World War I Essay, Research Paper
At 11 p.m. on 4th August 1914 Great Britain found herself at war in Europe. Four years and three months later before dawn on 11th November, 1918, British soldiers recaptured the Belgian town of Mons. On this same day an Armistice was signed at 5 a.m. in a railway carriage in the Forest of Compi?gne in Northern France and
hostilities ceased six hours later at eleven o’clock. During the War’s early years Britain 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.
The Great War was radically different from wars fought in the past. Fighting, between volunteer or conscripted soldiers in trenches separated by no-man’s-land from their enemy in similar trenches, continued all year; and new, improved methods of killing had evolved such that the scale of injury and death was beyond that which any
person had believed possible. With industrialization in Europe, invention and greatly enhanced mass-production manufacturing techniques gave rise to plentiful
supplies of poisonous gases, tanks, powerful explosives, flame-throwers, hand-grenades, fighter and bomber aircraft, and, above all, machine-guns, and accurate
long-range artillery. Killing was on a gargantuan scale, and Generals who developed their new strategy of “attrition” forgot surprise and inventiveness.
Especially on the Western Front, where all too often only minimal ground was lost or won, battles for months, and casualties were of hundreds and thousands.
Britain’s war was centered on the Western Front. This was an intricate system of trenches, which ran from the Belgium coast, through northern France, to the German border. The British section probably extended for about 75 miles. Not all this length was involved in battle all the time, though even quiet parts suffered not infrequently from shelling, and trench raids. One area, however, did suffer from continuous, unremitting warfare; this was the area, which stretched around the Belgium town of Ypres. Overlooked on three sides by the Germans it was shelled day and night for four years. During the Battle of Third Ypres, from August to November, 1917 British and Commonwealth soldiers attacked out from this salient and, after suffering about 400,000 casualties, they gained not more than about four miles of ground.
In the early winter, after Passchendaele had drawn to its close, the War still had a year to run, and the Battle of Cambrai, the massive German Spring Offensive of
1918, the American attacks at St. Mihiel and in the Argonne, and the Allies final three months advance still had to be paid for with the lives of a multitude young
At the Armistice there was very little celebration by the battle-weary front-line soldiers. That the War had ended and that they, despite fearful odds, were still alive
was often difficult to comprehend. Once the fact had been assimilated, however, all they wanted to do was to go back home to a country they knew and to cherished relatives and families. In the following years many former soldiers suffered many disappointments for, after the initial euphoria of their return was over, they felt themselves to be unthanked and unappreciated. In Britain living conditions in industrialized towns were poor and work very hard to come-by – especially during the Depression years of the 1930s.
Many never talked to anyone about their experiences in the trenches. Perhaps they just wanted to put from their minds the harrowing memories of those awful times;
or maybe they thought that no one who had not been there could possibly to understand the dreadful conditions, which they had endured. A few kept diaries of their