10 th american history l.
Skip this Video
Loading SlideShow in 5 Seconds..
10 th American History PowerPoint Presentation
Download Presentation
10 th American History

Loading in 2 Seconds...

play fullscreen
1 / 61

10 th American History - PowerPoint PPT Presentation

  • Uploaded on

10 th American History. Unit II- Becoming a World Power Chapter 8 Section 1 A World Crisis. A World Crisis. The Main Idea Rivalries among European nations led to the outbreak of war in 1914. Reading Focus What were the causes of World War I? How did the war break out?

I am the owner, or an agent authorized to act on behalf of the owner, of the copyrighted work described.
Download Presentation

PowerPoint Slideshow about '10 th American History' - JasminFlorian

An Image/Link below is provided (as is) to download presentation

Download Policy: Content on the Website is provided to you AS IS for your information and personal use and may not be sold / licensed / shared on other websites without getting consent from its author.While downloading, if for some reason you are not able to download a presentation, the publisher may have deleted the file from their server.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - E N D - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Presentation Transcript
10 th american history

10th American History

Unit II- Becoming a World Power

Chapter 8 Section 1

A World Crisis

a world crisis
A World Crisis
  • The Main Idea
  • Rivalries among European nations led to the outbreak of war in 1914.
  • Reading Focus
  • What were the causes of World War I?
  • How did the war break out?
  • Why did the war quickly reach a stalemate?
conditions in europe in 1914


  • Other nations were also trying to expand, and this quest for colonial empires is known as imperialism.
  • Late 1800s: Britain and France already had large empires.
  • German emperor, Kaiser Wilhelm II, wanted colonies for Germany.
  • He created a stronger military to start colonizing.
  • Nationalism
  • Extreme pride people feel for their country
  • Struggle for power was visible in the Balkans, a European region with many ethnic groups.
  • The Ottoman Empire that ruled the Balkans was falling apart.
  • Austria-Hungary saw this and began to annex provinces.
  • The Slavs wanted to revolt, and Russia promised protection.
  • Militarism
  • The policy of military preparedness
  • Germany built a strong navy to rival Britain’s
  • Germany enlarged, bought latest weapons.
  • German army officials drew up war plans like the Schlieffen Plan, which called for attacks on several countries.
  • Britain, France, and Russia began to prepare, too.
Conditions in Europe in 1914
sparks of world war i
Sparks of World War I
  • The deaths of Franz Joseph's brother, Maximilian (1867), and only son, Rudolf, made the Emperor's nephew, Franz Ferdinand, heir to the Austria-Hungary crown.
  • In 1912 a Bosnian teenager named Gavrilo Pincip joined the Black Hand terrorist organization, which wanted to free Bosnia-Herzegovina from Austro-Hungarian rule.
  • This group plotted to assassinate Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria on his visit to Sarajevo, Bosnia.
  • First the Black Hand operatives tossed a bomb at the Archduke's automobile. This missed.
  • The Archduke's chauffeur took a wrong turn and drove within ten feet of another Black Hand agent, Gavrilo Princip. Princip stepped up to the car and fired two pistol shots. One bullet hit Sophie, killing her instantly. The other hit Francis Ferdinand, who died within minutes.
  • Princip attempted suicide, but was captured before succeeding
  • 3,000 miles away, most Americans cared little about the murder.
  • Still, most of Europe plunged into war within five weeks.
  • Long before Princip even fired a shot, political changes in Europe made war almost unavoidable.
  • By 1914 Europe was ripe for war.
  • Nations formed alliances, or partnerships, for protection.
  • Alliances were formed to maintain peace but would lead directly to war.
  • Germany formed a military alliance with Austria-Hungary and Italy called the Triple Alliance.
  • Fearful of Germany’s growing power, France and Russia formed a secret alliance with each other.
  • Great Britain, also worried, joined France and Russia to form the Triple Entente.
  • Some European leaders believed that these alliances created a balance of power, in which each nation had equal strength, therefore decreasing the chance of war.
  • Archduke Ferdinand’s assassination exposed flaws in this thinking, as after this attack Europe exploded into war.
the great war two sides
Allied Powers- Triple Entente




Great Britain






United States

Central Powers- Triple Alliance


Germany Empire


Turkish Empire


The Great War- Two Sides
causes of world war i
No one event or person caused the Great War. There were many factors that contributed to mobilization of the belligerents

Five Major factors often identified as causes of World War I (but not causes of U.S. entry)





Events or Economics

Causes of World War I
world war i begins the great war
World War I Begins - The Great War
  • Kaiser Wilhelm II on July 5th pledged that Germany would fully support Austria-Hungary in any action against Serbia.
  • On July 23, 1914, Austria-Hungary presented Serbia with a lengthy list of demands.
  • On July 28, 1914, Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia. World War I had begun.

