10 Innovation WWI
By 1914, Western Europe has lost the habit of big wars. The last great conflict - the Franco-Prussian War - took place almost half a century before the first salvo of the First World War. But that 1870 war of the year directly or indirectly led to the finalization of two large states - the German Empire and the Kingdom of Italy. These new players felt stronger than ever, but deprived in a world where Britain ruled over the seas, France owned vast colonies, and a huge Russian empire had a serious influence on European affairs. The big massacre for the redivision of the world was long overdue, and when it did begin, politicians and military still did not understand that wars in which officers gallop on horses in bright uniforms, and the outcome of the conflict is solved in large but transient battles of professional armies big battles in the Napoleonic wars) are gone.
The era of trenches and pillboxes, a field form of masking color and many months of positional “butting”, when soldiers died in the tens of thousands, and the front line almost did not move in either direction, came. The Second World War, of course, was also associated with great progress in the military-technical field - which is worth only the missile and nuclear weapons that appeared at that time. weapon. But in the number of various innovations, the First World War is hardly inferior to the Second, if not superior to it. In this article we will mention ten of them, although the list could be expanded. Let's say formally military aviation and combat submarines appeared before the war, but revealed their potential precisely in the battles of the First World War. During this period, air and submarine warships acquired many important improvements.
The plane turned out to be a very promising platform for placing weapons, but it was not immediately clear how exactly to place it there. In the first air battles, the pilots fired at each other with revolvers. Machine guns tried to hang up from the belts on the bottom of the aircraft or place them above the cabin, but all this created problems with aiming. It would be nice to place the machine gun exactly in front of the cockpit, but how to shoot through the propeller? This engineering problem was solved by the Swiss Franz Schneider in 1913, but the Dutch firing engineer Anthony Fokker developed a truly working firing synchronization system where the machine gun was mechanically connected to the engine shaft. In May, 1915 th German aircraft, machine guns which fired through the propeller, entered the battle, and soon the Entente countries took over the innovation.
This is not easy to believe, but the first experience of the creation of an unmanned aerial vehicle, which became the ancestor of both the UAV and cruise missiles, dates back to the time of the First World War. Two American inventors, Elmer Sperry and Peter Hewitt, developed an unmanned biplane in 1916 — 1917, the task of which was to deliver a charge of explosives to the target. Nobody heard of any electronics then, and the device had to withstand the direction with the help of gyroscopes and an altimeter based on a barometer. In the 1918 year, it came to the first flight, but the accuracy of the weapon was so “left to wish” that the military refused the novelty.
The heyday of underwater operations forced engineering to actively work on creating means of detecting and destroying warships hiding in the depths of the sea. Primitive hydrophones - microphones for listening to underwater noise - existed in the XIX century: they represented a membrane and a resonator in the form of a bell-shaped tube. Work on listening to the sea intensified after the collision of the Titanic with an iceberg - it was then that the idea of active sonar. And finally, already during the First World War, thanks to the work of the French engineer and in the future public figure Paul Langevin, as well as the Russian engineer Konstantin Chilovsky, a sonar was created based on ultrasound and piezoelectric effect - this device could not only determine the distance to the object, but also indicate direction to it. The first German submarine was detected using a sonar and destroyed in April 1916.
The fight against German submarines led to the emergence of such weapons as depth charges. The idea originated in the walls of the Royal Navy Torpedo and Mine School (Britain) in 1913. The main task was to create a bomb that would explode only at a given depth and could not damage surface ships and vessels.
The hydrostatic fuse measured the water pressure and was activated only at a certain value..
Whatever happened at sea and in the air, the main battles were fought on the ground. The increased artillery firepower and especially the spread of machine guns quickly discouraged the war in open spaces. Now, opponents competed in the ability to dig as many rows of trenches as possible and dig deeper into the ground, which more reliably saved from heavy artillery fire than forts and fortresses - those that were in vogue in the previous era. Of course, earthworks existed since ancient times, but only during the First World War did giant continuous lines of the front appear, carefully excavated on both sides.
Artillery and machine-gun fire forced opponents to dig into the ground, resulting in a positional deadlock.
The Germans supplemented the trench lines with separate concreted firing points - the heirs of the fortress forts, which later received the name of pillboxes. This experience was not very successful - more powerful pillboxes, capable of withstanding attacks from heavy artillery, appeared already in the interwar period. But here you can remember that the giant multi-level concrete fortifications of the Maginot Line did not save the French in 1940 from a blow tank wedges of the Wehrmacht. Military thought went further. Burrowing in the ground led to a positional crisis, when the defense on both sides became so high quality that it was devilishly difficult to break through. A classic example is the Verdun meat grinder, in which numerous mutual offensives each time drowned in a sea of fire, leaving thousands of corpses on the battlefield, without giving a decisive advantage to either side.
Battles often took place at night, in the dark. In 1916, the British “delight” the troops with another new product - tracer bullets .303 Inch Mark I, leaving a greenish glowing trail.
In this situation, military minds focused on creating a kind of ram that would help the infantry to break through the rows of trenches. For example, the tactics of a “fiery shaft” were developed when a shaft of explosions from artillery shells rolled in front of the infantry's trenches attacking the enemy’s infantry. His task was to maximally “clear out” the trenches before their capture by infantrymen. But this tactic had drawbacks in the form of casualties among those attacking from “friendly” fire.
A definite help for the attackers could be light automatic weapons, but its time has not yet come. True, the first samples of light machine guns, submachine guns and automatic rifles also appeared during the First World War. In particular, the first Beretta Model 1918 submachine gun was created by designer Tulio Marenghoni and entered service with the Italian army in 1918 year.
Perhaps the most notable innovation, which was aimed at overcoming the positional impasse, was the tank. The first was the British Mark I, developed in 1915 year and went on the attack on the German position in the battle on the Somme in September 1916. Early tanks were slow and clumsy and were prototypes of breakthrough tanks, relatively resistant to fire, the enemy armored vehicles supporting the advancing infantry. Following the British, the Renault FT tank was built by the French. The Germans also made their car A7V, but they were not particularly zealous in tank building. In two decades, it was the Germans who would find a new use for their already more agile tanks - they would use tank forces as a separate tool for rapid strategic maneuver and stumble over their own invention just at Stalingrad.
Poisoning gases are another attempt to suppress defense in depth and a genuine "calling card" of the massacre in European theaters. It all started with tearing and irritating gases: in the battle of Bolimov (the territory of modern Poland), the Germans used artillery shells with xylobromide against Russian troops.
Then it's time for the gases that kill. 22 April 1915, the Germans fired on the French positions by the Ypres River 168 T chlorine. In response, the French developed phosgene, and in 1917, the German army used mustard gas in the same Ypres river. The gas armament race went on throughout the war, although the fighting agents did not give a decisive advantage to either side. In addition, the danger of gas attacks led to the flourishing of yet another pre-war invention - a gas mask.
Subscribe and stay up to date with the latest news and the most important events of the day.