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Why did a stalemate develop on the Western Front??

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Introduction

Why did a stalemate develop on the Western Front?? Following on from the battle of Marne (September 1914) there was a deadlock between the opposing forces fighting it out in France. This deadlock surprised people by making the war carry on for a number of years, until finally ending before December 1918. The majority of people think that this is due to the poor tactics used by the hierarchy, the new style of combat, used trench warfare, or the failure of the Germany's Schlieffen Plan. The Schlieffen plan was Germany's hopes of a winning in a quick and decisive war. A large right wing would sweep through Belgium and then curl around to encircle Paris. While another force came straight from Germany to trap the French defences so that they German troops on either side. There would also be light, feinted, attacks on the well defended fortress towns of the France/German border. There were a number of gambles the Schlieffen plan- firstly Belgium wouldn't put up any resistance against the German troops marching through; thirdly Britain would remain neutral and not reinforce Belgium if it was attacked. Von Schlieffen also gambled on the fact that Russia would take more than 6 weeks to mobilize. He believed however that France could easily be defeated in those 6 weeks. Helmuth von Moltke replaced Von Schlieffen as German Army Chief of Staff, before the plan was put into action. Von Moltke made a number of changes to the plan before 1914: firstly, von Moltke did not believe that Holland would give permission to traverse her territory, and dropped the idea of an advance of the German right wing by this route. ...read more.

Middle

Further south, General Fayolle was to advance with the French Sixth Army towards Combles. General Sir Douglas Haig took over responsibility for the operation and with the help of General Sir Henry Rawlinson, came up with his own plan of attack. Haig's strategy was for a eight-day preliminary bombardment that he believed would completely destroy the German forward defenses. This was because the German defenses were strong, i.e. there were several lines of trenches, supported by machine guns, and behind them a number of heavily fortified villages. In the rear the German artillery was ready to fire on no-man's land, ready to pour down fire on any advancing soldiers. To deal with these defenses, Haig, the Allied Commander in Chief, believed that an extended artillery bombardment was necessary. Haig confidently believed that there would not be 'even a rat' alive in the German trenches and ordered the British soldiers to advance in waves, at walking pace. As planned, before the attack the enemy was bombarded with shell after shell from the British artillery. Haig then used 27 divisions (750,000 men) against the German front-line (16 divisions). However, the bombardment failed to destroy the barbed wire before the German trenches. In fact the shelling tangled up the wire even more than it was before, the attacking armies would now have to cut it. The artillery also failed to even slightly damage the concrete bunkers that the German soldiers were taking cover in. ...read more.

Conclusion

Haig could have changed his tactics after the first day, preventing further losses, or waited for the tanks, which were now arriving on the front in numbers. However at the Somme he knew that the French needed to be relieved from pressure at Verdun. A stalemate developed on the Western Front after the battle of Marne (September 1914), the deadlock between the opposing armies remained until 1918. Did the stalemate was occurred because of the poor tactics used by the hierarchy, the new style of combat, used - trench warfare, or the failure of the German's Schlieffen Plan? The failure of the Schlieffen plan shocked the German army authorities, and the commander of the army at that time, General Erich Von Falkenhayn, ordered his men to dig trenches so that no captured land would be lost. As a result the allies dug trenches too. So the Schlieffen plan's failure caused the first trenches to be dug, but as the commanders weren't expecting this they weren't aware of what to do. Numerous tactics were used to try to gain land and make a break through the other side's trenches. However when this happened, support was needed to strengthen the troops who had made the break through and often the reinforcements did not arrive soon enough to keep that land. The tactics used were often well and thoroughly planned, nevertheless the sides had a lack of knowledge about the others defenses and trench networks, so when the whistle to go over the top came the soldiers were often mowed down by machine guns and blasted by artillery fire. Laurence Oglesby 10M5 04/05/07 Page 1 of 5 ...read more.

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