Brill’s Digital Library of World War I

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Infantry

(964 words)

Author(s): Gross, Gerhard P.
Infantry A branch of the armed forces; infantry is the term for foot soldiers. The infantry served as the main branch of the armed forces in the World War. Despite the increased firepower of the infantry, the concept of war held by the European armies originated in the dogma of the superiority of the offensive over the defensive. Tight formations of battle-hardened riflemen swarming over open terrain was the basis for the attack methods of the German infantry Once the infantry had attained fire s…

Tank

(1,187 words)

Author(s): Gross, Gerhard P.
Tank Originally a code name that is still being used in some countries today for a heavily armored fighting vehicle. Already prior to World War I, plans had been drawn up in Europe to develop an all-terrain armored fighting vehicle. Although armored cars had been developed, and the tracked vehicle concept was well, no known, no true armored fighting vehicles had been developed before the war. However, with the onset of positional warfare the question arose of how to achieve an operational breakth…

Big Bertha

(279 words)

Author(s): Gross, Gerhard P.
Big Bertha Name popularly given to the 42-cm mortar on a wheeled carriage developed by the Krupp Company, and named after the eldest daughter of Friedrich Alfred Krupp. Commissioned by the Prussian general staff as a howitzer with the aim of destroying the modern fortifications located in Belgium and France along the line of the planned Prussian advance. In 1909 Krupp proposed the 42-cm short naval cannon 12/16, with the cover-name Gamma Device, often also referred to as dicke Bertha (BB). This platform gun was transported by rail and fired 930-kg shells up to a distance o…

Cavalry

(738 words)

Author(s): Gross, Gerhard P.
Cavalry The combat arm of the land forces that fought primarily on horseback. The increased firepower of the infantry had since the middle of the 19th century forced the cavalry into playing a diminished supporting role in military campaigns. Paradoxically, the size of the cavalry forces maintained by the European Powers rose continually throughout the period. At the beginning of the 20th century, nearly all states uniformly modified the tactics and weapons of their mounted troops, creating a largely standar…

Flamethrower

(468 words)

Author(s): Gross, Gerhard P.
Flamethrower Weapon designed for tactical attacks against military targets by means of a stream of fire. Flammable oil is sprayed from a pressurized container through a tube and automatically ignited upon leaving the tube. The development of flamethrowers began in Germany shortly before the First World War. The Germans produced heavy-duty stationary flamethrowers with a capacity to hold 100 liters of fuel oil, which had a range of about 50 m, and small, portable units with a fuel reservoir of 10 …

Assault Battalions

(304 words)

Author(s): Gross, Gerhard P.
Assault Battalions Army formations that were raised specifically to be used in trench warfare and as training units. Beginning in 1916, the Germans deployed assault battalions primarily on the Western Front. France, Russia, and Austria-Hungary also fielded assault troops from 1917. The first German unit of this type, “Assault Battalion Rohr,” was organized in 1915 and initially comprised two pioneer companies. Its success led to the creation of 16 more assault battalions of this type, with infantry and pioneers p…