Sharpshooters and Snipers in World War 1 I THE GREAT WAR Special

Sharpshooters and Snipers in World War 1 I THE GREAT WAR Special


It’s quiet. The battle has died down for a moment and the men are relaxing in the trenches as much as they are able to. The captain walks over to you with a smile on his face and begins to tell you a funny story when he suddenly pauses. His face goes blank, and he crumples dead to the ground. Shot in the head by an enemy sniper. I’m Indy Neidell. Welcome to a great war special episode about snipers during the first world war. By the fall of 1914 the war of motion on the Western Front had degenerated into stalemate. And the individual battles could last for months. There were hours and even days of lulls between the surges and counter surges. And a main feature of these lulls was the single man silently observing the enemy trenches with his rifle. Germany, Austria-Hungary and France went to war in July 1914 with Jäger or Chasseur units, light infantry with a long tradition of woodland combat who were skilled in camouflage, observation and patience. Russia and Britain on the other hand entered the war without doctrines for individual marksmanship and sharpshooters and without telescopic sights for their rifles. And this soon was a big issue. The German Army issued a lot of commercial hunting rifles made by Walther and Mauser to the infantry in 1914. They were not of a high military standard and had an effective accuracy of only 300 meters (900 feet). But they worked well enough for the moment, especially here the trenches were very close to each other. By the end of the year though, they had supplied over 15,000 Gewehr 98 rifles with telescopic sights and a range of a kilometer. 3,000 feet. Well a little bit more but you could do the math yourselves. These were issued to the best marksmen of a battalion, who was often someone who had been a forest guard, hunter or policeman in civilian life. These men most often sniped alone, although they were allowed to work in pairs. They had no fixed location and could even go into no-man’s land. Their sights and binoculars, made by world masters like Zeiss, Goerz, or Hensoldt, gave them a significant advantage over the British in trench warfare, who had pretty much none of these weapons at this time. On one day, in one trench segment early in 1915, the British lost 18 men to German Sniper fire. A single sniper could easily score 40 or more kills before he was dealt with. “Being dealt with” at that time usually meant shelling the area with field guns since there was no real counter sniping ability. It wasn’t just on the western front either. At Gallipoli, Turkish snipers though not often equipped with telescopic sights, were masters of camouflage, and shot from behind bushes, tall grass, or rock formations, making life hell, and inflicting heavy casualties on the ANZACs on the beaches and lower slopes below. The ANZACs for their part had an immensely gifted Sniper there in the person of Billy Sing a Chinese Australian marksman, nicknamed the Assassin. His official kill tally there was 150, but there are estimates as high as 300 men killed. One of the first British officers who determined to improve British sharp shooting was Major Hesketh Prichard of British intelligence. He was a big-game hunter and not only brought his own telescopic hunting rifles to the frontlines, but bought many others to outfit the troops. But you know, just giving a soldier a rifle with a telescope and saying use this was a death sentence. Amateurs were very quickly killed by the enemy. They had no training in camouflage and soon gave their positions away. Or just put their rifles over the top of the parapets exposing themselves to German snipers. Those German snipers by 1915 had a complex system of cover. They made their parapet deliberately uneven using sandbags and debris. They built metal shields with holes in them for firing through. They covered each other’s flanks. They built concrete sniping posts. Hesketh Prichard would have to educate the British if they were to have any chance of competing. With the help of colonel Langford Lloyd, e established the first army sniping school and began taking recommended volunteers. There he taught the essentials of sniping. One: before even thinking about shooting you must know your rifle far better than basic training taught. You couldn’t just screw on a telescope and think you’ll hit anything either. Sights were very sensitive and must be adjusted and corrected regularly. The focusing sleeve and object glass must be kept clean. And after six or seven hundred shots the wear on the rifle ruined accuracy Also, German snipers kept their rifles; the British had to give theirs to an NCO after their shift. That had to go. Two: British Snipers would work in teams of two: one with a rifle and one with binoculars. In the trenches, speed was the key since a target only showed himself briefly. One bit of training was to have the man look through binocular for 15 seconds and then write down everything he could remember. You want to know how important this was? Captured German snipers said they could identify British officers because they had skinnier legs than the enlisted men. “There are hundreds and hundreds of our officers lying dead in France whose death was solely due to the cut of their riding breeches.” The observers work was of immense value in the trenches. Three: they learned the basics of camouflaging themselves and their rifles. Rifles could be wrapped in sandbags and lenses shaded from reflection for example. Sniper lairs were effective, but once spotted they were huge targets. Four: the shooting itself. You could not call yourself a sniper unless you could get off a shot within two seconds of sighting the target. Even a rookie wouldn’t stick up his head from more than that long. Judging the wind or the distance was not only difficult it was vital to success. And the smallest alteration to the ballistic could ruin the shot. On offense the sniper’s job was to target enemy machine gunners or forward artillery observers. And when a trench was captured he was to pin the enemy into the next trench to deter counter-attacks Hesketh Prichard was proud of his work and even wrote in his book Sniping in France: “It was exactly as if a party of really capable sportsmen were shooting an area for big game, or better still, Scottish forest deer. Imagine these sportsmen replaced by careless and ignorant tourists. The ground would inevitably be maltreated. the wrong beasts shot, corries shot when the wind was unfavorable all the deer stampeded into the next forest. Of course in this case the deer did not stampede, but… shot back.” By mid nineteen sixteen, the British sniper was as skilled and experienced as his German counterpart. And German snipers consequently became more careful and shied away from what had earlier been without risk. Both sides now used lures and decoy dummy heads to pinpoint enemy sniper positions, and then take him out. The British even used elephant guns to shoot through the German metal sniper shields. It was a very dangerous game. If you’re wondering, the sniper with the most kills in the war on all sides was the first nation soldier Francis Pegahmagabow who fought for Canada. He had 378 confirmed kills and captured over 300 more men during the war. I’m sure you noticed that most of the talk today was about British sniping development. The French and Germans had similar schools, but they’re not so well documented and as to the Russians I got nothing. Other nations had their own doctrines, but material is either unavailable or in languages we do not understand, which is unfortunate, but that’s how it is. If you know more about sniping on the Italian Front, for example, get in touch with Flo, our social media manager. Today was just a brief introduction to the world of the modern sniper, whose talent and patience have been vital to the conduct not only of this war, but pretty much all of them ever since. Thanks to Marcus our research assistant for the research on this episode. If you want to know more about the best sniper of World War I, click right here for our bio special about click right here for our bio special about. For more great pictures of World War I snipers, follow us on Instagram and do not forget to subscribe. See you next time.

