30 Random Trivia Facts About WWI

At one point or another, we’ve all learned about World War I in history class, but there are probably things about it that you don’t remember or never learned. Episode eight of Remarkable Lives. Tragic Deaths, a Parcast Network podcast series, takes an in-depth look at the life and death of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne. His assassination was widely considered to be the precipitating factor that started the global war.


But if you’re also interested in learning more (or refreshing your memory) about the details of WWI, this trivia will get you started.

1. Youngest authenticated combatant was 12-year-old Sidney Lewis, who obviously lied about his age.

2. The first blood bank was established on the frontlines in 1917 for blood transfusions.

3. Severe facial wounds seen in soldiers during the war led to the pioneering efforts in reconstruction surgery.

4. Before the war, German was the second most spoken language in the United States.

5. German names like frankfurters, sauerkraut and dachshunds were changed to ‘liberty sausage’, ‘liberty cabbage’ and ‘liberty dogs’ in America.

6. Tanks were classified by gender. Male tanks had cannons. Female tanks carried heavy machine guns.

7. The Germans were the first to use flamethrowers. They had a range of up to 130 feet.

8. In previous wars, most died from disease but in WWI two-thirds of deaths were the result of combat. One-third was from the Spanish flu.

9. Dogs were used as messengers to carry orders to the frontlines. They also laid down telegraph wires for communication.

10. Explosives detonating in Belgium could be heard in London 140 miles away.

11. Tanks were initially called “landships,” but the British began using the code word “tanks” to confuse the enemy and disguised the weapons as water storage tanks.

12. Mata Hari, a Dutch exotic dancer and alleged spy, was executed by the French.

13. Americans who wanted to fight before the United States entered the war joined the French Foreign Legion or the British or Canadian armies.

14. The Western Front, or trench network that spanned from the English Channel to Switzerland, was about 25,000 miles long.

15. Over the course of the war, 274 German U-boats sank 6,596 ships.

16. The French had a cannon accurate up to four miles. German soldiers called it the “Devil Gun.”

17. On Christmas Eve of 1914, soldiers on both sides of the Western Front sung Christmas carols to each other. On Christmas, they called a holiday truce.

18. British nurse Edith Cavell helped 200 allied soldiers out of German-occupied Belguim. She was arrested and executed by a German firing squad.

19. For bravery in combat, the Harlem Hell Fighters, an African American unit on the frontlines, received the French Croix de Guerre medal. Unfortunately, their heroic deeds were largely unrecognized by the United States immediately following the war.

20. Wanting to control the information coming out of the frontlines, the British War Office censored the press and considered journalists reporting on the conflict from the trenches to be helping the enemy. If caught, they could face the death penalty.

21. 12 million letters were sent to the front every week.

22. 9 out of 10 soldiers survived the trenches.

23. France built a fake Paris near their capital to confuse German pilots.

24. Hungarian soldier Paul Kern was shot in the frontal lobe of the brain. Rather than killing him, it made him unable to sleep. He lived 40 years after his injury.

25. The King of Belgium, Albert I, fought with his troops and Queen Elisabeth, his wife, was a combat nurse.

26. Former luxury ocean liner, Olympic, sister ship of the Titanic, rammed and sunk a German U-boat.

27. Exposed to poison gas in WWI, Adolf Hitler was adamantly against using it in WWII.

28. Armed British merchant cruiser RMS Carmania sank the German merchant cruiser SMS Cap Trafalgar. Funny thing is, the two ships were disguised as each other.

29. Concrete ships were built during steel shortages.

30. Famous American animator Walt Disney was an ambulance driver during the First World War.


If you haven’t yet listened to the Franz Ferdinand episode of Remarkable Lives. Tragic Deaths, grab your headphones and download it from your favorite podcast directory or visit us at parcast.com!


Remarkable Lives. Tragic Deaths examines the lives and tragic deaths of people who changed history and influenced pop culture.