Commentary on Trench Warfare
In the fall of 1914, the war of maneuver gave way unexpectedly to static lines running for hundreds of miles, mostly in eastern France: from the North Sea, just inside Belgium, to the French border with Switzerland. Combatants on the western front of World War I (1914-1918) faced off against one another for months—even years—at a stretch. Soldiers on both sides developed complex systems of trenches, although German ones were more elaborate, comfortable, and drier as a rule than those of French and British soldiers. Both sides dug frontline ditches, zigzagging slit trenches to cut down on casualties caught by enfilading fire (along an entire line) in an offensive, and communication and supply trenches. When it came time to assault the enemy, soldiers would climb up out of the trenches, going "over the top," as seen here. Days, weeks, and months of boredom, sickness, wetness, and stench could be replaced by hours of sheer terror. Men were fortified by alcohol rations, screaming officers, and fear of being embarrassed in front of one's comrades. Eventually, many soldiers learned to customize their trench to make it appear like a familiar place back home. In some areas, each trench received the name of a famous street back home, which soldiers would learn to identify as part of the system in their section of the front.
"Commentary on Trench Warfare." World War I and the Jazz Age. American Journey Online. Woodbridge, CT.: Primary Source Microfilm, 1999. Student Resource Center - Gold. Gale. Long Beach Polytechnic Sr. High. 26 Feb. 2009 .
Trenches were never straight but were dug in a zigzagging pattern that broke the line into bays connected by traverses. This meant that a soldier could never see more than 10 meters (30 ft) or so along the trench. The trenches were dug like this so an enemy would not be able to attack from the sides thus causing major damage. Consequently, the entire trench could not be...