An explosion on the battlefield in France could be heard in England. In Messines Ridge Belgium, miners detonated more than 431,000 kilograms of explosives, destroying the German front line. The explosion was so loud and powerful that it was heard by British Prime Minister David Lloyd George, 140 miles away on Downing Street.
World War I journalists risked their lives reporting on the war. The government tried to control the flow of information from the front lines during the war and journalists were banned from reporting. The Ministry of War (British Government) regarded reporting on the war as helping the enemy and if journalists were caught, they were sentenced to death.
Every week, 12 million letters were delivered to the front line. Even in times of war, it took only two days for a letter from Great Britain to be delivered to France. By the end of the war, more than two billion letters and 114 million packages had been delivered to the trenches!
Plastic surgery was invented because of the First World War. One of the earliest examples of plastic surgery came about during World War I when a surgeon by the name of Harold Gillies helped shrapnel victims with horrible facial injuries.
The youngest British soldier in the First World War was only 12 years old. More than 250,000 underage soldiers fought in the First World War. The youngest was a boy named Sidney Lewis who was just 12 years old but lied about his age to get involved. There were many thousands of underage boys who signed up and most lied about their age. Some participated out of love for their country, while others did it to escape the bad conditions, they lived in.
Blood banks were developed during the First World War. It was during World War I that the routine use of blood transfusion was used to treat wounded soldiers. In 1917, a US Army physician, Captain Oswald Johnson, established the first blood bank on the Western Front. He used trisodium citrate to keep the blood from clotting and making it unusable. The blood was kept in ice for 28 days and transported to the casualty shelters as needed for use in lifesaving operations for soldiers who had lost a lot of blood.
9 out of 10 British soldiers survived the trenches. British soldiers were rarely in the firing range in World War I. They moved continuously in the trench system and were usually shielded from the dangers of enemy fire. Most of the British soldiers who fought in World War I had a regular routine and dullness.
British army generals had to be banned from going ‘over-the-top’. A common stereotype is that regular soldiers were used by the higher ranks. Because incompetent generals do not spend time on the front line while thousands of soldiers were killed. In fact, so many British generals wanted to fight and had to be banned from going for it because they could be killed, and a general’s experience was too important to lose.