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THE FIRST WORLD WAR 1914-1918: HOW AND WHY WAS IT FOUGHT?
HOW AND WHY WAS THE FIRST WORLD WAR FOUGHT?
Reasons for going to war
If France were defeated, Germany would accomplish European
domination and British interests would suffer.
Germany was becoming an increasing threat: aggressive diplomatic
initiative and speeches by the Kaiser, building a large navy etc.
Crisis of 1914 was handled badly, Germany declared war on Russia and
then France (Russia's ally).
Britain had guaranteed Belgium's independence but they were being
N.B. they did not want to go to war...
Nature of Trench warfare
Men were rapidly dispatched to France: BEF, under Sir John French
First battle: Mons, it was a replay of the Boer War, this time they were
the sharp-shooting Boers
BEF paid a price, many casualties and began to retreat: morale suffered
and then the French launched a counter-attack: miracle!
Trench warfare began after the Br nor Fr could push them further back.
Supplies were sent over, year ended: struggle in Ypres.
1914: Battle of Ypres: bloodbath: 50,000 casualties.
Germans had strong fortifications, occupied much industrial land, big
machine guns that could fire thousands of bullets a day.
Haig wanted to embrace new technology, like radio communication.
The significance of the Battle of the Somme (1916) to the conduct of the
war and on attitudes to war in Britain
Russia, Fr and Br would attack at the same time (joint offensive)
Many units were New Army division: enthusiastic volunteers
Tried to cut wire: failed, shells failed or poor fuses. 1st battalion:
virtually wiped out. Others: 91% casualty rate!!!
Continued to November, Haig used the tank with enormous success.
However, many tanks broke down and went at 2 miles/hour.
Some see overall conflict in a positive light
Major offensives of 1917
Battle of Arras: creeping barrage, but weather intervened and had to
abandon assaults. Death by drowning became the dreaded fate, became a
chaotic, watery hell.
Passchendaele: weather got better and the British advanced 7 miles, at a
Cambrai: surprise attack, artillery was used more effectively, targets
had been pre-selected and guns carefully calibrated. Advanced: 5 miles.
Germans counter attacked but the Br and Fr had effective radio.
The reasons for the Allies' victory
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Ludendorff decided to go on the attack, and brought more men in.
Battle at Amiens: 1918: German breakthrough, but were stopped
heroically by the Fr and Br and German offensive ended.
Ludendorff called a second offensive! And the British lost all gains from
the previous year but had suffered 800,000 casualties since March and
Allied counter offensive: creeping barrage, advancing 100 yards every 3
minutes! Breakthrough, many Germans taken prisoner and guns were
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Punishment: controversial! The death penalty was still widely used and
accepted: 246 executed for murder or desertion, however, many were
Field punishment: being tied up to a stationary object (normally wheel).
Most common punishment: confined to the barracks on loss of pay and
doing the unpleasant jobs.
Discipline varied from unit to unit.
Even if morale was high/low: widespread acceptance of hierarchy and
Never displayed a collapse of morale like the French and Russian armies
in 1917, or Germans in 1918.…read more