Beyond the Trenches: 25 Fascinating Facts about World War 1 – Part 2

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1SMS Emden

SMS Emden

In World War 1, a German ship (SMS Emden) made its way to a British colony about 1700 km off the tip of India. The captain of the ship was surprised when he was welcomed. No news of the war had reached the colony. The ship was repaired and restocked, and in thanks, the captain had a local’s boat fixed.

2. After a horse ran into No Man's Land during World War 1 and got shot, French soldiers decided to replace it with a fake papier-mache horse with a sniper inside. He also had a telephone wire so he could message back to the trenches on enemy movement. The ploy was discovered after three days.

3. Canadian First Nations soldier Francis “Peggy” Pegahmagabow was one of the most effective snipers of World War 1. He volunteered for service despite the Canadian government’s exclusion of Aboriginal people in the army. With a kill record of 378, Peggy once ran into No-Man’s Land to retrieve ammo when his company ran out.

4. During World War 1, British newspapers falsely claimed that the Germans rendered down soldiers' corpses to make soap, candles and nitroglycerin. As a result, when news of the Holocaust reached Britain during World War 2, the government assumed it was another made-up atrocity story.

5. During World War 1, before the traction splint was introduced, femur fractures had an 80% mortality rate. After the splint was introduced, the rate dropped to around 8%.

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In World War 1, darts were dropped from aircraft to attack infantry.

7. During World War 1, London was protected by massive lengths of steel cables suspended from observation balloons to guard against air raids. These "balloon aprons" forced pilots to fly above their range or too low to avoid AA fire.

8. Many World War 1 battlefields are still so contaminated with unexploded ordnance and chemicals that human development is not allowed and won't be for at least another 300 - 500 years.

9. So many men died in World War 1 that serious proposals were made to bring back polygamy. One German expert estimated that Europe had 10 million more women than men, and stated that unless farmers and others were allowed two wives, "30-40% of German women will remain spinsters."

10. Near the end of World War 1, a small fortified town in France called Le Quesnoy was liberated from the Germans after 4 years of occupation, by New Zealand soldiers in a sneak attack, with zero civilian casualties. Multiple memorials and many of the town's streets are named in New Zealand’s honor.

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11World War 1

World War 1

World War 1 was the first war in which mass media and propaganda played a significant role. It was one of the keys to convincing people to fight in the war. At the start of the war, the British cut Germany’s undersea cables to influence the reporting of the war to the world.

12. In 1917, during World War 1, U.S. troops in Paris stopped at the grave (composed of soil from the U.S.) of French Revolutionary War Hero, Marquis de Lafayette, and proclaimed “Lafayette, we are here!”

13. During World War 1, Germany refused to feed occupied Belgium, which was blockaded and unable to fulfill its food demands. In response, Herbert Hoover established the Commission for Relief in Belgium. The CRB shipped 5.7 million tons of food and fed 11 million Belgians between 1914 and 1919.

14. During World War 1, the British executed soldiers inflicted with Shell Shock (Combat Stress Disorder) on the basis of cowardice because Shell Shock wasn't considered a psychiatric disorder.

15. The first tanks in World War I were held together by rivets until it was discovered that explosions would turn the rivets into shrapnel, injuring soldiers in the tank even if the explosion did not penetrate the armor.

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In Germany during World War 1, horses were considered army reservists. Owners had to register them regularly, and the army kept detailed records on the locations of all horses. In the first weeks of the war, the German army mobilized 715,000 horses.

17. During World War 1, the 369th Infantry Regiment spent 191 days under fire, never lost a man through capture, lost a trench or a foot of ground to the enemy, but was not allowed to march in the victory parade.

18. Tanks from World War 1 were originally to be called Landships but the factory workers who were building them referred to them as Tanks because they resembled steel water tanks and the British concerned with secrecy kept that name.

19. A British soldier named Patrick Fowler spent most of World War 1 hiding in a wardrobe. A French family in German-occupied France had taken him in, however, 16 German soldiers were then billeted at the residence, spending their time in the same room as the wardrobe. Every day he was silent and still to avoid being detected.

20. During World War 1, German zeppelins had a "spy basket" which was a small capsule that would be dropped from above the clouds to spy on the allies. Despite it being cold, isolated and cramped, crew members would volunteer to be in it because it was the only place they were able to smoke.

21Battle of Yser

Battle of Yser

During World War 1, Belgium opened its sluices to allow seawater to flow in and flood their country to prevent German occupation. They held their front for the duration of the war.

22. In World War 1, British and American fighter pilots were not issued parachutes because they were considered cowardly apparatus.

23. During World War 1, German Saboteurs set off bombs on Black Tom island in New York harbor. The blast could be felt as far away as Philadelphia and caused over $100,000 in damage to the statue of liberty and is the reason its right arm is still closed to tourists today.

24. During World War 1, female art students joined the National League for Women’s Service and trained to serve in the Camouflage Department of the United States Navy. They designed camouflage patterns and tested them in various locations in New York City including the NY Public Library and Union Square.

25. During World War 1, soldiers were not issued helmets until the summer of 1915, after nearly a million and a half were killed or wounded. Before that they wore headgear made of felt, cloth or leather.

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