How far do sources A and B agree about conditions in the trenches?

Sources A and B do not fully agree about the conditions in the trenches. In both sources the trenches seem to be fairly muddy and wet, however Source A is flooded full of water. This is probable because trenches in 1914 weren’t built as well as in 1916, and the Germans were renowned for building better trenches. We can recognise this because the solder in Source A is submerged in water and the slogan underneath reads ‘You lay down in this water’. In both sources the soldiers seem to be wearing a lot of clothing, most probably because the conditions were harsh. In both trenches there is no fighting being portrayed. This suggests that the trenches were in a quieter area of the front line.

The two sources have many differences. Source A is a witty cartoon written for Punch and Source B is a photograph. Source A was devised in 1914 and Source B in 1916. Source B presents a German trench that is really deep and well built, like many other German trenches at this time. The walls are held up by supports and a dugout has been built in to one side of the trench as well as a fire step. On the other hand the trench in Source A is shallow and poorly constructed because it is full of water. This is probable because the British were well prepared for attack but less prepared for digging trenches. In Sanctuary Wood, Ypres, 1914 the British trenches were shallow, built for temporary affairs and consequently offered little protection. Whilst digging trenches the British Officers ordered their men to not dig in too deep so they could fire out. By the latter stages of the War the army realised that the only way to win the war was a war of attrition. Because of this the condition of the trenches would have improved. In Source A you could not deem that soldiers would actually live in a trench like that, mainly because of the large amount of water in it, however in Source B you could deem that soldiers lived in the trench. Source A tends to mock trench warfare, whilst the soldiers in Source B are making a better daily life by smoking and drinking. We can tell that Source A mocks trench warfare because the title reads ‘The Incorrigibles’ (someone who will not learn). The slogan which states that lying in water and getting peppered all day ‘sounds like a bit of all right’ also proves this point.

To end the agreements between the two sources were that the trenches were cold, wet and harsh. The differences between the sources were that the conditions of the trenches varied, the soldiers in the trenches varied and in Source B you could not deem that soldiers would live in it.

Question 2

Explain why the Government encouraged advertisements like Source C to be published in Britain in 1915?

The government encouraged advertisements like these to boost morale and recruitment figures. At the beginning of the War the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) had 250 000 accomplished soldiers. By the summer of 1915 half were dead or wounded. If the men would not join voluntarily conscription would have had to be introduced and this would not have been good for morale.

This advertisement presents us with a picture of a British soldier standing above a trench saying ‘Time for one more’. This means there is always time for one more attack on enemy lines. The British soldiers are regarded as brave and therefore it is good for boosting morale. An alone soldier standing above a trench suggests to the public that life in the trenches was easier than in reality. The soldier could be seen to be laughing in the face of enemy fire and shells. An additional extra feature of this advertisement is that the soldier is seen to been smiling, again the Government will show no objection. It shows that the soldier is happy which helps sell the cigarettes and also boosts morale attracting more people to join the army.

At times in the year 1915 there was no great rush for soldiers to join the army. In December 1915 only 55 000 joined up. It was calculated that the war would last for three years and would require millions of men. During 1915 the British Battalion at Ypres lost 95% of its men and 90% of its officers. This was a catastrophic campaign. The Government recognised that there were workers and soldiers. Men would have to be left alone for vital economical reasons. Because of this a strong recruitment campaign was needed.

Additional reasons for the Government to encourage this advertisement are that the scenery is sunny. We can tell that it is sunny because the soldier is shielding his eyes. Because the soldier does not look uncomfortable it shows that the trenches weren’t all that bad. The name of the cigarettes ‘Golden Dawn’ suggests a brighter horizon for British troops and helps boost moral. The name also suggests a new beginning if you in list with the army. This slogan has a twofold meaning and consequently the Government will have no objection. The slogan ‘time for one more’ suggests there is always time to smoke one more Golden Dawn Cigarette even in preparation for an attack. The artillery in the back ground of the poster suggests that the British men were backed substantially by heavy artillery again boosting moral.

