Aims: What living conditions were like for soldiers in the trenches.
Soldiers in the trenches during World War One lived with the constant fear of death or injury. As well as this, their living conditions were horrific.
Food The food provided for the men in the trenches varied. Although the troops did not often go hungry, the food was monotonous and often foul tasting. Bully Beef was commonly supplied and was much like today’s corned beef. As well as this, the men were fed with stale bread, jam, cheese and hard biscuits. These biscuits were so hard that they had to be soaked for a long time to make them edible.
Water Water was transported to the front in petrol cans where it adopted the taste. It was also treated with chemicals to kill germs which added to the awful taste. Water for washing and shaving was in short supply and therefore hygiene suffered.
Lice were a major problem for the men in the trenches. They were almost impossible to get rid of and lived in the seams of the men’s uniforms. They caused the men to itch and could also cause ‘Trench fever’ which is similar to influenza. A common past time in the trenches was trying to kill them by running a lighted candle along the seems on the men's uniforms where they lay.
Rats were widespread in the trenches. They feasted on corpses and tried to steal the men’s rations. They also kept the men awake at night by walking on them and even nibbling exposed toes or ears. Dogs were often kept by regiments to catch the rodents.
Trench foot was caused by the men’s feet being continually wet in the trenches. This excruciating conditions resulted in the men’s feet rotting and sometimes having to be amputated.
Diseases such as typhus, cholera and influenza were widespread in the trenches. Due to the crowded living conditions they were easily spread and killed many. Shellshock and stress effected many men who could not cope with the effects of life in the western front. Boredom was also a factor for some. Passing the time could be a struggle. Writing letters home and playing chess relieved the boredom for some. Men also suffered from the effects of lack of sleep. The smell of the trenches was also difficult to live with. The culmination the smell of dead bodies, rotting sandbags, overflowing latrines (toilets), unwashed bodies and stale mud was said to be overwhelming.