London, May 10 (ANI): The mystery behind Britain's relatively fewer collateral losses during the capture of German trenches in Somme has finally been unravelled. The British employed flame spewing 56ft long, 2.5 tonne machines called "Squirts", and "Judgements" to secure the World War One victory.
These formidable machines could rain fire as far as 300 feet. The British unleashed the force of four such killer machines on the very first day of the Somme battle, i.e. July 1st 1916.
They were built secretly in the shallow tunnels beneath the mud of no man's land. They were operated by a crew of eight men from the Royal Engines Special Brigade - "Z" company - but took 300 men to assemble them underground, each component part being taken into the shallow tunnels, known as "Russian Saps", in sequence. The devices then had to be filled with oil, taken underground in hundreds of cans.
According to The Telegraph, two were destroyed by German shells in the build-up to the attack and could not be operated. Two others were deployed on the morning of the assault and were credited with helping the British in those areas to capture the German trenches with comparatively few losses.
Glasgow University's Archaeological Research Division (GUARD), is confident it has located one of the four, at Montagne de Cappy, just south of Mametz, by studying private diaries, trench maps, mine plans, aerial photographs and official accounts of the battle.
They have also conducted geophysical studies of the site, using ground penetrating radar, which have indicated the presence of metallic objects, thought to be the remains of the weapon.
The strange-looking, tubular weapons were only 14 inches wide and worked like a large syringe. A piston was pushed by compressed gas into a long chamber containing the fuel. This was then forced out through the nozzle on the surface, from where the jet of flame was projected.
For all the hours they took to assemble, the devices could only be fired three times, with each blast lasting only ten seconds.
These machines were specifically built to inspire terror in the hearts of those who had the misfortune of encountering it.
"The idea was to fill the enemy with terror. It was a weapon, not of mass destruction, but of mass terror, pure and simple. The idea was to force the Germans to keep their heads down long enough for your infantry to cross no-man's-land," Peter Barton, a historian and author involved in the project told the paper.
"They were meant to scare the Germans. It didn't kill that many people. The idea was just to make them so frightened of this horrific thing. The effect of the flame was utterly stupendous. here they were used, the British captured the German lines with very little loss at all," he added. (ANI)