32 Interesting Facts about World War I

a group of soldiers sitting in a trench in a trench during World War I
Royal Irish Fusiliers photographed in the trenches on the southern section of the Gallipoli Peninsula during World War I. Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

World War One was a worldwide conflict between the Allied and Central powers that took place between the 28th of July 1914 and the 11th of November 1918. Read and learn about 32 fascinating facts about the First World War that you may not know about!

1. Over 30 nations were involved in the First World War between 1914 and 1918
2. About 20 million people died in WW1, 9.7 million in the military and 10 million civilians
3. The youngest soldier to join the British Army, Sidney Lewis, was just 12 years old when he lied about his age to enlist in August 1915
Sidney Lewis, the youngest soldier in World War I, wearing military uniform in 1916.
13-year-old Sidney Lewis photographed on 18 September 1916 after being discharged from the army after his mother sent his birth certificate to the War Office and demanded his return. He fought in the Battle of the Somme. Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain
4. The total cost of the First World War is estimated at $208 billion (equivalent to about $11 trillion in 2020)
5. Over 12,000 Native Americans served in the US Army during World War I
6. Explosions on the front line in France could sometimes be heard in London, England
7. Diseases including the Spanish Flu caused about a third of all military deaths during the First World War
8. The term “World War I” was first used by Time Magazine in their issue on June 12th, 1939
9. Tanks were initially called “landships” but were renamed to “tanks” in order to preserve secrecy
10. Germany only deployed 20 of their own tanks during the duration of the First World War
A German-captured British tank photographed in 1917 during the First World War. Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-S12137 // CC-BY-SA 3.0
11. France produced more tanks than all other countries combined
12. Russia had the largest army, with over 12 million troops mobilizing during World War I
13. The first British Army soldier to die in action in the First World War was John Parr, who was killed at the age of 17 on the 21st August 1914
14. The first German soldier to die in World War I was Albert Mayer who was shot and killed at the age of 22 on August 2nd, 1914, 1 day before the German Empire formally declared war on France
15. Over 65 million soldiers mobilized for the Central and Allied Powers
16. The first American deaths in World War I occurred on the 3rd November 1917 in Artois, France when 3 soldiers were killed in an early morning raid by the German Army
17. Half of all British merchant shipping was sunk by German U-Boats
18. The first French soldier to die in WW1 was Jules-André Peugeot on the 2nd August 1914 in the same skirmish that the first German soldier died in
19. The deadliest battle of World War I was the Brusilov Offensive in which the Allies and Central powers received over 2 million casualties between June and September 1916
a unit of Russian infantry photographed in World War I
Russian infantry in c. 1917. Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain
20. About 2.35 million African soldiers were mobilized during the First World War, with 250,000 dying.
21. 628 Victoria Cross medals were awarded between 1914 and 1918
22. 121 men received the Medal of Honor for their actions in World War I
23. The oldest soldier in the First World War was 68-year-old William John Paxton who enlisted in the British Army on the 12st October 1914.
24. Future British Prime Minister Winston Churchill oversaw the failed Gallipoli campaign, leading him to resign from the Government and enlist in the army
25. There was a series of temporary ceasefires across the Western Front around Christmas 1914 lasting up to a week in some areas
British and German soldiers photographed together in no mans land during the Christmas truce
British and German soldiers meeting in no-man’s land during the Christmas Truce of 1914. Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain
26. British tanks were labeled as male if they had cannons, and female if they have heavy machine guns
27. The last living veteran of World War I was Florence Green, who died at the age of 110 on the 4th February 2012
28. Allied soldiers sometimes used glow worms as lamps in the trenches
29. Around 8 millions horses died in the First World War
30. The Armistice was signed at 5:45 a.m. by the French Marshal Foch to come into force at 11:00 a.m. Paris time on 11 November 1918
31. American soldier, Henry Gunther, was the last of any side to be killed in World War I, with his death coming at 10:59 a.m., 1 minute before the armistice came into effect
The plaque of the last soldier killed in World War I, Henry Gunther
The plaque of Sgt. Henry N. Gunther in Baltimore, Maryland. Concord // CC BY-SA 3.0
32. The harsh provisions in the Treaty of Versailles are often given as one of the main causes of the Second World War


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