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Weapons in WWI

#14: Hewitt-Sperry Automatic Airplane

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Although the Hewitt-Sperry Automatic Airplane never saw a war, it is widely considered one of the most innovative ideas of the WWI. Elmer Sperry, inventor and engineer, was working for the US Navy when in 1911 he had the idea to apply radio to control aircrafts in remote. In 1913, Elmer and Lawrence Sperry were working on a flying boat controlled by radio.

Later, both were joined by Peter Hewitt, a pioneer in radio technology. Together the first prototype was developed: The system consisted of a stabilizer, a directive gyroscope, an aneroid barometer, servo-motors and a device for distance gearing. Although the flight was technically a success, the accuracy of the automatic bomb drop was not sufficient to actually hit a ship, so that the idea was dropped.

However, it was resurrected after the United States declared war on Germany. The development of an unmanned “flying bomb” actually became a part of the war preparations of the United States. With the autopilot equipment already designed, the inventors only had to redesign the radio control system. However, in the end, their radio control systems were not used in the Hewitt-Sperry Automatic Airplane.

In September 1917 the maiden flight took place with a human pilot on board to do the launch off. By November, the first “drone” was capable of hitting a target with an accuracy of only two miles. Rear Admiral Ralph Earle saw the potential of the Hewitt-Sperry Automatic Airplane and wanted to use the “flying bombs” to attack German submarine bases, not knowing he was forecasting WWII. Though his plan was rejected, in 1942 the idea of using a drone to attack important targets finally came to reality when a B-24 flying as a drone attacked Helgoland.
February 27, 2014

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History on the Eve of WWI:

HMHS Britannic – From passenger liner to hospital ship

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On February 26th in 1914, one of the largest and most impressive ships of its time was launched: The RMS Britannic, the largest of the three Olympic-class ocean liners and the sister ship of the RMS Olympic and the legendary RMS Titanic. Differing in comfort and safety, the Britannic shared the same fate as one of her sister ships in 1916.

After the sinking of the Titanic in 1912, the work on the Britannic was temporarily stopped and the engineers of Harland and Wolff introduced several major changes to the construction plans to increase the standards of safety: A double-hull was installed along the engine and the boiler-rooms and additional lifeboats were installed, able to carry about 3.600 passengers; more than the ship actually could carry.

After World War I broke out, the need for increased tonnage grew critical and after the Cunard liner RMS Lusitania was torpedoed by SM U-20 and sunk, the RMS Britannic was requisitioned as a hospital ship in May 1915; renamed HMHS Britannic. The ocean liner was now used to evacuate wounded soldiers during the Gallipoli campaign and until November 1916 completed five successful voyages.

While steaming at full speed into the Kea Channel on her sixth mission, however, an explosion ripped a large hole into the lower side of the starboard. A total of 1.066 people were on board as the explosion occurred. Though it is not verified, it is most likely that a mine of the German U-boat U-73 caused the explosion. Although the crew reacted fast it was too late to save the HMHS Britannic: Only 55 minutes after the detonation, the hospital ship sank.

Two lifeboats were lowered without authorization and as soon as they hit the water drifted back into the turning propellers. The majority of the 30 deaths and 40 wounded crew members sat in these two lifeboats. Interestingly, a nurse called Violet Jessop was on board of the HMHS Britannic and survived the tragedy. She has also been on the Olympic, when she collided with the HMS Hawke, and survived the sinking of the Titanic.
February 26, 2014

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Mugshots from History #17: Canada

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When I came to Europe in 1915 I was among the first contingent of my nation’s army to be sent there. Shortly after arriving I saw action, witnessing the devastating effects of one of the most brutal inventions of World War I. During my first two battles I was used as a scout and with my rifle I quickly built my reputation. During my last battle, however, it was not my beloved rifle that brought me a second bar on my Military Medal, in fact, it was my courage which helped my post to resist to a German attack. WHO AM I? Reward: 35.000 GM.

Send my name to competition@bytro.com, subject: MUGSHOT CANADA, deadline Mon, 03 MAR 14, 12:00 (CEST).

(limited: one entry per person only with one suggested name.)
A reward of 35,000 GM goes to a lucky winner drawn from all correct entries received by Monday 03 March February 2014, 12 (CEST). Mention in your email your ingame name to win the GM reward. The winner will be published on Facebook with the start of the next mugshot competition.
February 24, 2014

Supremacy1914

Weapons in WWI

#13: Obusier de 520 modèle 1916 – The biggest howitzer of WWI

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Known as the biggest howitzer during World War I, the French Obusier de 520 modèle 1916 never fired a single shell in the actual war. Ordered in 1916 from Schneider et Cie the production was temporarily stopped until 1917 and shipping was delayed until 1918.

