The main theatre of fighting in World War I was the Western Front, a meandering line which ran from the Swiss border in the south to the North Sea. Most of the front’s 700km length traversed north-eastern regions of France with small amounts at end in Belgium and southern Germany.
The largest battles of the war – Marne, Ypres, Verdun, Somme, Passchendaele and others – were fought at points along this line.
Though the death toll from this area of conflict will never be accurately known, at least four million lost their lives. Despite the size, frequency and ferocity of attempts to break through the line or push back the enemy, the line remained relatively static until 1918. Late in that year the Allied forces gained battlefield supremacy and eventually forced German forces to sue for peace via the Armistice and, later, The Treaty of Versailles.
Many aspects of the Western Front have become symbolic of World War I: mud-filled trenches, artillery bombardments, appalling tactical blunders, futile charges on enemy positions, periods of stalemate, high death rates and atrocious conditions.