The Great War--Practices

Suzanne Karpilovsky (IB Diploma 1996)
Maria Fogel (IB Diploma 1996)
Olivia Kobelt (Class of 1996)

The Western/ Franco-Belgian Front
Schlieffen designed the Schlieffen plan for Germany to quickly conquer France. The Germans planned to speed through Belgium to smash the French. They made it all the way across the Marne river when the French under General Joseph Joffre attacked the First German army under General von Kluck. The other two German armies were too far behind to help, so the French were able to halt Kluck's advance in the First Battle of the Marne in September, 1914.

Once the Germans took Antwerp in October, they tried to break through British positions in Belgium, known as the Battle of Flanders. The Allies didn't gain much along the entire front. By the end of 1914, both sides had lines 500 miles from Switzerland to the North Sea and had entrenched. The lines hardly changed in three years. After the Battle of Flanders, the western front was no longer a war of movement or fighting in the open. From then on, it was mainly trench warfare.

In 1915, the Allies began new offensives in the west. Their main attempts included a British attack at Neuve Chapelle in March. This took only the German advance line. In April, the Germans unsuccessfully attacked Ypres with chlorine gas. This was the first time the gas was used on a large scale. Basically, the lines of 1914 didn't change.

The Eastern/ Russian Front
Russia held the initiative in this front at the beginning of the war. The Russians kept beating the Germans until General Hindenburg's German army defeated them in the Battle of Tannenberg in August, 1914. In the end, Russia never got any German Territory.

The Southern/ Serbian Front
In 1914 the Austrians undertook four invasions of Serbia, and lost the first three. Later the Austrians conquered Serbia, driving what was left of the Serbian forces onto the island of Corfu. The Serbs never tried to invade Austria-Hungary.

The Turkish Front
Once Turkey declared war, Russia returned the declaration, along with Great Britain and France. The Turks successfully invaded the Russian Caucasus region in November, but by August 1915 their gain was set back quite a bit. Russians got Britain to help them out, and General Ian Hamilton bombarded the Turkish forts at the Dardanelles in February, but they absolutely failed.

Verdun and Somme
Erich von Falkenhayn, chief of the general staff of the German army, designed the German plan. It was to attack the French fortress at Verdun. Commanders in chief Marshal Joffre of the French army and General Sir Douglas Haig of the British designed the Allied plan for 1916. It was to break through the German lines in the west by attacking in the region of the Somme River. Germany began the attack in Verdun in February. Since it lost with 330,000 casualties, the Somme attack was mainly British, lasting from July to November. This battle marked the earliest use of the modern tank. Russia and Romania

The Russians attacked the Lake Narocz region on the eastern front in 1916, and failed. They lost over 100,000 men. In June they were more successful, yet their army felt quite demoralized. However, they showed enough strength to induce Romania into entering the war with the Allies. By January, 1917, Romania was completely conquered, giving the Central Powers a source of wheat and oil.

American Involvement
President Woodrow Wilson really wanted to bring "peace without victory," and end the war. In 1916 he began his negotiation attempts. But then Germany announced unrestricted warfare. It calculated to defeat Britain this way in six months. The U.S. didn't like this violation of their neutrality, and Wilson stopped his peacemaking efforts. In April, the U.S. declared war on Germany.

Military Tactics
The war began as a war of movement, but once the airplane and tank were introduced, strategies changed. The Battle of Cambrai was the first tank raid on a large scale, during which the British attacked with 400 tanks on the western front in 1917.

Communication was an important part of successful battle. Telephone lines were used, then radio was developed. Without communication, defeat was imminent, such as in the Battle of Tannenberg. The big firepower of modern artillery and machine guns made World War I into a war of attrition fought from trenches.

Sea Power
The invention of the submarine revolutionized sea warfare. With it, Germany expected to conquer Britain by April. But Britain developed a system of convoying fleets of merchant vessels with warships like destroyers and submarine chasers, and used hydroplanes for spotting subs and used depth bombs or charges to destroy them.

The Grand Fleet, the main British fleet, consisted of 20 dreadnoughts and numerous other ships, including battle cruisers, cruisers, and destroyers, and was centered mainly on Scapa Flow in the Orkney Islands north of Scotland. A second British fleet, consisting of older ships, was used to guard the English Channel. The German fleet, the High Seas Fleet, consisting of 13 dreadnoughts, was based on the North Sea ports of Germany. The Treaty of Versailles made all German ships property of the Allies. One of the largest naval battles in history was the Battle of Jutland, fought between the British Grand Fleet and the German High Seas Fleet in May, 1916.

A great increase in production and use of aircraft took place during World War I. The airplane and airship/ dirigible balloon and tethered balloon are some examples. Aircraft were used for observation and bombing. Balloons were great for observation and scouting at sea. The German type of dirigible was the zeppelin. Due to their extreme vulnerability, they stopped using them.

At the beginning of the war, the Allies and the Germans had 200 aircraft each on the western front. Anthony Fokker, a Dutch man working for the Germans, enabled machine guns to be permanently mounted on planes. Before this, pilots would drop bombs by hand out of the cockpit.