Western Front is considered as the symbol of World War I because it was the center of action during the Great War. The Western Front spans miles of trenches that started from the Swiss border to the North Sea. It traversed in north-east of France and ended in Belgium and southern Germany. The battles of Marne, Ypres, Verdun and Somme were fought along the Western Front.
The Western Front started to take form in 1914 after the German’s advance through the northern France was stopped at the Battle of Marne. The Germans proceeded to the Aisne River and started to dig a network of trenches to hold their position. The Allies also built their trench systems as a response to the Germans. Both sides continued to extend their trenches, even racing each other to reach the North Sea. The trenches proved to be useful in preventing the enemy’s attack, and ensuring an unhampered supply chain.
The trench line grew even further by the end of 1914. Troop reinforcements from both sides filled the trenches with active soldiers resulting in a stalemate.
Germany took the defensive side and was determined not to be forced out of France. The German’s then adopted a new strategy that would inflict more deaths and injury to the Allied soldiers. Major assaults were then launched using weapons such as artillery and poison gas.
The British and French committed to keeping their offensive stance. The Allied tried to break through the front at Champagne and Loos but were unsuccessful because of the heavy artillery and machine guns from the German side.
In 1916, two major battles ensued in the Western Front. These are the Battle of Verdun and the Battle of Somme. These two battles were the deadliest, but there was no clear victor on both sides.
It is also interesting to know the different weapons used in the Western Front. These weapons on both sides contributed to the stalemate on the Western Front for many years.
The British army used a Lee-Enfield .303 rifle. The gun uses a magazine that could hold ten bullets. A trained soldier could fire 15 rounds per minute with this weapon.
The German soldiers used a Gewehr 98 rifle. The Gewehr was an accurate rifle, but it did not fit into the conditions on the Western Front due to its length.
The humble barbed wire became a deadly defensive weapon on the Western Front. It slowed down the advance of the attackers, and it made them sitting ducks for the snipers.
The German army used the standard heavy machine gun called Maschinengewehr 08. This machine gun could fire 400 rounds a minute. The British equivalent to the Maschinengewehr 08 was the Vickers. This machine gun could fire at least 450 rounds per minute.
This weapon inflicted the most casualty in the Western Front. The artillery bombardment lasted for weeks. The British used the Howitzer Mark 1. It could fire two rounds of 290 lbs. shells per minute.
The Germans, meanwhile, used the “Paris Gun.” It had an 118 ft. long barrel and could fire a shell 25 miles into the air. The long range artillery allowed the Germans to target objects in far locations.
The Germans used the chlorine gas the Second Battle of Ypres in April 1915. The British also deployed chlorine gas. An even deadlier gas, such as phosgene and mustard gas, were used as the war progressed.