Category Archives: Western Front

Collecting the Wounded

wounded soldiers

American Red Cross bring in wounded

An American stretcher party is pictured bringing in a wounded soldier. Collecting the wounded was extremely hazardous, and the medics often became casualties themselves.

Wounded American Soldier

Battlefield Casualty

Medical care, especially on the battlefield was extremely rudimentary. The wounded might have their wounds bandaged and attempts would be made to stop the bleeding, but even basic tools such as IV were not available. The wounded would be carried on stretchers by foot because the terrain was too rough for vehicles, and so they would be jostled constantly, aggravating their injuries and causing extreme pain.

British Marines and Belgian Soldiers

British Marines WW1A group of Belgian soldiers and allied British marines fraternize over a some tea and biscuits. The troops are on an armoured train somewhere on the Belgian section of the western front in 1914.

Tiny Belgium bore the brunt of the initial German offensive against the allies, as the Germans tried to bypass the strong French frontier defences by invading Belgium and then striking at Paris. The Belgians had a treaty of neutrality with Germany, but the Kaiser famously referred to it as a “scrap of paper” and sent his troops pouring into Belgium.

Despite being hopelessly outmatched, the Belgians put up a defiant resistance which held up the German advance until British and French reinforcements could arrive. The Belgian resistance threw off the German time table for invasion and may have in fact cost Germany the war.

The Germans would never forget the role that the Belgians played in unsettling their war plans, and so treated occupied Belgium extremely harshly. Any resistance was met with executions and other harsh measures. Civilians were conscripted as slave labour to work in German war factories and on farms.

Most of Belgium was occupied by the Germans and their capital city taken, but the Belgians did not surrender and with French and British help held on to a sliver of their country on the western front. It was on the Belgian section of the front that most of the bloodiest fighting took place. Eventually as the German front collapsed in 1918, the allies were able to liberate most of the country and the Belgians were freed.

Mass Grave on the Western Front

 

 

Mass GraveTrenches did a great job of protecting the troops while they were in them. But neither side was content to simply let their soldiers hunker down indefinitely and simply wait for the other side to attack. The Germans and the Allies all launched attacks against the enemy trenches in an effort to break through the enemy lines and resume a war of movement and deep penetration into the enemy’s territory. In practice, however, most attacks failed to make any significant break throughs or gain territory; the attackers were mowed down by entrenched machine guns, and entangled on barbed wire.

 

The photo above poignantly illustrated the murderous nature of trench warfare. In this photo you can see a German trench which has been cleared of its German defenders but at such great cost to the attacking French soldiers, that the trench has become a mass grave for the French. The corpse filled ditch has been filled in and covered over to serve as a mass grave, and a stark reminder of the bloody futility of the war on the western front.

One of the Lucky Ones: For this Man World War 1 is Over

Captured German SoldierA wounded German prisoner of war is led to a field hospital by a British orderly. The date and location of this photo are not known, but it would have been taken somewhere on the Western Front.

I think that this photograph really drives home the reality of trench warfare during World War 1. The German soldier is dressed in tattered, muddy clothes. His face is bloodied and bruised; his eyes are swollen to the point of being shut. His left arm is not in his sleeve; perhaps it is in a sling under his coat – hopefully he has not lost it.

 

 

Face Closeup

 

 

But as much as this German soldier is in bad shape, he is one of the lucky ones. For him the war is over.

 

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