Poisonous gas

The first use of the gas:
Poisonous gas was first used on a battlefield scale by the German amy on the 22nd April 1915 during the second battle of Ypres. They had transported tanks of liquid chlorine gas to the front line and released the gas upon the allied forces during a period of time when the wind was directly blowing in the direction of their trenches. When released the gas travelled to the allied trenches and a yellow coloured cloud. The effects of this gas were devastating to whoever inhaled it, destroying the victims respiratory system and causing them to choke to death.
In this photograph you can see how the can was released during the second battle of Ypres. The gas passed out from the metal tubes that you can see the two men planting in the image. The pipes had an 8 inch diameter. Dozens of these projectors releasing gas at the same time could smother enemy lines with dense concentrations of gas that could kill many of the enemy soldiers.The only downside to these pipes was that they were extremely difficult to transport to the front lines due to their heavy weight.
Responses to the introduction of gas:
After the introduction of poisonous gas by the germans, other sides in the war saw great potential in the pioneered weapon.  The allied forces, before creating a weaponised gas of their own, created effective gas masks and other precautions to helped protect against the german gas. The British were the first to respond to the German advancements, they launched their own chlorine attacks in September 1915. However it did not end all great for them because of a change in wind direction, it resulted in more than 2,000 British soldiers being struck by their own hand during the battle by the gas.
The progression of the gas:
As the war progressed so did the gas weaponry, deadlier gasses were created to be used in trench warfare and also more reliable delivery systems of the gas were introduced . By the year of 1917, chemical shells and mortars could now deposit the lethal gas through barrages upon enemy lines or territory. Phosgene gas was first introduced in late 1915, it was an almost invisible gas and with it being much more lethal than chlorine, it was much more desired. The Germans developed their own type of gas to be used in the battlefield which was mustard gas. It was first used in the summer of 1917 and served to be very affective. The reason why it was so effective was because the gas did not target the respiratory system but the skin and eyes its victims, this was revolutionary because it defeated the use existing gas masks and respirators that the enemy armies had created to protect against the first used chlorine gas.

Machine guns

Pre war:
The machine gun itself was not first invented during the the first world war, it dated back roughly by half a century before that. Though they became popular during the war. Due to the facts that many doubted the role and effectiveness of the machine gun limited the use of them in most pre-war events and wars. Most of the machine-guns that were used prior to ww1 were heavy not mobile, so when they were innovated during the war they became a lot more effective.
Domination of the machine gun:
In the war the Germans were the first to realise the power and influence that the machine gun could give them over their enemies. They used the weapon more on the defence side of warfare and they set up the machine guns from prepared positions dug into the trench systems with overlapping fields of fire. The other armies soon realised the potential of this weapon and that the machine-gun allowed soldiers from the battlefield to be safer behind the trench lines, dug-outs, and fortifications. This however cause a stalemate during that was always be an issue throughout the entirety of the war.
Heavy and light machine guns:
During the war heavy and light machine guns were categorised into different aspects of warfare. Heavy machine-guns were removed from the infantry battalions and instead were positioned into machine gun units in order to centralise the firepower that they were capable of producing. Armies used these heavy machine guns to lay down fire upon enemy lines and fixed positions that the enemy had control of such as supply trenches.
Infantry men during the war received lighter machine gun in order for easier mobility and transportation during trench warfare. Many received Lewis machine-gun, this weapon was light enough to be carried by a single soldier alone. There still needed to be other men alongside the machine gunner however, to carry the ammunition. In  battle there could be as many two or three members of the team carrying ammunition for the gunner to ensure there was sufficient amount and they did not run out in the heat of battle. The Lewis gun and other light machine guns changed the way trench warfare was fought because it increased the infantry’s firepower during an attack and in defensive situations.
Above you can see the lewis machine gun. This machine gun was extremely effective in the battlefield because it provided the infantry and soldiers with large amount of firepower and support, though at the same time the weapon was still fairly light and was able to be carried forward at a fast pace during frontal attacks in the battlefield. It was issued in the summer of 1915 to the commonwealth troops. The gun had a 47 round magazine and was air cooled.
Above you can see the Colt “Model 1914” machine gun. At the beginning of the war, Canada purchased roughly 950 of these guns by 1915 they issued 4 of these weapons to every infantry battalion. The gun was nicknamed the Colt “Potato Digger” because of the amount of dirt it kicked up when being fired. The tripod’s legs that you can see in the photograph were very commonly “sawed off” and shortened to reduce the gun’s overall height and weight in the battlefield. A modified cocking lever was also added to the gun and this was effective because it allowed the gun to be loaded and reloaded without exposing the officers to enemy fire.
The weapon in the photograph above is the Vickers Mk.1 water-cooled machine-gun. This was one of the most highly used machine guns by the allied forces in the first world war. The gun fired a .303 calibre bullet for ammunition. It was a fairly heavy weapon which made it much more suitable for a defensive role, however the gun could also be used in the attack. The Vickers could be moved forward fairly easy in the attack, due to its weight and the fact that it needed a team of five to move it forward along with the ammunition and water to accompany the gun. The vickers was most commonly part of the second or third assault wave.


