World war One trench warfare was hell on earth with commanders on both sides trying to come up with new weapons that could help them penetrate the dug in lines of the
enemy. One such particularly horrific weapon was the flamethrower. As the name implies these weapons would throw flames, burning fuel, at the enemy from distances of up
to 20 yards (18.3 meters). Below you will find listed interesting World War One flamethrower facts and information; including when they were first used in the WW1, how
effective they were, and what they looked like.
Basic World War One Flamethrower Facts
Although perfected during WW1 the flamethrower was not a new weapon; in fact this type of weapon was used in various forms for centuries. Weapons containing
combustible materials were used by ancient civilizations dating back to the 9th century BC.
World War One flamethrowers usually consisted of a tank full of fuel worn on the soldiers back and a hand held hose used to spray the fire; although larger, less
mobile, but longer range models were also used.
Having a relatively short range when compare to artillery and guns the flamethrower was used mainly to clear forward trenches and enemy positions before the launch of
an infantry attack. This short range greatly limited their effectiveness.
The fear of being set on fire caused many soldiers to leap from safe positions into the open where enemy gunfire would mow them down. More soldiers probably died this
way during flamethrower attacks than did from the actual fire produced by the weapon.
The soldiers manning these weapons had very dangerous jobs. Flamethrowers were often an unpredictable weapon that could explode or leak burning fuel on the user. Also;
the soldier using this weapon had to position themselves fairly close to the enemy front lines, in order for the flames to reach the enemy. This often made them easy
targets for enemy soldiers anxious to eliminate them before they could unleash the flames on their positions.
If captured a soldier manning a flamethrower could usually expect no mercy from enemy soldiers who had seen the effects of this horrific weapon.
The German army had armed their soldiers with flamethrowers starting in 1911, before the war began, therefore this was not a weapon invented during the war.
The German army used flamethrowers early in the war but its first major use by them was at the Battle of Hooge in July of 1915. Its use surprised and terrified the
British soldiers. After this battle the Germans decided to expand their use of this weapon.
One interesting fact that many historians ponder is why other countries didn't utilize this weapon to the extent that the Germans did. The British and French did use
flamethrowers but no where near the extent that the Germans did.
The United States did not use or develop flamethrowers until after World War One.
At the Treaty of Versailles, which ended World War One, Germany was forbidden to supply its army with flamethrowers; along with several other weapons.