Shocking WWI Facts You Have to Know

Though there have been countless wars throughout history, World War I was certainly the first to occur on such a grand scale, claiming millions of lives over the course of four years. Aside from the more mainstream facts, there are a few tidbits surrounding this deadly conflict that most people aren’t too familiar with. From temporary truces to gendered tanks and unexpected allies, here are a couple of shocking facts about World War I that you just have to know.

1. The Christmas Truce

Amidst all the violence and chaos, soldiers on both sides, specifically the British, French and German, briefly put aside their differences in 1914 for a common goal: Christmas. The Christmas Truce as it came to be known, was a brief period of ceasefire when combatants engaged in varying degrees of “fraternization” in the Western Front. In some places, they took the opportunity to retrieve and bury the dead, while others simply engaged in friendly conversations, trading and singing of Christmas carols.

2. Germany Tried to Provoke a Mexican Attack on the USA

A lesser known plot that occurred in the thick of the Great War was Germany’s attempt at starting a fight with the United States with Mexico as their chess piece, of course. Apparently, German Ambassador Heinrich von Eckardt was contacted by German foreign secretary Arthur Zimmermann with a proposal for Mexico to accept financial assistance for war in an attempt to seize U.S. territories and expand Mexico’s borders. Thankfully for everyone, Mexico’s president totally rebuked the proposal, though it did give the United States a legit reason to start beefing with Germany.

3. Kaiser Wilhelm II was the Queen of England’s Grandson

So it turns out that one of Germany’s most ruthless and anti-British leaders, Emperor Kaiser Wilhelm II was actually… half-British. His mother was Victoria, the eldest daughter of Queen Victoria, and his father, the Prussian Prince William. As he got older, it soon became clear that Kaiser had adopted some really concerning warmongering and hateful beliefs about Britain despite having ties to the country himself. Naturally, this caused a rift in the family—even Kaiser’s mother was concerned about her son’s beliefs in the brief period that led up to the war.

4. Japan and Italy Sided with the Allied Powers

It is natural to assume that Japan and Italy’s role in the Great War must have been the same in WWII as members of the Axis Powers. However, it was the complete opposite, and both countries instead supported the Allied combatants. Shortly before the conflict took off, Italy initially swore allegiance to Austria-Hungary and Germany as a member of the Triple Alliance but instead suddenly sides in 1915 as an outcome of the Treaty of London. As for Japan, they were a huge help for the British and a great thorn in Germany’s side as they frequently attacked and hindered the enemy’s operations in the Indian Ocean and the West Pacific.

5. British Tanks were Gendered

And to wrap things up, here’s a random tidbit about British tanks during World War I: they were gendered. And no, the names weren’t random but rather based on profound differences in tank armament. In other words, male tanks were equipped with really heavy weapons, while female tanks were fitted with only machine guns. These differences could be seen in “Male” Mark 1 tanks that came with a deadly pair of 6-pound guns and an additional four machine guns, while their female counterpart was fitted with only six machine guns.

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