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Britain and the First World War 1914 –1918 Sources Questions

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GCSE History Coursework Depth Study E - Britain and the First World War 1914 -1918 Objectives 1 & 2 Assignment A - The Battle of the Somme Question 3 'The Battle of the Somme provides an excellent opportunity to study the changing tactics of World War I and the advances in warfare.' Do you agree with this statement? The tactics and technology used in the Battle of the Somme were both those of traditional warfare (use of infantry and cavalry) and those of modern origin: the use of tanks, artillery, gas, and mines, among other things. The Battle of the Somme shows a useful comparison between the two, and shows just how effective they were. Firstly, the old tactics were not terribly effective. The infantry were mainly used for mass bayonet charges, as this was believed to be the most effective way to take over enemy positions; the French commanders sent their infantry straight into the battlefield with no equipment to dig trenches. Unfortunately for the infantry, they were particularly susceptible to machine gun fire, and both sides suffered from this. The cavalry were still considered a major part of warfare in the First World War, and the British, French, and German armies all had about one third of their entire armies as cavalry. ...read more.


Phosgene caused more than eighty per cent of the gas casualties in the First World War: it did not take immediate effect, but after a few days caused acute inflammation of the lungs and those who felt quite healthy afterwards often died suddenly in the next couple of days. The German army first used chlorine; it destroyed the respiratory organs, and lead to a slow death by asphyxiation. One nurse watched the death of a soldier by chlorine: "He was sitting on the bed, fighting for breath, his lips plum coloured. He was a magnificent young Canadian past all hope in the asphyxia of chlorine. I shall never forget the look in his eyes as he turned to me and gasped: I can't die! Is it possible that nothing can be done for me?" Gas masks were developed soon afterwards: the photograph below shows the crudeness of the first gas masks: just a piece of cotton wool soaked in urine, with goggles attached. The ammonia in the urine neutralised the effect of the chlorine although it cannot have been terribly pleasant to have urine against your face, although undoubtedly more so than being killed by chlorine. The only real disadvantages of using gas was that if the wind was wrong, it could get blown back into the gasser's trenches. ...read more.


Torpedoes could hit a target up to eight kilometres away, and could be launched from ships, submarines, or the air, making attacking options much more flexible. Sea mines were developed to blow up enemy ships, and were very effective if not detected. Special ships known as minesweepers were invented to safely remove any intrusive mines from where the big battleships wanted to sail. Radio had a much longer range, and allowed contact between boats, planes, and HQ. Aircraft carriers were used to get planes closer to enemy ships for reconnaissance purposes, to get more precise coordinates of the enemy's position, to allow the ship to get close enough to start firing without endangering itself. Submarines were used which made it very easy to hide from enemy ships, and to torpedo them. In conclusion, I think that the Battle of the Somme provides an excellent opportunity to study the changing tactics and technology of World War One, since it used both old tactics and new ones, of which the cavalry proved to be rather ineffective, and although the use of tanks seemingly failed, they showed a great potential future usage. Although the Battle of the Somme did not include all of the new technologies mentioned above, (simply because aircraft carriers and battleships are not desperately practical on the battlefield) it did include a lot of them, and showed their strengths and weaknesses. Alex Pinkney 11R Page 1 ...read more.

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