Artillery and mortars

There were two different main types of guns that armies used during the first world war, those were field guns and siege guns. Field guns were smaller calibre and lighter than siege guns so they were much easier to transport in battles, though the siege guns packed a much bigger punch.
The artillery weapons used different shells to fulfil different purposes during warfare and what needed to be done to get an edge upon the enemy. One type of shell that was used in trench warfare was the shrapnel shell, these shells were timed in order to explode in the air over the enemy in the trenches. On detention thousands of small ball bearing fired down upon the enemy both injuring and killing the troops that were not under good enough cover. The explosion was must like a shotgun blast in the sense that it shot outwards. You can see this type of shell in action from this photograph from 1917, it was taken of the Canadian soldiers in a trench on Somme.
Gunners used high explosive shells in order both collapse trenches and protection shelters. The trenches protected well against shrapnel that was fired upon it, however they were still very vulnerable to high explosive shells. These shells were capable of leaving large craters in the battlefield and killing off anyone who was near the site of detonation.
Mortars were one of the most effective yet simple siege weapons that was used during the war. Mortars fired large shells in high trajectory lines in order to plummet down upon the enemy trenches. During the war armies used martyrs with many different types and sizes of ammunition. Their sizes and payloads also differed greatly, siege mortars were used for needs on bigger scales where as infantry mortars could be more easily moved around and carried by a small group of men. Making them more versatile for the needs of trench warfare.
Over the course of the first world war, the sheer number of artillery guns increased greatly. By the midpoint of the war, more guns at higher calibers than had been seen before were being used by the Allied forces which essentially allowed them to have constant firepower on their side. By the year 1918 the allied gunner were able to out gun the German forces and gunners, this allowed the allies to have much better support for the infantry men during attacks and such in the battlefield. The Allied gunners became very specialised with the artillery weaponry and as a result they were able to better locate their enemy and account of other factors such as weather and conditions that could have possibly altered the trajectory of the artillery fire.
In the image above you can see the 18-pounder field gun. This gun was the British armies most widely used field gun throughout the entirety of the war. During ww1 more 10,000 of these gun were produced and they were created in a variety of different types, this included some anti-aircraft variants. During the first world war the 18-pounder fired over 100,000,000 shells. This is equal to an average of 43 rounds per minute, from the years 1914 to 1918.
The weapon above is the German 240 Millimetre Albrecht Trench Mortar. This mortar was very unusual due to its’s wooden construction that was reinforced by a metal liner, wires, and bands. In order to adjust the elevation of the mortar, the operator of the weapon would use a hand wheel. Once at the right angle of elevation, the mortar was then locked into position and that was done by tightening the bolts and nuts on the weapon. The limitations of this mortar was the fact that it had a low accuracy and the range of it was only from 50 to 550 metres, which was not a great distance at the time.
The image shows the German 21-centimetre Mörser howitzer. This powerful weapon had the capability to destroy enemy trenches and dugouts that were located up to 8,200 metres away. The steel planks that were attached onto the wheels were very helpful for the trench environment because it helped with transporting the howitzer through the rough and muddy terrain.


