Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Military History Monthly 10/2014

The war on the Western Front in 1914 confounded most predictions. The Germans did not capture Paris. The French did not storm across the Rhine. The 'spirit of the offensive' was shown to be suicidal. No-one had enough artillery, machine-guns, or munitions. Cavalry was virtually redundant. More aircraft were desperately needed. The fronts rapidly went into lockdown. The war of manoeuvre turned into a war of attrition. On the Eastern Front, on the other hand, the broad pattern of the war was closer to that of 19th-century conflicts. For sure, there were too many cavalry and not enough guns, telephones, and radio operators. Hardly anyone suspected that the eight armoured cars of Russia's 1st Automobile Machine Gun Company represented the future of warfare. Nonetheless, the war proved far less 'sticky' here than in the West. Within the six weeks it was supposed to have taken the Germans to lake Paris, true trench-warfare had begun on the Western Front. This became apparent to the BEF when it was hurled back from the freshly cut German trenches on the Aisne in September. In the East, however, the balance between mass and space was different, and the war of movement continued - not just into 1915, but, to a significant degree, throughout the three years that the war lasted. This did not make the Eastern Front any less murderous: if anything, the contrary was true, for trenches provided protection, whereas a war of movement exposed men more frequently to danger on the surface. In our special feature this month, David Porter explores the great battles between German and Russian in East Prussia, and between Austro-Hungarian and Russian in Galicia, during the opening months of the First World War: this was a clash of three empires in the marshes and thickets of the Masurian Lakes, and in the foothills of the Carpathian Mountains.

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