World War 1 Submarines: Facts and Information

Here are some facts about WW1 submarines.

  • World War I submarines played an important part in the war. Both sides had several types of submarines, and it was the first time that military submarines made a big difference.

  • One of the most famous World War I submarines was the German U-boat. There were 29 U-boats when the war started, although Germany built 360 of them during the war.
  • Over 5,000 Allied ships were sunk by German submarines during World War I. Over 1.4 million tons of shipping was lost during just the first few months of the war.

World War 1 submarines

  • In August, 1914, 10 German U-boats sailed from a base in northern Germany to attack British ships in the north Atlantic Ocean. It was the first ever submarine war patrol.
  • In 1915 the Lusitania was sunk in the Atlantic by German U-boats. Because many American passengers were on board, this event helped to persuade America to join the war.
  • British M Class submarines were up to 90 metres long and could travel up to 8,000 km. A unique feature of them was a 305 mm gun mounted in a turret in front of the tower.
  • British World War I submarines were widely used in the Baltic Sea, including the successful 1915 German blockade. Because so many merchant ships were sunk in that operation, the Germans were forced to introduce a convoy escort system.
  • Most World War I submarines were powered by diesel engines. A maximum speed of about 17 km per hour was standard, and most submarines stayed near the surface as much as possible.
  • Several inventions helped to make World War I submarines more effective. These included circling and magnetic torpedoes, and the gyro compass allowing for more accurate navigation.

WW1 submarine

  • Britain experimented with launching small Sopwith planes from hangars built on the decks of submarines. The idea never worked effectively and was dropped before the war ended.

What next? Discover more World War 1 facts by visiting our World War 1 resources page.

World War 1 Planes: Facts and Information

Here are some interesting facts about WW1 planes.

  • World War I was the first time that aircraft had been used for combat on a large scale. At first they were used mostly for reconnaissance and later for fighting and bombing.

  • There were about 70 different types of World War I planes, including fighters and bombers. Different countries used different markings so that their own soldiers wouldn’t shoot the planes down.
  • Manfred Richthofen, also known as the Red Baron, was the leading German Ace, or fighter pilot. He became a hero in Germany and was awarded dozens of medals.
  • He shot down 80 Allied planes, more than any other Ace. His plane’s engine is on display in the Imperial War Museum in London and the control stick is in Australia.
  • World War I planes often fought each other in the air, in battles known as dogfights. The Germans invented a way to fire a machine gun without it shooting at the plane’s propeller.
  • April 1917 was called Bloody April by the British Royal Flying Corps because they lost so many planes and pilots. In that one month they approximately 245 planes and 200 pilots.
  • The British Sopwith Camel was one of the most famous World War I planes. It had a top speed of 185 kmh and is credited with destroying 1,294 enemy planes.
Sopwith Camel
Sopwith Camel
  • One of the most well-known bombers of the war was the Handley Page V 1500. It was almost 20 metres long, carried up to 30 bombs and could carry 9 men.
  • World War I planes were widely used during the Battle of Verdun and the Battle of the Somme.
  • Observation balloons were widely used and were often shot down by the enemy. A Belgian pilot, Willy Coppens, shot down 35 of these balloons during the war.

World War 1 Christmas Truce: Facts and Information

Here are some facts about the Christmas Truce of 1914.

  • The Christmas Truce is the name given to a series of unofficial ceasefires which happened during World War 1 on the Western Front in 1914 around Christmas time.
  • It is estimated that about 100,000 German and British soldiers were involved in ceasefires along the whole length of the Western Front.

  • In the weeks leading up to Christmas 1914, British and German troops began to shout Christmas greetings from trench to trench, and Christmas carols were shared.
  • On Christmas Eve 1914 in Ypres, Belgium, some German soldiers decorated areas around their trenches. They placed candles on their trenches and on Christmas trees, and sung carols.
  • The British troops in Saint-Yvon responded with their own carols and soon German and British troops were meeting face to face in No Man’s Land.
  • Gifts (such as food, tobacco, buttons and souvenirs) were exchanged, and the artillery guns fell silent.

German and British soldiers meet on Boxing Day

  • In some areas the truce lasted until Christmas night, in others it went on until New Year’s Day.
  • The truce was localised. In some regions the fighting didn’t stop at all, and in others it was agreed that dead soldiers could be recovered from No Man’s Land so that they could receive a proper burial.
  • Many football matches took place on Christmas Day on the Western Front. A few of these were between German and British soldiers. Most of the matches were just kick abouts. Footballs were hard to come by, so the troops used old ration tins instead.

