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Br Cornelius

WW1 trench warefare as population control

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I believe it was called siege warfare back them. Same principle different apparatus.

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I believe it was called siege warfare back them. Same principle different apparatus.

True.. .but in the late 1600's the use of trenches began to almost totally replace other forms of field fortifications (palisades, gambions, walls, etc) for the seiging side... Oddly enough the trench - at this time was an offensive field work.. it gradually worked toward the beseiged forces at oblique angles to lessen the impact of artillery and small arms... The defense was usually behind walls...

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While the Maori did indeed use trenches... trench warfare has existed at least since the mid to late 1600's... The French Marshall Vaubaun (sp?) firmly believed in it and advocated it's use to assault the 'star fortresses' that he helped design and sell to virtually all the crowned heads of Europe... Probably if you go further back in history you could find examples of trench warfare all the way back to the Romans and Greeks...

from what I can find... the first sustained, heavy use of modern trench warfare started in about 1863 during the seige of Vicksburg in the American Civil war...

Quite correct, just then it was easier to crack the trenches, you laid them under artillery and while they where still shell shocked you had your people storm. In WWI the trench warfare had changed to the point that a single machine gun could hold up a whole battalion after the shelling, making the tactic inadequate.

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Quite correct, just then it was easier to crack the trenches, you laid them under artillery and while they where still shell shocked you had your people storm. In WWI the trench warfare had changed to the point that a single machine gun could hold up a whole battalion after the shelling, making the tactic inadequate.

Agreed... As the old saying goes... "You always fight the next war with either the last wars equipment or tactics... the losers use both..."

I really don't think there was any conspiracy to massacre the 'lower classes' in the first WW... I think it was just a case of technology far outstripping the abilities of the top commanders to adjust...

That's not to say that the 'upper crust' were overly concerned about the deaths of so many 'peasants'... at least at first...

Edited by Taun
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Weird post?? But weirdly enough there seems to be a ring of truth about this..

Contary to what a lot of the previous posters have said, trench warefare was first created and used by the Maori here in New Zealand way back in the 1840s.. The British new exactly what to epect from trench warfare during WW1 because the'd seen it in use against them during the New Zealand Land wars and they got a hammering over it.. Hell, 50 years later they used it to great effect in the boar wars..

The Maori didn't have machine guns and heavy artillery so their trench warefare was completely different from the type seen in the First World War. While trenches had been used for centuries it was the technological advances that made WW1 so deadly. And while there were examples of such horrors during the American Civil War the war most European leaders took their lessons from was the Franco-Prussian War, which was a quick and moble fight that ended fairly shortly. Plus the opening offensives of the war were also quick and it was only when successful counter attacks were launched then things turned into a stalemate. From then the military leaders on both sides were trying to recapture that mobility. That if they could just put in one good push their enemy would fall apart and the cavalry would do the rest. Events such as the fall of Serbia and the collapse of Russia would seem to reinforce that this idea was possible.

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The Maori didn't have machine guns and heavy artillery so their trench warefare was completely different from the type seen in the First World War. While trenches had been used for centuries it was the technological advances that made WW1 so deadly. And while there were examples of such horrors during the American Civil War the war most European leaders took their lessons from was the Franco-Prussian War, which was a quick and moble fight that ended fairly shortly. Plus the opening offensives of the war were also quick and it was only when successful counter attacks were launched then things turned into a stalemate. From then the military leaders on both sides were trying to recapture that mobility. That if they could just put in one good push their enemy would fall apart and the cavalry would do the rest. Events such as the fall of Serbia and the collapse of Russia would seem to reinforce that this idea was possible.

The Franco-Prussian war was probably the first modern war of maneuver... The Prussians had better organisation and command & control than the French, and basically were able to slip between the flanks of the various often much larger French forces..

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While the Maori did indeed use trenches... trench warfare has existed at least since the mid to late 1600's... The French Marshall Vaubaun (sp?) firmly believed in it and advocated it's use to assault the 'star fortresses' that he helped design and sell to virtually all the crowned heads of Europe... Probably if you go further back in history you could find examples of trench warfare all the way back to the Romans and Greeks...

from what I can find... the first sustained, heavy use of modern trench warfare started in about 1863 during the seige of Vicksburg in the American Civil war...

The Maori didn't have machine guns and heavy artillery so their trench warefare was completely different from the type seen in the First World War. While trenches had been used for centuries it was the technological advances that made WW1 so deadly. And while there were examples of such horrors during the American Civil War the war most European leaders took their lessons from was the Franco-Prussian War, which was a quick and moble fight that ended fairly shortly. Plus the opening offensives of the war were also quick and it was only when successful counter attacks were launched then things turned into a stalemate. From then the military leaders on both sides were trying to recapture that mobility. That if they could just put in one good push their enemy would fall apart and the cavalry would do the rest. Events such as the fall of Serbia and the collapse of Russia would seem to reinforce that this idea was possible.

The Maori had muskets, spears, and their hilltop Pa sites were circled with trenches and pallisade walls designed to slow an invading army or tribe and designed to give defenders time to reload and kill.. I've heard roomers from experts in this country that the pa trench design of the Maori were used as a template for WW1. *shrugs* Might be true. Might be an embelishment or glorification of war.. who knows..

Sure was effective at reducing populations though..

BesMaor-071(h280).jpg

Is a bit more complicated than just a hole in the ground isn't it..

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The Maori had muskets, spears, and their hilltop Pa sites were circled with trenches and pallisade walls designed to slow an invading army or tribe and designed to give defenders time to reload and kill.. I've heard roomers from experts in this country that the pa trench design of the Maori were used as a template for WW1. *shrugs* Might be true. Might be an embelishment or glorification of war.. who knows..

