12 Little Known Facts about WWI


The Great War may have fascinated us with its bloody bloodbaths and trench warfare, but these 12 little-known facts about tell us that there was more to the war than its horrifying realities.

1: The youngest British soldier during the Great War was only 12 years old.

Sidney Lewis was only a mere 12-year-old lad when he lied about his age so he could join the British army and fight in the war. He became part of the many underage boys who ended fighting alongside fully grown men in the front lines of the Great War.

Some did it out of patriotism, others did it as a means to escape their humdrum lives back at home.

2: An explosion that occurred on France’s battlefield was heard all the way to London.
WWI mine crater in Messines Ridge.
WWI mine crater in Messines Ridge.

There’s roughly about 343 kilometers, as the crow flies, separating London and France. That’s too much ground to cover. But in the Great War, an explosion, which occurred on the battlefield in France was so big it was heard by the British Prime Minister all the way in Downing Street.

That unbelievably loud explosion occurred at the Messines Ridge in Belgium and was made by over 900,000 pounds of explosives placed by miners 100 feet underneath the enemy’s trenches then simultaneously detonated. The resulting explosion destroyed 19 of tunnels, the majority of the Germans’ front lines.

3: About 12 million letters reached the front each week.


Unbelievably, it only took two days for a letter from Britain to reach the front lines in France. Its journey started at the letter depot in Regent’s Park after which it was delivered, along with the many others, into the trenches.

At the end of the Great War, letters numbering up to 2 billion and parcels of up to 114 million were sent off.

4: Journalists faced death penalty during the Great War.

Journalism was banned during the First World War. Reporting about the happenings in the front lines was, in the opinion of those running the War Office, aiding the enemy. So caught WWI journalists faced execution. The handful reporters who during the Great War faced two great ordeals — that of the war itself and the government back home.

5: Out of 10 British soldiers in the trenches, 9 survived.


Unbelievable but true — as many as 9 out of 10 soldiers survived the trenches. It was rare for a WWI British soldier to be under the enemy’s firing line. Subjected to the trench system meant they have to be constantly on the move.

Words to describe the typical life of a Tommy during the Great War would have been boredom and a regular routine.

6: Generals were banned in WWI’s front lines.
French General Emile Eugene Belin (R) visiting the front line near Arras, Northern France / Collection Odette Carrez
French General Emile Eugene Belin (R) visiting the front line near Arras, Northern France / Collection Odette Carrez

There is this stereotypical belief that generals during the Great War hid behind the trousers of the soldiers under them. Soldiers sacrificed their lives in the front lines while their commanders sat in comfort and directed the battles in fortified walls.

That wasn’t true at all. In fact, many WWI generals were killed, they had to be banned from going into the front lines and fighting in the battles themselves. The experience these generals have were too vital to lose.

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