It’s late 1914 and the combination of lethal firepower and barbed wire has led to both sides literally digging in. So we’re in these trenches and every time I try and get out of one, every time I try to pop my head up there, it gets shot off. And the trench has got more and more sophisticated, so now we’re there always, they’ve got quite comfortable. They’re digging deep bunkers, some of them have got electricity in them and carpets on the floor and stuff. I mean these are basically cities, these trenches on the front line. They don’t wanna live in these things presumably they want to get out How do you get out? Every time you go over there you get killed. -Well that’s true, and basically for three long years the Brits and their allies try little things they try new things, they try ways of getting across no-man’s land. And they don’t work. There’s terrible bloodshed, but the silver lining is an actual attack they learn a little bit more about trench warfare they slowly start to crack it, and by 1918 they work out how to get out of these trenches, over the top and successfully defeat the Germans. -How do they do that? How do they break the deadlock? -I’ll show you. They turn to machines. They think about technological solutions, a vehicle that can cross this broken ground crush barbed wire, bridge German trenches. The tank. -Wow look at that. It’s amazing, isn’t it? It looks even futuristic now. I mean if you saw that in 1916, coming at you, and it looks like it’s from outer space. It does look like science fiction, the way it floats across the ground. It’s eerie. Isn’t it? It’s weirdly intimidating What about the guns? You’ve got what, two guns on either side, and 6 pound guns, and also machine guns all around and also little holes If an enemy jumped on the tank you could open little holes and take a pistol out, and other stuff as well. One of the legendary barriers on No-man’s land was obviously barbed wire. It came to haunt the nightmares of British infantryman. I’ll show you what the tank does to a bit of barbed wire. That’s what happened. Sometimes it would actually drag it off. It would rip it to bit, it would often clear it completely. So the foot soldiers now, the infantry, can be walking along behind it there were big columns of them behind it and just following it, the path that it crushed and made in the barbed wire. Can you imagine the sense of excitement? Having spent years being machine gunned out in the open, and then now having something like this protecting you. Incredible. Is this it at full speed, you reckon? Well that is the alarming truth. Yeah. It could do about 4 miles yeah. Yeah, and you spotted the problem there. Another problem is it was rushed into the production so fast, they used what they had, they used old tractor engines. So there were lots problems with breakdowns, but it wasn’t all of the answer, no, but it was a long way down the road. I tell you it’s one of the most impressive things I’ve seen on 2 wheels, 4 wheels, however many wheels it’s got. It’s amazing. So tanks didn’t win as the war exactly didn’t they or did they? -You know tanks basically, they were one of the dominant factors of warfare in the 20th century, but in the first world war, there was still big problems with them they weren’t reliable, they broke down, they’re slow and like I said. -So what is it then, if it’s not the tank that breaks the deadlock? I mean if tanks are really good. Tanks in combination with lots of other things and one of the most important of them, aircraft. If there is one piece of machinery that gets completely revolutionized by world war one, it’s aircraft. At the start, there’s little scout planes held together by bits of string and they were so primitive that if you wanted to get an enemy out the sky they would sometimes use grappling hooks, they threw out anchors to drag you down. -Really? -Yeah, I mean, it’s unbelievable, but basically the speed of aircraft pretty much doubled in world war one and the height at which they could fly pretty much triples. Could you drop bombs and things from these planes? -Initially in 1914, you just carry a bomb in the plane, and just drop it over the side. Totally. By the end of the war, it’s far more scientific. They’re conducting air raids deep behind enemy lines. So if you’ve got planes you don’t have to worry about no-man’s land. You just drop bombs win the war, yeah? -Well, not quite. It’s not that simple. They do need, what I think is probably the most important last element of winning the war on the western front, and that is guns. -They already have lots of guns, though, didn’t they. -They needed more. Check this out It’s fired out of a gun towards the enemy. This is a world war one shell. Have a go at that. Crikey O’Reilly That’s a big gun, isn’t it. -That’s actually a medium-sized shell some of the shells the British fired in world war one went up to nearly 30 kilograms in weight and were about 20 centimeters in diameter. That is massive. This one here is packed from there to there with high explosives. First thing you’ve got to do, is before the war Britain doesn’t have many guns doesn’t have many factories producing guns or shells. You gotta build all of those, you’ve got to perfect them, get the design right and then you’ve got to fire a vast quantity towards the enemy. So now you’ve got missiles like these you can fire them straight out the trenches, drop them from planes. War is over. -Yeah, not quite. A lot of people hoped you could win the war by chucking enough of this stuff at the enemy. But there’s still, unfortunately, no substitute for young men walking across the battlefield. Yes, but it’s putting them all together. That’s the invention of Modern warfare. So, I get it right, it’s a mixture of things. You’ve got tanks on the ground, you’ve got planes in the air and you’ve got cannons firing these massive shells. -But it’s all very carefully coordinated. So those shells, for example, are being fired just beyond the tank just beyond, that’s the infantry walking forward. It’s a creeping barrage, a whole line of exploding shells and and poisonous gas and all that kind of stuff. Reconnaissance aircraft help to coordinate all the elements and provide vital information on the enemy. It’s all married together. So that’s how complicated it is. If we’re a soldier, then right in front of us, right in front of us there is just masses of rainfall bullets. Yeah, and explosions. Yeah, presumably loads of us die. Yes, the Australians believed if you’re not taking casualties from your own artillery bombardment. You aren’t close enough to it. It is so horribly dangerous, isn’t it? -It was incredibly dangerous and incredibly complicated, but it’s less dangerous than walking by yourself with a rifle across no-man’s land towards enemy machine guns. And that is how they break the stalemate of the first world war. -Wow.