THE GREAT WAR - LIFE IN THE TRENCHES
Words cannot express how terrible life in the trenches was. Young men had just been taken from home and forced to fight. It is impossible to imagine how homesick and frightened they would've been. During their lives in the trenches many probably believed they were going to die. Many bodies could not be buried and were just lying around in the trenches or in `No Mans Land' which would've been upsetting for the rest of the men. Many men could not cope and developed `trench fever' which meant they could not stop themselves shaking. Nowadays we would call this `shell shock'. If the men tries to run away their punishment was execution by a firing squad. There was no escape for these men.
You'd think that was bad enough but no - things just got worse. The smell in the trenches was absolutely disgusting. It was horrible! It was a mixture of mud, latrine, buried corpses, stale human sweat and rotting sandbags. There were also rats running around in the trenches. At night they would crawl and scuttle over men's sleeping bodies and faces. Their clothes were infested with lice and at times men would have to keep their boots on for days or sometimes weeks on end.
In front of the trenches was stretched a barrier of barbed wire, up to 15 metres thick. In between was No Man's Land - the area which was being fought over. The two trench lines could be as much as 800 metres apart; in a few places, the enemy was just 20 metres away. Every night, patrols were sent out into the area to find out what the enemy was doing.
The aim was to capture the enemy's trenches but this was difficult because they were all so well-defended. The ordinary soldier carried a bayonet and a rifle which fired up to 25 shots a minute. These were no match for machine-guns which fired 600 rounds a minute.