The Western Front — An Overview
By the end of 1914 the western front had assumed the basic shape which it was to keep until 1918. For more than 700 kilometres (440 miles) the opposing armies faced each other in a series of improvised entrenched positions. The small Belgian army, supported by a detachment of the French army, held the short northern sector from Nieuport to Dixmude. With most of Belgium occupied by the Germans, King Albert, sovereign and commander-in-chief, chose to adopt a defensive posture for the duration of the war, hoping that by keeping his army in the field he would be able to secure Belgian independence at any future peace conference. South of the Belgians the British army held the line from the Ypres salient into Picardy. As the British army increased in size it took over more of the line from the French, whose manpower resources continually declined as the war went on. By March 1918 the British held 123 kilometres (76 miles), from Poelcapelle to Barisis. The rest of the line was held by the French army. Their divisions were concentrated on the active front from Soissons to the St Mihiel salient, the 250 kilometres (156 miles) to the Swiss frontier being considered by both sides a strategically unimportant sector which could be lightly held with resting formations.