A photographic journey of the technology and the Weapons of the First World War, 1914-1918

World War I was one of the defining events of the 20th century. The conflict took place in much of the world from 1914 to 1918 and included most of Europe, the United States, and much of the Middle East.

In terms of technological history, World War I is significant because it introduced many new types of weapons and was the first major war to "benefit" from technological advances in radio, electric power, and other technologies.

From the outset, those involved in the war were aware that technology would have a significant impact on the outcome. In 1915 British Admiral Jackie Fisher wrote, "Inventions are going to win the war."

New weapons such as tanks, zeppelins, poison gas, airplanes, submarines and machine guns increased casualties and extended the war to the civilian population. The Germans opened fire on Paris with long-range (60 miles or 100 kilometers) guns; London was first bombed from the air by Zeppelins.

World War I was also the first major war that was able to draw on existing electrical technologies in development at the turn of the century. For example, radio became necessary for communication.

The most important advance in radio was the transmission of voice rather than code, made possible in the form of some electron tubes, oscillators and amplifiers.

Lightning also had a huge impact on the war. For example, warships may have electric signaling lamps, an electric helm indicator, electric fire alarms, remote control from the bridge- bulkhead doors, electrically controlled whistles and remote reading of the water level in the boiler.

Electric power replaced the guns and turrets and carried ammunition from magazines to guns. Searchlights—both incandescent and carbon-arc—became important for night navigation, for long-range daytime signaling, and for illuminating enemy ships in night engagements.

Chemical warfare first emerged when the Germans used poison gas during a surprise attack in Flanders, Belgium, in 1915. First, the gas was released from large cylinders and carried by air to nearby enemy lines. Later, phosgene and other gases were loaded into artillery shells and fired into enemy trenches.

The Germans made the most of this weapon, realizing that even the enemy soldiers wearing gas masks did not fight. All sides used gas frequently until 1918. Its use was a catastrophic development that brought its victims not death, but great suffering.

Both sides used a variety of large artillery guns on the Western Front, ranging from giant naval guns mounted on railroad cars to short-range trench mortars.

The result was a war in which troops near the front were rarely protected from artillery bombardment. The Germans used super-long-range artillery to fire on Paris from about eighty miles away. The blasts of artillery shells created a vast, crater-like, moon-like landscape where beautiful fields and woods once stood.

Perhaps the most important technological advance during World War I was the improvement of the machine gun, a weapon originally developed by an American, Hiram Maxim.

The Germans recognized its military potential and in 1914 a large number were ready for use. He also developed air-cooled machine guns for airplanes and improved those used on the ground, making them lighter and easier to move.

The weapon's full potential was demonstrated on the Somme battlefield in July 1916, when German machine guns killed or wounded approximately 60,000 British soldiers in just one day.

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