Wwi Trench Warfare Essays

Military Technology in World War I

World War I was less than one year old when British writer H. G. Wells lamented the fate of humanity at the hands of "man's increasing power of destruction" (H. G. Wells, "Civilization at the Breaking Point," New York Times, May 27, 1915, 2). Although considered a father of science fiction, Wells was observing something all too real—technology had changed the face of combat in World War I and ultimately accounted for an unprecedented loss of human life.

Infantry warfare had depended upon hand-to-hand combat. World War I popularized the use of the machine gun—capable of bringing down row after row of soldiers from a distance on the battlefield. This weapon, along with barbed wire and mines, made movement across open land both difficult and dangerous. Thus trench warfare was born. The British introduced tanks in 1916; they were used with airplanes and artillery to advance the front. The advent of chemical warfare added to the soldier's perils.

Sea and airborne weapons made killing from a distance more effective as well. Guns mounted on ships were able to strike targets up to twenty miles inland. The stealth and speed of German submarines gave Germany a considerable advantage in its dominance of the North Sea. Although airplanes were technologically crude, they offered a psychological advantage. Fighter pilot aces such as Manfred von Richthofen, Germany's "Red Baron," became celebrities and heroes, capturing the world's imagination with their daring and thrilling mid-air maneuvers.

Newspapers charted the public's reaction—horror and vengeance—to these technological advancements. A few weeks after the Germans first used poison gas in Ypres, Belgium, on April 22, 1915, a London newswire to the New York Times described the brutal details of the attack and the immediate effects on the soldiers, concluding: "It is without doubt the most awful form of scientific torture." Yet a Daily Chronicle [London] editorial urged Britain to retaliate with poison gas use of its own (quoted in New York Times, May 7, 1915, 2). In fact, Germany claimed that the Allies were already using mines charged with poison gas. So horrified were people by chemical warfare that the use of poison gases was banned for future wars, although not until 1925.

When Germany's plan for a swift military victory went unrealized, the pace of war bogged down. Both sides tried to break this stalemate through the use of force. In previous wars, victory was achieved through territorial supremacy; in World War I it was accomplished by simply outlasting the opponent—a "war of attrition." When fighting first broke out in August 1914, many hoped the war would be short-lived; few predicted a conflict that would last for more than four years and scar an entire generation with its unprecedented brutality.

Trench Warfare In Wwi Essay

World War I was like nothing that had ever happened in the world before. Although it was inevitable, the horrific loss of life was pointless. Almost no-one except the politicians ruling agreed with it, which has been proven by soldiers diary's, and most famously the football match between the British and the Germans on Christmas Day 1914. All-in-all, World War 1 resulted in a revolution in infantry tactics which fundamentally altered how wars were fought. The armies which clashed in August 1914 operated on essentially 19th century doctrines, large units of riflemen were screened by cavalry and supported by artillery. Commanders expecting a decisive engagements to settle the war rapidly. The British, French, Germans, and Russians that marches off the war in August 1914 all assumed that the War would be over in a few months if not weeks. No one anticipated a struggle that would endure over 4 years. Sweeping maneuvers exposed the cavalry and infantry to the killing power of modern weapons. Modern weapons, especially artillery and machine guns as well as accurate rapid-fire rifles proved devastating, especially when used against the tactics field commanders employed in the initial phases of the War. Field operations by 1916 had, after the loss of millions, been fundamentally changed. The professional armies of 1914 were devastated and were replaced by conscripted replacements. What began as a rapid war of movement soon settled down to static trench warfare and became a brutal war of attrition. Both the Germans and the French and British began digging trenches to stay alive. Eventually parallel trench systems stretched from the Swiss border to the English Channel. There were about 40,000 kilometers of trenches on the Western Front alone. And so Trench warfare became the biggest part of World War 1...

The general condition of the Trenches fought in during World War 1 were terrible. The trenches were constantly filled with mud, water, blood, urine, shrapnel, body parts and other such disgusting items. Because of these items constantly filling the trenches, men's feet were constantly in these terrible conditions, and it eventually caused trench foot. Men would "live" in these trenches for months on end. Trench foot wasn't the only thing that came from living in the frontline, other conditions such as shell shock, lice, illness from poor hygiene and most commonly, death. Soldiers would never get a good nights sleep because of the shelling, the smell and uncomfortable conditions. Despite these terrible conditions, most soldiers would try and keep the spirits up and be thankful for the protection it would give them.

Communication trenches would be used to pass messages between the different trench...

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