30 First World War Facts

 In books

To celebrate the launch of my brand new Kindle e-book ‘The First World War Fact Book’ I thought it might be fun to offer you all a sneak preview of some of the stats and facts hiding in the book. The book itself offers up 1,568 facts, (if you want to know what I chose that specific number, you need to read the very first fact in the book) and covers many different areas of the war including weapons, casualties, the war at sea, the war in the air, infantry battles, and bravery, as well as separate sections on each main belligerent. The book is designed to appeal to all ages and all interest levels – hopefully there is something for everyone in the book and everyone can learn and discover something new about the ‘war to end all wars’.

So, here we go! In no particular order, here are 30 First World War facts to wow and amaze you…


  • In total, almost 65 million men were mobilised during the war
  • It has been estimated that one tonne of explosives fell for every square metre of territory on the Western Front
  • On the night of 26 July 1916 at Poziers, British and Australian troops exchanged grenade fire with the enemy continuously for over 12 hours – throwing over 15,000 hand grenades
  • The Germans were the first to use flamethrowers (flammenwerfer) in WWI. Their flamethrowers could fire jets of flame as far as 130 feet (40 m)
  • ‘Little Willie’ was the first prototype tank in WWI. Built in 1915, it carried a crew of 3 and could travel as fast as 3 mph (4.8 km/h)
  • The name ‘Little Willie’ is said to be an uncomplimentary dig at the then German Crown Prince
  • The French were the first to use gas in combat, using tear gas grenades against the Germans in August 1914
  • In the trenches, British troops kept their rifle sights set at 200 yards at all times to enable them to fire accurately into No Man’s Land
  • Before the development of specific anti-aircraft weaponry, ground forces would fire rifles and machine guns at hostile aircraft
  • Machine-guns of the war boasted impressive fire power – 600 rounds per minute was common, although firing at that speed caused the barrel to overheat quickly
  • The first underground explosions (mines) of the war were detonated by Germany on 20 December 1914 underneath a brigade of Indian troops near Festubert
  • All trenches were usually built in a zig-zag with angular ‘fire-bays’ to minimise the effect of shell fire and to prevent the enemy from firing down the length of the trench
  • The front of the trench was known as the ‘parapet’ with the rear of the trench known as the ‘parados’
  • It has been estimated that about 75,000 British soldiers were killed during the war by ‘friendly’ artillery fire intended for the enemy
  • In some areas of No Man’s Land the belts of barbed wire were up to 100 yards (30 metres) thick
  • The temperature in the gondolas of Zeppelins would often fall to -25°C and below
  • To become a British ‘Ace’ a British fighter pilot had to score 5 kills. It was the same for French and American pilots
  • To qualify as an ‘Ace’ in the German air force and win the Pour le Mérite medal, a pilot had to score 8 kills
  • The French navy lost 166 vessels during the war, including four battleships (Bouvet, Danton, Gaulois and Suffren)
  • The largest pre-war submarine fleet belonged to France. They were able to boast 120 vessels, however many of them were not fit for active war service
  • Antwerp was under constant German occupation from 9 October 1914 until late in 1918
  • During the battle of Loos in 1915 one German machine gun was reported to have fired 12,000 bullets
  • It is thought that 15% of British wartime volunteers were underage
  • For serious offenses such as cowardice, striking an officer, desertion or falling asleep whilst on sentry duty the offender would be tried by court martial, the punishment could be death by firing squad
  • The American Expeditionary Force was controlled by Major General John J. Pershing. The troops gave him the nickname of ‘Black Jack’
  • ‘Hello Girls,’ as American soldiers called them, were American women who served as telephone operators for Pershing’s forces in Europe
  • At the beginning of the war the Italian artillery possessed only 112 heavy guns
  • The average age of WW1 Victoria Cross winners was 27.5 years
  • About a million dogs died during the First World War
  • Between the Armistice and September 1921, special Graves Concentration Units carried out systematic searches of the Western Front searching for remote graves. During this time they found 204,650 bodies and reburied them in special cemeteries set aside for them


If you enjoyed these facts, The First World War Fact Book contains 1,568 facts on the war and is available from Amazon Kindle for less than the cost of a take-away coffee! Why not check it out at the links below?

Amazon UK



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