Canadian History 1201 Unit 2. Canada in the First World War

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1 Canadian History 1201 Unit 2 Canada in the First World War Student Workbook 2.2 Student Name: SCO 2.0: The student will be expected to demonstrate an understanding of Canada s involvement in the First World War. 2.1: Entry into the War: support for Britain, military preparedness, recruitment, attitudes towards war 2.2: War Experiences: trench warfare, tactics and technology, experiences of the various groups 2.3: Canadian Contributions: battles and military operations, Aboriginals, women and specific individuals, casualty rates

2 2.4: Home front: economic, political and social growth Topic 2.2: War Experiences: trench warfare, tactics and technology, experiences of the various groups The war on the Western Front was a new kind of warfare. No one had experienced a war like it before. The generals plan had not allowed for it. Everyone had to adapt. You are now going to look at the main changes in the techniques of warfare brought about by the First World War. Complete the activities contained in this booklet using the information provided in the slideshow. First World War General Overview Following the July Crisis, war began in early August 1914 and was expected to be quick.over by Christmas. With ideas of war as being romantic / chivalric, men signed up eager for adventure A war of movement was expected but what developed was stalemate in the form of with trench warfare No one knew the problems associated with industrialized warfare.19 th century tactics were ineffective against modern weapons such as the machine gun War lasted for 4 years..approx 9 million soldiers / 20 million civilians would die First World War Opening Moves Prior to 1914, all major countries (Russia, France, Germany) had developed very detailed and calculated that would be implemented should war ever erupt. For Germany, it was by countries of the Triple Entente, so a war plan was needed to deal with the possibility of (France in the West & Russia in the East)

3 We can use the map on to describe how Germany s geographic location in Europe influenced its pre-world War I war plan The German plan was to quickly knock France out of the war & capture Paris before British & Russia forces could be mobilized & brought into action To accomplish this Germany decided to invade neutral Belgium, sweep through northeastern France & capture Paris, knocking France out of the war in only 6 weeks. This plan brought into the conflict in defense of neutral Belgium & it responded by sending forces to Northern France By September 1914 the German plan had failed, British & French forces stopped the Germans just outside of Paris. France was saved!! The Race to the Sea now began as both sides attempted to control the ports along the English Channel Both sides also now began to dig in over the next few months to consolidate their positions had arrived! A New Kind of Warfare The war on the Western Front was a new kind of warfare. No one had experienced a war like it before. The generals plan had not allowed for it. Everyone had to adapt. What distinguished this war from previous ones? Trench Warfare Dominated by artillery Cavalry became outdated

4 Dominated by infantry Industrialized Warfare Change 1: Trench Warfare The most obvious new feature of this kind of warfare was the system of trenches. Instead of movement, this war was static with both sides locked in a deadly stalemate unable to move. Trenches first began as simple shelters but as the war moved into 1915 they evolved into elaborate and complex defensive systems. Both sides began to construct deep trenches protected by machine guns & barbed wire. Parallel lines of trenches soon stretched from the English Channel to Switzerland Opposing forces were only separated by 25m in some areas. Trench warfare dominated the Western Front battlefields of WWI. Activity #1: Describe each of the following trenches that were used in the First World War? Front-line : (closest to the enemy) Support : This trench contained that could immediately those on the front line Reserve : This trench contained that were available in should the first trenches be overrun. Communication : the various trenches & allowed movement of,, & among the trenches

5 Activity #2: Label each of the following trenches in the appropriate location a). Reserve b). Support c). Communication d). Front-line e). Define No Man s Land: The trench was supported by much stronger trenches and linked by trenches. German trenches were usually stronger and better constructed than allied trenches. As the Germans invaded Belgium and France they quickly captured the higher ground and built their trenches in those areas. Many of their dugouts and machine gun posts were reinforced with concrete which provided a stronger defence against artillery bombardment. The British and Allied trenches were often filled with water and mud because they were constructed in the low-lying areas. Activity #3: Copy and label the cross section of a front line trench in the space below

6 Change 2: Artillery Became More Powerful For much of the war, all day, every day, artillery would pound the enemy s trenches with hundreds of shells. Artillery shells were the weapon soldiers feared the most. They were the biggest cause of the casualties more so than any other weapon in the First World War. At the beginning of the war the guns were not very accurate. Firing from behind their own lines, artillery often bombarded their own positions before acquiring the correct range to attack the enemy lines. As the war progressed, artillery became much bigger and had improved accuracy and by 1918, the tactics for using this weapon were extremely sophisticated as well. Artillery was the key weapon of the Great War and industrial production in both North America and Europe was dedicated to making shells. The effect of an exploding artillery shell on a human body was terrible. These shells were designed to explode four or five meters above the ground. Jagged fragments of the red-hot iron shells and the hundreds of shrapnel balls inside could quickly decimate soldiers by tearing off limbs and shattering bones. High explosive shells could leave no trace of a body at all. This is one of the reasons why the Menin Gate Memorial at

