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WW1 Western Front

In the First World War the Western Front in France and Belgium would be the anvil on which the final victory over Imperial Germany would be beaten out.  Initially in 1914 the fighting looked as if it would be a mobile war – in some ways like the Franco Prussian War.  However as modern weapons systems forced men to dig to take cover and made cavalry charges obsolete simultaneously the armies attempted to outflank one another and a manoeuvre that became known as “The Race to the Sea” saw trench lines and barbed wire define a front line from Switzerland to the Channel.

By the winter of 1914 the Western Front had become  static and the next four years would become a brutal war of attrition in which the French, British and Germans struggled to  achieve a breakthrough.  Names like Ypres, the Somme and Verdun  entered the national psyches of France and Britain as by-words for courage and sacrifice.

The Western Front saw new weapons like poison gas and the tank come close to delivering success and in March 1918 in the Kaiserschlacht the Germans achieved the deepest penetration  of any offensive on the Western Front.  It would prove to be a Pyrrhic Victory by the end of the fighting the strength of the German Army had fallen from 5.1 million to 4.2 million, it was exhausted and had lost many of its best front line soldiers. Under the weight of the assault the British Army had not collapsed and then between August and November 1918 The Hundred Days Offensive by the British and French reinforced and invigorated by the United States rolled the Germans back beyond the Hindenburg Line and ensured the end of the war.


 

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