The British Government relied heavily on advertisements like this to draw in recruits for the army. It was essential to portray the war in a positive light so people would join up and the battle against the Hun could continue.

Question 3

How far is the account in Source D supported by Source A?

Sources D and E agree and disagree with what they say about tactics in World War One. Both sources say that attacking in trench warfare is disastrous, Generals of the War were poor, and colossal amounts of soldiers were lost. Foch says the offensive is ‘blind and brutal and for that very reason dangerous’. This is due to the fact that ‘many troops were put into action into once’. Falkenhayn agrees by saying ‘attempts at mass break through… cannot be regarded as holding out prospects of successes’. Falkenhayn clearly states that offensive action could never be successful.

Foch expresses that the ‘war doctrine was thus too summery, limited as it was for all ranks to one magnificent formula: the offensive’. By this he means that the Generals were poor, because the principal of war was too simple, and the only way believed to win was to attack. Falkenhayn agrees by stating ‘the defender usually succeed in closing the gaps’. Foch also states that ‘many troops…put into action at once…were feebly supported by artillery fire’. In attacks huge amounts of soldiers were lost as both accounts agree. Falkenhayn states this more clearly by saying it became a ‘mere slaughter house’.

Falkenhayn seems to express his views more clearly than Foch does. Falkenhayn says that the Germans had greater modified defence warfare than the Allies when it states the German army’s ‘morale is sound…is not seriously inferior in numbers’. Falkenhayn clearly has more of a defensive attitude and goes further than Foch does to explain the faults of offensive action including salients. At salients tremendous losses of men occurred. At the Battle of the Somme the Allies lost 620 000 lives.

A salient is a bulge in the trenches line. This is caused by attacks being made and breaking the line, then new trenches would be laid around the gap in the trench, meaning the army which attacked would be surrounded on three sides.

Foch was a French General, and Commanding Chief of the Allies in 1918, though not in 1914. Falkenhayn was a Commander for the German Forces looking back at the Somme. He had recently lost his job. Consequently Falkenhayn might have been lying out of bitterness for loosing his job. Also Foch and Falkenhayn were talking about different armies. Foch was talking about the French army and Falkenhayn the British army. These two armies would have had different numbers and tactics. Therefore it is difficult for them to support each other.

Overall there are agreements and differences. The similarities have a greater relative importance than the differences as the main variations were due to the extra detail in which Falkenhayn wrote with. Foch seemed to have more of an attacking focus whilst Falkenhayn was clearly more defensive orientated. Both sources clearly state that large amount of soldiers were lost carelessly and attacking in trench warfare is disastrous.

Question 4

How reliable is this account?

Field Marshall Haig, Commander in Chief of British forces on the Western Front met with the War Cabinet in London to discuss a new offensive against the Germans. Haig was asking for permission to launch the 3rd Battalion at Ypres, this would later be known as the Battle of Passachendale. During 1917 there had been many failed offensives but there were successes, including Messinen. Lloyd George new that the Allied forces were weak in the West. Due to this Haig believed that it was correct to attack in the East.

This extract from Haig’s diary came from his public diary. Haig had two diary’s one public and one personal. Because it comes from the public diary it is quite possible that he may have lied because he knew that the public would read it. To make himself look better than he was, he probably would have lied. Also this diary extract was printed after the War and by Haig’s family. Therefore the family may have edited it. Haig as a successful General could have manipulated his audience, by means of his power and ambience to make the audience believe what he had written. For these reasons the source is not fully reliable.

Haig had an influence over the King of England, Conservative MPs and the success at Messines and used this to convince the War Cabinet that it was time to attack at Ypres. The King and MP’s never visited the front line and relied on others for the latest news. Haig could have lied and made the situation sound better and consequently got his attack. Haig had a disliking of Lloyd George, because he found him irritating, and consequently he had a disliking to his way of thought and tactics on the battlefield. However because of Lloyd George’s ambience of being Prime Minister he did not want to become a much hated man in the country. So to hide this dislike he had two diaries one public and one personal which shows perhaps his true views. For this reason the source is not reliable.

