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Devices And Inventions Used During WW1

In the winter of 1918, it's estimated that half of all children in Berlin were suffering from rickets- a condition whereby bones become soft and deformed. At the time, the exact cause was not known, although it was associated with poverty.

A doctor in the city - Kurt Huldschinsky - noticed that his patients were very pale. He decided to conduct an experiment on four of them, including one known today only as Arthur, who was three years old. He put the four of them under mercury-quartz lamps which emitted ultraviolet light

As the treatment continued, Huldschinsky noticed that the bones of his young patients were getting stronger. In May 1919, when the sun of summer arrived, he had them sit on the terrace in the sun. The results of his experiment, when published, were greeted with great enthusiasm. Children around Germany were brought before the lights. In Dresden, the child welfare services had the city's street lights dismantled to be used for treating children.

Researchers later found that Vitamin D is necessary to build up the bones with calcium and this process is triggered by ultraviolet light. The undernourishment brought on by war produced the knowledge to cure the ailment.

The tea bag was not invented to solve some wartime problem. By common consent, it was an American tea merchant who, in 1908, started sending tea in small bags to his customers. They accidentally dropped the bags in water and the rest is history, So the industry says.

During the war, a German company, Teekanne, copied the idea and developed it, supplying troops with tea in similar cotton bags. They called them "tea bombs".

It is not true that wristwatches were invented specifically for World War One - but it is true that their use by men took off dramatically. After the war, they were the usual way to tell the time.

But until the late 19th and early 20th Centuries, men who needed to know the time and who had the money to afford a watch, kept it in their pocket on a chain. Women, for some reason, were the trailblazers - Elizabeth I had a small clock she could strap to her arm.

But as timing in war became more important - so that artillery barrages, for example, could be synchronised - manufacturers developed watches which kept both hands free in the heat of battle. Wristwatches, in other words.

It was WW1 which really established the market. In particular, the "creeping barrage" meant that timing was everything. This was an interaction between artillery firing just ahead of infantry. Clearly, getting it wrong would be fatal for your own side. Distances were too great for signalling and timings too tight, and, anyway, signalling in plain view meant the enemy would see. Wristwatches were the answer.

Even one of today's iconic luxury watches goes back to WW1. Cartier's Tank Watch originated in 1917 when Louis Cartier, the French watchmaker, saw the new Renault tanks and modelled a watch on their shape.

You might imagine that soy sausages were invented by some hipster in the 1960s, you would be wrong. Soy sausages were invented by Konrad Adenauer, the first German chancellor after World War Two.

During WW1, Adenauer was mayor of Cologne and as the British blockade of Germany began to bite, starvation set in badly in the city. Adenauer had an inventive mind and researched ways of substituting available materials for scarce items, such as meat.

He began by using a mixture of rice-flour, barley and Romanian corn-flour to make bread, instead of using wheat. It all seemed to work until Romania entered the war and the supply of the corn flour dried up.

From this experimental bread, he turned to the search for a new sausage and came up with soy as the meatless ingredient. It was dubbed the Friedenswurst or "peace sausage". Adenauer applied for a patent with the Imperial Patent Office in Germany but was denied one. Apparently, it was contrary to German regulations about the proper content of a sausage - if it didn't contain meat it couldn't be a sausage.

Oddly, he had better luck with Britain, Germany's enemy at the time. King George V granted the soy sausage a patent on 26 June 1918.

Ever since the middle of the 19th Century, various people had been working on combinations of hooks, clasps and eyes to find a smooth and convenient way to keep the cold out.

But it was Gideon Sundback, a Swedish-born immigrant in the US who mastered it. He became the head designer at the Universal Fastener Company and devised the "Hookless Fastener", with its slider which locked the two sets of teeth together. The US military incorporated them into uniforms and boots, particularly the Navy. After the war, civilians followed suit.

We should thank Harry Brearley of Sheffield for steel which doesn't rust or corrode. As the city's archives put it: "In 1913, Harry Brearley of Sheffield developed what is widely regarded as the first 'rustless' or stainless steel - a product that revolutionised the metallurgy industry and became a major component of the modern world."

