Chronography of Military Technology
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Up to 150 men.
650 to 900 men.
Tactical battalion Group, up to 900 men.
2,000 to 5,000 men, around 3 to 5 battalions
Usually commanded by a Major General, divisions are made up of three or four
brigades and include 10,000 to 15,000 soldiers.
2003, Multiple JDAM
(Joint Direct Attack Munition) air-alunched smart bombs invented.
2001, Heckler and
Koch submachine guns invented.
27/1/1998, In response to a worldwide
movement against landmines, the UK Government said it would destroy its stocks
of these weapons.
31/12/1994, Britain began using the
Trident nuclear deterrent on its submarines.
1988, IMINT (Imagery Intelligence) satellites launched.
22/11/1988, The US
Stealth bomber, invisible to radar and heat seeking missiles, first
appeared in public.
1985, Semtex explosive became
available. It was named after Semtin, the Czech village where it was manufactured,
p;lus ex (for export or explosive). It is an odourless plastic explosive and is
much favoured by terrorists.
1984, Stun guns invented.
22/3/1983, The US Army awarded AM General the contract for a
new type of ;land vehicle,, the High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle, or
Humvee. This was to be a versatile off-road vehicle that could ford 5 feet of
1982, Air-launched cruise missiles invented.
1980, The very large aircraft carrier ship, 20,000 � 30,000 tonnes, was
introduced, because of the need to destroy enemy aircraft beyond the range of
the ship�s own weapons, for example when on convoy duty. Previously, the size
and vulnerability of earlier aircraft carriers, and their cost, was thought to
outweight their utility. The Eisenhower,
USA, 81,600 tonnes, built 1979, was one of the largest such ships.
30/10/1979, The aeronautical engineer and� inventor Sir
Barnes Wallis died aged 92. He invented the bouncing bombs for the
18/1/1972, The first plastic warship, the minehunter HMS Wilton, was launched at Southampton.
1970, Exocet missiles invented.
1960, Harrier jump jets invented.
15/11/1960, The US launched its first nuclear armed submarine,
the USS George Washington, from Charleston, South Carolina. President
Eisenhower said that the submarine�s 16 missiles had the same
destructive power as �the total of all of the bombs dropped during World War
1954, Nuclear submarines invented.
Nuclear weapons developed
1952, Hydrogen bomb invented.
1947, Lieutenant-General Mikhail
Kalashnikov designed the AK47 assault rifle.
1946, The swept back Delta wing appeared on fast military
aircraft. It was later adopted on the Concorde supersonic airliner.
1945, Atom bomb first used by the USA on Japan.
bombers and fighter planes in use.
1942, V2 rockets, in use. Napalm was developed by US chemist
5/1942, Bazookas (anti-tank
weapons) first put in use.
Enigma Code cracked by Bletchley Park
22/5/1940, Bletchley Park succeeded in cracking the most
frequently-used German Enigma code, giving the British access to German Air
Force messages. These
included messages between the German Air Force and German land forces.
12/2/1940, The British minesweeper HMS Gleaner sank a German submarine, U33, in 30 fathoms of water,
Three Enigma rotors were recovered
from this submarine, without German knowledge; they gave Bletchely Park
analysts important insights into German military coding.
1939, Military helicopters
2/12/1939, The Molotov
Cocktail was invented when the Finns, resistimng a Soviet invasion against overwhelming
odds, deployed extremely mobile units moving by ski or bicycle on nsarrow forest
paths. They threw bottles full of petrol, with a lighted rag oin the neck, into
the turrets of advancing Soviet tanks, with devastating effectrs.
mines and counter measures (see 1853)
19/12/1939, The British Admiralty discovered that a
ship could be demagnetised by means of a coil wrapped around the ship greatly
reducing its susceptibility to the new German magnetic mines. To keep this
discovery secret, every time a UK ship was sunk by an ordinary mine, her demise
was attributed to a magnetic mine.