Haig says in his concluding sentence ‘Germany was within six months of the total exhaustion of her available manpower if the fighting continues at its present level on the Western Front’. Haig believed that Germany was exhausted. Morale was a low and there had been a noticeable deterioration in the equipment and forces of the German army. Economists proved Haig’s belief were true, although Haig probably knew the fighting would not have stayed at the same level for the Russians on the Eastern Front. Therefore he might be lying, as he knew the Russian Army had used all her available manpower and resources. Back in Russia there was also the probability of a Revolution which occurred to overthrow the Tsar, which would have put considerable strain on the army. Haig was correct by stating that ‘Germany was nearer to her end’ because she eventually collapsed, but after a longer period of fighting than Haig would have first concluded.

Source F does not seem to agree to a great extent with sources A to E. They correspond by saying the fighting would be kept at the same level, because the defender ‘usually succeeded in closing the gaps’.

To conclude Field Marshall Haig’s diary extract is not reliable, because it was his public diary. The extract was published by his family at a later date and could have been edited. Haig failed to notice the problems and weakness of the Russian Army and the probability of revolution, and does not portray the ideas of sources A to E. Haig was correct in saying that Germany would fall and fighting would stay the same. However when Haig passed away a national ceremony was held. This shows he was highly respected and trusted by many people, and consequently we could say this resource is to be trusted.

Question 5

How useful are sources G and H as evidence of war on the Western Front?

To test how useful sources G and H are I shall work out the strengths and limitations of each source. I will also look to see if the source tells us something new which we don’t know. I will analyse the sources G and H against other sources and my own knowledge.

John Terraine who wrote source G was a military historian. Because of this he would have had a lot of knowledge about the war. Terraine wrote in hindsight and consequently had a wider and fuller range of information than the people who wrote in the progressing war. In the Trenches there were many forms of communication. Trench warfare used runners, pigeons and telegrams. This communication was not as efficient and quick as walkie – talkies. Consequently Terraines theory could be correct in the fact that war lasted so long. Messages occasionally did get back to the headquarters but holy for the worst. On average it took 8-10 hours for a message to travel.

The limitations of Source G are that Terraine is British, and for this reason he might have been bias towards the Allied Forces. Many forms of communication would not have been efficient enough when the men entered no mans land. Walkie – talkies are more useful in mobile war rather than trench warfare, therefore Terraines theory could be incorrect. In source G, Terraine says the reason why trench warfare lasted so long was because the ‘walkie – talkie…did not exist’. This statement should not be put down as the single cause why the war lasted so long. During the war the technology was available but it was not practical enough for a battlefield. The telephone was extremely bulky and took 8 men to manoeuvre. However walkie – talkies as well as runners, pigeons and telegrams were useless once the men had gone over the top. When the soldiers attacked they were stretching all forms of communication, and the defenders were able to fall back on their communications, calling up reserves, ammunition and provisions.

In his last sentence Clark shows his belief in how the Generals should have met the challenge of a new war, ‘they could defeat their enemies by forcing them to use up all their reserves’. This statement could be correct as neither of the forces had unlimited reserves, and if the enemy used all their reserves, ammunition and provisions, they would collapse. Clark uses a quote which Ludendorff expressed to reinforce his view. Lundendorff describes the British army as ‘Lions led by donkeys’. By this Ludendorff meant the soldiers were lead by poor, rigid and narrow minded Generals. Clark states that in reality both armies had similar problems. The Generals on both sides were slow to adapt if at all, unprepared, sought to take any ground and continued to attack long after any chance of success had passed. The soldiers and Generals have also been described as butchers and bunglers. Clark also states that Ferdinand Foch believed that the general’s tactics were ‘blind and brutal and for that reason very dangerous’. The Generals were not experienced in Trench warfare. Clark states that the Generals knew little ‘because they were faced with completely new conditions’. Trench warfare was a completely new concept to many Generals. They did not realise it was a war of guns and ammunition. Haig in source F said ‘support … with guns’. The side with the largest quantity of weapons and men would win. The war also included a new concept a mobilised home front. Generals had no idea what they were leading their soldiers into. The First World War was a war of attrition, wearing down the opposite forces.

