Yesterday The National Archives made the second batch of 3,987 digitised First World War unit diaries from France and Flanders available online via its First World War 100 portal.
These diaries 1 reveal stories about the advances in technology that made it the world’s first industrialised war. Many mounted troops went into battle at the start of the war on horseback with swords, and ended the war with machine guns and tanks.
The stories in the war diaries highlight the use of simple yet effective tactics – such as ‘dummy soldiers’ operated by strings – alongside the introduction of more advanced twentieth century technologies such as the first (German) flamethrowers and the first (British) gas attacks.
There is a chilling account in war diary WO 95/1864 of one of the first uses of flamethrowers at Hooge on 30 July 1915, which describes the use of ‘liquid fire’ by the Germans in the trenches:
- 1 The records relate to the last of the Cavalry and numbers 8-33 Infantry Divisions deployed to the Western Front in the First World War. ^