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A Color Photograph of One of the Very First Trenches  <br />(1914)A Color Photograph of One of the Very First Trenches
(1914)
This will give the viewer a good understanding of what the trenches looked like in the autumn of 1914, before the adjoining communication lines were dug and the years of rain and artillery would begin to create that landscape so famously depicted by the photographers, painters and writers of the First World War. In the distance beyond the haystack, the opposing German trenches can be seen.
French Soldiers Desperate to Leave the Trenches  <br />(The Atlanta Georgian, 1917)French Soldiers Desperate to Leave the Trenches
(The Atlanta Georgian, 1917)
So horrid was the terror of World War I trench warfare that more than a few of the Frenchmen serving in those forward positions (and others who were simply overcome with life in the military) began to post personal ads in French newspapers, volunteering to marry widows and divorcees with large families in order to be absolved of all military duty.

Read what the U.S. Army psychologists had to say about courage.

Trench French  <br />(Soldier's French Course, 1916)Trench French
(Soldier's French Course, 1916)
A smattering of French phrases and military vocabulary terms uttered in the combat zones of W.W. I. Translated expressions include the standard commands as well as such bon mots as "shell the fort", "the walls are shattered", "the place is evacuated" and for all those World War Two re-enactors, "run for your lives".

Additional pages in this English/French phrase book are available upon request.

Click here to read about a case of French Friendly-Fire...

British Military Campaign Furniture  <br />(Mappin and Webb, 1915)British Military Campaign Furniture
(Mappin and Webb, 1915)
The furniture made available for private purchase to British officers during World War One was a far cry from that which their Victorian father's enjoyed; however, the thought of going off to war without camp furniture at all was foreign to them. The page illustrates the simple, collapsible furniture that was approved by the British War Office for use in the field.
German Defense Accessories <br />(L'Illustration, 1915)German Defense Accessories
(L'Illustration, 1915)
A collection of black and white drawings that illustrate the variety of items used along the Western Front to defend the German trench lines.

This article appears on this site by way of a special agreement with L'Illustration.

Foolhardiness on the Western Front   <br />(Literary Digest, 1917)Foolhardiness on the Western Front
(Literary Digest, 1917)
The manner in which front-line soldiers in a war are able to stave off boredom has been the topic of many letters and memoirs throughout the centuries, and the attached article will show you how one Frenchman addressed the issue - it is a seldom seen black and white photograph depicting an acrobatic stunt being performed above the parapet and in plain view of German snipers.
The Deep German Dugouts <br />(L'Illustration, 1915)The Deep German Dugouts
(L'Illustration, 1915)
A French photograph showing the entry to one of the many subterranean shelters that dotted the Western front during the First World War; also included is a diagram of what one of the smaller German dugouts with a similar entry-way.

Unlike the Allies (who always liked to believe that they were going to leave their trenches any minute and march on to Germany), the German trenches tended to be far more comfortable - better walk-ways, smarter dugouts, tidier latrines. There were some reinforced with bricks or concrete, with electric lighting.

This article appears on this site by way of a special agreement with L'Illustration.
Click here to see a 1915 ad for British Army military camp furniture.

German Dugouts <br />(L'Illustration, 1915)German Dugouts
(L'Illustration, 1915)
A 1915 diagram from a French news magazine depicting the depth of a German front-line dugout. John Laffin makes it quite clear in his World War One book, The Western Front Companion: "From 1915, the remarkably well developed German positions, notably on the Somme front, reflected their strategic advantage. They were on enemy soil, the Germans held the initiative and they could afford to settle down in their dugouts. Hence, most had electricity, drainage, sewage system, piped water, a telephone system and many were heated. The soldiers could lie down on mattresses resting on beds made of stacking stretched over wooden frames, and -and because of deep overhead cover - 30 to 40 feet of it, they were safe even during heavy shell fire."

This article appears on this site by way of a special agreement with L'Illustration.
Click here to see a 1915 ad for British Army military camp furniture.

Click here to read an article about life in a W.W. I German listening post...