22/11/1939, A German magnetic mine was dropped by plane onto the mudflats off
Shoeburyness, and recovered intact from the soft mud. The Admiralty could now
begin work to find an antidote to this weapon. Germany remained unaware of the British
14/11/1939, First use of magnetic mines, against British shipping, by Nazi Germany. Dropped by
plane, they sank merchant shipping indiscriminately. See 22/11/1939.
1936, The first nerve gas,
tabun, was invented.
31/12/1927, The use of the lance was abandoned by the British Army, except for ceremonial
1925, Biological warfare was prohibited inder
the Geneva Convention. However the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention permits
biological warfare for �defensive� pirposes, without specifying how this
differs from offensive weapons development. Chemical warfare was also banned.
of the Tank
5/1/1951, Sir Ernest Swinton, British soldier and
inventor of the military tank, died.
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. See 1908, 28/2/1912.
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.
1908, The Caterpillar Tractor was invented. It had steel bands within which
its wheels travelled, to facilitate travel over rough ground. In 1915 Winston
Churchill saw the potettial for this vehicle to cross the trenches
of World War One.
21/10/1868, Sir Ernest Swinton, one of the inventors of
the military tank, was born in Bamgalore, India.
20/4/1770. The first tracked vehicle was patented by Richard Lovell
Edgeworth. It worked similarly to modern tanks. The idea was to
overcome traction problems caused by rough or soggy ground. Far ahead of its time, the vehicle never
World War One
1917, Depth charges, explosives dropped from ships to detonate underwater
and destroy submarines, were in use.
1917, Flamethrowers, weapons that projected a steady stream of ignited
fuel, were in use.
1917, The term �ace� was coined for a World War One
fighter pilot who had shot down at least ten enemy planes.
1916, The creeping barrage was employed in World War One. Guns situated
behind the front line pounded ground in front ot it, and then hopefully the
front line troops could move forward and occupy this ground. The rear guns also
moved forward, and the process would be repeated.
24/11/1916, Sir Hiram Maxim, English-born US inventor of
the machine gun in 1883, died in London.
26/6/1916, Peter Nissen (1871-1930) patented the Nissen Hut. He noticed that there was a
lack of easy to build housing for the troops in World War One. 100,000 of these
huts were built by the end of the War; each one taking 6 men 4 hours to build.
Their main drawback was they were very cold in the winter. In 1942 the US
military had a version of the Nissen Hut,
known as the Quonset Hut, named
after its place of manufacture (Quonset Point, Rhode Island). Quonset Huts replaced tent cities for
1915, Aircraft-mounted machine
guns in use.
1915, Rifles with periscopic
sights (allowing the user to remain hidden) were invented by an Austrian
1915, Poison gas first used by
in World War One at Ypres. They used chlorine, phosgene Cl2CO, mustard gas C4H8CI2S
and tear gas.
1914, Flechettes in use � steel darts designed to be dropped from an aircraft
on personnel below.
War One naval arms race, Britain and Germany
1915, The British developed the
first anti-submarine depth charge.
It comprised a container with 120 lb (50 kg) explosive dropped into the water
and set off by a hydraulic trigger. However it had to be detonated within 21 ft
(6.3 metres) of a submarine to be effective, and submarines were hard to locate
1911, The battle cruiser ship was developed,�
by Britain and Germany. It was the size of a battle ship but more lightly
armoured and faster.
18/2/1906, Britain launched its first Dreadnought battleship. They were a key
part of UK naval strategy in World War One; they were named after a naval ship
of Francis Drake�s time.
1905, The term �minesweeper� was first used, for a ship
used to clear mines.
2/10/1901. Vickers launched the British Navy�s first submarine. HMS
Holland I, 105 tons, was designed for coastal duties. Earlier submarine designs
had been tried, but the idea did not work until metal could be used for ships
hulls, Now all major world powers had submarines, setting the scene for future
underwater warfare. The idea was dismissed as �underhand, underwater, and
damned un-English� by Admiral Sir Arthur Wilson. The petrol engine
was dangerous; later submarines used diesel engines. Mice were kept on board,
to give warning of dangerous levels of petrol fumes. The crew breathed
compressed air, and stayed under for 4 hours. The Royal Navy concentrated on
using submarines for inshore patrols whereas other navies, especially Germany,
developed longer-distance craft. This disparity was a severe handicap to
Britain during the First World War; only the development of sophisticated
counter measures saved Britain from starvation as German U-boats sunk supply
1861, Sea mines in use.
