Shaun Chaban World War 1: The Life in Trenches World War 1 is perhaps best known for being a war fought in trenches (Grolier 94), ditches dug out of the ground to give troops protection from enemy artillery and machine-gun fire. In Erich Remarque's novel All Quite on the Western Front that is exactly how he described trench warfare. Remarque showed World War 1 as a war fought in trenches, which he depicted well leaving out only a few minor details. The trenches spread from the East to the West. By the end of 1914 trenches stretched all along the 475 miles front (Grolier 94) between the Swiss border and the Channel coast.
In some places, enemy trenches were less than thirty yards apart (Stewart 40). Although trenches spread for many miles their appearance varied. Upon looking more closely, one could see that each army's trench line was actually a series of three trenches. These three lines connected at various points by small, twisted trenches (Stewart 40).
Trenches varied from eight to six feet in height (Simkin). In these waterlogged trenches there was a need for extra support so wood boards were placed on the side and on the floor for assistance and a safe area for walking (Simkin). In spite of the fact that the trenches protected the soldiers, they stood no chance against the diseases. Body lice were among one of the diseases that traveled among the trenches the most. Body lice caused frenzied scratching and led to trench fever (Simkin). Fifteen percent (Simkin) of sickness was from body lice. Trench foot was another disease found in the trenches.
After hours (Simkin) of standing in waterlogged trenches, the feet would begin to numb, change color, swell, and soon result in amputation. There was one way to cure trench foot without amputation and that was to dry ones feet and change socks regularly (Simkin). During the winter of 1914-15, over 20,000 men in the British army were treated for trench foot (Simkin). Whale oil was used to oil the soldiers feet for it was much easier to take off ones boots. Ten gallons of whale oil (Simkin) was used at the front lines.
With the dead and dying soldiers, rats were not far behind. Rats varied in sizes. Rats could produce around 880 offspring in one year (Simkin). Rats that could not find food in trenches resorted in eating human flesh.
A large rat could devour wounded and unprotected soldiers. They are bigger than any rats I've ever seen--like small dogs. They are a hazard to all of us, for they attack the wounded as well as the dead. None of the wounded men want to sleep, for they fear a regiment of rats will make short order of them. Although I am healthy, the rats come close at night, smelling the food supplies I keep with me. If ever there was a true hell on earth, it is here in the trenches (Grolier 94). The trenches however did protect them from small explosions and gunfire.
The German trench system was more elaborate and, according to some reports, better build and maintained. This was due to the fact that for long periods the German army was on the defensive, and needed an environment which would enable their men to resist the massive bombardments and assaults of the allies. When soldiers thought that the trenches would protect them from harm, they were in for an unsuspecting surprise. Throughout the war, the allies used five million tons (Simkin) of artillery shells against the enemy. In the first two weeks of a battle, the British with other allies managed to shoot off 4,283,550 (Simkin) shells at the German defenses. The trenches never protected soldiers from shell shock.
Soldiers who exposed themselves to continuous amount of shellfire produced a number of symptoms. These symptoms included tiredness, irritability, and lack of concentration, headaches, and eventually mental breakdowns. About 80,000 men (Simkin) of the British suffered from shell shock. Remarque showed how World War 1 was fought in trenches. He displayed the soldiers spending most of their time in the trenches even if they were not on the front line.
Remarque revealed how soldiers based their life around trenches and forgot about home life. Furthermore, Remarque explained trench warfare in an interesting way. However, Remarque missed a few essential elements. Word Count: 725