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Why was there a stalemate on the Western Front for three years?

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Stalemate Why was there a stalemate on the Western Front for three years? The basic problem was that army commanders in every country had not done their homework. It was assumed that the war would be over quickly, like the Franco-Prussian war in 1870, but the machine guns and barbed wire made quick advances increasingly difficult. They also made the use of cavalry - which most armies believed would be the decisive weapon almost impossible. The two British Commanders - in chief, Sir John French and Douglas Haig, were both cavalry officers and kept large cavalry forces in reserve behind the front line waiting for the big breakthrough that never came. ...read more.


During the Battle of Passchendaele (Tjird Ypres), which began on 31st July 1917, the ground was so sodden that duck-boards had to be laid for troops to advance along. Coloured ribbons showed them where the duck-boards were. If anybody slipped off, the weight of their pack and equipment (about 25 kilos) dragged them under the mud. Army regulations prevented soldiers from trying to help anyone who fell into the mud, in case they fell as well. On the main gate at Ypres are the names of almost 55,000 soldiers who have no known grave. Another 35,000 name are recorded at Tyne Cot cemetery at the top of the battlefield of Passchendaele. ...read more.


Elsewhere, particularly if the front lines were wide apart, life in the trenches could be very different, even boring, with just the rats, fleas, mud, dirty water, cold food and stench of dead bodies to worry about. When the British first occupied the Somme area in August 1915, it was described as 'cushy' - meaning easy. The 48th South Midland Division won the nickname 'The Goalkeepers', because they 'held the line' and did not take part in any action. But if a soldier found himself on the front line at the start of one of the major battles, he knew what to expect. Some 30 per cent of troops who went 'over the top' at the first whistle would be killed and another 40 per cent would be wounded. Only 30 per cent would be expected to survive uninjured in any attack. ...read more.

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