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20 October 2014
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How was the stalemate broken?

Russian soldiers faced a new battle against terrible economic conditions, © IWM

After the Russian Revolution in 1917 Russia's new government withdrew from the War and sought peace terms with Germany resulting in the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk in 1918. In the same year Germany almost succeeded in starving Britain out of the War with her campaign of unrestricted submarine warfare.

Thinking Point: How did the Allies recover from this to break the stalemate and win the war?

After Germany resumed unrestricted submarine warfare the US had little choice but to enter the War. Ever since the sinking of the Lusitania relations with Germany had been strained. Once they declared war, Germany knew they would have to act fast to crush the allies before the American support arrived. General Ludendorff launched his 'Peace Offensive', otherwise known as 'Operation Michael', in March 1918. It was aimed to separate the French and British armies on the Western Front. If this could be achieved France would have to defend Paris and the British would be trapped against the coast and forced to surrender.

At first the German offensive looked set to succeed but the allies had learned their lesson and finally showed a unified front under the command of Marshall Foch, to crush the German advance. At the same time the Allies were enjoying some success on the Eastern Front as they managed to knock out some of Germany's allies and therefore an effective means of her support. In conjunction with the effects of Britain's distant blockade Germany was near to defeat. The naval blockade cut off supplies of food to Germany and to the soldiers on the Front.

In 1918 an influenza epidemic hit German cities hard adding more deaths to an already weakened population. In response strikes and demonstrations erupted in Berlin in the November. Following the defeat of his offensive by the Allies, Ludendorff resigned and the German fleet mutinied.

Do you think the end of the war can be attributed to one single most important factor?

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A - The entry of the U.S. into the war at a point when Allied morale was low and war fatigue had set in on both sides undoubtedly provided a big turning point in the favours of the two sides.

B - A culmination of four years experience of modern warfare and developments in weaponry had a great effect on achieving victory. The great battles of attrition incurred huge losses and mistakes were made but they did serve to grind down the enemy and pave the way for the final defeat of Germany.

C - In the final stages of the conflict, both sides were nearing collapse. It was doubtful they could have carried on with the War for much longer.

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