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How effective were the weapons used in


By: Claudio Rugarli


Research Plan
Machine Gun

Claudio Rugarli pag. !1

Research Plan

In this research Im going to find out 5 weapons that were used in WW1 and
judge their positive aspects and their negative aspects. Were these weapons useful?
Why was this weapon invented? Did these weapons deserve to be used? Im going
to research 5 weapons that were highly common used in air, land and sea to show
how WW1 start it all. It was a war that was fought in every possible environment;
even underground. The weapons that Ill talk about are airplanes, zeppelins,
submarines, tanks, and machine guns. Ill bring how these weapons were used on
the Italian front and also some memories from my family about the horrific event.
My main part of the research is going to be taken by internet, books, family
knowledge and maybe a museum. Ill need to try and filter all the things that I find on
google or books to make sure they are in my own words and not in phrases that I
would never say. This will also allow me to understand better the information Im
working with. All of this information is going to be stored and presented on a Google
Doc as it is my favorite type of motor to write. For every weapon Im going to show
when they were invented, who invented them, why was it invented, when was it used
and the impact on the war. Ill put some images to show what the weapon looked

The deadlines that Ill need to try and respect are the following:
- October 21 research plan
- October 26 collect information
- October 29 first draft send to Mrs. Thomas
- October 30 check for any missing information
- November 1 final version
- November 2 finished report

The main problems that I might run into this report may be the fact that on
October 26 I might have way too much information to put it all down so Ill be
challenged to try and sort them out between very important, important, and not
important. During this step I might need to ask the help of an adult, because of their
knowledge, to verify that the information is been sorted out properly. On October 30
Ill read it over and if possible try to add some of the information that I wasnt able to
put in before; this is only if it will still look good and make sense.

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It all started in October 1914 when two planes, a German and a French one,
were jousting in the sky. Rattling of machine guns from both sides until silence from
the Germans; it had jammed so the mechanic stood up to try to fix it, but it didnt
matter, the German plane tipped over, crashed into the ground bursting into flames.
This was the end of the first aerial combat.
Before the war, planes werent taken seriously by military and were seen more
as a sport or hobby. In fact the first airplanes that were made were very flimsy and
made out of wood and canvas. This changed immediately before World War 1 when
people realized that planes could be revolutionary In 1911 the Italians at the war with
Turkey dropped hand grenades into enemy troops from a monoplane, marking the
first offensive use of an aircraft in war. Planes in WWI theatre could fly over the
enemy trenches and spy on them while taking photos and then another squad would
come with bombs and manually drop them on the defined area; which gave an
advantage to the army but the deployment of bombs was a little dangerous and
sometimes they missed the target by few kilometers. Early forms were typically
unarmed and used to spy on enemy territory. Weapons were added and, later on,
machine guns were fixed on them to create the fighter airplane. Many different
aircrafts emerged after this, starting from scouts to night bombers, night fighters,
ground attack and fighters.
Fighters had the machine gun mounted on the top wing of the aircraft or else
it would interfere with the area of the propeller and damage it putting at risk the
pilots security. Shooting the machine gun on the aircraft was as dangerous as been
shot considering the fact that the pilot had to leave the commands of the plane, get
up on his feet and shoot while the airplane was going without a pilot fully controlling
it. German aircrafts builder Fokker took this one step forward when he managed to
put the machine gun at the same level of the pilot and synchronized it with the
propeller so the bullets wouldnt damage it and it would be easier for the pilot to fire;
this was a big advantage for the airplane and gave German air force a temporary
Pilots were highly admired. Their
faces were known to everyone, and
their uniforms were covered with
medals and decorations. They were
seen like knights because of their
heroic battles in the skyes. Pilots
respected the opponent and before
start fighting they would risk their lives
to throw the flag the the enemy
country and make sure he had seen it
before start shooting. These

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individuals prefered to go out hunting the enemy on their own. However, in 1917 the
Germans adopted a new strategy. Allied pilots would patrol with German Fokker
planes in groups of eight to ten. Individuals became very rare since groups always
By the end of the war, France had 8 000 pilots and 3 600 planes. In these four
years, flying progress and the technology on planes had evolved more than what it
did in the fourteen years before war. Planes became from slow and disarmed vehicle
to a faster, stronger and armed with machine guns and bombs piece of equipment.
Airplanes did have a big impact on the war and even more during WW2, but
for the first time they showed how a new technology could be extensively used in the
war. American General Mitchell was a supporter of the new weapon and claimed that
the only damage that has come to Germany has been through the air.
To understand the scale of the air operation, during the war the German lost
around 28 000 aircrafts while France and Great Britain 88 000, while more than
220.000 were built.

