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Why is it so difficult to know what soldiers thought? About life on the Western Front

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Introduction

Why is it so difficult to know what soldiers thought? About life on the Western Front The Western Front was a system of trenches that ran from the Belgium coast, through Northern France and the German border. There were many different countries that fought on the Western Front but the main three were Britain, France and Germany. The soldiers that fought on the Western Front had to fight from the beginning of the war in 1914 to the end of the war in 1918. At the start of the war the majority of the soldiers were quite excited and cheerful. They all felt quite patriotic about going to war and fighting for their country. So all the way to the Western Front and before any of the fighting had really begun the soldiers were happy. Though when they reached the Front and the war had begun their views changed drastically after just one night of fighting the soldiers began to realise that this was no ordinary war. "When day dawned we were astonished to see, by degrees, what a sight surrounded us. The sunken road now appeared as nothing but a series of enormous shell-holes filled with pieces of uniform, weapons, and dead bodies." This was written by Ernst Junger after a nights march to the front line at Guillemont. This is a very vivid account taken from his diary we have no means of knowing if what he wrote was true or not. He may have exaggerated because this may have been his first battle although he would be allowed to write exactly what he saw because this diary was only for him so it would not be censored. The French thought that it would be a very short war and that they would defeat Germany within 48 hours. So they werent really expecting the war to be that long so their attitudes were also quite cheerful but still very determined and focused because they wanted to beat Germany because Germany had ...read more.

Middle

have been written at the time and some of the soldiers would include some things like what sort of food they would get and in what sort of place they stayed." I've held one in my hand and hit the sharp corner of a brick wall and only hurt my hand." This was written by Private Pressey, this is how he described the food that they would get most regularly.This is good to know because this sort of information could give an idea of how the soldiers felt because if their food and living conditions aren't very good they most probably wouldn't be very happy. Some of the soldiers would keep diaries in which they recorded the different things that happened to them in the war. In the diaries soldiers wouldn't have to censor anything because who else but them would be reading their letters. So that is a very big advantage to using letters for evidence because the soldiers could be as clear about their own feelings as possible. They can also then write about the gunfire and about death of fellow soldiers. One soldier who was called Robert Lindsay Mackay had written this in his diary on the 15th of September 1916, "Found what remained of the Battalion in a half-dug trench just South of the Western edge of Martinpuich" In this short piece he says that not much of the battalion reamained because they had all been wounded or killed by German gunfire. Though most soldiers wrote diaries they couldn't always write ona regular basis because they would be on the front line fighting most fo the time. So they wouldn't include everything that happened. Also if an soldier had only just joined the fighting and it was his first battle he might exaggerate because he would think it was worse than what it really is. A soldier called Jessie Spicer often wrote home and in his diary. ...read more.

Conclusion

that is saying what a big loss some people did have because everyone lost something during the war but some lost everything. One of the big reasons why we can't know what soldiers felt and thought during the war is because their feelings change. At first they were generally excited "everyone was excited, smiling waving flags." This was said by a war veteran when he was describing the start of the war on a film about the killing fields. Although at first they were excited but by almost the end of the first few days their attitudes had changed, a soldier called Walter Hare had called the generals "stupid because they had accomplished nothing" so he isn't very happy and it's all because the generals wanted the British to walk across the battlefields and not run so most of them were shot down immediately. Also some of the soldiers that weren't killed might not want to talk about the war or they might not be able to takl about it because they might have got something like shell shock, so they can't talk about it because all they would be able to remember would be the shells going off. So I don't think it is that we have a lack of evidence its just that we need to learn how to use that evidence and also some of the pieces of evidence we cant use because the people that wrote them cant explain right now what it is they were writing because they don't want to or because they themselves never really understood what the war was really about. I think that if people had known what sort of war this was going to be they would have made sure that their diaries were extremely exciting or that their letters were very descriptive, but they had no way of knowing so they just wrote what they wanted to include in their diaries because they didn't know that they would be writing them for us. ...read more.

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