Kaiser Wilhelm II

Emperor Franz Joseph

The Great War, as contemporaries called it -- was the first man-made catastrophe of the 20th century.
  • In the weeks after the assassination, none of the critical leaders had the power or will to slow down the decisions, actions, reactions and attitude shifts of key government and military leaders.
  • By August, millions of Europeans -- especially the military and diplomatic leaders of Austria-Hungary, Germany and Russia -- saw war as the way to save their honor, as well as to solve the internal and international problems that needed to be resolved.
causes of world war i11
Causes of World War I
  • What were the causes of World War I?
  • How did nationalism lead to imperialism?
  • What was the Schlieffen Plan?
  • How is Nationalism a unifying and a dividing force?
  • What single event triggered the war?
  • Why didn’t the balance of power in Europe prevent World War I?
war breaks out

After the assassination, Princip was arrested, and Austro-Hungarian officials learned that the Serbian government had supplied the assassins with bombs and weapons.

  • They blamed Serbia for the killing, and because Russia had vowed to protect Serbia, Russia’s army began to mobilize.
  • Germany, allied with Austria-Hungary, declared war on Russia and France, Russia’s ally.
  • Germany followed the Schlieffen Plan and crossed into neutral Belgium, bringing Belgium and its ally, Great Britain, into the conflict.
  • Most countries had chosen sides in World War I.

Allied Powers

  • Great Britain, France, and Russia

Central Powers

Germany, Austria-Hungary, and the Ottoman Empire

  • Germany’s plan worked well in Belgium, as the Belgians only had six divisions of troops against Germany’s 750,000 soldiers.
War Breaks Out
schlieffen plan
Schlieffen Plan
  • 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. Start with a German army invading Belgium(avoiding eastern French Forts) to reach Paris.
  • 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.
  • It started quickly on Aug. 2, 1914 with Germany invading Luxembourg and Belgium, but the British, French and Russians mobilized quicker than expected.
a new kind of warfare
A New Kind of Warfare
  • Word of Germany’s invasion of Belgium quickly spread to France and other European nations.
  • French troops mobilized to meet approaching German divisions.
    • They looked much as French soldiers did over 40 years earlier, wearing bright red coats and heavy brass helmets.
    • The German troops dressed in gray uniforms that worked as camouflage on the battlefield.
  • French war strategy had not changed much since the 1800s.
    • French soldiers marched row by row onto the battlefield, with bayonets mounted to their field rifles, preparing for close combat with the Germans.
    • The Germans, however, had many machine guns, and mowed down some 15,000 French troops per day in early battle.
    • A well-trained German machine-gun team could set up equipment in four seconds, and each machine gun matched the firepower of 50 to 100 French rifles.
  • Many Europeans wrongly thought these technological advances would make the war short and that France would be defeated in two months.
the first battle of the marne

The German army quickly advanced through northern France and after only one month of fighting were barely 25 miles from Paris.

  • The French, however, would not give up.

The Aftermath

  • The French paid a heavy price, as countless red-coated French troops had fallen in the battle.
  • Despite the loss of life, it helped the Allies by giving Russia more time to mobilize for war.
  • Once Russia mobilized, Germany had to pull some of its troops out of France and send them to fight Russia on the Eastern Front, which stretched from the Black Sea to the Baltic Sea.

