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The national Archives > Exhibitions > an initial World War

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The western Front, 1914-18

The first World battle was both a European polite war and a clash of worldwide empires. Its affect stretched from the muddy battlefields the Belgium and France to the deserts of modern-day Iraq.

brothers perceptions the the battle are dominated 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 ally memorialisation that the war after 1918. This to be hardly surprising. The number of British dead and wounded in northern France and Belgium - simply over two million in between 1914 and also 1918 - dwarfed the variety of British casualties on any type of other armed forces front.

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Trench war

Both the Allies and the central Powers tried various way to get rid of the dead end of trench war that characterised the fighting ~ above the western Front indigenous the fall of 1914 onwards. In April 1915, because that example, German forces at the second Battle that Ypres exit 168 lots of gift chlorine gas versus French and also Canadian troops. Yet this dangerous new weapon go not have actually the intended decisive impact. Within days, Kitchener had actually secured Cabinet commitment for Britain come respond in kind.

In 1916, while German pressures unsuccessfully laid siege to the French fortress of Verdun (February-August), the British released a major set-piece attack of your own. The fight of the Somme began on 1 July 1916 and also lasted until 17 November. Practically 20,000 brother officers and men were killed on the an initial day of fighting - much more than on any kind of other day during the war or on any day in any kind of other conflict. Yet, throughout the five-month offensive, ally troops made only small territorial gains.

The majority of the British pressures on the west Front came from brother itself, yet there to be also large numbers of Indian combat troops as well as soldiers indigenous the Dominions (Canada, Australia, new Zealand and also South Africa). Black color soldiers from the Caribbean and parts of Africa worked as labourers, regularly under fire.


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Verdun: German satirical medal The German offensive, 1918

By early 1918, through the French military impeded by a series of mutinies, brothers troops to be shouldering the burden of attack operations (such together the bloody fight of Arras in April 1917). The plan lay through the Germans. Russia"s exit from the war after the signing that the treaty of Brest-Litovsk ~ above 3 in march 1918 allowed strengthened German forces under Ludendorff to launch a new offensive in the West later in the exact same month. V American troops tho to sign up with battle, they advanced rapidly in March and also April 1918, crossing the flow Somme and pushing the French ago towards the Marne.

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The rotate of the birds

However, together on numerous occasions before, the German military failed come drive house its advantage, and in July, the tide started to rotate rapidly. A concerted allied counter-offensive drive the Germans earlier beyond the starting point of their March offensive. German army morale crumbled - particularly after the army"s "black day" at the battle of Amiens ~ above 8 August, when almost 28,000 guys were either killed or captured. Within two months, ally troops had decisively damaged through Germany"s defensive shield on the western Front, the Hindenburg Line. Fighting ongoing until at an early stage November, but the war in the West had ultimately been decided in the Allies" favour.

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further research

The following references give an idea that the sources held by The nationwide Archives top top the topic of this chapter. These records can be viewed on website at The nationwide Archives.

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