Each nation were convinced that the war would be brief, glorious and over by Christmas
Implications of modern, industrialised warfare was not taken into account
Planning for war
Military strategy focused on knockout blow based on rapid offensives and decisive battles
Mobilisation plans was top priority to all military planners at this point
Railway networks were also top priority allowing rapid transportation of troops and supplies
Weaponry of the 20th Century focused on agility and range. They were more deadly and accurate than any of weapons used in previous war.
i.e.: Bullets became faster and explode upon impact
Diplomacy and the alliance systems were made in order to strengthen each other's interest
Failure of the Schlieffen Plan
Failed to anticipate supply routes when Germany got through into Belgium and France.
Russia mobilised faster than expected so did France thus consistently halting German advances
German infantry was tired by long flanking campaign on the poor roads of northern France
Modified plan – Failure to maintain a strong right flank to the north. It left insufficient manpower to circle Paris from the west which was the vital part to the Schlieffen Plan – Moltke
It was believed Britain would not support Belgium’s neutrality.
Underestimating British Military Strength
The Kaiser underestimated the BEF and regarded it as a “disgraceful army”. The BEF was the main reason for German forces halting their encirclement of Paris
Britain controlled the High Seas and English Channel with the BRN. So long as they do control those waters, German prospects for victory were poor.
Inadequate numbers in the BEF
Britain was the only European power not to take in the significance of a Reserve system.
Britain only emphasised on her Navy prior to the war in her programme to militarise. The British army however was a small professional force although lacked in numbers to fight a continental war.
British officers were from educated private schools where values were emphasised.
Failure of Offensive Strategy
Military plans assumed that the artillery and offensive spirit of infantry battalions could overwhelm defending forces to one of equal size – Napoleonic doctrine – the Battle of Waterloo
There was little understanding of the significance of firepower technologies (machine guns, artillery, etc.) for defence fortifications.
The Nature of trench warfare and life in the trenches; dealing with experiences of Allied and German soldiers
Attacking or under attack
Soldiers attempted to achieve a ‘breakthrough’ passing ‘no man’s land’
Snipers on constant raids and patrols
Attacks on German fortifications involved a heavy artillery barrage followed by soldiers going ‘over the top’
These soldiers would be met with machine gun fire and high explosive and shrapnel artillery.
If you were shot but survived = wounded – if you were not harmed = sick due to surroundings.
Rats – lived on human remains and could grow to the size of a cat. They also contaminated the food.
Lice bred within the cloths >>> itch. Even when they were washed, lice eggs remained hidden >>> begin again
Frogs, slugs and horned beetles crowded the sides of the trenches.
Soldiers chose to shave their heads entirely to avoid another widespread of nits
Trench life was mostly boring and miserable. Sometimes there would be several weeks without any fighting.
Soldiers spent their time writing letters to home, fixing up trenches and inspect their rifles from time to time.
The weight of the backpack was extremely heavy consisting of ammunition, ration, shovels, gun, etc.
Winter >>> vulnerable to frost bites while summer >>> lice fleas and flies.
Personal hygiene was very difficult to maintain.
Human remains left unburied brought diseases
Prepared for long war
Semi-permanent defensive position gave troops strong protecting and some comfort
Concrete or wood construction &well constructed and fortified.
Soldiers enjoyed cooked meals due to their extensive trench network system
Later food supplies were scarce due to the blockade, so horses were shot down for meat
Thought trenches would be useless and temporary
Wet, smelly and filthy
Believed that continuous infantry assaults would wear out the enemy trench lines.
Transport of supplies was poor. Many front line soldiers had to rely on their rations. >>> Mal nourishment
Behind the front lines enjoyed food eating beef, breads, eggs, jam biscuits and other luxuries.
Overview of strategies and tactics to break the stalemate
Technological and tactical attempts to break the stalemate
Mustard and acid gas 1915
Germans were the first to use this
Effective in driving the enemy out of the trenches into the open.
Allies soon made a poison gas of their own and thus began the bio-chemical warfare
Both sides resorted to digging tunnels under no-man’s land towards enemy lines and placing mines
Storm-trooper assault units
A German strategy where artillery fire on enemy trenches would smoke-screen place.
Heavy infantry would storm through and attempt to take over using flame-throwers and machine guns.
While that happened, regular troops attacked the main strong trench
Naval blockade of Germany
To artillery barrage and stun enemy lines followed by infantry wave attacks.
Opening up other fronts at Gallipoli, Salonika and Italian Front
First used and developed by British.
Initially, scared the hell of shit out of Germany and had the Allies up in spirit
Later, were discovered to be utterly useless on the field until 1918
1918, Aussies forces developed a tactic “peaceful penetration”
Strategy: using artillery, tank and machine gun units, Aussie troops would take over small areas of enemy territory one area at a time. Once the area had been secured, it was occupied by Australian infantry troops while the next area was taken.
Campaigns that failed to break stalemate – war of attrition
Battle of the Somme – Jul 1916
Offensive bombardment plan "Big Push" by Haig. The plan was to shell the German front lines 7 days straight, create a gap and then send infantry and cavalry.