The Battle

  • The French launched a counterattack along the Marne River east of Paris on September 7, 1914.
  • This battle became known as the First Battle of the Marne.
  • 2 million men fought on a battle-front that stretched 125 miles.
  • After five days and 250,000 deaths, the French had rallied and pushed the Germans back some 40 miles.
The First Battle of the Marne
war breaks out17
War Breaks Out
  • How did the war break out?
  • What other countries joined Germany and Austria Hungary to form the Central Powers?
  • Why do you think World War I is known as the Great War?
  • Why did the European Leaders think the war would be short?
  • Which nation was better prepared for war? France or Germany? Why?
  • How far from Paris were the German troops before the 1st battle of the Marne?
  • Despite the loss of lives, how did the 1st Battle of the Marne help the Allies?
the war reaches a stalemate
The War Reaches a Stalemate
  • The First Battle of the Marne ended in a stalemate, and both French and German soldiers dug trenches, or deep ditches, to defend their positions and seek shelter from enemy fire.
  • By late 1914, two massive systems of trenches stretched 400 miles across Western Europe, and the battle lines known as the Western Front extended from Switzerland to the North Sea.
  • Trench warfare, or fighting from trenches, was an old strategy that had been used in Africa, Asia, and the Americas.
  • This trench warfare, however, was different because of its scale.
    • Soldiers lived in trenches, surrounded by machine-gun fire, flying grenades, and exploding artillery shells.
    • Opposing forces had machine guns pointed at enemy trenches at all times, firing whenever a helmet or rifle appeared over the top.
    • Thousands of men that ran into the area between the trenches, known as “no-man’s-land,” were chopped down by enemy fire.
  • Neither the Allies nor the Germans were able to make significant advances, creating a stalemate, or deadlock.
  • The war grew rapidly out of control. New styles of warfare, like the use of gas and heavy artillery, produced new kinds of horror and unprecedented levels of suffering and death.
  • As a Germans army crossed into Belgium, heading for Paris, the Russian Army - moving faster than the German generals had anticipated -- was already pushing into East Prussia. The German forces on the Eastern Front, however, quickly defeated the Tsar's army at the Battle of Tannenberg.
  • In the west, as the German army invaded Belgium, rumors and stories quickly spread of the atrocities the German soldiers inflicted upon Belgium civilians
  • The French, believing the German thrust into Belgium to be a fake, launched their own offensive on the eastern border between France and Germany the operations were disastrous, with the French army losing 27,000 soldiers in a single day.
  • When the German invasion of France failed to take Paris or destroy French and British resistance on the river Marne, stalemate quickly followed, and a line of trenches soon stretched along the war's Western Front from the Swiss Alps to the English Channel. Christmas Eve of 1914 saw an extraordinary truce between the men fighting in the trenches that had been called "the last twitch of the 19th century."

Poison gas attack, Flanders, Belgium

slaughter on the western front
The first Battle of the Marnetook place between 5th and 11th September, 1914. The French 6th Army came close to defeat and were only saved by the use of Paris taxis to rush 6,000 reserve troops to the front line. During the battle, the French had around 250,000 casualties. Although the Germans never published the figures, it is believed that Geman losses were similar to those of France. The BEF lost 12,733 men during the battle.

The second major battle close to the River Marne took place during the summer of 1918. Over 85,000 American soldiers took part in the battle. The German attack on the Marne was launched on 15th July. The Germans failed to break through. This included 24 divisions of the French Army, and soldiers from the United States, Britain and Italy. Allied casualties during the 2nd Battle of the Marne were heavy: French (95,000), British (13,000) and United States (12,000). It is estimated that the German Army suffered an estimated 168,000 casualties and marked the last real attempt by the Central Power to win WWI.

Battle of Verdun - 1916, became for the French what Gettysburg is for Americans.The goal of the German commander was not territory, but to bleed his enemy to death. The battle lasted nine months and in the end the front lines were nearly the same, while over 300,000 French and Germans were killed and over 750,000 were wounded.

Battle of the Somme, where another million died. The battle also saw the introduction of the tank. 42 British tanks. The British fired 1.5 million rounds of artillery shells at the Germans in the 5 month battle. The opening barrage could be heard in England. For every yard of the 18 mile front there were two British casualties. 420,000 British casualties and 1.3 million total in the battle.

As the slaughter continued with no significant gains in territory by either side, the men in the trenches kept their sanity by using music, theater and trench newspapers to replicate the world they left behind.

