New Technologies In World War I


In 1912 Henri and Maurice Farman started an aviation company in Boulogne-sur-Seine. The Farman MF-7 and MF-II were two of their planes widely used by the Allied forces at the beginning of the war. The French Army Air Service, Royal Flying Corps, Belgians, Italians, and the Royal Naval Air Service all used these popular planes.


Armored Tank

Colonel Ernest Swinton brought about the idea for an armored tank. He strongly believed that such a thing could be created. As World War 1 began, he was sent to the western front to write about the war. As he was watching battles between soldiers carrying machine guns killing thousands of infantrymen he wrote "petrol tracers on the caterpillar principal and armored with hardened steel plates" could stand against the bullets of a machine gun. Swinton proposed his idea to Sir John French and his advisers. French rejected his idea so he contacted Colonel Maurice Hankey, who took the idea to Winston Churchill, the navy minister. Churchill loved the idea, so in February 1915 he created a Landships Committee to consider the development of the armored tank. They studied and agreed with his idea as long as it followed a few guidelines. The tanks had to have a top speed of 4 mph on flat ground, be able to make sharp turns at top speed, have a reverse function, be able to climb hills, cross a 8 foot gap, and hold 10 crew, 2 machine guns, and a 2 pound gun. Lieutenant W. G. Wilson and William Tritton produced the first the first tank in complete secrecy. It was nicknamed Little Willie. It had a Daimler engine, 12 feet long track frames, weighed 14 tons, was able to carry a crew of 3, and could go just over 3 mph. Most importantly and to Swinton's disappointment, it couldn't cross many trenches. He believed that once he modified it, it would help the Allies tremendously.


Hugo Junkers was the professor of mechanical engineering at Aachen. He became involved in aircraft production during World War I and designed the first all metal plane. These Junkers were too advanced for his time so production of them did not begin until 1918. Junkers established his own company, Lufthansa, in Dessau, Magdeburg, and Stassfurt after the Armistice. These factories produced civil and military planes.


Frederick Handley Page and his company created the Hanley Page bomber in 1916. In November that year they bombed enemy installations and submarine bases. By 1918 he had created a four-engine bomber to attack industrial zones. Near the end of the war they began using huge bombs that weighed 1,650 pounds. The Royal Air Force had 258 of these powerful bombers on active service after the Armistice was signed.

Roland Garros, a French fighter pilot, wanted to be able to fire a machine gun through the propeller. He felt that it would give him more success in the air. He and an aircraft manufacturer, Raymond Saulnier, made and added deflector plates to the propeller. Garros, using a forward firing machine gun, began hunting for a victim or test subject. He found a German and flew at him straight on. The German was surprised because the current strategy was to use a revolver or a rifle and take pot shots at the opponent while flying by him. Garros came at the German head on and shot him through his propellers. Garros' invention was a success. However, on April 18, 1915 he was shot down and captured behind German lines. The Germans noticed his invention and copied it, putting deflector blades on their plane's propellers.

One of the most productive aircraft designers in World War I was Gabriel Voisin. He created the Voisin planes, which were widely used by the Allies, and became the standard Allied bombers. The French Army Air Service, Royal Flying Corps, Russian, and Belgian air forces used them often. The Voisin V was the first bomber armed with a cannon instead of a machine-gun.

Chlorine gas was a very deadly substance. The German army came up with the idea and first used it against the French. Yellow-green clouds came toward the French and had a smell similar to a mixture of pineapple and pepper. They thought the German were hiding behind a smokescreen, ready to attack. After they felt a burning in their chests and throats, however, they noticed they were being gassed. An hour later a four-mile gap was in the French line. Chlorine gas led its victims to a slow death, as it destroyed their respiratory organs. Unfortunately doctors could not find a cure. Certain weather conditions were needed for a gas attack as the British found out. On September 25, 1915 the wind blew gas back into the British's faces when they attempted to launch a gas attack. Later gas shells were produced which increased their range and protected them under bad weather conditions. Later, Allied forces began wearing gas masks. The masks were made of pads soaked in urine, which repelled the chlorine. Some soldiers preferred using handkerchiefs dampened with a solution of bicarbonate of soda, and later more efficient gas masks were made. Also, a stronger and more effective gas using phosgene instead of chlorine was later developed. Some armies even used a gas containing a mixture of both substances.

Synchronized Guns
At the beginning of the war two-seater planes were used. It was the job of the observer to use a revolver, rifle, or hand grenade against the enemy plane. Soon after single-seater planes were invented with machine guns on the front, Roland Garros created deflector plates to allow planes to fire through the propeller. Later, as an addition to these plates, Anthony Fokker and his team began work on a system allowing planes to have forward firing machine guns that were synchronized with the propellers. A cam was placed on the crankshaft of the engine and was in line with each propeller blade. Whenever a blade was at a position where it might be hit by the gun, the cam activated a pushrod that stopped the gun from firing. This device was placed on many German planes. This gave them a big advantage until Allied planes began using them in 1916.

Many methods were used to try and destroy planes from the ground. Some people used rifles, but they didn't work very well. Antiaircraft artillery was the main weapon against planes. These heavy guns set atop a Pierce-Arrow five-ton armored lorry chassis. They could fire four rounds a minute at a range of 3,000 yards. Most of the time they were placed in groups to increase their effectiveness. By June 1916 Britain had 271 guns, and by 1918 they had 349.