Military technology

Page last modified 14/5/2019

 

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30/10/1979, The aeronautical engineer and  inventor Sir Barnes Wallis died aged 92. He invented the bouncing bombs for the Dambusters raid.

5/1/1951, Sir Ernest Swinton, British soldier and inventor of the military tank, died.

31/12/1927, The use of the lance was abandoned by the British Army, except for ceremonial purposes.

24/11/1916, Sir Hiram Maxim, English-born US inventor of the machine gun in 1883, died in London.

15/9/1916. Tanks went into battle for the first time, for the British Army at the battle of Flers on the  Somme.  They were invented by Sir Ernest Swinton, weighed 30 tons, and travelled at 4mph. It was hoped they would break the stalemate of trench warfare. Some German soldiers fled, thinking the Devil had come. The tank forces achieved their objective but infantry reserves could not arrive in time to consolidate the successes.

6/9/1915. The first military tank, the No.1 Lincoln, modified and renamed Little Willie, had its first run.

28/2/1912, The Austrian, Gunter Burstyn, patented an armoured vehicle that preceded the Tank. Although it did not have the continuous track that enabled Tanks to traverse trenches and shell-holed ground, it did have front and rear ancillary wheels on long pivots held above ground. These could be lowered to lever the vehicle up and over steep edges.

26/2/1903. Richard Gatling, US inventor of the rapid-fire gun, died aged 84.

1900, The revolver was invented by JM Browning.

21/10/1868, Sir Ernest Swinton, one of the inventors of the military tank, was born in Bamgalore, India.

4/11/1862. Richard Gatling, in Indiana, invented a gun that could fire hundreds of rounds a minute using rotating barrels.  Mounted on wheels, it had 10 parallel barrels and fired 1200 shots a minute.

10/1/1862, Samuel Colt, who invented the Colt revolver in 1835, died at Hartford, Connecticut.

5/2/1840, Sir Hiram Stevens Maxim, American inventor of the first fully automatic machine gun, was born in

Sangersville, Maine.

25/2/1836, Samuel Colt was granted a patent for his new revolver firearm.

12/9/1818, Richard Gatling, US inventor of the revolving battery gun, was born in Winton, North Carolina.

19/7/1814, Samuel Colt, the inventor of the Colt revolver (patented 1835), was born.

30/4/1804, The British used shrapnel in warfare for the first time, against the Dutch in Suriname.

1751, The Ecole Superieure de Guerre (High School of War) was established in Paris.

1777, David Bushnell invented the torpedo.

15/5/1718, The machine gun was patented by a London lawyer, James Puckle.

The supremacy of the gun

1543, Guns first entered Japan. A Chinese ship was wrecked off Kyushu, with two Portuguese on board carrying muskets. The local governor bought these muskets and replicated them. Firearms eventually made the Samurai redundant, as they did the European knights.

24/2/1525. The Battle of Pavia. Pavia, held by the French, had been under siege by Spanish forces since October 1524. Italy itself was a territory being fought over by the rival powers of France, Germany, Turkey and Spain. The French under King Charles VIII defended Pavia with cavalry and cannon, but the Spanish had adopted the arquebus or hackenbushe, an early version of the handgun; this weapon replaced the Spanish crossbow. The arquebus meant an unskilled infantryman could kill a skilled knight and Pavia was the start of the dominance of the handgun as a military weapon. By the 1740s the Prussians had imporved their military technology to achieve a fire rate of 5 rounds per minute per soldier. The proportion of cavalry in European armies declined sharply, falling to one third in 1650, one quarter in 1750 and one sixth in 1810. However armies still needed large numbers of horses, to pull guns and supplies. These horses need large quantities of fodder; along with limited agricultural productivity this limited the capability of an army to fight and sustain itself in the field by requisitioning food. Campaigns and conquests could often only be undertaken from April until October, when grass grew; the winter break enabled defeated armies to regroup. This restriction on European invaders was especially acute in areas like Spain; in more fertile areas such as central Europe the fighting season was longer. An aggressor backed by naval power could also be resupplied by ship, if the battlefields were near the sea or large rivers.

21/4/1503, The Battle of Cerignola.  The Spanish under Gonzalo Fernandez de Cordoba defeated the French under the Duc de Nemoura, who was killed.  This was the first battle considered to have been won by gunpowder and small arms.

1500, The pistol was invented.

1464, The increasing size of guns meant that castles were becoming redundant. Previously, the stone castles of the 130s were so strongly built that they could only be taken by means of prolonged siege.

1415, Lomngbowmen defeated mounted knights at Agincourt.

1370, Early small hand guns were in use to defend castles.

1314, At Bannockburn, Scottish spearmen showed they could defeat mounted knights in armour.

1300, The earlier chain mail armour of knights was becoming superseded by steel plate armour. However this greatly increased the expense of maintaining a knight, and the number of knights on Britain had fallen to 2,500, from 5,000 in 1150. By 1450 only a few hundred knights existed. By 1500 the knight was obsolete, due to developments in firearm technology. However plate armour was popular as a decorative feature only.

1297, Gunpowder was first used in siege warfare, by King Edward I against Stirling Castle.

851, Crossbows began to be used in France.

 

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