Books and Vintage Merchandise Store

Greg Gatenby

Engineering & Innovations in World War I

If you are looking for a list of all the interesting Engineering that played a huge part in World War I, you have come to the right place. In my book, I have described in more vivid details how various Engineering Innovations played a vital role in WWI, but here are some selected snapshots.

Balloon Factory in Paris
Balloon Factory in Paris

Although France lost the Franco-Prussian War in 1870 to Germany, the City of Paris refused to surrender for another half-year. 

Surrounded by enemy, the Parisians soon devised the world’s first air mail system by using balloons to sail over the otherwise unbreakable noose of their adversary. 

Paris’s leadership in fashion meant it had plenty of artisans able to make silk for new balloons and seamstresses to repair old ones, as in this antique print of a train station put to fresh use as a balloon factory.

French soldiers stands next to a 420mm shell
French soldiers stands next to a 420mm shell

For WWI the Krupp metal works company made guns and shells of a size never contemplated before by Germany’s foes. Here a French soldiers stands next to a 420mm shell identical to those fired at Belgian and French concrete forts in the opening weeks of the war. 

These shells turned the forts into powder.

Anti Aircraft Technology

For the first time in human history, aerial bombardment, first by Zeppelins, then by bomber airplanes, forced the British to develop acoustic means of detecting the imminent arrival of deadly aircraft.

Primitive electrical sound amplifiers like these could sometimes alert cities to the pending arrival of lethal aircraft by as much as 20 minutes—enough time for people to get off street and reach basements.

Soldier carrying Canon during WWI

Soldiers who fought in the mountains were generally the strongest and most fit of any army. 

In addition to endless climbing of dangerous slopes they had to transport all their supplies by hand, including artillery adapted for use in awry crags.

New gun engineered by Krupp engineers during WWI

In the final year of WWI, Krupp engineers designed a new species of gun, the first to send shells into the stratosphere so high and far was their trajectory. 

All of the ordnance was aimed at Paris, 80 miles (130 km) away. 

Despite its size and payload, the weapon was intended primarily to induce terror among civilians rather than destroy military targets. 

The gun failed in both as it proved too expensive and mechanically difficult to fire with any accuracy or frequency.

Early French bomber from WWI

Early French bomber. The cockpit in the nose was reserved solely for a man to fire a machine gun at hostile fighters. 

Neither France nor the UK built bombers equal in numbers or range to those of the Germans.

French airship called a Dirigible
French airship called a dirigible, leavings its hangar, just prior to WWI.
Henry Ford, Thomas Alva Edison & Harvey Firestone

Three of America’s greatest inventors of the early 20th c. photographed in Fort Myers, Florida in 1931, the date of this postcard. 

The trio had been pals since before WWI, frequently travelling the countryside together in luxury cars provided by Ford, stopping frequently to dine al fresco, waited on by a bevy of servants travelling with them. 

The three called themselves The Vagabonds because they so often vacationed together across the United States. They were sometimes joined in these adventures by the famed naturalist John Burroughs, and by President Herbert Hoover. 

This is the earliest known image of The Vagabonds published in colour. The inventions of all three men were crucial to the Allied conduct of WWI.

Shopping cart0
There are no products in the cart!
Continue shopping