World War I: Life in the Trenches

Here are some facts about life in the World War 1 trenches.

  • Trench warfare featured prominently in World War I. It was a method of fighting in which opposing armies dug trenches for protection and defence.
  • During World War I, there were an estimated 2,490 km of trenches throughout western Europe. Most trenches were about 3 metres deep and between 1 and 2 metres wide.
  • Life in the trenches was extremely hard, as well as dangerous. Most soldiers spent between a day and 2 weeks in a trench on the front line before being relieved.
  • Sanitary conditions in the trenches were poor and many soldiers suffered from gangrene and cholera. Often, dead bodies were simply left out in the open rather than buried.

World War 1 trenches

  • Trenches could quickly flood during heavy rain and one of the duties of the men was to drain water with a pump. Other duties included refilling sandbags and repairing the wooden flooring.
  • Rats, which could grow as large as cats, were a problem in the trenches. Frogs, spiders and lice were also pests that the soldiers had to battle daily.
  • One of the worst things about life in the trenches was the horrible smell. Many men did not bathe for weeks, and the trenches also smelled of rotting sandbags, cigarette smoke and poison gas.
  • It was difficult to sleep properly in the trenches because of the noise and uncomfortable surroundings. As a result, because men were tired and constantly in danger of falling asleep while on watch, the watch was kept to 2 hours.
  • The first trenches were primitive and were simply deep holes dug in the ground. Later trenches were more sophisticated and often had sleeping quarters, toilets and showers, and cooking facilities.
  • There were several cease fires or truces during World War I. Towards Christmas in 1914, the British and German soldiers came out of their trenches, stopped fighting, and even sung carols and exchanged gifts. This became known as the Christmas Truce.

What next? Find out more facts about World War 1 by visiting our resources page.

23 Responses to World War I: Life in the Trenches

  1. These are amazing facts really gonna help me with my project and all my friends in yr 6 and my yr 6 teacher is going to be proud of me !!!!!!!!! Also I’m in yr 6 xx

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