Pictures of World War I

Each Worth 1000 Words…

Concrete Boats? World War I Small Boats And Dinghy

The First World War was the largest of all wars and the dominant states had built large ships. In order to service large ships they needed small boats; the naval definition of boat is: “a vessel small enough to be carried aboard another vessel; a vessel that can be lifted out of the water.” The dinghies, tenders and prams used for ship to shore transport were carried on board their mother ship.

World War 1 Inland Boats

For hundreds of years the countries of Europe and the Middle East had constructed extensive canal systems. Europe was crisscrossed by more than 15,000 miles of canals; these and their rivers were used for transportation of goods and merchandise. The waterways were alive with flotillas of vessels, barges, barges towing barges, row boats and sailing vessels.  Thus there were an enormous number of small boats already available for use when war was declared in 1914.

Even the Australian government militarized their barges and they were not even invaded.

Barges – The armies used these boats to move ammunition to the supply depots at the fronts, food to the men, coal from the mines to the storehouses for the steam ships and trains, etc. Some of the larger barges were steam engine driven. Horses, oxen and even trains were used to tow barges.

Ferry Boats Ferry boats were used where it was necessary to cross rivers and lakes, particularly when artillery had “taken out” the bridges. The ground war resulted in thousands of injured and sickened personnel.

Hospital Barges – The Medical Corps and Red Cross utilized hospital barges for evacuation purposes. The hospital barges were not specifically built or designed for troop evacuation or as a hospital until later into the Great War. They were converted from coal or cargo barges. The sailing skipper of each hospital barge was usually a Royal Engineer (RE) sergeant and the barges were towed by steam tugs.

Tug Boats – Tugs are boats designed to push or pull other boats

Coastal Ships of WW1

The people, goods and cargo were transferred to larger vessels and vice versa at the coastal ports or beaches, this required dinghies. Large vessels carried their own dinghies, and tenders. There were tug boats and pilot boats necessary for guidance as well as ferry boats used for crossing the English channel, the North sea, the Baltic, Mediterranean sea and even the Red sea. Then there were landing craft.

Landing Craft – Traditionally the ship’s boats were sufficient to land the armies but the technical advancement of weapons and the numbers of troops involved made the design of purpose built landing craft necessary. Thus in 1915 the first ‘X’ Lighters with a spoon shaped bow to take shelving beaches and a drop down frontal ramp were commissioned. They were towed to the Aegean Sea and performed well in the 6th August landings at Suvla, Battle of Gallipoli.

World War 1 – Defensive Naval Crafts

Submarine Chasers – There were also the 70 ton, 110-foot wooden-hulled patrol boats or “submarine chasers.” Outfitted with gasoline engines, they were armed with a single 3-inch gun and a small number of depth charges.

Coastal motorboats (CMBs) – CMB’s were also in service in the North Sea, These lightweight boats with powerful petrol engines were capable of high speed, and had sufficient fuel to give a considerable radius of action. They were armed with torpedoes and depth charges and outfitted for laying mines.

Minesweepers – The Reserve Trawler Section fishermen were commissioned, issued with minesweeping gear, rifles, uniforms and pay, for the service of their trawlers as minesweepers. The first purpose built minesweepers were 40 foot Coastal Motor Boats.

Lifeboats – The Beeching-Peake SR (self-righting) lifeboat was the standard model for the new Royal National Lifeboat Institute (RNLI) fleet. These and later steam and petrol powered boats were stationed around the British Isles. The RNLI is a charitable, volunteer service still rescuing people, from the sea, today.

Concrete Boats of World War 1

Small boats were still mostly wooden and man, sail or small engine powered in 1914. With metal being scarce and wood expensive, concrete seemed like a decent alternative. Despite the obvious disadvantages, concrete was molded into a buoyant hull shape and used for barges in Holland in World War I.


World War 1 Life Boats and Small Vessels Gallery