A Daily History of Holes, Dots, Lines, Science, History, Math, the Unintentional Absurd & Nothing |1.6 million words, 7500 images, 4 million hits| Press & appearances in The Times, Le Figaro, MENSA, The Economist, The Guardian, Discovery News, Slate, Le Monde, Sci American Blogs, Le Point, and many other places... 4,200+ total posts
This photo is so filled with dread and sadness, a squad of English soldiers posing with their volunteer-made cloth gas masks. The image appeared in the August, 1915 issue of Popular Mechanics, and showed the state of gas protection for infantry as it existed in the earliest stages of gas warfare in WWI. Popular Mechanics addressed the issue of poison gas in an earlier (monthly) issue, but it really wasn't until this present issue where there was a series of articles/photos relating to poison gas protection. The first employment of poison (chlorine) gas occurred a few months earlier on 22 April 1915 against the French by the Germans at Ypres, in Belgium, and it turned out to have a ripping and widely disastrous effect on the French lines in what would be the first and only major offensive launched by the Germans that year. .
"From my mother's sleep I fell into the State, And I hunched in its belly till my wet fur froze. Six miles from earth, loosed from its dream of life, I woke to black flak and the nightmare fighters. When I died they washed me out of the turret with a hose."--Randall Jarrell, formerly of the USAAF
Jarrell explains the poem so: "A ball turret was a plexiglas sphere set into the belly of a B-17 or B-24 and inhabited by two .50 caliber machine guns and one man, a short small man. When this gunner tracked with his machine guns a fighter attacking his bomber from below, he revolved with the turret; hunched upside-down in his little sphere, he looked like the fetus in the womb. The fighters which attacked him were armed with cannon firing explosive shells. The hose was a steam hose."--(Wiki)
I used to think that the belly gunner (in a ball turret) in a B-17 (or B-25, or PB4Y-1) was about the most dangerous/wrenching position to be in an aircraft--that is, until I saw this illustration in the January 1917 issue of Popular Mechanics:
This was just a bad place to be, in a 14'-long bomb-like aluminum casing, hanging from a 3000' 3/8" cable suspended from a Zeppelin, trying to relay the positions of whatever you could find, and with people shooting at you. At least, though, the observer had a woolen mattress on which to lie (so says the caption).
It seems to me that this is the first time that a spotter's guide to enemy aircraft appeared in The Illustrated London News for WWI--ditto the Illustrirte Zeitung. I luckily own both journals covering the war years, and I've been through every page of coverage, and I do believe that this is probably a very early display of German aircraft identification for popular use. Of course it couldn't really get that much earlier, as the war was on for 150 days or so. And the "air forces" in general were very new--the German army received their first aircraft in 1910 for what would eventually become the (for France it was 1911), so the concept of a unified fighting force of the air was still very new. In another 1111 days or so, the aircraft losses for the Entente and the Central Powers would be about 110,000, or about 5,500 of these pages showing destroyed aircraft.
In my limited knowledge of World War I I have been exposed to various ways in which trench warfare was conducted--there was of course the infantry charge with guns and bayonettes, snipers, artillery bombardment, aerial bombing and strafing, land torpedoes, tank assaults, underground/sapper bombings (in which mines are laid underneath the trenches via tunnels, and of course gas, among other things, but I have not until today encountered electrifying to air in a trench to "incapacitate" soldiers. And by "incapacitate", according to my reading of the patent for this mode of warfare, I do think that it talks about electrocuting soldiers. With my limited non-interwebtube sources, I haven't found any other references to this, so perhaps it was anomalous, or against the sense of decency of warfare that was even beyond the sensibilities of using poison gas.
The work was by J.J. Duffie, US Patent 13029041, which was applied for in 1917 and granted May, 1919 (seven months after the war, though the idea could haven been used "patent pending"), and was called "System of Trench Warfare", the patent stating that "An object of the invention is to destroy or incapacitate that portion of the enemy occupying a trench" and "(a)nother object of the-invention is to provide a system for waging warfare by electricity".
