World war i changes in warfare
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World War I – Changes in Warfare. Changing Warfare. Changes in technologies, tactics, and weaponry Communication achieved through telephone, Morse Code, radios, and carrier pigeons. Carrier pigeons placed in a gas protection box. Scorched Earth.

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World War I – Changes in Warfare

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World War I – Changes in Warfare

Changing Warfare

  • Changes in technologies, tactics, and weaponry

  • Communication achieved through telephone, Morse Code, radios, and carrier pigeons

Carrier pigeons placed in a gas protection box

Scorched Earth

  • Tactic implemented by the Russians, borrowed by the Germans

  • Retreating armies would burn buildings, ravage crops, cut down trees, and force inhabitants to flee

  • Goal was to leave nothing of value behind that opposing forces could use

Ruins of a French town after German troops retreated through it, 1918


  • Spies tried to obtain information in various ways

  • Risks

  • Edith Cavell

  • Mata Hari

German spy Mata Hari

British nurse and heroine Edith Cavell


German bombing raid on British camp, 1915

  • First used for intelligence gathering; later armed

  • Bomber planes

  • “Aces”

Baron Manfred Freiherr von Richthofen (the Red Baron)


  • Britain initially had more submarines than Germany

  • German submarine strategy

  • Backlash by neutral nations

German sailors load a torpedo on a U-boat

German U-boat and a sinking English steamer

Sinking of the Lusitania

  • May 7, 1915: Passenger ship sunk by German submarine

  • More than 1000 civilian deaths, including 128 Americans

  • Germany claimed the ship was carrying munitions

  • Incident put the U.S. one step closer to entering the war

Torpedoing of the Lusitania

Machine Guns

  • Maintained and perpetuated trench warfare

  • Designers and manufactures continued to modify original machine gun - the Maxim

British troops with machine guns


  • Heavy artillery

  • Became more mobile

  • Especially useful in bombarding enemy strongholds from long distances

Howitzer left by retreating German army in France

Chemical Weapons

  • Archaic and modern weaponry and strategies meet

  • Poison gas

  • Attacked nervous system

    • painful death

    • long-lasting mental disturbances

A German dispatch rider wearing a gas mask, 1917


  • Terrifying German weapon first used at Verdun, 1916

  • Effects

  • Counter tactics

French troops using flamethrowers


British tank in action

  • British innovation

  • Unsuccessful at first

  • Cambrae, 1917: First successful tank offensive

  • Increasingly important weapon in modern warfare

French tanks, Americans support French troops

Telephone and Radio

  • Difficulties in keeping lines of communication open

  • Telephone’s shortcomings

  • Radio’s shortcomings

German soldiers set up a radio on the Western Front

The Media

  • 1916: First war films

  • Newspapers provided the majority of the public with war news

Behind the scenes of a film in Austria, 1918

Trench Warfare

  • Forces dug in to begin trench warfare along 475-mile front

  • Plagued with disease, lice, water, and mud

  • German trenches were the most sophisticated

British trench soldiers in France wait to attack

The British government wanted to encourage men to enlist for war.

They said the war would be safe, hardly any fighting, a good lark and over by Christmas.

They used advertising posters to encourage this idea!

A picture of soldiers going

‘Over the Top’

The reality of ‘going over the top’ was very different!

How the uniform and equipment changed after just three weeks in the trenches…

No smiling and relaxed faces…

No clean uniforms…

Their equipment is scattered everywhere…

Boredom and sleep are obvious…

Freezing Winters

The soldiers had very little decent food, and what food they had was often attacked by rats.

These rats were the size of small rabbits and badgers because they had fed on the decomposing bodies of dead soldiers.

Lice were also a common nuisance and disease was rampant.

Trench Foot

Posters always showed men ready and willing to fight.

They never showed the boredom of the trenches or actual fighting taking place.

Why do you think the government showed no fighting?

Letter From the Trenches

  • You are a soldier fighting in the Great War. You have witnessed many tragedies and horrors.

  • Write a letter home to your family detailing what the fighting and living conditions were like in the trenches, describe what all of your senses are experiencing (sight, taste, smell, hearing and touch)

  • Discuss what some of the weapons you have encountered, what it might have been like “going over the top” and what the living conditions were like in the trenches.

  • Minimum of 1 page

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