Trench Rats Many men killed in the trenches were buried almost where they fell. These corpses, as well as the food scraps that littered the trenches, attracted rats. Quotes from soldiers fighting in the trenches: "The rats were huge. They were so big they would eat a wounded man if he couldn't defend himself." "I saw some rats running from under the dead men's greatcoats, enormous rats, fat with human flesh. My heart pounded as we edged towards one of the bodies. His helmet had rolled off. The man displayed a grimacing face, stripped of flesh; the skull bare, the eyes devoured and from the yawning mouth leapt a rat."
Dulce Et Decorum Est, by Wilfred Owen Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,Till on the haunting flares we turned our backsAnd towards our distant rest began to trudge.Men marched asleep. Many had lost their bootsBut limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hootsOf disappointed shells that dropped behind.GAS! Gas! Quick, boys!-- An ecstasy of fumbling,Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time;But someone still was yelling out and stumblingAnd floundering like a man in fire or lime.--Dim, through the misty panes and thick green lightAs under a green sea, I saw him drowning.
In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.If in some smothering dreams you too could paceBehind the wagon that we flung him in,And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,His hanging face, like a devil's sick of sin;If you could hear, at every jolt, the bloodCome gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cudOf vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,--My friend, you would not tell with such high zestTo children ardent for some desperate glory,The old Lie: Dulce et decorum estPro patria mori. (“How fitting and sweet it is to die for one’s country.”)
Videos • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=miqzY_yDKyg • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_gOU_GCkwMo
Early Gas Masks • The canister gas mask was developed to protect the soldier from the use of chlorine gas and tearing agents such as xylyl bromide. This type of mask was not effective in filtering out the more deadly phosgene and diphosgene gases. There was no mask that could offer protection from the blistering mustard gas which attacks all exposed flesh.
Resting in the Trenches Australians resting up in a dug-out are sheltered from shelling 15 feet underground during the Battle of the Somme, July 1916
Diagram of Trenches • Diagram of a dug-out as being used by the Australians in the photo
German Trenches • This captured section of German trench at the Somme helps explain why the initial British artillery barrage did little to weaken the Germans. Much deeper than the British trenches, the German trench system offered amenities such as barber shops and officer clubs!
POW’s • Posed German photo illustrating POW types: (from left) Annamite, Tunisian, Senegalese, Sudanese, Russian, American, Portuguese, and English (1918).
Role of African-Americans • The "Harlem Hellfighters", American 369th Regiment who fought beside the French 16th Division. The longest fighting American unit in World War I, they received a total of 171 Croix de Guerre decorations (1918).
Preparing to Move • The Lancashire Fusiliers fix bayonets as they prepare to go "over the top" in the Battle of the Somme, July 1916
Moving out at dawn… • Soldiers silhouetted against the morning sky. These troops would be brought up to the front under the cover of night so that they would not be detected by enemy reconnaissance. The surprise must be complete.
Moving forward! • Positioning newly brought-up artillery for the surprise attack. A brief, but intense, barrage of high-explosives and gas will prepare the way for the shock troops. The enemy will still be dazed by the time the first wave reaches them!
The Christmas Truce, 1914 • Germans began decorating outside trenches • Sung carols • Exchanged gifts across “no man’s land!” • British, French, and German soldiers on the Western Front
“Belleau Wood,” by Garth Brooks Oh the snow flakes fell in silenceOver Belleau Wood that night For a Christmas truce had been declaredBy both sides of the fight As we laid there in our trenchesThe silence broke in two By a German soldier singing A song that we all knew Though I did not know the languageThe song was Silent Night Then I heard my buddy whisper "All is calm, all is bright" Then the fear and doubt surrounded meCause I'd die if I was wrong But I stood up in my trench And I began to sing along Then across the frozen battlefieldAnother's voice joined in Until one by one each man became A singer of the hymn Then I thought I was dreamingFor right there in my sight Stood the German soldier Neath the falling flakes of whiteAnd he raised his hand and smiled at meAs if seemed to say Here's hoping we both live to seeUs find a better way Then the devils clock struck midnightAnd the skies lit up again And the battlefield where heaven stood Was blown to hell again But for just one fleeting momentThe answer seemed so clear Heaven's not beyond the clouds Its just beyond the fear No heaven's not beyond the cloudsIt's for us to find here
Stalemate on the Western Front • Trench warfare: extremely hard to MOVE forward • Example: at Verdun in 1916 750,000 men lost their lives and the Western front had moved LESS THAN 10 MILES!
Eastern Front: More MOBILE • Russian DISASTER at Tannenberg: 92,000 taken prisoner and 30,000 killed: Germans “only” lose 13,000
In Flanders fields the poppies blowBetween the crosses, row on rowThat mark our place; and in the skyThe larks, still bravely singing, flyScarce heard amid the guns below.We are the Dead. Short days agoWe lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,Loved and were loved, and now we lieIn Flanders fields.Take up our quarrel with the foe:To you from failing hands we throwThe torch; be yours to hold it high.If ye break faith with us who dieWe shall not sleep, though poppies growIn Flanders fields. John McCrae, died 1918