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10 little known facts about WW1

Soldiers wearing WW1 gas masks
Soldiers wearing WW1 gas masks | Image:

Most of us are fairly well versed on many of the facts of Word War I with great battles such as the Somme and Battle of Passchendaele 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.

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.

Article written by: Sky HISTORY