Christmas Truce 1914

  • A small number of truces took place around Christmas 1915, but orders against fraternizing with the enemy largely prevented them from happening on a bigger scale.
  • Although the Christmas Truce is often held up as something completely unique, localised truces along the Western Front weren’t all that uncommon. Due to the fact that the opposing trenches were so close together, soldiers were able to organise ceasefires during meal times and arrange times for the bodies of fallen soldiers to be collected from No Man’s Land.
  • The Christmas Truce has featured in many films and TV shows, such as Oh! What a Lovely WarSpace: Above and Beyond and Joyeux Noel.
  • In Frelinghien, France and monument was errected on 11 November 2008 to mark the spot where a football match took place on Christmas Day 1914 between the Royal Welsh Fusiliers and the German Battalion 371.

Facts About World War 1 Tanks

Here are some World War 1 tank facts.

  • World War 1 tanks played an important part during the 1914 to 1918 conflict.
  • Tanks were invented because the trench warfare type of fighting was slow and unpredictable.

  • One of the key reasons for introducing tanks was to deal with the problems posed by barbed wire. Tanks were able to drag barbed wire away using grappling hooks, or flatten areas covered with wire so that soldiers could cross it.
  • The first tanks were unreliable and difficult to maneuver, partly because of the thick mud and and uneven ground of the Western Front. It was also hot and cramped inside the tanks.

World War 1 tank

  • The idea for the tank came from studying farm equipment with caterpillar tracks. It was nicknamed a tank as it looked like a metal water carrier.
  • Little Willie was developed in 1915 by British scientists and inventors, and it was the first of the World War 1 tanks. It weighed 16 tons, measured 8 metres long and could travel at 3.2 kmh.
  • One of the most widely produced World War 1 tanks was the Mark I. During the war, 10 different versions were made, with speeds up to 13 kmh.
  • Tanks were sometimes categorised as being male or female, with the female tanks having fewer guns.
  • Tanks were at first camouflaged although they were soon painted brown, as they ended up covered in mud after a few hours of being used.
  • In November, 1917, all 474 tanks of the British Tank Corps fought at the Battle of Cambrai. The French and the US armies were impressed and developed their own tanks.

World War 1 tanks

  • During the 1918 Battle of Amiens, about 70 percent of Allied tanks were destroyed in just a few days. By the end of the war the British Tank Corps had only 8 tanks left.
  • In April, 1918 the first tank versus tank battle took place.
  • In August, 1918, over 600 Allied tanks helped with an advance on the Western Front.
  • By the end of the war, the British had produced over 2,600 tanks, while the Germans had made only 20.
  • Today, one of the best places to see World War 1 tanks is at the Tank Museum in Bovington, Dorset.

Flora Sandes: Facts and Information

Here are some facts about Flora Sandes.

  • Flora Sandes was the only British woman to officially fight as soldier during World War I. She was a Sergeant Major in the Serbian Army and a Captain after the war.
  • Flora was born in 1876 in Yorkshire. She often wished she had been born a boy and as a child she learned to drive, shoot and ride a horse.

  • While working as a secretary, she spent her spare time training with the First Aid Nursing Yeomanry Corps, a women only military unit. She learned to march, give first aid, and signal.
  • She lived in London for a while although she had a passion for travel. By age 18 she had been to Egypt, Canada and the United States where she supposedly shot a man in self defence.
  • She travelled to Serbia a week after World War I broke out. She worked in military hospitals, became fluent in the local language and joined the Serbian Red Cross.

Flora Sandes

  • Flora Sandes joined the Serbian Army and was promoted to the rank of Sergeant within a year.
  • In November, 1916 she was seriously injured by a grenade and spent 2 months recovering in hospital.
  • She was awarded Serbia’s highest military award, the Order of the Star of Karadorde.
  • While on sick leave in England, she raised money to help the Serbian army.
  • After the war, Flora Sandes lived in Paris and Belgrade and married an officer in the Serbian army.
  • She worked at Paris’ famous Folies Bergere nightclub and as the first taxi driver in Belgrade.
  • When Germany invaded Yugoslavia in 1941 (World War 2), Sandes was too old at 65 to join the Yugoslav army. The Germans arrested her but released her soon afterwards.
  • Flora Sandes returned to England after the war and died in Suffolk in 1956. She wrote two autobiographies describing her exciting experiences in the army and elsewhere.

