Talk:Trench warfare

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Caption change[edit]

Changed caption of Civil War image; often misidenified as Petersburg, this image has in fact been shown to capture an image of soldiers of VI Corps prior to the 2nd Battle of Fredericksburg, wherein Marye's Heights were finally successfully carried; VI Corps' advance was latter stalled in fighing at the Battle of Salem Church.

World War I focus?[edit]

Why does this article only talk about trench warfare in WWI, and no mention of its history or development? It seems like this will mislead a lot of people into thinking trench warfare only occured in WWI. Only lightly touches on the Korean war. --IronMaidenRocks (talk) 04:21, 10 September 2012 (UTC)

To answer this, yet again... The page isn't History of entrenchment (which WP appears to need, since this keeps coming up here...), it's Trench Warfare. This is limited to WW1, because no other war has used it so extensively. The U.S. Civil War used entrenchment. So did WW2. So did the Iran-Iraq War. They aren't examples of trench warfare, either. TREKphiler any time you're ready, Uhura 16:39, 10 September 2012 (UTC)
Yup, it's time for someone to write the article about the history of trenches in warfare. Certainly, the only war which involved the specific concept of "trench warfare" was the Great War. Binksternet (talk) 18:05, 10 September 2012 (UTC)
Except, trench warfare DID occur beforehand. Most sources I have consulted have considered the Siege of Petersburg to be an early example. If you are not familiar with it, basically, it was a nine month battle/campaign that consisted of two lines of opposing heavy trench complexes that gradually stretched roughly some 20-30 miles long on each side of a no-man's land of varying widths (often more than one mile), with "bombproofs" (heavy bunkers) and forts all along the way; one side even had a purpose-built railroad to shuttle troops and supplies along their trench front (as well as railroad artillery). One of the most infamous actions in the campaign was an attempt to mine and detonate a tunnel under the lines (what became known as "the Crater"). Scholars have even compared the psychological effects between the soldiers at Petersburg and in WWI (see, e.g., this thesis). Yes, it was on a much smaller scale than World War I, but as it also appears to meet the definition given in the article, either sources need to be provided that claim that it wasn't trench warfare to counter the reliable sources that it was, and the definition needs changing/clarifying, or it should rightfully be included as part of the history. (I don't have many history books with me at the moment, but a a quick Google search reveals quite a number of results. Cheers.Morgan Riley (talk) 02:41, 15 February 2014 (UTC)
Morgan Riley is correct. Capitalismojo (talk) 03:22, 15 February 2014 (UTC)

Further examples of trench warfare would include the Russo-Japanese war of 1905, the Crimean war and the siege of Sevastopol, and as I think has been remarked the Korean war. I'm not sure how any one else thinks of the phrase 'trench warfare' but the better histories of the warfare of the period 1914-1918 take time to explain that trench warfare wasn't new and the best comparison I have read describes it in terms of the use of siege warfare practices that have been around longer than firearms. Most of the terminology - trenches, saps, bunkers etc pre-exists 1914.

Accounts of other conflicts eg in WWII will describe periods of trench warfare where both sides assume static positions either as a result of defensive strategy or the inability of the attacker to make a break through. Therefore I can't really see an issue with expanding this article beyond 1914-1918. Nomisnotlaw (talk) 11:45, 28 June 2014 (UTC)

Maginot Line[edit]

"The stunning victories by the Germans early in World War II showed that fixed fortifications like the Maginot Line were worthless if there was room to circumvent them."

The article presumes that the Maginot Line was designed to absorb a head on German attack and that the Germans strategically pulled the wool over the French eyes by merely going around their multi-million franc line. What the article fails to point out, is that the vast majority of the historiography supports the notion that the Maginot Line was intended to force the Germans to attack through the Low Countries hence the deployment of the best French troops and armoured forces in the north awaiting the German attack. What the Germans did, was not to merely circumvent the line (as the French had expected) but to strike through the Ardennes rather than further north as the French had expected. Even the Maginot Line article supports this basic point. So this sentence is not supported by any evidence, continues what is essentially a myth, and does not support the point it is attempting to make. Hence it has been removed. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 03:10, 31 December 2013 (UTC)

Perhaps more to the point, it has nothing to do with trench warfare. Cyclopaedic (talk) 17:06, 31 December 2013 (UTC)

Even larger scale in the American Civil War[edit]

user:Capitalismojo I can not see the source (the best I can see is a snippet):

"Trench warfare thus far has produced no really great developments. All that may be said is that now it is being adopted on a much larger scale, and that the explosives used both in ... In the American Civil War, trenches and breastworks were used to a very great extent, and more and more so as the war progressed. Toward ..."

