55 Interesting Facts About World War 1

  1. The formation of the Triple Entente (Russia, France, and Britain) in 1907 and the Triple Alliance (Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Italy) in 1882 laid the foundation of a global war (World War 1) that started in 1914. These treaties formed the two opposition forces during WW1: the Allies and the Central Powers.
  2. Italy had an alliance with Germany and Austria-Hungary. But the country entered World War 1 in support of Allied powers in 1915.
  3. World War 1 was a global conflict fought on three continents (EuropeAsia, and Africa), while forces from the Australian and North American continents also took part in this war.
  4. WW1 was supposed to be a short-lived battle in the beginning. However, it continued for four years and resulted in the deaths of millions.
  5. The immediate cause of the start of World War 1 was the assassination of the heir of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Franz Ferdinand. He was shot by a member of a Yugoslav terrorist organization, Young Bosnia, on 28th June 1914 in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina. 
  6. The number plate of the car carrying Franz Ferdinand had a strange coincidence with the ending of WW1. The number plate license was AIII 118. The armistice to end the war was signed on 11th November 1918. (Source)
  7. Britain invented tanks during World War 1 to overcome the problems of trench warfare. The first model was named Little Willie.
    first tank "Little Willie"
    Britain invented the first-ever tank during WW1

  8. British tanks were marked as male and female tanks during WW1. A tank armed with a gun was called a “Male Tank,” while a tank only with machine guns was a “Female Tank.”
  9. The battle of Verdun has turned the affected area into a “Red Zone.” Due to numerous explosives and high toxicity, it has become impossible to live or use its soil, water, or animals for more than 300 years. (Source)
  10. Russia contributed 12 million men to World War 1, the largest military for Allied Powers. The empire suffered more than 9 million casualties (dead, wounded, and missing). 
  11. The Russian Empire recruited women as soldiers after the 1917 February Revolution as the last effort to elevate their war efforts. The all-female battalions of these Russian women were known as “Battalions of death,” who took part in the war alongside male soldiers.
  12. Around 3 million (military and civilian) Russians lost their lives during WW1, which is the highest by any combating nation.
  13. These deaths and the financial crisis during WWI were the direct cause of the Russian Revolution in 1917. Consequently, Russia ended its participation in the war.
  14. World War 1 resulted in the downfall of the Russian Empire, the German Empire, the Ottoman Empire, and the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
  15. On the first day of the Battle of Somme, 1st July 1916, Britain lost 19,200 men. It is the highest number of deaths for Britain in any conflict in a single day.
  16. Ottoman Empire faces blame for the genocide of the Armenian people during World War 1. Around 1.5 million Armenians lost their lives during this war.
  17. More than 54 million soldiers from both sides were dead, wounded, or missing during World War 1. (Source)
  18. World War 1 effectively ended in November 1918, while treaties were signed with all the losing Central Powers in 1920 and 1921. However, the nationalist leaders of Turkey rejected the conditions of the Treaty of Sevres and started the Turkish War of Independence. The war remained successful, and Turkey regained all the lost Anatolian territories. It later signed a quite respectable Treaty of Lausanne, which resulted in the formation of the Republic of Turkey.  
  19. In 1914, both warring sides of WWI observed a truce to celebrate Christmas. It is known as the “Christmas Truce” and is one of the strangest events of human war history. (Source)
  20. Plastic surgery was invented during World War 1. A wounded WW1 soldier received the world’s first plastic surgery in 1917. (Source)
    World's first plastic surgery
    Plastic surgery was invented during WW1

  21. On 7th June 1917, British engineers blasted 19 massive mines beneath German trenches. It resulted in the most powerful man-made explosion after nuclear blasts. These blasts killed around 10,000 German soldiers. These mines were near a Belgian village, but people in London also heard their sound. (Source)
  22. More than 4 million men from various European colonies participated in WW1. The largest contribution was from India, around 1.5 million soldiers.
  23. The efficient postal system delivered up to 12 million letters to soldiers every week during WW1. Many of these were for soldiers on the frontline. (Source)
  24. The youngest soldier that fought during WW1 was an 8-year-old Serbian boy named Momcilo Gavric. (Source) 
  25. Initial motorized ambulances were used during WW1. Walt Disney and Ernest Hemmingway also served as ambulance drivers during this war. (Source)
  26. Due to harsh conditions against Germany after World War 1, the war is known as one of the causes of World War 2. Hitler and his party used these conditions for propaganda to gain the support of the German public.
  27. After World War 1, several countries sat together to form the League of Nations in June 1919. The aim of this step was to prevent any such large-scale warfare again.
  28. The women who worked in munitions factories had yellow skin due to the effects of toxic chemicals. These girls were known as “canary girls.” Some of these workers gave birth to babies of a “bright yellow” color. (Source)
  29. The initial concept of blood banks was developed during WW1. The first blood bank opened in 1932, thanks to the experience gained in World War 1. (Source)
  30. More than 100,000 pigeons were used during WW1. These birds were the most reliable means for sending messages. (Source)
  31. Pigeons played a vital role during WWI. Few of these birds accomplished their tasks despite receiving injuries.
  32. Gas masks were invented during WW1. These gas masks saved the lives of a large number of soldiers in the later stages of the war.
  33. German was the most studied foreign language in the USA before WW1. But after entering the war, the USA banned the German language and took several other steps against German culture. (Source)
  34. German pilot Manfred von Richthofen (also known as the Red Baron) was the most successful pilot of WW1. He shot down 80 opponents’ planes during the conflict. (Source)
    German WW1 pilot Manfred von Richthofen
    Manfred shot down 80 Allied planes