The limitations of source H are that source H is an extract from ‘World War One’, a text book. Consequently the text would be oversimplified and probably bias to its written nationality. Source H was also written in hindsight, some 60 years after the First World War. Clark is quite stereotypical in saying that all Generals in the War poor and unable to use and adapt to new tactics. However this is not the case. The Canadian Generals at Vimmy Ridge used new tactics which won the battle. The Canadians were able to adapt easily to the changing battle while other Allied forces couldn’t, and they also effectively used the machine gun in an attacking role.

By comparing source G and H against earlier sources, H can be seen as more useful for evidence on the war as it aggress with D, E and F.

I believe that the sources are useful as evidence of the war on the Western Front, although they both have limitations. Source H tends to be more useful than source G because it agrees more with my own contextual knowledge and agrees with sources D, E and F. Source G also has the benefit of being written in hindsight, when there was more detailed information available.

Question 6

Why did the War on the Western Front last so long?

In the past nineteenth century there had been frequent short wars, including the Franco-Prussian and Boer War. These only lasted for a short time. Consequently this may have caused the Generals of the Allied and Central Powers forces to be naive in expecting another short war. Source C shows the Generals naivety in the belief that it would be a short war by reading ‘time for one more’. This means they believed the War would be over quickly and it told the soldiers to enlist with the forces before they missed the ‘great adventure’. Germany planned to defeat France in six weeks and France carried out an attack on Alsace and Lorraine. Both attacks failed, and following the battle of Marne the Allies and Germans tried to outflank each other, by racing for the sea. At fierce fighting in Ypres, neither side had outflanked each other so both sides dug in to protect land gained and kept. A stalemate had developed. The failure of both sides to beat each other to the race to the sea and the naivety shown by the Generals is a strong reason for why the war lasted for so long.

The Allied and Central Powers at the beginning of the war were fairly evenly matched. Shortly before the war there had been a huge arms race. Both the Allied and Central Powers wanted the superior army and navy. Falkenhayn shares this belief by writing ‘who is not seriously inferior in numbers’. Because the main powers were fairly eventually matched the German Schlieffen Plan failed.

Both sides during the war were evenly matched but eventually and inevitably the Central Powers built trenches that were stronger, better built and more impregnable. Source B shows a well built Central powers trench. Because of the well built and impregnable trenches the Central powers soldiers were protected, and morale remained high. By 1917 the Central Powers had new and better defences including pill boxes with machine guns spread in depth along the whole of the front line. These new defences ‘threaten to become a mere slaughter-house’. Sources A and B show the gulf in the quality of trenches. Though both sources were published in their country and may be biased, they still show shallow Allied trenches and deep well built Central Powers trenches. The superiority of the Central Powers trenches is a strong reason for why the war may have lasted for such a long time. The Central Powers trenches were harder to break down and further increased because the Central Powers were mainly defending during the War.

During the progressing war the Central Powers built stronger and more impregnable trenches, but the Allied Generals still believed the doctrine of attack would work. Clark describes the British Army as ‘lions led by donkeys’. This shows that not only Allied Generals but also Central Powers Generals continued to believe in the doctrine of attack. Foch also strengthens this point by saying ‘many troops…were preoccupied chiefly with getting forward and together, they found themselves exposed and important in the face of fire poured upon them by enemy weapons’. Falkenhayn in Source E admits ‘attempts at mass breakthrough, even with an extreme accumulation of men and material cannot be regarded as holding out prospects of success’.

During the war Generals on both sides used nineteenth century tactics against twentieth century technology. Attritional warfare continued, and Generals continued to grind men down on both sides. These tactics proved to be wrong and inadequate many times as they were nineteenth century tactics against twentieth century technology. Soldiers were walking in lines across no mans land facing machine gun and artillery fire. Nineteenth century tactics were to face each other across open land and fire with rifles and use Calvary charges. This clearly would not hold out much chance of success against twentieth century technology.

