World War One Trench Warfare

Updated on January 7, 2017

Map Of The Western Front World War One

The bolded black line on the map shows where the trenches stretched from The North Sea to the Swiss border.
The bolded black line on the map shows where the trenches stretched from The North Sea to the Swiss border. | Source

World War One Trench Warfare

On the 28Th of July 1914, World War One began and soldiers from both sides of the battle began diggng big holes in the ground where they would live, eat, sleep, fight and die together.

The trenches became the battle ground of The Great War and they became the final resting place for millions of young men, some as young as seventeen years old.

Most of the men who served in the trenches from 1914 untl 1918, were not really solders, they were either volunteers who gave up their everyday jobs to serve ther country in its time of need or as the war progressed subscription was introduced and if your name was called then you had to enlist in the armed services.

After six weeks of basic traning, the young men were sent to war really unprepared for the unimaginable horrors that lay ahead of them.

The Western Front WWI

The Western Front during World War 1 stretched from the North Sea at Belgium to the Swiss Frontier with France, over 240 miles long, fighting a war in the trenches would bring an end to speculation of a quick war that would be over by Christmas.

Trench Warfare

Trench warfare meant a slow long drawn out war, a stalemate; Men would be shot down in their thousands as they tried to go over the top into the enemy trenches, most before they could even get 50 yards out of their own trenches, this made it almost impossible for either side to gain ground from the other,

Holes in the ground were home to millions of soldiers throughout the war years and although many men died in battle just as many were killed by disease or infection brought on by the inhuman unsanitary conditions of life in the trenches.

Poison Gas In The Trenches Of World War One

After a poison gas attack the smell would linger for days, adding to the many pungent aroma's in the trenches.
After a poison gas attack the smell would linger for days, adding to the many pungent aroma's in the trenches. | Source

Smells In The Trenches WWI

New recruits on their initial approach to the trenches would often be overcome by the putrid Stench that hit them, often it would be too much for some men that they were physically sick even before they reached the Front Line.

Rotting flesh from bodies in shallow graves, overflowing cesspits full of feces and urine, creosote and Chlorine used to cover up the cesspits and to try to stave off infections or disease. Adding to the smell there were also millions of sandbags rotting away through dampness from the rain, stagnant mud, cigarette smoke and even the smell of the men already in the trenches who hadn't managed to have a decent wash in weeks.

The smell of battle also filled the air stinging the nostrils of new recruits, Acrid cordite smells from the ever lasting heavy shell fire, the lingering odour of poison gasses that were sometimes used and of course the gunpowder smell from the soldiers firearms.

The soldiers never really got used to the smell but became accustomed to living with it, some soldiers even claimed that the smell never left them even years after the war was over.

World War I Trench Diagram

A typical trench used during world war one, of course this diagram does not really show the difficulties soldiers faced every day.
A typical trench used during world war one, of course this diagram does not really show the difficulties soldiers faced every day. | Source

WW1 Trench Life

French Soldiers in a captured German trench
French Soldiers in a captured German trench | Source

Disease And Infection In The Trenches Of WWI

The soldiers were never alone in the trenches, many creatures also made the trenches their home which was not really unexpected when you consider the abundance of food that life in the trenches created for them. These creatures were to play a big factor in the health of the fighting soldiers as they were all carriers of disease and infections.

Rats In The Trenches

Rats thrived in the trenches almost everywhere you looked rats would be running around in their thousands, eating human remains, dead insects and anything else that would fit in their mouths. The rats were beyond human control because they were in their ideal breeding ground and for every 10 rats killed another 100 would be born. some of the rats were so well fed that they grew to almost the same size as a domestic cat.

It was a widespread belief amongst the soldiers in the trenches that the rats knew in advance when the enemy was going to attack with a heavy bombardment of shells because the rats always seemed to disappear minutes before an enemy attack.

