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History

Trench warfare

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This revision page will help you to revise what conditions were like for soldiers in the trenches during the Great War. Recalled knowledge of this topic is required at General and Credit levels.

Trench Warfare

  • Daily life was monotonous and often very dull. It involved the cleaning and inspection of weapons; the construction and repair of trench defences; the removal of dead and wounded from trenches and no man's land; the transfer of supplies, food rations and new equipment; observing enemy activity and movement; repairing barbed wire defences; delousing of uniforms.
  • Conditions in the trenches were shocking. Soldiers had to live there in all weathers. In winter, trenches flooded, and sometimes froze. As a result of wet conditions and poor hygiene, some soldiers suffered from "trench foot".
  • Front line soldiers could be expected to advance across no man's land towards the enemy frontline trenches, in the face of shelling, machine gun fire and barbed wire defences. Thousands of casualties could be expected in such a "push" or attack.
  • Soldiers had to live with the constant danger of enemy shelling and snipers; the sound of artillery bombardments which sometimes resulted in soldiers suffering from a breakdown known as "shell shock"; the death or injury of close friends; the dangers of poison gas attacks; rats and lice; the boring diet of tea, biscuits and tinned beef.
  • Soldiers suffered enormous casualties due to the deadly effects of modern artillery, grenades, mines and machine guns.
  • Attempts that were made to end the deadlock of trench warfare included the introduction of poison gas attacks and the tank. The gas could be effective if the wind blew in the right direction, and the enemy was taken by surprise. The British were the first to introduce the tank which could be effective if the ground was firm enough, and there were sufficient troops to hold on to enemy territory captured by using tanks to lead the troops across no man's land.

There are lots of different techniques to help you prepare for your exams. Here is memory expert Drew McAdam on how to remember details about life in the trenches.

 

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Watch

War veteran.

Class Clips

Video clip - two ex-soldiers talk about life in the war trenches

Watch

War soldier.

Class Clips

Video clip - diary extracts from two World War I soldiers

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