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Why was Trench Warfare so terrible

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Why was Trench Warfare so terrible? The first thing to do is to define 'terrible' because it helps to answer the question with full meaning. The dictionary definition of the word is; "causing fear, dread or terror, exceptionally bad or displeasing or intensely, extremely bad or unpleasant in degree or quality." Most of these suggest conditions were almost impossible to bear and it was hard to 'see the bright side'. World War 1 was like nothing that had ever happened in the world before. Almost no-one except the ruling politicians agreed with it, which has been proven by soldier's diaries, and most famously the football match between the British and the Germans on Christmas Day 1914. What began as a rapid war of movement soon settled down to static trench warfare and became a brutal war of attrition. Both the Germans and the French and British began digging trenches to stay alive. Eventually parallel trench systems stretched from the Swiss border to the English Channel. There were about 40,000 kilometres of trenches on the Western Front alone. And so Trench warfare became a huge part of World War 1. What did the trenches look like? How did this make conditions terrible? The trench environment affected the way in which a soldier was able to deal with life during the war. The company in a man's battalion, the danger risks and the access to basic humanities could greatly vary from soldier to soldier; depending on his rank in the army or simply his luck. This trench system shows 'traverses' which are changes in direction in the trench line (a sort of square zigzag) which would happen every approximately four yards (4 m). This was to help minimise loss of life if an enemy soldier infiltrated 'British' soil. If the trenches were if a straight line it would cut down hiding places and shelter as well as providing an opportunity to 'kill two birds with one stone' or bullet in this case. ...read more.


Nevertheless it persisted throughout the war, and was more common in quieter sectors of the line. After breakfast 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). Daily chores included the refilling of sandbags, the repair of the duckboards on the floor of the trench and the draining of trenches. Particularly following heavy rainfall, trenches could quickly accumulate muddy water, making life ever more miserable for its occupants as the walls of the trench quickly became misshapen and were prone to collapse. Pumping equipment was available for the draining of trenches; men would also be assigned to the repair of the trench itself while others would be assigned to the preparation of latrines. Given that each side's front line was constantly under watch by snipers and look-outs during daylight, movement was logically restricted until night fell. Thus, once men had finished their assigned tasks they were free to attend to more personal matters, such as the reading and writing of letters home. Meals were also prepared. Sleep was snatched wherever possible - although it was seldom that men were allowed enough time to grab more than a few minutes rest before they were given another task to attend to. With the onset of dusk the morning ritual of stand to was repeated, again to guard against a surprise attack launched as light fell. Supply and maintenance activities could be undertaken, although danger invariably accompanied these as the enemy would be ready for such movement. Men would be sent to the rear lines to fetch rations and water. Other men would be assigned sentry duty on the fire step. Generally men would be expected to provide sentry duty for up to two hours. Any longer and there was a real risk of men falling asleep on duty - for which the penalty was death by firing squad. ...read more.


Apart from the pictures all of the content is diary extracts from soldiers during the war. This means that most of what is written will stem from fact, no matter how it is dressed up. Anything that is written as reminiscence cannot be completely trustworthy as it is not possible to completely recall events accurately. Quite a lot of the substance appears to be true as different accounts tell the same types of story like two similar accounts of rats as provided by different men doing dissimilar jobs. Generally, the hardest things to find out about were; materials used in trenches, types of defence systems and types of casualty. I think this was because a large amount of the information available is poems, stories, letters and diaries. These are commonly personal accounts or views, which as well as being biased may also not be factually correct. Many recollections explain the effects of events but are unable to clearly identify causes or reasons why things happened. Trench warfare in World War One is usually taught in school as part of a unit about the Great War. I think that it is singled out as a project because it deals with thoughts and feelings of people rather than just events. Reading letters or diaries written by people who at some points felt that they could die any day can bring out emotions in individuals who feel they are in touch with those who wrote the passages. Whist it is possible to understand the influence the war had on the world it is much more difficult to appreciate the effects it had on individual people. Studying the everyday lives of soldiers helps us to understand to way a war works on a large scale as well as help us identify how a person could feel in such an extraordinary situation. It is a situation which most people today are unable to relate to and therefore must be properly studied in order to be fully understood. ?? ?? ?? ?? 1 Rosie Baulcombe 9C ...read more.

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