Lice In The Trenches

Lice were ever present in the trenches and they caused a lot of problems for the poor men who lived in them, even although a lot of the men shaved of every bit of hair from their heads and bodies the lice lived in their clothes and fed on their human blood.

Even when their clothes were washed and deloused some eggs still survived in the seams of the soldiers uniforms and would re-infect them.

Lice were carriers of Trench fever, a particularly painful disease that began suddenly with severe pain followed by high fever which took up to 12 weeks to recover from. It wasn't discovered until 1918 that the lice were the cause of trench fever.

Frogs in The Trenches

Millions of frogs were found in water holes made by shell fire and in the bases of the trenches, with the frogs slugs and horned beetles were lining the walls of the trench, nits were also a major problem with the men which again forced them to save their head and body hair off.

Flies And Maggots In the Trenches

With so much rotting flesh around Flies and Maggots were a constant problem with the soldiers, they were everywhere and anywhere, most soldiers wrapped scarves or towels around their mouths to avoid swallowing them, the flies were responsible for the spread of many infections and diseases in the trenches.

Trench Foot

The Trenches were always waterlogged which meant that the soldiers living in them always had wet feet, this caused a major problem called trench foot especially if it was left untreated for a while. Trench Foot is a fungal infection of the feet which if not treated could get easily infected and turn gangrenous which in most cases would lead to amputation of part of the foot or even the whole foot. Duck board were quickly introduced into the trenches above the common waterline as a prevention in 1915 and cases of trench foot saw a rapid decline although there were still a few sufferers throughout the duration of the war.

Shell Shock

Constant heavy artilliary fire took its toll on many of the soldiers mental health.
Constant heavy artilliary fire took its toll on many of the soldiers mental health. | Source

Shell Shock In WWI

Two percent of the men serving in the trenches between 1914-1918, were the victims of Shell Shock around eighty thousand of the men who fought in the war.

The early symptoms of Shell Shock included constant tiredness, irritability, dizziness, headaches and a lack of concentration. Eventually these men would suffer from a full mental breakdown making it an impossibility for them to remain on the front line.

The constant barrage of shell fire from both sides it was concluded was to blame because they said that an exploding shell created a vacuum in the head and when the air rushed into that vacuum it disturbs the cerebro-spinal fluid upsetting the workings of the brain.

World War One in Color: Slaughter in the Trenches

Trench Warfare, Hell on Earth

Trench warfare was often said to be Hell on Earth and for good reason, there was ne real living in a world surrounded by death and the soldiers who survived were haunted by nightmares of their time served fighting in them.

They may have survived the bullets and diseases of the trenches and they may have gone on to live successful and happy lives but the memories of dead friends and family members who fought beside them never ever left their thoughts.

They sacrificed everything for their country and for that we should always remember them.


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      Gab 7 months ago

      Just letting you know that you wrote subscription instead of conscription in the third paragraph

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      Yusuf 3 years ago

      This article was amazing and helped me with my homework

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      Lana Adler 3 years ago from California

      I love how you are PAINTING the story rather than telling the story. Nicely done!

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      LFH 4 years ago


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      Dorothy Kernoghan 4 years ago

      The site is interesting to me, I am researching my fathers time in the British army, unfortunately on the Military site all his records were destroyed by fire. He was a gunner in WW1 and in WW2 the Home Guuard, London Area,,also on the guns.I was an evacuee during that time. I cannot find any list of records. Any suggestions of sites that would be helpful?

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      frank 4 years ago

      good website, very helpful. poor people no one ever wins a war

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      bob 4 years ago

      this website is very helpful thanks

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      john jones 4 years ago

      This site is very useful to my history project and i loved read about it! in was like totz amazballs interesting!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! :DDDDDDDDDD::DDD

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      bob 5 years ago


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      batha 5 years ago

      I think if there's a war you should seriously go and support your country ,not just sit there cause what if they come after you

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      BOB 5 years ago

      Good for a World War 1 project

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      Seth 5 years ago

      I'll tell you what this page was a life saver. It really helped with my Historical investigation for HOA. It gave me just what i needed to prove my thesis. Thank you!

