See Western Front (disambiguation) for other meanings.
For most of World War I, Allied Forces, predominantly those of France and the United Kingdom, were stalled at trenches on the Western Front.
Western Front was a term used during the First and Second World Wars to describe the "contested armed frontier" between lands controlled by Germany to the East and the Allies to the West. A "contested armed frontier" during a war is called a "front".
For most of both world wars there was also an Eastern Front. See the article on the Eastern Front for details.
World War I
- Main article Western Front (WWI)
After the first few months of World War I (WWI) which started in August 1914, until the last few months during the summer of 1918, the Western Front consisted of a relative static line of trench systems which stretched from the coast of North Sea southwards to the Swiss border. To try to break through the opposing lines of trenches and barbed wire entanglements, both sides employed huge artillery bombardments followed by attacks by tens of thousands of soldiers. Battles could last for months and lead to casualties measured in hundreds of thousands for attacker and defender alike. After most of these attacks, only a short section of the front would have moved and only by a kilometer or two.
The principle adversaries on the Western Front, who fielded armies of millions of men, were Germany to the East against a western alliance to the West consisting of: France and the United Kingdom with sizable contingents from the British Empire and British Dominions. The United States of America entered the war in 1917 and by the summer of 1918 had an army of around half a million men which rose to a million by the time the Armistice was signed on November 11, 1918.
The Alpine Front between Italy which was a member of the western alliance and Austro-Hungarian Empire which was allied to Germany and Turkey, is usually considered to be a separate front.
World War II
- Main article Western Front (WWII)
The Western Front of World War II was generally restricted to the same geographic regions as during World War I. During the war the front moved much further, as far West as the English Channel and as far East as line which would become the Iron Curtain during the Cold War. Although fighting took place in Norway and Italy these are not usually included as part of the Western Front but as separate campaigns.
The Western Front had three distinct phases during the World War II.
The first phase lasted from September 1939 until 1940. It started with the Phoney War with the allies taking up positions which created a front similar to that held during most of World War I. The first phase lasted until the Germans attacked and won a stunningly fast victory in June 1940. The British had to withdraw the British Expeditionary Force to Britain with an evacuation through Dunkirk and France was forced to capitulate.
The second phase from the late summer of 1940 until the early summer of 1944 consisted of a stalemate along the English Channel where neither side were strong enough to invade the other's territory with anything more than Commando raids.
The third and final phase started on June 6 1944 with the invasion of Normandy on the D-Day of Operation Overlord, When an allied force consisting of American and British Army Groups (with units from many other nations), successfully gained a bridge head in Normandy in northern France. By the early autumn of 1944 the front was approximately where the World War I front had been. It ended on May 8 1945 with the unconditional surrender of Germany. By that time western allied forces were on a front which stretched from the Baltic east of Denmark, southwards along the river Elbe, through the German Czechoslovakia boarder into Austria and North Italy.
Verdun by Hans Zoeberlein