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    Brian Thomas

    In Regio L'Esercito, there were the Bersaglieri, who were sharpshooters first introduced by the brilliant La Mormara in 1836 for Italy's forerunner, Sardegna-Savoia-Piemonte. They would be highly decorated for their performance at Cernaia in the Crimean War. At the beginning of Unification in 1861, there were 6 regiments which was expanded to 12 in 1914. Speed and sharpshooting were their trademark. They distinguished themselves in WW I as well.

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    America's Choice

    All combatants used expanding rounds. Created by snipping the ends off of the bullet. Devastating.

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    Peter Smart

    Billy Sing then went on to fight on the western front. His tally went up from there. He was probably the best counter sniper for the allies by the end of the war.

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    John Hansen

    Benito Mousilini was a sniper in the Italian Army in the first world war, He was credited with over 60 confirmed kills.

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    peace tranquility

    William Edward "Billy" Sing, DCM was an Australian soldier of Chinese and English descent who served in the Australian Imperial Force during World War I, best known as a sniper during the Gallipoli Campaign. He took at least 150 confirmed kills during that campaign, and may have had over 200 kills in total.

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    History is Fake

    No war is "GREAT" and snipers were despised before Hollywood glorified them, they still should be.

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    gerald 413

    By the end of The Red Baron he felt dismay lossing many friends and knowing he was killing so many ppl. The war was ending and so was the Red Baron. The Brits gave him a full military funural. He was later moved to his familys plot. A man who saw the end coming. History.

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    Azone123465

    …300 meters is not 900 feet… 300 meters is 1000 feet… Math is not taught in school any more?

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    P Davis

    You didn't mention that the Turks sent "Abdul the terrible" to kill Billy Sing…

    …Billy killed him.

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    mllClam

    Seriously? The screenshot is of an African WWI sniper? It’s one thing for video games to be PC and falsely diversify things but….

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    waffensachverstand com

    Sniping in France is still the valid basline for all sniping and police and military marksmanship

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    Michael Lefort

    I'm sorry, but as a Marine, I have to say, if you can't hit a target at three hundred yards without a scope, you shouldn't be trusted with a firearm. Have your eyes checked. I have a 1903 Springfield and even at one hundred years old it's accurate to 600 yards. That's farther than I can see clearly.

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    Anselmo Dinero

    Britain: I am the most hostile country in the world.
    Germany: HaLt mein Bier fest. (Hold my beer in German)

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    Haribo 73

    Little fact for you…..
    The term "sniper" comes from the British bird, the snipe. Sports hunting for the snipe, a difficult bird to spot in its natural habitat, gave us the term Sniper.
    Another fact for you….
    The Snipers "Ghillie Suit" was designed and first used by the Lovat Scouts, a British sniper unit.
    Another little fact for you….
    British Army snipers are the best in the World….End of.

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    yuukine date

    So in ww1 the sniper is the one of the biggest game changer in history of war, I see but in the art of war doesn't means that cheating? because true war will face your enemy with a honor and dignity as soldier but
    That kind of not fair fight if you kill your enemy he doesn't know.

    If you did that you are mostly like Mongolian savages.

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    frosty pablo

    The sniper rifle of choice wasnt actually a "sniper" rifle.
    The Lee Enfield .303.
    A standard infantry rifle.
    The ability to shoot was what made a "sniper" and still does.
    An example. Billy Sing ww1

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    WarParty! At the Outpost

    Thank you for making your own captions! I didn't know you were gonna post a video of Francis Pegahmagabow at the end so I turned the captions on to see how to spell his name. YouTube's auto generated captions woulda butchered it.

