It is estimated that there were around 40 million casualties in that war, both civilians and military personnel combined with estimates of around 20 million deaths and 20 or so million wounded. Deaths of 9-11 million military personnel and 6 to 13 million civilian deaths. These figures are either overestimated or underestimated, but the fact remains that this was one of the most bloodiest war in the history of humanity.
World War I began on 28th of July 1914 when Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia due to the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand. The rather small conflict between two countries spread rapidly, when Germany instead of calming their ally (Austria-Hungary) down, decided instead to support them. It was suggested by some historians that Germany wanted to expand into Europe and so used this a legitimate precursor to further their agenda. Which drew, Russia, France and Britain into the conflict largely because there were all involved in Treaties that obligated them to defend certain countries. And then it drew countries like US, Belgium, Turkey, Italy, Romania and various other countries into the conflict as well.
Here are some interesting facts about World War I
- Germans were the first to use flamethrowers in WWI. Their flamethrowers could fire jets of flame as far as 130 feet (40 m).
- During WWI, British tanks were initially categorized into “males” and “females.” Male tanks had cannons, while females had heavy machine guns.
- Staying on the tank theme, “Little Willie” was the first prototype tank in WWI. Built in 1915, it carried a crew of three and could travel as fast as 3 mph (4.8 km/h).
- Artillery barrage and mines created immense noise. In 1917, explosives blowing up beneath the German lines on Messines Ridge at Ypres in Belgium could be heard in London 140 miles (220 km) away.
- The most successful fighter pilot of the entire war was German fighter pilot Manfred Albrecht Freiherr von Richthofen (1892-1918), or the “Red Baron.” He shot down 80 planes, more than any other WWI pilot. He died after being shot down near Amiens and buried with full honours by the Allies. France’s René Fonck (1894-1953) was the Allies’ most successful fighter pilot, shooting down 75 enemy planes.
- Dogs were used as messengers and carried orders to the front lines in capsules attached to their bodies. Dogs were also used to lay down telegraph wires.
- Big Bertha was a 48-ton howitzer used by the Germans in WWI. It was named after the wife of its designer Gustav Krupp. It could fire a 2,050-lb (930-kg) shell at a distance of 9.3 miles (15 km). However, it took a crew of 200 men six hours or more to assemble. Germany had 13 of these huge guns or “wonder weapons.”
- Another tank fact. Tanks were initially called “landships.” However, in an attempt to disguise them as water storage tanks rather than as weapons, the British decided to code name them “tanks.”
- Some Americans disagreed with the United States’ initial refusal to enter WWI and so they joined the French Foreign Legion or the British or Canadian army. A group of U.S. pilots formed the Lafayette Escadrille, which was part of the French air force and became one of the top fighting units on the Western Front.
- In early 1917, British cryptographers deciphered a telegram from German Foreign Secretary Arthur Zimmermann to Germany’s minister in Mexico. The telegraph encouraged Mexico to invade U.S. territory. The British kept it a secret from the U.S. for more than a month. They wanted to show it to the U.S. at the right time to help draw the U.S into the war on their side.
Listen to the rest of the interesting facts and more on The World of Momus: History & Myth podcast on Anchor, Spotify and Google Podcasts.