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The national Archives > Exhibitions > first World War

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You are watching: The western front was characterized by


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The west Front, 1914-18

The an initial World battle was both a European polite war and also a clash of worldwide empires. Its affect stretched from the muddy battlefields the Belgium and also France come the deserts of modern Iraq.

british perceptions of the battle are overcame by the western Front. Soldiers and civilians pertained to it at the moment as the decisive theatre of army operations. It was likewise the central component of allied memorialisation the the war after 1918. This was hardly surprising. The number of British dead and wounded in north France and Belgium - just over two million between 1914 and also 1918 - dwarfed the variety of British casualties on any kind of other military front.

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Trench warfare

Both the Allies and the central Powers do the efforts various method to get over the dead end of trench war that qualified the fighting top top the western Front native the loss of 1914 onwards. In April 1915, for example, German pressures at the second Battle that Ypres released 168 loads of poison chlorine gas against French and Canadian troops. Yet this dangerous brand-new weapon go not have the intended decisive impact. In ~ days, Kitchener had secured Cabinet commitment for Britain to respond in kind.

In 1916, if German pressures unsuccessfully laid siege come the French fortress the Verdun (February-August), the British launched a significant set-piece attack of their own. The fight of the Somme began on 1 July 1916 and lasted till 17 November. Practically 20,000 british officers and also men were eliminated on the first day that fighting - much more than on any type of other day during the war or on any kind of day in any other conflict. Yet, throughout the five-month offensive, allied troops made only small territorial gains.

The bulk of the British pressures on the west Front come from britain itself, however there to be also large numbers the Indian combat troops and soldiers indigenous the Dominions (Canada, Australia, new Zealand and also South Africa). Black soldiers from the Caribbean and also parts of Africa operated as labourers, regularly under fire.


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Verdun: German satirical medal The German offensive, 1918

By beforehand 1918, through the French army impeded through a series of mutinies, brothers troops to be shouldering the burden of attack operations (such together the bloody battle of Arras in April 1917). The initiative lay through the Germans. Russia"s leave from the battle after the signing the the contract of Brest-Litovsk on 3 in march 1918 allowed strengthened German pressures under Ludendorff to launch a new offensive in the West later on in the very same month. Through American troops still to join battle, they advanced rapidly in March and April 1918, cross the flow Somme and pushing the French ago towards the Marne.

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The turn of the birds

However, as on many occasions before, the German military failed come drive residence its advantage, and also in July, the tide started to rotate rapidly. A concerted ally counter-offensive drove the Germans back beyond the starting point of your March offensive. German armed forces morale crumbled - an especially after the army"s "black day" in ~ the battle of Amiens top top 8 August, when virtually 28,000 men were either killed or captured. Within 2 months, ally troops had decisively damaged through Germany"s protective shield on the west Front, the Hindenburg Line. Fighting continued until beforehand November, but the battle in the West had finally been decided in the Allies" favour.

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Watch film of soldiers walking "over the top".
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further research

The complying with references offer an idea of the sources organized by The national Archives top top the subject of this chapter. These records can be checked out on website at The national Archives.

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