The Trench System World War i

In World War I military tactics and artillery from previous wars were now out-of-date. And new technology like machine guns made it dangerous to fight/cross on open ground. New defensive tactics came out, one being Trench Warfare. In Trench Warfare, two sides fighting each other dig trenches in a battlefield to stop the enemy from coming closer or advancing.

About the Trenches

There were about 2,490 km of trench lines dug/used in World War 1. These trenches were estimated to be about 1-2 meters wide and 3 meters deep. It took 450 men six hours to dig about 250 meters of trenches. Typically, the German had better-built trenches than the British. Trenches were dirty, muddy, and flooded easily when bad weather occurred. They were dug in zig-zag patterns instead of straight lines. Trenches were often times reinforced with sandbags and wooden beams. The bottom was covered in duckboards which were like wooden boards. This protected the soldiers' feet from water and mud which prevented Trench Foot.

Living Conditions In Trenches

The living conditions in trenches were very rough on the soldiers. These trenches were dirty, filled with diseases, and flooded in bad weather. Most trenches had small animals and rodents living with them including rats, lice, and frogs. Rats caused most of the problems eating soldiers' food and even some soldiers. Lice was also a huge problem because the spread of Trench Fever. Trench Fever caused soldiers to have a fever, headache, sore muscles, bones, joints, and itch abundantly. Soldiers also suffered from Trench Foot. When the trenches flooded from bad weather, they became muddy witch caused Trench Foot when soldiers walked around in it. Sometimes, this resulted a foot getting amputated. Cold weather was also dangerous for soldiers because of more diseases and frostbite. It was also very difficult to sleep in the trenches because of the noises of war and uncomfortable surroundings. The watch shift was kept to two hours to prevent soldiers from falling asleep. It was very dangerous for soldiers to fall asleep while on watch which is why soldiers were constantly sleep deprived.

“The water in the trenches through which we waded was alive with a multitude of swimming frogs. Red slugs crawled up the side of the trenches and strange beetles with dangerous looking horns wriggled along dry ledges and invaded the dugouts, in search of the lice that infested them.” -Unknown Journalist

"No Man's Land"

No Man's Land was the area between the two enemy trench lines. The land was often covered in barbed wire and land mines. There was anywhere from 50-250 yards between both trench lines. Most of the raids in WWI happened during the night while soldiers would sneak across No Man's Land to attack tho other side. Other than mines and barbed wire, there were many dead bodies here.

Diagram of what the trenches were like:

Truces in Trenches

Around Christmas time in 1914, the Germans and the British put down their guns, cannons, and other weapons. When they came out of their trenches, they sang Christmas carols, played soccer, ate food, and exchanged gifts. Even though some commanders weren't happy with truce, it was important for the soldiers to experience a time of joy and a break from fighting.

There were three stages of the front line in which soldiers rotated through. Soldiers would stay in the trenches anywhere from 1-14 days. Soldiers spent their time in the front line of the trenches, resting, and time in the support trenches. If soldiers weren't fighting they spent their time fixing the trenches, moving supplies, cleaning weapons, doing inspections, or guard duty.

These pictures show what the trenches were like and how crowded they were.

Trenches used Today

Although you don't see or here about trenches being used often today, they still are. Typically soldiers dig foxholes to go in and to protect themselves, but trenches are what started these. As foxholes get bigger, they turn into trenches. Also, trench warfare was used in the Gulf War in 1991 which is pretty recent compared to 100 years ago. Trenches will forever leave a legacy war tactics and strategies.

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