Presentation on theme: "“Over the Top!” Trench Warfare. The Western Front."— Presentation transcript:
“Over the Top!” Trench Warfare
The Western Front
Life in the Trenches Front line trenches faced each other across no-man’s land. They were often wet and rat infested. A tour in the trenches usually lasted six days followed by twelve days of respite behind the lines.
Life in the Trenches II At night patrols were sent out across no-man’s land to probe enemy defenses and cut his barbed wire. Dawn often brought attacks when men were ordered “over the top.” Once into the open ground of no-man’s land they were cut down by machine gun and artillery fire. The wounded were often left to die where they fell.
It reached peak brutality and bloodshed on the Western Front in the First World War.
What did they look like?
Why the zig- zagged pattern? It prevented the enemy from being able to shoot down the length of the entire trench
This meant that a soldier could see no more than 10 meters along the length of the trench.
Why barbed wire? It was difficult to cut, and shelling it would only make it more entangled, providing an extra barrier from attack.
Why “duckboards” & a drainage sump? It reinforced the stability of the walls, and allowed for drainage of rainwater, blood, and other body fluids…
Why sandbags? They protected soldiers from bullets and shrapnel
Why were trenches so effective in World War I ?
Vickers Machine Gun This new and powerful weapon could “mow down” soldiers trying to attack
Machine guns needed 4-6 men to work them and had the fire power of 100 guns
Gas Attacks Chlorine and Mustard gas would slow down attackers, causing burns and suffocation
Blind Alleys These led nowhere and were built to confuse and slow down the enemy
Underground “Saps” These tunnels were dug under enemy trenches so that explosives could be placed under them and detonated
attackers couldn’t cross “no man’s land” fast enough to avoid casualties
“no man’s land” varied in distance depending on the battlefield. On the Western Front it was typically between 100 and 300 yards, though only 30 yards on Vimy Ridge.
Small trenches rapidly grew deeper and more complex, gradually becoming vast areas of interlocking defensive works British trenches German trenches
What was life like in the trenches?
Sanitary conditions in the trenches were quite poor, and common infections included dysentery, typhus, and cholera
Rats became common, and grew large as they would eat the soldier’s food
Medical services were primitive and life-saving antibiotics had not yet been discovered
Relatively minor injuries could prove fatal through the onset of infection and gangrene
Poor hygiene also led to conditions such as trench mouth and trench foot
official truces were organized so that the wounded could be recovered from no man's land and the dead could be buried
But what was life REALLY like in the trench?
At the age of 92, Arthur Savage was asked about his memories of life on the Western Front. “My memories are of sheer terror and the horror of seeing men sobbing because they had trench foot that had turned gangrenous. They knew they were going to lose a leg.
Memories of lice in your clothing driving you crazy. Filth and lack of privacy. Of huge rats that showed no fear of you as they stole your food rations. And cold deep wet mud everywhere.
And of course, corpses. I'd never seen a dead body before I went to war. But in the trenches the dead are lying all around you. You could be talking to the fellow next to you when suddenly he'd be hit by a sniper and fall dead beside you. And there he‘d stay for days.”
The Government wanted to encourage men to enlist for war. They said the war would be safe, hardly any fighting, a good game and over by Christmas. They used advertising posters to encourage this idea! A picture of soldiers going ‘Over the Top’
The reality of ‘going over the top’ was very different!
Soldiers were expected to carry all of their equipment with them at all times. They were supposed to keep it clean and in good condition.
How the uniform and equipment changed after just three weeks in the trenches…
Posters always showed men ready and willing to fight. They never showed the boredom of the trenches or actual fighting taking place. Why do you think the government showed no fighting?
No smiling and relaxed faces… No clean uniforms… Their equipment is scattered everywhere… Boredom and sleep are obvious…
The soldiers had very little decent food, and what food they had was often attacked by rats. These rats were the size of small rabbits and badgers because they had fed on the decomposing bodies of dead soldiers.