Weird Russian Weapons – Part 1

Weird Russian WeaponI came across this interesting picture from World War 1 labelled “Russian Barricade”. It looks to be a sort of improvised armoured barricade with primitive wheels. It’s not a tank, it’s not an armoured car. Frankly I have never seen anything like it.

 

The front end is a sloped metal armoured plate with gun holes. It would appear that it was designed to provide a mobile shield or shelter for soldiers who would fire through the loop holes. The wheels are an indication that the contraption was meant to be moved around into position but its complete lack of tires or any sort of suspension probably would have meant that it would have been almost impossible to move over rough terrain. Plus the soldiers firing from behind the barricade would have no protection from shrapnel or exploding shells striking behind the shield or exploding in the air above it. I am not aware of it ever being used in actual combat, and in fact I don’t know anything about this weird Russian weapon except what is in this picture.

 

I have provided some blow ups of various parts of the photograph to get more detail into what this is. One word of caution: the label on the photo said that it was a Russian Barricade, but it seems to me that the man with the rifle is wearing a German helmet, so really I am not even sure if this was a German creation or a Russian one. The picture was taken around 1915.

 

Wheeks

Closeup of the Wheel Mechanism

 

Closeup of the Man Firing

Closeup of the Man Firing

British Marines and Belgian Soldiers

British Marines WW1A group of Belgian soldiers and allied British marines fraternize over a some tea and biscuits. The troops are on an armoured train somewhere on the Belgian section of the western front in 1914.

Tiny Belgium bore the brunt of the initial German offensive against the allies, as the Germans tried to bypass the strong French frontier defences by invading Belgium and then striking at Paris. The Belgians had a treaty of neutrality with Germany, but the Kaiser famously referred to it as a “scrap of paper” and sent his troops pouring into Belgium.

Despite being hopelessly outmatched, the Belgians put up a defiant resistance which held up the German advance until British and French reinforcements could arrive. The Belgian resistance threw off the German time table for invasion and may have in fact cost Germany the war.

The Germans would never forget the role that the Belgians played in unsettling their war plans, and so treated occupied Belgium extremely harshly. Any resistance was met with executions and other harsh measures. Civilians were conscripted as slave labour to work in German war factories and on farms.

Most of Belgium was occupied by the Germans and their capital city taken, but the Belgians did not surrender and with French and British help held on to a sliver of their country on the western front. It was on the Belgian section of the front that most of the bloodiest fighting took place. Eventually as the German front collapsed in 1918, the allies were able to liberate most of the country and the Belgians were freed.

Sister Ship of the Titanic

RMS Olympic During WW1

RMS Olympic During WW1

The Titanic has become famous for its spectacular and tragic end, and has overshadowed its sister ships, the Britannic and the Olympic.

All three ships were classified as Olympic Class ships, and were intended as luxury transatlantic ocean liners. Of the three ships, both Titanic and the Britannic met tragic ends, though the Britannic is now largely forgotten. The Olympic had a long and illustrious career as an ocean liner and as a troop ship during the war.

Pictured above is the RMS Olympic, sister ship to the Titanic, painted with a camouflage design. The pattern was designed to make it harder for any u-boat or enemy ship to accurately gauge the size, speed and direction of travel of the ship.

The Olympic made its maiden voyage in 1911 and was serving as a transatlantic ocean liner at the beginning of the war, linking Britain to the United States. It was requisitioned by the Royal Navy and pressed into service as a troop ship. In this role, it the Olympic earned the nickname of “Old Reliable,” due to its unblemished record of ferrying over 200,000 allied troops without any incident or loss.

The other sister ship to the Titanic, the Britannic was not so lucky. The Britannic had not yet been completed when the war began and at first it was laid up in dry dock by its owners, who were unsure what to do with her, since the outbreak of the war had killed the transatlantic passenger trade. She was finally launched in December 1915 and converted into a hospital ship with the Royal Navy.

The Britannic’s career was almost as short as the Titanic. She sank on November 21, 1916 while on duty in the Aegean sea, there was an explosion. It may have been caused by a floating mine or a torpedo fired by a submarine. Despite brave attempts to save the ship, it soon sank, with the loss of only 30 deaths out of 1066 on board. The Britannic was the largest ship sunk during World War 1.

Violet Jessup Survived the Sinking of the Titanic and the Britannic, and Was On Board the Olympic, When it Very Nearly Sank

Violet Jessup Survived the Sinking of the Titanic and the Britannic, and Was On Board the Olympic, When it Very Nearly Sank

The sinking of the Britannic provides one of those interesting historical footnotes that sound like fiction. One of the survivors of the sinking of the Britannic was a British nurse named Violete Jessup. Before volunteering to serve as a nurse on board the Olympic, Jessup had served as a stewardess aboard the Titanic and had survived her sinking. Ten she had transferred to Titanic’s sister ship, the Olympic and was on board that ship when the Olympic collided with a cruiser in 1911 and almost sank. And then she was on board the ill fated Britannic when she sank. Personally I would not have wanted to be on any ship that Jessup was on.

After the war, Jessup went back to being a stewardess working for the White Star shipping line and she lived to the ripe old age of 83. Presumably none of the other ships that she served on met a watery grave,

 

 

Without Men – The New Role of Women in World War 1

women entering the workforce

Women Serving as Firefighters in London, 1916

 

With so many men dead, wounded or away at the front – women were needed to run the factories and take over what had been traditionally male jobs. Here a group of women can be seen practicing evacuating people from a building using a ladder.

Today, a woman working as a firefighter is not longer unusual, so much so that the use of the word fireman has fallen into disuse in favour of the more inclusive and gender neutral “firefighter”.

The women in this picture were definitely trail blazers, but I can’t help notice that even though they were doing non-traditional jobs, these women were still saddled with traditionally female clothing. The women are all wearing long skirts and large platform shoes. Imagine trying to rescue someone from a burning building in these outfits. They would be likely to trip or even catch fire because of all of the excess fabric flapping dangerously around.

Still, World War 1 did much to break down gender stereotypes and free women in the west from being pigeon holed into traditional occupations.