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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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Introduction

Was there much change in the fighting methods employed by the British Army on the Western Front in the years 1915-1918? During the period of 1915 to 1918 ordinary infantry soldiers existed in a barbaric and hostile atmosphere where they were cold, infested, malnourished and wet, and always living with the fear of sudden death. Intermingled with the intense periods of boredom that the soldiers faced were often gung-ho attempts to capture enemy trenches, which would often result in very little territory gained and huge losses of life. And with the depressing reality faced there was the increasingly nagging belief on the soldiers' minds that they were "lions led by donkeys." It is not difficult to see why this perspective might be taken. The main battles fought by the British in 1915 were failures. At both Neuve Chappelle (13,000 casualties) and Loos (115,000 casualties) British attacks had begun promisingly, then failed due to casualties caused by machine guns and artillery fire on troops who had been caught up on the uncut barbed wire. And it was the same story in 1916: Second Ypres (60,000 casualties), The Somme (420,000 casualties), and even worse in 1917: Even the Canadian triumph at Vimy Ridge and the victory at Messines Ridge were overshadowed by the vast numbers of casualties suffered in Arras and Third Ypres (250,000 casualties). ...read more.

Middle

But it was an extremely slow tank, with a top speed of 15 yards a minute. It wasn't bullet proof, even though it was meant to be, and was mechanically unreliable. Also, the engine had no cooler so the tank heated up to extremely high temperatures, and became full of corrosive gasses and consequently were very unpleasant for the crew also, these tanks were prone to breaking down spontaneously, which meant that the Germans could attack men while they were stuck in their tanks. The Germans did not take the tank seriously and thought that the British could never use it as a great advantage. At the battle of Cambrai (November 1917), however, the 'Mark 4' tank showed the Germans the full capability of the tank. 378 were used in total, and this design was quicker and more bullet proof than before, and for once was used effectively with fresh tactics. The ground that they were used on was not cratered by a preliminary bombardment, and was also slightly downward sloping, which was the best landscape for their all round caterpillar tracks to be used on. Due to their new advantages, the 'Mark 4' tank was not only used as a fighting tank, but as a supply tank, a gun carrier, a bridging tank, a telephone cable-laying tank or a tank for transporting wireless equipment. ...read more.

Conclusion

However, the Germans recognized this problem and, in 1916, the defence was modified to make a superior defence that could not so easily be broken. This was a more elaborate trench system, with large counter-attack formations held in reserve, and ready to re-take any ground lost by the troops in the front line. But there were more Allied force troops than German troops, as well as the British's possession of better and more developed fighting equipment. So in 1917 the Germans changed there defence to a 'rear-facing slope defence.' The aim of this was to allow the enemy to exhaust itself, yet husband its own forces. A 'Killing Ground' was set up as the forward zone, which prevented the enemy of being able to shell the first and second lines at the same time. The rest of the ground was used to occupy reverse-facing slopes to deny accurate observation. But this defence was no match for the British 'creeping barrage' fighting technique, so in the end the Germans were forced to improvise defence, and eventually couldn't hold on any longer and lost. There was a good deal of change in fighting methods from 1915-18, but most of these changes were indicative to the actions of the enemy. If one side made a change, then the other would have to react to it accordingly. ...read more.

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