War and the future: Italy, France and Britain at war eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 218 pages of information about War and the future.

But three things were working quietly towards the rehabilitation of the defensive; firstly the increased range, accuracy and rapidity of rifle fire, with which we may include the development of the machine gun; secondly the increasing use of the spade, and thirdly the invention of barbed wire.  By the end of the century these things had come so far into military theory as to produce the great essay of Bloch, and to surprise the British military people, who are not accustomed to read books or talk shop, in the Boer war.  In the thinly populated war region of South Africa the difficulties of forcing entrenched positions were largely met by outflanking, the Boers had only a limited amount of barbed wire and could be held down in their trenches by shrapnel, and even at the beginning of the present war there can be little doubt that we and our Allies were still largely unprepared for the full possibilities of trench warfare, we attempted a war of manoeuvres, war at about the grade to which war had been brought in 1898, and it was the Germans who first brought the war up to date by entrenching upon the Aisne.  We had, of course, a few aeroplanes at that time, but they were used chiefly as a sort of accessory cavalry for scouting; our artillery was light and our shell almost wholly shrapnel.

Now the grades of warfare that have been developed since the present war began, may be regarded as a series of elaborations and counter elaborations of the problem which begins as a line of trenches behind wire, containing infantry with rifles and machine guns.  Against this an infantry attack with bayonet, after shrapnel fails.  This we will call Grade A. To this the offensive replies with improved artillery, and particularly with high explosive shell instead of shrapnel.  By this the wire is blown away, the trench wrecked and the defender held down as the attack charges up.  This is Grade B. But now appear the dug-out elaborating the trench and the defensive battery behind the trench.  The defenders, under the preliminary bombardment, get into the dug-outs with their rifles and machine guns, and emerge as fresh as paint as the attack comes up.  Obviously there is much scope for invention and contrivance in the dug-out as the reservoir of counter attacks.  Its possibilities have been very ably exploited by the Germans.  Also the defensive batteries behind, which have of course the exact range of the captured trench, concentrate on it and destroy the attack at the moment of victory.  The trench falls back to its former holders under this fire and a counter attack.  Check again for the offensive.  Even if it can take, it cannot hold a position under these conditions.  This we will call Grade A2; a revised and improved A. What is the retort from the opposite side?  Obviously to enhance and extend the range of the preliminary bombardment behind the actual trench line, to destroy or block, if it can, the dug-outs and destroy or silence the counter offensive artillery.  If it can do that, it can go on; otherwise Bloch wins.

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War and the future: Italy, France and Britain at war from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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