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Describe the conditions that soldiers experienced on the Western Front in the years 1915-1917.

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Introduction

History Coursework World War One 1. Describe the conditions that soldiers experienced on the Western Front in the years 1915-1917. The soldiers on the Western Front stayed mostly in the trenches when there was no fighting during the years 1915-1917. The trenches were developed in December 1914. These were dug to protect them and it also stopped the other side from advancing. Trenches were dug from Switzerland up to the Channel. The conditions that they had to live through were very bad, the food they ate wasn't much good, there was a lack of hygiene and many soldiers caught diseases. About a million more soldiers died with disease than the amount of soldiers that died during battle. This is how difficult life was in the trenches. Soldiers feared everyday what would happen to them. There were many different trenches. The plan of a trench system started with a short trench, which led to the small post where either one or two soldiers listened out quietly for any signs o f movement from the enemy. The small post was in No Man's Land. Thereafter came the front-line firing trenches. From here soldiers would shoot at the enemy. In a front-line trench, there would be a dugout, which would be about 21/2 metres in height. There would be duckboards, a fire step to help the soldier get high enough to shoot at the enemy, ammunition shelves to keep extra ammunition in case they ran out. The front-line trench would be surrounded from the top with sandbags and barbed wire to make it difficult for the enemy to get into their trench. After the front-line trench came the support trenches and dugouts. These were more comfortable than the front-line as it had kitchens and lavatories. Further behind this came the reserve trenches. In the reserve trenches were the blacksmiths, tailors and cobblers, field hospitals, battalion headquarters. Also in the reserve trenches were the army commanders. To get to each trench (e.g. from front-line to support trench) ...read more.

Middle

Secondly the design of the trenches increased the safety of the soldiers and made it easier for them to defend the trenches. The front-line trench was designed with a fire-step and an ammunition box, as well as a duckboard. The fire-step allowed the soldier to get high enough to be able to shoot at the enemy and the duckboard was where the soldier stood. The ammunition shelf had extra ammunition in it for the soldier to use when he ran out of ammunition. The trenches were protected with barbed wire, which made it even harder for the enemy to be able to get into the trench. Finally the new weapons made it more easier to defend trenches. The new howitzers could fire shells over 13 kilometres and the water-cooled machine guns could fire 600 bullets a minute. This is why it was very hard to lose the war but easy to defend the trenches. As it was easy to defend trenches, this made it very difficult to advance. Flying was risky because the aeroplanes were not fully equipped for an attack. Mostly weapons were not carried on aeroplanes because they were used for reconnaissance. It was also hard to communicate. The aeroplanes were only basic; they never had any navigation or radio. To communicate sign language had to be used. When reconnaissance was used both sides knew that an attack would be launched. It was also difficult to advance because before the soldiers could get to the enemy's trenches they had to cross No Man's Land. No Man's Land was very difficult to cross because by artillery bombardment it became full of shell holes and unexploded shells. Once the soldiers got out of the trenches they became easy targets. The machine gun would kill hundreds of soldiers when they came out. Horses would get stuck in the mud. The new technology that was used didn't serve the traditional battle tactics. ...read more.

Conclusion

After all of these casualties they only manages to gain 8 kilometres. There were a few reasons why the Battle of the Somme failed to meet the British Objectives. The first reason is during the weeklong artillery bombardment the Germans were all safe in the bunkers. The British were shelling empty trenches. The second reason was that Haig under estimated the machine gun and this caused the deaths of many soldiers in the battle. The soldiers when advancing towards the German line travelled walking with their rifles in their hands, walking shoulder to shoulder. This made them easy targets for the Germans, therefore making it easy fir them to kill them. Another reason why the Battle of the Somme failed to meet the British objectives was that the army that fought for the British was a completely inexperienced army, they were a group of men who volunteered to fight. This was another factor that lead to failure of meeting the objectives. There were a few more reasons. These were that even after Haig and the other Generals saw the failure of the first wave of soldiers, they sent another wave, and after seeing them fail as well they sent another wave. They carried on with the same tactics throughout the whole battle. There was also a lack of communication between Generals and soldiers. The Generals were too far behind the front-line. The final reason was that even after the weeklong artillery bombardment the barbed wire had not been cut properly. In some places it was cut, in others it wasn't, and in other places the wire was made even worse getting soldiers stuck in it. The shells that were thrown at the German trenches during the bombardment were not very accurate, one shell in three failed to explode. The mud was churned up by this making it very difficult for them to cross no-mans land. All of these factors contributed to explain why the battle of the Somme failed to meet British objectives. ...read more.

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