8 Of The Deadliest Weapons Used By Nations In The First World War

It’s a given that humans are incredibly creative.

When it comes to war, however, we surpass even ourselves, proving to be remarkably resourceful and ingenious in the creation of new ways to maim, injure and kill each other.

The list below explores the deadliest weapons used in the four years of the First World War that began in 1914.

1. Machine Guns

Based on Hiram Maxim’s 1884 design, these guns had a sustained fire of 450–600 rounds per minute, allowing defenders to cut down attacking waves of enemy troops with ease.

2. Flamethrowers

Flamethrower tanks used nitrogen pressure to spray fuel oil, which was ignited as it left the muzzle of a small, hand-directed pipe.

The first recorded use of hand-held flamethrowers in combat was when the Germans deployed the weapon at Malancourt on February 26, 1915. Over the course of the war, over 650 flamethrower attacks were made.

3. Mortars

Compared to its earlier counterparts, the mortars used in World War I were far advanced.

The Stokes mortar design introduced by the British in 1915 had no moving parts and could fire up to 22 three-inch shells per minute, with a range of 1,200 yards.

The Germans developed a mortar called minenwerfer that had a 10-inch barrel and fired shells loaded with metal balls.

4. Artillery

Due to improvements in gun design, range and ammunition‚ artillery killed more people than any other weapon did during the Great War.

The French 75mm cannon developed a reputation among their German opponents as the “Devil Gun.”

Some guns could hurl projectiles so far that soldiers had to take into account the rotation of the earth when plotting their fire.

5. Poison gas

On April 22, 1915, German artillery fired cylinders containing chlorine gas in Ypres.
Following its lead, other nations began creating their own battlefield gases, finding ways to increase their severity and duration.

Chlorine gas affected the eyes and respiratory system. Mustard gas had the same effects but also caused blistering on any exposed skin.
Though not fatal, the weapon incapacitated large numbers of troops temporarily and spread terror wherever it was used.

6. Tanks

“Land battleships” finally became a reality during the First World War.

The Battle of Cambrai, November 20, 1917, is generally regarded as the first use of massed tank formations because the British deployed over 470 of their tanks. Called “Little Willie”, they weighed approximately 14 tons, had a top speed of three mph, and broke down frequently.

The French developed the Renault RT light armoured vehicle, which had an additional traversable turret and successfully employed 76 of them during the battle at Malmaison on October 23, 1917.

In response to the British and French, the Germans created the A7V, an awe-inspiring beast that resembled a one-story building on treads.

7. Aircraft

Planes were initially used only for reconnaissance before Anthony Fokker developed a method to synchronize a machine gun’s fire with the rotation of the propeller. Over the course of the war, multi-engine bombers were developed and the plane became a true weapon.

Germany’s “Giant” was the largest, with a wingspan of 138 feet and four engines. It had a range of about 500 miles and a bomb-load capacity of 4,400 lbs.

8. Submarines

During World War I, submarines came to be particularly associated with the Imperial German Navy, which used its Unterzeeboats to try to bridge the gap in naval strength it suffered compared to Britain’s Royal Navy.

Longer-range U-boats were developed and torpedo quality improved, and submarines could now strike unseen from beneath the waves but also surface to use their deck gun.

The total number of military and civilian casualties in World War I was around 40 million.


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