World War I Aircraft Production








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Machine Gun

The first machine gun was built in US by Gatling in 1862 and limitedly tried
during the American Civil War. It became the weapon we know when Hiram Maxim
had the idea to use the energy of the recoil to power the reloading. The new
weapons was so effective that it was soon defined as the devil's watering can
because of how it could shoot so many bullets per minute (500-600 rpm) and kill so
many people.
This capability was much appreciated by the generals in WWI because a limited
crew of 4-6 men with a machinegun could stop many regiments of soldiers. The war
would never have been the same with two lines of soldiers shooting each other in an
open battlefield. The battle became soon a trench warfare, with million of soldiers
hidden in tunnels and holes to protect
themselves and with attack quickly stopped with
heavy losses. More soldiers died because of that
in WWI than in WW2, for example Italy lost half
million men between 1915-1918, and around one
fifth three decade later.
So during WWI the machine gun was very
popular in the different armies and its production
skyrocketed: only Italy, which started with around
600 of them, ended the war with 20 000.
Germany from the other side started with 12 000
and reached soon 100 000 with a peak of 14 000
machine guns built per month!!
There were many different brands that fabricated
machine guns; the Italian army used mainly the
FIAT Revelli mod. 1914 which was one of the our
best machine guns that could be compared to the
German or Austrian products. The advantage of
this model was that it used the same munition of
the rifle mod. 1891, carried by Italian soldiers
during that time, so the supply to the front line
was more efficient and flexible. Its range was
around 2000m and the accuracy was quite
decent at this distance. Standalone tt wasnt too
heavy, even with the tripod included (35kg), but
the cooling system made it heavier than the
Austrian one. Infact FIAT wasnt able the make a
smart system to cool the barrel down, so soldiers
also had to carry a big and heavy container of
water to avoid the overheating. But what was

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even worst was the fact that it jammed often due to the way the machine gun
obtained the bullets. Bullets were stored in a metal magazine and to be reliable it
would have needed to be clean which was impossible in muddy trenches; as
consequence it was less effective than the Austrian one which had a smarter
reloading system. Bullets were stored in a belt so even if in muddy condition it would
practically never jam. Other famous models were the English Vickers, the American
Browning and the German Maschinengewehr.
Machine guns were very effective in the first part of the war when no real
countermeasures were in place and thousands of soldier were dying under their fire.
Later on new technologies and weapons were developed to fight such a power, like
lethal gas and tank, but the machine gun left its permanent fingerprint on the events,
making the war one of the bloodiest ever in history.

