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World War One - Inventions and Weapons

The Evolution of the Tank (NY Times, 1919)

A three page article concerning the development of tanks during the First World War. While they were being created on the drawing boards of Britain's W. Foster Company, the code name for these land dreadnoughts was "water tanks"; hence the name.

"The first armored battle cars, or "tanks" were a British invention developed from an American automobile tractor used for agricultural purposes on the Western prairies. They made their initial appearance at the battle of the Somme (Flers), September 15, 1916."

However, it should be known that they were first used to greatest effect in the Battle of Cambrai (November 20 through December 7, 1917).

Click here to see a diagram of the W.W. I French Renault tank.

Read about the Patton tank in Korea...


The Lewis Gun (The Great War Monthly, 1918)

"The Lewis gun was, in the circumstances, a weapon of very considerable value. It helped the British infantry to hold back masses of the enemy in the opening phase of the war, and became one of the most important instruments of attack and defense during the long period of trench warfare."

"The light Lewis gun became the favourite weapon of the British airman, against the Parabellum gun of German pilots and fighting observers."

Click here if you wish to read about the American inventor of the Lewis Gun.


The Mining of the Seas (Sea Power, 1919)

Naval mines had been around for centuries, in one form or another - and this article pertains to the particular type of anti U-boat mines that were put in place along those well-traveled sea lanes known best by that kind of German warship.

Click here to read about one of the greatest innovations by 20th Century chemists: plastic.


Germany Introduces the Leather Gas Mask (Popular Mechanics, 1917)

A year and a half before the end of World War I, the German Army introduced the "Lederschutzmasken", a leather gas mask made of specially treated Bavarian sheepskin with removable lenses. Designed to replace the rubberized cloth gas masks, the 1917 respirators proved to be far more effective against phosgene gas than the 1915 masks. The Allied powers dismissed the new design as evidence that material shortages on the German home front were forcing changes.

Click here to read about the celebrations that took place in Paris the day World War One ended.


Helmets Along the Western Front (Literary Digest, 1915)

The tremendous advances in artillery that took place during the years leading up to the war helped to reintroduce an old, time-tested element to the uniforms of the 20th Century soldier: the helmet.

So numerous were head injuries from high-explosive shells during the first year of the war that it compelled the doctors on both sides to beg their respective generals to issue some measure of cranium protection in order to reduce the casualty figures. As you will read in the attached article, the French began to wear helmets in the fall of 1915; the British and Germans a year later.


Trench Mortar (The Great War, 1918)

The attached is a photo from a 1918 issue of GREAT WAR MAGAZINE and pictures the Brandt Grenade-Thrower - designed in 1916 by the Frenchman Edgar William Brandt (1880 - 1960). A commonly used piece of trench artillery that was most often found in the French sectors, it is easily recognized by it's highly pronounced barrel that narrowed at the muzzle. An air operated mortar of 75mm caliber, this piece was one of several compressed air projectors deployed by the French Army.


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