To relieve forces in Verdun and distract Germans
To test out the new British tanks
Assault against the heavily defended German lines was suicide and infamous for being the biggest slaughters in military history.
Tanks did shock the enemy but were discovered to be utterly useless until the new model in 1918
Battle of Verdun – Feb 1916
Falkenhayn (German) announced a major offensive plan against the lines of forts at Verdun.
Aim: Verdun was chosen because
Threaten German lines of communications
Symbol of French honour, demoralise French troops
Prevent allies from launching a major offensive on the Somme
If succeed, Germans could march to Paris.
French success but heavy casualties to both sides and accelerated French mutinies.
Nivelle Offensive 1917
‘Creeping barrage’ tactics; planned an infantry assault
To overwhelm German lines and retake occupied French territory
Limited initial success, but Allies were unable to consolidate their control.
The offensive failed because only recovering a fraction of what was planned with massive casualties.
The territory they captured was too vulnerable for German attack.
A wave of French mutinies was one of the major weaknesses exposed by this failure
Battle of Passchendaele – Jul 1917
Outflank German defences
Distract Germany from noticing French mutinies
Destroy nearby German submarine bases
To stop Germans gaining the village Passchendaele
Failed and heavy casualties. It was impossible to move due to the mud terrain.
Industrial workers were fed up with increased work hours and production with a war they weren't even winning at.
Rivalry between political parties and trade unions rose higher
Home Front unrest in Germany
Germany faced more hardships
Sailors were mutinying as well as military morale collapse
Standard of living fell as well as supplies due to blockade.
Many demanded and demonstrated for peace
Total war and its social and economic impact on civilians in Britain and Germany
The expectation of ‘a short war’ ‘over by Christmas’ made both sides unprepared for economic demands of supplying an increasingly large army and maintaining civilian supplies in an economy affected by trade blockages.
Total war forced each country to mobilise all its resources in:
Food and industry
Shipping, transport and communications system
Conscription allowed employers to remove workers they deemed troublemakers or useless to their factories.
Non-essential industries were cut back
Labour shortages inspired modernisation of factories to maintain and increase the rates of production
DORA – defence of the Realm Act placed restrictions on civil liberties. Economic reorganisation also became a priority as all production was directed towards the war effort.
Ministry of Munitions – given the power to requisition raw materials and establish national factories
Restrictions were placed on labour as working hours were increased and a Land Army was created
Strikes were banned, new taxes introduced and existing taxes increase
Civilians tolerated this in order to win
Citizens were expected to surrender things like kettles, pots and candlestick that be melted down and used for the production of war materials.
Lack of an overall plan meant that the War Ministry was unable to sustain domestic production for the long war
Agricultural interests hoarded food and drove up prices
An authoritarian system of government tightened restrictions on civil liberties
Censorship was imposed and opposition to the war suppressed
War Raw Materials Department controlled raw materials and production
Patriotic Auxiliary Service Law – gave the government control of labour allowing it to move men into the war industries.
Food production suffered – farmers moved to warfront, Naval blockage
Bad seasonal harvest>>>Turnip winter was followed by further privations and starvation in 1918
Germany collapsed due to poor planning and mismanagement on the part of the military dictatorship
The impact of war on women’s lives and experiences in Britain
Women filled the gap caused by the absence of men in various industries to ensure that production continued.
7 million women employed in ‘war work’ in various capacities: ambulance drivers, postal workers, bus and tram conductors and dairy workers among others.
Women mostly employed in munitions industries and nursing
Volunteer Aid Detachments [VADs] – medical assistance on the field
Women’s Land Army
Royal Air Force
Auxiliary Army Corps
Royal Navy Service
Working class women redefined standards of behaviour and fashion during the war
The Suffragettes efforts were brought to an end due to the outbreak of war
Women’s votes were granted by the Parliament as a result of their contribution
‘Mothering our solders’ was an activity urged upon
Women actively participated in public recruiting campaign – White feather
Women were blamed for caused Venereal diseases among the army and were forbidden to have sex with any soldiers. Legislation was even passed to forbidden to the act of sexual intercourse with any member of His Majesty’s Forces.
Health issues for women was more focus on infant mortality – it improved and were given wages
‘Normalcy’ was announced in 1918 – refers to females returning to the traditional roles such as house work other domestic work.
Turning points - Impact of the entry of the USA and of the Russian withdrawal
United States of America
USA determined to stay neutral was disrupted when:
German U-boat campaign sank several American merchant ships - Lusitania
Radio message intercepted – Germany and Mexico secret alliance against USA – Zimmermann telegram
Allied propaganda concerning alleged German atrocities
Unrestricted submarine warfare affected American trade with Britain
The US had no tanks and little modern artillery and very few aircrafts – but a strong navy >>> altered the balance of power in the Atlantic
The American Expeditionary Force (AEF) was a major boost in morale to allied soldiers on the Western Front.
Unlimited industrial and economic resources
German morale and discipline fell since it was a matter of time that Germany army and home front would collapse
Lenin and the Bolsheviks took power in November 1917 and there first act was to negotiate peace.
