Friday, 21 July 2017
Military History Photo Friday: The Screw Picket, A Simple Yet Brilliant Invention of World War One
In war, sometimes it's the little details that make the difference between life and death. In the early part of the war, when both sides started sneaking into No Man's Land at night to string barbed wire to protect their trenches, the Allies couldn't figure out how the Germans were doing it so quietly. The British and French wiring parties would often attract unwanted attention while hammering in the pickets to hold the barbed wire. Although they used padded mallets and put more padding on the tops of the pickets, they couldn't help but make some noise, and the alert Germans would hear it, send up a flare, and spot them. You can imagine what happened next.
Then, on 15 August 1915, the Indian Corps discovered the secret. The Germans used a different type of picket to suspend barbed wire. Called a "screw picket", it had a corkscrew on the bottom and an eye at the top through which to stick a bayonet or entrenching tool. Then all the soldier had to do was twist and screw the picket into the soil. This was much quieter than hammering, and once the Allies learned the trick they saved many lives.
The above photo, courtesy Wikimedia Commons, shows a British wiring party moving forward. Since it's daytime, this is either staged or in a rear area. You can clearly see the corkscrew on the bottom and the eye on the top.