The world's first combat tank has entered service and has enabled a German
trench to be taken.
German prisoners are taken captive.
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Listening for mining underneath the trench. Mines were often laid underneath
A German Prisoner tries to escape
but is rapidly captured.
A tank has come to halt over the trench
The Vickers machine gun rattles away.
At the start of World War I, most armies prepared for a brief war whose strategy
and tactics would have been familiar to Napoleon. Indeed, a number of horse
cavalry units were brought to the front by train, commanded by officers who did
not imagine the factors that would render them useless. Most of these units were
never deployed. Infantry, armed with bolt action rifles and augmented by machine
guns, needed only to dig in a bit to become nigh invulnerable. To attack
frontally was to court crippling losses, so an outflanking operation was
essential. After the Battle of the Aisne in September 1914, an extended series
of attempted flanking moves, and matching extensions to the fortified defensive
lines, soon saw the celebrated "race to the sea"; German and Allied armies
produced essentially a matched pair of trench lines from the Swiss border in the
south to the North Sea coast of Belgium. Trench warfare prevailed on the Western
Front from September 16, 1914, until the Germans launched their "Spring
Offensive", Operation Michael, on March 21, 1918.
On the Western Front, the small improvised trenches of the first few months
rapidly grew deeper and more complex, gradually becoming vast areas of
interlocking defensive works. Such defensive works resisted both artillery
barrages and mass infantry assaults. The space between the opposing trenches was
referred to as "no man's land" (for its lethal uncrossability) and varied in
width depending on the battlefield. On the Western Front it was typically
between 100 and 300 yards (90-275 m), though only 30 yards (27 m) on Vimy Ridge.
After the German withdrawal to the Hindenburg line in March 1917, it stretched
to over a kilometre in places.