1777, David Bushnell invented the
in gun technology, 1718-1942
1942, The Sten Gun was developed; named after the initials of its inventors,
RV Shepherd and HJ Turpin, plus the En of Enfield, where it was manufactured.
1937, The Bren Gun, a light and quick-firing ,machine giun, was introduced.
It was named after Brno, a town in Czechoslovakia where the gun was first
manufactured, plus Enfield, north London, where the giun was produced at the
British Royal Small Arms Factory.
1935, The Magnum gun, a powerful handgun, was introduced by Smith and Wesson.
21/5/1915, Leonid Gobyato, Russian General who designed
the portable mortar, died in combat aged 40.
1913, The Lewis Gun, a light machine giun, came into use.
26/2/1903. Richard Gatling, US inventor of the rapid-fire
gun, died aged 84.
1902, The Lee-Enfield rifle was in use in the British Army (used in the Boer War
1899-1902). It was named after JP Lee, 1831-1904, the US desoigner of
the bolt-action gun, and Enfield, the north London town where the gun was made,
at the British Royal Small Arms Factory.
1900, The revolver was invented by JM Browning.
1898, Luger pistols in use,
1884, Maxim machine guns in use,
developed by Hiram Maxim (born 5/2/1840 in Sangerville, USA).
1872, Automatic pistols in use,
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.
1861, The Gatling Gun was
invented by US engineer Richard Jordan Gatling, aged 43. It was soon
introduced to the US Civil War battlefields.
1846, Samuel Colt recieevd a large
order for his new revolver, as the Mexican War caused a shortage of them for
the US military.
1841, The Prussian needle gun,
designed by Johann
Nikolas Dreyse, aged 54, was the first successful,breech-loading
military rifle. It had a long thin needle-like firing pin which penetrated
through the black powder charge to set off the primer. The Prussian Army
adopted this gun in 1848 to replace their muzzle-loading rifles.
5/2/1840, Sir Hiram Stevens Maxim, American inventor of
the first fully automatic machine gun, was born in
1838, Breech-loading rifles in
25/2/1836, Samuel Colt was granted a patent for his new revolver
12/9/1818, Richard Gatling, US inventor of the revolving battery gun, was born in Winton,
19/7/1814, Samuel Colt, the inventor of the Colt revolver
(patented 1835), was born.
15/5/1718, The machine gun
was patented by a London
7/12/1908, Major explosion at the Dum Dum arsenal in India, killing some 50 Indian workmen. It was here in around 1898 that �Dum Dum�
bullets were first manufactured by the British. They have a hollow nose and
so expand on impact, causing a more serious wound than ordinary bullets. These
bullets were used by the Russians against Japan in 1904/5, and after
protests by Japan
the Second Hague Convention subsequently banned their use. This convention was
signed by most States, but not the UK or USA.
1897, Dum-dum bullets invented; they were internationally banned in 1908.
They had a hollow nose, to improve their stopping power (within their target),
and caused terrible wounds.
1906, Plastic explosive was invented. It is a putty-like substance, much
favoured by terrorists from the later 20th century onwards because
it can be moulded to the shape of its target for greater impact.
1902, Armoured cars in use.
27/3/1902, Queen Alexandra's Royal Army Nursing Corps was established in the British Army, with Queen Alexandra
as its first President, with the signing of a Royal Warrant by her husband, King Edward VII.
1/10/1887. The British in India annexed Baluchistan, an area
strategic to the North-West Frontier.
military strategy on the Indian North-West Frontier was to maintain an
administrative zone where the military protected the civilian, farming, population,
a �forward zone� where garrisons were purely for military operations, and
forward of that, a �tribal zone� where just the main roads were protected. This
zone system had been in use for many centuries.
