How did warfare change between the end of 1914 and march 1918

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During the Great War, there was a huge change in warfare mainly between the end of 1994 and march 1918. these ranged from technological advances to tactical advances. (these changes resulted in a phenomenal number of casualties and deaths) The most significant change was the huge advance in technology. Maybe the greatest advance in technology came with the advent of the tank. The idea of British inventors, the tank was presented to army leaders early on in the war, unfortunately they rejected the idea.

There was one man though who recognised its potential, head of the navy, Winston Churchill whose department funded the development of the tank. The tank first saw service at the battle of the Somme two years later. The idea was that tanks would spearhead an advance breaking through German defences and dispersing German troops with machine gun fire. Unfortunately these first tanks were very slow and un-manoeuvrable, only moving at walking pace.

The tanks were also mechanically unreliable and more than half broke down before they reached the German frontlines. This was obviously not the end for the tank though. It was continually developed throughout the war until in 1917 it proved to be a very effective weapon at Cambrai. It could be said that they were too effective as they blasted through the German defences so fast that the following infantry could not keep up. Another technological development was poison gas. The first of the gases was chlorine gas used by the Germans in 1915.

The idea was to release the gas and let it float on the wind into the enemy trenches in order to disable the enemy just before an advance and make the advance more successful. From this date on gas was regularly used by both sides. As time went by more refined and deadly gases were developed like mustard gas which would slowly kill people in four of five weeks. These types of weapon were produced to break the deadlock between the two sides caused by the existing weapons which were good for defensive purposes but not much use as offensive weapons.

Along with the advance in gas technology and the development of more deadly gases came the production of more and more effective gas masks which could filter out the gases and protect the person wearing it. As a result relatively few people died from these gas attacks but they were still an effective psychological weapon as men lived in fear of the gases being used. Another element of technological warfare that changed dramatically during the Great war was air warfare namely aeroplanes.

The very first aeroplanes were of wood and linen construction, were flimsy and not very manoeuvrable. These aircraft were used for artillery spotting so that the artillery was all shooting in the right place. The aeroplane was then pressed into service on reconnaissance missions where they flew over enemy territory taking photographs providing commanders with lots of information to incorporate in to their tactics. The enemy though did not like having its photo taken and so reconnaissance aeroplanes often met other aeroplanes who were trying to shoot them down.

And the dogfight was born. The earliest dogfights were fought with the pilots pistol fire from the cockpit but it was difficult to inflict any real damage on the other aeroplane unless you hit the pilot. In April 1915 machine guns were first fitted to aeroplanes synchronised to fire through the propeller. These were much more effective than pistols and allowed for the art of dog fighting to develop. The aeroplanes also became faster and more manoeuvrable so that they could out manoeuvre other aeroplanes.

Probably the most famous tactical feature of World War One was the trench system. Starting out as simple shelters they were soon developed into complex defence and supply systems which were very difficult to attack. This was because they were dug in a castellated formation and so could not shot at from above and so wipe out a whole regiment of front line troops in one pass. It also was an effective defence as those in the trenches were hidden below the grounds surface, and so could protect their position easily.

Nobody had ever fought in trenches like these previously and every body had to adapt. The extensively used cavalry charges often seen in previous wars like the Boer war became obsolete, the horses were very vulnerable to machine gun and artillery fire and also got tangled up in barbed wire, easily sinking into the wet mud. For these reasons cavalry charges were replaced with infantry charges. Infantry was previously used to hold positions the cavalry had taken but now, without cavalry, both these jobs were the responsibility of the infantryman.

Infantry would make raids on particular enemy positions hiding behind a barrage of artillery fire. A long line of artillery fire would be laid down just in front of the front line trenches. This barrage would slowly progress forward followed by advancing infantry. In theory the enemy would not be able to see the advancing soldiers until they were right on top of them but with the advent of the machine gun huge amounts of soldiers could be mown down quickly.

Each machine gun post would fire constantly at forty five degrees to the front line thus creating a wall of bullets that the advancing troops would walk into. These are some of the ways in which tactics changed to accommodate trench warfare and these basic ideas stayed basically the same throughout the war. Huge advances in technology and in tactics is how warfare changed between the end of 1914 and march 1918. Mainly revolving around the trenches and the stalemate new ideas and technologies were used to adapt to the situation and to try and break the deadlock and shorten the war.

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