Before Bombs, Pilots Dropped These Steel Arrows On the Enemy
French aviators dropped the arrows or Flechettes which when released on an unsuspecting soldier could piece his body from head to foot.
What exactly is a flechette?
“They are pieces of steel rod about six inches long, sharpened at one end like a pencil, and with the four and a half inches or so at the other end machined out so that the whole thing has the section of a cross…which is, of course, very much lighter than the front end, and so acts just as a feather of an arrow.”
The steel arrows were packed in boxes of 500 and placed over a hole in the floor of the aircraft. When the plane is over the target the flechettes were released in a stream, simply by pulling a string! When they hit the ground, the arrows covered an area of about fifty yards by ten yards.
According to The War Illustrated, the Royal Flying Corps refused to use flechettes against the Germans because, “Our aviators think arrow-dropping is dirty work… because the enemy cannot hear them coming, and because they make such nasty wounds. Also it was not possible to drop them with sufficient accuracy.” The paper then conceded, “nevertheless against cavalry or infantry in any thing like close formation they certainly are effective, as the French have proved.”
One German soldier, who had been on the receiving end of a steel arrow attack said, “that if there was any arrow-dropping going on it was actually safer to be flat on the ground, because although one covers a greater area the area the arrow which does hit home will have less chance of going through several organs.”
“If one hits a man on the head it will go straight through his helmet into his brain.” However, just as fatal was a hit on the shoulder by one of the steel arrows. It will probably glance off the shoulder blade and go straight through the lungs, and get mixed up with other parts of the anatomy.”