Trench Warfare: Daily life in the trenches WW1
Rationale for the trenches • Schlieffen Plan: Germany quickly advanced through Belgium and into Northeast France and began push for Parisian assault • They fail and both sides dig in
Trench Warfare Trenches lasted 640 km and went from the English Channel to Switzerland
Frontline trenches: the closest trench to the enemy • 7 feet deep and 6 feet wide • Front of the trench is called the parapetand the rear is called the parados • Firestep: a 2-3 foot ledge that would make it possible to look over the edge of the trench • Barbed wire entanglements and machine gun posts acted as additional defence Construction of a trench
Trenches were often built in angles with many dead ends called traversesto confuse the enemy, should they stage a raid. Short trenches called saps were dug into No Man’s Land in order to be able to hear the enemy
A day in the life... Trench cycle: Should be 6 days on frontlines, 6 days on reserve and 20 days rest Reality: dependant on necessity (severity of the fighting) and location Per year: 70 days on the front, 30 in support, 120 in reserve. ONLY 70 DAYS SPENT IN REST
What do you do with your time? -Wait on fire step in preparation for potential enemy raid -Morning drink to calm nerves and warm the body -Cleaning of weapons -Inspections -Boredom: sitting still to avoid snipers, writing letters, etc
Trench foot • Soldiers lived in trenches, often in muddy, watery conditions. They were rarely dry. Wet, cold feet often led to trench foot • Duckboards: placed at the bottom of the trench to try to keep feet dry • Trench foot: the flaking, swelling and rotting away of flesh between the toes. Can lead to gangrene, and potentially to amputation.
The problems continue... Trench mouth: a disease of the gums caused by a lack of proper oral hygiene. Gums would bleed and teeth would fall out Lice: A lack of sanitary conditions (no bathing for weeks at a time) led to an infestation of lice that would live on the clothes and skin of the troops and lead to scabs, itching and infections
Rats: brown and black rats lived off the dead and dying soldiers. The brown rats were especially feared, as they could grow to the size of a cat, and would crawl on the faces of the troops as they slept Shell shock: constant fire of guns played havoc on the nerves of the soldiers, which led to go crazy, often desert their posts and potentially be shot as deserters. The problem would not go away after they returned home
Lack of nutritious food Disease and/or exhaustion Loneliness Constant fear of attack No clear understanding of why they were there Little sleep: falling asleep on lookout could be punishable by death (firing squad) Chlorine and mustard gas – death and suffering Sounds of artillery, planes, wounded soldiers, trapped soldiers in No Man’s Land that were dying and unable to be saved Fighting Commanding Officers that were not always wonderful decision makers The loss of many of your ‘brothers’ Racism and/or discrimination Other things to contend with....