World war one –life in the trenches When men volunteered to fight in world war one, on the Western front, little did they know about the conditions they would be living and fighting in the trenches, and for how long this would all go on for. The Great War lasted for four years even though many believed they would be home by Christmas 1914 on till 11/11/1918(today know better as remembrance day). (See source A) Even if the men did know about many of the conditions in the trench they would most likely have still joined as many were pressured by two ways to join. irstly by women as they would press little white feathers into their hand another way was they would walk past with a desecrated look in their faces as described by Rifleman Norman Demuth in source B (see source B) and secondly by propagandas(posters)see sources C,D and E for some examples. Even though the war lasted longer than expected the conditions didn’t get any better for soldiers as the shortage of food got worse, diseases became more common e. g.
Trench foot (where your foot rotted off in your boot), more rats moved into the trenches, no way to remove toilet waste from the trenches and corpses lined many of the sides and floors of the trenches helping to spread disease. It got so bad in the trenches many solider turned to shooting themselves so they could be sent home and see their friend and family they had left behind. But if you were found guilty of a self-inflicted wound (SIW) in the British Army the ultimate penalty was capital (death by firing squad. )But 3,894 British soldiers were found guilty of SIW but none were executed but instead sent to prison for lengthy periods.
Basic trench and layouts(see sources f and G) The first job of any soldiers getting to the western front who wanted to survive the machine gun fire from the triple alliance (Germany, Austria-Hungary and Italy) was to dig down, making trenches. Frontline trenches were usually about seven foot deep and six foot wide. The front of the trench was known as the parapet. The top two or three feet of the parapet and the parados (the rear side of the trench) would consist of a thick line of sandbags to absorb any bullets or shell fragments.
In a trench of this depth it was impossible to see over the top, so a two or three-foot ledge known as a fire-step, was added. Trenches were not dug in straight lines. Otherwise, if the enemy had a successive offensive, and got into your trenches, they could shoot straight along the line. Each trench was dug with alternate fire-bays and traverses. Duck-boards were also placed at the bottom of the trenches to protect soldiers from problems such as trench foot. Soldiers also made dugouts and funk holes in the side of the trenches to give them some protection from the weather and enemy fire.
The front-line trenches were also protected by barbed-wire entanglements and machine-gun posts. Short trenches called saps were dug from the front-trench into No-Man’s Land. The sap-head, usually about 30 yards forward of the front-line, were then used as listening posts. Behind the front-line trenches were support and reserve trenches. The three rows of trenches covered between 200 and 500 yards of ground. Communication trenches, were dug at an angle to the frontline trench and was used to transport men, equipment and food supplies. Food in the trenches
In the trench food was basic but was for many it was better than what families were eating back at home. Daily rations for a British soldier consisted of 20 ounces of bread or 16 ounces of flour or 4 ounces of oatmeal instead of bread, 3 ounces of cheese, 5/8 ounces of tea, 4 ounces of jam or 4 ounces of dried fruit ,? ounce of salt, 1/36 ounce of pepper, 1/20 ounce of mustard, 8 ounces of fresh vegetables or 1/10 gill lime if vegetables not issued, ? gill of rum or 1 pint of porter , 20 ounces of tobacco, 1/3 ounces of chocolate (optional), 4 ounces of butter/margarine and 2 ounces of dried vegetables.
One British soldier said (source H) Tinned bully beef was the usual. we were always hungry. many times we only got one slice of bread,often without butter or jam,for breakfast and hard biscuits for tea. they were so hard that you had to put them on a hard surface and smash them with a stone. Meaning many did not get what they should have. Weapons One thing that played a big part in the war was the weapons They used * Handguns (e. g Webley Revolver, Webley Self-loading, Webley-Fosbery Automatic Revolver, Enfield revolver, Colt M1911 , Colt New Service, Smith ; Wesson M1917 revolver, Smith ; Wesson Model 10, Smith amp; Wesson Triple Lock, Lancaster pistol, Colt Model 1903 Pocket Hammerless, and Mauser C96) * Rifles(e. g. Lee-Enfield, Lee-Metford, Pattern 1914 Enfield, Martini-Enfield, Martini-Henry, Ross rifle , Winchester Model 1894, Winchester Model 1895, Winchester Model 1907, Type 30 rifle, Type 38 rifle, Type 38 cavalry rifle, Mauser-Vergueiro, andPeriscope rifle) * Machine Guns(e. g. Vickers machine gun, Maxim gun, Lewis Gun, Hotchkiss Mark I, M1895 Colt-Browning machine gun and M1917 Browning machine gun) * Shotguns(e. g Sawn-off shotgun and Double-barreled shotgun) * Anti-tank weapons(e. . Elephant gun) * Grenades(e. g Grenade, No 1 Hales; Rifle grenades, 2, 3, 4 Hales; No. s 5, 23, 36 Mills; No. 6 Grenade; No. s 8, 9 Double Cylinder Jam Tin; No. 13 Battye; No. 15 Ball grenade; No. 27 Smoke Grenade and No. 34 Egg grenade) * Mortars(e. g 2 inch Medium Mortar, Newton 6 inch Mortar, Stokes Mortar and Livens Projector) * Support Guns(E. g Vickers-Crayford rocket gun * Swords(e. g 1897 Pattern, 1908 and 1912 Pattern Cavalry Swords and Claymore) * Bayonets(e. g M1907 bayonet) See sources G-L for examples of weapons. Diseases
In the trenches there was a lot of disease from a common cold to trench foot(foot rotting off). 1. Trench foot- Many soldiers fighting in World War One suffered from severe trench foot. Trench foot is an infection of the feet caused by cold, wet and insanitary conditions. In the trenches soldiers stood fur hours on end in waterlogged trenches without being able to remove wet socks or boots. The soilders feet would gradually go numb and the skin would turn red or blue. If untreated, trench foot could turn gangrenous and the result was amputation. 2. Shell shock-
Early symptoms of shell shock included tiredness, irritability, giddiness, lack of concentration and headaches. Eventually the men suffered mental breakdowns making it impossible for them to remain in the front-line. Some came to the conclusion that the soldiers condition was caused by the enemy’s heavy artillery. These doctors argued that a bursting shell creates a vacuum, and when the air rushes into this vacuum it disturbs the cerebro-spinal fluid and this can upset the working of the brain. 3. Trench mouth- It was a severe form of gingivitis that causes painful, infected, bleeding gums and ulcerations. . Trench fever is a bacterial infection that causes repeated cycles of high fever. Two different types of bacteria cause Trench fever. Bartonella quintana is carried by body lice and Bartonella henselae is carried by ticks. Symptoms are headaches, skin rashes, inflamed eyes and leg pains. Rats In the trenches Rats gathered in their millions infested everywere in trenches. There were two main types of rats in the trenches the brown and the black rat. Both were despised but the brown rat was especially feared. Gorging themselves on human they could grow to the size of a cat. Toilets Loss of life Conclusion
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