And so according to the patent, "The system of warfare of (the) invention consists in filling or charging the air over and in a trench or a section of trench with finely divided particles of an electricity-conducting substance and then causing a high potential electric current to flash through the conducting atmosphere in the trench. The conductive material may be mercury vapor or flake graphite or other substance which will remain in suspension in the air. This material is dispersed in trench from explosive shells provided either with time or impact fuses and by directing a barrage fire of such shells at the trench, the air will become very heavily charged with the conducting templates attached to opposite sides'of a source of high potential are then fired at the ends of the trench and by closing the circuit, the high potential current will are through the conducting material in the air, producing an are extending for the length of the trench section. The arc will have the effect of incapacitating the men in the trench."
I don't understand how you would place the "conducting templates" at the ends of the trench, but so be it.
The following explains the elements of the patent drawings:
"Fig 1 is a plan view of a trench, with the electrodes forming part of my system disposed at the ends thereof."
"Fig.2 is an elevation partly section of charge 2. This charge may be exploded by a fuse or detonator controlled by the cap 5, so that the explosion of the charge may be timed or may be caused by impact. A sufficient number of shells are fired to completely fill the air in the trench with the conductive material, and then an electrode projectile 6 is fired at the trench at each end of the prepared zone or at suitable distances apart, depending upon the potential employed."
"The electrode projectile may be fired from a Lyle gun, such as is used in marine life saving work. Attached to the projectile is an electric conductor, preferably in the form of an insulated wire or cable 7, which is carried forward to the trench8 by the projectile. The head 9 of the projectile is preferably formed of a plurality of. overlapping sheet metal leaves 12 covered on the outside with some insulating material and the cable 7 is connected to these leaves.- A small charge 13 of explosive within the head is exploded preferably by the impact of the projectile, causing the leaves to spread out, to present their clean surfaces to the charged air. A switch in the circuit is then closed, or is previously closed, causing the high potential current to bridge the highly-conductive gap in a flash. The cables and the outer surfaces of the electrode leaves are insulated to prevent grounding and the cables are arranged in coils 15, sot readily carried forward by the projectiles."
In closing the patent is described in ten different ways, including
(7) "An explosive shell containing a charge of material which on the explosion of the divided form in the air in shell forms an electricity-conducting zone in the surrounding air. 8. The method of trench warfare, which consists 'in making the. atmosphere in a trench electrically conductive and (passing a high potential current through a conductive atmosphere."
"Public Warning" was a large, billboard-sized poster that appeared throughout England, posted in the first year of the war, appeared in Technical World Magazine in May 1915. Outside of delivering some good, solid information on behavior and bombing it supplied German/British aircraft silhouettes to help people distinguish between friendly/enemy aircraft, meaning that they could take cover and report the actions of enemy aircraft (valuable information in pre-RADAR days) and also not fret with British aircraft sightings.
The National Archives (U.K., http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/pathways/firstworldwar/transcripts/spotlights/public_warning.htm) transcribes the poster, identifying the aircraft (just in case you can't read the text on the poster):
In the last day or so I've been checking through some of my popular journals looking for references of the first usage of a tank in combat in WWI (which occurred in April, 1917). Popular Mechanics had a quick reference in their monthly issue for Map 1917, though now that I am into September 1917 for Scientific American I haven't found anything on the tank in its pages. (Still to come is the Illustrated London News which I do recall having a large piece on the tank in April, 1917; and also the Illustrirte Zeitung, which I also recall having something on the tank in their place quite quickly following the tank's appearance, which was an introduction to a new form of warfare that caught Germany very much by surprise.
[Popular Mechanics, August, 1917, pg 307]
It will no doubt be of interest to many that in August 1917, just four months after the first use of the tank that Popular Mechanics had a fairly detailed article for children of all ages on constructing a toy tank. Almost as quickly as a monthly magazine can report on an event, Popular Mechanics did so and then very quickly thereafter had a DIY project in its pages of the new innovation. I reprint the four-page article in full:
The idea of bombing people from the sky was less than a decade old at the start of WWI, though the idea of aerial strategic bombing took off quickly beginning in 1914. When this image was published in Popular Mechanics in October 1917 (page 662), the bombing of London by aircraft and Zeppelin had been well established. In order to effect more efficient evacuation and coverage, and in order to be heard over the considerable amount of traffic noise in London, the warning signals for a possible attack were sounded in addition to three explosives shot into the air in 15-second intervals, after which the police were dispersed into the streets with whistles and placards, trying to warn people above the sounds of the city. It is an interesting peep into a small piece of time in a moment of possible terror.
