World war 1

Most of us are fairly well versed on many of the facts of Word War I, but there are some that are so quirky that they have failed entirely to make the schoolbooks. In honour of the Great War’s centenary, here are the top ten little known facts about World War I that might just come as a surprise to you.

1. Tanks had genders

At the beginning of the war, tanks were grouped according to their ‘gender’. The male tanks had cannons attached while the females carried machine guns. The prototype tank was named Little Willie.

Related: Top Tanks in history

2. Women’s skin turned yellow

WWI saw many women join the working forces. Those who worked with TNT saw their skin turn yellow as a result, as they suffered from toxic jaundice.

3. Explosions in France were heard in London

A team of miners worked in secret to dig tunnels under the trenches during the war in order to plant and detonate mines there. The detonations destroyed much of the German front line and were so great, the prime minister then heard the sound in London, 140 miles away.

4. ‘Liberty sausage’, ‘liberty cabbage’ and ‘liberty dogs’ were born

In America, suspicion of the Germans was so high that even German shepherd dogs were killed. The names of frankfurters, hamburgers, sauerkraut and dachshunds were all changed to American names, German stopped being taught in schools and German-language books were banned. Before the war, it had been the second most widely spoken language in the US.

5.  WWI saw pioneering advances in modern medicine

Inspired by the sight of soldiers’ faces ravaged by shrapnel, many of which remained covered by masks, Harold Gillies established the field of plastic surgery, pioneering the first attempts of facial reconstruction. As well as this, blood transfusions became routine to save soldiers, with the first blood bank established on the front line in 1917.

6. Dr. Doolittle was created

The Dr. Doolittle stories were born of Hugh Lofting’s aversion to writing his children about the true horrors of the war and trench life. Instead, more creative letters were sent.

7. Franz Ferdinand’s licence plate was the cause of a strange coincidence

Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife were assassinated on June 28th 1914, an event which led to the beginning of the war. Strangely, the Archduke’s number plate read: A 111 118, a series that can be read as, Armistice 11 November ‘18.

8. Both Native Americans and African Americans served during the war

Despite the fact that they weren’t granted citizenship in America until 1924, nearly 13,000 Native Americans fought during the war. Over 200,000 African Americans also served, but only 11% in combat and this in segregated divisions.

9. The youngest authenticated combatant to serve was only 12

Many young men faked their age in order to sign up early. The youngest to do so was Sidney Lewis, who was only 12 years old at the time.

10.  Woodrow Wilson ran his campaign for a second presidential term with an anti-war slogan

“He kept us out of war” was the slogan Woodrow Wilson adopted when he ran for his second term in office. However, he immediately reneged on this concept when he was sworn in, declaring war on Germany only around a month later. 

Source; history

World war 2

1) France had more tanks, guns and men than Germany in 1940
It is always assumed that during the Second World War the Germans bludgeoned their way to victory with a highly modern and mechanised army and Air Force that was superior to anything the Allies could muster in May 1940. The reality was very different.

On 10 May 1940, when the Germans attacked, only 16 of their 135 divisions were mechanised – that is, equipped with motorised transport. The rest depended on horses and cart or feet. France alone had 117 divisions.

France also had more guns: Germany had 7,378 artillery pieces and France 10,700. It didn't stop there: the Germans could muster 2,439 tanks while the French had 3,254, most of which were bigger, better armed and armoured than the German panzers.


2) The priority for manpower in the UK is surprising
Britain had decided before the war began that it would make air and naval power the focus of its fighting capability, and it was only after the fall of France that British powers realised that the Army would have to grow substantially too.

However, right up until the spring of 1944, the priority for manpower in the UK was not the navy, RAF, army, or even the merchant navy, but the Ministry of Aircraft Production. In the war, Britain alone built 132,500 aircraft, a staggering achievement – especially when considering that Fighter Command in the battle of Britain never had more than 750 fighters.

3) Allied merchant shipping losses were just 1 per cent
Allied shipping losses in the Second World War in the North Atlantic, Arctic and Home Waters were just 1.48 per cent. Overall, there were 323,090 individual sailings, of which 4,786 were sunk. Of these, 2,562 were British, but on average, there were around 2,000 British ships sailing somewhere around the world on any given day.

Convoys, for the most part, were pretty safe, even though a few suffered terribly. Independent sailings and stragglers from convoys suffered the worst, but faster independent sailings were needed to cut down on unloading time and congestion, which was the drawback of the convoy system.


4) Britain had the least rationing in Europe
France and Britain began the war without rationing and, while it was modestly introduced in Britain in January 1940, France had still resisted by the time they were defeated in June 1940. Germany, on the other hand, introduced rationing before the war and struggled to feed its armed forces and the wider population from start to finish.

The country’s demand for food from occupied territories led to a lot of hunger for a lot of people, including the urban French. British people never had to go hungry and, although a number of foods were rationed, there were lots that were not. Certainly, by 1945, Britain had it very easy compared with the rest of Europe.