The British military was trying to find a better metal for guns. The problem was that barrels of guns were distorted over repeated firing by the friction and heat of bullets. Brearley, a metallurgist at a Sheffield firm, was asked to find harder alloys.

He examined the addition of chromium to steel, and legend has it that he threw away some of the results of his experiments as failures. They went literally on to the scrap heap - but Brearley noticed later that these discarded samples in the yard had not rusted.

He had discovered the secret of stainless steel. In WW1 it was used in some of the new-fangled aero-engines - but it really came into its own as knives and forks and spoons and the innumerable medical instruments on which hospitals depend.

Before World War One, pilots had no way of talking to each other and to people on the ground.

At the start of the war, armies relied on cables to communicate, but these were often cut by artillery or tanks. Germans also found ways of tapping into British cable communications. Other means of communication such as runners, flags, pigeons, lamps and dispatch riders were used but were found inadequate. Aviators relied on gestures and shouting. Something had to be done. Wireless was the answer.

Radio technology was available but had to be developed, and this happened during WW1 at Brooklands and later at Biggin Hill, according to Keith Thrower a specialist in this area of historical research. By the end of 1916, the decisive steps forward had been made. "Earlier attempts to fit radio telephones in aircraft had been hampered by the high background noise from the aircraft's engine," writers Thrower in British Radio Valves: The Vintage Years - 1904-1925. "This problem was alleviated by the design of a helmet with built-in microphone and earphones to block much of the noise."

1915: The tank is invented by Ernest Swinton, although the British Royal Commission on Awards recognised a South Australian named Lance de Mole who had submitted a proposal to the British War Office, for a 'chain-rail vehicle which could be easily steered and carry heavy loads over rough ground and trenches' complete with extensive drawings in 1912. Additionally, an Austrian by the name of Günther Burstyn designed a tank in 1911 and a Captain Levavasseur of the French army proposed a design in 1903.

The Yagi-Uda Antenna or simply Yagi Antenna is invented by Shintaro Uda of Tohoku Imperial University, Japan, assisted by his colleague Hidetsugu Yagi. The Yagi Antenna was widely used by the US, British, and Germans during World War II. After the war they saw extensive development as home television antennas.

Ask people to name the most famous historical woman of science and their answer will likely be: Marie Curie. Push further and ask what she did, and they might say it was something related to radioactivity. (She actually discovered the radioisotopes radium and polonium.) Some might also know that she was the first woman to win a Nobel Prize. (She actually won two.)

But few will know she was also a major hero of World War I. In fact, a visitor to her Paris laboratory 100 years ago would not have found either her or her radium on the premises. Her radium was in hiding and she was at war.

For Curie, the war started in early 1914, as German troops headed toward her hometown of Paris. She knew her scientific research needed to be put on hold. So she gathered her entire stock of radium, put it in a lead-lined container, transported it by train to Bordeaux – 375 miles away from Paris – and left it in a safety deposit box at a local bank. She then returned to Paris, confident that she would reclaim her radium after France had won the war.

With the subject of her life’s work hidden far away, she now needed something else to do. Rather than flee the turmoil, she decided to join in the fight. But just how could a middle-aged woman do that? She decided to redirect her scientific skills toward the war effort; not to make weapons, but to save lives.

A type of electromagnetic radiation had been discovered in 1895 by Curie’s fellow Nobel laureate, Wilhelm Roentgen. Almost immediately after their discovery, physicians began using X-rays to image patients’ bones and find foreign objects – like bullets.

But at the start of the war, X-ray machines were still found only in city hospitals, far from the battlefields where wounded troops were being treated. Curie’s solution was to invent the first “radiological car” – a vehicle containing an X-ray machine and photographic darkroom equipment – which could be driven right up to the battlefield where army surgeons could use X-rays to guide their surgeries.

One major obstacle was the need for electrical power to produce the X-rays. Curie solved that problem by incorporating a dynamo generator into the car’s design. The petroleum-powered car engine could thus provide the required electricity.