7 Ypres (Belgium) lists the names of 55,000 British and Empire dead who have no known grave. The names of a further 73,000 British and Empire fallen soldiers are recorded on the memorial at Thiepval on the Somme. Their bodies were never found - blown to pieces, buried in shell holes, and drowned in mud. Q. What role did artillery play in the First World War? Change 3: Cavalry Become Less Important The First World War saw another major change the end of cavalry as a weapon of the modern army. Before 1914, all sides thought that the speed and mobility of the cavalry would be decisive. However, once trenches were dug, the cavalry forces became too vulnerable to weapons such as the artillery and machine guns. In one particular cavalry charge, only three out of four hundred horses survived. Even so, horses and mules remained vital for transporting supplies and equipment in the swamp-like conditions of the Western Front. Q. How did the role of the cavalry change during the First World War? Change 4: Infantry Become More Important The infantryman or the foot soldier as he was more commonly- known, was the backbone of the army in the First World War. He

8 carried a wide variety of equipment including steel helmets to provide some protection against shrapnel from enemy shelling. (The photo will provide some insight into the equipment that they carried). In addition to the standard army-issued equipment, many of the troops also improvised their own weapons for the conditions of trench warfare. Before the war, the theory was that the cavalry would lead the attack on the enemy and the infantry would be used in a supporting role to take charge of the captured prisoners and to defend captured positions from counter-attacks. Trench warfare dramatically changed the role of the infantry. As the cavalry charge proved useless on the battlefield the infantry charge appeared at the outset of the conflict and it would become the main tactic used in the war for the trenches. The Infantry Charge This involved four main steps as outlined below. 1. The attacking side s artillery bombarded the frontline trenches of the enemy. This was called a barrage and could last for days or weeks at a time depending on the scale of the impending attack obstacles of no man s land. 3. The defenders usually had the advantage. They swept the advancing attackers with machine gun fire, sometime setting up a cross-fire to maximize their killing effectiveness. 2. As soon as the barrage lifted (stopped), attacking troops would go over the top this is, to climb out of their trenches. It was now a race between the attackers and the defenders, who had to emerge from their shelters and set up their machine guns before the attackers got over the barbed wire and other defensive 4. If the attackers did capture forward positions, they then had to hold them. This generally proved impossible and they were usually forced back to their original position after an enemy counter-attack. The machine gun was devastatingly effective against the infantry charge. It could fire eight bullets a second or more, and each trench would have a number of machine guns in any one location. During an infantry charge it could cut down a whole brigade in minutes. The machine gun made it inevitable that

9 any charge on an enemy trench would cost many lives. However, the theory was that if enough soldiers charged then no matter how many were killed or wounded on the way there would still be enough men alive to capture the machine guns in the enemy trenches. The infantry charge was the only attacking strategy that the generals had. They thought that if they did break it often enough, with enough men, eventually it would wear down the enemy, and they could break through. However, the idea that the generals simply threw away lives is not surprisingly supported by evidence. As the war continued, the generals tried new tactics, weapons, and equipment to help break the trench deadlock and to move away from the infantry charge. New camouflage techniques were used to protect troops and guns. Artillery and infantry attacks were better synchronized and troops were issued with gas masks. By the end of the war, the tank had been developed and was being used quite effectively in battle. Life in the Trenches The trench, when we reached it, was half full of mud and water. We set to work to try and drain it. Our efforts were hampered by the fact that the French, who had first occupied it, had buried their dead in the bottom and sides. Every stroke of the pick encountered a body. The smell was awful. Private No washing or shaving here, and the demands of nature answered as quickly as possible in the handiest and deepest shell-hole. Guy Chapman The other one said to me "Chas, I am going home to my wife and kids. I'll be some use to them as a cripple, but none at all dead! I am starving here, and so are they at home, we may as well starve together." With that he fired a shot through his boot. When the medics got his boot off, two of his toes and a lot of his foot had gone. But the injuring oneself to get out of it was quite common. Charles Young All we lived on was tea and dog biscuits. If we got meat once a week we were lucky, but imagine trying to eat standing in a trench full of water with the smell of dead bodies nearby. Richard Beasley The other soldiers in the hut took their shirts off after tea. They were catching lice. We had never seen a louse before, but they were here in droves. The men were killing them between their nails. Henry If you have never had trench feet described to you. I will tell you. Your feet swell to two or three times their normal size and go completely dead. You could stick a bayonet into them and not feel a thing. If you are fortunate enough not to lose your feet and the swelling begins to go down. It is then that the intolerable, indescribable agony begins. I have heard men cry and even scream with the pain and many had to have their feet and legs amputated. Sergeant Harry Roberts

10 Activity Imagine that you are a soldier fighting in the trenches. Write a letter home describing the conditions in the trenches. Use information contained on this sheet and also on the notes you collected about soldier problems These feet have trench foot and frostbite caused by standing for hours in a freezing waterlogged trench. To avoid this condition soldiers were told to change their socks regularly, wear waterproof footwear or gumboots and cover their feet with whale oil.

11 Change 5: New Weapons Using the video as a guide, record a minimum of three points of information for each weapon found below. Tanks Airplanes Machine Guns

12 Poisonous Gas Submarines

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