What passing-bells for these who die as cattle? Only the monstrous anger of the guns.

WILFRED OWEN (1893 – 1918)

The First World War


In war-time the word patriotism means suppression of truth.

Due to the weapon's lethality, the First World War was sometimes known as 'the machine gun war'.

The 'First' World War

Far from waiting until the Second World War had started, the First World War was rather pessimistically named as such in 1918.
British Officer Lieutenant-Colonel Charles à Court Repington recorded in his diary for 10 Sep 1918 that he met with a Major Johnstone of Harvard University to discuss what historians should call the war. Repington said it was then referred to as The War, 'but that this could not last'. They agreed that 'To call it The German War was too much flattery for the Boche.' Repington concludes: 'I suggested The World War as a shade better title, and finally we mutually agreed to call it The First World War in order to prevent the millennium folk from forgetting that the history of the world was the history of war.'  Between the wars most people did refer to the war as the Great War, even though that had originally referred to the Napoleonic War. In the US, it was ‘The World War’.
Time magazine announced that 'World War Two began last week' as early as September 1939. A few weeks after the war broke out, Duff Cooper published a book of his speeches from October 1938 to August 1939 called 'The Second World War'. In 1942, President Roosevelt wanted an alternative name. He rejected 'Teutonic Plague' and 'Tyrants' War' and settled on 'The War of Survival,' but it didn't take. The US officially named the war 'World War Two' only in 1945. WW2 was often referred to as The Second Great War in its early days - and the phrase was in use at least as late as January 1959. 

Christmas Truce

On Christmas Eve 1914 there was a famous ceasefire on parts of the Western Front. The men met in no man’s land, shook hands, and exchanged gifts - and some kicked footballs about, although there was no organized football match as is often claimed. The Generals were infuriated by this fraternisation, so from then on no recreational objects such as footballs were allowed on the front.
Nine months later, however, Rifleman Frank Edwards (1893-1964), captain of the London Irish Rifles football team, smuggled a deflated ball into the trenches. The night before the Battle of Loos he blew it up and in the morning, when the whistle blew to commence the attack, he threw the ball out of the trench, shouting, 'Play up, London Irish!' The ball was kicked right through the German lines, and was eventually recovered from the wire on the second line of their trenches. In 1920 it was signed by survivors of the attack and donated to the Regimental Museum where it sits today.

The Magnificent Archduke

Archduke Franz Ferdinand was a relatively minor figure of European royalty until 1889 when Royal Prince of Hungary, Crown Prince Rudolf's lover Baroness Marie Vetsera became pregnant. They retired to a cabin near Vienna and prepared themselves for an illegal abortion. The operation was botched and Rudolf, seeing the pain that Marie was in (and no doubt worrying about his own reputation) shot her before she could bleed to death. He then shot himself and Franz Ferdinand became Royal Prince of Hungary and of Bohemia.
Before Franz Ferdinand was murdered by Gavrilo Princip in Sarajevo, another would-be assassin threw a lit bomb at the Archduke's car; Ferdinand batted it away with his hand and it exploded in the street.  Princip was hiding from the police after the attack and was only in a position to kill the Archduke because Ferdinand’s driver had got lost.
Ferdinand was a perfectionist in the cut and fit of his magnificent military uniform. Some say that this helped to kill him. The story goes that when he was shot he was immediately taken into the care of highly skilled medical professionals. They first had to examine the Archduke's wound, but when they tried to unbutton the royal tunic, the buttons pulled off in their hands. His uniform had NO functional buttons because, such was the Archduke's obsession with the perfect fit, he had himself sewn into it every morning by a retinue of skilled tailors. He was sewed into his outfits, but he was shot in the neck, so it actually made no difference to his death.

During the First World War it became patriotic to kick dachshunds.

First and Last

The first and last shots of World War I both took place in Africa. Togo and Tanzania, to be precise.
The British Empire declared war on Germany on 4 August 1914 and three days later attacked Togoland, Germany’s small but strategic colony in West Africa. Troops of the Gold Coast Regiment marched towards the capital Lomé, and were met by the German-led police force, who opened fire. Regimental Sergeant Major Alhaji Grunshi was the first to shoot back, and so became the first member of the British Army to fire a shot in the war. After the Allies surrounded a large radio transmitter (the only means of communication between Germany and the South Atlantic), the Germans destroyed it and surrendered.

The war also ended in Africa; the last actual battle took place on a golf course in Zambia. German troops seized the town of Kasama on the 13th of November 1918 – two days after the Armistice. They stopped fighting when the district's only telephone brought news of the end of the war. German troops under the command of General Paul von Lettow-Vorbeck fought on for even longer. Situated in present day Tanzania, they surrendered on November 25, 1918, 14 days after the armistice. 

The First World War officially ended on 3rd October 2010.

Pilots in WWI got diarrhoea because of fumes from the castor oil used to lubricate their propellors.

Living Like Troglodytes

More people sheltered in the Tube during WW1 than during the Blitz. The government actively discouraged them from doing this as they worried they might refuse to leave and start living ‘like troglodytes’. The policy was changed when 100 people stormed the Savoy, having been tipped off by construction workers about the hotel’s luxurious bomb shelter. 

ALBERT EINSTEIN (1879 - 1955)

I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones.

is a by-product of the chemicals used in mustard gas
in WWI.

Handschuhschneeballwe-rfer is German slang for ‘coward’. It means someone who wears gloves to throw snowballs.