Those lucky bastards.
In the Trenches
Death was a constant companion, even when no raid or attack was launched or defended against. In busy sectors the constant shellfire brought random death, (many men were buried as a consequence of such large shell-bursts).
Novices were cautioned against their natural inclination to peer over the parapet of the trench into No Man’s Land.
Many men died on their first day in the trenches as a consequence of a precisely aimed sniper’s bullet.
It’s estimated that up to one third of Allied casualties on the Western Front were actually sustained in the trenches. Aside from enemy injuries, disease wrought a heavy toll.
Rats in their millions infested trenches. There were two main types, the brown and the black rat. Both were despised but the brown rat was especially feared. Gorging themselves on human remains (grotesquely disfiguring them by eating their eyes and liver) they could grow to the size of a cat.
Lice were a never-ending problem, breeding in the seams of filthy clothing and causing men to itch unceasingly.
Frogs by the score were found in shell holes covered in water; they were also found in the base of trenches.
Many men chose to shave their heads entirely to avoid another prevalent scourge: nits.
Trench Foot was a fungal infection of the feet caused by cold, wet and unsanitary trench conditions. It could turn gangrenous and result in amputation.
A man might expect in a year to spend some 70 days in the front line, with another 30 in nearby support trenches. A further 120 might be spent in reserve. Only 70 days might be spent at rest. The amount of leave varied, with perhaps two weeks being granted during the year.
An hour before dawn everyone was roused from slumber by the company orderly officer and sergeant and ordered to climb up on the fire step to guard against a dawn raid by the enemy, bayonets fixed, many were actually carried out at this time.
Breakfast would next be served. In essentially every area of the line at some time or other each side would adopt an unofficial truce while breakfast was served and eaten.
Daily chores included the refilling of sandbags, the repair of the duckboards on the floor of the trench and the draining of trenches.
As night came, 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.
Patrols would often be sent out into No Mans Land. Some men would be tasked with repairing or adding barbed wire to the front line. Others however would go out to assigned listening posts, hoping to pick up valuable information from the enemy lines.
Men were relieved front-line duty at night-time too. Relieving units would wind their weary way through numerous lines of communications trenches, weighed down with equipment and trench stores (such as shovels, picks, corrugated iron, duckboards, etc.). The process of relieving a line could take several frustrating hours.
Rotting carcases lay around in their thousands. For example, approximately 200,000 men were killed on the Somme battlefields, many of which lay in shallow graves.
Overflowing latrines would similarly give off a most offensive stench.
Men who had not been afforded the luxury of a bath in weeks or months would offer the pervading odour of dried sweat. The feet were generally accepted to give off the worst odour.
The way a trench would be attacked is that about a hundred men ran into machine guns and barbed wire.
Barbed Wire generally slowed down the opposing sides soldiers by getting in the way. It was hard to cut and impossible to climb over. If barbed wire was shot, artillery for example, it would fly all over the place and still would wound people and even infect them to the degree of death.
Flamethrowers were deployed in the battlefield as a burning wall so that the rival soldier wouldn’t be able to pass. Flamethrowers were easily blown up while being used because of poor engineering, the flame would be brought back inside the tube into the flammable substance on the back of the soldier.
Gas was used in trench warfare to completely annihilate the rivals. They were extremely unsuccessful for they would be blown into the rival trench, the wind would just pull the gasses back to the people who shot it and would kill them. The way that used to successfully shoot gasses without killing themselves they would use gas masks.
Artillery would usually annihilate the battlefield, if the artillery was successful it would bring havoc to the opposing sides trench.
Mortars were a pressure powered tube-like figure that shot out little bombs. Aiming in the mechanism was worse than artillery for the Mortar would face up with a bit of a tilt for the direction to be shot. Mainly used for “cutting wire in preparation for a raid or attack, and for destroying dugouts, saps and other entrenchments.”
The Germans were the first to be equipped with machine guns, but soon after everyone in the war had them. In 1914 when the war began, the English were given 2 machine guns per battalion, the Russians 8, and the Germans 6. In the end of the war when the Americans had joined in, each soldier’s artillery was given a machine gun.
Tanks unleashed into Dead Man’s Land they would get broken down very easily, not by getting shot at but by getting stuck the mud.
They would be very destructive by blowing up everything in there way.
In the beginning of WW1, the average soldier inside the trench would only have 3 weapons. The soldier would only have a Rifle, a bayonet, and grenades (an average of 3).
But all in all it was too damn easy for those men, fighting for and defending their nations.
They never had to face being called a ‘racist’ or suffer ‘white guilt’.