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Old 09-14-2014, 11:28 PM   #1
Zeno
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The Great War: Pivot Points and Repercussions

It was about this time in September one hundred years ago that The Great War devolved into trench warfare. See The Guns of August by Barbara W. Tuchman or other well researched and written books or documentaries or other scholarly sources.

Here is a link to what life was like in the trenches.

http://www.firstworldwar.com/features/trenchlife.htm

From the above link:

Indeed, the Great War - a phrase coined even before it had begun - was expected to be a relatively short affair and, as with most wars, one of great movement. The First World War was typified however by its lack of movement, the years of stalemate exemplified on the Western Front from autumn 1914 until spring 1918.


September 1914, a major pivot point (the first?) in the great war. My reason for the OP is something I read from Bertrand Russell in an essay (can't recall exactly which one) that he thought Britain should have stayed out of the war (he was famously jailed for his pacifist views), this would ensuring a swift victory by the Germans, a very short war and Paris would be a less charming city. Instead a very protracted war ensued with repercussions that reverberated throughout the 20th Century (and still reverberated). The repercussion were devastating - From millions of lives lost (see Robert Graves excellent book: Goodbye to all That) to the Versailles Treaty to essentially building the foundations for WWII. And much else.

Discuss whatever you think best using the above as a starting or jumping off point.
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Old 09-15-2014, 05:24 PM   #2
Husker
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Re: The Great War: Pivot Points and Repercussions

I've always thought Britain should actually have joined with the Germans to attack our old enemy instead....The French

On a slightly more serious note though it's difficult to point to one particular reason for Britain's entry into the war. Obviously the main reasons given are the triple entente and, ultimately, the guarantee of Belgian neutrality but these were driven by the fear of seeing the continent dominated by one central power and the possible repercussions of this (not only in Europe but also the Empire).

Looking back it seems like madness to get involved in the mass slaughter the war brought for reasons that didn't directly involve the direct defence of the nation but I don't think many foresaw the long struggle and the effects of 'modern' warfare. Edward Grey certainly seems to be one who did with his famous 'Lamps going out...' statement though.

With regards to Bertrand Russell's view, there was a debate on the BBC last year involving various historians with as to whether or not Britain was right to get involved and the general consensus was that the treatment of the neutral Belgian population justified involvement on moral grounds alone.
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Old 09-15-2014, 10:52 PM   #3
DoTheMath
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Re: The Great War: Pivot Points and Repercussions

Quote:
Originally Posted by Zeno View Post
September 1914, a major pivot point (the first?) in the great war. My reason for the OP is something I read from Bertrand Russell in an essay (can't recall exactly which one) that he thought Britain should have stayed out of the war (he was famously jailed for his pacifist views), this would ensuring a swift victory by the Germans, a very short war and Paris would be a less charming city. Instead a very protracted war ensued with repercussions that reverberated throughout the 20th Century (and still reverberated). The repercussion were devastating - From millions of lives lost (see Robert Graves excellent book: Goodbye to all That) to the Versailles Treaty to essentially building the foundations for WWII. And much else.

Discuss whatever you think best using the above as a starting or jumping off point.
I think there were at least two decisive pivot points before September 1914. The first was the combination of pre-war planing and initial implementation by Helmuth von Moltke the Younger. The original "Schlieffen Plan" of deployment (Aufmarsch I West) envisaged a single-front war against France. When von Moltke correctly determined that a two-front war was inevitable, he revised, in Aufmarsch II West, the deployment plan in the west to free up 20% of German forces for use in the east. He did so by taking forces evenly from the right-wing attacking force and the left wing defending force, and even shifted the balance of quality troops away from the attacking wing. Despite having significantly less combat power than the minimum necessary established in von Schlieffen's conception, von Moltke still attempted the same strategic single envelopment that von Schlieffen's plan envisaged. The German offensive inevitably came up short, and the western front moved into 4 years of trench warfare at horrendous cost.

The second pivot point was the Battle of Tannenberg. This decisive defeat of the Russian 2nd Army attempting to cut off East Prussia, protected the exposed eastern province, and enabled the subsequent victory of the Masurian Lakes. Together these victories removed the threat of the Russian behemoth steamrollering Germany, and allowed Germany to focus on the western front - thus assuring a long and deadly war.

Three other decisive moments are the Battle of Gorlice-Tarnow, the second Russian Revolution of 1917 (Red October), and the battle of Amiens. Gorlice-Tarnow was a German/Austro-Hungarian victory in the Carpathians in the first to half of May 1915. It led to the collapse of the Russian line, the loss of Poland and the territory that subsequently became the new nations of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, and to Czar Nicholas taking personal command of the Russian Army.

The Socialist revolution took Russia out of the war and led to the formation of the Soviet Union. Indirectly it also led to the creation of four post-war states in former Russian territory (the three Baltic states and Poland). With Russia no longer in the War, the Germans could transfer significant forces to the western font. These forces, using new infiltration tactics, launched a spring offensive in 1918 that captured more territory in the west than any offensive since 1914.

The Battle of Amiens (August 8, 1918) marked the successful beginning of the final British offensive. It was a primarily Australian and Canadian attack that broke the German lines and effectively ended trench warfare on the western front.
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