100 years ago in the world’s history there was an event that changed the world order that seized in the whirlpool of hostilities almost half of the world, which led to the collapse of powerful empires and, as a result, a wave of revolutions - the Great War. In August 1914, the world did not know how daunting the events will become. Nobody knew how many countless victims, how much distress and turmoil would it bring to mankind and what an indelible mark would it leave in the history.
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As a result of previously unknown hostility scales, tens of millions of people were killed and maimed, an incredible amount of destruction was undergone. Here, all of what was created by people for hundreds of years became ruined. This war raised the question of the future coexistence of different nations and states. World War I was absolutely different from all that were seen before and left indelible imprint in the world’s history.
Primarily, the World War I was different from all previous one by its scopes. All developed world’s countries were somehow involved in it. Some were taking part by participating in battles; some were food, guns and other required things suppliers, etc. The War embraced all continents and distributed everywhere it could reach. In addition, the number of soldiers participating in the War was also never seen before. 70,600 people were mobilized to fight (“Estimated Military Causalities” 330). What is important, the number is in thousands and it reflects only people directly mobilized for battles and struggles. The civilian population was also involved: they grew food, made guns, clothes, medicines, paper and other necessary staff required for soldier’s well-being. What is important, the European society conceived the war enthusiastically. Basically, this eagerness explains the huge number of people involved.
From a historical perspective, the unions, participating in the war (the Entente and the Triple Alliance) were starting to form at the end of the 19th century. In addition, Germany was the aggressor, and before the war began, the intensions of this country were clear; the question was only the time of the first attack. This tension and German aggression lead to joy, with which the war started. The joy from side (Germany and its alliance) to get the world power, and the desire to free from the aggressor (the Entente). In addition, it is generally known that this war had an invasive character, i.e. every country wanted to get some piece of land and widen its boundaries. Thus, the enthusiasm is also explained by the desire to get more land.
Second, the hallmark of this war was the widespread use of military equipment. The weaponry was used either for the first time in world history or the first time on such a large scale. In the previous wars, for example, machine guns were used in the wars before, but this time the amount of rifles in the hands of soldiers were several times greater due to the total hostility of the war and the usage of new military hardware. Soldiers said that due to the amount of machine guns, the barrage fire prevented them to go forward and the majority of people died when break through this bullet rain (“From Henri Barbusse” 314). What is more, this war is famous for the first usage of tanks in order to reinforce a standing and scare the opponent. Tanks, according to witnesses, were one of the most scaring events on the battle (“From Erich Maria Remarque” 318). However, despite the usage of tanks, there were few of them and the war still was infantry. On the photograph “German Infantrymen Attack” (310), it is clearly seen that the battle is held on the ground, by infantry without using any machinery except guns.
Another new so-called equipment to use was a trench. The whole frontline was defended using the trenches to protect from bullets, tanks and other guns. Trenches were used so widely that after this war is sometimes called The Trench War. On the photograph “British Infantry Going “Over the Top” (311), one can see the trench itself. It was a ditch, belted with the barbed wire. The wire contained an opening, through which the soldier moved forward to the battle (“From Henri Barbusse” 313). The sides of the trench were inclined and soldier had to climb up from a trench to fight. This was dangerous since while the soldier is climbing out of the trench, he is defenseless of machine guns (“From Henri Barbusse” 314). In addition, the soldiers on the mentioned photograph are wearing protective masks. The protection of people was vital since the World War I was the first war to use gases as weapon.
Furthermore, planes were also widely used in the war. It is from this time the aviation became a separate part of the corps. Planes were bombarding both the civilian population and key points of oppressor’s army. This provided a start to the wars in the sky and gave a push for the development of aviation weaponry, such as airbomb and floating islands. However, planes were primarily used to bombard the civilian towns and usually it was done at night (“Vera Brittan” 323-324).
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All the mentioned differences complicated the task of soldiers on the front. The main problem was that everything experienced by soldiers was new. The point is that the character, weaponry, maneuvers, scales and wide usage of military equipment was unknown to common soldiers. They could not cope with both the weaponry and order were given to them and the appearance of new “surprises” (tanks, chemical weaponry, planes etc.) from the side of the aggressor.
When entering the war, the countries’ authorities expected to conduct short-term war and win it, mainly by human armies replenished up to wartime, without significant mobilization of trained reserves. Deployment of the armed forces were mainly planned to produce in one strategic echelon; major strategic reserves were not created. Transition of the economy to perform mostly military orders was not provided, as it was considered possible to provide the army with all the necessary supplies due to mobilization reserves. However, as it is known, the war lasted for four years, and plans to conduct a short-term conflict failed. Thus, since both sides have not performed the preparations for the long war, a common soldier suffered from the lack of weaponry, clothing, food, water and other essentials. The quality of food was so low that people got sick from what they ate (“From Erich Maria Remarque” 317). What is more, the distribution of diseases like dysentery, influenza, and typhus worsened the condition of soldiers. The lack of medical help lead to the fact that the majority of wounded died in hospitals (“From Erich Maria Remarque” 319). At the end of the war soldiers were exhausted by continuous fights and lost the hope to come back home (“From Erich Maria Remarque” 230)
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Thus, the conclusion is that the lack of supplies, medical help, the enthusiastic desire to fight at the beginning of the war, the wide usage of new, unfamiliar weaponry, corps, planes, strategies, together with worldwide and invasive character of the war lead to number of death unknown before. The overall number of killed or died in the war counts for almost 10 million people. Taking into account that the world’s population was not large, comparatively to the current state, the number of deaths is tremendous.
The Home Front
The scopes of the war were limited by the frontline. Civilian population has also experienced the horrors of war. As it was earlier mentioned, the cities were bombarded by plane, mainly at night. Thus, there were numerous victims due to explosions and destructions in cities (“Vera Brittan” 324). The civilian population was crucial since they provided the required products for the front, such as weaponry, metal food, clothes and other. Thus, the bombarding were held in order to destroy civilian factories and plant, providing the essentials for soldiers on the front. Thus, the war on sites was named the home front.
In addition, entering the war requires the huge outlays. Thus, the overwhelming majority of budget of every involved country was spent onto military need to maintain the front. As a result, the civilian population experienced poverty, need and lack of necessities. The price has grown very high and together with the destruction and total poverty has complicated the life of so-called home front. The calories consumed by German population, for example, shortened from 3500 calories per day, in 1914 - to 1200 calories per day in 1918 (“German Wartime Civilian Rations” 324). It meant that the amount of food available was shortened not only to soldiers, but for civilians, as well. This happened due to the impossibility of raising and cropping the required amount of food. Despite the fact that the prices for peasants’ products were very high, they had no possibility to sell it (“Report of French Public Opinion” 327).
The World War I (1914 -1918) was the most bloody and brutal of all the wars the world has known before 1914. Never before has the warring parties put such huge armies for mutual destruction. The total size of the armies reached 70 million people. All advances in technology and chemistry were focused on killing. Death was everywhere: on the ground and in the air, on water and under water. Poisonous gases, explosive bullets, automatic machine guns, shells heavy guns, flame throwers - all was aimed at the destruction of human lives. In the war, 10 million were killed, 18 million were wounded.