Feature Articles - Life in the Trenches

It has been estimated that up to one third of Allied casualties on the Western Front were actually sustained in the trenches. Aside from enemy injuries, disease wrought a heavy toll.

Life In The Trenches | WW1 Facts

 Many men died on their first day in the trenches as a consequence of a precisely aimed  bullet.

Front Line: Life in the Trenches of WWI

British systems evolved a front line of deep, lightly-manned trenches protected by belts of barbed wire and parapets of sandbags. A hundred yards behind this was a second line, the support trench, where men spent most time, the officers in dugouts, their men in “funk-holes” cut into the sides of the trenches. Troops gathered in these trenches before attacks. Up to 300 yards further back lay a third line of defence, the reserve trench, supposed to be a last line of defence if the front and reserve trenches were overwhelmed by the enemy.

World War I: Life in the Trenches - Primary Facts

Thin alleys called communication trenches ran laterally through the three lines. The communication trenches were a constant hive of activity, with messages being run to and from the front lines, returning battalions being relieved or new ones going “up the line”, wounded evacuated, mail and newspapers delivered, and food and drink or fresh rolls of barbed wire being brought to the front.

Trench warfare WW1 style is something all participating countries vowed never to repeat and the facts make it easy to see why.

Trench warfare featured prominently in World War I

The time between dawn and dusk was filled with a multiplicity of tasks to keep men awake. These could include repairing shell-damaged trenches or draining flooded ones, emptying latrines, writing letters or cleaning kit. At night, duties included mending or laying barbed wire or making raids to take prisoners.

Trenches on the Web - Special: Selected Tours

During the offensives of Loos, the Somme and Arras, British soldiers abandoned the dubious safety of the trenches to advance across the fire-swept no-man’s-land. At the third battle of Ypres (Passchendaele) in 1917, they discovered not enemy trenches but – because artillery had destroyed drainage ditches and turned the boggy battlefield into a quagmire of quicksand-like mud – a network of concrete pill-boxes and bunkers laced together with barbed wire. Men were dragged to slow deaths in the mire or hung, wounded and screaming, on the wire.

Science at FMNH - Exploring Unknown Deep Sea Ecosystems

Men, exasperated and afraid of these rats (which would even scamper across their faces in the dark), would attempt to rid the trenches of them by various methods: gunfire, with the , and even by clubbing them to death.

So what was life actually like for the men serving tours of duty in the line, be they front line, support or reserve trenches?

Life and death in Britain's WW1 trenches - Telegraph

Seen from above in , the trenches looked like the castellated battlements of medieval castles, thanks to the block-like zigzagging impediments dug at regular intervals to shield soldiers from shell blasts and to prevent an enemy getting into the trenches from having clear fields of fire on either side.

Trenches would also smell of creosol or chloride of lime, used to stave off the constant threat of disease and infection.

The Adventures of Young Indiana Jones: Trenches of …

The open space between two sets of opposing trenches became known as No Man’s Land because no soldier wanted to traverse the distance for fear of attack.

Similarly, novices were cautioned against their natural inclination to peer over the  of the trench into .

Life in the trenches Sir John Monash Centre

The British did what they could to humanise the nightmare landscape of the trenches and create a home from home. One way of achieving this was nomenclature – baptising the trenches with familiar names such as London’s Piccadilly or Dublin’s Sackville Street, though trenches and landmarks in an otherwise featureless landscape could also bear more realistic names such as Dead Man’s Alley, Dead Cow Farm or Hellfire Corner. In their dugouts, officers tried to reproduce elements of clubland, with gramophones churning out ragtime tunes, magazine photos stuck to the mud walls, and orderlies serving whisky.