So Can you quote the passage you think proves that "even larger scale in the American Civil War" (than in any and all previous wars). Also what was Henry Joseph Reilly expertise? Is there any reason to think that he is a military historian who is familiar with the use of field fortifications over the previous several centuries? -- PBS (talk) 21:40, 28 August 2014 (UTC)

@Capitalismojo: I have found a PD version of the book to which you linked and I do not think that the wording supports the claim:

Advancing by saps and parallels, mining under the enemy's position, and the use of grenades all date back to the siege warfare carried on everywhere in Europe in the 18th century. This period of siege warfare was followed by one in which armies fought in the open field and, as a rule, without protection of any kind other than that given by villages or farms which happened to be on their battle line.

As modern firearms became more powerful, the necessity was seen of finding some protection for the soldiers. In the American Civil War, trenches and breastworks were used to a very great extent, and more and more so as the war progressed. Toward the close of the war, almost invariably, the infantry of both sides started building breastworks or trenches as soon as they took up a position. However, very little attention was paid in Europe to the American Civil War. ...

— Reilly p. 176

The Napoleonic Wars, did have less critical entrenchment battles that for example the Wars of Spanish Succession a hundred years earlier. There are several reasons for this one of which was, the development of new command and control systems such as armies consisting of corps which was probably responsible for the reduction in the importance of the classic citadel fortifications -- for example the advance of the two Coalition armies into France after the Battle of Waterloo was not ever temporally checked by the triple line of fortresses in north-eastern France, because a corps could be left behind to invest the fortresses without affecting the other corps advancing on Paris, something that army organisation fifty years earlier did not have the command and control structures to effect easily.
however there were many battles that involved entrenchments, and entrenchment was a well known force multiplier (did you know that a year before Waterloo, Wellington had suggested building field works at the site which became famous as the site of the Battle of Waterloo? --see Talk:Battle of Waterloo/Archive 10#reconnaissance). There are two examples given in this article of fortified lines (Lines of Weissenburg and Lines of Torres Vedras), but they were so common place that often they are only mentioned in detailed histories; for example the Wikiepdia article on the Peninsular War has one sentence on the lines of entrenchments that Wellington's army had to overcome in 1813–1814 when invading France over the Pyrenees. The Battle of Nivelle ( (10 November 1813) article is nearly terse "Arrayed in front of the course of the River Nivelle whose route was marked by a series of hills on which the French had built strong defensive positions or redoubts." Yet the fortifications were very substantial and are crucial for understanding the battle:

Lord Wellington for that object, immediately on gaining possession of Pamplona, on the 1st November, concentrated his forces to their left; but heavy rains near the coast, and snow in the mountains, attended with exceedingly inclement weather, retarded any forward movement till the 10th November, when the whole* advanced to dislodge the French from a formidable line of works on the Nivelle, which, with great labour and expense, they had been preparing since the failure of their efforts in the Pyrenees.— (Plate 3.)

The position did not follow the windings of the river, but extended in nearly a direct line on either bank from the sea to Ainhoe on the left. The right was particularly strong, being covered by various advanced works, and by an interior line formed round the bridge on the main road to Bayonne, which was further supported by the town of St. Jean de Luz partially retrenched, the Nivelle not being fordable. The left ran in rear of the river along the heights of Ainhoe, which were occupied by five redoubts, and other works, extending on that flank to the lofty mountains in which the Nivelle rises, and terminating favourably at a fortified rock on the same range. This part of their position being Considered by the French as the weakest, and offering the most favourable ground for attack, had been further strengthened by a line of works in front of Ainhoe, also applying its left on the fortified rock before mentioned. In the centre, the Nivelle forms a very considerable interior bend, and their line was formed almost entirely on its left. The bridge at Ascain, and that a little below it, were covered by strong tête-de-pont; and the space included in the bend of the river, from thence to the heights of Ainhoe; was studded with enclosed works and lines of entrenchment's, of which the main defence was on a range of heights behind Sare. That village was barricaded, and the approach covered by two redoubts (a b), and by La Petite Rhune mountain, also retrenched, forming a strong advanced post in its front. The centre being the point where success would be most decisive, as the penetrating columns would separate the wings of the French army, and cause the immediate abandonment of St. Jean de Luz and the right of the line, Lord Wellington ordered it to be attacked simultaneously with the heights of Ainhoe, its immediate support on the left. .... ....These preliminary attacks thus successfully executed, the whole moved forward against the retrenched range of heights in rear of Sare...

... The position on the Nivelle had many great natural advantages: it was taken up with judgment, and neither labour nor expense had been spared for three months to strengthen it to the utmost. Marshal Soult had fully 70,000 men for its defence, and he disputed every inch of the ground till dislodged, and no charge has been brought against him of serious error in his dispositions; ...