Slaughter on the Western Front
total war on the western front
Total War on the Western Front

In the spring of 1915 the trenches along the western front were filled with millions of soldiers, at the average rate of one soldier per four inches of trench. The job behind the front lines was to keep the men fed, equipped and ready to continue the fighting until the end came.Since both sides targeted both civilians and military personnel, and mobilized men and resources at an unprecedented rate, the Great War was a "total war”.

This total war effected the lives of many different people:

  • in some communities unprecedented casualty rates especially among young officers stripped young women of all their male contemporaries;
  • West African soldiers were shipped in from the colonies to fight in the trenches;
  • brave Englishwomen traded other jobs for more dangerous jobs in weapons factories. Everyone was affected. T
  • he first genocide of the 20th century -- the ultimate form of total war against civilians -- was also part of this conflict. Over the next two years the Armenian population of Ottoman Turkey was uprooted and expelled to the desert regions of Mesopotamia. In the process between 500,000 to one million Armenians where killed or died of exposure or disease.
the war reaches a stalemate24
The War Reaches a Stalemate
  • Why did the war quickly reach a stalemate?
  • Who won the First Battle of the Marne?
  • Where were the two systems of trenches located?
  • What new weapons were developed during World War I?
  • Why did some military officers object to the use of poisonous gas as a weapon?
  • Was trench warfare an effective strategy during World War I? Why or Why not?
new weapons of war


  • When soldiers began to carry gas masks, they still faced a stalemate.
  • British forces soon developed armored tanks to move into no-man’s-land.
  • These tanks had limited success because many got stuck in the mud.
  • Germans soon found ways to destroy the tanks with artillery fire.
  • Poisonous Gas
  • German military scientists experimented with gas as a weapon.
  • Gas in battle was risky: Soldiers didn’t know how much to use, and wind changes could backfire the gas.
  • Then Germans threw canisters of gas into the Allies’ trenches.
  • Many regretted using gas, but British and French forces began using it too, to keep things even.
  • Airplanes
  • Both sides used planes to map and to attack trenches from above.
  • Planes first dropped brinks and heavy objects on enemy troops.
  • Soon they mounted guns and bombs on planes.
  • Skilled pilots sought in air battles called dogfights.
  • The German Red Baron downed 80 Allied planes, until he was shot down.
New Weapons of War
slaughter on the western front27
Slaughter on the Western Front

Impersonal killing- Hand to hand, sword, rifle, machine gun, bomb and airplane

1914- each side lost a 1/2 million men

1915- British and French advance was less than 3 miles anywhere. France lost 1.5 million men

In early 1916, the British had over 1 million men in Belgium and France, while the French and German armies had re-supplied their front line troops. The stage was set for both sides to try to make the breakthrough on the battlefield that would assure each victory. By 1916’s end, both sides would lose nearly one million men with very little change in position of the front line trenches

1916 Battle of the Somme- 5 months. Germans lost over 600,000 men. 20,000 British soldiers died in one day.

Before the end of the war over 10 million men would die on both sides. Another 10 million civilians from disease, starvation, and revolutions.

1918- German trenches were 50 miles from Paris, the German hope was to reach Paris and defeat the French before the Americans came into the war.

