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Western Civ 15 - WWI

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Margaret Peacock

on 14 October 2015

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Transcript of Western Civ 15 - WWI

Into the Rabbit Hole:
The Great War Begins

Today's Itinerary:
To understand how the
morass of WWI happened.
Particularly:
The role of technology in shaping the catastrophe.
The Mindset of Europe's leaders that allowed it to continue.
To explore the experience of the trenches

Von Schlieffen
The Russian Infantry 1914
General Alfred von Schlieffen devised a plan to take the Western Front before the Russians could get involved – making it a fait accompli.
The Schlieffen Plan
Belgium and Luxembourg are easily run over.
The German southern army cut through the Ardennes
By August, the Germans were shelling Paris.
All goes well for the Germans… at first
French on the firing line at the first battle of the Marne
The Germans strengthened their southern army at the expense of the northern one.
The Russians mobilized far faster than expected.
Both Western offensives bogged down.
On September 6-9, 1914 French and British forces stopped the German advance at the Battle of the Marne.
But then things started to grind down.
Digging In
WHY?
Because the new weapons favored the defensive side.
Because the British and the French were unprepared for this kind of war.
The Somme: 2.5 miles gained. 420,000 dead.
A communications trench on the first day of the Battle of the Somme
A demolished German trench
British infantry attack plan for July, 1916
A trench on the Somme, 1916
The ruins of Poziers
Scene from the Battle of Ypres (the third one), 1917
Life in the trenches was a nightmare.
Mud, sickness, infection, corpses everywhere, incredible noise, despair.
A War of Attrition
Collecting the Dead
Ordinary men ceased to believe what they had been told about their leaders, their countries, and their God.
Writers and artists would depict this sense of lost purpose – this Waste Land.

The end of the ancien regime. The end of Western Civilization
What Does it All Mean?
Sir Douglas Haig
General Joseph Joffre
There's a breathless hush in the Close to-night --
Ten to make and the match to win --
A bumping pitch and a blinding light,
An hour to play and the last man in.
And it's not for the sake of a ribboned coat,
Or the selfish hope of a season's fame,
But his Captain's hand on his shoulder smote
"Play up! play up! and play the game!"
The sand of the desert is sodden red, --
Red with the wreck of a square that broke; --
The Gatling's jammed and the colonel dead,
And the regiment blind with dust and smoke.
The river of death has brimmed his banks,
And England's far, and Honour a name,
But the voice of schoolboy rallies the ranks,
"Play up! play up! and play the game!"
war is a game...
"Vitai Lampada" by Henry Newbolt, 1892
"The General" by Siegried Sassoon

“Good-morning, good-morning!” the General said
When we met him last week on our way to the line.
Now the soldiers he smiled at are most of 'em dead,
And we're cursing his staff for incompetent swine.
“He's a cheery old card,” grunted Harry to Jack
As they slogged up to Arras with rifle and pack.

But he did for them both by his plan of attack.
Full transcript