1.3 Fighting the War

1.3: World War 1: Fighting the War

9. The Time of World Wars
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In deze les zitten 50 slides, met interactieve quizzen, tekstslides en 3 videos.

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1.3: World War 1: Fighting the War

9. The Time of World Wars

Slide 1 - Tekstslide

What is this lesson about?
During World War I, industrially made weapons were used on huge scale for the first time in history. Aeroplanes, poison gas, and the tank were used, but generals on both sides still employed outdated tactics. They did not seem to care about the loss of lives. Millions of soldiers died in useless assaults, just to conquer a few kilometres. The war changed in 1917, when the USA joined on the side of the Allies and when Russia signed a ceasefire with Germany. After four years of fighting, the war ended in 1918.

Slide 2 - Tekstslide

people in this lesson
Nicholas II
emperor (tsar)

Slide 3 - Tekstslide

Word Duty

U-boat: German submarine

Treaty of Brest-Litovsk: peace treaty between the new government of Soviet Russia and the Central Powers, signed in March 1918

total war: when every civilian in a country has to focus on winning the war

armistice: agreement by opposing sides in a war to stop fighting; truce


Slide 4 - Tekstslide

Important dates in this lesson:

        May:        Lusitania is sunk
        Feb. :       Battle of Verdun
       June:        Battle of the Somme
        Feb:         February revolution in Russia. Tsar Nicholas abdicates Russian throne
        Apr:         USA declares war on the Central Powers
        Oct:         October Revolution in Russia. Lenin in power.
        March:     Treaty of Brest-Litovsk
        Nov. 9:     Kaiser Wilhelm II abdicates
        Nov. 11:   Armistice. End of WW1

Slide 5 - Tekstslide

What you will learn in 
this lesson
  • which new weapons were used during the war
  • that Russia and the USA made 1917 a decisive year in the war
  • that World War I was a total war.
Use these questions to make your own summary

Slide 6 - Tekstslide


For years, armies on the Western Front were locked in mortal combat. Millions of soldiers fought under terrible conditions in the trenches. During the war, new weapons were invented and used. Nevertheless, the balance of power was not much disrupted until the decisive year of 1917.

Slide 7 - Tekstslide

German soldiers opening chlorine gas cannisters to poison the enemy

Slide 8 - Tekstslide

New weapons

Because of the combination of militarism and the industrial revolution, huge advances were made in the production of weapons; these were developed in an attempt to get through to enemy trenches. An example for this is the aeroplane. They were mainly used for scouting, but armed with machine guns and small bombs they could also inflict damage on enemy soldiers and supplies. Many air battles were fought, but the aeroplane did not play an important role in warfare until World War II.
Another modern weapon was the submarine, such as the U-Boat. This was not a new invention but the Germans were the first to use submarines on a large scale to challenge the superior British naval fleet. In determined attempt, they tried to stop every ship that sailed towards England.
The First World War is also infamous for the use of chemical weapons. Gasses such as chlorine, tear gas and mustard gas were put in bombs and shot into enemy trenches. The gasses burned eyes, nose and lungs and caused suffocation. Attacks using gas did not cause many deaths compared to other weapons, but the psychological effect of its use was great.

British soldiers and their horses wearing gas masks

Slide 9 - Tekstslide

Thousands of soldiers were blinded by the gas

Slide 10 - Tekstslide


Slide 11 - Tekstslide

WW1 saw the first aerial "dogfights"
The German Manfred von Richthoven , nicknamed the Red Baron, was the most successful fighter pilot during World War I. It is said he won more than 80 air battles before he was shot down .

Slide 12 - Tekstslide

German U-boats terrorized Allied ships 

Slide 13 - Tekstslide

The first tanks were seen in 1916

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Flamethrowers were used to flush enemy soldiers out of their trenches

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most feared by soldiers 
bombing and dogfights
break through the enemy trenches
blokkade enemy supplies
bombing, reconnaissance, create panic
drive the enemy out of their trenches

Slide 16 - Sleepvraag

Despite having new and destructive weapons at their disposal, the strategies and mindset of the generals did not change much. They expected to fight in an oldfashioned way. For example, at the outbreak of the war, the French soldiers went to battle wearing traditional blue coats and red trousers, which made them highly visible and thus easy targets. Horses were used at the start of the war and generals ordered massive attacks on enemy trenches, even though the enemy used machine guns, resulting in the deaths of millions.

From left to right: British, French and German soldiers in 1914, at the start of WW1.

Slide 17 - Tekstslide

Every army adapted its uniforms during the war

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1. What do you notice about the French uniforms?
Explain this.

Slide 19 - Open vraag

Source: French cavalry and army planes scouting the
landscape for enemies during World War I.

2. Explain that this source is an example of both of
change and continuity.

Slide 20 - Open vraag

3. Watch the filmtrailer of the film "War Horse".

Horses and other animals were used for multiple purposes in World War I. Name two purposes that horses were used for, you can see in the trailer.

Slide 21 - Open vraag

Slide 22 - Video

4. Explain why the use of gas weapons had a
great psychological effect on soldiers.
For your answer, use an example from
the source.

Slide 23 - Open vraag

5. In which two ways protect the soldiers
themselves against the gas attacks?

German soldiers with gas masks in the trenches. A pigeon is used to test the toxicity of the gas. Dated 1917.

Slide 24 - Open vraag

6. Why was this way of waging war
not very effective?

British infantry attacking with bayonets, 1915

Slide 25 - Open vraag

Battles at Verdun and the Somme

The best examples of the senseless slaughter took place at the Battle of Verdun and the Somme Offensive. In 1916, both Germany and the Allies prepared an attack to break through the stalemate. The Germans were first to launch a wave of attacks. On 21st February, they charged the French defences at Verdun, but the French resisted heavily. For ten months, the battle went on until the Germans called off the attack. It is estimated that about 350,000 soldiers died at the Battle of Verdun.

