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Did the Soldiers Themselves give a more accurate picture of trench life than official accounts? By T.J.H Dorrell

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Did the Soldiers Themselves give a more accurate picture of trench life than official accounts? By T.J.H Dorrell Life in the trenches was horrific; the frontline soldiers dreaded having to return to them. During their tour of duty there, they lived in considerable tension. The trenches were far from safe; possibly one third of all casualties on the Weston front were killed or wounded in the trenches, mostly from artillery fire. In this essay I will be discussing and comparing the accuracy and differences between the soldiers' accounts of the trenches and official accounts composed by the government. I will use my own knowledge as well as many sources from the booklet provided. The sources that I shall use will come from many categories including primary accounts of soldiers in the trenches, photographs, paintings, propaganda and official government accounts. I will note the uses of the sources including their strengths and weaknesses, their provenance, reliability the importance and usefulness as well as the limitations of their usefulness. In section A, I will look at sources from history textbooks describing what life was like in the trenches. Most of the sources in this section are official accounts produced by the government and are therefore probably reliable however there is evidence to suggest that these are used for propaganda or censored. Section B sources are also official accounts describing life in the trenches but these sources are photographs and drawings, these may be useful, but not very reliable as some of the photographers and artists were appointed by the government and may be censored, exaggerated or used for propaganda. So we have to compare and contrast to rely on the information. In section C, the sources are from soldiers views, not authorised by the government. These sources maybe more reliable or useful, but they may have been made up or exaggerated to make them look better. ...read more.


It has either been edited to a huge extent, or completely construed by the government, as it is far too chirpy and very persuasive. Another reason why this particular piece of propaganda was constructed was to whip up hatred towards the Germans. "I wonder if the men are responding properly", (joining the army). "They would if they could see what the Germans have done in Belgium". This is also used as inspiration to the British public to join in to help Belgium and with the war. This source (B5) although not at all reliable, is very important as it shows how the government used a lot of propaganda to cause great hatred towards the Germans, raise British morale. ("We are happy and as fit as fiddles"), and to persuade men to join the army. This source may also be useful when linking it to real letters and diary entries, written by soldiers. Although source B8 looks like an advertisement for Mitchell's Golden Dawn cigarettes, I have reason to believe that this advertisement is in fact a piece of propaganda in disguise as the soldiers pictured, appear to be 'going over the top', yet they look excited, happy healthy and clean. (This may be contradicted by later sources). The slogan 'Time for one more' implies that soldiers were relaxed when going over the top, and had luxuries like cigarettes. Again this source is not reliable, as it is propaganda. I also know that soldiers ran out of cigarettes; however it is useful as it shows how the government even used advertisements to convince people to enlist. Section C is soldier's accounts of fighting in the war. Source C1 is an extract of a teller sent by a soldier to his mother, due to previous research I am aware that letters sent home from the trenches were censored and sanitised. If the information in it were negative towards trench life, so the British public would not know what conditions their family and friends were living in. ...read more.


The source then briefly explains rat problems- previous sources also refer to the rat infestation.in source D3, it explains that men in the dugouts were 'quiet for a time' this confirms source A4 where it mentions 'long periods of inactivity'. The source also explains that it was hard to sleep because of the 'stench and slime' this is confirmed by source A5 where it says, "regular sleep was impossible. This poem also confirms source A5 by emphasising the lice problem. I think that this source is useful to a huge extent as it links many pieces of information together, making them more reliable. The poem itself must be truthful and reliable as so many other sources confirm it. Conclusion Both accounts- soldiers and government appear to be biased and unreliable in some way- the soldiers may have exaggerated to make them look more heroic, and the government kept the British public blind to what the trenches were really like to keep moral high and to recruit more men. The government sanitised the whole war by showing the public pictures, photographs etc of happy, clean and fit soldiers. It appears that the government tried to take over and show the public what they wanted to see - an idealistic picture of war, to keep everyone happy. The soldier's accounts however, were completely different and contradicted the official accounts in almost every way. There is a possibility (although unlikely as so many soldiers accounts complimented each other) that soldiers exaggerated the truth to make themselves look more heroic. The reliability of some soldiers accounts could be unbalanced due to emotions running too high, and then saying something in spite or hatred towards Germany, the British government, rats, lice etc. In conclusion, I find that generally, the soldier's accounts were more accurate than the governments as, at the end of the day, it was the soldiers who lived and fought in the trenches and would clearly be able to give a more accurate picture of trench life than official accounts. ?????? ? ...read more.

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