In 1914, after the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, warfare broke out between the Allied and Central Powers, resulting in the four year long Great War. Throughout the length of the war, industrial influences led to breakthroughs in wartime fighting techniques. The introduction of the armored tank, the use of chemical warfare, and the improvements in artillery meant more efficient and drastic fighting. Changing technology during the war altered the nature and chivalry of warfare by permanently instilling a need for industrial and mechanized warfare.

      Many artillery weapons were refined again and again, increasing their efficiency, power, range, and diversity. The machine gun was improved so much that it could shell out 600 rounds per minute. Early models of the machine gun were so heavy, weighing around 62 kg, that they required four to six people to operate, but throughout the war, improvements were made and the machine gun was reduced to around 12 kg, light enough to be manned by a single person. (Duffy, 2009) The machine gun soon dominated the battlefield, and the traditional wartime chivalry was erased. Warfare became mechanical, rapid, and impersonal. When air fighting became more prominent, antiaircraft artillery was built, powerful enough to shoot down planes. Whenever an obstacle was introduced, engineers simply built stronger weapons.
The development of the steel tank was a huge technological and efficiency improvement in the war.

     Although unable to cross many of the trenches, these bulletproof tanks were able to clear paths through barbed wire for on-foot infantry. Tanks were an important “auxiliary to the infantry” (Ernest Swinton), allowing troops to make ground, rather than play stalemate in trenches. Colonel Ernest Swinton proposed the design for the first armored tank, and by 1915 they were frequently seen on the battlefield—impenetrable forces, mobile steel boxes. The development of steel tanks embodies industrial development in its utilization of industrial materials and constant alterations for efficiency and power.

     The most horrifying addition to warfare in the Great War was the usage of poison gas. First used by the Germans against the French, Chlorine gas became an effective, yet extremely inhumane and brutal military tactic. Inhalation of poison gas caused a slow death, and doctors often did not have effective treatment. As the war progressed, new methods of chemical warfare were introduced, such as the gas shell, which increased the stability and range of the gas attack. (Davidson Tech Center) Since most of the fighting during the Great War took place from inside trenches, a gas bomb thrown into a trench could more effectively kill troops than one thrown in open air. Engineers made use of technological advances and countered the poison gas grenades with gas masks that protected soldiers from toxic fumes.

      Improvements in technology during the Great War drew from advances in industry, and completely shifted the manner of warfare. Powerful machine guns, tanks, and poisonous gas made war a mechanical job. Chivalry was no more, and the only way to win was to further develop your industrial weapons, increasing efficiency. It was as much a war in industrial and technological production as it was on the battlefield. Guns were designed to be lighter and much more powerful. Steel armored tanks plowed through battlefields, impenetrable blockades for trailing infantry. Chemical warfare was designed to utilize trench fighting—poison gas became a popular yet inhumane method of combat. New developments will always mean mechanical fighting, and these technological advances during the Great War will forever change the nature of warfare.


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