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Invented around the middle of the 19th century, u-boats were one of the most
powerful weapons used by Germany in WW1 and had a terrific impact on the war. U-
boat is the anglicised version of the German u-boot, abbreviation of unterseeboot,
literally undersea boat. Because of this weapon, for the first time Germany could
compete with the British navy for the control of the ocean, threatening the supply of
the British islands with the remote colonies of the Empire and its allies, especially
US. Furthermore a u-boat was involved in the event that forced US to enter the war
causing eventually the loss of Germany.
When the first u-boat was built by Schwefel & Howaldt, in 1850, it sank right
away in the dockyard of Kiel, north of Germany. Only in 1903 Germaniawerft
dockyard managed to build a functional u-boat named Forelle; but was sold to
Russia. The first commissioned by the German navy was the U-1 in 1906 but built in
1905. To keep the tradition, Germany used the same code, with the progressive
number, to name all of its future submarines till WW2. The modern German navy re-
started from U-1 after the end of the Second World War.
When the war broke out, Germany's submarines were the most advanced in
the world because they had new innovations like a cannon on the top of the deck,
so when emerged it could shoot the enemies, front torpedoes were added so it could
shoot enemy ships without emerging or getting seen, and mines could be released in
the water to sink vessels when they floated over them. Another big innovation was
the presence of two different engines: a diesel for surface operation, allowing it to
cover up to 9 800 miles which meant it had fully access to the Atlantic Ocean, and an
electric motor powered by batteries recharged by the first motor during surface
operation. This feature allowed submerged navigation for around 90 miles and up to
270m under water, making easy for
the u-boats to pass the British
channel without being detected by
the British Navy, something that the
powerful German surface fleet
couldnt do. This gave a strategic
advantage to Germany also
because, at that time, there wasnt
an advanced technology just yet to
detect the submarines and blow
them up.
The typical u-boat was around
67 meters long and 10 meters high. The internal layout was composed by six main
sections: starting from the bow there is the torpedo room, then theres the galley and
the officers quarter, followed by the radio room and control room where the ship was
handled, the crew cabin was next and at the end the engine room with the diesel

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and electric motor. They started the war with 28 of such a submarine and built 360 till
the end of the military operation.
German u-boat sank more tons of shipping than the surface fleet, mainly
merchant ships coming in from Canada, US, and British dominions. At the beginning
of the war the submarines followed the so called prize rules which at that time
stated that passenger ships may not be sunk, crews of merchant ships must be
placed in safety before their ships may be sunk and only warships and merchant
ships that were a threat to the attacker may be sunk without warning. Going forward,
the Kaiser decides to fully block any communication of the British islands with the
external world, giving instructions to his submarine captains to sink every ship, even
the neutral ones. Quite significant
was the sunk of the Lusitania, an
English liner that in May 1915 was
approaching Liverpool from New
York City. With more than 2200
passengers on board, it was
torpedoed by a German u-boat on
May 7th, south of Ireland. More
than 1200 people died in the cold
water of the Atlantic. The event
turned the American public opinion
even more against Germany,
convincing the President Wilson to
enter in the war. Germany attacked that ship thinking that it was also carrying
weapons that were going to be used against them, but Americans denied that even
if, a few years later, they finally admitted that there were military supply on the ship.
U-boats showed how effective they were in WW1 and that they would have
been the game changing machine for the next couple of decades for the control of
the seas. They also showed how the war had become a total war, which meant
everyone was involved in it, knowing it or not, because the new technology brought
the conflict to the next level.

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Dirigibles were built to realized a very smart and new idea which was to attack
through the air cities and bomb them, frightening civilians and hopefully make them
want to surrender. The theory behind the idea was right, but the technology bringing
it to life was too immature and only in the Second World War it proved its
effectiveness. Both parties tried to implement airplanes big enough to carry heavy
bombs but propellers werent powerful enough to support all of that weight so
dirigibles were the only practical solution to hit enemies so deep into their territory
like industries, military bases, train tracks and also cities.
German Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin is considered the father of the rigid
dirigible, called Zeppelin from his last name. Before him, dirigibles were built without
an internal frame that he developed to make them bigger and suitable for installing
an engine with propellers to move in the air. He first started developing the idea in
1874 but the finished full funcional product was tested only on July the 2nd, 1900,
near the lake of Constance. The airship was 128m long and was named LZ1 from
Luftschiff Zeppelin. At the beginning Zeppelin struggled to make his company
profitable, because of lack of funding, but later he evolved the product to a reliable
airship and the LZ3 was the first truly successfully zeppelin. The production raised
when the military understood the potential use of this machine as a heavy bomber,
something the planes at that time couldn't do well because of their limitations.
Apart from the metallic
rigid frame, the zeppelin
w a s i n fl a t e d w i t h
hydrogen to make it
lighter than air but
exposing it at a high
risk of explosion. This
was the down side to it
especially in a war
environment, while its
capability to fly higher
and farther than any
planes gave it a
competitive advantage
during that period of
time. In fact they could fly non-stop for almost 400km at around 800m of altitude;
they could reach the speed of 150km/h and carry 2tons of bombs. A curiosity: to
ensure that the hydrogen wouldnt leak out, the engineers used the intestinal lining of
the cow to cover the surface of the gas chambers, which took 250 000 cows for only
one zeppelin! Tought to believe but during the war, Germany stopped the production
of sausages to concentrate it all on airships.

