The First World War revolutionised the way wars were fought. Combat morphed from a rapid, noble and relatively ephemeral thing to a completely new type of combat. Many divisions in the army which used to be of extreme significance in previous battles became redundant during the First World War and other new divisions such as the artillery came into the spotlight. World War 1 is extremely significant in technological and military history as it marked the debut of many new types of weapons. Some examples are machine guns and flame throwers.
Tanks and dreadnoughts were invented by the British while the Germans invented U-boats and used poisonous gas for the first time. It was a war that changed the way wars were fought thereafter. All of this can only be attributed to the progress made by technology before and during the war. During this war the cavalry was no longer important, horses were used for transport and travel rather than during combat. A new division called the artillery was formed. Land battles were not the way they used to be, a new kind of warfare called ‘trench warfare’ came into existence .
The navy and air force which were never of much significance earlier became integral parts of the war and great technological developments were made in these fields too. The arms and ammunition available during the First World War was incredible. During the times of Napoleon the kind of arms used were rifles and those too not extensively. However during World War 1 the arms and ammunition became sophisticated and extremely abundant. Though machine guns were first used during the American Civil War their efficiency reached frighteningly new levels during World War 1.
At that time they were termed as ‘weapons of mass destruction’. The artillery was the new and upgraded versions of the cannons. The Germans developed the ‘Big Bertha’; it was so powerful that it could fire at the heart of Paris from 120 km away. Not only were the cannons improved but also the shells used, hence the artillery became extremely lethal. ‘Gas Grenades’ were also invented by the Germans; they were effective weapons as the toxic gas within them wiped out thousands of soldiers. They were first used in the First Battle of Ypres.
Tanks too were used for the first time; they were invented by the British. Hence the mechanised warfare made the cavalry obsolete. When war broke out in 1914 Britain had the most powerful navy, Germany was close behind followed by France. Hence with three powerful navies a new age of warfare had begun. The navy had never been significant in previous battles; however it greatly influenced the course of the war. The reason naval war became so significant was that each country tried to block the other countries imports to create shortages of important food and supplies within the country.
For this purpose the Germans invented the U-boat or ‘Unterseeboot’ which used to attack the British ships. The British and the French used submarines too. Another great invention that made naval warfare so dangerous was the ‘dreadnought’. It was the most heavily armed ship in those times. The Germans to match up to the British began producing Dreadnoughts too. They however were rarely used as they were too precious. An important event in the naval warfare that changed the course of the war was the sinking of ‘Lusitania’ by the Germans.
Around 200 Americans were killed. This angered the U. S. A. and was one the reasons U. S. A. entered the war. Town Cruisers and Torpedo Boats were also used and hence different weapons were invented to combat these. Another important event was the ‘Battle of Jutland’ in which both the Germans and the British lost a lot of their boats arms and ammunition. Air warfare was not so significant in the beginning of the war however by 1916 British companies like Sopwith and Bristol and German companies like Fokker and Gotha began producing fighter airplanes.
A key innovation was the ‘interrupter gear’ a German invention that allowed a machine gun to be mounted behind the propeller so the pilot could fire directly ahead, along the plane’s flight path. As the stalemate developed on the ground, with both sides unable to advance even a few miles without a major battle and thousands of casualties, planes became greatly valued for their role gathering intelligence on enemy positions and bombing the enemy’s supplies behind the trench lines. Because they were large and slow, these planes made easy targets for enemy fighter planes.
As a result, both sides used fighter aircraft to both attack the enemy’s observer planes and protect their own. Germany led the world in the design of ‘Zeppelins’ and used these airships to make occasional bombing raids on military targets, London and other British cities, without any great effect. Later in the war, Germany began attacking English cities with long range strategic bombers. As with the Zeppelin attacks, Germany’s strategic bombing of England had limited tactical value, but it was demoralizing and showed the British they could not be completely immune from the effects of the war in their own country.
It also forced the British air forces to maintain squadrons of fighters in England to defend against air attack, depriving the British Expeditionary Force of planes, equipment, and personnel badly needed on the Western front. Manned observation baloons floating high above the trenches were used as stationary reconnaissance points on the front lines, reporting enemy troop positions and directing artillery fire. Air warfare was significant for the Germans in bombing the British while the British used the airlanes to combat them as well as to fight in Austria and the Ottoman Turkish Empire.
One of the reason the war was known as a ‘world war’ was because of the advanced technology used by the military which cused damage and destruction to spread all over the world and caused the extent of the damage to be so great. The number of deaths and casualties was something the world had not witnessed before. There were sixteen million deaths and twenty one million wounded. Hence military technology had a great impact on the First World War.