– attempts to break the stalemate
Why were these offensives futile in breaking the stalemate?
There are several reasons as to why the battles of Verdun, the Somme and Passchedaele were unsuccessful in breaking the stalemate between the Allies and Germany. These reasons include poor planning and ineffective battle strategies executed by the Generals of the war, the introduction and development of weapons and technology, and the unforeseen weather. Lastly, poor communication was an issue that both sides contended with and led to many miscommunications but more importantly the loss of men, supplies, infrastructure and the inability to create a breakthrough to end the stalemate.
The Generals of the Great War had 19th century, romantic ideas of war that wasnʼt consistent with the rapid growth of weapons during the early 20th century. Their out- dated ideas of war was clearly encapsulated by General Haig in “cavalry will have greater use in the future”, similarly Field Marshall Joffre believed the “spirit” of the French would see them across No Manʼs Land. These unrealistic views of ʻmodernʼ day warfare, led to the under preparation of British and French battalions facing the better equipped German Army.
The Germans were however, more prepared through their use of machine guns. They had eight per battalion compared to the British who only had two, as General Haig had found uniter The British had planned to continue to use the cavalry in the battle of the Somme and had kept 700 000 horses in France in order to achieve this, however a gap in the German line never occurred due to the German Maxim machine guns who mowed the British infantry down in their thousands. The Maxim machine gun was Germanyʼs best offensive weapon and was most effective in the battle of the Somme, resulting in 90% of Allied victims. Coupled with poor communication between the front line and the higher ranked ofﬁcers, miles away and the better established and well equipped Germans, ultimately led to the death of 60, 000 British soldiers on the ﬁrst day of the Somme. The British didnʼt gain anything from this assault on the Germans, but they created a pointless attempt to break the stalemate on the Western Front. The battle of Passchendaele was another hopeless attempt to break the stalemate between Germany and the Allies.
The battle of Passchendaele also known as the ʻBattle of Mud,ʼ created difﬁcult conditions to break the German line. This was as a result of the ʻGermanʼs effective use of interlocking machine gun nests sited in protective concrete bunkers, and their defense system, which was nine layers deepʼ (McCullum, A, 2005) as well as the swamp- like battle ground that resulted in Britainʼs inability to break the stalemate. The British lost 310, 000 men and the Germans lost 260, 000 troops in the process of a failed British attack to capture the two ports of Ostende and Zeebruge. The Generals of the war, and in particular the Allied Generals, had little experience in trench warfare which also contributed to the large numbers of Allied casualties. Due to their unrealistic notions of war and poor battle strategy, it consequently led the armyʼs under preparation of weapons and resulted in their vulnerability to German machine guns and artillery. The battles, collectively amounted to nothing where neither side were successful in penetrating enemy lines and hence, the stalemate of the Western Front continued for a vast majority of the Great War.