The first World War was a horrible experience for all sides involved. No one was immune to the effects of this global conflict and each country was affected in various ways. However, one area of relative comparison can be noted in the experiences of the French and German soldiers. In gaining a better understanding of the French experience, Wilfred Owen’s Dulce et Decorum Est was particularly useful. Regarding the German soldier’s experience, various selections from Erice Maria Remarque’s All Quiet on the Western Front proved to be a valuable source of insight.
A analysis of the above mentioned sources, one can note various similarities between the German and French armies during World War I in the areas of trench warfare, ill-fated troops, and military technology. Trench warfare was totally unbiased. The trench did not discriminate between cultures. This “new warfare” was unlike anything the world had seen before, millions of people died during a war that was supposed to be over in time for the holidays.
Each side entrenched themselves in makeshift bunkers that attempted to provide protection from the incoming shells and brave soldiers. After receiving an order to overtake the enemies bunker, soldiers trounced their way through the land between the opposing armies that was referred to as “no man’s land. ” The direness of the war was exemplified in a quotation taken from Remarque’s All Quiet on the Western Front, “Attacks alternate with counter-attacks and slowly the dead pile up in the field of craters between the trenches.
We are able to bring in most of the wounded that do not lie too far off. But many have long to wait and we listen to them dying. (382) After years of this trench warfare, corpses of both German and French soldiers began to pile up and soldiers and civilians began to realize the futility of trench warfare. Trench warfare was one of the most important strategies used during World War I. Trench warfare is also the first idea that pops into someone+s head when the topic of World War One is presented.
However, the trench warfare presented in these minds, is that of two opposing sides charging one another. Though this arbaric form of trench warfare was used in the 1400+s, by World War I we had developed something a little more elaborate. (Lavarone) The new trench warfare was a defensive strategy made up of intricate placements of different types of trenches. This old concept was developed into the best defensive strategy, to this day. All of the ideas surrounding trench warfare center around keeping the offense away.
Because of this, World War One lasted a long time and forced any country that wanted to pursue offensive strategy, to find some way to work around the trenches. Fletcher) The most common trench was a “fire trench. ” This trench was best known for its use in the front line. Each fire trench held approximately 300 men; however, depending on the size, trenches could hold anywhere from 600 men to as few as 20 men. (Fletcher)
Fire trenches weren+t just deep holes dug in a straight line. The trenches zigzagged in order to get the best angle of fire on the approaching enemy. Lavarone) From this vantage point the troops could fire artillery shells to rain down upon their attackers, and after surrounding the renches with three layers of barbwire, the trenches proved to be a formidable front line. (Conway) Other types of trenches included crawl trenches, communication trenches and living trenches. Communication and crawl trenches were both much smaller than the fire trenches.
They both are namesakes. Communication trenches contained wires through which one trench could communicate with another. Fletcher) Crawl trenches were small trenches that enabled soldiers to retreat or to travel back and orth between other trenches. Living trenches were somewhat larger and were situated far from the front line.
These usually contained a barracks of some sort where the soldiers lived. (Fletcher) A network of the various types of trenches made up the key element for the strategy of trench warfare. Having two or three fire trenches behind the front line, backed up by the specialized weapons in a back bunker, all linked with a retreat trench, became a highly complex defensive setup. (Lavarone)