Trench Warfare Research and Source Analysis

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Section 1a)Trench Warfare was a method of fighting the Germans were forced to employ against the French after the failure of the Schlieffen Plan. Count Alfred Von Schlieffen, a German military strategist developed a plan for the Germans to use if faced with a two front war. His plan involved encircling the French and taking Paris from behind in a quick and decisive victory on the Western Front. He would then move all his troops onto the Eastern Front with the use of the European railway system to fight Russia. The hammer swing encirclement plan failed and forced the Germans to retreat from French territory. Not wanting to lose the territory they had gained the Germans dug into trenches at the River Marne, which soon formed the stalemate on the Western Front.

The nature of trench warfare is very attritionistic. Trench Warfare strategy was to strongly defend your own position and attack the enemy in an effort to reach the final lines.

In doing the latter, the common sequence of events in a trench war is a mass military bombardment of shells followed by a charge or march of soldiers towards enemy lines. The bombardment was made to damage and at best destroy fortifications and cause as many casualties as possible. The infantry would then run through the artillery destroyed landscape and into the trenches where they would attack. This ideal plan of fighting was far from how the advances worked. This prototypical plan would have been effective if it was not for the advantage that the defending army had. An advance was laborious, costly in lives and only achieved minimal distance. The use of the machine gun made slashing actions by storm or shock troopers virtually impossible. If the defensive line broke; the defending army could bring in reserves through protected trenches much quicker than the attacking army could advance. The reasons behind this lies in the efficiency and reliability of Western Europe's railways and roads. The attacking side also had to find there way through the country wrecked by bombardment.

The trenches on the Western Front consisted of deep, winding dugout channels. The trench systems of the Germans, stretched from the English Channel in the North, to the Swiss border in the South. Once the two sides were dug in, the war changed from a traditional war of movement into an alien war of position. The traditional units of horse cavalry, various war strategies and weaponry disappeared completely from the battle front and were replaced by a whole new way of battle.

The Ross Rifle, Sawn-Off Shotgun and the British SMLE replaced traditional infantry weapons like revolvers and swords. These hand held weapons were developed to overcome the problems of jamming that happened in the muddy and dirty conditions of Trench Warfare. The need for concealable and accurate weaponry was essential; so the Periscope Rifle was used so a shot could be carefully fired from the cover of the trench. With trenches being a relatively temporary structure, fortifications had to be made to defend the trenches, so barbed wire was used. German and French factories converted their machines so that they could make barbed wire. The masses of barbed wire that were regularly delivered to the trenches were entangled and heaped into thick high fences all along the frontline. Up to five barbed wire fences were set up and held together with anything from Timber stakes to common shrapnel. Wire fortifications proved to be one of the most important necessities for the opposing sides. The wire slowed down movement on the front and prevented quick attacks by infantry and cavalry. The wire brought about the disappearance of the Cavalry. Not only was wire a leading cause for this disappearance, concealing a few hundred horses in narrow trenches might have posed a problem..

b)Life in the trenches varied greatly depending on which section of the trench line you fought on. The battalions in front line warfare experienced the worst possible conditions as opposed to those manning the artillery at the rear of the fighting. Both the allies and the Germans experienced the horrible effects of disease and infection, and there were many contributors to these.

Sanitary conditions in both trenches were very insufficient, especially when the length of the time in these trenches is considered. 1's and 2's were done in shallow holes to a standard depth instead of in some form of toilet, or if necessary done where the person was standing. When combined with the sometimes knee deep water that filled the trenches, a putrid stench was conjured. This lack of personal hygiene led to an array of dysentery diseases, diarrhoea and other potentially fatal diseases. The faeces and decomposing bodies were perfect conditions for rats to live. The rats ate much of the extremely limited food rations provided to both armies and stole food from ration stores. The rats carried potentially deadly diseases both internally, in their blood and organs as well as externally, in their fur and on teeth. Lice were also common. They came in on rats but were spread by people. The lice, once attached to a persons' hair caused 'trench fever'. The symptoms of 'trench fever' are; sudden pain, nausea, chronic headaches and inflamed red spots all over the body. If a soldier was to be relieved of this he had to stay out of the trenches for 12 weeks, as no cure had been found. Due to the terrible conditions , the diseases and pests were common to both allied and German forces. However, British forces were worst affected as their trenches were far less sophisticated than the Germans.