Attacking the opposition lines was made harder because of inadequate field communication systems. Generals were not able to change their tactics on the front line without good communication systems. Terraine believes this was the case, and walkie talkies could have proved vital and may have tipped the balance. Technology was far superior to communication, and consequently did not allow any changes in tactics to be made during battle once the soldiers had gone over the top. During the war runners, carrier pigeons and telegrams were used to deliver messages to HQ, which would often take 8-10 hours to travel. Because of the time taken to deliver a message ‘one forlorn assault was allowed to follow another, because no one could stop them’. (Terraine, Source G)

Despite the miserable failure of the tactics, the Generals continued with them. Haig refused to change his tactics, and following the victory at Messines he was able to justify further futile attacks. In source F Haig is seen arguing with the War Cabinet over whether to launch another offensive. His diary extract, source F, is not fully reliable because it was his public diary and the account was published by his family after the war. Haig failed to take account of the state of Russia and does not portray similar beliefs to sources A to E. Some historians have argued that Haig was right to send waves and waves of men no matter how many losses because he was using a war of attrition, even if he did not recognise it. Eventually the Central Powers would collapse because they did not have unlimited supplies of soldiers, provisions and equipment.

The Generals were not totally to blame for the colossal amount of soldiers killed or wounded. Politicians like David Lloyd George or Kitchener encouraged people to join the army with propaganda like source C. Source C is a poster which was used to encourage people to sign up for the war effort, to make people believe that the war was not to bad and to make people believe that the Allies would win the war. Propaganda was used to encourage people to join the forces so conscription would not have had to been introduced. If conscription was introduced moral may have dropped and the war effort may have grinned to a halt. Source A another poster also encouraged men to enlist. It shows the trenches in a positive light and consequently men would have enlisted in the forces.

The invention of the weapon codenamed ‘tank’ was destined to break the deadlock and eventually did. However the conditions in the battlefields were so bad that when tanks were first introduced at the Somme, most sank in the liquid mud. At Cambria, in November 1917, once the Allied forces had gained eight kilometres, poor conditions and inadequate communications meant the troops were to slow to support the tanks and create a major break through. New weapons like the tank were strong but slow, and consequently were used for defensive purposes. It was not until the mobile machine gun was constructed that an attack could be highly successful. The Canadians were the pioneers of this invention by using it at Vimy Ridge with great success. Other weapons were continuously being improved, like gas, and consequently the amount of death in war grew, and deadlock in the trenches continued. These new and improved weapons did help the Allies win the war through attrition eventually.

The war was eventually won because the balance of power shifted to the Allies favour. The Central Powers were unable to strengthen any further and the Allies continued to attempt mass breakthrough. Eventually in 1918 when the German economy was in disrepair after the war effort this was achieved. One major reason for why the Central Powers lost was because the USA joined the war, though it could be argued they just replaced the Russians. Another reason for why the Allies eventually won is because they had the greatest Empire. Britain had a larger Empire than Germany. Britain was richer and had more raw supplies, Britain was also able to call on the help of its Commonwealth troops. In a war of attrition the Allies had greater amounts of soldiers and supplies and would be able to last the longer distance.

Other reasons for why the War on the Western Front lasted for so long are that both sides did not use their navy to its full capabilities. Both sides amassed huge navies during the arms race but were reluctant to use them much for fear of destruction or damage. The War on the Eastern Front was also a failure. If it was successful then the Central Powers would have been stretched to fight a war on two fronts, and soldiers would have been brought out of the Western Front to fight in the Eastern Front. This meant the war in the Western Front should have ended more quickly. But failures like the Gallipoli campaign in 1918 caused tremendous losses and did not bring about the end of the fighting at the present level in the Western Front.

It has been strongly argued that the reason why the War on the Western Front continued for so long was because of the naivety of both sets of Generals. The Generals sent soldiers over the top to face machine guns which were capable of firing six hundred rounds per minute. Poor conditions on the battlefield, inadequate communication and absences of important inventions until the latter stages can also be blamed.


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