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    Weesel71

    Something for folks to check on: Gallipoli front, bored Allied troops sniping at the shovels of Turkish troops digging their positions. One Turn enters in the spirit of the moment and keeps raising his shovel to draw fire. After a while this stops and the shooters figure some prig NCO/officer put an end to the game. Nope. The shovel reappeared raising slowly over the earthworks … sporting a bandage!

    Dang I wish I could recall the book I was reading (a history, not a novel) when I came across that story.

    Does this ring a bell with anyone else.

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    Florian Pierre DUMONT

    Fun fact = Allies generals wanted skilled marksmen, so skilled they could "hunt for a snipe". And this is how "snipers" came to life, children ! ^^

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    Andy Lipana

    7,62 *53 sako Simo Häyhä shoot in wintter war over 400russian google it if you dont believe!!! Russian try occupied FInland🇫🇮⚔️⚔️⚔️ greetings from finnland!!! And simo häyhä dont use scope he shoot onely iron sight.. Sorry my bad englis 🇫🇮⚔️⚔️⚔️..

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    Frost Roxie

    Finland has a sniper during the Winter War with 500+++ kills …. with out a scope…
    in only 4 or 5 months… he also had many unconfirmed kills…. he bought his rifle after the civil war(1920ish) …. so he had about 20 years experience using it..

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    Perry Mae

    Well, at least Call of duty wasn't around back then, nowadays anyone can be a master quick scoper….. And ohhh those damn campers to.

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    Justin Harris

    I would imagine the Russians had very capable snipers being that a lot of the country was rural at that time period, as well as their weapons being mostly bolt action rifles. I have no concrete evidence to support this but it makes sense to me

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    thnktank1

    I went to military school and was encouraged to become a sniper in service. I never joined because I hate being alone and unable to eat well or take a shower for weeks on end. Snipers are a special set of people who have my utmost respect.

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    sadmoose64

    why am i getting recommended world war 1 things. the last time ive watch one of these videos is when i was still interested in battlefield 1

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    Matas

    Damn those Russians keeping their secrets about sniping and being Russia in general in a personal Putin's treasury and not sharing to anyone else. 😀
    8:10

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    Fred Midtgaard

    "It's in languages we don't understand!". What languages do you understand? There is an excellent book on German snipers in Danish by a Danish Colonel. How can you have a war channel without understanding German, Russian, Italian, Danish, Spanish, French???

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    MurekeMies

    In my town of Nummenkylä (Järvenpää) Finland was an old sniper school or some thing like that, its from the late 19th century. Fun fact the first president of Finland was a sniper there.

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    john dfc

    The British learnt a valuable lesson from the boer sharp shooters in the boer war . The British army practiced sharp shooting and the whole army fired up to 50 times more practice shots per year than their counter parts and at the out break of the First World War they were renowned for the marksmanship. They may or may not have had dedicated snipers as such but thanks the boers they certainly were the best army at shooting marksmanship at the time

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    John Coffin

    In his memoir 'Goodbye to all That.' Robert Graves wrote that 'crack regiments' like his own Royal Welsh Fusiliers waged effective anti-sniper warfare while the Army as a whole was still clueless. Sniping activity was tracked, and officers with vast hunting experience stalked German snipers, often using their own hunting rifles. So while in some sectors, sniper casualties piled up, the Royal Welsh kept 'fire superiority' over the Germans facing them.

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    Rand Barrett

    Indy I can’t wait to see your next project
    I kind of hope you save your seed so that I may use it to create my own progeny

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    GD Blackthorn

    So the German on the horse with the gas mask lives and his horse would then die because he has no protection!

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    serge glazunov

    Soilder in the trench"I can't fight the rest of this war not knowing what happened in the story." Takes off helmet raises head above sandbags… *DAWQK

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    Doug Coulter

    People need to read "A Rifleman went to War" by Capt H.W. McBride, the fellow who in fact (re?) developed pretty much all the current doctrine of sniping – still required reading for those in the business. The one I have has a prologue by Jeff Cooper and is more or less the "Hatcher's notebook" of sniping. Any gun guy will recognize these names. I'm amazed this video didn't mention it, and got several well-documented historical facts wrong (perhaps as a result).

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    Bukk Willdd

    Very late finding this, but my grandfather was shot by a German sniper. He was lucky and just got hit in the fleshy part of the neck. He was chewing tobacco at the time and he said he just kept chewing until the medics came to get him. His Purple Heart is one of my prized possessions.

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    MBCGRS

    My Grandfather was a Sniper with the NZ Army (9th Hawkes Bay) at the Battle of Passchendaele 1917. He was a woodsman before the war. He used a German Zeiss spotting scope. After the war he kept an old German helmet with the spike on, dug into the ground for his dog to drink out of… didnt think much of Germans…

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    Capodecamper

    you wont here about him because native, but Francis Pegahmagabow was the most effective allied sniper in WW1, he literally was the simo haya of western snipers but yet you will never read about him in a schoolbook or documentary

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