Deep trenches are constructed by both sides of a battle during trench warfare as a form of defence against the opposing force. These trenches can be miles long and prevent one side from moving forward all but completely.
Trench warfare was used on the western front in France during World War I. Both sides had created a network of trenches by the end of 1914, stretching from the North Sea to Belgium and France. From October 1914 to March 1918, a period of three and a half years, no progress was made by either side.
The trenches–how were they made?
Armed forces personnel dug the trenches. The soldiers occasionally dug the trenches directly into the ground. Entrenching was the name of this technique. Although quick, it exposed the men to enemy fire as they dug. On occasion, they would extend a trench on one end to build the trenches. This process was known as sapping. Though it took longer, it was safer. Making a tunnel and then removing the ceiling once the tunnel was finished was the most covert method of digging a trench. The safest approach was tunnelling, which was also the most challenging.
No Man’s Land
The area between the two enemy trench lines was referred to as “No Man’s Land.” Land mines and barbed wire occasionally dotted this area. The distance between enemy trenches was typically between 50 and 250 yards.
What were the trenches like?
The standard trench was dug into the ground around twelve feet deep. At the top of the trench, there was frequently an embankment and a barbed wire fence. Sandbags or wood beams were used in some ditches as reinforcement. Typically, wooden duckboards were used to cover the trench’s bottom. The purpose of the duckboards was to keep the soldiers’ feet out of the water that would pool at the trench’s bottom.
The trenches were not constructed in a single, uninterrupted line, but rather as a network of interconnected trenches. There were numerous layers of trenches along the lines, and passageways had been created so that men could move between them. They were dug in a zigzag manner.
Life in the Trenches
Three frontal stages were typically rotated by the soldiers. They would rotate between the front line trenches, the support trenches, and periods of rest. Whether it was mending the trenches, performing guard duty, carrying supplies, going through inspections, or sharpening their weapons, they nearly always had a job to do.
Conditions in the Trenches
The trenches were not pleasant, tidy locations. In fact, they were quite revolting. Rats, lice, and frogs were just a few of the critters that lived in the trenches. There were rats everywhere, and they ate almost everything, including the food that the troops were eating. Lice were a significant issue as well. They caused terrible itching in the soldiers and the illness known as trench fever.
Rough trench conditions were also a result of the weather. The trenches became flooded and muddy due to rain. Mud could clog up weapons and restrict movement during combat. Additionally, the persistent dampness may result in a condition known as Trench Foot, which, left untreated, may worsen to the point where a soldier’s feet would need to be amputated. The cold proved hazardous as well. Frostbite often caused soldiers to lose fingers or toes, and some of them even perished from exposure to the cold.
Facts Worth Knowing About Trench Warfare
According to estimates, the length of all the trenches dug along the western front would exceed 25,000 kilometres.
The enemy’s munitions and the weather caused the trenches to deteriorate, so they required continual maintenance.
According to the British, it took 450 men six hours to erect a trench system measuring around 250 metres.
The majority of the raids happened at night when soldiers could sneak through the “No Man’s Land” in the shadows.
Every dawn, all of the soldiers would “stand to.” As most attacks happened in the early morning, this meant that they would stand up and get ready for one.
The traditional trench warfare soldier carried a rifle, a bayonet, and a hand grenade.