First World War: Causes of war, Transformation of Nature of War, Trench Warfare, Tactics

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  • Created by: naomi
  • Created on: 06-05-13 12:05

Causes of the War

The First World War began in August 1914 and was directly triggered by the assassination of the Austrian archduke, Franz Ferdinand and his wife in June 1914 by Bosnian revolutionary

This was, however, simply the trigger that set off declarations of war. The actual causes of the war are more complicated


Britain, Russia, France

Italy and Austria Hungary

Italy and Germany

Serbia and Austria Hungary 

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The Triple Entente

The Triple Entente was formed to counter the increasing threat from Germany

  • The amount of lands 'owned' by Britain and France increased the rivalry with Germany who had entered the scramble to aquire colonies late and only had small areas of Africa (Imperialism)
  • The growing divide in Europe had led to an arms race between the main countries. The armies of both France and Germany had more than doubled between 1870 and 1914 and there was fierce competition between Britain and Germany to be the power of the seas (Militarism)
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Transformation of Nature of War

WW1 was initially a war of movement but evolved into positional warfare

War of Movement - historically armies had fought wars of movement, this includes charges, retreats and loss and gain of land

Positional Warfare - static form of warfare with occasional offensive activity - aim of holding existing land and gradually taking more 

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The Schlieffen Plan - German Offensive 1914

The plan was to lure French into attacking the heavily defended Franco-German Border while main forces would outflank the French, sweep through Belgium and circle round Paris to attack from the rear


Advance was successfully halted at River Marne and Aisne

Here trench warfare set in 

Following period is named the Race to the Sea (each side trying to outflank eachother)

Philosophy of attrition was adopted: wearing down the enemy over time

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Trench Warfare & Tactics

Favoured defence, weapons were deployed that made offensives very hard to be successful and defence successful

  • barbed wire
  • machine guns, in arcs of interlocking fire
  • artillery

Trench systems ran to the coast, so little chance of being outflanked, so troops were forced into well defenced trenches

  • attrition philosophy saw each side wanting to wear the other down so were forced to attack
  • the French, British and Germans built huge and elaborate defence trench systems with machine guns, fortifications, underground bunkers, and miles of barbed wire
  • to break the Trench system the first tactics was large artillery barges
  • defence in depth war adopted - depth caused attacks to slow down abd become weaker due to multiple trench lines 
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Offensive Tactics

Mortars and Grenades

Gas - initially effective, until introduction of gas masks which fully counteracted

Tanks - first used in September 1916 with mixed successes; design did improve but breakdowns              often occured


Creeping Barrage

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