Horses in World War 1: Facts and Information

Here are some facts about how horses were used in WW1.

  • At the start of World War 1 horses were mainly used in cavalry units. However, as the war progressed, it became clear that horses were incredibly vulnerable to machine guns and artillery fire. The days of the cavalry charge were over!

  • On the Western Front, cavalry forces weren’t used extensively for very long after the fighting started, but they were used for longer on the Eastern Front.
  • The armies of the Ottoman Empire included cavalry throughout the war, as did the British Army, particularly in the Middle East.
  • Horses were more commonly used for logistical support – they were able to move well through mud and rough ground to carry messages, pull supply wagons, and move medical staff and the wounded and artillery.
  • As the war went on, horses became more and more difficult to replace. Their value, from a purely economic and strategic stand point, outweighed the value of a soldier.

World War 1 horses

  • The conditions faced by the horses used in World War 1 were very harsh. Many died of starvation, disease and exhaustion and many othersdied as a result of artillery fire.
  • In order to satisfy the need for horses, Britain purchased horses from Australia, Argentina, the US and Canada. They were also bought from British citizens.
  • In one day during the Battle of Verdun more than 7000 horses were killed.
  • Over 1 million horses and mules were used by the British Army during World War 1.
  • More than 400,000 of them were killed.
  • At the end of the war, many horses were put down because they were ill or too old. Many healthy horses were sold to slaughterhouses or to the local population.
  • Due to quarantine restrictions, horses shipped from Australia during the war couldn’t be returned. Of the 130000 horses, only 1, a horse called Sandy, returned.
  • After World War 1, the use of horses in war became less widespread. Tanks replaced cavalry.
  • Alfred Munnings, a war artist, working in France in 1918, produced many drawings and paintings featuring the role of horses in the conflict.
  • Michael Morpurgo wrote about a cavalry horse in World War 1 in his 1982 book War Horse. It has since been adapted for the screen and stage.

Walter Tull: Facts and Information

Here are some interesting facts about Walter Tull.

  • Walter Tull was an English footballer who played for Northampton Town and Tottenham Hotspur. He was also the first black officer in the British army and fought in World War 1.

  • He was born in Folkestone, Kent, in April, 1888 and was raised in an orphanage in East London. His grandmother was a slave on the Caribbean island of Barbados.
  • Walter Tull began playing football for the orphanage team and joined Clapton FC in 1908. He was soon named Player of the Season and won the FA Amateur Cup and London Senior Cup.
  • He was signed up by Tottenham Hotspur in 1909, at the age of 21. The team toured Argentina and Uruguay, making Tull the first black player to play in South America.
  • Supporters of the opposing team often insulted Tull because of the colour of his skin.
  • He was signed up as half-back for Northampton Town FC in 1911, and he went on to score 9 goals in 110 senior appearances before enlisting to fight in World War I.
  • Tull was promoted to sergeant and took part in the 1916 Battle of the Somme. He was sent back to England in December 1916 with trench fever.

Walter Tull

  • In 1917, he fought in Italy. He was widely recognized for his bravery, especially on one occasion where he led over 20 men across a fast flowing river at night.
  • In March, 1918, Walter Tull was shot and killed while leading an attack on the German trenches. He was recommended for a Military Cross, and was awarded the British War and Victory Medal.
  • A memorial was erected to Walter Tull at Northampton Town FC in 1999. He has been featured on a £5 coin and has been the subject of several biographies and documentaries.

Tower of London Poppies: Facts and Information

Here are some facts about the art installation at the Tower of London to mark the centenary of the outbreak of World War 1.

  • The official title of the art installation is Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red.
  • It was made by Paul Cummins, a ceramic artist, and was set by stage designed, Tom Piper.

  • The artwork is made up of 888,246 ceramic poppies, one for every Commonwealth soldier killed in World War 1. The poppies were arranged to  look like they were cascading out of the walls of the Tower of London, filling the moat. Poppies were added during the summer of 2014 until they had all been placed ready for the close of the installation on 11th November – Remembrance Day.
  • The installation opened on 5th August 2014.
  • All of the ceramic poppies used in the installation have been sold to members of the public for £25. 10% of the sale price will be divided between six charities: Cobeso, Combat Stress, Coming Home, Help for Heroes, The Royal British Legion and SSAFA.
  • Every poppies have been handmade and, as a result, all of the poppies are unique.
  • The poppies were produced in Derbyshire using techniques which would have been used when World War 1 was being fought.
  • Tower Hill and the Moat Path offered the best view of the poppies.
  • Jonathan Jones, in an article in the Guardian newspaper, suggested that the installation was too pretty for a World War 1 memorial. He thought the poppies should be replaced with barbed wire and bones.
  • Paul Cummins lost a finger during the creation of the artwork. His hand was crushed by an industrial roller.

