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“For 3 years from the end of 1914 to early 1918, the Western Front never moved more than a mile or so. In 1918 considerable movement occurred as first the Germans and then the Allies advanced. Why did these changes happen so quickly?”

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Introduction

"For 3 years from the end of 1914 to early 1918, the Western Front never moved more than a mile or so. In 1918 considerable movement occurred as first the Germans and then the Allies advanced. Why did these changes happen so quickly?" At the end of 1914, both armies discovered that with the type of war they were fighting, it was much easier to defend than attack. And so began three long years of trench life, with neither army being able to make any breakthrough into open ground. Many major offensives were made throughout this part of the war, such as Verdun by the Germans and the Somme by the British. These are both well known for being very unsuccessful and for huge loss of life. Although neither side made the same catastrophic mistake again, there were many other battles that made little progress such as 3rd Ypres. Then suddenly, in 1918 the Germans made a breakthrough, and suddenly the war was back to one of movement. But what factors established this in 1918 and what was different from the early years of the war. Before 1914, this type of hard, attritional warfare had never been experienced. In 1914, war culture changed forever. Instead of two sides lining up on adjacent hills, with their brightly coloured flags waving high, waiting for someone to charge into battle. ...read more.

Middle

One idea is that with Foch having control the allies were able to mobilise a counter attack so quickly in 1918 that could have led to the allied victory. On the other hand Seaman believes that new tactics by the Germans enabled them to make the first breakthrough in March. They did this by using stormtroopers of various arms who would seek out weak points in the lines exploiting these and avoiding strongholds. The kind of tactics used in the Second World War and wars ever since. Seaman's dislike of Haig results in him expressing his view that because these new tactics were so successful, German morale wasn't really broken down in 1917, so in fact Ypres had no gains at all. This point seems a bit extreme and is simple due to Seaman's biases towards Haig being an incompetent general. Resulting in this point not being very useful. Another point still suggests that the tank was the decisive weapon in the offensives of the Allies. This point I find very untrue because of the unreliability of the tanks and their sluggishness around the battlefield. They almost seem to do more harm than good, sometimes killing men inside the tanks from heat exhaustion and head injuries. Even though Ludendorff said in his memoirs that the tanks on 8th August were very decisive, he is always making excuses in his memoirs for losing the war. ...read more.

Conclusion

This experience enabled them to come up with the ideas in 1918 when they needed to be quick on their feet. The main point of why 1918 was the year was because of the 1917 revolution in Russia. This is what made everything happen so quickly in 1918, it was the final straw of the war. The Russians left and the Americans entered so basically it was a new war, and they were back in 1914 again, But with one major difference, that the Generals had the knowledge and experience of trench warfare to breakout of the trenches into a war of movement. So to answer the question of why everything happened so quickly is because nothing had happened before 1918. Everything had been building up and getting ready for the deadlock to break, and with the trigger being the revolution in Russia, everything was set to go and it went with light speed. The revolution happened, Russia left the war, America entered, Ludendorff moved his men to the west and made a breakthrough, Allies retaliated and went on to win the war. All in the space of 1 year, and it was all because everything was stuck, the technology was there, the new tactics were there all it needed was a push. Which is what in got from Russia in 1917, a final straw to break the deadlock, and no wonder why it moved so quickly after that. [K1] ...read more.

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