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World War 1 - Development of the Stalemate

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Introduction

Why did a Stalemate develop on the Western Front? A stalemate is when neither side can make any significant advances or progress. This can also be called a deadlock, a standoff or a dead heat. While in chess, a stalemate means a draw and the end of a game, in a battle or war, a stalemate can be temporary, and broken at a later stage. I will be looking at how the stalemate developed in World War 1. I will research events in the period between the start of the war and Christmas 1914, the events that lead up to the digging of trenches, and the start of an unprecedented war. When war broke out in 1914, war plans had already been drawn up. In Germany's case, this meant the Schlieffen plan. This involved invading France via Belgium, and heading straight to Paris, leading to a quick victory. On the 3rd of August 1914, Germany poured troops into Belgium. ...read more.

Middle

It was a success, and the German commander, Moltke, organised a retreat. The Germans withdrew 40 miles, with the British and the French pursuing. The Battle of the Marne is known for the first effective use of airplane reconnaissance, which helped identify weak points in the German line. It was after the German retreat, that they started digging trenches, and the stalemate began. The allied forces pushed on, and met the German trenches, which were easy to defend. The allies began to try and flank the Germans, via the open right wing, however were repeatedly repelled. The Germans tried to do the same, and the two sides began exchanging attacks, while lengthening the trenches to keep up with the movement north. It has become known as the 'Race to the Sea'. Once the two armies reached the channel, the attention turned to the other flank, until the front line stretched from the channel to the border of Switzerland, some 400 miles. ...read more.

Conclusion

For example, in the past, cavalry had been a main part of an army; however, with the trenches in place, and new weapons like machine guns, they were not very useful. All of the events formed a chain, each triggered by the previous ones end. Therefore it is difficult to see which reason was the main cause of the stalemate. If you look at the start of the chain, the Belgian resistance provided the BEF with time to arrive, and without it, the war could have ended a lot sooner. However, if you look at the individual causes, the Battle of the Marne illuminates as the cause of the stalemate. If the BEF and the French had been unsuccessful in their endeavours, the Germans may have made it to Paris, knocking France out of the war. In my opinion, the battle of the Marne is the main cause, because that is the point at which Germans retreated from their original plans and dug trenches. The digging of trenches marked the end of a war of movement, and the start of a slow war of attrition. ...read more.

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