— Jones 1818, pp. 346–355

According to this source Wellington attacked with about 85,000 men and Marshal Soult had about 70,000. The front stretched from the sea to Ainhoa, Pyrénées-Atlantiques to the Atlantic which is a distance of about 12.5 miles (20.1 km). This is just one of many such engagements involving field fortifications in the French revolutionary and Napoleonic wars, the thing is that not many people today are aware of just how often this sort of defensive line was used and if they know anything about the wars tend to equated it with battles such as Austerlitz, Borodino (which had some key field fortifications), Leipzig and the Waterloo.
There is a debate in Britain over whether Marlborough or Wellington was the better general, but both of them had very good records both as generals of pitched battles and in the storming fortifications. Marlborough's brilliant breaching of the Lines of Ne Plus Ultra and Wellington's breaching of Nivelle line was separated by a century while Nivelle to Vicksburg was only half as long. The Battle of Nivelle is as I said above is just one not very significant engagement in the 12 months leading up to the downfall of Napoleon, but it involving about 12 miles of works in at least two line of entrenchments and 150,000 combatants and so it equates quite well against the numbers involved in the Siege of Vicksburg about fifty years later. So Capitalismojo I think that you need a very good source to support your contention that field fortification were used in "even larger scale in the American Civil War". --PBS (talk) 15:47, 29 August 2014 (UTC)

Marlborough was eminently successful in his attacks on lines and entrenchments; for instance, Schellenberg, the lines of Brabant, and his admirable manoeuvres when he forced the lines of Villars in 1711, previous to taking Bouchain.—Now, although regular and continuous lines are not the fashion at the present day [1822], yet the French frequently availed themselves of entrenchments during the late war; and Wellington's attacks, always successful, on M. Soult's entrenched positions on the Bidassoa, at the Nive, Nivelle, Bayonne, and Thoulouse, sufficiently evince his skill in attacks of that nature. But, is not Wellington's defence of the lines of Lisbon a full set off against all that Marlborough ever did in the way of attack?...

Published in 1830 in "Wellington and Marlborough (Written on the Palatine Hill at Rome, 1822)" in The United Service Magazine, 161–162
-- PBS (talk) 22:23, 30 August 2014 (UTC)

There are frontiers or parts of frontiers of such a nature, as to allow the use of the kind of permanent fortification of which we have been speaking, and the establishing along their whole extent of defences founded upon a system of artificial inundations, which shut them against the incursions of an enemy, protect and cover the operations of the defending army, render the attack of the frontiers very difficult although defended by a very inferior army, and afford the means of re-assembling and re-organizing the wrecks of a vanquished and retreating army. Such a frontier consists generally of a stream or large river terminating one of the flanks, whilst the other rests upon mountains from which small rivers or large brooks have their sources, and which after traversing the plain nearly parallel to the front of the frontier, empty into the river. These small rivers flow through separate vales 3 to 4 myriametres (18⅔ to 25 miles nearly) in length, and 5 to 600 metres (560 to 670 yards) wide; their declivity is greater or less, and the hillocks or species of counterforts which bound them, are connected with the chain of mountains and lose themselves in the general valley at a little distance from the stream. The course of the Rhine, from Strasbourg to Mayence, offers a remarkable example of a similar topography. The frontier of France in this quarter, is bounded on the right by the river, and on the left by the Vosges; and from this chain descend many small rivers, such as the Loutre, the Queich, the Spirback, and others, that empty into the Rhine. Lines, covered by artificial and permanent inundations, were constructed along these small rivers in the time of Louis XIV; and have since always been re-established at the breaking out of war. The lines on the Loutre, extend from Wessiemburg to Lauterbourg; those of the Queich, rest upon the Vosges, descend to Landau, and extend to Guermesheim. A great error was committed at the beginning of the last war [1815] in not re-establishing the lines on the Loutre, and particular those of the Queich. Exclusive of the opinion entertained of their strength (valuer d'opinion), they would have obtained very great advantages for the French armies, if they had known how to defend them by able and well combined manoeuvres. If during the winter that the French army spent at Mayence (1792), General Custine had intrenched Guermesheim and re-established the lines on the Queich, his retreat out of the Palatinate would have ceased at this grand and imposing position; he would have preserved the power of re-assuming the offensive to succour Mayence, and the enemy would have been kept in much greater uncertainty as to the fate of that famous siege.

If, after the reduction of Mayence, the lines on the Loutre had been found by our Generals in a complete state of defence, the enemy would not probably have been able to have forced them, and would not have pursued the French army to beneath the walls of Strasburg.

— Vernon 1817, pp. 328–329

What French General Jean Rapp said in his memoirs (Rapp, comte Jean (1823). Memoirs of General Count Rapp: First Aide-de-camp to Napoleon. H. Colburn and Company. pp. 359–. ) of his campaign in 1815 was:

I went to occupy the lines of Lauter—Twenty-three years before we had defended them; but then they were in a good condition, the left bank of the river was protected; we had 80,000 fighting men, a corps of reserve, and the army of the Upper Rhine assisted us—Nothing of that sort existed now. The lines were merely a heap of ruins: the banks and the sluices, which formed their principal strength, were nearly destroyed, and the places which supported them were neither armed nor even secure against a coup de main.

-- PBS (talk) 20:44, 6 September 2014 (UTC)