Trench Warfare

Benjamin Ryan

Social Studies 9.2

In 9th Grade World history at Renaissance School in Springfield, Massachusetts we have learning about World War 1and how it changes warfare. World War 1 was a major turning point in all types of warfare. One of the most important types of warfare, in all of World War 1 was, Trench Warfare. Trenches We a lot different from the Civil War, Revolutionary War, and Medieval wars. The Civil war was the act of lining up and shooting the enemy then charging, trench men took cover then shot when they saw an enemy. The revolutionary wasn’t as advance because they used inaccurate weapons like the musket; the trench men had snipers that shot long ranged accurate bullets. The Medieval battles were all about close quarters combat, and hand wea  pons. Trench men had machine guns, snipers, grenades, and knifes called bayonets on the tip of their gun. Trenches were much more complex, timely, and accurate.

Trench’s were an art during World War 1. These weren’t just 12 feet deep holes in the ground; they were death traps, killing machines, homes, and hospitals. A trench was made in a zig-zag formation which is Greek Fret Work or wavy lines. In the non-fiction book Over There say why the trenches had a zig-zag formation, “Trenches were dug, or ought to have been dug, at least five feet deep in a pattern resembling Greek Fretwork or wavy lines. This limited damage of a direct hit or; in case of an enemy attack, of an enemy machine gun firing down a trench.(110)”Each short section was called a “bay”. Trenches were very tight and rarely wide, because the narrower the trench the more protection. There was one thing that was mandatory about trenches. That is a trench needs to be wide enough so two soldiers can pass by each other. Normally a trench was 12 feet deep, the front and back walls were lined with sand bags 2-3 feet high, a ledge built into the lower part of the ditch, was known as the first step helping soldiers see where they were shooting. Lastly but most importantly a trench consisted of 3 or 4 trenches. The front trench or “fire line”, the support trench, and reserve trench. These trenches were all connected by communication trenches, allowing the movement of messages, troops, and supplies.

The life of a trench soldier was tiring, frightening, and boring. The life of a soldier in a trench wasn’t always fun, or full of action. The life of a trench soldier started at 00:00, when they woke up. From 04:00 to 06:00, was breakfast. The breakfast was very filling but more on the tasteless side. 06:00 to 09:00 was when the soldiers cleaned, and inspected there weapons. Chores took place from 09:00 to 19:00. 19:30 to 21:00 was ‘stand to’ also known as dinner. The day ended with night working parties and relief from 21:00 to 00:00. From all the artillery, grenades, and shooting, things needed to be repaired at night. The website said “In all, most battalions rarely spent more than five days a month in the line of fire.” Every night new barbed wired had to be laid and the old wire was repaired at night. Soldiers would fix the trench walls if it caved in from explosions. Surprisingly the least amount of time was spent in the front line; the most time was spent outside of trenches. These soldiers endured a few challenges, to keep the trench healthy, and themselves.

Clearly life was challenging during World War 1. The food was filling and there was bedding for some people. Of every 5 men brought into casualty collection stations, 3 were unwounded but seriously ill. Two major sicknesses/disorders were “trench fever” and “trench foot”. “Trench Fever” was transmitted by body lice. Symptoms were fevers, and pain in joints, bones, and muscles. “Trench Foot” was a brutal disorder that resembled frost bite. This was caused by the trenches flooding with water, and producing a lot of mud. The feet of the soldiers would become very swollen, and sometimes turn black. The trenches of course had many rodents invading people’s space. The soldiers had to deal with poor living conditions, but ate well. In the book Voices from the Past… World War 1 a soldier said “Then, back in the trenches, they were, faced with misery of mud, slugs, frogs, rodents, lice, and often utter boredom (28). That’s just terrifying.

In conclusion, trenches changed warfare forever. During its time it was brand new and known as the “dangerous stage”. The Western Front Trenches came into existence because of a stagnant. A stagnant is a tie or draw. This whole trench idea was much more different than the Civil War, Revolutionary War, and Medieval Wars. During the civil war the troops would line up to fire. During the Revolutionary war the main gun was a musket that took a lot of time to reload. The Medieval Wars were close quarters combat. World War 1 trench fights had one side charge the other trench while they defended, then they would switch. The World War 1 guns were much more powerful and faster. The trenches had long ranger snipers in sniper nests, and very fast machine guns shooting multiple bullets a second, unlike the musket. Overall, Trench Warfare was one huge step in the growth of all warfare.

Works Cited


  • Farewell, Byron. Over There. W. Norton & Company (August 17, 2000)
  • Gay, Martin. Gay, Kathlyn Voices from the Past… World War 1. Published 1995 by Twenty-First Century Books
  • Heinrichs, Ann. Voices of World War I: Stories from the Trenches (Voices of War). Capstone Press (August 1, 2010)
  • How did so many soldiers survive the trenches? m/ww1, October 20, 2014



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