Living in the Trenches of WW1

The Trenches of WW I

During the First World War, many soldiers fought and died. Some survived, and some lived but were disabled for the rest of their lives, but everyone who fought in the trenches lost close friends or family members.

Every soldier who fought in the trenches knew death and the smell that followed, a smell that would haunt them for the rest of their lives.

Life in the trenches was often said to be hell on earth and nobody who went there argued to the contrary. In the trenches, those poor fighting men got up close and personal with death, disease, mutilation, fear, hunger, horror, lice, rats, maggots, insects, and constant threat. There, every waking moment was spent dodging shellfire and bullets, defending life.

There was plenty of life in the trenches, but sadly there was no real living for the men who served their time there.

Soldiers in the Trenches: World War One

Here, some men are having a little time out while others stay alert on the firing step.
Here, some men are having a little time out while others stay alert on the firing step. | Source

Daily Trench Routine During World War 1

Although It may sound difficult to believe, there was order in the trenches. Even in the bloody chaos of the fiercest battles, soldiers still followed a daily routine.

Every day and night, the fighting went on but the young men still tried to stick to a routine which gave them a purpose other than killing each another. Keeping to a routine was a moral booster for the men because even if it did just last for a few moments, it was a break from the killing fields (although they still had to worry about a bullet with their name on it).

A Day in the Trenches

The daily routine (an example):

Since many raids and attacks would be carried before dawn, an hour before sun up, everyone would get up and climb up on the fire step to watch, weapons drawn, for dawn raids by the enemy. Oftentimes the soldiers would fire their weapons randomly toward the enemy at this time, as a defensive measure.

After the sun came up, the soldiers would clean their equipment and stand for inspection by senior officers. This was mostly a roll call to check which soldiers were still alive. Then they'd go for breakfast. Breakfast time was an unofficial truce in most areas on the front line, a truce that was sometimes extended to the wagons delivering food and medical supplies.

After breakfast, they'd get their daily chore assignments. There were always soldiers assigned to watch on the the fire step. The men sent to the firing step would be relieved after two hours and then they would be able to spend some time "relaxing" before being sent to do other chores, such as shoring up parts of the trenches that had been damaged by shellfire, re-filling sandbags, draining water from the trench floor, gathering supplies such as ammunition and food, maintaining latrines, and burying the bodies of their dead comrades.

During the rainy season, the trenches would fill up with water and the walls would turn to mud, creating dangerous living conditions inside, so the men had to work hard to maintain the trenches. Once the chores were done, the men were subjected to an inspection by senior officers.

At some point in the day, the men would have some leisure time when they might be able to catch up on some much-needed sleep. Of course, there was no real freedom during free time, and they could not move around and risk getting shot, so they'd sit still in one spot while they rested, played cards, or wrote letters.

At sundown, stand-to was repeated and everyone would aim and fire toward the enemy with one last noisy pre-emptive blast of defense for the day. They waited for darkness to fall before sending men to the rear lines to retrieve supplies. All night, someone was always standing for a two-hour watch on the fire step while others would be sent out to patrol the no-man's-land between their line and the enemy's.

Routine in the Trenches WW I

As part of their daily routine, these men are adding fuses to shells.
As part of their daily routine, these men are adding fuses to shells. | Source

Trench Cooking WW1

Royal Artillery trench cookers in Wancourt, France.
Royal Artillery trench cookers in Wancourt, France. | Source

Food in the Trenches of the First World War

In the heat of battle, it was impossible to have a set mealtime for the fighting soldiers, but if there was a lull in the fighting, hot meals were able to be delivered from the field kitchens to the front line trenches.

When soldiers were at stand-down, food was easier to acquire and both British and German troops could expect food to be available with some degree of regularity.

The soldiers in the trenches ate quite well, and the food was luxurious compared to what their families back home were eating.

A typical day's ration for a British soldier would include:

  • 20 ounces of bread or 16 ounces flour or 4 ounces of oatmeal
  • 3 ounces of cheese
  • 5/8 ounces of tea
  • 4 ounces of jam or 4 ounces of dried fruit
  • ½ ounce of salt, 1/36 ounce of pepper
  • 1/20 ounce of mustard
  • 2 ounces of dried vegetables or 8 ounces of fresh vegetables or 1/10 gi. lime juice if vegetables were not available
  • ½ gi. of rum or 1 pint of porter
  • 20 ounces of tobacco
  • 1/3 ounces of chocolate (rare)
  • 4 ounces of butter/margarine

For a German soldier, the daily rations were:

  • 26 ½ ounces of bread or 17 ½ of field biscuit or 14 ounces of egg biscuit
  • 53 ounces of potatoes
  • 4 ½ ounces fresh vegetables or 2 ounces dried vegetables
  • 7/10 ounce sugar, 9/10 ounce salt
  • two cigars and two cigarettes
  • .44 pint wine, .17 pint spirits, .88 pint beer

There was meat available for both the British and German soldiers in the trenches, but only when a lull in the battle allowed it to be delivered from the field kitchens.