Russia was at point of collapsing due to a combination of:
Inadequate preparation for modern warfare
Sending soldiers into battle without proper equipment, ammunition or clothing – mutiny and demoralised.
Food shortages and increased prices – aggressive riots
Discontent with Tsar Nicholas II and the PG
In the Brest-Litovsk Treaty – Russia lost territories, agricultural and industrial land and 1/3 of its population
Germany finally achieved their objective to have a one front war. All Eastern front forces were moved to the West in preparation of the Spring Offensive in a last ditch effort to end the war before American forces arrive en masse.
Ludendorff’s Spring Offensive and the Allied response
Kaiserschlacht – Kaiser’s battle – major 5
The spring offensive plan by Ludendorff was a series of new assaults in order to separate the British and French armies by pushing the French forces towards Paris while forcing the British, in the opposite direction.
Major 5: Michael, Georgette, Blucher, Gneisenau and Reims-Marneschutz
The Allies knew of a German attack coming in spring but were divided as to how they should respond.
General Haig thought to send reinforcements to Calais and Boulogne at the cost of the front line being outnumbered by Germans.
Even though Haig was warned about the weakness of the British defences, he refused to change his mind.
Initially, German rapid offensives captured more territory in this campaign than any other battle in the entire war: 65km gained and 300 000 British casualties in 4 week – allied defeat was possible and Germans were in shell range of Paris.
However each operation failed to capitalise on the ground gained due to lack of men and supplies. With no men left in reserve, the tired German armies then faced an Allied counter-offensive.
July – Allies succeeded in capturing the village of Le Hamel in 96 minutes by coordinating infantry, Mark V tanks, air support and the tactic of creeping barrage – General Monash
Allied Commander in Chief – Foch, push the Germans back from the Marne and Flanders, while Haig launched a massive attack near Amiens on 8 August, totally demoralising German forces.
Ludendorff referred to 8 August as ‘the black day of the German Army’. – by then, men and supplies were exhausted.
Foch then coordinated attacks from US, French, British, Commonwealth and Belgian forces along the front.
Late August, Allied forces reached the Hindenburg Line and broke through on 3 October.
1st spring offensive – German success and in range of Paris
Allied military leaders were shocked by the success – decided to have one military commander in chief
Under the new command of Ferdinand Foch, the German advance was driven back. It was mostly due to the German’s having difficulties maintaining supply lines that they retreated.
2nd offensive – German success but retreated and morale declined considerably at this point – refused to continue offensives.
The Allies then sent British reinforcements in large numbers and again German supply lines failed which pushed German troops back. The morale of the German troops declined considerably.
3rd and final offensive – allied counterattacked
American troops started coming in waves of 25 000 – 100 000 to the Western Front every month. 275 000 was sent in June alone.
The allies counterattack came on 18 June with the Second Battle of the Marne.
‘black day of the Germany Army’ – The French and British forces then launched the Amiens offensive which consisted superior numbers of tanks, aircraft and artillery fire.
The British began liberating towns along the Somme known as the “Hundred days Campaign”
Hindenburg Line fell – Ludendorff and the German High Command realise they had lost
Ludendorff resigned and advised Reichstag to seek peace.
They considered the 14 points to be far better than any peace from France and Britain. However, Wilson and allies would only negotiate if Germany to evacuate all occupied territory and install a new government
Strikes, mutinies and threat of revolution demanded Kaiser’s abdication
Kaiser abdicated and fled to Holland
Strikes, mutinies and growing threat of revolution sky rocketed.
War ended and armistice was signed
Reasons for the Allied victory and German collapse
Naval blockade starved Germany of vital raw materials and food, contributing to the collapse of the German home front and adversely affecting Germany’s ability to wage war
Labour shortages, strikes, mutinies and opposition to the war in Germany
Agricultural labourers were called up to join the German army – food shortages
Allies were superior economically and militarily and Germany could not continue a 2 front war
Allies had infinite supply of manpower and resources
War of attrition proved the allies were superior in economic strength
USA entry strengthened the Allies and had devastating impact on morale to Germans
Germany ran out of reserves to face the Allied counter-attack and casualties were irreplaceable
Allied tactics and coordination of new technologies improved – tanks and Ferdinand Foch
Failure of the Schlieffen Plan, German offensives and weak German allies
Austrian armies were continually reinforced by German soldiers on the Eastern Front
The Bulgarian armies were defeated by the British and the Serbs
Austria then fell to the Italians at Vittorio-Vento and by October 1918 Turkey surrendered.
German offensive failed and opened the way for a massive Allied counter-offensive which pushed German forces back across the Hindenburg line – exhausted and demoralised at this point
The roles and differing goals of Clemenceau, Lloyd George and Wilson in creating the Treaty of Versailles
Paris Peace Conference – the Big 3 of the three great powers held back from making strong demands either by a failure to negotiate freely or by a politically insecure position at home
Concerns on national boundaries, communist Russia, economies had to be rebuilt and question of reparations had to be decided
‘we shall squeeze the German lemon until the pips squeak’