5) The Japanese had Kamikaze rockets
It was not only the Germans who put rocket-power aircraft into the air in the Second World War. After their initial victories, the Japanese struggled to pace with US and British technology, but they did develop the Ohka – or ‘Cherry Blossom’, a rocket-power human-guided anti-shipping missile, which was used at the end of the war as a kamikaze weapon.

It had to be carried by a ‘mother’ plane to get within range, then once released would glide towards the target – usually a ship – before the pilot would fire the rockets and hurtle in at up to 600 mph. Ohka pilots were called Jinrai Butai – ‘thunder gods’ – but only managed to sink three Allied ships. It was a lot of effort and sacrifice for not very much.


6) Field Marshal Alexander was the most experienced battlefield commander of the war
Field Marshal Alexander was known to every Britain in the country by the war's end, but he is less well known today. He had an extraordinary career, and was the only officer of the war to lead front-line troops at every rank.

After rising to acting Brigadier in the First World War, he led the Nowshera Brigade on the Northwest Frontier in the 1930s, the First Division in France in 1940, and British forces in Burma in 1942. He commanded Middle East Forces and two army groups before finally becoming Supreme Allied Commander in the Mediterranean.

He was also unique in the British Army for having commanded German troops in Latvia in 1919-20 during the war against Russia.

7) There was a difference between Allied & German fighter aces
The Luftwaffe had an entirely different approach to their 'aces.' Not only were pilots expected to fly on operations longer without breaks, they also actively helped their leading shots get big scores with lesser mortals protecting them while the 'experten' did the shooting.

On the Eastern Front they came up against badly armed and trained Soviet aircraft and soon the leading pilots began amassing huge scores. Bibi Hartmann was the leading ace of all time with 352 'kills'. The leading Allied ace of the entire war was RAF ace, James 'Johnnie' Johnson with 38 kills.


8) The missing Luftwaffe fighter plane
At the same time as Messerschmitt was developing the Bf109, rival firm Heinkel were also putting forward a new all-metal monoplane fighter, the He112. Early prototypes of each were pretty evenly matched in terms of speed and rate of climb and both the Me109E, as Messerschmitt’s fighter became, and the He112E had speeds of more than 350mph.

The latter could climb to 20,000 feet in 10 minutes. More importantly, it had a very sturdy inwardly-retracting undercarriage that made it easy to land for newly trained pilots, and a phenomenal range of some 715 miles, which was better even than the twin-engine Messerschmitt 110.

The He112 would have been the ideal partner to the Me109 – and its range was an advantage in the battle of Britain and elsewhere. However, while Willy Messerchmitt was a good party man and Göring had a special (and irrational) fondness for the Me110,  Heinkel had a whiff of Jewish blood – so the Heinkel fighter was dropped.


9) The American Parsons Jacket was designed with comfort in mind
The standard and most widely worn US Army field tunic of the war was the M41, better known as the Parsons Jacket. This was introduced in 1941 following trials by the US 5th Division in exercises in the Midwest and Alaska in the summer and autumn of 1940, and was given its name after Major-General Parsons, the divisional commander.

The design, however, was based on a pre-war civilian windcheater: the rapidly expanding US Army recognised that most of its recruits were conscripts and that comfort, durability and practicality were more important than slick military bearing. With a zip and button front, it was a simple, lightweight and warm short jacket that required little tailoring and wasted no material, and which was designed in consultation with Esquire magazine’s fashion desk.

10) Germany’s motor transport was minimal
German wartime propaganda that the Third Reich had a highly mechanised and modern army is still widely believed, but actually, in 1939, Germany was one of the least automotive societies in the western world, despite the autobahns and Grand Prix victories of Mercedes.

On the outbreak of war, there were 47 people for every motor vehicle in Germany. In Britain, that figure was 14, in France it was eight, and in the USA it was four. This meant the German army was largely dependent on railways, horses and carts and the feet of its soldiers to get around; there were only 16 mechanised divisions in the army in May 1940.

More importantly, however, such comparatively low numbers of motor vehicles meant there were fewer factories, fewer workshops, fewer petrol pumps and fewer people who knew how to drive. In other words, it was a shortage that could not be easily rectified.


Source: Historyxtra

American civil war (1861-1865)

The American Civil War, widely known in the United States as simply the Civil War as well as other names, was a civil war fought from 1861 to 1865 to determine the survival of the Union or independence for the Confederacy. Among the 34 states in January 1861, seven Southern slave states individually declared their secession from the United States of America and formed the Confederate States of America. The Confederacy, often simply called the South, grew to include eleven states, and although they claimed thirteen states and additional western territories, the Confederacy was never diplomatically recognized by any foreign country. The states that remained loyal and did not declare secession were known as the Union or the North. The war had its origin in the factious issue of slavery, especially the extension of slavery into the western territories.[N 1] After four years of combat, which had left around 750,000 Americans, Union and Confederate, dead and had destroyed much of the South's infrastructure, the Confederacy collapsed and slavery was abolished. Then began the Reconstruction and the processes of restoring national unity and guaranteeing civil rights to the freed slaves.