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Life in the Trenches: Life of the Soldier

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Deep in the war, trapped in the trenches and mud, day after day, month after month the soldiers slept, ate and resided in the trenches. Their bodies crawling with lice, rats feasting on the rotting flesh of the dead soldiers around them. Mud rose to their knees as the soldiers crouched behind their rifles, shooting at their enemies. New technologies used to kill their rivals, poison gases that could kill in a single breath, fighter planes armed with machine guns and ships armed with torpedoes. Soldiers were forced to go over the top of the trenches into no man’s land often being shot at by both sides. Strategy involved in structured attacks and the way that their life functioned in the trenches would allow soldiers to know what their tasks were.

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Weapons technology and strategy had advanced tremendously in the years leading up to the First World War. Generals used manpower to construct a complex defense system that extended meters behind the front trenches. The trenches were constructed in a zigzag pattern in order to eliminate the possibility of someone from the enemy lines sneaking in and assassinating everyone in a clean shot. The zigzag pattern also helped to reduce the risk of a shell landing in the fire bay and exploding. The first and front line trenches also known as the outpost line were surrounded by fields of barbed wire this was in hopes that it would help to slow down and entangle any attackers. The first lines of trenches had little protection from enemies in comparison to the other lines of defence. However the front trenches were a vital aspect of the trench warfare. Soldiers were put into a rotation schedule and would only spend amount of time in the front trenches before they were rotated to safer areas.

The trenches were long and often narrow everyone, including the many oversized rats lived in close quarters to each other, living and breathing in the death and disease around them. The trenches were useful as the provided more protection from explosives and enemy gunfire. They also allowed soldiers more time to put on gas masks to protect themselves from the chemical warfare that was advancing during world war one.soldiers were forced to go over the edge of the trenches and into ‘no mans land’ often being shot at from both sides and running into the gunfire. “The air seemed alive with bullets and shells. There was a buzzing noise, such as you hear in a tropical forest on a hot summer day.” T.H Russell. The soldiers had to cut through barbed wire before they could use their rifles, and other weapons to capture enemy positions. A ‘victory’ usually meant they had seized a few hundred yards of shell-torn earth and usually at the cost of a great loss of life. Wounded men were forced to lay helpless in the open until they died or were rescued. Even then it was often to dangerous to do therefore many men were forced to bleed out and die in ‘no mans land’ Those lucky enough to be rescued still faced unsanitary conditions of the trenches before they could be taken to proper medical facilities. Explosions and gunfire lasted all hours of the day. Shrapnel shells burst and sprayed deadly splinter into the trenches, soldiers would wear tin helmets in order to protect their skulls.

Life in the trenches was a damp and difficult time for all that had to endure it. The trenches were often freezing and in winter would often flood if there was heavy rain. The rain and snow and natural seepage soon filled the trenches with water and mud. Wooden slats were used as duckboards were laid on the ground to help keep soldiers feel reasonably dry. There were often long periods of boredom as well as brief periods of terror. There would be threats if death, this forced soldiers to go over the edge. By going over the edge the soldiers entered no mans land and risked their lives many of them dying or being severely injured in the process The soldiers had to live in poor conditions and a lack of sleep, this tore away at the soldiers healthreats and other small animals infested the trenches and the soldiers living spaces. It was very unsanitary. Everyone including doctors are infected with lice and contracted a highly contagious that infected soldiers in the trenches in World War I, this was known as trench fever. This played the troops with aces, fevers and muscle pain. The trenches conditions would often resulted in trench foot and frostbite type infections. This would sometimes lead to amputations. The deadly shootings would break the stretch of boredom of the trench life. The soldiers had no way of protecting themselves other than their outfits and their shelter. The hardships of the trenches included lots of stress and exhaustion. There was also a daily routine each dawn, when there was often an enemy attack, soldiers woke to “stand-to,” guarding their front line trenches. Afterwards, they gathered for inspections, they did this by cleaning their weapons. During the day Following morning “stand-to”, inspection, and breakfast, soldiers undertook any number of chores, this ranged from cleaning latrines, this was a form of outhouse, to filling sandbags or repairing duckboards. During daylight hours, they conducted all work below ground and away from the snipers’ rifles. In between work exhaustion there was often time for leisure activities. Soldiers read, kept journals, wrote letters, or gambled. The trenches at night were both the busiest and the most dangerous. Soldiers would move into no mans land as it was dark and provided more protection from snipers. Soldiers also worked to repaired barbed wire or dig new trenches. Other operations involved patrolling for enemy activity or conducting raids to kill or capture enemy troops or to gather intelligence. 

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