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Donald A. Mackenzie

British Military Ascendancy

Before the outbreak of war the military strength of Great Britain was far below that of France, Russia, or Germany. Now it ranks as one of the foremost military powers in the world, while it continues to maintain its naval supremacy. German dreams of world conquest have consequently been shattered.

During 1916 the British offensive on the Ancre and Somme proved that the enemy's elaborately entrenched and strongly held line could not withstand the bombardments of numerous and powerful British guns, or hold back our valorous soldiers. The Germans were out-manoeuvred, out-generalled, and out-fought, and were forced to retreat from a large salient on the Somme to the concreted entrenchments of the Hindenburg line. But before they could settle down, early in 1917, hard blows were struck. Vimy Ridge, the northern pivot of the line, was captured by our soldiers on a single morning. Its forts, earthworks, and dug-outs had been previously mauled or shattered by shell-fire, while deep mines, constructed secretly, were exploded at dawn on the day of battle. The enemy were afterwards deprived by the Allied armies of the strategical advantages of other heights on the Aisne, at Messines, and at Passchendaele.

Among the new developments in modern warfare was the British Tank, which did much to facilitate attacks on entrenched positions. At the battle of Cambrai, several hundred Tanks were employed to break through masses of barbed wire, enfilade trenches, and shatter machine-gun positions.

But for the revolution in Russia, which brought about the rapid decline of that country's military power, it is probable that German resistance on the Western Front would have been shattered before the end of 1917. Russian inactivity enabled Germany to strengthen its armies in France and Flanders, but the entry of the United States on the side of the Allies restored the balance of man-power on the Western Front.

Nevertheless the Germans succeeded in making a great and successful advance in March, 1918, and for a time the Allied positions in France were in grave danger, till, under the command of Marshal Foch, the Allies were able again to throw back the Germans from the Marne. As summer and autumn wore on, constant pressure forced the enemy to continual withdrawal.

Eventually, on 4th October, Germany was compelled to beg for an armistice, which was granted on 11th November. Meantime the Bulgarians, the Turks and the Austrians in rapid succession had submitted and sued for terms.

The Great World War was ended.