“Weapons are an important factor in war, but not the decisive one; it is man and not materials that count”
– Mao Zedong
At the end of the early modern age in 1800s, the world was already introduced to the modern weaponry. The introduction of the firearm into the weaponry transformed the wars in huge and destructive manner, the two great wars left a deep impact on defense systems of every nation. Development of ammunition has now become one of the greatest concern for every country.
This weblog is about the munitions used in wars during the different timelines. It’s divided into two parts, Weapons of War- I and Weapons of War- II, an introduction about the weapons used from the medieval period to The Great War (World War I) is in the former part. Whereas the later part has a brief about the weapons developed after the great war. Let’s know more about the grade of arms before The Great War.
Middle Age weapons were used by feudal armies from the medieval times. All men in The Middle Ages were expected to know how to fight. Weapons used in The Middle Ages range from a very simple tool to a very sophisticated machinery. The common Middle Age weapons used by foot soldiers and archers were:
- Mace – The medieval mace was often made iron head mounted on a wooden shaft, It was heavier and more capable of inflicting greater damage. Clubs and swords, Morningstars, Flails, War Hammers, Horsemen’s Picks were some other blunt hand weapons.
- Spear – Spear, mostly used in the warfare, is a pole weapon with a pointed blade at one end. It has been used as an important missile weapon since prehistoric times. Franciscan, Javelins, Bows, Longbows, Crossbows, Arbalests and Old age Guns were some ranged weapons of middle age.
- Bombards – A bombard is a large caliber, muzzle-loading medieval cannon or mortar, for throwing heavy stone balls. Petards were similar kind of small bombs used to blow up gates.
The late medieval period and Renaissance was the period of modification of human race, with discoveries and inventions like Telescope, Microscope, Printing Press, Mechanical clock, Gunpowder, and etc, the ammunition was also perverted. The invention of basic grade gun was done during this period. China was the origin of gunpowder, within 50 years after the innovation of gunpowder, Canons were developed in the late 1300s. The first gun to combine all three components (lock, stock, and barrel) was the matchlock, in the early 1400’s, then came much more complicated one, the wheellock in the early 1500’s.
However, during the Colonial years, a distinctly American type of gun would be developed, by first dozens and then hundreds of gunsmiths scattered through the new land. The American long rifle, Smoothbore Muskets, French Charleville Muskets have initially developed firearm of the early 1700s during the American revolution.
In the late 1700s, and 1800s the hostility among Europian nations was at a peak. Britain, France and other nations came into an alliance of supportive defense, which made the central powers to fall in suspicion and hostility towards the allies. Germany was the most hostile nation towards the allies, therefore the William II the German Emperor began to modify his armament. This was the introduction of modern weapons in the world led by the Europian countries. The machine guns, grenades, tanks, aviation and etc were the beginning of the series of mass destructive and deadly weapons.
After the construction of first military submarine- Turtle in 1776 in the American Revolution, and a first machine gun or the “Maxim Gun” by Sir Hiram Maxim put the world in more suspicion. The first Military tank- Little Willie developed by Britishers (first used in 1916 during The Great War), made Germany more hostile and construct the most powerful ship of that period known as SS Imperator. At the time of her completion in June 1913, she was the largest passenger ship in the world, surpassing Titanic‘s sister ship, RMS Olympic.
The Royal Air Force (RAF) was formed with the amalgamation of the Royal Flying Corps (RFC) and the Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS) to support British naval forces against Axis forces. Bristol F.2 Fighter was a British two-seat biplane fighter and reconnaissance aircraft of the First World War developed by Frank Barnwell at the Bristol Aeroplane Company, to fight against the series of German World War I monoplane single-seat fighter aircraft designed by Dutch engineer Anthony Fokker, known as the Fokker Eindecker fighters. The Fokkers were synchronized with the machine guns which provided air superiority to Germans.
After Little Willie, the Great Britain introduced several more savage tanks in the Willie series, and with the help of United States’ Holt Gas-Electric series of tanks, they were able to defeat Germany’s super heavy K-wagen and Lk series of tanks.
The firearms, tanks, warships, grenades, didn’t make The Great War mortal since they were used before as well. But, the beginning of using Chemical Weapons at such a large scale was started during World War I itself. The types of weapons employed ranged from disabling chemicals, such as tear gas, to lethal agents like phosgene, chlorine, and mustard gas. The French army was the first to employ gas, using 26 mm grenades filled with tear gas (ethyl bromoacetate) in August 1914. One of the most deadly weapons was used by Germany in the Third Battle of Ypres in July 1917, the most effective gas of the First World War, mustard gas, it killed thousands of allied armies in the battle without a single shot of bullet fired.
These weapons of mass destruction and their producers, and rest is the history. It wasn’t the armaments that led to the mass destruction and wars because weapons are just materials and it’s not material that counts, it’s men. This was a quick review of the kind of weapons used from the Medieval period to The Great War. The weapons after this will be introduced in the other part of the weblog, The Weapons of War- II.