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Was there much change in warfare on the Western Front between the end of 1914 and March 1918?

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Introduction

Was there much change in warfare on the Western Front between the end of 1914 and March 1918? Between the end of 1914 and March 1918, warfare changed a great deal. It changed mostly in terms of technology and tactics. It also saw the beginning and end of trench warfare. Technology played a major part in the First World War. New technology enabled new forms of warfare, never seen before, to be used. Predominantly, it introduced chemical warfare, tank warfare, machine guns and aircraft warfare. Although gas attacks can be traced back to the 5th Century B.C., chemical warfare was not much heard of until WWI. It was introduced in April 1915, when the Germans used chlorine gas against the French at Ypres. The introduction of gas was in a way long-term, as gas has been a constant threat, even though not much used, ever since the Great War. Gas was first released in gas cylinders, which released gas clouds to be blown by the wind. However, this could mean that the gas would be blown back towards the friendly side, as it was on many occasions, so the Germans developed gas-shells, first used in 1916. The first gases used by the Germans were asphyxiating: flooding the lungs. The first of these, chlorine, reacted with the ammonia in urine, making an excellent method of protection possible. ...read more.

Middle

However, even with the advent of the machine gun, rifles stayed as the primary weapon of a soldier, as they were cheap, light, reliable, and soldiers were already well trained in their use. Machine guns were also used extensively with aircraft, another new World War One invention. In 1914, the Germans had 240 aircraft, the French 150 and the British had 60. Airplanes were originally only used for reconnaissance. The standard British military aircraft at the outbreak of the war was the BE-2 biplane. It was a slow but stable plane with a top speed of 72 mph, initially used for reconnaissance and light bombing. It remained in use on the Western Front until the middle of 1917, having gone through five versions. However, as the amount and usefulness of reconnaissance planes increased, there was a necessity to get rid of them. There were many failed experiments in attaching a machine gun to an airplane, until early in 1915, when deflector plates were installed. These were steel plates on the propeller blades which deflected any bullets that would hit them. However, still in 1915, the Germans developed a much better system: the interrupter. This synchronised the firing of the machine gun with the propeller. By the end of the year, most aircraft, Allied or German, had machine guns installed, and stability had been sacrificed for manoeuvrability and speed, e.g. ...read more.

Conclusion

By autumn 1916, the Allies could attain a speed of 50 metres per minute. Another development of the war was tunnelling. Tunnels were dug under no man's land to place mines. The British especially used this tactic, increasing the size and amount of the explosives every time, from 20 tons in two mines during the Somme offensive, to 600 tons in 20 mines at Messines. The idea that cavalry would win the war was kept through the whole war, even though the cavalry was nearly never successfully used. In 1914, most of the major armies had around a third of their strength in cavalry. The British, French and German armies all considered their cavalry to be an elite force and had considerable influence over the tactics used during battles. However, cavalry was not used for reconnaissance, as the new airplanes were much better, and they could not be used for trench warfare, as machine guns were extremely effective against the,. However, at nearly every offensive, the cavalry were waiting for an opportunity to charge towards the enemy. The idea and usage (or lack thereof) of cavalry never changed through the whole war. In conclusion, even though there were things that did not change in warfare on the Western Front between the end of 1914 and March 1918, the period did see many other changes, both in technology and in tactics, even the whole concept of war changing from movement to trench and back. ...read more.

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