Forum Eerste Wereldoorlog Forum Index Forum Eerste Wereldoorlog
Hét WO1-forum voor Nederland en Vlaanderen
 FAQFAQ   ZoekenZoeken   GebruikerslijstGebruikerslijst   WikiWiki   RegistreerRegistreer 
 ProfielProfiel   Log in om je privé berichten te bekijkenLog in om je privé berichten te bekijken   InloggenInloggen   Actieve TopicsActieve Topics 

A war that spread far beyond the trenches

Plaats nieuw bericht   Plaats Reactie    Forum Eerste Wereldoorlog Forum Index -> Algemeen Actieve Topics
Vorige onderwerp :: Volgende onderwerp  
Auteur Bericht

Geregistreerd op: 2-2-2005
Berichten: 45653

BerichtGeplaatst: 13 Jan 2009 10:45    Onderwerp: A war that spread far beyond the trenches Reageer met quote

A war that spread far beyond the trenches

Terry Charman outlines the history of a conflict played out at home and abroad, on land, sea and air.

The causes of the First World War were complex and are still the subject of historical debate. The rise of Germany after 1871 upset the balance of power in Europe. Tensions were heightened by conflicting national ambitions, economic competition and colonial rivalries. By 1914 an elaborate system of alliances had divided Europe into two armed camps. Any incident involving one country threatened a chain reaction dragging them all into war and such an incident occurred at Sarajevo on June 28, 1914, when the heir to the throne of Austria-Hungary, Archduke Franz Ferdinand, was assassinated.

By the end of July the armed forces of Europe were mobilising. Britain declared war on Germany on August 4, 1914, shortly after the Kaiser's armies had crossed the frontier of neutral Belgium. In 1914, Britain was the only important European power without a conscript army but Field Marshal Lord Kitchener, Secretary of State for War, set about creating volunteer “new armies”. By the end of 1915 two and a half million men had enlisted. In 1916 Parliament passed Military Service Acts, introducing the conscription of men between 18 and 41.

The German attempt to inflict a swift defeat on France was checked at the Battle of the Marne in September 1914. By then it was clear that the range, accuracy and fire power of modern weapons, in particular the machinegun, were such that soldiers could survive on the battlefield only by taking shelter in trenches. Attempts by each side to outflank the other failed, and by December 1914 opposing lines of trenches extended from the English Channel to the Swiss frontier. For four years the warring nations sought ways of ending the stalemate of trench warfare. On a tactical level this resulted in successive attempts to breach enemy lines by huge artillery bombardments, the employment of gas and the development of the tank.

Trench warfare created a hellish world of its own - at worst a wilderness of shattered trees, barbed wire entanglements and waterlogged craters. Soldiers on both sides had to contend with difficulties of communication and supply; the misery of wet, cold, mud, rats and lice, and the ever-present threat of death or mutilation. The unprecedented number of casualties and the dreadful wounds caused by high-explosive shells seriously stretched the medical services.

As trench warfare descended on the Western Front, armies became dependent on aircraft as a means of finding out what the enemy was doing. Combat between aircraft was rare early in the war, but each side quickly saw the need to win dominance. This led to the specialisation of aircraft types and the development of the single-seat fighter.

From 1916 the air war became a see-saw struggle for supremacy. New aircraft were introduced and tactics constantly refined. By the middle of 1917, air combat had become a matter of team fighting rather than individual scouting. The best-known fighter formation was the “Richthofen Circus”, led by Manfred von Richthofen, the “Red Baron”, an astute tactician and deadly shot, whose distinctive red Albatros became the symbol of dominance over the Western Front. Other aces included the Britons Captain Albert Ball, Major “Mick” Mannock and Major James McCudden, Lieutenant Colonel W.A. “Billy” Bishop - a Canadian - and the Frenchmen Capitaine Georges Guynemer and Commandant René Fonck.

Britain looked to the Royal Navy for protection against invasion and to keep the sea lanes open for supplies of food and raw materials. There were sea battles between British warships and German commerce raiders in the Indian Ocean, the Pacific and the South Atlantic. The long-awaited clash between the British Grand Fleet and the German High Seas Fleet took place at Jutland on May 31, 1916. Although the battle was indecisive the High Seas Fleet, apart from a couple of abortive sorties, remained locked in its bases for the rest of the war.

The British blockade caused great hardship in Germany, and the Germans retaliated with a submarine campaign against merchant shipping. In the spring of 1917, this brought Britain close to defeat, but also brought America into the war. The adoption of the convoy system and increased shipbuilding enabled the Allies to overcome the U-boat threat.

The First World War was fought on a global scale, and the most important theatre of the war after France was the Eastern Front, where Germany and Austria-Hungary confronted Russia. Much was expected of the Russian “steamroller”. But by 1917, the Russian Army had suffered enormous losses and, despite a notable victory against the Austrians in the summer of 1916, was exhausted and demoralised. The October Revolution ended Russia's war effort, and on March 3, 1918 it signed a peace treaty with Germany at Brest-Litovsk.

There were a number of other campaigns. Well over a million British, Indian and Dominion troops took part in campaigns against Turkey on the Gallipoli peninsula, and in Egypt, Palestine and Mesopotamia. In 1915 an Allied expeditionary force, which grew to 600,000 men, landed at Salonika to oppose the Bulgarians. French and British contingents were also sent to support the Italians in November 1917 after an Austro-German army inflicted a crushing defeat on them at Caporetto. Farther afield, British and German forces fought a long-running campaign in East Africa.

The war had an unprecedented effect on civilian life. Shortly after the outbreak of war the Government brought in the Defence of the Realm Act, which gave it sweeping powers. News was censored, the coal mines nationalised, land and property requisitioned, the sale of alcohol restricted and Summer Time introduced. Food rationing was instituted in 1918.

Recruiting caused labour shortages that resulted in large numbers of women doing jobs in industry, transport, agriculture and commerce previously done by men. Some 100,000 women joined the new auxiliary services of the three Armed Forces. Zeppelin and aircraft raids put civilians in the front line for the first time.

Hostilities on the Western Front ceased on November 11, 1918. The Treaty of Versailles, determined by a peace conference, was signed by the Germans under protest on June 28 1919. Germany lost territory and its armed forces were greatly reduced. It had to pay compensation and admit its guilt for causing the war. This provoked great bitterness and sowed the seeds of future trouble in Europe.

The effects of the First World War on the whole population of Britain and the Empire meant that, for the first time, a national war museum was called for to record the conflict. In March 1917, three years into the war, the Imperial War Museum was established by the Government. It aimed, as King George V said at the opening, to be “not only a storehouse of material for the historian”, but “a lasting memorial of common effort and common sacrifice”.

Terry Charman is Senior Historian at the Imperial War Museum

Met hart en ziel
De enige echte
Naar boven
Bekijk gebruikers profiel Stuur privé bericht Verstuur mail Bekijk de homepage
Berichten van afgelopen:   
Plaats nieuw bericht   Plaats Reactie    Forum Eerste Wereldoorlog Forum Index -> Algemeen Tijden zijn in GMT + 1 uur
Pagina 1 van 1

Ga naar:  
Je mag geen nieuwe onderwerpen plaatsen
Je mag geen reacties plaatsen
Je mag je berichten niet bewerken
Je mag je berichten niet verwijderen
Ja mag niet stemmen in polls

Powered by phpBB © 2001, 2002 phpBB Group