1855, Lord Dunaldson suggested the use
of poison gas (sulphur dioxide) in
the Crimean War.
1853, M Jacobi invented the first naval mine, a floating bomb which
blew up on contact with a ship; he gave it the name �mine�. See 1939
1847, Nitroglycerine was discovered by Italian chemist Ascanio Sobrero,
aged 35. Prepared from
.glycerol, with nitric and sulphuric acid, its
highly explosive properties were used mainly for manufacturing dynamite (it was also used to treat
symptoms of angina pectoris).
13/3/1842, Henry Shrapnel, English soldier and inventor
of the shrapnel shell, died.
30/4/1804, The British used shrapnel in warfare for the first time, against the Dutch in
1761, Henry Shrapnel of England was
born this day; he invemted the shrapnel
1/3/1840, John Philip Holland, inventor of the modern
submarine, was born.
1828, British arms company Vickers began as a toolmaking company
started by steelmaker Edward Vickers, aged 24, along with his
Naylor. The firm became Vickers and Sons in 1867, and specialised in
armaments from 1888.
Whitehead, English engineer and inventor of the naval torpedo, was born in Bolton Le Moors, Lancashire.
1751, The Ecole Superieure de Guerre (High
School of War) was established in Paris.
1700, Armies were often raised by payment of a �premium� to secure volunteers.
The amount of this premium was
linked to the general economic situation;when prices were low, or food was
plentiful the premium had ot be set high; when scarcity of food and highb
prices prevailed, the necessary premium was mich lower. It was higher at
harvest time and lower in the winter. In 1700-10, France, it ranged between 20
and 50 livres. In some bad winters
after 1710 the premium was effeciively zero � men enlisted simply to be fed and
Hand grenades were first used in action, by the French Army.
Bayonets first made, at Bayonne, France.
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
1539, The earliest recorded
flintlock gun was made, in Sweden.
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
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
apparently constituted far inferior weaponry toa skilled archer. A well trained archer could fire
ten arrows a minute, at reasonable accuracy up to a range of 200 metres. By
contrast an arquebus took several minutes to reload each shot.and was accurate
only up to range 100 metres. However the training to become a skilled archer might
take decades; an arquebus required almost no training to use. These
disadvantages of early hand firearsm could be overcome by 1) improved accuracy,
and 2) the countermarch (used to
great effect by Sweden in the 1600s);rank one advanced ten paces then fired;
rank two advanced beyond them and they now fired, whilst rank one was
reloading, and so on.
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.
1515, Wheel-lock muskets in general use. They were complicated
to make, but could be fired using only one hand, so were popular with horsemen
who could fire one-handed and still control their mount.
1512, The English Navy began to use
double decked warships. They displaced 1,000 tons and had 70 guns
1510, The wheel-lock firearm was invented in Nuremberg, Germany.
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.
attackers of castles were increasingly succesfullyn using bombardment to
destroy the walls, castlews changed design to have lower thicker walls.However
this meant that defenders could less easily cover the ground immediately below
the wall, making them more vulnerable to a suprise attack. Castles therefore
changed design to include bastions,
first used at the Papal Fort of Cittavecchia this year. Bastions were projecting angularpoints to the walls from which
defenders could look sideways to the ground at the foot of their walls. However the cost
of suchn elaborate fortifications, especiallywhen applied to town or city walls
rather than just a castle, could be prohibitive. A proposed fortification for Rome,1542,
with 18 bastions, was abandoned when just one bastion was fond to cost 44,000
Ducats, or about �10,000.
Guns made castles redundant � but
huge guns (cannon) were also self-limiting. More smaller arms were the solution
Meg, a huge cannon cast in The Netherlands for the Duke of Burgundy, ws
over 3 metres long, weighed 8.5 tonnes,and could hurl cannon balls 50 cm in
diameter. However such huge weapons
could only be transported by water, and therefore were only of use for
attacking places accessible by sea or large rivers.
1464, The increasing size of guns meant that castles were
becoming redundant. Previously, the stone castles of the 1300s were so
strongly built that they could only be taken by means of prolonged siege.