Notes on a British Front-Line Dugout <br />(''Trench Warfare'', 1917)Notes on a British Front-Line Dugout
(''Trench Warfare'', 1917)
"The design and general scheme of a small dugout which can be made by the infantry under the supervision of an officer, without the aid of an engineer, are here given."

Click here to read an article about life in a W.W. I German listening post...

Click here to see a 1915 ad for British Army military camp furniture.

Instructions for Building Trench Shelters <br />(Trench Warfare, 1917)Instructions for Building Trench Shelters
(Trench Warfare, 1917)
It was the preferred plan on both sides that their troops sleep in fields and forests as they briskly marched forward to the terror-struck cities of their timid and surrendering foes - but other sleeping arrangements had to be made when it was decided that trenches were necessary. Officers in forward trenches would sleep in shifts within muddy little rooms called "dugouts" and the enlisted men would get something worse; dubbed, "shelters", these holes were simply rectangular caves carved into the walls of the trench:

Click here to see a 1915 ad for British Army military camp furniture.

Visions of the  Trenches by Otto Dix <br />(Artist's Portfolio, 1919)Visions of the Trenches by Otto Dix
(Artist's Portfolio, 1919)
Attached are assorted W.W. I combat images by noted German Expressionist Otto Dix (1891 1969). Shortly after returning from the war, Dix threw away his uniform, locked himself in his print studio and began to diligently labor over a vast number of etching plates - all baring the dreadful images of trench warfare that had been burned into his memory during the course of living his beastly, troglodyte existence in the trenches of France.
The Battle of the Cooties <br />(NY Times, 1918)The Battle of the Cooties
(NY Times, 1918)
"Cooties", in the World War One sense of the word, were tiny little bugs that lived in the seams of uniforms for that unlucky multitude who lived in the trenches. Being an equal-opportunity sort of parasite, they plagued all combatants alike, regardless of one's opinions concerning Belgian neutrality, and were cause for much complaining, scratching, discomfort and the creation of way too much juvenile verse.

The attached article from 1917 tells the tale of some fortunate Doughboys and their encounter with a U.S. Army "Cootie Graveyard" (read: delousing station):

"They entered a bedraggled, dirty, grouchy lot of sorry-looking Doughboys. They came out with faces shinning and spirits new. They knew they had before them the first good night's rest in some time and sans scratching."

As far as cooties were concerned, the American infantrymen of the Great War had it far easier than his European comrades and counter-parts, for he only had to contend with them for the mere six month time that he lived in the trenches, rather than the full four years.

Trench Medicine <br />(Harper's Weekly, 1915)Trench Medicine
(Harper's Weekly, 1915)
An informative article from World War I concerning the doctors of all the combatant nations and how they dealt with the filthy conditions of stagnant warfare and all the different sorts of wounds that were created as a result of this very different war:

"This is a dirty war. Gaseous, gangrene, lockjaw, blood poisoning, all dirt diseases... Colonel G.H. Makins of the Royal Army Medical Corps longs for the clean dust of the Veldt, which the British soldier cursed in the Boer War."

A German Listening Post North of Verdun  <br />(American Legion Monthly, 1937)A German Listening Post North of Verdun
(American Legion Monthly, 1937)
Appearing in THE AMERICAN LEGION MONTHLY some nineteen years after the end of the war was this nifty article written by a German veteran. The article explains quite simply how his forward listening post operated in the German trenches North of Verdun during the early Autumn on 1918.
Night Patrol in the Toul Sector <br />(Stars and Stripes, 1918)Night Patrol in the Toul Sector
(Stars and Stripes, 1918)
"Mr. Junius B. Wood, correspondent of the CHICAGO DAILY NEWS with the A.E.F. recently spent a week in the sector held by the American Army Northwest of Toul. He lived the life of a Doughboy, slept a little and saw a lot. He spent his days in and near the front line and some of his nights in No Man's Land. Here is the second and concluding installment of his story, depicting life at the front as it actually is..."

Click here to read an article about the German veterans of W.W. I.

