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Evolution of Trench Warfare during World War I

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Technology’s significant impact on World War 1 occurring in the early 20th century, shifted the war’s landscape and ultimately transformed some of the world’s great powers from back then to what they are now. From the grueling nauseating trenches where soldiers had a radical change of dying, to the modern artillery developments crumbling indestructible fortresses, the impact technology played on the war modified primeval war schemes. Trench warfare evolved as life in the trenches through diseases, flamethrowers, barbed wire, and poison gas saw millions of servicemen perish. New, never seen before artillery in World War 1 as a result of major developments before the war detonated armies everywhere as they were unstoppable. Struggles between menacing naval fleets encouraged mass production of the most dominant battleship ever seen. An entire generation of battleships named after the dreadnaught showed their advantage in naval technology at the time. The war hurtled the evolution of fighter planes and the use of aerial attack and surveillance since aviation showed supremacy over past tactical strategies of infiltration and enemy knowledge.

The development of technological artillery in World War 1 played a pivotal role in the occurrence of major events since it influenced the war's tactics, operations, and strategies. Before the 20th century and the second industrial revolution, the last major technological production development occurred over 100 years ago, this proved essential to whether countries were prepared for World War 1. “There were simply not enough resources readily available to wage a war of that scale” (Tighesite 2016). Countries involved in the second industrial revolution experienced an extreme advantage regarding the development of modern combat artillery. Fully automatic belt-fed machine guns became the way to stand for great powers due to their long-term sustained use combined with barbed wire devoured advances from opposing armies. A similar design of these machine guns was used on tanks but integrated with an internal engine, caterpillar track, and armor plating allowing it to have similar mobility as a car as well as withstand against all standard infantry arms. The earliest use of tanks in combat on September 1916 by Britain created by a combination of the military and industrialists and engineers. The German railway plan utilized their ability to transport millions of troops across the country as men and resources could get to the front lines in record time. But trains were vulnerable since they could only travel where rails were laid forcing them to transport troops a substantial distance from the battlefield. Artillery in World War 1 was significantly impacted by available and recently developed technologies such as tanks, machine guns, and railways influencing the war's tactics, operations, and strategies.

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The evolution of trench warfare due to advancements in technology before World War 1 no longer favored the defender. Horrific conditions in the trenches meant diseases and death were common and demolished large portions of all armies in the trenches. Historical practices of communication between generals and the front line saw couriers on motorbikes. This was clearly not adequate at the beginning of the war and major technological developments allowed planes and other communications to carry messages to and from headquarters. Although gas seemed to have no effect on the war, it was estimated over 1,000,000 casualties came from it. Germany's industry at the beginning of the war was relied on since they had the most developed dye production facilities in the world. The first gases thrown had devastating effects in Ypres in 1915, though as the war went on, poisoning prevention became more advanced as towels dampened by urine or water evolved into basic gas masks. Later in the war, the German army attempted to flush opposing soldiers out of the trenches using flamethrowers showing the greatest effect on the western front but was limited by their range. Ultimately, the total number of military deaths was estimated at approximately 20 million, trench warfare's impact on World War 1 influenced by technology ranked it among the deadliest conflicts in human history shown in the image from express newspapers (left) of the mass of casualties in the trenches. Technological developments evolved trench warfare and showed to have a significant impact on the war influencing every individual encounter between great powers.

The impact of naval and aerial technology on the war is significant as they were never seen before. Aviation was originally used for destructive attacks such as tactical bombing or dogfights between aircraft but was shown to be most effective in gaining intelligence, sea patrol, or artillery spotting. As it was a new technology and only created a decade before the beginning of the war, aerial forces underwent significant adjustments to optimize their efficiency. Not only planes were used in the war, but hot air balloons were created almost a century before. Reporting enemy troops and directing artillery fire was a couple of the many functions hot air balloons played for armies as they were recognized for their value in obtaining information about opposing armies. Technologies were introduced in the years leading up to the war to expand the production of larger battleships with larger guns. This process proved beneficial as the HMS Dreadnaught was born which “dominated the world’s navies for the next 35 years” (Rodriguez, E 2016), as well as the Naval Arms Race. This saw the rapid growth of both the German and British navies. Submarines, a new technological development in the naval scheme, brought a serious weapon of war. Naval and aerial developments before and during the war brought a new dimension to combat and significantly impacted the war.

Technology’s significant impact on World War 1 altered strategy and tactics and ultimately played a pivotal role in the outcome and ramifications of the war. Artillery and trench warfare utilized major industrial developments in technologies. Newly evolved naval and aerial combat revolutionized war as we know it reflected in their use today across the finest militaries across the world. All of these experienced significant impacts from technology and ultimately determined end result of the war.

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Evolution of Trench Warfare during World War I. (2023, July 11). Edubirdie. Retrieved December 7, 2023, from
“Evolution of Trench Warfare during World War I.” Edubirdie, 11 Jul. 2023,
Evolution of Trench Warfare during World War I. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 7 Dec. 2023].
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