world war i casualties

Belgium 45,550

British Empire 942,135

France 1,368,000

Greece 23,098

Italy 680,000

Japan 1,344

Montenegro 3,000

Portugal 8,145

Romania 300,000

Russia 1,700,000

Serbia 45,000

United States 116,516

Central Powers

Austria-Hungary 1,200,000

Bulgaria 87,495

Germany 1,935,000

Ottoman Empire 725,000

Total Casualties

65 million mobilized both sides

8.5 million killed

21 million wounded

7.7 million POW’s and missing

37million total casualties

57% of all men mobilized

World War I Casualties
  • The main weapon used by British soldiers in the trenches was the bolt-action rifle. 15 rounds could be fired in a minute and a person 1,400 meters away could be killed.
  • The single-shot, bigger-bore rifle was the subject of extensive research and development in the latter portion of the nineteenth century, with the result that the major powers introduced new models that were small-bore, bolt-action weapons capable of firing multiple rounds from a spring-loaded clip inserted into a rifle magazine.
rifles bayonets and hand guns
Rifles, Bayonets and Hand guns
  • Veterans of the Great War, when interviewed, tended to play down the impact of the bayonet during the war. Many remarked (partly in jest) that the bayonet was used primarily as a splendid means of toasting bread, and for opening cans, to scrape mud off uniforms, poking a trench brazier or even to assist in the preparation of communal latrines
  • In essence a bayonet is simply a simply a blade that is attached to the barrel of a rifle for use in close combat.
  • Most bayonets were of simple design, of the knife variety, although variations existed. For example the French devised a needle blade for use on Lebel rifles. Notoriously, the German army produced a 'saw-back' blade that, as its name suggests, gave the appearance of a saw with its double row of teeth on the back edge.
  • One advantage of using a bayonet in close crowded combat, as opposed to a rifle or handgun, was its avoidance of risk in injuring one's fellow soldiers. A bullet fired at close range into an enemy could well pass through his body and enter a friend standing (or fighting) behind him.

There was undeniably psychological value to the infantry in carrying a bayonet, even if in practice it was seldom used. Bayonets continued to be commonly issued in the Second World War.

hand guns
Hand guns
  • The pistol, originally designed as a cavalry weapon, was the staple weapon for a variety of personnel during World War One (and beyond). Traditionally issued to officers of all armies the pistol was also issued to military police, airmen and tank operators.
  • Reasons for Pistol Use
  • For men involved in the latter professions the pistol was essentially the only weapon that would serve under their unique environments: the cramped conditions of both the tank and aircraft dictated that the rifle - which was otherwise issued to virtually all regular soldiers - was impractical.
  • Three Basic Types
  • When war began there were three types of pistol in general use: revolvers, clip-loaded automatics and the so-called 'blow-back' models (where expanding propellant gas caused the gun to reload by forcing the bolt back when fired).


German Luger

Colt 45

machine gun
Machine Gun
  • Horses were still being used during WWI, but the machine gun was devastating to both men and horse. This marked the end of the horses usefulness in war, millions of horses would die.
  • Machine guns, usually positioned on a flat tripod, would require a gun crew of four to six operators. They had the fire-power of 100 guns.
  • The 1914 machine gun, in theory, could fire 400-600 small-caliber rounds per minute, a figure that was to more than double by the war's end, with rounds fed via a fabric belt or a metal strip.
machine gun36
Machine Gun
  • The reality however was that these early machine guns would rapidly overheat and become inoperative without the aid of cooling mechanisms; they were consequently fired in short rather than sustained bursts. Cooling generally took one of two forms: water cooled and, increasingly as the war developed, air cooled. Water jackets would be provided for the former (which held around one gallon of liquid) and air vents would be built into the machine gun for the latter
  • Water cooled machine guns would still overheat relatively quickly (sometimes within two minutes), with the consequence that large supplies of water would need to be on hand in the heat of a battle - and, when these ran out, it was not unknown for a machine gun crew to solve the problem by urinating into the jacket.
  • Whether air or water cooled, machine guns still jammed frequently, especially in hot conditions or when used by inexperienced operators. Consequently machine guns would often be grouped together to maintain a constant defensive position.
poison gas
Considered uncivilized prior to World War One, the development and use of poison gas was necessitated by the requirement of wartime armies to find new ways of overcoming the stalemate of unexpected trench warfare.

First Use by the French

Although it is popularly believed that the German army was the first to use gas it was in fact initially deployed by the French. In the first month of the war, August 1914, they fired tear-gas grenades (xylyl bromide) against the Germans. Nevertheless the German army was the first to give serious study to the development of chemical weapons and the first to use it on a large scale

