Even though each soldier would have been involved in some form of continual conflict with serving on the front-line (trench rapids, snipers, shelling), it is possible to distinguish major battles (or pushes) whose names have gone down in history as some of the bloodiest conflicts ever waged. There were many battles that took place during the war but the most remembered were the five major battles. Those battles are, The Battle of Marne (1914 and 1918), The Battle of Verdun (1916), The Battle of Ypres (1914, 1915, and 1917), The Battle of the Somme (1916), and The Battle of Cambrai (1917).
This paper will explain the pros and cons and major details of each battle. On September 4, 1914, the rapid advances of the German army through Belgium and northern France caused a major panic in the French army and many troops were rushed from Paris, in taxis, to halt in the advance. With the combination of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF), the Germans were eventually halted and the war settled into the familiar defensive series of entrenchments. Ironically, by the end of May 1918, the Germans had again reached the Marne after the enormous successes of Lunderdorff’s Offensives of that year.
The battle of the Marne was very costly in terms of casualties. In fact, it was a precursor of what was to come. Some of the 250,000 French soldiers were lost and the Germans suffered about the same casualties. The BEF lost just fewer than 13,000 men. However, Paris was saved and the Germans expected outcome of the Schloieffen Plan that had faltered. Now years of trench warfare was to dominate the western front. The Battle of Verdun is considered the greatest and lengthiest battle in world history. On December 24, 1915, the final decision was made to attach Verdun.
Germanys plan was to crush the French front-line completely with a massive artillery bombardment. The battle of Verdun is considered to be on of the most brutal events of World War I, and the site itself is remembered as the “battlefield with the highest density of dead per square yard. ” The battle of Verdun was such a lengthy battle, involving so many men situated on such a tiny piece of land. A major military engagement of World War I, the Battle of Verdun was a ten-month long ordeal between the French and German armies. The battle was part of an unsuccessful German campaign to take the offensive on the western front.
The battle lasted from February 21, 1916 until December 19, 1916. It caused over an estimated 540,000 France 430,000 German casualties and no strategic advantages were gained for either side. There were three battles fought around the Ypres salient during the War. The first battle was an attempt by the BEF to halt the rapid advances made by the Germans in 1914. The second battle was notable for the first use of poison gas that was invented by the Germans, in 1915. However, it is the long-planned offensive of July 31, 1917, that holds the most significance.
This battle was fought in the Western Front. The Battle of Ypres was a combination of over-ambitious aims and appalling weather conditions. The horror of the battle was when men drowned in liquid mud. By the time offensive was called off total casualties for both sides had been approximately 250,000. Comprising the main Allied attack on the western Front during 1916, the Battle of the Somme is famous chiefly on account of the loss of 58,000 British troops (one third of them killed) on the first day of the battle on July 1, 1916.
For many people, the Battle of the Somme was a battle that symbolized the horrors of warfare in World War I. By the end of the battle, the British Army had suffered 420,000 casualties including 60,000 on the first day alone. The French lost 200,000 men and the Germans nearly 500,000. Ironically, going over the top at the Somme was the first taste of battle many of these men had. The battle of Combrai in November 21, 1917 marked the end of Cavalry as an effective military asset. The battle of Combrai ranks as one of the most thrilling episodes of the whole war.
The opening of the Battle of Combrai on November 20, 1917 is often identified as the first demonstration of the sophisticated techniques and technologies required to affect such a battle. On that day, the British attach broke deeply and quickly into apparently impregnable defenses with few casualties. A surprise artillery barrage started the offensive and 476 tanks, packed tightly for a mass attack moved against the German lines. Even though the battle of Cambrai did not gain permanent ground, it proved that the tank could be used effectively and successfully.
Cambrai was chosen because of the hard ground in the area as most of the front was mud and early tanks were unable to traverse this terrain. The casualties suffered in World War I was on a scale never before experienced. Great Britain, with the least number of deaths, lost over 1,000,000 combatants in the war France lost 1,300,000. Russia lost 1,700,000. Germany and its allies, with the most number of deaths, lost 3,500,000. The losses in life per day of the war exceeded 5,500. Those are some of the major battles on the Western Front that I explained in my report.