Soldiers Relax in a Trench
Suggested Teaching Instructions
The trenches provided protection from the enemy, although death in the trenches was very common. Soldiers who peered over the side of the trench facing the enemy stationed across the area between the trenches, No Man’s Land, could be picked off by a sniper. Even if the soldiers were within the trench, it did not mean they would be completely protected from heavy shellfire from the enemy. Both sides soon realized that attacks against the enemy were pointless if carried out during daylight hours, so most attacks would take place right around dawn. This is also the time that poison gas would be released as the colder air and lack of wind caused the gasses to stay closer to the ground. No Man’s Land was filled with huge craters and no vegetation because of the heavy shelling, and barbed wire combined with machine gun attacks helped cut down on enemy advances. Besides worrying about shellfire, snipers, or poison gas, soldiers also had to deal with disease, horrible living conditions, and much more. Millions of rats infested the trenches. Brown and black rats were common, but the brown rat was feared the most as it would eat the dead soldiers in the trenches allowing it to grow to the size of a cat. Soldiers also faced lice infestation (which could cause trench fever complete with a recovery time of 12 weeks), frogs, slugs, and beetles covering the sides and bottoms of the trenches, and trench foot, a fungal condition caused by the damp living conditions within the trenches. If a soldier got trench foot, gangrene could set in resulting in eventual amputation. Needless to say, morale for soldiers stationed in trenches was often quite low, creating the need for a rotating trench schedule.
How must soldiers adapt during times of war?
Check for Understanding
Describe the scene in the photograph and explain the situations in which soldiers must adapt during times of war.
What were the main differences between German and British trenches?
English: Read All Quiet on the Western Front to get a German soldier’s perspective of WWI.
Physical Education: Research the story of Christmas in the trenches in 1914 to learn about a spontaneous truce that took place between the British and the Germans as they played “football” together.