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Discussion on the first World War which lasted from 1914-1918.

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      01.12.2012 10:34
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      the war to end all wars ~ not exactly !!!

      Well I can understand why no~one's tackled this one,it's a massive subject which resonates to this day and impossible to do justice in a few thousand words - so here goes !!

      World War One.What does it mean to people today.If you're British and you have heard of it it means The Somme,senseless slaughter,Blackadder,poppys,mud,trenches and 'going over the top'.Yet,funny enough,it's a little more complex than that !!!

      Although one particular event is often cited as starting the war it wouldn't have happened if Europe had been a continent at peace with itself.

      When individual German states agreed to unify under Prussian rule to form the German nation after defeating France with comparitive ease in the Franco-Prussian war of 1871 it created unease amongst the nations of Europe,particularly France after such a humiliating defeat.

      France was to ally itself with Russia in attempt to achieve some support and security against the growing power and strength of it's ambitious neighbour which had aligned itself with the huge and ancient AustroHungarian Empire creating a massive and powerful alliance dominating Central Europe.

      As the 19th century drew to a close and the 20th century dawned Great Britain and France,who had been at war throughout the last 900 years either directly or across the globe noteably in America,Canada and India,drew closer together not least as a consequence of growing German power in Europe but also in Africa and Asia in pursuit of an overseas Empire.

      Great Britain was economically and militarily the most powerful and richest nation on earth with an empire that covered a 5th of the globe.Her resources were limitless and the might of the Royal Navy meant she could protect her massive far flung colonies.

      Ever mindful of the need to 'rule the waves' she launched a new capital ship in 1906 intended to cement her supremecy that was so much more powerful it rewrote the rulebook overnight and inadvertantly made Britain suddenly vulnerable,in a precarious position.

      A recent naval battle where Japan decimated the Russian fleet showed large guns did all the damage.Battleships had guns of many calibres but the Royal Navy commisioned a new all big gun ship,with a formidably armoured hull and new steam turbine engines making it so much faster,impervious and deadly than any other ship,including the Royal Navys's existing fleet.

      HMS Dreadnought changed everything.No navy could dream of challenging Britain the day before it's launch,the day after the rules had changed.Britain had one dreadnought (it was so new and powerful ships of its type were all called dreadnoughts after that) meaning the playing field was now level,any navy with nearly or as many dreadnoughts could now directly threaten Britain and it's Empire.

      Germany,in particular Kaiser Wilhelm II who felt both admired and loathed Britain ordered massive dreadnought construction which obviously severely alarmed Britain which increased the building too sparking off an intense arms race.

      Germany feeling threatened caught between France and Russia planned how to fight them both at once.The threat drove them to build up the army and armemant,which made their rivals increase their military creating a situation where all the powerful countries in Europe prepared themselves for war and eyed each other up with suspicion and fear.

      It may just take one spark,one significant event to start the ball rolling to all out war and in the summer of 1914 in the unheard of city of Sarajevo there was the sound of gunfire that would reverberate around the world.

      Serbia wanted independance from AustroHungry and a 'terrorist' group called the Black Hand wished to strike a blow nobody could ignore so recruited idealistic student Gavrillo Princip for the job.

      The ageing Emporer's only son and heir was visiting and while touring the city Princip assasinated Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife.The irony being he would have become Emporer in a couple of years and believed in Serbian,Crotian and Bosnian independance but his murder set in motion a chain of events that would lead to the brutality of WWI,WWII and the '90's civil war in the Balkans and Kosovo.

      AustroHungary gave Serbia an ultimatum or war knowing they couldnt accept so declared war.Traditionally the protector of Slavs,Russia declared war on AustroHungary.Germany on Russia and France on Germany.Britain sat on watched Europe go up in flames much to the annoyance of France.

      Strike hard and fast.German planners had envisioned a war to East and West.Believing Russia to be backward they thought they'd be very slow to mobilise.This,they felt,gave them the oppurtunity to amass the majority of force west.

      They planned a huge blow thru Belgium thereby sidestepping the French Army and marching deep into Northern France,encircling Paris,knocking out France in a matter of weeks then turning East to help AustroHungary defeat Russia.

      The German Army launched its offensive attacking through Belgium.Britain had guaranteed Belgian neutrality so was also brought into the war.

      The B.E.F was quickly dispatched to Northern France to take the line alongside the French ready to repel the Germans but marched to engage them in Belgium.

      Britain had a professional volunteer army of around 100,000 unlike the conscript armies of continental Europe and while the French attacked over the border into Germany the B.E.F would engage a million strong German army having to halt them till the French could turn around and engage with the B.E.F.

      This was the first time the European armies had met in battle for 99 years when the British fought the French on Belgian soil with their Prussian allies at the Battle of Waterloo.

      They'd fought with swords,cavalry,cannon and massed volley fire from flintlock muskets that fired 3 inaccurate rounds a minute now the British army were trained to shoot a minimum of 15 aimed rounds a min with the bolt action short magazine lee enfield accurate to 3/4 of a mile.

      Britain and Germany both used a version of the same machine gun,the Maxim.The Vickers gun could fire 600 rounds per minute all day.

      The standard field gun,75mm,had a pneumatic carriage absorbing the recoil keeping it exactly on target allowing for rapid ,accurate and consistant,sustained fire.

      cont....

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