Presentation on theme: "The Great War 1914-1918 "The Great War was without precedent... never had so many nations taken up arms at a single time. Never had the battlefield been."— Presentation transcript:
The Great War 1914-1918 "The Great War was without precedent... never had so many nations taken up arms at a single time. Never had the battlefield been so vast… never had the fighting been so gruesome..."
The World War of 1914-18 - The Great War, as contemporaries called it -- was the first man- made catastrophe of the 20th century. Historians can easily identify the literal "smoking gun" that set the War in motion: a revolver used by a Serbian nationalist to assassinate Archduke Franz Ferdinand (heir apparent to the Austro- Hungarian throne) in Sarajevo on June 28, 1914.
"World War I marked the first use of chemical weapons, the first mass bombardment of civilians from the sky, and the century's first genocide..."
True to the military alliances, Europe's powers quickly drew up sides after the assassination. The allies -- chiefly Russia, France and Britain -- were pitted against the Central Powers -- primarily Germany, Austria-Hungary and Turkey. Eventually, the War spread beyond Europe as the warring continent turned to its colonies and friends for help.
This included the United States, which joined the War in 1917 when President Woodrow Wilson called on Americans to "make the world safe for democracy."
Most of the leaders in 1914 had no real idea of the war machine they were putting into motion. Many believed the War would be over by Christmas 1914. But by the end of the first year, a new kind of war emerged on the battlefield that had never been seen before -- or repeated since: total war-producing stalemate, the result of a war that went on for 1,500 days.
Before the official Armistice was declared on November 11, 1918, nine million people had died on the battlefield and the world was forever changed. Quotes: Jay Winter & Blaine Baggett, The Great War, And the Shaping of the 20th Century
Both sides originally believed that the Great War would be over quickly. In Germany, this belief was based on a long established war strategy called the Schlieffen Plan.
The German generals were so confident of success that Kaiser Wilhelm II proclaimed that he would have "Paris for lunch, St. Petersburg for dinner." The plan required precise timing, with no interruptions in the timetable -- its first objective was to capture Paris in precisely 42 days, and force the French to surrender.
The German armies would then shift their focus to the eastern front and defeat the Russians before they were fully prepared to fight. The Schlieffen plan got off to a quick start with a German army invading Belgium to reach Paris, and then soon began to unravel.
The Trenches: Symbol of Stalemate By the war's end, each side had dug at least 12,000 miles of trenches. The first major trench lines were completed in late November 1914. At their peak, the trenches built by both sides extended nearly 400 miles from Nieuport, on the Belgian coast, to the Swiss border. Among the Allies, the Belgians occupied 40 miles, the British occupied 90 miles and the French occupied the rest.
Organization of the trenches The Allies used four "types" of trenches. The first, the front-line trench (or firing- and-attack trench), was located from 50 yards to 1 mile from the German's front trench. Several hundred yards behind the front-line trench was the support trench, with men and supplies that could immediately assist those on the front line.
The reserve trench was dug several hundred yards further back and contained men and supplies that were available in emergencies should the first trenches be overrun. Connecting these trenches were communication trenches, which allowed movement of messages, supplies, and men among the trenches. Some underground networks connected gun emplacements and bunkers with the communication trenches.
German trench life was much different. They constructed elaborate and sophisticated tunnel and trench structures, sometimes with living quarters more than 50 feet below the surface. These trenches had electricity, beds, toilets and other niceties of life that contrasted sharply with the open-air trenches of the Allies.
Morale Booster On average, daily losses for the British soldiers were nearly 7,000 men killed, disabled or wounded. This figure remained fairly constant throughout the war. To keep morale as high as possible and to keep the soldiers on the front as fresh as possible, the British established a three- week rotation schedule.
A week in the front trench was followed by a week in the support trench, which was followed by a week in the reserve trenches. During this third week, the men could relax with sports, concerts and plays, keeping their minds away from life on the front.
No man's land: The Territory Between the Trenches By mid-November 1914, the territory between the opposing front trenches was marked with huge craters caused by the shelling; nearly all vegetation was destroyed. Whenever possible, both sides filled this land with barbed wire to slow down any rapid advances by the enemy. The machine gun and the new long-range rifles made movement in this area almost impossible.
Timing of Movements at the Front Both sides quickly recognized that assaults against the enemy trenches were suicide if begun in broad daylight, so attacks tended to take place just before dawn or right at dawn.
Poison gases tended to be more effective in the mornings, as the colder air and absence of wind allowed the gases to stay closer to the ground for longer periods of time. Except for artillery shelling, daytime was relatively safe for the soldiers on the front line. Once the sun went down, men crawled out of their trenches to conduct raids, investigate the layout of the terrain, and eavesdrop near the enemy lines to pick up information on their strengths, weakness and strategies.
During the War's early years Britain (supported loyally by troops from her Empire and Commonwealth, such as; Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa) and her Allies, France and Russia, fought against Germany and Austro-Hungary. At the War's end many more countries were involved, including; the United States, Turkey, Japan, Italy. What had started over the assassination of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the throne of the decaying Austro-Hungarian Empire, in the Bosnian capital of Sarajevo on 28th June, 1914 only concluded after the deaths of tens of millions of soldiers and civilians
The empires of Germany, Austro-Hungary, Turkey, and Russia had disappeared, countries had lost land or gained land, new counties were created (for example, Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia), and new threatening political systems had taken over, or were about to take over in Russia and Germany respectively.