German soldiers attack Verdun. Notice the "Flammenwerfer" (flamethrower) being used by one of the soldiers.

Slide 26 - Tekstslide

7. Dogs had multiple functions in the
trenches. Which function is shown in
the source?

British infantry attacking with bayonets, 1915

Slide 27 - Open vraag

The massacres got worse when French and British troops raised their armies to full strength. At the River Somme, they assaulted the German trenches with blunt and overwhelming force. On the first day of the attack the British lost 57,450 men, which made it the darkest day in the history of the British army. The British deployed their new secret weapon during the battle of the Somme: the tank. This armoured vehicle ran on caterpillar tracks and was designed to cross trenches and break through barbed wire.
The appearance of the tank on the battlefield was spectacular, but could not bring an end to the war: tanks were only used in small numbers, had poor mobility and mechanical problems. After the Somme Offensive, the Allies had taken more than ten kilometres of land; this at the cost of more than a million soldiers’ lives makes it one of the bloodiest battles in human history.

One of the new british tanks ditched after failing to cross a German trench.

Slide 28 - Tekstslide

8. Though tanks could drive over trenches, the use of them did not result in a victory for either side. Why could tanks not bring an end to the war?

Slide 29 - Open vraag

9. Why was the Somme Offensive one of the bloodiest battles in human history?

Slide 30 - Open vraag

Slide 31 - Video

10a. Listen to the poem "In Flanders Fields"; then answer the questions.
What is the view of the author about World War I? Explain your answer

Slide 32 - Open vraag

10b. Why was it so special that poppies still grew in the battlefields?

Slide 33 - Open vraag

1917: a decisive year

In 1917, two significant events changed the course of the war. German U-Boats kept attacking unarmed passenger and merchant ships. In 1915, they torpedoed the British ocean liner ‘The Lusitania’. It sank immediately and 1,200 people lost their lives, among them 128 Americans. This led to massive anti-German sentiment in the United States. Two years later, a letter was intercepted, showing that the Germans tried to make an alliance with Mexico to attack the United States. On 6th April 1917, the United States Congress voted to join the Allies in the war.

President Woodrow Wilson asking Congress to declare war on Germany on April 2, 1917

British propaganda poster in response to the sinking of The Lusitania. Dated 1915.

Slide 34 - Tekstslide

The Zimmermann telegram: the direct cause for the USA to declare war on the Central Powers.
The encoded letter
The decoded letter
The letter published

Slide 35 - Tekstslide

Slide 36 - Video

11. Why did the USA join WW1?
Zimmermann Telegram
US loans to the Allies
unrestricted submarine warfare
make the world safe for democracy

Slide 37 - Sleepvraag

Another major event happened in Russia during February 1917. Due to great poverty and inequality in this huge empire, a revolution took place. The German secret service made use of the unrest there: they sponsored the revolutionary Lenin to take control of the Russian government. When Lenin came to power in October, he signed a peace treaty with Germany: the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk. Germany and Russia were no longer enemies. (You will learn more about the Russian Revolution in chapter 2). Now the Germans could send all their troops to the Western Front.

At the Peace Conference in Brest-Litovsk (arrival of the Russian delegation)

The price of peace was very high for Russia. It had to give up large parts of Russian territory to the Central Powers

Slide 38 - Tekstslide

12. What were the two big advantages of the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk for Germany?

Slide 39 - Open vraag

The end of a total war

World War I was the first total war, which means that everything in a country is focused on winning the war. Factories constantly worked to make weapons; food and fuel were rationed so it could be sent to the front, and a constant stream of propaganda was broadcast to keep the spirits up on the home front. Men had to fight, so women had to replace them in the factories. A country began to run as if it was a machine. But total war was not enough for the Central Powers: from the moment that the United States joined the conflict, the end of the war became a real prospect. More than a million fresh military personnel and innumerable supplies were shipped from the USA to the Allies in Europe, which provided a big moral boost. Germany and the other Central Powers could not compete with the Allies once the Americans joined them. Besides that, there was now discontent in Germany. In 1918, the Germans at last surrendered. At 11am on 11th November (‘the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month’), Germany signed an armistice in railway carriage No. 2419D, in Compiègne Forest, close to Paris. The Great War had come to an end. The Allies were victorious.

Soldiers celebrating the armistice, Nov 11, 1918.

Slide 40 - Tekstslide

13. Study this source. With your classmate,
discuss how the USA used this poster to enlist
men for the army.

‘Destroy this mad Brute. Enlist’. A terrifying gorilla stomps onto the shore of America. The helmet is labelled ‘Militarism’; the bloody club ‘Kultur’. Propaganda poster, 1917.

Slide 41 - Open vraag

13. This poster shows the meaning of
the keyword "total war".
Do you agree or not? explain your answer.

British government war poster, 1915.

Slide 42 - Open vraag

14. Study this source; then explain what is meant
by the phrase: ‘Save two slices every
day and defeat the ‘U’ boat’.

British government war poster, 1915.

Slide 43 - Open vraag

When Hitler defeated France at the start of World War II, he took the same railway carriage No. 2419D from a museum to the Compiègne Forest site and forced the French to surrender in it.

Signing of the armistice in the railway carriage at Compiegne, November 11, 1918, the German Secretary of State Matthias Erzberger (1875-1921) and the French general Ferdinand Foch (1851-1929) standing in the centre.

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15. Why did Germany decide to sign an armistice on 11th November 1918?

Slide 48 - Open vraag

Finally, here you can write down a question about
something from this lesson that you don't fully understand yet.

Slide 49 - Open vraag


Slide 50 - Tekstslide