The Western Front
When Germany invaded Belgium and France on 3 August 1914, they had the intention to capture Paris and so force France to capitulate.
But they had not counted on the fierce resistance of the Belgian, French and English troops. Then the German Army tried to outflank the opposing forces, which resulted in many attacks from both sides before the armies ended up at the coast of Belgium in what became known as “the race to the sea”.
On the other side of the front, France wanted to get back Alsace Lorraine which they had lost to Germany in the 1870-1871 war, and drove the German army back to the Vosges.
Both sided started to dig in to find shelter from the fighting, and the general outline of the Western Front was starting to develop.
During the course of the war not much ground was gained on both sides, except for the last few months of the war. The front generally ran from Nieuwpoort on the Belgian coast, along the river Yser towards Ieper, and into France in the Nord Pas-de-Calais area. From there it went on to the Somme, along the Chemin de Dames, Reimes and the Champagne area, throught the Argonne forest, along Verdun and St Mihiel before turning downwards through Lorraine into the Vosges and ending up at the French-Swiss border at Pfefferhouse in the Alsace.
First only crude defences where build, but as the war went on better and deeper trenches and fortifications were made, bunkers were made stronger and dugouts were dug deeper. For four years the armies lived underground. Large trench systems were developed.
The fighting left many scars on the landscape, with explosions from the shells obliterating towns and farmland. In some places the soldiers went underground, tunneling their way to the trenches of the enemy to place large mines and blow up the enemy’s front line, forming huge craters.
Today many relics remain for the battlefield tourist to visit.