Why Barbed Wire? – WW1 Uncut: Dan Snow – BBC

Why Barbed Wire? – WW1 Uncut: Dan Snow – BBC


bombs shells, bullets, gas, tanks. There’s a variety of weaponry that made the battlefields of the first world war such a murderous place. But there was one other weapon system of sorts that had an absolutely massive impact on the fighting. And that was wire. Barbed wire was first used in the wild west as a cheap way to control livestock There are 400 patents registered and it wasn’t long before military bigwigs saw how cattle were hemmed in by the razor-sharp fencing and introduced it to the battlefield. If it could be used to corral cows in the wild west then it could be used to corral men on the western front as well. The great thing about wire was that it was an amazing system because it completely stops the enemy going where you don’t want them. It’s virtually impassable for humans. It’ll rip their flesh to bits Also, even more destructively, you can use it to channel the enemy into attacking into little corridors where you set up a machine gun and turn it into an absolute corridor of death. No soldier wants to be on a nighttime wiring party. Creeping out into no-man’s land to set up barbed wire traps was dangerous enough But if you bumped into your enemy doing the same trick the noise could wake up machine gunners back in the trenches. Bad news all around. They used huge amounts of different kinds of wire traps and manuals were produced. In fact Taff Gillingham’s got a manual there. How are we doing? -Well, it’s not impenetrable yet. Happy days if you happen to be making barbed wire in 1914. Millions of miles the stuff would be needed to line the western front. In world war one mass warfare went hand-in-hand with mass production. So this style of barbed wire entanglement is pretty much the style that was used at the beginning of the war. A bit like an agricultural fence back home it would have slowed people down, tricky to get through, a nasty obstacle. I just punctured my welly. The British pretty quickly realized that trouble with these big fences of barbed wire is that it might stop the Germans getting at them, but it also stopped them getting at the Germans. So they invented this idea. They built it just near their own trenches and if the Germans did attack they’d still be slowed down trying to get through. But it meant if the British attacked they could release some smoke and they could advance through their own barbed wire and out into no-man’s land. By 1917 the Germans had decided pretty much to go on the defensive on the western front, that meant they didn’t have to worry about their troops going forward, which is why they would use barbed wire like this. Huge mounds of it. Piled up in No-man’s land designed to stop the Allies getting through and attacking their line. This was brutally effective. Every time I’m confronted with barbed wire I’m always amazed that something looks so scrawny and insubstantial can have such a huge impact. I mean look at this. I think I should be able to get through this. I can see through it and yet t’s practically impenetrable. It’s like being confronted with a huge granite wall. It’s amazing that this thing that was mass-produced. It was Lo-Fi, it was cheap, And it had a huge impact on the way the first world war was fought

20 thoughts on “Why Barbed Wire? – WW1 Uncut: Dan Snow – BBC

  1. I climbed over a barbed wire fence as a 7-8 year old and I still have an two inch scar on my left arm, it literally ripped the all layers of skin halfway to the bone, I distinctly remember looking at the wound as it went from looking like uncooked bacon to being drenched in blood within about two seconds.

  2. Why would you run into the enemy while wiring your trench, your not exactly wiring their trench

  3. I see people complaining about music instead of talking about the video, and I didn’t even notice the music.

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