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What was life like in the trenches? The First World War was the first industrialised conflict; it is also associated more than anything else for trench warfare. Trenches were used because the speed and power of the larger weapons,

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Introduction

What was life like in the trenches? The First World War was the first industrialised conflict; it is also associated more than anything else for trench warfare. Trenches were used because the speed and power of the larger weapons, such as the Vickers MG (a gun widely used by both sides), made it impossible to fight wars in the open. The First World War used a variety of weapons. Rifles fitted with bayonets, MG nests, artillery, planes and men would occasionally bury shells as a crude land mine in "No mans land", the area of land usually no more than 100 yards wide separating the front trenches. These weapons could kill you, but if they failed to do that they could have destroyed your mental stability. The medical name for shell shock is post-traumatic stress disorder. The concentration of fear of being killed, lack of sleep and constant noise caused by artillery bombardments destroyed mental stability on both sides. "The real test was the barrage. ...read more.

Middle

Lice excelled in the conditions the men were in, the average number of lice is 20 per soldier; the record for the number of lice on a soldier however is 10'428 along with 10'253 lice eggs waiting to hatch. This was because men rarely washed during their four years in the trenches of France. The following figures are extracts from a hospital waiting list showing casualties from disease: Anthrax 8 Dysentery 6'025 Enteric fever 1'275 Meningitis 692 Pneumonia 2'157 Tuberculosis 1'660 Rats were abundant in most trenches; the following is a first hand account of rats in trenches "To add to the general discomfort, the trenches were alive with rats. The knowledge that gigantic trench rats had grown fat through feeding on the dead bodies in no-mans land made the soldiers hate them more fiercely than almost anything else" Soldiers were also bored out of their wits, given that both sides were being watched by snipers and lookouts, movement was logically restricted. ...read more.

Conclusion

One thing that hit these battling boys hard was the size of rations. These are described below: "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. These were so hard that you had to put them on a firm surface and smash them with a stone or something. Sometimes when drinking water did not arrive, we had to boil rainwater from shell holes" Trench warfare was a terrible experience. Often destroying people's lives after the war. However during 1917 things began to change, Germany now stood alone, the USA had broken a 3 year stalemate and Britain and Germany were now finding new, more mobile ways of winning the war. Britain's solution was the tank, an armoured vehicle, designed for breaking through barbed wire. Germany's was the storm trooper. The fittest soldiers in the army, armed usually with grenades, would target artillery positions and command HQs behind the lines. Germany began to run out of food and men and surrender on 11th November 1918. However harsh peace terms embittered the Germans. How long would it be before they strike again? Harry Roper 9SR ...read more.

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