  35. Germans were the first to use poisonous gas during WW1 in January 1915. Both sides used 100,000 tons of chemical weapons during the war, which resulted in 30,000 deaths and 500,000 injuries. (Source)
  36. Germany faced food shortages during the winter of 1916-17 due to the British blockade. This period was named “Turnip Winter” in Germany as people had to eat turnips (considered animal food) to avoid starvation. (Source)
  37. The Battle of Verdun was the longest battle of WWI. It lasted for 300 days and resulted in around 800,000 casualties from both sides. (Source)
  38. Australia had the highest casualty rate during WWI. Almost 65% of Australian soldiers were killed or wounded during the war.
  39. During Gallipoli Campaign (April 1915-January 1916), more than 11,000 soldiers from Australia and New Zealand lost their lives. The day of the landing on Gallipoli (25th April) is remembered as Anzac Day in both these countries.
  40. Germany invented modern flamethrowers in early 1900s. However, they initially used them in 1915 against Allied powers during World War 1.
  41. The Britain government called for the recruitment of 100,000 men on 7th August 1914. After eight weeks, nearly 750,000 men had enlisted.
  42. Many soldiers of First World War suffered from war-related psychological disorders, known as shell shock. This condition was observed in more than 80,000 British soldiers after the end of the war. (Source)
  43. A  Russian pilot destroyed the first-ever enemy airplane during World War 1 by ramming his plane to an Austrian aircraft. Few days later, a French pilot and his gunner scored the first aerial combat victory against a German plane. (Source)
  44. Both sides used around 16 million animals (dogs, horses, pigeons, etc.) during the war. Nine million of them perished. (Source)
  45. Around 20,000 dogs were trained for frontline duties during WW1. These dogs worked as messengers, carriers of wounded soldiers, pullers of equipment, and for other services. About 7,000 of these were family pets. (Source)
  46. Germany used U-boats (undersea boats) to counter British blockade of weapons, petrol, and food through maritime route. These submarines destroyed thousands of ships (including many merchant ships from neutral countries) during the war.
  47. On 22nd September 1914, a German U-boat (SM U-9) sank 3 British cruisers in less than an hour. This incident took the lives of 1,500 British sailors.
  48. Germany used a 420 mm howitzer during WW1. This 47-ton weighed gun was nicknamed “Big Bertha.” Services of 240 men were necessary to operate this gun. It was the largest and most powerful mobile artillery piece of its time. Germany used a total of 12 Big Berthas during World War 1. (Source)
    A large German gun during First World War
    Germans used large and powerful guns during WW1

  49. Lord Kitchener was the British war minister during WW1. He died on 5th June 1916 while on a secret mission to Russia. He died along with 642 others when the British warship HMS Hampshire sank after hitting a mine. (Source)
  50. Britain intercepted and decoded a telegram sent by German foreign secretary Arthur Zimmermann to the German minister in Mexico in January 1917. The secret message was about the German-Mexican alliance in case of US participation in the war. The Zimmermann telegram played a significant role in persuading the US to declare war against Germany. (Source)
  51. Jack Cornwell was the youngest recipient of the Victoria Cross during WW1 at the age of 16 years. He died as a sailor in 1916 during the Battle of Jutland. (Source)
  52. Edith Cavell, a British nurse, saved soldiers from both sides. In 1915, Germany executed her for taking part in the escape of 200 Allied soldiers. (Source)
  53. 1920 is known for the highest number of birth of babies in Britain. More than 1.1 million live babies were born in the UK in 1920. This biggest baby boom of the 20th Century in the UK came after the end of WW1 and the Spanish flu. (Source)
  54. Spanish flu started during World War 1 in January 1918. This flu resulted in the deaths of around 5 million people around the globe. WW1 played a crucial role in spreading this pandemic due to the return of numerous soldiers from battlefields to their homes. (Source)
  55. The fall of several empires resulted in the formation of new countries after WWI. These include Finland, Poland, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, etc.

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