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Life in the Trenches- World War One

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Introduction

Life in the Trenches- World War One World War 1 is perhaps best known for being a war fought in trenches - ditches dug out of the ground to give troops protection from enemy artillery and machine-gun fire. The trenches spread from the East to the West. By the end of 1914, trenches stretched all along the 475 miles front between the Swiss border and the Channel coast. In some places, enemy trenches were less than thirty yards apart. Appearance of the trenches Although trenches spread for many miles, their appearance varied. Upon looking closely, one could see that each army's trench line was actually a series of three trenches. These three lines connected at various points by small, twisted trenches called communication trenches. These linked the front-line trench to the support and reserve trenches and allowed the movement of men, equipment and supplies. They were also used to take the wounded back to the Casualty Clearing Stations. The front line trenches usually measured seven feet deep and about six feet wide and had a zigzag pattern to prevent enemy fire from sweeping the entire length of the trench. Between the two opposing front lines laid, a wasteland of craters, blackened tree stumps and the occasional shell of a building called "No Man's Land" that measured from 7 yards to 250 yards in width. ...read more.

Middle

Accompanying stand to, as the light grew, was the daily ritual often termed the 'morning hate'. Both sides would often relieve the tension of the early hours with machine gun fire, shelling and small arms fire, directed into the mist to their front: this made doubly sure of safety at dawn. Breakfast and Morning truce With stand to over, in some areas rum might then be issued to the men. They would then attend to the cleaning of their rifle equipment, which was followed by its inspection by officers. Breakfast would next be served. In essentially every area of the line at some time or other each side would adopt an unofficial truce while breakfast was served and eaten. This truce often extended to the wagons which delivered such sustenance. Truces such as these seldom lasted long; invariably a senior officer would hear of its existence and quickly stamp it out. Nevertheless it persisted throughout the war, and was more prevalent in quieter sectors of the line. Inspection and Chores With breakfast over the men would be inspected by either the company or platoon commander. Once this had been completed NCOs would assign daily chores to each man (except those who had been excused duty for a variety of reasons). ...read more.

Conclusion

For many years those who led the British campaign have received a lot of criticism for the way the Battle of the Somme was fought - especially Douglas Haig. This criticism was based on the appalling casualty figures suffered by the British and the French. By the end of the battle, the British Army had suffered 420,000 casualties including nearly 60,000 on the first day alone. The French lost 200,000 men and the Germans nearly 500,000. Ironically, going over the top at the Somme was the first taste of battle many of these men had, as many were part of "Kitchener's Volunteer Army" persuaded to volunteer by posters showing Lord Kitchener himself summoning these men to arms to show their patriotism. Machine guns inflicted appalling casualties on both war fronts in World War One. Men who went over-the-top in trenches stood little chance when the enemy opened up with their machine guns. Machine guns were one of the main killers in the war and accounted for many thousands of deaths. Crude machine guns had first been used in the American Civil War (1861 to 1865). However, tactics from this war to 1914 had not changed to fit in with this new weapon. Machine guns could shoot hundreds of rounds of ammunition a minute and the standard military tactic of World War One was the infantry charge. Casualties were huge. Many soldiers barely got out of their trench before they were cut down. ...read more.

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