Essay: What were the changes in warfare and how were soldiers
affected by them?
The war on the western front was a new kind of warfare. No one had
experienced war like that before. There were many changes in the techniques
used by the countries during the First World War. The main changes were the
ones connected to trench warfare. How did all this begin? Following the
Schlieffen plan, the German crossed Belgium in order to attack France, but they
failed. They were not planning to go back home. So they dug enormous holes,
which were all along the border between Belgium and France, these were the
trenches. The aim of this essay is to describe and explain the changes made in
the WWI and the every day life of the soldier living in the trenches. In order to
do so, we will analyze the technological changes and we will describe life in the
Trench warfare was the main change introduced in WWI. Now instead of a
moving war, this was a static war. The trenches began as simple shelters, but
in 1915, they developed into complex defensive system.
The second important change was the growing of artillery. Every day there
were many bombardments that caused more causality that any other weapon.
At the beginning guns were not that accurate. Very often artillery bombarded
their own forward trenches. By the end of the war artillery grew more accurate,
and by 1918, artillery tactics were extremely sophisticated. Because of this, a
great part of the European industry was given over to making shells for the
Moreover the cavalry had become less important. Before, cavalry would be
decisive for speed and mobility. But after 1914, as the trenches were dug,
cavalry became too vulnerable to artillery and machine guns. In fact, only three
of four-hundred horses survived. Even so, horses and mules were still important
to the transportation of equipment and supplies.
Besides, another change was infantry. Infantry was the backbone of the
army; troops also improvised their own weapons for conditions of trench
warfare. Before the theory that and attack on enemy troops would be lead by
cavalry, infantry’s job was to follow cavalry and take charge of captured
positions. Then they had to defend positions against counter-attack. Trench
warfare changed cavalry dramatically. Cavalry was replaced by “infantry
charge” that became the main tactic of war. The machine gun was effective
against infantry charge. It was very powerful. However, the theory was that if
enough soldiers were killed, there would still be men alive to capture the
machine guns in enemy’s trenches. As war continued generals tried new tactics,
weapons and equipment. New camouflage and techniques were used to protect
troops and guns. Artillery and infantry attacks were better synchronized. Troops
were given masks. Soldiers did not spend all the time charging enemy’s
trenches. Infantry’s work was a routine. They spent time digging trenches or
repairing old ones. They carted supplies and equipment up and down, and
spent long hours on sentry duty or listing posts near to enemy’s trenches.
There were the specialized infantry called the Sappers. The Sappers were ex-
miners who dug tunnels below enemy’s trenches and placed mines. The
infantry made occasional raids in small number on enemy’s trenches to capture
prisoners provide useful information.
As regards gas, the first gas attack was in April 1915. Germans released
Chlorine, which wafted in the wind into the British trenches. Panic was there as
the soldiers struggledc to breath. Gas attacks became regular feature of war.
To start with the aim of the gas attack was to disable enemy’s troops, so the
infantry would be successful. Later, scientists began to invent and perfect other
gases. However, they also developed effective masks. Soldiers in trenches
would put them on. As a result 3000 British troops died from impact soldiers
that bore a long bombardment by artillery lived in fear of a gas attack.
One of the last changes were the tanks. Tanks were a British invention.
The idea of it was rejected at first, however, a head of the navy, Winston
Churchill, thought that it was an idea that had potential, so he developed it.
The tanks were used for the first time at the Battle of Somme. They caused an
alarm in Germany, but raised the morale of British troops. Tanks were a
weapon that could achieve a break through. There were machines that move at
working peace. Tanks were not very manageable and reliable. Most of them
broke down before they got to the trenches. It wasn’t until November 1917 at
Cambrai that tanks achieved a great success. But, unfortunately, they were too
successful. They blasted through enemy lines so quickly that the infantry could
not keep up. By 1918, Germany had learned how to adopt held guns to fire
guns. However, they were virtually impossible to miss because they were so
large and slow. However, the tank offered a significant boost to morale.
Now, what was life like in the trenches like? Soldiers on the Western front
went through an enormous range of experience. People often think that
soldiers spent all the time going over the top, attacking enemy’s trenches. In
fact, such attacks were an exception, rather than the rule. Soldiers spent much
more time on guard, repairing trenches, or just trying to rest or sleep. Nor did
soldiers spend all their time in the front-line trenches. Sometimes, it would be
eight days in, four days out. However, during a major result in the battle at the
Somme, soldiers could be in the front line for much longer. Even in the front
line trenches soldiers could go for long periods without seeing an enemy
soldier. To pass the hours, soldiers would write letters or diaries, and some
even took up correspondence courses. Sanitation arrangements were drake
shift. In summer, the smell of the trenches was appalling due to a combination
of rotting corpse’s sewage and unwashed soldiers. Soldiers were also infested
with lies. In wet weather soldiers spent much time up to their ankles or knees
in water. Many thousands suffered from “trench foot” caused by standing in
water for hours or days. And in winter, the trenches offered a little protection
from cold. Many of them got frostbite. Trenches were also infected by rats. So
as you can see trenches had very bad conditions.
To conclude, WWI brought about many changes. Some of these changes
include trench warfare, artillery, cavalry, infantry, poison gas and tanks.
Besides, life in the trenches was awful and soldiers lived in very bad conditions,
infected by lies and rats.