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The spring of 1915 saw a new frontier develop: the trenches.

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Introduction

The spring of 1915 saw a new frontier develop: the trenches. Trench warfare was one of the main reasons so many men died. It was a ruthless system of warfare, in which lines and lines of men were repeatedly mowed down, one after the other. Life in the trenches, on the daily, was filled with horror, and death. Death was a constant companion to those serving in the line, even when no raid or attack was launched or defended against. Life in the trenches was brutal, terrifying and sordid. Soldiers suffered from a lack of food, diseases, awful weather conditions and the long periods of constant bombardment. Life in the trenches during the First World War took many forms, and varied widely from sector to sector and from front to front. Undoubtedly, it was entirely unexpected for those eager thousands who signed up for war in August 1914. A constant fear of death was a notion felt by many men in the trenches. In busy sectors the constant shellfire directed by the enemy brought random death, whether their victims were lounging in a trench or lying in a dugout (many men were buried as a consequence of large shell-bursts). ...read more.

Middle

Men became exasperated and afraid of these rats, attempted to rid the trenches of them by various methods: gunfire, with the bayonet, and even by clubbing them to death. It was futile however: a single rat couple could produce up to 900 offspring in a year, spreading infection and contaminating food. A lack of hygiene initiated the arrival of lice, breeding in the seams of filthy clothing and causing men to itch unceasingly. Even when clothing was periodically washed and deloused, lice eggs invariably remained hidden in the seams; within a few hours of the clothes being re-worn the body heat generated would cause the eggs to hatch. This nuisance caused Trench Fever, a painful disease that began suddenly with severe pain followed by high fever. Trench Foot was another medical condition peculiar to trench life. It was a fungal infection of the feet caused by cold, wet and unsanitary trench conditions. It could turn gangrenous and result in amputation. The structure of the trenches meant that the heavy periodical rain would fill the trenches, sometimes up to the soldier's knees, causing a medical condition called trench foot. ...read more.

Conclusion

It thus can be seen that soldier's morale was generally low due to conditions suffered and as hope turned to despair as offensive after offensive failed to break the stalemate and the futility of war became all too apparent, yet there was in spite of the hardship a spirit of comradeship and high morale in the trenches. When fear and trauma got the better of some men their behaviour was seen as cowardice or weakness. Men were court-martialled and, in some cases, shot. This harsh attitude and military discipline no doubt had an effect on why men continued to fight - they had no other choice. Today those conditions still play on the minds of remaining soldiers. One would think that the horrors of a war in which you lived, slept and killed in a muddy trench for months at a time, would need more than a few days' rest. Seeing hundreds of your friends gunned down or blown apart must surely have an adverse effect on the mind of a person subjected to it for months - or years - at a time. Then, we may not have known the full effects of war on a human mind. Page 1 of 2 ...read more.

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