And so it came to pass that in looking in the Scientific American for the earliest mention of battlefield tanks in WWI (appearing in April 1917) that I came upon these fine airship-related barometers. I've written a short bit on the first appearance of the tank in Popular Mechanics just weeks after its battlefield inauguration and so I thought to look around a bit in some of the other popular places that this coverage should be found--Illustrated London News, Illustrirte Zeitung, and Scientific American. I made it through the end of July of the weekly Sci Am without a peep on the "landship", but then got completely distracted by several other items of great interest along the way, and so I need to stop and report.
And so from"landship" to "airship"--no tanks, but there was this fine, simple, and ingenious construction to alert the civilian that a change in the atmospheric pressure could be favorable to zeppelin attacks. This simple apparatus is made of twisted jewelers (gold?) foil, one side of which is treated with varnish; the strips are so cut that when there is a change in the weather from damp to dry that the torsion would twist the foil a half turn, revealing the "ZEPPS". Pretty neat.
[Source: Scientific American, May 12, 1917, p. 472.]
There was a second instrument in that same short article that was a little more contrived and inventive, though I am particularly drawn to the simple ZEPPS above.
I am certain that the airship folks will like these...
I wasn't looking for this--or anything else in particular--while browsing the year 1917 in Popular Mechanics, though when I came across it and noticed that tank was in parenthesis, it occurred to me that there was good reason for that. The "tank" was brand new on the battlefield when this issue of the magazine came out in May, 1917. The tank had made its first showing just weeks earlier in April, and had really only just come into its abbreviated name. The committee formed in February 1915 to spearhead the development of a new armored fighting vehicle was called the Landships Committee, and as one story goes, the vehicle was called a "tank" because of its resemblance to a water tank--also, it was intended to misdirect any information going the wrong way by not referring to it as a "landship", which would give away some of the secrecy. It should be noted too that it was the First Lord of the Admiralty, Winston Churchill, who established the committee. So what we see here on page 683 of the May 1917 issue of Popular Mechanics is a very early photograph of the tank in a mass distribution magazine.
The tank hit the battlefield pretty hard, and it evidently took the Germans by surprise--they certainly captured many more tanks than they produced, by far. During the war, from 1916-18, Germany produced only 20 tanks. In that same period, the U.S. produced 84, while the French constructed nearly 5,000 and Great Britain 3,800 or so. Germany was completely unprepared for heavy armored mobile combat--that would be a completely different story by 1939.
I've attached a photo of German soldiers with captured British tanks being hauled away on railroad flatbeds--no doubt these were photographic postcards. Seems to me highly plausible that Germany would employ more captured British tanks on the battlefield than they would German-made tanks.
[Source: wiki source-- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tanks_in_World_War_I#/media/File:Bundesarchiv_Bild_183-P1013-313,_Westfront,_erbeutete_englische_Tanks.jpg]
See this interesting table on tank production for WWI: http://landships.activeboard.com/t35439129/total-number-of-tanks-usedproduced-per-nation-1916-1918/
This is a striking image of a bright and reaching idea--the use of dogs to find, identify, and alert the presence of a wounded soldier on the battlefield. The dog would be sent out onto the battlefield, where it would find wounded soldiers, after which the dog would retrieve a possession of the soldier's and return to the trenches, and then lead a squad to retrieve the wounded man. That, or the dog would stay and stand guard, barking to alert stretcher bearers the location of the soldier. The dog houses are of a massive construction, like fortified dugouts--I suspect that the camp was far enough front to be subject to bombardment. I'm not sure of the breeds there, but perhaps these are Bouvier des Flandres, or Briard? I can't tell.