Mounted on a railroad wagon, the Obusier de 520 modèle 1916, with a length of just less than 100 ft. and a weight of over 260 tons, was a sight to behold. As impressive as the sight were the technical specifications of this monster: Every six minutes a shell with a weight between 1.370 and 1.654 kilograms could be fired up to 17 kilometers.

To handle the enormous force generated by the cannon the French engineers had to use a combination of a cradle and sliding recoil. Several ledgers had to be mounted under the carriage to support the hydraulic buffers of the cradle. Nonetheless, with each shot fired the whole carriage was moved about one meter. Since loading of the gun had to be done at 0° elevation the Obusier de 520 modèle 1916 had to be aimed every single shot. An overhead carrying-system behind the actual howitzer carried the ammunition and elevated the shells from the carrier to the breech.

Only two Obusier de 520 modèle 1916 left the halls of Schneider et Cie. One was destroyed by premature detonation of shells at the training range in Quiberon in 1918. The second gun was actually delivered in 1918, but firing trials stopped it from participating in hostile action.

However, the journey of the second Obusier de 520 modèle 1916 was not over after World War I came to an end. Although it has not been part of the French mobilization plans for the initial phase of World War II, it was renovated in the manufacturing halls of Schneider et Cie. But before it could finally jump into the fray on French side it was captured by Nazi Germany, renamed as 52cm Haubitze E 871(f) and destroyed near Leningrad in 1941, sharing the same fate as the first Obusier de 520: A premature detonation of shells inside its barrel.
February 19, 2014

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Mugshots from History #16: SERBIA

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When my brother received his call-up papers for the Second Balkan War, I decided that I have to take his place instead. To hide my gender I cut my hair and learned to behave like a soldier. It was only after I was promoted and heavily wounded my true sex was figured out. During the initial phase of WWI I was given my first medal of my beloved country. Soon, the second followed. Overall, not less than four different countries decided to honor me, making me one of the most respected women of World War I. WHO AM I? Reward: 35.000 GM.

Send my full name to competition@bytro.com, subject: MUGSHOT SERBIA, deadline Mon, 24 FEB 14 (CEST).

(limited: one entry per person only with one suggested name)

A reward of 35,000 GM goes to a lucky winner drawn from all correct entries received by Monday 24 February 2014, 12 (CEST).

Mention in your email your ingame name to win the GM reward. The winner will be published on Facebook with the start of the next mugshot competition.
February 17, 2014

Supremacy1914

Weapons in WWI

#12: QF 1-pounder (The "pom-pom" gun)

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The British QF 1-pounder was a 37mm auto cannon and the first of its type in the world. The nickname ‘pom-pom’ originates from the sound of its discharge. The gun was used by the British Empire, German Empire, South African Republic, Belgium and the U.S.; initially as an infantry gun – in WW1 as a light anti-aircraft gun.

In WW1 Britain used the pom-pom gun as an early anti-aircraft gun in the home defense adapted on high-angle pedestal mountings. The guns were deployed along London decks and on rooftops or on mobile motor lorries in East and South East England. However, the small shells of the gun were not sufficient enough to bring down German Zeppelin airships.

Nevertheless, Lieutenant O.F.J. Hogg of the British III Corps was the first anti-aircraft gunner who shot down an aircraft with 75 rounds in France in September 1914. A version of the gun was produced in Germany as the Maxim Flak M14. The German Empire used it in their campaign in South West Africa in 1915.
February 12, 2014

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Mugshots from History #15: Austria

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Born as the son of a noble commander, I became a soldier myself. During WWI, the lifes of several brave seamen were in my hands. With their help I managed to sink one ship and heavily damage a submarine. Due to my bravery and my intelligence I became lieutenant commander. Having survived WWI, I lost everything afterwards: My beloved wife died from scarlet fever and my fortune went down with the bank I trusted. Fortunately, a young woman saved me and my family with one brilliant idea, which later became one of the most successful films of its time. Oh, did I mention that I married her? WHO AM I? Reward 35.000 GM.

Send my full name to competition@bytro.com, subject: MUGSHOT AUSTRIA, deadline Mon, 17 FEB 14 (CEST).

(limited: one entry per person only with one suggested name)

A reward of 35,000 GM goes to a lucky winner drawn from all correct entries received by Monday 17 February 2014, 12 (CEST). Mention in your email your ingame name to win the GM reward.

The winner will be published on Facebook with the start of the next mugshot competition.
February 10, 2014

Supremacy1914

History on the eve of WWI:

Charlie Chaplin and his influence on war

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The movie “Kid Auto Races at Venice” was a milestone in the career of Sir Charles Spencer Chaplin: The “Little Tramp” was premiered and shown to the public on 7th of February in 1914. Although the tramp is also featured in “Mabel’s Strange Predicament”, which was actually shot earlier, “Kid Auto Races in Venices” was shown two days prior to this movie.

