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Why did a stalemate develop on the Western Front?

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Introduction

B) Why did a stalemate develop on the Western Front? A stalemate formed on the Western Front due to four main reasons; one being that the Schlieffen plan had failed, another reason was to do with the defence technology of the time, another reason was to do with the layout of the trenches and the last reason was to do with the bad tactics of the generals. The Schlieffen Plan began to fail when Moltke, the German commander, altered the balance of the forces so that the right wing had three times as many troops as the left wing and as the right wing was smaller it advanced considerably slower than had been originally planned. The other main reason for the Schlieffen Plan failing was that all the assumptions made in the plan were far too optimistic: There was also more resistance from the Belgian, British and French forces than had been expected this caused the right wing to slow down and allowed the British and French forces to retreat and then counter-attack. ...read more.

Middle

The Germans built miniature forts ( block houses) to strengthen trench lines but they also used them to fire machine guns from as they were hard to destroy by enemy artillery and they could fire through the narrow slits in the walls. The British did not replicate this idea as they mistakenly believed it was not worth the labour or cost. Shells were used to bombard an enemy trench before attacking it in the hope that some of the enemy and its trench would be destroyed. Most of the time shells landed in 'no-man's land' creating great craters, making it even harder for troops to cross and shelling often removed the element of a surprise attack. Using snipers meant lying in 'no-man's land', camouflaged, and shooting any soldier who raised his head. This of course was not an ideal form of defence as it involved being in easy firing range of the enemy and did not eliminate masses of troops at a time. Rifles were not a practical method of defence as it took time to reload a rifle. ...read more.

Conclusion

Between each of these trenches were communication trenches. Behind the reserve trench was long range artillery, used for firing at enemy troops. In front of the front line trench was barbed wire and beyond that 'no-man's land' and the enemy trench. Air craft would often fly over head to warn troops of an attacking enemy. The Generals had not been used to fighting a war like this which is evident from observing their tactics. One example of bad tactics is General Haig's tactics at the Battle of the Somme in July 1916: Haig ordered his men to bombard the German trench with shell fire for a week before attacking. Unfortunately al the shell fire did was warn the German troops of an oncoming attack so when the British troops emerged from their trench to attack they were mowed down by enemy machine gunners. The troops were easily eliminated as the Generals had ordered ribbons to be tied round the gaps in the barbed wire so that the troops could see where to pass through; however, it also enabled the enemy to see where to shoot, resulting in a huge massacre of soldiers. These are the reasons a stalemate formed and why the war lasted so long. ...read more.

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