This is a list of all the source we used to gather research:

Source Analysis

Source 1

Dulce et Decorum Est

Website: http://www.warpoetry.co.uk/owen1.html

Origin: Poem written by Wilfred Owen between 8th October 1917 and March in 1918. Wilfred Owen was a soldier during the first world war and experienced many of these tragedies and devastations first hand. This means that the poems that he write are usually accurate and display the situations in the trenches in a way that no other poet will.

Purpose: The purpose of this poem was to show everyone how really terrible the trenches were. The name, Dulce et Decorum Est means that it is sweet and honourable, which is all of the things the war did not turn out to be. This poem shows that the war wasn’t glorious, but terrible. It also talks about gas;                      “Gas! Gas! Quick, boys! – An ecstasy of fumbling, Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time;
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling,
And flound’ring like a man in fire or lime . . .
Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light,
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.” This quote shows how terrible the gas attacks were and that the death was excruciating.

Value: Since Wilfred Owen was a soldier of the war himself, it is the closest you can get to a soldier’s point of view on the war. It is good because it shows how soldiers felt about the war and everything they had to go through. This is good for our exhibition because we want to look at the effect of certain weapons on the battles and trenches, and this one explains the effect of gas.

Limitations: It only talks about gas and not any other weapons. This is not exactly a limitation since we still get and understanding of the effect of gas.

Source 2

website: http://www.firstworldwar.com/weaponry/


  • The website is secondary source
  • written by Michael Duffy
  • Published at Saturday 22 august, 2009


This document exist to people that want to use and understand about weapons in ww1. The aim for this website is to go find out about the weapons that was used in the ww1 and development of the weapons. The intended audience is the people that want to know about the weapons that was used in the war. The website say about the the use of the weapons in ww1 and development and which country used it.


From the website the author knows about the ww1. The the period is 1914 to end of the  war. This has a value of information that we have to make our part of the project. But there are limitation to this.


From this document it can tell in depth of the weapons not that depth. We could verify the source by checking with other sources to see if it is right source or not and get more info of the weapons.this source tells the accurate information that we needed to know about with some extra source to see in depth and back up the information that we had.

Source 3


This source is a secondary one written close to present day, however the source does not state when the articles were published. It can still be seen that the source was written a long time after the first world war took place. The articles were published by the Canadian War  Museum and gave an overview of the weapons used throughout the war.


The purpose of this source is to provide information about all of the different types and categories of weapons that were used throughout the First world war. Not only does it talk about how the weapon categories developed as a whole, but it also gives a lot of detail and analysis about the individual weapons such as how they were used, what their strengths and weaknesses were and also when and by who they were used.


The biggest value and thing that I took away from this source was the individual weapon descriptions. The reason why this was so helpful was because it really allowed me to see how the different weapons developed throughout the war and what weapons were used when. An example of this that I found very helpful was in the grenade category of the website, it shower how the german stick grenade was improved and refined throughout the war and how it became a more effective weapon. Another value of this source was the amount of weapons that were talked about and described, it gave an extremely good overview of the different weapons that were used in trench warfare, which allowed to have a better understanding of the research question and sub questions.


The biggest limitation that this source has, is the fact that it did not really discuss the impact that the weapons had on the war and battles from both sides. Another thing was that regarding some of the weapons, it did not give a lot of detail about who pioneered and used the weapon and also about when and where in the war they were being used.