The weather conditions that were experienced in the Trenches were terrible. The temperature would plummet at night to -15 Û« C and when combined with the unbelievable amounts of rain caused many people frost bite, gangrene causing amputation and sleep deprivation. The rain collected all over the battle fields and trenches as a result of the military bombardments that had destroyed the natural drainage systems. When the rain was at its highest peaks it would fill the trench systems with knee deep stagnant disease filled water. As the water could not escape the soldiers would be forced to stand in it for days. This caused severe cases of trench foot and pneumonia. In the below freezing temperatures, the mud would freeze, making for even harsher circumstances than the usual mud. Both Sides obviously experienced the same weather conditions, but it was the Allies who experienced the effects of it worst. The poor trench construction and flood ability of the allies' trenches made trench foot and gangrene more infectious.

Troops didn't have much time away from the fighting. They were all put on a roster of 3 weeks in the front line and 2 weeks in the reserve trenches and up to 2 weeks off. This idealistic rotation was often changed due to the intensity of the fighting in certain areas. However when soldiers did have time off, they would play games of soccer, cards and shoot rats. Soccer was a very popular game amongst the troops and many scores have been recorded. Card games were played for fun or to win valuables at the time, such as food rations and warm clothing etc. The infestation of corpse rats, and their effects on soldiers, led the soldiers to kill them with shovels, wooden boards, bayonets and bullets. All of these games and entertainment sources were common to both Allied and German Soldiers.

c)Everyone expected the war to be short and over by the Christmas of 1914, this however was not the case. Four years of very little ground gain changed the attitudes of both allied and German soldiers in a variety of ways.

The British and the French made up the majority of the Allies before the entry of America. An abundance of French failures, stupidity and poor judgement led to the British to resent their own allies. Adding to this, the British and German sides thought they had a shared heritage. Towards the end of the war, both sides' combatants considered why they were involved in this destructive war. As the British and Germans realised the massive death toll the stalemate produced, an empathy and underlying mateship developed. This was first seen during the Christmas of 1914. The Christmas truce, as it is commonly known amongst historians, was an unofficial armistice between all parties, however it was interpreted differently between the British and French.

The British engaged in an unofficial Christmas truce during 1914. Captain Charles Stockwell of the Fifth Welsh Fusiliers peered over a trench parapet and saw the German parapet facing him, was lined with flickering lights and the chorus of 'Stille Nacht' (Silent Night). After a few minutes of taking in and understanding what was happening, Stockwell's fusiliers responded with 'Joy to the World'. The Germans shouted 'Merry Christmas' followed and added, 'Don't shoot we'll send beer!'. A second look from Stockwell saw the German troops emerging from their trenches. Both armies met in the middle of 'no mans land' and exchanged gifts of candy and cigarettes and in some cases, addresses. This historic event shows how the wartime beliefs of both sides were beginning to change; from an immense hatred brought about by propaganda on the home front to a somewhat empathetic war.

The 'Live and Let Live' theory was a theory established in the later days of the war when the soldiers were seeing their fellow soldiers or good mates die. It was an unwritten rule on both sides that you did not fire at the enemy during the dinner hour, nor when they might be having tea. Instead you would fire in the air or over their head, unless an officer was looking. You would also let men with white flags collect their wounded.

Section 2Source 1Title Of Source: Times Atlas Of World HistoryPublished: 1978, William Collins, Sydney and AucklandPublisher: Times Books Ltd, 18 Ogle Street, London W.1.

Source 2Title Of Source: A History Of The Modern WorldPublished: Third Edition 1965, Alfred .A. Knopf, New YorkPublisher: R.R. Palmer (Princeton University) and Joel Colton (Duke University)Source 3Title Of Source: An Incomplete History Of World War 1Published: 2007, Murdoch Books AustraliaPublisher: Edwin Kiester JRSource 4Title Of Source: Encyclopaedia Britannica Volume 18Published: 1768, Encyclopaedia Britannica, incPublisher: William BentonSource 5URL Of Source: http://www.geocities.com/Athens/Rhodes/6916/ww1.htm#sixDate Accessed: Sunday, 16 November 2008, 4:31:41 PMSource 6URL Of Source: http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/FWWtrench.htmDate Accessed: Thursday, 4 December 2008, 8:29:58 PMSource 7URL Of Source: http://www.firstworldwar.com/features/trenchlife.htmDate Accessed: Thursday, 4 December 2008, 8:33:05 PMSource 8Source Type: PhotoSource Title: Cheshire Regiment trench Somme 1916Date of Photography: July 1916 by Lt. J. W. Brooke.