  • 8000 volunteers helped to plant the ceramic poppies.
  • Queen Elizabeth II visited the installation, as did Prince William.
  • More than 4 million people visited the installation.
  • More than £10 million was raised for charity.
  • Paul Cummins got the name of the installation from a line in the will of a soldier from Derbyshire who died in Flanders. The Blood Swept lands and seas of red, where angels feat to tread.

What next? Learn more about World War 1.

Archduke Franz Ferdinand: Facts and Information

Here are some interesting facts about the Archduke Franz Ferdinand.

  • Archduke Franz Ferdinand was a Hungarian Prince, a Bohemian Prince and an Austrian Archduke. He was the heir to the throne of Austria-Hungary from 1896 until his death.

  • He was born in Graz, Austria in 1863 and became heir to the throne at age 11.
  • He joined the army as a young boy, became lieutenant at 14, and major-general at the age of 31.
  • He enjoyed traveling and hunting, and he hunted kangaroos in Australia. He also visited China, Thailand, Canada, New Zealand and several countries in the South Pacific.
  • The Archduke married Countess Sophie Chotek in July, 1900. She had no claim to the throne, and was not allowed to sit near him at public events or in their Royal car.
  • Archduke Franz Ferdinand had ambitious plans for the Austro-Hungarian Empire. He wanted to create 16 separate states, and make sure the ethnic Slavs had a voice in the government.

Archduke Franz Ferdinand

  • Archduke Franz Ferdinand was almost killed in Autumn, 1913 when a gun went off accidentally, missing him by a few feet. Had he been killed then, World War 1 may never have happened.
  • He and his wife were killed by a secret Serbian military society, the Black Hand, on June 28th, 1914. The car they were travelling in at the time is in the Vienna Military History Museum.
  • Earlier in the day, a bomb had been thrown at the car, but landed in the street, injuring several people. The car had its top down so spectators could better see the Archduke.
  • The bullet fired by the assassin is in a museum in a castle in the Czech Republic. It is sometimes described as the bullet that started World War 1.
  • His death was one of the events that caused the outbreak of World War 1 in 1914. The assassination led to Austria-Hungary declaring war against Serbia.

Trench Art: Facts and Information

What is Trench Art?

Trench art is a term used to describe any decorative items made by soldiers, prisoners of war and members of the public as a result of a war taking place. Pieces of trench art wouldn’t exist if armed conflicts didn’t happen.

A massive amount of trench art was produced by the soldiers of World War 1 (and this explains where the term comes from), but trench art is not limited to World War 1. The first trench art comes from the Napoleonic Wars, and those involved in conflict from then until now have continued to produce works of art and decorative souvenirs.

During the Crimean War canon balls were fashioned into inkwells, and during the American Civil War, powder horns, snuff boxes were personalized, and game pieces were made from bone and used bullets.

Napoleonic Trench Art

Prisoners of war from the Napoleonic Wars (1796 to 1815), often locked away for years in very poor conditions, manufactured items from bone, straw and wood to trade for more food rations. Surviving examples of Napoleonic prisoner of war art include highly detailed models of ships made from bone, and decorative straw work boxes.

World War 1 Trench Art

Some of the trench art of World War 1 was created in the front line trenches themselves (for example, carvings were made in rock outcrops around dug outs), but most was made by soldiers at rest stationed away from the front line, by prisoners of war, or by soldiers recovering from their wounds.

Shell art is incredibly popular among collectors of trench art. Shell casings could be decorated by embossing and engraving, and World War 1 produced a massive range of different examples. The designs often included flowers, animals, military images. Some detailed the artist’s war record and others included inscriptions to the artist’s loved ones.

Trench Art
World War 1 soldiers creating trench art out of empty shell casings

Other popular items of World War 1 trench art included, letter openers made from pieces of brass and cartridge cases, napkin rings, dinner gongs, picture frames, finger rings, and models of aeroplanes and tanks.