1914: early grenades
During the first world war, all armies relied heavily on the use of grenades in order to both fight and attack enemy trenches and also to defend themselves against attacks. Grenades has been a weapon invented hundreds of years before, however they were not often used previous to the napoleonic war until ww1. The first grenades that were used in 1914 were hand made by the soldiers and were extremely unreliable. The first made grenades were typically cans that were filled with nails, metal and gunpowder. Their biggest flaw was the fact that they were almost an dangerous to the officers who made them as they were to the enemy, this was because they often exploded before they were intended to be.
1915: dozens of types
By the end of the year 1915 during the war, grenades were becoming essential and all armies were being supplied with them. There were many different types of grenades that were used by different sides during the war. Some riflemen in the trenches were specialised in this field, they attacked the enemy using specialised grades that were fired from their rifles. Regular infantry men on both sides of the war carried a variety of different types of grenades. On the German side of the trenches, their preference was with the “stick grenade”. This grenade could be thrown at further distances though the price they paid was a smaller explosive charge within. On the British and Canadian side of trench warfare, they used a more egg shaped grenade that could be thrown roughly around 30 meters and carried a larger payload than the stick grenades, though the downside to these was the fast that their range was around 10 meters less than the germans.
1917: Importance
By 1917 during the war, grenades became such a necessity in the battlefield that all infantry officers were issued with grenades. The reason why they were becoming so important was because the majority of trench assaults needed  these extra grenades to be able to complete the objectives of overthrowing enemy trenches, they were also needed in order to protect against enemy attacks.
Above is the No. 5 MK. I Hand Grenade, it was one of the most affective infantry weapon that was used throughout the first world war. This type of grenade was first issues in the spring of 1915 to troops. It worked by removing the safety pins, once done there was a 5 second period before the grenade exploded. This gave the troops enough time to throw the grenade upon the targets before it exploded. The weapon was lethal within a 10 meter radius but it was capable of sending shrapnel up 200 meters from the site of detention, making it extremely effective
In the picture above you can see the German egg grenade, it is a model of the grenade from 1917. The reason why this grenade was so successful and effective was due to the fact that it could be thrown up to distances of 50 to 60 meters, this was difficult to do however and could only be executed by experts. It was called the egg grenade because of its shape and appearance.
This is the commonly used stick grenade, it was one of the first models of the grenade from 1915. This model was very unreliable and was not successful because it could only detonate when stuck against a hard surface. Due to this fact the grenade did not work well in the common wet or muddy conditions within the trenches.
Above is the refined and improved German stick grenade from 1917. This model of the grenade featured a 5.5 second delay that the thrower could activate by pulling the toggle at the bottom of the handle, as you can see above. This was a great improvement from the previous 1915 model of the weapon because it was war more reliable due to the timer fuse as opposed to the grenade needing to impact upon a hard surface. On detonation, metal debris would be fired and propelled from an explosive chamber in the grenade.
The rifle grenade shown above was designed in order for the troops in the trenches to be able to propel grenades further than could be done by hand. At the beginning of the war, grenades were sometimes launched with catapults but that method was not reliable at all. The type of grenade above was called a “J” Pattern grenade, it was first introduced in February 1915 and was the first rifle grenade pioneered by the British army. By the end of 1916, Britain was producing 70,000 of these grenades per week. When added into the rifle barrel this grenade could be fired up to distances of 300 meters

Research Question Answer

How did trench warfare spark inventions and innovations in weaponry from the beginning of the first world war till the end?

Due to the constant change in trench warfare and technological advancements, new weapons and tools had to be created to be given the upper hand. All fronts were making developments and they were on ‘the same level of advancement’ for most of the time. When the gas was introduced by the Germans it gave them a huge advantage for a short period of time until the other forces also started using it. The spark was like a butterfly effect: if one country had made an advancement, then the other countries had to make an advancement to be able to keep up and not be completely overthrown by the weaponry of someone else. The only thing that separated a front was the weapons; even though the weapons had the same purpose, they were slightly different and had slightly different characteristics.