50 Shocking Facts about World War 1 – Part 3

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1Battle of Tanga

In 1914, during World War 1, the Battle of Tanga saw swarms of angry bees attacking both German and Indian forces, breaking up formations and causing the action to be named “Battle of the Bees.”


2. During World War 1, Nobel prize-winning physicist Marie Curie developed mobile X-Ray stations. These were sent to the frontlines and assisted army surgeons prevent amputations in cases where limbs were still intact. It is estimated that over a million wounded soldiers were x-rayed with her units.


3. During World War 1, the German government carried out a census of Jews to prove that German Jews weren’t pulling their weight in the war effort. They instead found that Jews were overrepresented on the front lines.


4. During World War 1, specially trained dogs named Mercy Dogs or Red Cross Dogs used to go out into the warzone to find wounded soldiers. They brought medical supplies for the soldiers to patch themselves up or if the soldier was mortally wounded, stay and comfort them in their final moments.


5. During World War 1, MI5 used Girl Guides to deliver secret messages. They used Girl Guides instead of Boy Scouts because they found out that Boy Scouts weren't efficient enough, boisterous and talkative.


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6Jim Crow Laws

During World War 1, the American Expeditionary Forces tried to make the French treat Black soldiers in accordance with Jim Crow laws ''due to concerns that black soldiers and officers working with the French were being treated with too much “familiarity and indulgence.”


7. Italy’s World War 1 Special Forces were some of the best in the world. They were called Arditi (meaning “Daring Ones”) and they specialized in mountain warfare and fought with knives, flamethrowers, grenades, and machine pistols.


8. During World War 1, the USA recruited sportsmen who were skilled at trap shooting. They were then armed with shotguns and stationed where they could fire at enemy hand grenades in midair.


9. The Battle of Bolimów saw the first attempt at large-scale use of poison gas during World War 1. Germans fired 18,000 gas shells of Xylyl bromide at the Russians, but the gas inadvertently blew back to their own lines. Luck was on their side as the cold weather rendered the gas ineffective.


10. During World War 1, California’s schoolchildren were enlisted in a war against squirrels with one-sided casualties exceeding 100,000 ground squirrels.


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11Soldier's Life Saved by a Book

The life of a soldier named Maurice Hamonneau was saved during World War 1 by a copy of Rudyard Kipling’s “Kim” he owned, which stopped a bullet. He befriended Kipling when he learned that he had lost his son in the war, and named his own after him.


12. During World War 1, circus elephants were used for farm and industrial work in some parts of Great Britain. This was due to a shortage of horses and mules, as 1.2 million of them were purchased by the British military for the war effort.


13. During World War 1, Canadians exploited the trust of Germans who had become accustomed to fraternizing with allied units. They threw tins of corned beef into a neighboring German trench and when the Germans shouted “More! Give us more!” the Canadians tossed a bunch of grenades over.


14. During World War 1, up to 12 million letters were delivered every week to soldiers by the British General Post Office.


15. During World War 1, the British army tried to train seagulls to defecate onto submarine periscopes.


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16The Battle of the Words

In 1915 during World War 1, when Belgian and German trenches were a mere 45 meters (150 feet) apart, there was “Battle of the Words.” Each side threw insults at each other all day and night. It eventually became so annoying that the Belgian commander forbade his men from talking to the Germans.


17. Many World War 1 soldiers invading enemy trenches preferred to use a sharpened spade as an improvised melee weapon instead of the bayonet, as the bayonet tended to get "stuck" in stabbed opponents, rendering it useless in heated battle.


18. During World War 1, when Britain had to deal with the scourge of Zeppelins bombing them, the Royal Air Force initially sent up a plane equipped with a passenger and a rifle, with just 4 incendiary rounds.


19. The Australians invented a boomerang grenade during World War 1.


20. During World War 1, citizens of many countries and even their newspapers celebrated the beginning of the war, claiming to be “bored with peace.”


21Chamberlain Kahn Act

During World War 1, the American government passed the Chamberlain Kahn Act which allowed the police to detain any woman suspected of having a venereal disease and force her to be checked. Tens of thousands of women were detained while the law was enacted, but venereal disease rates remained the same.


22. During World War 1, Russia recruited 60,000 Czech and Slovak troops (The Czechoslovak Legions) to fight the Hapsburgs. After the Bolshevik Revolution, they took on all comers, plundered the Tsar's gold, and battled their way across Eurasia to the Pacific. They then sailed back to their homelands.


23. During World War 1, approximately 500,000 cats were sent to the trenches and warships to control pests and detect mustard gas.


24. During World War 1, the Daily Mail asked British housewives to make basic gas masks to be sent to the frontlines. However the design of these masks was flawed and scores of soldiers suffocated to death.


25. Mustard gas, which was used heavily during World War 1, is not just a skin irritant but damages DNA by corrupting molecules in the strand. If the victim survives, the DNA damage can lead to the development of cancer.

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