Country Casualties Deaths

Austria-Hungary 100,000 3,000

British Empire 88,706 8,109

France 190,000 8,000

Germany 200,000 9,000

Italy 60,000 4,627

Russia 419,340 56,000

USA 72,807 1,462

Others 10,000 1,000

Poison Gas
poison gas38
Poison Gas
  • The German army were the first to use chlorine gas at the battle of Ypres in 1915. Chlorine gas causes a burning sensation in the throat and chest pains. Death is painful – you suffocate! The problem with chlorine gas is that the weather must be right. If the wind is in the wrong direction it could end up killing your own troops rather than the enemy.
  • In consequence experiments were undertaken to deliver the gas payload in artillery shells. This provided the additional benefits of increasing the target range as well as the variety of gases released.
  • Phosgene
  • Following on the heels of chlorine gas came the use of phosgene. Phosgene as a weapon was more potent than chlorine in that while the latter was potentially deadly it caused the victim to violently cough and choke.
poison gas39
Poison Gas
  • Mustard Gas
  • Mustard gas was the most deadly weapon used. It was fired into the trenches in shells. It is colorless and takes 12 hours to take effect. Effects include – blistering skin, vomiting, sore eyes, internal and external bleeding. Death can take up to 5 weeks.
  • Remaining consistently ahead in terms of gas warfare development, Germany unveiled an enhanced form of gas weaponry against the Russians at Riga in September 1917: mustard gas (or Yperite) contained in artillery shells.
  • Mustard gas, an almost odorless chemical, was distinguished by the serious blisters it caused both internally and externally, brought on several hours after exposure. Protection against mustard gas proved more difficult than against either chlorine or phosgene gas.
  • The use of mustard gas - sometimes referred to as Yperite - also proved to have mixed benefits. While inflicting serious injury upon the enemy the chemical remained potent in soil for weeks after release: making capture of infected trenches a dangerous undertaking.
  • Tanks were used for the first time in the First World War at the Battle of the Somme. They were developed to cope with the conditions on the Western Front. The first tank was called ‘Little Willie’ and needed a crew of 3. Its maximum speed was 3mph and it could not cross trenches
  • The more modern tank was not developed until just before the end of the war. It could carry 10 men, had a revolving turret and could reach 4 mph
  • By the time the war drew to a close the British, the first to use them, had produced some 2,636 tanks. The French produced rather more, 3,870. The Germans, never convinced of its merits, and despite their record for technological innovation, produced just 20.
flame throwers
  • The basic idea of a flame-thrower is to spread fire by launching burning fuel. The earliest flame-throwers date as far back as the 5th century B.C. These took the form of lengthy tubes filled with burning solids (such as coal or sulfur), and which were used in the same way as blow-guns: by blowing into one end of the tube the solid material inside would be propelled towards the operator's enemies.
  • Quite aside from the worries of handling the device - it was entirely feasible that the cylinder carrying the fuel might unexpectedly explode - they were marked men; the British and French poured rifle-fire into the area of attack where Flammenwerfers were used, and their operators could expect no mercy should they be taken prisoner. Their life expectancy was therefore short.

During the war the Germans launched in excess of 650 flame-thrower attacks; no numbers exist for British or French attacks.

  • The British bombing team usually consisted of nine men at a time: an NCO, two throwers, two carriers, two bayonet-men to defend the team and two 'spare' men for use when casualties were incurred.
  • As an attack or raid reached an enemy trench the grenadiers would be responsible for racing down the trench and throwing grenades into each dugout they passed: this invariably succeeded in purging dugouts of their human occupants in an attempt at surrender (often not accepted as they were promptly shot or stabbed).
  • Grenades - either hand or rifle driven - were detonated in one of two ways. They were either detonated on impact (percussion) or via a timed fuse.
  • Generally speaking, infantrymen preferred timed fuses (of whatever amount of time) to percussion devices, since there remained the constant risk of accidentally jolting a grenade while in a trench and setting off an explosion.
mortars and artillery
Mortars and Artillery
  • Large field guns had a long range and could deliver devastating blows to the enemy but needed up to 12 men to work them. They fired shells which exploded on impact.
  • mortar is essentially a short, stumpy tube designed to fire a projectile at a steep angle (by definition higher than 45 degrees) so that it falls straight down on the enemy.
  • The chief advantage of the mortar was that it could be fired from the (relative) safety of the trench, avoiding exposure of the mortar crews to the enemy. Furthermore, it was notably lighter and more mobile than other, larger artillery pieces. And, of course, the very fact that the mortar bomb fell almost straight down meant that it would (with luck) land smack in the enemy trench.
  • Mortars were variously used to take out enemy machine gun posts, suspected sniper posts or other designated features. Larger mortars were occasionally used to cut enemy barbed wire, generally in situations were field artillery could not be used.
  • 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.
  • Trenches were not built in straight lines. This was so that if the enemy managed to get into the front line trench they would not have a straight firing line along the trench. Trenches were therefore built with alternating straight and angled lines. The traverse was the name given to the angled parts of the trench.
  • The typical front-line trench was about 6 to 8 feet deep and wide enough for two men to pass. Dugouts in the sides of the trenches protected men during enemy fire. Barbed wire helped protect the firing trench from surprise attacks.
  • Between the enemy lines lay a stretch of ground called "no man's land." Soldiers generally served at the front line from a few days to a week and then rotated to the rear for a rest
  • Every soldier carried iron rations -- emergency food that consisted of a can of bully beef, biscuits and a tin of tea and sugar.

