An item in a newspaper clip has led me to explore something than most people have probably forgotten. That is the humor create by and for the troops in the trenches. Many people know about Willy and Joe, Bill Mauldin’s long suffering GI’s in WW2, but how many know about the mustachioed Old Bill who haunted the trenches in WW1?
World War 1 saw great advances in the care of the wounded. Significantly that was probably because there were more wounded rather than slowly dying to take care of. That was because transportation advances, specifically the development of automobiles and trucks that could be reliable enough to stand up to military requirements enabled the wounded to get to treatment faster and thus survive.
If you look at artillery of the American Civil War and the Artillery of the First World War they are nothing alike. A typical field artillery piece of the American Civil war would be fully familiar in all respects to an artilleryman from the 18th Century and even the 17th Century or earlier. There would be some improvements in the carriage and fittings, but the basic piece and how it was fired would be something that the gunner from the army of Gustavus Aldolphus would have no problems with. Forty years later and that gunner would have no clues as how the gun was fabricated or operated.
I started a WW1 board on Pinterest and one series of pictures that kept turning up were pictures of the badly wounded, especially face wounds. These were soldiers who were horribly disfigured by the shells, bullets and debris that struck them in the trenches. Pinterest is sort of a collector with algorithms. I started a board where I could store pics of WW1 tanks, guns and trenches for some posts here and then when the algorithm figured out that I was looking for pics of WW1, pictures of soldiers showed, many of them on their way to the war. Some of the things in this post are going to be ugly and gruesome. There’s no real way to color it over and I’m not even going to try. History should be looked and read as it was, not as we would like it to be.
This post is the result of a couple of encounters with one of those weird pieces of ordnance that came out of the late 19th Century. I’m going to post the links in reverse order to which I encountered them, starting with this tumblr post of a small metal pillbox used for anti tank purposes on the Hindenburg Line on the Western Front in WW1
. Here’s the post.
Now the author of the blog couldn’t find out much about what the things was, but in the weird sort of coincidences that the internet creates I had actually run into the cupola and it’s ordnance in a completely different setting. The cupola is called a Fahrpanzer and they were designed to be portable emplacements in fortifications.
I know about the Fahrpanzer because last week or so I encountered this on Pinterest.
The picture came from this wonderful artist on Deviantart who did a series of illustrations for a book in Romania, where most of the Fahrpanzers were sold by the German company that built them, for various fortifications.
During WW1 the Fahrpanzers in Romania were more or less obsolete, pointing in the wrong direction(toward the Russians), dismantled for their guns and lost in the turmoil of WW1 and I just saved the picture in my ordnance folder assuming that the Fahrpanzer was just another one of those obscure pieces of European ordnance that was good for curiosity purposes, but not much else. Then I saw the post above where at least two(the picture in tumble post show two different Fahrpanzers if you look at them closely, one is missing the builders plate on the back), and probably a lot more were emplaced on the Hindenburg Line as antitank guns, a role that they are actually well suited for as long as the armor of the tank is not very thick, which all the armor on all the tanks of WW1 was.
Here’s a stack of Fahrpanzer links.
First of all, the technical drawings from the Copenhagen military museum who apparently have the only 37mm Fahrpanzer.
The Bulgarian Military museum has a 53mm(or 57?) Fahrpanzer
The Athens military museum has two apparently
Some pics I found on google.
Some Fahrpanzers in deployment.
In a war that already the favored the defensive, the Fahrpanzer would actually be a nasty piece of ordnance even if the gun was obsolete. It the black powder gun was replaced by a more moderns weapon, the fact that these things could be brought up, dug in and once emplaced, almost impossible to hit with the direct fire weapons of WW1 tanks and requiring a direct hit from over head by a howitzer or mortar. Now that I see them I’m not surprised that the Germans, short on both resources and men in 1917 pressed these things into service. Which almost certainly made the Tommy’s, Doughboy’s and Frenchy’s jobs just that much harder. Such was WW1.
The tank is 100 years old on the battlefield this week. The Great War YouTube Channel has some great videos.
The light railways in WW1 became an important logistical tool.