“ We were all of us cogs in a great machine which sometimes rolled forward, nobody knew where, Sometimes backwards Nobody knew why.” ERNST TOLLER World War One
This was Europe’s first war in . World War one was not a limited war where short term military objectives were gained, but was in fact a where entire nations poured their energy into completely destroying their opponents. WWI was the first major war. This meant that military had advanced considerably in the last 40 years. The machinery of war was now far more efficient at killing soldiers As well as technology, military had changed. Armies now had and used These features are what defines World War One What Made this war different? 40 Years Total War Industrial Technology Doctrine Mass Mobilization Trench Warfare
had advanced considerably in the 40 years before the war and new weapons were developed over the course of WWI. These developments in military technology forever changed the way wars are fought. Technology
The major advances in land warfare were the following. Improved for infantry improved range and accuracy. had high rates of fire and were very deadly against large groups of infantry. gave portable firepower to infantrymen. ranges and firepower improved and the big guns claimed more lives than any other weapon of war. Later . were used to punch holes in trenches were used to attack shipping in an attempt to cripple British naval supply lines were first used in a combat role in WWI. Warfare has never been the same since New Technologies in World War One Rifles Artillery Tanks Grenades Machine guns Aircraft Submarines
Infantry Weapons The standard infantry man in WWI was equipped with a rifle and bayonet as his main weapons. Rifles from WWI were more accurate, had better range, and were more deadly than before. Rifles no longer needed to be rechambered after each shot and a rifle man could fire all 8 rounds from his bolt action rifle in roughly a minute. Infantry were also equipped with grenades. Grenades developed from simple explosives on a stick at the start of the war into the familiar “pineapple” shaped fragmentation grenades. However, the most important piece of a soldiers equipment was probably his entrenching tool. This allowed him to dig trenches to seek cover from artillery and machine gun fire
Artillery. Kings of the battlefield Artillery was the undisputed king of the battlefield. Heavy howitzers had an effective range of 10km and were used in large formations called batteries. A battery could barrage an area almost continuously if ammunition and spare barrels were available. The only defence against a continuous barrage was to find cover in your trench and hope you didn’t take a direct hit. In 1917 during the battle of Messiness the British deployed 2210 artillery pieces along a 13km front. That’s one artillery piece every 6 metres.
Machine Guns The machine gun is the iconic weapon of WWI. Many films depict close infantry formations being mercilessly gunned down by coordinated machine gun fire. Sadly, this sight was an all too common occurrence in WWI. Machine guns were perfect weapons for defending trenches from attack. Machines guns such as the British Vickers machine gun were water cooled and could fire 600 rounds of ammunition a minute.
Tanks (Panzers) The tank was a late addition to WWI. They were designed to cross rough terrain and drive over barbed wire fences and trenches. Tanks were armoured and armed with light artillery guns and machine guns. Tanks were first used in large numbers at the battle of Cambrai in 1917 with mixed results. While they caused fear in the German soldiers and were fearsome fighting machines, they often broke down from mechanical failure. The name “Tank” comes from a code name designed to fool German spies
Submarines. (U-Boats) The Kreigsmarine (German navy) could never hope to match the Royal Navy in an open fight. Therefore the Germans turned to their new weapon, the submarine in an attempt to wage war at sea. Submarines were cramped, uncomfortable and dangerous to live on. However, they did allow the Germans to attack allied shipping in an attempt to starve Britain of resources and supplies. After the war Germany was banned from developing submarines
Aerial Warfare WWI also saw the development of air combat. Biplanes, such as the Fokker D fought in the skies over the western front. Air combat was extremely deadly and many pilots did not survive their first engagement. WWI also saw the first bombing of civilian targets in order to create terror and panic. These were mostly carried out by Zeppelins, which were large airships.
The Fighter Aces Air combat created a new breed of war hero, the fighter ace. An ace was any pilot that shot down five other pilots during the war. The most famous ace of the war was Baron Manfred Von Richthoven, the Red Baron. He led all aces in WWI with 80 confirmed kills before being shot down in early 1918. His squadron was known as Richthovens flying circus. However, the most important ace of the war was the Red Barons 2 nd in command Hermann Goering. He had 22 confirmed kills and commanded the squadron after the red Barons death. Goering went on to join the Nazi Party and became Chancellor and commander of the Luftwaffe. He also created the Gestapo and was involved in creating concentration camps
The Foundations of Doctrine WWI was fought using 20 th century technology and 19 th century military thinking. Military commanders from all sides read the writings of Napoleon, Jomini and Du Picq. These writers stressed several key ideas that were to prove deadly in WWI. Soldiers had to advance in close ranks in order to keep them from breaking under fire. This meant that large groups of soldiers advanced shoulder to shoulder and were gunned down by machine guns, or blown up by artillery These writers also stressed the idea of the decisive battle and the importance of the offensive . This meant that all sides in the war were looking for one great battle that would destroy the enemies ability to wage war, and that this great battle could only result from an offensive military action. These ideas are what caused such massive casualties in WWI
Mass Mobilisation Mass Mobilisation occurred in WWI on a scale never before seen in warfare . Most of the major powers mobilized almost all of their men aged 18-35. The casualties in the war were so high that several nations were literally running out of men by the end of the war. France had great difficulties supplying fresh recruits after 1917 due to the massive casualties they had suffered early in the war.
Trench warfare developed out of need. The weapons of WWI were too deadly for open conflict, and the doctrine the armies followed too primitive for anything else. Trench complexes were massive constructions spanning hundred of miles along the front. Life in the trenches was unpleasant for soldiers. They spent a lot of time in mud and water and many developed trench foot. The food was poor and the trenches were filled with rats. The rats would steal food and eat the dead. Trench life was often dull, with very little happening for weeks at a time. Artillery bombardment and snipers were a constant threat. Many soldiers in the trenches had mental breakdowns from the poor conditions and bombardment. This was called “Shell shock” Trench Warfare
WWI was an excessively bloody war, fought with modern industrial weapons and 19 th century tactics. Each European nation was robbed of the best of a generation of men by the senseless slaughter. However, it was not the first industrial war to be fought, Japan had defeated Russia in 1905. Both sides had learned the lessons of WWI already and understood that trench warfare was defeatist. However, the Russians lacked the skilled soldiers and technology to change their fighting style, and the other powers simply ignored the lessons learned. The fact these lessons were ignored is perhaps the greatest tragedy of WWI The calamity of WWI
Casualties of War. Millions of dead and wounded
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