A Color Photograph of One of the Very First Trenches  <br />(1914)A Color Photograph of One of the Very First Trenches
(1914)
This will give the viewer a good understanding of what the trenches looked like in the autumn of 1914, before the adjoining communication lines were dug and the years of rain and artillery would begin to create that landscape so famously depicted by the photographers, painters and writers of the First World War. In the distance beyond the haystack, the opposing German trenches can be seen.
Living the Trench War <br />(NY  Times, 1915)Living the Trench War
(NY Times, 1915)
This World War One correspondence makes for a wonderful read and it gives a very lucid picture of what the war must have been like once both sides had resigned themselves to trench warfare. The letter was dated October 8, 1914 and the British officer who composed it makes clear his sense that no modern war had ever been fought in this queer manner before.
Trench Warfare and the Wounds That Were Inflicted <br />(Harper's Weekly, 1915)Trench Warfare and the Wounds That Were Inflicted
(Harper's Weekly, 1915)
An informative article from World War I concerning the doctors of all the combatant nations and how they dealt with the filthy conditions of stagnant warfare and all the different sorts of wounds that were created as a result of this very different war.
War in the Trenches  <br />(Hearst's Sunday American, 1917)War in the Trenches
(Hearst's Sunday American, 1917)
An article by the admired British war correspondent, Ellis Ashmead-Bartlett (1881-1931), concerning the unique aspects of the Great War which combined to make that the sort of war that had never been seen before:

"Everything has changed; uniforms, weapons, methods, tactics. Cavalry had been rendered obsolete by trenches, machine guns and modern artillery; untrained soldiers proved useless, special battalions were needed on both sides to fight this particular kind of war that, in no way, resembled the battles your father or grand-fathers had once fought.
A good read.

Night Patrol in the Trenches <br />(Stars and Stripes, 1918)Night Patrol in the Trenches
(Stars and Stripes, 1918)
"Mr. Junius B. Wood, correspondent of the CHICAGO DAILY NEWS with the A.E.F. recently spent a week in the sector held by the American Army Northwest of Toul. He lived the life of a Doughboy, slept a little and saw a lot. He spent his days in and near the front line and some of his nights in No Man's Land. Here is the second and concluding installment of his story, depicting life at the front as it actually is..."
W.W. I Trench Fighting <br />(The New Republic, 1915)W.W. I Trench Fighting
(The New Republic, 1915)
The seasoned war correspondent from THE NEW REPUBLIC filed this essay some five months into the war in order to clarify for his American readers the exact nature of trench warfare. His observations are based upon the trench fighting that he witnessed both in France and during the Russo-Japanese War, some nine years earlier:

"There is an illusion that the range and effectiveness of modern arms tend to keep armies far apart. On the contrary, there is more hand-to-hand fighting today than at any time since gunpowder was invented... at this rate the French will not drive out the Germans in months, but on the other hand a frontal attack, and every attack must now be frontal, even if successful would cost several hundred thousand men."

The article was written by Gerald Morgan; by war's end he would serve as General Pershing's press chief (ie.censor).

Baseball as a metaphor for war...

A British Drawing of a German Trench Latrine <br />(Royal Engineers, 1915)A British Drawing of a German Trench Latrine
(Royal Engineers, 1915)
Attached, you will find a mechanical drawing made by the industrious souls assigned to the Royal Engineers in order to placate those busy-body brass-hats situated so far in the rear and having little better to do than wonder aloud as to how the Hun tended to deal with his bowel movements.

The author of The Western Front Companion is very informative on the topic of trench latrines and tells us that as the war progressed, latrines evolved into loitering centers for those wishing to read or enjoy some solitude. In order to remedy the situation officers decided to position their front-line trench latrines at the end of short saps, closer to the enemy; the reason being that a man was less likely to tarry and would return to duty that much quicker.

