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Was there much change in the fighting methods employed by the British Army on the western front in the years 1915-1918?

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Was there much change in the fighting methods employed by the British Army on the western front in the years 1915-1918? Explain your answer. Matt Elliman l The traditional interpretation of the first world war and the tactics employed by officers is that of blundering 'donkeys' sending thousands of 'lions' over the top to their deaths, an example of this is portrayed in the popular black adder sketch. There was some continuity such as in the scale of casualties and trench warfare yet at the same time there was rapid change. The military tactics employed by the British army at the outbreak of war were traditionalist and backward compared to the advances in weaponry and technology. The common belief of the officers was that the way to win was to attack, charging and outflanking with the cavalry and following up with the infantry. This began to change as the 'war of movement' came to a close and trench warfare began. At first the belief was that if large enough numbers of infantry were used in wave after wave of aggressive bayonet charges then there was no way that the enemy could not be overwhelmed. This resulted in heavy casualties in the BEF, (what remained of the original force) and also in the French army. The underlying fault with this tactic was that with the advances made the advantage was with the defender, using trenches, bunkers, barbed wire and machine guns, the defenders (especially the Germans who utilised the machine gun first and on the greater scale) ...read more.


They were called landships due to the perception that they were an extension of the navy hence the whole idea of ships on land leading to 'landships'. Many people backed the development of the tank, (which gained its later name from the fact that they were disguised as water tanks) including Winston Churchill the then minister for war, and Lloyd George the prime minister. The early forms of the tank were unreliable and often ineffective, breaking down frequently, some times even before reaching the frontline. They were effective in boosting infantry morale at first and when they reached the German lines they scared and routed many soldiers on their first appearances, but once the unknown factor wore off and the infantry saw the problems with them and their tendency to get stuck they lost faith in them. Despite this the potential of the tank was demonstrated at Cambrai in 1917 and contributed significantly to the attack of the Hindenburg defences in 1918. The tank is an example of the enormity of change; they were used at first in small numbers, such as at flers where only 36 were used where as at Cambrai 474 tanks were used successfully. As well as in numbers there was change and advances in the tanks themselves, with the British producing mark 1 to mark 4 female (machine gun only) and male versions (included two six pounder guns) ...read more.


Throughout the middle of the war, late 1915 to the beginning of 1918, the general model for attacks were based on the battle of the loos; where the divisions were lined up in columns to attack in waves, protected by covering fire or advancing directly where the enemy had been neutralized by artillery bombardment. The use of the waves of attack was an attempt to ensure that wherever a breakthrough was discovered or achieved that it was exploited and held. Although these ideas had been developing in the British army before the war, they had received important backing from the French captain Laffargue. Thus showing how changes were not sudden yet gradual and various areas advanced at different rates and eventually cumulated in an improved base of attack. This was also a prelude to infiltration tactics which finally lead to a successful form attack with a combination of tanks, artillery and planes all in large numbers. One example is the numbers of machine guns, at the start of the war there were 1,330 in the British army with 4 guns per battalion and by the end the war there were 240,506 guns, at 30 per battalion and a machine gun corps. Therefore I believe there was great change in the British army's fighting methods, despite the continuity in trench warfare. Although it was not complete change, just the adoption and accepting of certain resources and strategies and the refinement of these ending in the successful combination of all these changes and technological advances. ...read more.

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