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Trench Warfare Facts

World War One introduced a whole new type of warfare called trench warfare.

Trench warfare is a type of fighting where deep trenches are dug in the earth as a defence against the attacking side.

New York WWI Troops Fight to get into the Fight
Soldiers of the 369th Infantry Regiment man a trench in France during World War I. The Signal Corps photograph collection includes every major aspect of the United States (U.S.) Army involvement in WWI.

The aim of these trenches was to stop the enemy advancing, because the trenches stretched for miles and miles.

During World War One, it is estimated that 2,490 km of trenches were dug. They were about 3 meters deep and 1 – 2 meters wide.

Western Front 1917 map

In World War One, the Western Front battles (which took place in France) were fought using trench warfare. These trenches stretched from the North Sea, Belgium and France.

Because of these Trenches, the fighting was relentless for years, with neither side gaining little ground at all.

In the Battle of the Somme, one of the most tragic battles in human history, 1,000,000 soldiers were either injured or lost their lives for the Allies to gain only seven miles of land.

first day of the Battle of the Somme
First day of the Battle of the Somme

Who built the trenches?

It was the soldiers who dug the trenches in World War One, and there were a few ways to build the trenches.

One method was called entrenching, where trenches were dug straight into the ground. However, this left soldiers open to enemy fire.

Another method was called sapping and this involved extending trenches, it took a long time.

Tunnelling was a third way.

This method protected soldiers from enemy fire but digging a tunnel through the ground was extremely difficult.

Sap roller
Sapping using a sap roller

What was life in the Trenches like?

Life in the Trenches was horrendous for the soldiers. Many soldiers died of injuries from fighting but they also suffered diseases because of the filthy conditions.

The trenches were full of deep muddy water which caused an infection called ‘Trench Foot’. Trench foot caused soldiers to have their feet amputated because the water made them rot.

Battle of the Somme loading artillery

There were rats, lice and frogs in the trenches. Lice caused a horrible disease called “Trench Fever”.

There were shells and bombs going off all the time and sleeping or rest was nearly impossible. Soldiers were in a constant state of fear, even before they launched an attack and left the trenches. Lots of soldiers suffered shock.

weapons-explosion

For those who were lucky enough to survive the horrible conditions and the battles of World War One, this shock and trauma stayed with many of them for a long time, even the rest of their lives.

Telling their stories

Many soldiers from World War One have been brave enough to tell the world what it was like in the Trenches during the war.

Through these stories, poems and paintings of soldiers of World War One, historians have learnt a lot about the experiences of war.

It is still very difficult for us to imagine what it was like to actually be there.

Cheshire regiment trench Somme 1916

Most of us are very lucky to not have experienced violence and trauma like that of World War One.

Quiz time – Test your knowledge

Take the quiz below. You can find all the answers in this article!

quiz-time

What is trench warfare?

How many kilometres of trenches were dug during World War One?

Who built the trenches?

Find three adjectives to describe the trenches of World War One.

Name one disease that soldiers suffered from because of dirty conditions in the trenches?

World War 1

world war 1 tank

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