Trench life.

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The idea of trenches first started in the battle of Marne in September 1914. The Schlieffen Plan had just failed and the Germans were forced to retreat back to Germany. The German commander, General Erich von Falkenhayn, was unhappy with this and decided that his troops should keep the parts in Belgium and France that they had gained at all costs. He ordered the Germans to build trenches to provide protection from the advancing French and British troops. The British and French troops found it impossible to break through, and to protect themselves, built trenches to counter attack the Germans. After a few months, these trenches had spread from the North Sea to the Swiss Frontier.

The trenches were made up of different sections, the front line trench was usually seven feet deep and six feet wide as it was so deep there was a fire step so the soldier could see over the top of the trench and fire. The trenches were not made in a straight line; as if an enemy shell was fired into a trench then it would explode outwards killing all the men in a straight line. If it was not straight, but zig-zagged, then only the men next to the shell would be killed, or badly wounded. Behind the front line were support and reserves trenches. The three rows of trenches covered between 200 and 500 yards of ground. Between each of the trenches would be communication trenches, which were used to transport men, food and equipment between the trenches.

       Along the floor of the trenches were duckboards, which were there to protect the soldier’s feet from the muddy ground, which was created by the winter weather. In front of the trenches was a long line of barbed wire. This was to stop the enemy attacking on foot. The wire was often very tangled up and could not be moved. It was very underestimated in its strength as when the officers decided to go on a major offensive, they were often stopped by the barbed wire, and then shot by the enemy. As trenches were built like this, nearly all the battles fought were defensive. Along the trenches were dugouts were the soldiers slept, socialized and ate their meals. These dugouts were cramped most of the time and a lot of diseases were passed on through them. They were normally filled with sandbags for the protection of the soldiers. Also there were ammunition ledges, which the soldiers used to keep spare ammunition when they needed a quick refill. It was the difference between life and death for some soldiers. At certain places along the sides of the duckboard were fire steps. This was where a soldier stood to fire at the enemy.

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       Being in the front line was extremely dangerous and many of the casualties occurred in these trenches. The soldiers did not spend all their time in these trenches since they had a 32-day timetable: they could spend up to eight days in the front line where they were at risk of injury or death during an offensive. Then a further eight days in the reserve trench incase of an emergency attack. The other sixteen days would be spent away from the battlefield in a nearby village or town. This timetable was almost certain to change in the ...

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