Frustrated by delays in getting funding from the French military, Curie approached the Union of Women of France. This philanthropic organization gave her the money needed to produce the first car, which ended up playing an important role in treating the wounded at the Battle of Marne in 1914 – a major Allied victory that kept the Germans from entering Paris.

More radiological cars were needed. So Curie exploited her scientific clout to ask wealthy Parisian women to donate vehicles. Soon she had 20, which she outfitted with X-ray equipment. But the cars were useless without trained X-ray operators, so Curie started to train women volunteers. She recruited 20 women for the first training course, which she taught along with her daughter Irene, a future Nobel Prize winner herself.

The curriculum included theoretical instruction about the physics of electricity and X-rays as well as practical lessons in anatomy and photographic processing. When that group had finished its training, it left for the front, and Curie then trained more women. In the end, a total of 150 women received X-ray training from Curie.

Interesting Facts From WW1


While the war raged on in the mud and trenches, a very different war was taking place beneath the soldiers' feet. A group of miners, operating in total secrecy, dug tunnels up to 100ft underground, to plant and detonate mines beneath the enemy's trenches. Their biggest success was at Messines Ridge in Belgium where over 900,000lbs of explosives were simultaneously detonated in 19 underground tunnels. Much of the German front line was destroyed, and the explosions were heard 140 miles away by the British prime minister in Downing St.

A handful of journalists risked their lives to report on the realities of war. As the Government sought to control the flow of information from the frontline at the start of the war, journalists were banned. Reporting on the conflict was, in the opinion of the War Office, helping the enemy. If caught, they faced the death penalty.

Astonishingly, it only took two days for a letter from Britain to reach the front in France. The journey began at a purpose-built sorting depot in Regent's Park before being shipped to the trenches. By the end of the war, two billion letters and 114 million parcels had had been delivered.

When a generation of men went to fight the war, more than a million women took their place in the workforce. They worked long hours, often in poor conditions and with dangerous chemicals. The so-called 'canaries' were women who worked with TNT, which gave them toxic jaundice and turned their skin yellow.

Shrapnel was the cause of many facial injuries in WW1 and unlike the straight-line wounds inflicted by bullets, the twisted metal shards produced from a shrapnel blast could easily rip a face off. Horrified by the injuries he saw, surgeon Harold Gillies, took on the task of helping victims and pioneered early techniques of facial reconstruction in the process.

Wilfred Owen is one of the best know poets of the WW1, but when he died on the frontline, just a week before the end of the war, he was relatively unknown. At the time, his view of the war as one of pity and horror was in the minority. It wasn't until the 1960s that a literary elite decided this was the most authentic view of the conflict because it chimed with their own anti-war feelings. This resulted in the publication of two key war poetry anthologies which heavily featured Owen.

Sidney Lewis was just 12 years old when he lied about his age and joined the army during World War One. He was one of thousands of eager underage boys who enlisted and ended up fighting alongside their adult counterparts on the front. Some were motivated by patriotism, but for others it was an escape from their dreary lives.

At the turn of the 20th century, Britain was an economic superpower, but the world's first global war would cost more than any that had gone before. For example, the cost of bullets fired in one 24 hour period in September 1918 was nearly four million pounds.

The British Army began the routine use of blood transfusion in treating wounded soldiers. Blood was transferred directly from one person to another. A US Army doctor, Captain Oswald Robertson, established the first blood bank on the Western Front in 1917, using sodium citrate to prevent the blood from coagulating and becoming unusable. Blood was kept on ice for up to 28 days and then transported to casualty clearing stations for use in life-saving surgery where it was needed most.

It was crucial to protect the merchant ships carrying the food and military supplies to the front from enemy torpedoes. Norman Wilkinson, an artist and Royal Navy volunteer came up with the idea of covering ships in bold shapes and violent contrasts of colour. The complete opposite of normal camouflage, dazzle camouflage was supposed to confuse the enemy rather than conceal the ships.