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On January 19th, 1915, three zeppelins, LZ3, LZ4, and LZ6 set off to England
and two of them were able to reach the coast, dropping bombs on the city of Kings
Lynn and Great Yarmouth. After that more zeppelins started bombing Liege,
Antwerp, and Paris and on May 31st, 1915, London was attacked for the first time in
history by air; a German dirigible dropped 90 incendiary bombs and 30 grenades
killing seven people and wounding 35. For more than one year the zeppelins didnt
have any real opposition because they flew too high for British and French planes.
The population was so scared that British propaganda used it to push more people
to join the army.
Only in September 1916, when 16 German
dirigibles attacked again the british soil, they
found a harsh defence system with planes
able to reach their altitude and to fire
explosives bullets. The attack was so
rejected and a zeppelin for the first time was
shot down. Dirigibles stopped being an
overpowered weapon by just looking at how
Germany attacked 50 times with zeppelins
and out of 115 dirigibles involved, 77 of them
were shot down. This means that almost 30
million German cows were also killed in
Ive got also a family memory regarding the
zeppelin. The grandmother of my dad lived
in Naples during the WWI when she was 10
years old and she used to tell my dad how
everyone was so scared because some zeppelins managed to drop a few bombs on
the city; but that was nothing compared to what she experienced in WW2, when the
tactics developed with the dirigibles were fully exploited with more advanced planes.

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Machine guns were changing the way armies fought. The defender became
always stronger than the attacker, so the war ended up as trench warfare where no
one was strong enough to break the enemy lines and thousands of soldiers were
dying in the useless tentative of taking over the enemy. This problem made Britain
think of a possible solution to insure that its army would be able to make some
improvements in the battlefield without losing too many soldiers.
In 1914, a British army Colonel named Ernest Swinton and William Hankey,
secretary of the Committee for Imperial Defence, brought on the idea of an armored
vehicle with a special belt-like tracks over its wheels that could break through enemy
lines, defend soldiers from machine guns fire and traverse difficult territory. Winston
Churchill, at that time minister of the navy, sponsored the development of it and the
William Foster engineering company was appointed for the job. The top secret work
was carried out in a room at the White Hart Hotel in the city of Lincoln, where the
company was headquartered. To keep the project as secret as possible from
possible enemy spies, all the people were told that the new machine would have
been used to carry water to the troops on the battlefield, so they called the vehicle
water tank and going forward the name tank stuck.
The first prototype, Little Willie, was unveiled in September 1915 but it wasnt
ready for the battle: it was too slow and unable to cross enemy trenches. The second
version, Big Willie, was released in the battle with the official name of Mark 1 and
proved that, despite being noisy and slow, it had possibilities to change the balance
in the battle. It had a
crew of 8 and a total
weight of 28 tons with
an armor thick around
12mm. It was armed
with 6 pounders guns
or with 3-4 machine
guns and they were
typically used in
pairs, one carrying
the cannons and the
other one the guns. Globally 150 Mark I were produced and design was later
improved for new models, till 400 Mark IV, during the battle of Cambrai in 1917, were
able to capture 8000 enemy soldiers and 100 guns. Overall the British built 2 600
tanks during the war while the French built 3 800. One the other side Germany didnt
embrace this technology limiting the production to fewer than 100 units. The German
General von Maritz, asked about tanks, answered what use are tanks?.
The tank was a game changer in the battlefield but, as many other
technologies, it was still very immature and reached its full potential only during

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WW2. The story of the tank shows how in WW1 the countries put all their effort,
knowledge, and capability to try and solve new challenges that came from the
opponents. In 1915 British Admiral Jacky Fisher wrote that the war would have been
won by inventions and history proved him right.

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