic battle that lasted from 1st July 1916 till the winter of the same year. It began with an 8 day bombardment of the German trenches, in which over 1 million shells were fired. The allies then proceeded to send wave after wave of men forward in a sustained but ultimately futile attempt to break through the German front line. In the first day the British troops suffered 65,000 casualties , and by the end of the war the combined allied forces had lost over 600,000 men – dead, seriously wounded or missing in action. The objective of the battle was to divert German men and supplies from their attack at Verdun, where the French troops were close to defeat. In this respect it succeeded, the French held on at Verdun and their line held. History has judged the battle, and its generals, harshly: branding Douglas Haig ‘The Butcher of the Somme’. However as I will go on to explain I believe that the Battle of the Somme achieved its objective and ultimately spelled disaster for the Germans and their allies. Whilst the allied casualties were horrendous, with the entry of America into the war in 1917 meant that the allies were able to replace the troops lost with fresh men. The Germans also suffered horrific casualties: perhaps over 450,000 in total. The defining difference is that the Germans were not in a position to replace such vast losses with fresh troops. It is true that they held out for another two years, but it is my contention that from this point forward the Germans became increasingly desperate for new recruits. Indeed by the time of their massive ‘Lundendorf Offensive’ in Spring 1918 the Germans were resorting to putting under and over age troops into the front line in massive numbers. Compare this with the allies who were able to put millions of fresh American troops into the front line. The lesson of the Somme is that in the final analysis, cold as it may sound, the side that can afford to lose the most men will often prove to be the winner in the long run. Therefore my first argument is that the Battle of the Somme was a crucial turning point because it wore the German army down and resulted in losses on the German side which could not be replaced. However this is not my only reason for believing that the Battle of the of the Somme was the key turning point in WW1, I also believe that it was the harsh lessons of the battle that led to a realization that new strategies and weapons would be needed to break the stalemate. The Battle of the Somme was the point at which the allies realized, finally, that sheer weight of numbers was unlikely to achieve the breakthrough required. Many tactical innovations were first tried in the darkest days of the Battle. These tactical innovations sowed the seeds that would lead to the Allied forces being the most tactical advanced army in History by 1918, and therefore able to achieve victory. For example the Battle of the Somme saw the first widespread use of the ‘creeping barrage’ technique. In addition it witnessed the debut of what was to become, by 1918, one of the most important new developments in weaponry for a generation: the tank. It’s impact during the Battle of the Somme was not huge, but the lessons learnt in terms of the reliability of tanks and how they should best be used on the battlefield, certainly were. The Battle of the Somme is often used as a demonstration of all that was backward and senseless about WW1 – hardly any territory was gained for the loss of over 1,000,000 men. However I believe that this essay has shown that it was in fact the crucial turning point in WW1. The massive casualties suffered by the German forces, combined with the tactical and technological advances forced forward by the horrific circumstances of the battle, were to go on to prove to be the defining reasons for the victory of the allies and the signing of the armistice at 11am on the 11th November 1918. The Battle of the Somme was far from being pointless, in fact it laid the foundations for the victory of the allies, and that is why it is the most crucial turning point in WW1.

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