''The German Concrete Trenches'' <br />(NY Times, 1915)''The German Concrete Trenches''
(NY Times, 1915)
"Some of the trenches have two stories, and at the back of many of them are subterranean rest houses built of concrete and connected with the trenches by passages. The rooms are about seven feet high and ten feet square, and above the ground all evidence of the work is concealed by green boughs and shrubbery."
America's First Trench Raid <br />(The Stars and Stripes, 1918)America's First Trench Raid
(The Stars and Stripes, 1918)
An account of the first all-American trench raid of the First World War. The correspondent noted that the raid, which took place in the Loraine Sector, spanned forty-seven minutes from start to finish.

The participating unit was not named.

Entry to a German Dugout <br />(L'Illustration, 1915)Entry to a German Dugout
(L'Illustration, 1915)
A French photograph showing the entry way to one of the many subterranean shelters that dotted the Western front during the First World War; also included is another diagram of what one of the smaller German dugouts resembled that had such an entry.

This article appears on this site by way of a special agreement with L'Illustration.

Life in a Trench <br />(What the Boys Did Over There, 1919)Life in a Trench
(What the Boys Did Over There, 1919)
Corporal Frank Sears of the American Expeditionary Force put pen to paper and explained for all posterity the unsanitary conditions of in France:

"Life in the trenches is made up of cooties, rats, mud and gas masks."

"We had heard from fellows who had been there before us what we thought were jokes about cooties and trench rats, but it was no joke to me when I looked, for the first time, at a rat as big as a cat... I threw a heavy hobnail shoe at him and he merely changed his position and looked around to see who had interrupted him. But I will say that if it were a matter of choice, I would select a hundred rats in preference to two cooties."

"We became so used to mud up in the lines that if our chow did not have some mud, or muddy water in it we could not digest it. It was just a case of mud all over: eat, drink, sleep and wash in mud."

Barbusse Described the Winter Trenches <br />(Collier's Magazine, 1917)Barbusse Described the Winter Trenches
(Collier's Magazine, 1917)
"The war has changed many things, and it may have altered conceptions of military smartness as well. For from Paris, the home of 'mode' and 'chic', comes a daily fashion hint from the front that is upsetting. It is from Henri Barbusse (1873 - 1935), author of the novel Under Fire
TRENCH RAID! <br />(The American Legion Weekly, 1922)TRENCH RAID!
(The American Legion Weekly, 1922)
This is an eyewitness account of the very first trench raid to have been suffered by the U.S. Army in France; like most first time engagements in American military history, it didn't go well and resulted in three dead, five wounded, and eleven Americans taken as prisoner. Historians have recorded this event to have taken place on the morning of November 3, 1917, but this participant stated that it all began at

"3:00 a.m. on November 2, after a forty-five minute artillery barrage was followed by the hasty arrival of 240 German soldiers, two wearing American uniforms, jumped into their trench and began making quick work out of the Americans within."

The U.S. Army would not launch their own trench raid for another four months.

Trench Warfare Tips from a Veteran <br />(NY Times, 1916)Trench Warfare Tips from a Veteran
(NY Times, 1916)
An experienced Canadian trench fighter wrote the attached columns offering sound advice to the American National Guardsmen he knew were bound to enter the war at some point.

"Men enthuse over descriptions of bayonet charges. They are no idle pastimes, so it behooves all soldiers not only to become absolutely perfect in bayonet exercises, but to practice getting under way, keeping abreast with your mates and having a firm hold on your rifle. The soldier may say, 'Oh, that bayonet exercise isn't practical in a charge." No? Very well, that may appear right to some, but I should advise every one knowing every parry, thrust and counter so thoroughly that after they become second nature you can then do whatever your intuition at the moment directs."

The U.S. Army Trench Knives <br />(America's Munitions, 1919)The U.S. Army Trench Knives
(America's Munitions, 1919)
The American Army contracted two varieties of fighting knives throughout the First World War:

the 1917 model trench knife with the nine inch triangular blade, and
the 1918 Mark I trench knife with the 6.75 double-edged flat blade

The 1917 knife was the one that was carried during the war. The conflict had ended by the time it was decided to begin production on the second knife, which saw some use during W.W. II.

This article is illustrated with pictures of both and goes into some detail at to the manufacturers and the various matters that the Quartermaster Corps considered in weighing their decision as to what should be involved in designing such fighting knives.