The Western Front

The Western Front

6th Aug 2020

World War I saw a new form of mass battle with newly formed mechanized armies battling along various Front lines. The most well known is the Western Front. This referred to the German Western Front from 1915 through 1918 in which they fortified their newly won borders with easily defendable trenches.  The term took on even more meaning when the British and French allies began using it in their battle plans as well. From there, as they say, the name is history. This designation made it easier to identify the geography on a map and keep it separate from other Fronts observed at the time.

The Western Front: 1915-1916

Made infamous by the fact that it was the prominent battle line during this full scale war.  The battle line remained unbroken for nearly 400 miles in 1915, an incredible feat and monumental task to hold.  It went from the Belgian coast to the Swiss borders, north and south, but also east and west to the city of Verdun and then again south to east to Belfort making it an odd line that showed the variety of geography and level of resistance the Germans and Austrians experienced.

The allies were in specific areas of the Western Front; Belgium the north, Britain the north central and the French held on to the rest.  As you can imagine there were many conflicts that saw the armies fighting side-by-side of each other.  This must have made for an interesting mix of technology as firearms, knivesbayonets, shovels and more were used daily in the trenches.

The trench systems employed were heavily protected by barbed wire, zi/zagged through the landscape and were so long and deep they were difficult to conquer.  A perfect defense for the tech and strategies of the day, as you could not go around or through them without suffering tremendous loss.  So hard in fact, that neither side saw any decisive victories for 3 years.  Hundreds of battles erupted continuously during this time, from small skirmishes to larger well planned engagements, but it took years and many lives for any side to realize an advantage.  More times than not the allies initiated the battles and as we look back we see the heavy losses each side experienced.

Casualties were approximately 5 million German and Austrian troops wounded or killed, over 5 million French wounded or killed, just under 3 million British wounded or killed and 58 thousand Belgians wounded or killed.  Over 13 million casualties on both sides was so devastating and grand in scale that some proclaimed this "the War to end War".  Sadly this was not to be.

Robin Chaudhuri, Senior Writer Atlanta Cutlery