War is hell, except when it is fun. We are used to see sombre picture from World War 1 showing the death and devastation caused by the fighting. Here however is a slightly unusual and offbeat picture from 1914.
A young boy is stuffed inside the open mouth of a captured German trench mortar. He seems to be loving the idea that he might be shot out of a cannon. On the left, a French soldier is also smiling and laughing. The scene seems peaceful and lighthearted.
Yet the front was probably only a few miles away and most likely the fighting swept through this French village at some point, upending the lives of these peoples and their families. If they survived the war, chances are that they did not experience many more light hearted moments like this.
On April 2, 1916, two German Zeppelin bombers were spotted making their way along the British coast.
They were part of a campaign of air raids targeting British installations, including dockyards, as well as civilian targets. The big, lumbering airships carried a big payload of bombs and while both sides had airships, none were as feared or as efficient as the German Zeppelins.
It was night time and the sky and the land were both dark. All the lights in town had been turned off to avoid giving the German bombers a way of getting their bearings, but the lights of a nearby railway station were still burning, which may have acted as a beacon for the airships. One could hear the engines of the big zeppelins but they were invisible amid the darkened sky.
The people of the town of Togston could see flashes in the distance, and the rumble of exploding bombs, as the zepellins dropped their bombs on nearby towns. Then it was their turn.
The machines passed over main street and dropped their loads before turning out to sea and returning to their bases across the channel. This time the people of Togston were lucky: the bombs did some damage, breaking windows and knocking down some ceilins but the bombs missed whatever the zeppelin bombardiers were aiming for. One bomb landed in parcel of open land, leaving a large crater, which became the center of excitement in this small town.
This is a color photograph of a French soldiers crew manning a 1907 St. Etienne machine gun. The St. Etienne machine gun was a light infantry weapon used widely by the French army during world war 1. It was manufactured from 1908 to 1917, and over 36,000 were produced. The gun derives it name from the fact that it was designed at the French national arsenal at Saint Etienne.
It featured a variable rate of fire that could be set at between 8 to 600 rounds per minute. The mechanism was gas actuated and compared to a fine clockwork.
Despite, advanced design and engineering, the St Etienne was not a particularly good machine gun. The mud and dirt of the front lines tended to get into the mechanisms and cause frequent jams. As a result, beginning in 1917 this machine gun was removed from the front lines and replaced with the simpler and more reliable Hotchkiss 1914 machine gun. The surviving St. Etiennes were transferred for use in the French colonies, where any opponents tended to lack much firepower of their own, or sold off to Italy and other allied countries.
A German Uboat can be seen surfacing. It’s conning tower and bow are already above the water and it is moving on the surface. Possessing a much weaker surface navy than the British, the Germans made extensive use of submarines to attack enemy shipping and even surface warships.
This photograph of a French sergeant and his dog during world war 1 looks some steampunk, post apocalyptic hell. In fact, this duo formed part of a team of medics whose job was to locate wounded soldiers on the battlefield and bring them back to a field hospital. They also collected the dead. where possible, for burial.
The dog’s keen nose was used to find survivors as well as deceased soldiers who might be hidden under rubble or in the mud. You can see a stretcher party in the far left background removing a casualty.
Below is a closeup of the stretcher party:
And here is a closeup magnifying the dog handler’s gas mask. When you see it up close, it is remarkable how primitive his protective gear is.
Below is a picture of the dog’s gas mask. You have to wonder how effective this protection was for the poor dog. Even if the mask managed to keep out the gas, it would surely leave toxins on his fur which he would later lick. I am also surprised that the dog could still do his job of detecting fallen soldiers, because I would have thought that the mask would block off his sense of smell, but apparently even poison gas and filters could not keep this brave dog from doing his duty.