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      pooja 5 years ago

      hmm... I don't think war is a waste of time. I like the fact that one has to establish him or herself in the world. But interesting info :)

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      zeynep elif koƧ 5 years ago

      To Almee Barker,

      do you really think that the main reason of english soldiers' fight was for "saving England"? where do you put England and its allies' imperialist aims? how can you explain secret agreements with france,italy,russia about allocation of anatolia? there is only one truth in history and every human being is responsible to history about telling the only truth. so, please tell the history properly,

      Zeynep Elif Koç

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      Rosie 5 years ago

      This helped with my research paper a lot. Thanks! :)

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      lol 5 years ago

      This is very useful information

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      your mom 5 years ago

      i love this site i used it in my project thank you

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      Chris Bishop 5 years ago

      Hello my name is Chris age 16 and i was doing a report on trench warfare and what it was like. I was fascinated to find all this to find all of this information. I was very moved about what these soldiers did for their country even though it was a massacre. Id have to say they are definitly good role models for people to keep going no matter what the cause or what you think.

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      Uncle Randy 5 years ago

      this was amazing

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      jenny 5 years ago

      saved my life (homework)

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      KIRSTEN POLLARD 5 years ago

      what countries took part in the trenches ??? still don't get it

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      Johnnnny 5 years ago

      Yo. Cheers for da help bruv you helped me sort out ma GCSE revision test. You is sound

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      aa 5 years ago

      very useful information

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      bbc12 5 years ago

      Great site! I found it really useful and I learnt a lot from it:)

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      very usful

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      thanks so much this helped me do a 1000 word esay :D

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      great information

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      NOBLE 6 5 years ago

      thanks man this article was very informing as i have to do a reasherach article on this

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      VirgilLawton 5 years ago

      This was a very good documentary world war I. Thought it had good content. Very . Good analysis of the ways of man today. It is the sign of the times.

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      reagu 5 years ago from Los Angeles

      This is very interesting. Aside from bullets, soldiers are really in the forefront of the harshest conditions nature could deal.

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      Josh 6 years ago

      thanx for this article jimmythejock

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      KDuBarry03 6 years ago

      Great Hub! Very informative; I've always been interested in World War 1. Thanks for sharing!

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      SilverGenes 6 years ago

      You have done a phenomenal job on a very difficult subject. My mind is reeling from what you have written and it brings tears to my eyes to think of these very young men not only enduring such conditions but fighting through them.

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      noah 6 years ago

      i need to get my project done and this helped a ton my grade will go from a f(52%)to at least a c and now i can go to disneyland.

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      really good and helped me with the majority of my project. There are so many diseases. thx

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      me(not saying my name) 6 years ago

      thx this helped me wiv my homework projrct

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      Gracie 6 years ago

      This is helping me with my extra credit of a soldier and his last breathe during a war, it's nothing really though...I just need to learn about trenches and I deicded to make a little one about how a guy couldn't hear his C.O yell retreat after a grenade impaited his hearing and how he dies there...but anyway, thanks for the help

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      Pamela Kinnaird W 6 years ago from Maui and Arizona

      The rats, the bugs, the stench, the injuries, the deaths -- it's beyond our imagination except to read of it for a few minutes. This must have been a difficult hub to research and have on one's mind for quite awhile during the process of writing it.

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      bizzymom 6 years ago from New York

      Another great and informative hub. Thanks!

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      really helpful :)

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      kimmie 6 years ago

      i read through the comments and it seems like everyone is doing the exact same paper/project thing. interesting! well this helped but i need some more info... due tomorrow. :(

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      MAYA SADAN 6 years ago from New Delhi

      really good

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      i'm writing a letter from someone in the trenches right now thanks for the intel

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      I had to write a letter back home as if I were in the trenches and this hub helped me to fill in some of the missing details. Thank you so very much.

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