More Facts About World War 1

Here are some more World War 1 facts.

  • Geoffrey Keynes, a surgeon from Britain, designed a portable blood transfusion kit. It saved thousands of lives during World War 1.
  • Over 3000 of Britain’s motor vehicles were turned into ambulances and used on the western front. Some London buses became ambulances.

  • Many World War 1 ambulances were driven by women.
  • More than 300 British and Commonwealth troops were executed for desertion (leaving the battlefield without being ordered). In 2006, these men were officially pardoned.
  •  A pigeon called Cher Ami managed to carry a message to US soldiers 25 miles away despite having been shot.
  • About 1 million dogs died in service during World War 1.
  • British soldiers in the World War 1 trenches carried lots of kit, including: a rifle and bayonet, ammunition, a respirator (to help them deal with gas attacks), washing kit, water bottle and spare clothes.
  • Each British soldier (private) received a basic salary of 1 shilling per day.
  • By 1918, more than 100,000 of Britain’s women had volunteered to help the wounded and sick soldiers as Voluntary Aid Detachment nurses.
  • The United States wasn’t drawn into World War 1 until 1916, but by 1918 more than 1 million American troops were in France.
  • The Victoria Cross (Britain’s highest award for bravery in the face of the enemy) was awarded 628 times during World War 1. Only one man, Captain Noel Godfrey Chavasse, was awarded it twice.
  • In 1917, due to most work-age men fighting in World War 1, the Women’s Land Army was set up to provide a workforce for farms. Over 110,000 women joined.
  • The 3rd Battle of Ypres took place in 1917 (from July to November). More then 500,000 soldiers lost their lives in just three months of fighting.
  • Songs were used to maintain good morale in very difficult circumstances. Songs such as Pack Up Your Troubles in Your Old Kit Bag and It’s a  Long Way to Tipperary were very popular during WW1.
  • In Britain, by 1916 more than 2.5 million men volunteered to fight in World War 1. A further 2.7 million men were drafted.
  • Facial reconstruction surgery developed dramatically during World War 1. A special plastic surgery clinic in Sidcup, run by Harold Gillies, treated thousands of soldiers, many having been disfigured in the Battle of the Somme.

What next? Discover more World War 1 facts or learn more about life in the World War 1 trenches.

World War I: Life in the Trenches

Here are some facts about life in the World War 1 trenches.

  • Trench warfare featured prominently in World War I. It was a method of fighting in which opposing armies dug trenches for protection and defence.
  • During World War I, there were an estimated 2,490 km of trenches throughout western Europe. Most trenches were about 3 metres deep and between 1 and 2 metres wide.

  • Life in the trenches was extremely hard, as well as dangerous. Most soldiers spent between a day and 2 weeks in a trench on the front line before being relieved.
  • Sanitary conditions in the trenches were poor and many soldiers suffered from gangrene and cholera. Often, dead bodies were simply left out in the open rather than buried.

World War 1 trenches

  • Trenches could quickly flood during heavy rain and one of the duties of the men was to drain water with a pump. Other duties included refilling sandbags and repairing the wooden flooring.
  • Rats, which could grow as large as cats, were a problem in the trenches. Frogs, spiders and lice were also pests that the soldiers had to battle daily.
  • One of the worst things about life in the trenches was the horrible smell. Many men did not bathe for weeks, and the trenches also smelled of rotting sandbags, cigarette smoke and poison gas.
  • It was difficult to sleep properly in the trenches because of the noise and uncomfortable surroundings. As a result, because men were tired and constantly in danger of falling asleep while on watch, the watch was kept to 2 hours.
  • The first trenches were primitive and were simply deep holes dug in the ground. Later trenches were more sophisticated and often had sleeping quarters, toilets and showers, and cooking facilities.
  • There were several cease fires or truces during World War I. Towards Christmas in 1914, the British and German soldiers came out of their trenches, stopped fighting, and even sung carols and exchanged gifts. This became known as the Christmas Truce.

What next? Find out more facts about World War 1 by visiting our resources page.