Except during an attack, life fell into a dull routine. Some soldiers stood guard. Others repaired the trenches, kept telephone lines in order, brought food from behind the battle lines, or did other jobs. At night, patrols fixed the barbed wire and tried to get information about the enemy.

life in the trenches
Life in the Trenches
  • Death was a constant companion.  Constant shellfire directed by the enemy brought random death, (many men were buried as a consequence of such large shell-bursts).
  • Similarly, novices were cautioned against their natural inclination to peer over the parapet of the trench into No Man's Land.
  • Many men died on their first day in the trenches as a consequence of a precisely aimed sniper's bullet.
  • It has been estimated that up to one third of Allied casualties on the Western Front were actually sustained in the trenches.  Aside from enemy injuries, disease wrought a heavy toll.
life in the trenches50
Life in the Trenches
  • Rat Infestation
  • Rats in their millions infested trenches.  There were two main types,
    • the brown and the black rat.
    • brown rat was especially feared.  Gorging themselves on human remains (grotesquely disfiguring them by eating their eyes and liver) they could grow to the size of a cat.
  • Men, exasperated and afraid of these rats (gunfire, with the bayonet, and even by clubbing them to death.
  • It was futile however: a single rat couple could produce up to 900 offspring in a year, spreading infection and contaminating food.  The rat problem remained for the duration of the war (although many veteran soldiers swore that rats sensed impending heavy enemy shellfire and consequently disappeared from view).
life in the trenches51
Life in the Trenches
  • Frogs, Lice and Worse
  • Lice were a never-ending problem, breeding in the seams of filthy clothing and causing men to itch unceasingly.
  • Even when clothing was periodically washed and deloused, lice eggs invariably remained hidden in the seams; within a few hours of the clothes being re-worn the body heat generated would cause the eggs to hatch.
  • Lice caused Trench Fever, a particularly painful disease that began suddenly with severe pain followed by high fever.  Recovery - away from the trenches - took up to twelve weeks.  Lice were not actually identified as the culprit of Trench Fever until 1918.
  • Frogs by the score were found in shell holes covered in water; they were also found in the base of trenches.  Slugs and horned beetles crowded the sides of the trench.
  • Many men chose to shave their heads entirely to avoid another prevalent scourge: nits.
trenches trench foot
Trenches- Trench Foot
  • Much of the land where the trenches were dug was either clay or sand. The water could not pass through the clay and because the sand was on top, the trenches became waterlogged when it rained. The trenches were hard to dig and kept on collapsing in the waterlogged sand. As well as trenches the shells from the guns and bombs made big craters in the ground. The rain filled up the craters and then poured into the trenches
  • Trench foot was a fungal infection of the feet caused by cold, wet and unsanitary trench conditions. 
  • Soldiers who spent prolonged periods of time standing in waterlogged trenches were liable to suffer from frostbite and/or trench foot. To prevent trench foot, soldiers were instructed to change their socks frequently, wear waterproof footwear and to cover their feet with whale oil.
  • It could turn gangrenous and result in amputation.  Trench Foot was more of a problem at the start of trench warfare; as conditions improved in 1915 it rapidly faded, although a trickle of cases continued throughout the war
trench mouth
Trench Mouth
  •           The term Trench Mouth is from WWI. Trench warfare was stressful because soldiers waited around before going over the top. There was no running water, no toothpaste and lots of stress. Many soldiers developed this type of gingivitis and had bad breath from rotting gum surfaces. The dead gum is attacked and infected. The gum in between the teeth is lost so you see in between the teeth (punched out papillas). In normal patients the gums in between the teeth cover the sides of the teeth so you can't see them. These patients have badly painful and bleeding gums. The surface of the gums may appear grey from dying tissue.
life in the trenches54
Life in the Trenches
  • The Trench Cycle
  • Typically, a battalion would be expected to serve a spell in the front line.  This would be followed by a stint spent in support, and then in reserve lines.  A period of rest would follow - generally short in duration - before the whole cycle of trench duty would start afresh.