Source 9Source Type: LetterWritten By: French Captain Noel ChavasseSource 10Source Type: VisualSource Title: WW1 in ColourLocation Of Source: History ChannelSection 3Source 1Title: Cheshire Regiment trench Somme 1916Source 1 AnalysisThis source is a picture taken in 1916 of a trench at the Battle of the Somme. The trench was held by the Cheshire Regiment. This source has both a high reliability and usefulness. The reliability of this source is exceptional because it was taken at the time of the event, 1916, and was not a staged photo. This source was very useful to me and has helped me understand the life and conditions that were experienced when living in the trenches. Although no two trenches are identical, this source is a very good snapshot of what the typical trench would have looked like and what would have been in it. Duck boards, fortifications, cramped living conditions, poor construction, weapons and sleeping soldiers seen in this picture of the Cheshire Regiments trench were all very useful.

Source 2 AnalysisThis source is an extract out of A History Of The Modern World. Its reliability is high, along with its usefulness. Its reliability is high due to the fact that it is one of three editions, originally published in 1965. This source has been useful to me in my study of trench warfare, as it gives a range of different aspects of war and to a very precise detail. Such aspects include; the superiority of the machine gun, the limited transport available, the impassable barbed wire fortifications, no-mans land, the uses of the artillery bombardments and the great advantages that the defensive side always had over the attacking.

Source 3"Christmas Day was very quiet, hostilities seemed to stop by mutual consent, nobody seemed to have the heart to try to kill or main each other on that day, but as far as I know, there was no fraternizing, that had to be put down. I think it is a great tribute to the very firm though hidden hold Christianity has on every heart, that war has to cease on Christmas Day."Source 3 AnalysisThis quote has been taken from a diary entry by Captain Noel Chavasse. This source has an extremely high reliability. The reliability is high because the letter was written on the 26/12/1915, the day after the Christmas Truce between France and Germany. This information is key to the viewer as it means the author had the events and his thought on the event clear in his mind. I found this source very interesting and useful in my analysis, as it gives a first hand insight into the merriness that the captain felt in response to the truce. As most of the fraternizing between the two warring parties was done between the infantry, my understanding of the Christmas truce of 1915 was dramatically broadened.

Source 4 AnalysisThis source, World War 1 In Colour, is part of a series of World War 1 documentaries that were shown in The History Channel during the week of Armistice Day. This source has a very high reliability as it was shown on The History channel, an internationally known and awarded television channel. Secondly, all the video footage was primary and the interviews undertaken were from the veterans that experienced the war. The veterans could however reduce the reliability as they're talking of the event 90 years after it happened. During this time period they would have forgotten parts and over-exaggerate others. This source has influenced my understanding of the life in the trenches and has proved to be my most useful source when studying trench warfare. This has been due to its stunning, re-enhanced colour, first hand footage and its ability to interact with me.

BibliographySource 1Title Of Source: Times Atlas Of World HistoryPublished: 1978, William Collins, Sydney and AucklandPublisher: Times Books Ltd, 18 Ogle Street, London W.1.

Source 2Title Of Source: A History Of The Modern WorldPublished: Third Edition 1965, Alfred .A. Knopf, New YorkPublisher: R.R. Palmer (Princeton University) and Joel Colton (Duke University)Source 3Title Of Source: An Incomplete History Of World War 1Published: 2007, Murdoch Books AustraliaPublisher: Edwin Kiester JRSource 4Title Of Source: Encyclopaedia Britannica Volume 18Published: 1768, Encyclopaedia Britannica, incPublisher: William BentonSource 5URL Of Source: http://www.geocities.com/Athens/Rhodes/6916/ww1.htm#sixDate Accessed: Sunday, 16 November 2008, 4:31:41 PMSource 6URL Of Source: http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/FWWtrench.htmDate Accessed: Thursday, 4 December 2008, 8:29:58 PMSource 7URL Of Source: http://www.firstworldwar.com/features/trenchlife.htmDate Accessed: Thursday, 4 December 2008, 8:33:05 PMSource 8Source Type: PhotoSource Title: Cheshire Regiment trench Somme 1916Date of Photography: July 1916 by Lt. J. W. Brooke.

Source 9Source Type: LetterWritten By: French Captain Noel ChavasseSource 10Source Type: VisualSource Title: WW1 in ColourLocation Of Source: History Channel