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The Battle Of Somme And The Western Front History Essay

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Introduction

During World War 1, on the Western Front, many Battles such as the Battle of the Somme, the living conditions sustained by soldiers, heroes who would risk their lives and sometimes loose them for their country, and the leaders that devised the plans to destroy the triple alliance drove the entente forces to victory in the western front.

The Battle of Somme was fought between the 1st of July and 13th of November 1916 in northern France. The Battle lasted for more than five months. The aim of the attack was to break through the German lines and force the German army to surrender. This Battle was coordinated by General Sir Douglas Haig. In that battle, there were 90,000 Australian Imperial Force (AIF) soldiers serving in the Western Front.

General Haig used artillery which would destroy the German barbed wire, trenches, machine guns and soldiers. The bombardment by the artillery enabled the British Troops to cross No Man's Land and occupy the German trenches. Heavy casualties were not expected during this allied attack. The Germans were secured by concrete bunkers, ten metres underground. The Germans realised that when the British would stop the Bombardment They would move up and charge to their position.

The Battle of Somme was won by a victory of either side. The British and French army gained about 11km. By the end of 1st July 1916, 20,000 British soldiers were killed the other 40,000 soldiers were wounded or captured as prisoners. By the end of August, 23,000 AIF soldiers were wounded or killed at the Somme Battlefields.

Living Conditions

The fighting soldiers saw muddy, dirty and filthy trenches littered with the waste of the war. Inside the trenches there were cart wheels, barbed wires, bodies of the dead soldiers, and human parts scattered everywhere. There were a great number of rats everywhere. Some soldiers reported that there were rats as big as cats. Rats became fat from feeding on the flesh of the decomposed bodies of the dead soldiers. These rats carried diseases such as flu epidemic. Soldiers were very exasperated and frightened from these rats. They used their guns to shoot them, and bayonets to exonerate them.

Fighting Soldiers stood in long periods of time in waterlogged trenches, unable to remove their socks or boots, and as a result suffered from Trench foot infection which made their feet numb and blue in colour. Soldiers suffering from trench foot infection had to dry their feet and change their socks several times a day. Every few weeks, organizers would send 10,000 pairs of knitted socks overseas to the soldiers. Over 20,000 men were infected by trench foot.

Lice were a standard hazard. Men would light matches or candles across their sleeves of their shirts and seams of their kilts to get rid of them. Even this attempt to incinerate them gave little relief as lice eggs would hatch as soon as they were warm. The lice would bite their flesh and cause scratching. Lice also carried diseases such as pyrexia or trench fever which would cause a high fever.

Weapons

Rifles

The main weapon that was used by British soldiers in the trenches was the bolt-action rifle. 15 rounds could be fired in a minute and can kill a person 1,400 metres away.

Tank

Tanks were first used in the Battle of the Somme. The Tanks were developed to cope with the conditions on the Western Front. The first tank was called Little Willie and needed 3 men to operate it. This tank could not cross trenches until the modern tanks were developed.

Machine Gun

Machine guns needed 4-6 men to operate them. They had to be placed on a plane surface. The Machine guns had the fire power of 100 guns.

Gas

Chlorine gas was first used by the German army at the battle of Ypres. Chlorine gas caused burning in the throat and chest pains. Chlorine Gas had a major problem which was the weather. The weather and wind direction is very important when using this gas because if the wind is in the wrong direction it may end up killing the troops using it instead of the enemy.

 

The Leaders

General Sir Douglas Haig: Haig commanded the British forces at the Battle of the Somme, losing 20,000 men on the first day. Haig returned with achievement in 1918, but remains one of the most controversial generals of the war.

Ferdinand Foch: Foch led the French at the First Battle of the Marne, but was removed from the command after the Battle of the Somme in 1916. Foch was present at the end of the war in November 1918.

Marshall Philippe Pétain: Pétain became a conqueror in France after his success at the Battle of Verdun in the western front during World War I.

Heroes

65 Australian soldiers received the Victoria Cross in World War 1. The Victoria Cross was given to those who had shown exceptional Bravery in warfare. The Victoria Cross is the most important British military award. Sergeant Lewis McGee was a soldier who received the Victoria Cross. Sergeant McGee's Platoon was suffering heavy machine gun fire near leper in Belgium on the 4th of October 1917. McGee Rushed to the enemy with a revolver shooting some of the rivals and capturing the rest. Sergeant McGee died on the 12th October 1917.

 

Pictures of the western Front


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