Charlie Chaplin created the tramp in defiance of Mack Sennett, who criticized that the 24-year old Chaplin looked too young to be starred in a movie. “I wanted everything to be a contradiction: the pants baggy, the coat tight, the hat small and the shoes large. […] I added a small moustache, which, I reasoned, would add age without hiding my expression.” But as he later noted in his autobiography it was not until the first time he stepped on stage that his most memorable character was finally born.

Despite his fame Chaplin was attacked by the British media during World War I for not joining the armed forces. However, he was still favourite with the troops. Actually, Chaplin stated that he registered for the American draft and was rejected.

However, Charlie Chaplin took an important role during World War I and was used as a propaganda figure: He shot several propaganda movies to boost troop morale in the trenches. One of this films, “Zepped”, was re-discovered in 2009. The movie featured several unused scenes from earlier works of Chaplin and combined them with stop-motion animation with the aim to give British forces a little bit of normality.

When the United States entered the war in 1917, Charlie Chaplin became the official spokesperson for the infamous “Liberty Bonds”. Shortly after, he finished his work on a film with the same name. One of Chaplin’s most successful movies, called “Shoulder Arms”, was set in France during World War I and featured his older brother Sydney Chaplin.

Charlie Chaplin became immortal in the post-World War I era with “The Great Dictator”, his first movie including sound. In the movie, he directly satirized Adolf Hitler and attacked fascism and impressed his personal beliefs in a legendary six-minute-speech. Later, Sir Charles Spencer Chaplin made an unforgettable statement: “I hope we shall abolish war and settle all differences at the conference table.”
February 7, 2014

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Weapons in WWI

#11: Etrich Taube

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The “Taube” (dove) aircraft was designed by Igo Etrich in Austria-Hungary. Since his German licensing partner Rumpler refused paying royalties he abandoned his patent and 14 other companies started building a large number of variations of the initial design.
The Etrich Taube was the first mass-produced military plane in Germany. It was very popular in pre-WW1 and served as Imperial Germany’s first practical military aircraft, used for virtually all kinds of applications from fighter, bomber, surveillance aircraft as well as training device from 1910 until the start of WW1. Other air forces operating Taube aircrafts were Austria-Hungary, Italy, China, Argentina, Bulgaria, Norway, the Ottoman Empire and Switzerland. The world’s first aerial bomb was dropped out of a Taube airplane by Italian aviator Giulio Gavotti in Libya on Nov 1, 1911.

Despite from its name, the design was not modeled after the bird, but copied from the wingshape of the seeds of “Zanonia macrocarpa”. The Taube design provided a very stable flight, which made it extremely suitable for observatory operations. The translucent wings made it very difficult for ground observers to spot a Taube at an altitude above 400 meters. However, poor rudder and lateral control made the airplane difficult and slow to turn. It proved to be a very easy target for the faster and much more mobile Allied fighters in WW1. After just 6 months into WW1 service all Taube aircrafts had therefore been removed from the front line service to be used as training devices for new pilots. Newer and more efficient designs replaced the Taube.
February 5, 2014

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Mugshots from History #14: Canada

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Even though I am one of the most popular pilots of my country, I pursued a slightly different military career at the beginning of World War I. But this changed as I became an aerial observer. Later on, I received my wings in 1916 but was sent back to the flight school. After demonstrating my skills, this order was rescinded. After being a recruiter for the Royal Canadian Air Force during World War II, I died outside my home country. Who am I? Reward 35.000 GM

Send my full name to competition@bytro.com, subject: MUGSHOT CANADA, deadline Thu, 10 FEB 14 (CEST).

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February 3, 2014

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Heroes in WWI

#3: Sergeant Stubby

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While Corporal Robert Conroy was trained for his service on the European battlefields he befriended a stray Boston Bull Terrier in New Haven, Connecticut. When the men shipped out for Europe, he smuggled ‘Stubby’ on board. When discovered the dog saluted the commanding officer like a trained soldier. The officer was so impressed; he allowed the dog to stay.

In Europe Stubby served with the 102nd Infantry in the trenches of France for 18 months. After being gassed he learned to warn his unit of poison gas. Stubby could locate wounded soldiers in no man’s land and since he could hear the wining of incoming artillery earlier than human beings, he warned his unit to duck for cover.
Stubby was solely responsible for capturing a German spy by holding him by the seat of his pants until American soldiers found him.

Smuggled back to the U.S. at the end of WWI he was on the front page of every major newspaper. Stubby became a celebrity leading many parades. He met three U.S. Presidents and was the most decorated war dog in WWI and the only dog to be promoted to sergeant through combat.
February 2, 2014

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