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100 Years On – Stalemate

I’ve struggled with how to approach the battles of the First World War.  They seem to take on a ghastly, but wholly predictable pattern:

  1. A general and his staff point to a line on the map.
  2. Massive supplies of arms and men concentrate on both sides of the front line.  Both sides can see what the other is doing, making the element of surprise almost worthless.
  3. Artillery preparation, sometimes lasting days, sometimes lasting weeks, is made in an attempt to soften the enemy lines.
  4. Waves of infantry attempt to get across to the other side’s trenches.  Enemy artillery, machine guns, and infantry emerge from dugouts to slow down or stop the attackers.
  5. The enemy counter-attacks and attempts to retake any trenches that have fallen to the attack.

Progress was measured in hundreds of yards and thousands of lives.   From the safe distance of a century, the various battles on both fronts begin to blur into a melange of mud, blood, and suffering.  There was always an almost static level of dead and wounded from such things as artillery and sniping, but that steady flow would become a torrent when the whistles would sing and men would go over the top to run into the teeth of a sophisticated, well-prepared defensive line.

I will be talking about major battles and events in the war, but to discuss each and every one of them would numb me to the importance of what happened on those fields of France and Poland.  I’m going to discuss the battles that were turning points, either in results or method, and major events.  But, please, keep in mind that the fighting never stopped, and the armies never stopped grinding against each other.

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1 Comment

  1. skidmark

     /  April 8, 2015

    WWI was the last days of traditional Continental warfare where Side A lined up against Side B (also lined up) and exchanged volleys at each other. It was also the beginnings of arial and maneuver warfare along with a few other technological advances. Generals, being tied genetically to fighting the previous war, were totally PO’d when those sneaky Germans aggregated all that tecnological advancement (yes, that is a word) and rolled over them until they reached the end of their supply lines.

    stay safe.


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