World War I Battles: New Technology and Tactics

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New Technology & Tactics

Tank corps & RFC growing in importance; awareness of importance of these new weapons.

Significant improvements to tank technology & tactics in particular. Tanks employed en masse and with infantry filing behind to ‘mop up’.

Improvement of artillery; ‘Creeping Barrage’ made more effective by better communications & ‘106 fuse’ shells designed to explode horizontally.

Battle of Arras & Failure of Nivelle

Designed as a diversion to Nivelle’s upcoming offensive.

Element of surprise achieved with only short artillery bombardment preceding the attack. Artillery also far more effective.

Infantry approached German trenches through tunnels to minimize casualties.

Efficacy of ‘Combined Arms Tactics’ shown with effective use of tanks, infantry, artillery & planes together.

Limited territory won from Germans but battle achieved its purpose; lure German reinforcements away from Nivelle’s offensive.

Nivelle’s offensive a huge failure, however; 30k French casualties for no gains almost led to complete mutiny in French army.

Battle of Passchendaele (Third Battle of Ypres)

Haig now returned to command of all British forces, after failure of Nivelle. Favoured another massive offensive on Western Front, near Ypres.

Lloyd George doubtful but Haig had support of Robertson and newly-formed War Policy Committee (basically revised war cabinet).

Fears about French quitting the war and Russian collapse on eastern front motivated British need for a decisive offensive.

Battle began in July 1917 with artillery bombardment 4 times as large as that of the Somme. Followed by ‘creeping barrage’ artillery fire.

British offensive hindered by boggy wet terrain & met by advanced German defences; concrete pillboxes & bunkers, reserves to counter-attack etc.

After 3 months and only 9km of territory gained, Haig called off attack. Ypres salient not secured & objectives not met.

250k British casualties & up to 400k German casualties. Lloyd George appalled once more by huge losses.

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