This photograph, taken about five weeks before the end of the war was declared on 11/11/18, shows a group of French and Canadian officers taking cover behind an abandoned German munitions cart, trying to protect themselves from a near-distant bombardment by German guns. (In spite of its size it seems as though this may have been a horse-drawn carriage.) They're on the road leading away from Amiens and Le Quesnoy, and at least one of them seems to have been in the field for a good long time. I like the composition of this photo--the placement of the soldiers suggests something to me, but I can't quite figure out what that is...
[This is stamped "Canadian Official Photograph...Western Newspaper Union, and printed in 1918. Like all of the other WWI photos on this site that do not have a listed source, this one belongs to me.]
According to the armistice signed on November 11, 1918 (and prior to the Treaty of Versailles which was signed 28 June 1919) in addition to much else Germany agreed to the internment of their High Seas Fleet, surrender 5,000 cannons and 25,000 machine guns and 1,700 aircraft, release all POWs, and deliver all remaining U-Boats, which is the subject of this post.
The subs made their way across the North Sea to the coast of England, near Essex, and were met there by a British force, which then took command of the ships, delivering them to the Port of Harwich. This began on 21 November and continued for a few weeks, resulting in the surrender of 122 subs and associated craft. The image below (from a photo pool, this one associated with the Western Newspaper Union) was made during that time and released on 2 December 1918. It looks as though the German crews were still on board at this point, their own flags still flying prior to being replaced by a white ensign.
Similar scenes took place in France--here is another News Photo Service photograph showing surrendered German subs being taken in France, together with the paper slip that newspapers and other publishers were supposed to use with the image upon publication.
"Complexity" is an interesting word with far-ranging roots and applications, and even though the may be a long trail of definitions for it, a person can generally recognize it when they see it. That word can certainly be used to describe the situation in Russia at the end of WWI, and in a way the least of it may have been when the Allies intervened there (with a large physical presence in an action was known as the North Russia Intervention/Northern Russian Expedition/Archangel Campaign) in support of the White Army/Guard in their struggle and fight against the Communist Red Army during the period when Alexander Kerensky's Russian Provincial Government fought the Germans on the Eastern Front during the Russian Civil War (1917-1923). The Allies stayed from 1918 until 1920, mostly fighting in defensive roles for White Army pullbacks.
And somewhere in that mix of complexities came moments captured by this image below--it comes from the closing weeks of WWI and shows a group of "British Jackies" readying a portion of the River Dwina at Archangel (Archangelsk) as a skating rink. Evidently there was scraping and sweeping and the use of hot water from the British ship to help smooth the ice.
The contrast in the many figures against the wide river reminded me of the very-populated scenes created by Peter Bruegel (1525-1569) the Elder, the Brabant-born master of the social scene of the Northern Renaissance. Bruegel painted the lives of common folks at work, children playing, and in general portrayed people at all manner of activities and celebrations, including dozens or hundreds in his social-scapes. That is what immediately came to mind seeing this photograph:
One of the many long-perspective, highly-populated scenes by Bruegel--it might take a little squinting, but this is what that photograph reminded me of:
Here's an interesting and terribly human image of WWI, made deep inside the war, nearly at the war's end, and which was distributed beginning 17 September 1918 by the Western Newspaper Union, and a French Official war photograph. It is a celebration of sorts--a short one--following the Second Battle of the Marne, which was the last German offensive on the Western Front, and which ended on August 6, five weeks before this photo was released and 100 or so days before the end of the war. The battle spelled the end for Germany in the war (costing a total of more than 270,000 killed or wounded) and began the steady march to Versailles. After three weeks of terrible fighting, the relief to the soldiers in the photo must have been extraordinary--it is certainly palpable in the image.
[Source: The History of Ideas Blog WWI Photo Collection, details: http://longstreet.typepad.com/world_war_i_photography/]
This is an odd image--or at least at first glance it looks odd--showing Turkish soldiers at "Salonikifront'/Salonica, Thessalonia practicing at anti-aircraft fire and enemy plane control. The thing is that in order to have an sort of effectiveness in bombing or strafing the aircraft would have to be relatively low and slow, even for those times. It is possible that they could be shooting at aircraft traveling at 80mph and low enough to be reachable by rifle fire. With this many rifles, the idea may have been workable.