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A History of Trench Warfare

The prevailing image the majority of us have of trench warfare is circa World War I and involves mud-spattered troops carrying rifles and storming over the top of their trench toward an enemy trench yards away. While this is an accurate image of trench warfare at its peak, that particular military tactic did not spring fully formed directly from the dirt from which the trenches were dug. Soldiers have used some form of trench warfare for centuries and continued to use it in limited measure after World War I.

The concept of digging a hole or trench for battlefield protection is not a new one; castle defenses during the Middle Ages regularly employed moats, which are simply circular trenches filled with water. Roman legions would entrench themselves at night in temporary trenches while on the move. Trench and bunker systems were employed more regularly in the mid 19th century during the American Civil War, the Boer War, and others in response to the development of superior rifle and artillery technology. The Boers were especially known for their trenches and individual holes that allowed them to kill many more casualties than they took.

While World War I was not the first time soldiers employed trench warfare, it was the first time it had been used on such a grand scale. Trench warfare itself developed as a response to improving artillery technology, and its wide scale implementation led to several technological and tactical developments. World War I was the first war in which air support was employed, although airplanes served a largely informational role rather than a combative one. Tanks were developed by armies desperate to break the stalemate inevitably caused by the futility of trench warfare. In the end, tanks brought the protected mobility necessary to break the stalemate, but not before trench warfare had come to symbolize the futility and grinding senselessness of war.

The increase in mobility during the decades leading up to World War II led to a decrease in trench warfare, although soldiers still dug trenches for defensive purposes. Many of those in charge of World War II remembered the pestilential and relatively ineffective nature of the trenches and used them only to fortify larger military or natural positions rather than to engage in a grinding battle of attrition. After World War II, trench warfare was used in limited measure in Korea, Vietnam, and the Iran/Iraq Civil War. Modern examples of trench warfare exist primarily in areas under siege wherein trenches are used for transport of weapons and goods as well as general defense.

The rise of mobility led to the fall of the trench, and most modern warfare centers around easy troop and artillery movement. Trench warfare, as brutal and inefficient as it was, led to the rise of surveillance and mobility technology that ushered in a new age of warfare. Modern warfare owes much to those dirty, sodden trenches since they helped establish the use of airplanes and tanks in combat that assisted armies with movement.

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This article was provided by Pro-Tec Equipment, offering trench shoring products.

 

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