Trench warfare was not totally unknown in 1914, medieval sieges and the Crimean and American Civil Wars had all seen it. None could have foretold what a permanent feature of the conflict it would become when the armies stopped moving and the lines solidified that September. The technical superiority of the defence over the offensive dictated both the static nature of the western front, and the high casualty rates as Allied commanders tried again and again to break through fields of barbed wire and brutal machine gun fire with waves of men. Only technological developments such as the tank, poison gas, underground and aerial warfare, economic blockade and more sophisticated infantry ‘bite and hold’ tactics served to break the deadlock. By then a generation had been lost. The Naval and Military Press have an unrivaled stock of books on the western front, and the heroic but tragic fighting that characterised it.
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