Visiting a First World War cemetery, with its incredible multitude of neatly-aligned graves, can help us to get some sense of the incredible scale of the human cost of this conflict. Astonishing though it may seem, trench warfare was less deadly than the period of manoeuvres in the field. 300,000 French soldiers were killed during the 5 months of open fighting in 1914, and 330,000 perished in 1915 in the period of large-scale offensives. These figures gradually decreased: 240,000 in 1916 and 150,000 in 1917, in spite of the Battles of Verdun, the Somme and the Chemin des Dames. The combatants learned to make the most of the relative protection offered by the trenches. 1918 saw the return of sweeping offensives, increasing the number of casualties. In the final year of the war the French army lost 220,000 men, still well short of the extraordinary losses of summer 1914.