1415, Longbowmen defeated mounted knights at Agincourt.
1370, Early small hand guns were in
use to defend castles. Guns had been used in China since 1259.
1324, Cannon first used, at the siege of Metz.
At Bannockburn, Scottish spearmen showed they could defeat mounted knights in
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 in 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.
was first used in siege warfare, by King Edward I against Stirling Castle. Gunpowder had been
used in China
since the 7th century.
First recorded use of weapons that fire
Sung Army used bamboo tubes to fire bullets at Mongol invaders.
35, made the first known European reference to gunpowder, 12 years after the Mongol
invasions.The Chinese had been using explosives
as early as 1161 but then principally as a noise maker to startle the enemy.
in use. The longbow had a maximum range of
400 yards, and was accurate up to 250 yards, twice the range of the crossbow.
Chainmail in use.
851, Crossbows began to be used in France.
They were a sort of hand ballista, with a slower rate of fire than traditional
bows and arrows; however this was offset by the increased range and accuracy of
these weapons. Generally, crossbowmen were on foot, as mounting them cuased a
decrease in accuracy of fire.
700, Buyzantium began to use Greek Fire. An early version of the
modern flamethrower, the exact recipe, a closely guarded secret then., has been
lost. It was likely a mixture of sulkphur, naphtha and quicklime whoich would
burn fiercely when wetted. The Greek Fire was packed into wooden tubes into
which water was pumped; the fiery mixture exploded out under pressure causing
much damage to both soldiers� and wooden
500, The bow and arrow was the principal
weapon in India. Although their enemies used chariots and horse-borne archers,
the Hindus did not use the horse much, perhaps bevcause the Deccan was
unfavourable for raising horses of good quality. The bow and arrow was superior to
heavy clumsy catapults and soon became the weapon of choice across Eurasia.
390, The Roman, Flavius Vegetius Renatus, wrote
a book, De Re Militari (On Military Affairs). This remained a
key text on military tactics for 1,000 years.
300, Germanic tribes were utilising the Gothic Wagon Fort. They linked their
wagons in a laager to make a fort at each night�s encampment, and sometimes
even moved in this formation during the day forming a sort of mobile fort.
332 BCE, Stones being thrown by catapults.
300 BCE, Galleys in use by Crete.
856 BCE, Battering rams in use by the Assyrians.
1186 BCE, The Egyptians were using sailing boats in
marine battles against the Sea Peoples. However sail boats were limited in
utility as ramming vessels because if the wind was strong enough to get up
enough speed, the sea would be too rough to sail on. Rowing boats overcame this
limitation to an extent as they could be rowed up to greater, ramming speeds. The
aim was to hit an enemy ship on its broadside. However they had to be narrow
with shallow draught to be able to attain such speeds. This limited their
fighting radius to within a few days of a friendly port, because their slim design
precluded the carrying of large food supplies for the rowers. Sailships with
guns had a greater fighting radius, as they could carry more supplies, but were
less manoeuvrable, and opposing fleets could easily miss each other completely
in the open ocean.� The adoption of steam
as propulsion got around the manoeuvrability issue, but paradoxically
re-imposed a smaller fighting radius from port as the early steam warships
burnt coal at a huge rate. Only when fuel oil superseded coal could steam
warships fight further from port. Nations such as the UK and France needed to maintain a network
of friendly ports and coaling stations across the globe, in order to project
their naval power far from home.
2000 BCE, Armour in use, firstly leather.,
then metal-reinforced leather, then all-metal. Initially bronze, then iron.
Swords being used, probably first by the Assyrians, once
metallurgy had progressed to where sharp blades could be produced.
3000 BCE, Bows and arrows used in warfare.
15,000 BCE, Professional spear throwers used in
25,000 BCE, Boomerang-like weapons in use in
what is now Poland.
250,000 BCE, Estimated date of earliest stone
500,000 BCE, Estimated date of earliest spears.
The Military Revolution, Geoffrey Parker, Cambridge University Press, 1988.
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