Trench Warfare In WW1


Trench Warfare In WW1 Essay, Research Paper

World War 1: The Life in Trenches

World War 1 is perhaps best known for being a war fought in trenches

(Grolier 94), ditches dug out of the ground to give troops protection

from enemy artillery and machine-gun fire. In Erich Remarque’s novel

All Quite on the Western Front that is exactly how he described trench

warfare. Remarque showed World War 1 as a war fought in trenches,

which he depicted well leaving out only a few minor details.

The trenches spread from the East to the West. By the end of 1914,

trenches stretched all along the 475 miles front (Grolier 94) between

the Swiss border and the Channel coast. In some places, enemy trenches

were less than thirty yards apart (Stewart 40).

Although trenches spread for many miles, their appearance varied.

Upon looking more closely, one could see that each army’s trench line

was actually a series of three trenches. These three lines connected

at various points by small, twisted trenches (Stewart 40). These three

lines were called front, support, and reserve trenches. The front

line trenches usually measured six feet and had a zigzag pattern to

prevent enemy fire from sweeping the entire length of the trench.

Between the two opposing front lines laid, an area called “No Man’s

Land” that measured from 7 yards to 250 yards in width. This area was

littered with barbed wire, tin scrapes, and mines to reduce the chance

of enemy crossing. The other two trenches (support, and reserve) were

constructed to easily move supplies and troops to the front trenches.

Trenches varied from six to eight feet in height (Simkin). After wet

rainy days trenches would get filled with water. Soldiers called these

“Waterlogged tr! enches.” In these trenches, there was a need for

extra support, wood boards, and sandbags were placed on the side and on

the floor for extra support and a safe area for walking (Simkin).

In spite of the fact that the trenches protected the soldiers, they

stood no chance against the diseases. Body lice were among one of the

diseases that traveled among the trenches the most. Body lice caused

frenzied scratching and led to trench fever (Simkin). Fifteen percent

(Simkin) of sickness was from body lice. Trench foot was another disease

found in the trenches. After hours (Simkin) of standing in waterlogged

trenches, the feet would begin to numb, change color, and swell, and this

would soon result in amputation. There was one way to cure trench foot

without amputation, and that was to dry feet and change socks regularly

(Simkin). During the winter of 1914-15, over 20,000 men in the British

army were treated for trench foot (Simkin). Whale oil was used to oil

the soldiers’ feet because it was much easier to take off their boots.

Ten gallons of whale oil (Simkin) was used at the front lines.

With the dead and dying soldiers, rats were not far behind. Rats varied

in sizes. Rats could produce around 880 offspring in one year (Simkin).

Rats that could not find food in trenches resorted in eating human flesh.

A large rat could devour wounded and unprotected soldiers.

They are bigger than any rats I’ve ever seen–like small dogs. They are

a hazard to all of us, for they attack the wounded as well as the dead.

None of the wounded men want to sleep, for they fear a regiment of rats

will make short order of them. Although I am healthy, the rats come

close at night, smelling the food supplies I keep with me. If ever

there was a true hell on earth, it is here in the trenches (Grolier 94).

The trenches however did protect them from small explosions and gunfire.

The German trench system was more elaborate and, according to some

reports, better build and maintained. This was due to the fact that

for long periods the German army was on the defensive, and needed

an environment which would enable their men to resist the massive

bombardments and assaults of the allies (Winter 129)

When soldiers thought that the trenches would protect them from harm,

they were in for an unsuspecting surprise. Throughout the war, the

allies used five million tons (Simkin) of artillery shells against

the enemy. In the first two weeks of a battle, the British with other

allies managed to shoot 4,283,550 (Simkin) shells at the German defenses.

The trenches never protected soldiers from shell shock. Soldiers who

exposed themselves to continuous amount of shellfire produced a number

of symptoms. These symptoms included tiredness, irritability, and

lack of concentration, headaches, and eventually mental breakdowns.

About 80,000 men (Simkin) of the British suffered from shell shock.

Remarque showed how World War 1 was fought in trenches. He displayed

the soldiers spending most of their time in the trenches even if they

were not on the front line. Remarque revealed how soldiers based their

life around trenches and forgot about home life.

Furthermore, Remarque explained trench warfare in an interesting way.

He showed how the soldiers’ spent their time as well as their lives

in the trenches. The soldiers’ friendship with each other as well as

the activities

However, Remarque missed a few essential elements. He failed to give a

description of the soldiers’ belongings packed with them on their trip

through the trenches. Remarque did not explain the tacit agreements

between the enemies.

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