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What were the main problems for soldiers involved in trench warfare? When the war first started everyone thought that it would be over in a couple of months if not weeks

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Introduction

What were the main problems for soldiers involved in trench warfare? When the war first started everyone thought that it would be over in a couple of months if not weeks. But the cavalry and infantry were soon mown down by new weapons. It was General Erich von Falkenhayn who first ordered German troops to dig trenches to protect them from French and British troops in September 1914. The French and British could not break through these defences so also began to dig trenches. The British trenches were built on lower ground which meant that they were waterlogged most of the time. During the Great War British trenches stretched from the Swiss border to the English Channel, about 440 miles. Soldiers involved in trench warfare faced many problems. Trench foot was a very common infection. It was caused by prolonged exposure to cold and wet conditions. Because British trenches were often waterlogged troops spent a lot of time stood in water. Trench foot caused the foot to go numb and turn red or blue and if untreated result in amputation. During the winter of 1914, 20,000 soldiers had to be treated for trench foot. This was a big problem as it meant that there were fewer soldiers to fight. ...read more.

Middle

One soldier described finding a group of dead bodies whilst on patrol, "I saw some rats running from under the dead men's greatcoats, enormous rats, fat with human flesh. My heart pounded as we edged towards one of the bodies. His helmet had rolled off. The man displayed a grimacing face, stripped of flesh; the skull bare, the eyes devoured and from the yawning mouth leapt a rat." The rats became bolder and started to steal food from the soldiers and attempt to take food from their pockets whilst they were sleeping. To try and get rid of the rats, soldiers would shoot at them with their bayonets, although this was forbidden as it was seen as a waste of ammo, or sometimes even club them to death. A big problem for the army was shellshock and self inflicted wounds as it caused a big loss of soldiers capable of fighting. Early symptoms of shellshock were tiredness, irritability, giddiness, lack of concentration and headaches and then eventually soldiers would suffer a mental breakdown. This meant they were incapable to fight again. It was thought that shellshock was caused by the enemy's heavy artillery. A bursting shell creates a vacuum and when the air rushes into the vacuum it disturbs the cerebrospinal fluid, found in cavities in the brain, and this can affect the working of the brain. ...read more.

Conclusion

Another gas used was phosgene. Phosgene was more deadly than chlorine as it caused less coughing meaning more of it was inhaled. Some of the effects of inhaling phosgene were: difficulty breathing, blurred vision, development of fluid in the lungs, burning sensation in the throat and eyes, nausea and vomiting. Exposure to phosgene could cause some delayed effects, a healthy soldier could suffer from these effects 48 hours after inhaling it. Some of these effects were difficulty breathing, coughing up white to pink-tinged fluid, low blood pressure and heart failure. The most lethal of all though was mustard gas as it was very hard to protect against and it was almost odourless. Some of the long term effects of being exposed to mustard gas were chronic respiratory disease, repeated respiratory infections, or death, permanent blindness and an increased risk in lung and respiratory cancer. Life in the trenches was extremely tough and even caused some men to wound themselves in an attempt to get out of fighting. Soldiers faced many dangers and problems and lived in appalling conditions, it was cold, wet, muddy and they were surrounded by dead bodies. The smell was revolting, caused by rotting bodies and overflowing latrines. The soldiers lived in constant fear and danger of enemy attacks in a war that was only supposed to last for a few months and ended up lasting for four years. ?? ?? ?? ?? Trench Warfare ...read more.

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