Why did a stalemate develop on the Western Front in 1914 ? How was this stalemate eventually broken?

On June 28 1914 Francis Ferdinand was killed at Sarajevo in Bosnia. He was assassinated by a Serb nationalist. Francis Ferdinand was the archduke of Austria. The killing had a domino effect and dragged countries into the argument. The groups were: Allied Powers–mainly France, Britain, Russia, Italy, and (from 1917) the U.S and the Central Powers–Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Turkey. This war was not a normal war though. Wars traditionally before this had been fought by army’s meeting at a certain place and charging, normally these war would be over in a matter of months or even days.

The technology which was used in this wars would be very basic, guns which are hard to reload, artillery which could not be aimed accurately, World war one saw a change in the technology used to fight and as the war developed more and more technology was discovered. Another thing which made this war different to wars in the past, was the amount of people who were fighting. There were thousands of people from many countries, and this war caused the greatest loss of men the world has ever seen. War had never been this large scale before. The First World War saw many new strategies which had never been seen before, for example the naval blockade.

Before the War had started the Germans had come up with a plan. This plan was called the Schlieffen plan. This plan contained the tactics Germany were going to use to win the war. The Germans were certain this plan was going to work. They did not have a contingency plan.However the plan did not work though. The Schlieffen Plan failed for a number of reasons. One being that Moltke, the German commander, had altered the balance of the forces so that the right wing had only three times as many troops as the left wing and since the right wing was smaller, it advanced slower than had been planned. Another reason was because there was more resistance from Belgium, British and French forces than the plan expected; this meant that the right wing of the attack slowed down so this allowed the British and French forces to retreat and then counter-attack. Another factor why the Schlieffen plan did not work was because the Russians surprised the Germans by attacking in the east. If the plan had worked it would have meant Germany would have invaded France successfully so no Trenches war-fare. The troops marched

30 km everyday, and by early September the troops were exhausted. When the Germans got 40km from Paris they came to the River Marne. There were also French and English troops waiting. The British and the French were unable to defeat the Germans completely, and the Germans made a successful retreat. After this battle both sides started to try and out flank the other side. This caused the chase to the Channel. While they were try to out flank each other both sides dug in defensive positions to make sure they did not lose land. The Germans did not want to retreat to much as the land which they had captured was rich with natural resources and industry.

This would be good to keep for economic purposes, Germany wanted to keep these things so they dug in. Defending a position is always easier than attacking a position. When Joffre troops assembled at East Paris they were tired and decided to dig in and take up defensive positions. The French famously said that they would never let the Germans have Paris. Both the central powers and the allied powers set up trenches. The problem was that neither army could make significant land on the other. It was practically impossible to get past no mans land. Both army’s had a lot of money and when a gun ws destroyed there was always another waiting to replace it. The same theory applied for the men, when one died there was always another to step in.

Once both sides were in the Trenches stalemate set in. One of the reasons was the lack of the super weapon. During WW2 there was the atom bomb, during WW1 there was nothing and this meant that neither side could make significant land, or kill enough enemy or their weapons. Both sides had very similar types of technology and this meant neither side had an advantage on the other. Many of the weapons which were around in 1914 were defensive weapons, which meant they could only be used to defend a position. These were weapons like barbed wire which was extremely hard to get past and was extremely hard to destroy. Artillery could not destroy it and in fact the only way it could be removed was if men went out at night and cut hole’s through it for attacks later. Another weapon which made it break throughs hard and not did occur often was the machine gun. Soldiers did not want to attack because these guns, also when attacks did happen the machine gun normally ensured that most of the men died in no-mans land.

Sometimes the generals would try and send a lot of men to one place and try and push thought at that place, these kinds of attacks find most often thought because the use of trains and trucks, these could transport men quickly to the place which was getting attacked. No-mans land had seen a lot of action artillery fire, grenades, men running over it, the list goes on but all this action meant that no-mans land became extremely muddy, Soldiers could not get a grip with their boots. There were even cases when people rushed and got stuck in the mud. This meant troops sometimes could not even try and attack the other sides trenches. Finally there was no decisive strategy. Both sides used very similar tactics in the trenches. It was either defend and wait, or attack, and capture parts of the enemies trench. The last tactic was to try and dig closer to the enemy. If there was a hole in no-mans land there would be a fight between both sides to try and get it. These tactics were normal and the enemy was used to them.They never managed to attack and surprise the enemy.

In 1918 Russia has a revolution, they surrended to Germany. This meant that Germany has extra troops to send to the western front. After the surrender of Russia Ludendorff was now determined to make a break through at the western front. Lundendorff’s main attack was to be on the weakest sector of the allied front , the 47 miles between Arras and La Fere. Two of Lundendorff’s armies were to break through the allied trenaches and break off right, which was supposed to force the allies back towards the English channel. Lundendorff was also going to supplement the major attack code names ” Michael” with a number of other minor attacks along the British front. The attack was launched on March 21 st, 1918 and was assisted by an early morning fog, which hid the advancing German troops from the allied observations posts.

Despite achiving a complete breakthrough south of the somme the main attack was hindered by a considerable amount of alled concentration of strength at Arras. Lundendorff kept pouring troops into Arras for a week, this was an attempt to carry out the original plan. Lundendorff then came to his senses and directed the main effort into a drive towards Amiens. By this time thought the allies had recovered from the intial attack and had built many temporary trenches. The Germans found it inpossbile to get past, this forced the Germans to have to suspend the somme offensive. The attack was territorial gain but Germany had lost a lot of Soldiers. This meant that Germany was now vunrable to a counter attack. In this attack the Germany had lost many of their storm division, these were Germans key fighters.

On May 7, 1915 Lusitania was sunk by a German submarine. This boat was transporting many allied forces but it was also transporting many American civilians. When this boat was sunk it outraged the American people. This put pressure on the president to go to war with Germany. U.S. entered World War I in April 1917. This gave the Allies at great advantage, the man power and the weapons would come in handy.

From this moment on the morale of the Germans soldiers started to become very low. America and the allies now started to offer Germany an armistice. Ludendorff was outraged by this and he said if you don’t stop negotiations he will leave, to his surprise the Kaiser accepted this and Lundendorff then went and exiled in Sweeden. The Germans liked Lundendorff tactics so this would of lowered their moral. On the 26th of may an outbreak of the Spanish flu affected nearly half a million soldiers. When things normally don’t go well there is normally a revolution round the corner, this was true in this case.


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