Weapons used in World War I
Written by Tim Nash
History of War - Weapons of War
The advances of technology had a major impact on the weapons deployed in World War I (1914 – 1918). It saw the earliest development and applications of new forms of weapons in aviation, navy and chemical warfare. World War I also saw the first widespread deployment machine guns, artillery and the introduction of the lumbering armored tank.
Rifles and pistols
Despite advances in machine gun, mortar and grenade technology, all remained relatively unwieldy and cumbersome in comparison to the rifle, which remained the most crucial, ever-present infantry weapon throughout World War I. Of the two, pistols were used less as an offensive weapon and were issued to officers rather than regular soldiers.
First used in the American Civil War, machine guns brought devastating effects. But their effectiveness reached frightening new levels with World War: they fire up to 600 bullets a minute, thus tentamount to causing a mass destruction.
The horrors of gas warfare had never been seen on a battlefield until 1915. The Germans had invented them but French and English were not far behind. There were 3 main types of gas warefare: (1) the tearing agent, causing temporary blindness and greatly inflaming the nose and throat of the victim; (2 the poisonous gases, including chlorine, phosgene and diphosgene; these are highly toxic and have deadly effects; and (3) the blistering agent, the most dreaded of all chemical weapons in World War I - mustard gas – as it acts on any exposed, moist skin. Once coming in contact with skin, it produces large burn-like blisters. And worse, it can nastily hang about in low areas for hours, even days, after being dispersed.
Artillery is the most lethal land-based armament. Together with machine guns and poisonous gas, artillery guns played a prominent part in the trench warfare of World War I. Artillery guns were the new and upgraded versions of cannons. But never in the history where there were so many of them used in one single war. Surely artillery guns were to have a huge impact: they accounted for over 60% of the fatalities on western front.
Resulted from gradual technological developments, tanks were first manufactured during World War I in an effort to break the bloody deadlock of trench warfare. The British were the first to field an armoured car that could move over barbed wire, withstand small arms and destroy opponent’s machine gun nests. Having some success and a significant psychological effect on German infantry, tanks were not critical in war victory at this moment of history.
Warplanes came to being in 1914 and were used for observation of enemy troop movements and of artillery fire, or to come into close confrontation with each other. At this point, they were unarmed. So they joined battle using whatever weapons were to hands. Clearly, air warfare was then not seen as important as any other type so it did not have its own category.
Naval ships were counted very important for some of the war as much of World War I was fought at sea. Conflicts were mainly characterised by the efforts of Allied Powers to blockade Central Powers by sea and by the latter’s attemps to break it and establish an effective blockade of the UK and France. British specialised in ships such as battleships, and the Germans specialised in Submarines.