Sure was effective at reducing populations though..

BesMaor-071(h280).jpg

Is a bit more complicated than just a hole in the ground isn't it..

Rather similar to the Roman's siegeworks at Alesia 52BC...

300px-AlesiaFortifications.jpg

As your diagram states the 'trench' was a "Fosse" (ditch) not a troop emplacement... Back in those days you did not want to be below your attacker - not a good thing! The fosse served to both slow down the attackers, and to make your stockade wall higher with less effort (the dirt used to build the 'wall' - or rampart- the stockade sat on came from the fosse...)

Edited by Taun
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The Maori had muskets, spears, and their hilltop Pa sites were circled with trenches and pallisade walls designed to slow an invading army or tribe and designed to give defenders time to reload and kill.. I've heard roomers from experts in this country that the pa trench design of the Maori were used as a template for WW1. *shrugs* Might be true. Might be an embelishment or glorification of war.. who knows..

Sure was effective at reducing populations though..

BesMaor-071(h280).jpg

Is a bit more complicated than just a hole in the ground isn't it..

The Maori did have very impressive defences and it wouldn't surprise me if the British looked to their forts to pick up on some ideas. However the point I was making was that the wars with the Maori didn't give the British any special clues as to how bad the First World War was going to be. In all the wars the British lost less than a thousand dead I believe and they largely won. This can't be compared to losing almost twenty thousand soldiers in one day with little gain. It's no knock to the quality of the Maori military skill, they just didn't have the technology or the opportunity of march the conditions on the Western Front.

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The Maori did have very impressive defences and it wouldn't surprise me if the British looked to their forts to pick up on some ideas. However the point I was making was that the wars with the Maori didn't give the British any special clues as to how bad the First World War was going to be. In all the wars the British lost less than a thousand dead I believe and they largely won. This can't be compared to losing almost twenty thousand soldiers in one day with little gain. It's no knock to the quality of the Maori military skill, they just didn't have the technology or the opportunity of march the conditions on the Western Front.

Hmmm, that's a speculative assumption.. & the british lost 22 thousand in the boer wars btw..

Perhaps however, the loss of life during WW1 was a result of the admiralty not giving a hoot about the lives in the trenches as opposed to a conspiracy to lower the population.. (And I am speculating here)

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I dont believe for one minute that opposing Governments during WW1 even thought of starting a War to reduce the population that's total fubar. Before trench warfare was "invented", armies used to face each other several lines deep with swords and bayonets fixed, cannon fire,cavalry charges, then advance on each other ,Reference the battle of Waterloo, the American Civil War etcetera, then some whiz kid General thought that this was a waste of life, and decided to draw a line and dig trenches, so the opposing army did the same, with a few yards of no mans land in between, thus Stalemate and neither side had an advantage so the result was a big loss of life on both sides.This went on thru the Korean War up to the early part of the WW2 , then some guy thought why dont we employ guerilla tactics which proved some success, the result was, end of trench warfare, but soldiers still dig in when necessary for short periods of time.

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Yes the British did have a lot of loses during the Second Boer War, but most were due to disease and that war was still very moble even with the sieges. But in the Maori Wars, which I was referring to, their loses were far lighter. The Maori fared better than any other native civilization but the British at the time likely saw it as yet another colonial victory over poor "savages" and wouldn't teach them about how Europeans might fight. While a musket can kill it doesn't match a MG 08.

Generals not caring or understanding life on the front lines is a common theme in history so I'm sure your right in that view. Personally I think it came out of a lack of military options. The Allies felt they needed to attack in order to drive back the Germans. The Central Powers were facing several fronts and wanted to end the war before the Americans decided to join in. So they had to attack and while there was room to move around on the Eastern Front there wasn't on the Western Front because it had been completely fortified. Sure you could take the first trench line often enough but you'd get your teeth kicked in by the second and third lines and would then be forced to retreat because you couldn't hold that first line. Both sides were run by men who wanted to go on the offensive but were faced with tactics and technology that were best suited for defense. Thus you get a high body count.

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A bit back on subject...

One thing that WWI did accomplish in regards to the interactions of the various 'classes'... It forced the young 'upper class' officers to live in very close proximity to the troops... closer probably than ever before... They shared the same food, the same conditions and the same risks... it allowed the two groups - who had always been traditionally seperate - to become as one - even if only for the 5 years the war lasted... I would venture to say that some of the respect and 'tolerance' that came in later reform movements was first generated in the fields of Flanders and along the Somme...

Edited by Taun

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My grandfather served in the trenches in France in WW1. No, I'm not that old, my grandfather had his family late in life.

He went voluntarily. He was not conscripted or forced to go. He served because he wanted to do what was right and have some fun. I have to add that. From what I know of him, if he thought he was part of some experiment to decimate the English working class ranks, he would have told them to get stuffed and he would have buggered off. Which he actually did but that was because he was sick of being told to go over the top and being shot at. Apparently, he didn't enjoy that very much.

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My grandfather served in the trenches in France in WW1. No, I'm not that old, my grandfather had his family late in life.

He went voluntarily. He was not conscripted or forced to go. He served because he wanted to do what was right and have some fun. I have to add that. From what I know of him, if he thought he was part of some experiment to decimate the English working class ranks, he would have told them to get stuffed and he would have buggered off. Which he actually did but that was because he was sick of being told to go over the top and being shot at. Apparently, he didn't enjoy that very much.

I'm glad he survived, mine didnt, he was killed 5 days before the war ended,at Ypres,and my mum was only 5yrs old.

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I'm sorry to hear that. Would have been hard for your mother not to have known her Dad.

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