  • In reality the cycle was determined by the necessities of the situation.  Even while at rest men might find themselves tasked with duties that placed them in the line of fire.
  • Others would spend far longer in the front line than usual, usually in the more 'busy' sectors.
  • As an example - and the numbers varied widely - a man might expect in a year to spend some 70 days in the front line, with another 30 in nearby support trenches.  A further 120 might be spent in reserve.  Only 70 days might be spent at rest.  The amount of leave varied, with perhaps two weeks being granted during the year.
life in the trenches55
Life in the Trenches
  • the Smell
  • Finally, no overview of trench life can avoid the aspect that instantly struck visitors to the lines: the appalling reek given off by numerous conflicting sources.
  • Rotting carcases lay around in their thousands.  For example, approximately 200,000 men were killed on the Somme battlefields, many of which lay in shallow graves.
  • Overflowing latrines would similarly give off a most offensive stench.
  • Men who had not been afforded the luxury of a bath in weeks or months would offer the pervading odour of dried sweat.  The feet were generally accepted to give off the worst odour.
  • Trenches would also smell of creosol or chloride of lime, used to stave off the constant threat of disease and infection.
  • Add to this the smell of cordite, the lingering odour of poison gas, rotting sandbags, stagnant mud, cigarette smoke and cooking food... yet men grew used to it, while it thoroughly overcame first-time visitors to the front.
trenches self inflicted wounds shell shock
Trenches- Self Inflicted wounds + Shell Shock
  • Faced with the prospect of being killed or permanently disabled, soldiers sometimes hoped that they would receive what was known as a blighty wound, and be sent back home. There were some cases where soldiers shot themselves in an attempt to end their time on the frontline. Self-inflicted wounds (SIW) was a capital offence and if discovered, a man found guilty of this faced execution by firing-squad. A total of 3,894 men in the British Army were convicted of SIW. None of these men were executed but they all served periods in prison.
  • By 1914 British doctors working in military hospitals noticed patients suffering from "shell shock". Early symptoms included tiredness, irritability, giddiness, lack of concentration and headaches. Eventually the men suffered mental breakdowns making it impossible for them to remain in the front-line. Some came to the conclusion that the soldiers condition was caused by the enemy's heavy artillery. These doctors argued that a bursting shell creates a vacuum, and when the air rushes into this vacuum it disturbs the cerebra-spinal fluid and this can upset the working of the brain.
  • The Zeppelin, also known as blimp was an airship that was used during the early part of the war in bombing raids by the Germans. They carried machine guns and bombs. However, they were abandoned because they were easy to shoot out of the sky.
  • Planes were also used for the first time. At first they were used to deliver bombs and for spying work but became fighter aircraft armed with machine guns, bombs and some times cannons. Fights between two planes in the sky became known as ‘dogfights’
  • Light machine guns were adopted too for incorporation into aircraft from 1915 onwards, for example the Vickers, particularly with the German adoption of interrupter equipment, which enabled the pilot to fire the gun through the aircraft's propeller blades.
submarines u boats
Submarines - U-Boats
  • Torpedoes were used by submarines. The Germans used torpedoes to blow up ships carrying supplies from America to Britain.
  • In February 1915 the German government announced its solution to the problem -- unrestricted submarine warfare. The Germans realized they didn't have to capture a merchant ship, just sink it - crew and all. They declared a war zone around the British Isles within which they would sink any allied merchant vessel on sight.
  • The Germans torpedoed the passenger liner Lusitania on May 1st 1915 which sank with a loss of 1,195 lives. Americans were outraged and joined the war in 1917 on the side of the allies.
world war i disabilities
World War I Disabilities
  • Over 1.65 million men in the British Army were wounded during the First World War. Of these, around 240,000 British soldiers suffered total or partial leg or arm amputations as a result of war wounds. Most of these men were fitted with artificial limbs.