WW1 facts and figures that tell the story of the war

When you think of World War One images of bloody warfare, dirty trenches and explosions may come to mind, but there’s more to the reality of the war than thar.

While it may capture some of the reality of what happened on the Front Line, the political reasons and mundane day-to-day life in the trenches is often forgotten.

What about the post that was sent, the women who helped and the impact the war had – from pioneering plastic surgery to blood banks.

Here are 25 facts about World War One that tell the story of what really happened.

1. When did WW1 begin?

WW1 began on July 28, 1914

2. Why did World War One start?

It all began because of the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria.

He was heir to the throne of Austria-Hungary.

3. Who were the two sides?

The Triples Ententes – also known as The Allies, were the British, France, Ireland and Russia.

The other side are known as The Central Powers, Germany and Austria-Hungary.

4. Did Italy change sides?

Italy were originally on The Central Powers side, part of a Triple Alliance. They left the alliance when it was clear it was offensive rather than defensive. Italy left and joined The Triple Ententes and declared war on Austria-Hungary in May, 1915 and Germany in August, 1916.

5. World War One has many names

The Great War, the World War, the War to End all Wars, World War 1, WW1, and the War of the Nations are just a few.

6. How many soldiers died?

More than eight million soldiers died in WW1, and another 21 million were injured.

If you’re wondering how many soldiers were mobilised, there were 65 million.

7. When did America join WW1?

April 6, 1917. A German submarine sunk a British passenger ship called the Lusitania, killing 1,195 passengers – 128 of which were American. The US was outraged and pressured their government to declare war.

Woodrow Wilson, the president at the time, wanted a peaceful route but the Germans said any ship that came near Britain would be sunk.

Wilson agreed to enter the war to bring a peaceful end. They were only in combat for seven months, but around 116,000 soldiers were killed and 204,000 were injured.

8. Chemical weapons were first used in WW1

Poison gas was seen as war crime, but using tear gas wasn’t seen in the same way.

The Germans first used the lethal gas in a chlorine.

9. The German strike

The Germans weren’t always on board with the war. In 1918, the German citizens began striking and demonstrating against the war. They were starving, and their economy was collapsing as the ports were blocked.

10. When did WW1 end?

June 28, 1919 – five years after the assassination of Franz Ferdinand. The armistice on November 11, 1918 ended the fighting, but it took another six months to negotiate peace before the Treaty of Versailles was prepared.

11. What was the Treaty of Versailles?

It was basically an agreement to agree to the end of the war, and peace. The Germans had to accept full responsibility for causing the war, and there were consequences for this. The Germans had to surrender some of its territories and colonies and limit the size of its military.

12. What was the League of Nations?

It was formed to prevent future wars. Germans resented the conditions in the Treaty of Versailles, and Germany and Japan eventually withdrew from the LoN in 1933. Italy withdrew in 1936.

In the end the LoN couldn’t stop Germany, Italy or Japan expanding their power. They took over smaller countries, and many think this is why WW1 never really ended, but continued with WW2.

13. How many survived?

Nine out of 10 British soldiers survived in WW1.

14. What did they do in the trenches?

British soldiers were moved around the trench system and weren’t often in the direct firing line. It would’ve been boring in between, with soldiers carrying out routine jobs and duties.

15. Army generals were banned from "going over the top"

So many wanted to fight they were actually banned from fighting. If they were killed then the experience they had would be lost.

16. There was a blood bank

When soldiers were injured they gave them blood transfusions – transferring blood from one soldier to another.

US Army doctor Captain Oswald Johnson set up a blood bank on the Western Front in 1917.

Blood was kept on ice for up to 28 days using sodium citrate to prevent it from coagulating and becoming unusable.

17. How old was the youngest soldier?

Just 12 years old. He was called Sidney Lewis. He lied about his age to get into the army. He was one of 250,000 underage soldiers.

18. Plastic surgery came about in WW1

Surgeon Harold Gillies helped shrapnel victims who had terrible facial injuries with plastic surgeries. It’s one of the earliest examples.

The metal caused horrible injuries that were worse than the straight bullets.

19. 12 million letters were delivered

12 million letters were delivered to the Front every week. It took two days to send a letter from Britain to France. A mail office was set up in Regent’s Park, London to send letters to the trenches. 2 billion letters and 114 million parcels were sent during the war.

20. An explosion in France was heard in London

A group of miners dug tunnels up to 100ft underground, to plant and detonate mines behind enemy trenches.

The biggest success with it was at Messines Ridge, Belgium, where over 900,000lbs of explosives were detonated at one of the 19 tunnels underground.

A lot of the German front line was destroyed, and the blast was so big it was heard up to 140 miles way – even the British Prime Minster heard it in Downing Street.

21. Journalists risked their lives

Journalists risked their lives to report on the reality on the front line. The Government began to try and control what information got back from the trenches, and journalists were banned.

If you reported on the conflict you were seen as essentially helping the enemy.

If caught, you could even face the death penalty.

22. Wilfred Owen was unknown before the War

He’s now one of the best known poets of WW1, but when he died on the front line – a week before the war ended – he was still unknown.

The way his words painted the imagery of war, one of pity, horror and terror, was actually a minority view.

In the 1960s a literary elite decided his poetry was a more authentic view and two key war poetry war anthologies were published featuring him heavily.

WW1 pictures: Powerful images show full horror of life in the trenches

23. Women’s skin turned yellow

As the men headed off to war, women took their place. More than a million women joined the workforce. They worked in poor conditions with dangerous chemicals and long hours.

They were often called ‘canaries’ as when they worked with TNT they got toxic jaundice – their skin turned yellow.

24. WW1 nearly caused financial meltdown

Britain was an economic superpower, but the war cost more than any ever before. Bullets fired in one 24 hour period in September 1918 was nearly four million pounds.

25. WW1 ship camouflage

Merchant ships had to be protected so Norman Wilkinson, an artist and Royal Navy volunteer, came up with the idea of covering ships in bold shapes and contrasting colours. It was nothing like camouflage people had seen before and it was more meant to confuse than conceal.

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