German Rations in the Trenches of WW I

German soldiers trying to eat while fighting. Meals were often the high points of the day.
German soldiers trying to eat while fighting. Meals were often the high points of the day. | Source

The Stench of the Trenches in the First World War

Something must be said about the thing you can't get a sense of when looking at the photographs: the smell of the trenches.

Imagine this: the stench of overflowing latrines, of rotting bodies exposed to the air or buried in shallow graves, and of the living bodies (filthy, infected, bathed routinely in sweat) with no access to baths. Think of the smell of the men's unwashed feet suffering from trench foot, a fungal infection caused by wet and unsanitary trench conditions, an infection that often turned gangrenous and resulted in amputation. Add the odors of stagnant water and mud, gunpowder, slaked lime with chlorine, poison gas, rotting fabric, cigarette smoke, rancid food smells, and the stench of fear, and you have a clearer picture of what it was like in the trenches.

Australian Soldiers in Trenches at Gallipoli, 1915

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Comments 162 comments

Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 8 years ago from North America

Very interesting kitchen in the trenches. The Germans certainly had a lot of potatoes to eat every day.


jimmythejock profile image

jimmythejock 8 years ago from Scotland Author

Thanks for your comment, Patty LOL, 53 ounces of potatoes isn't really that much though either 2 small potatoes or one large.....jimmy


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 8 years ago from North America

You have giant potatoes, or smaller and heavy like mercury! :)

It's about 3 1/2 of the 12" by 5" 1-pound potatoes at my grocery. It's a lot to me, but chunky potato soup with the vegetables is good; better than just potatoes alone. It could get them through the day. Nice Hub.


jimmythejock profile image

jimmythejock 8 years ago from Scotland Author

Scottish potatoes are very heavy lol, thanks Patty i think i will need to learn my weight conversions.....jimmy 80)


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 8 years ago from North America

Naaaah, you are fine! I THOUGHT Scottish and probably Irish potaotes are more massive! You know how air-headed some of our US products are. :)


Paraglider profile image

Paraglider 8 years ago from Kyle, Scotland

A worthy addition to the WW1 series. Grim times, indeed.


websurfpro profile image

websurfpro 8 years ago

Nice daily rations for the British :) Some countries don`t offer that much food in hospitals for every patient these days ... Great Hub I enjoyed reading it


monitor profile image

monitor 8 years ago from The world.

Recently I think a lot about world war one and two. I just don't get it. What were we thinking. Jimmythejock, this is a very interesting view of the trenches. Those photos tell all don't they.

Thank you for your efforts.

Mon.


dcbrown2000 profile image

dcbrown2000 8 years ago from Sour Lake, Tx

I have taught American and World History for many years and I really appreciate your writings. Trench warfare was a horrible experience! Have you ever considered comparing the trench fighting used during the Civil War in the United States and the trench fighting during WWI?

Dave


Gadzooks profile image

Gadzooks 8 years ago from United Kingdom

This is a great page, I think its really important to remember what happened to these people, especially as this war has now passed from living memory.

I often wonder what the UK would be like today if that war had not happened, I am sure it would be dramatically different... as would the rest of Europe...


mary 8 years ago

it sound horrific!!!


gffhfhhf 8 years ago

NICE PAGEE!


carL! 8 years ago

Thanks for making this, it's really helping me with my final project.

When you really think about it, soldiers in WW1 had a really hard life, and what they had to go through really was hell.

:/


jim1307 8 years ago

I enjoyed reading this. I had a great grandfather who died on the loos battlefield, 1915, so it was interesting to see a little insight into their life in the trenches. :))


CJStone profile image

CJStone 8 years ago from Whitstable, UK

Hello jimmythejock, this is the first time I've seen your pages about life in the trenches. I'm going to read all of them now I know they are here. My mum tells a story about an uncle of hers that turned up at home when he was supposed to be fighting. He was filthy dirty and covered in lice and confused about where he was. Everyone was concerned he would be shot as a deserter, so they cleaned him up and sent him back. It seems no one had missed him in all the confusion. Have you seen my hub on the subject. Apologies if you have, but here is the link in case you haven't. http://hubpages.com/education/Were-Here-Because-We...


Social Conscience profile image

Social Conscience 8 years ago from Earth - Where are YOU from?

Paragraph 4 nearly made me toss the potatoes I had for lunch, and I don't mean toss them haphazardly into the garbage. Way to start out graphic, Jimmy. I hope a lot of people view this hub. What an awful way to exist - even for a day - much less months +


hiiiiiii 8 years ago

Doing a project on ww1, this is a v. helpful page indeed! thnx so much! x :D


moco 34 8 years ago

this is cool cheers :)


project girl 8 years ago

This is a great website it relly helped me with my project at school! thanks! :-)


hey 8 years ago

love the page!!!


kobe bryant 24 7 years ago

thanks...u just helped me with my histroy essay:D


natalia 7 years ago

i appreciate your posting this information. wwi was nothing short of horrific, but its important to remember and study and understand every aspect of the war so that we can ensure it never happens again. God bless!


Fred_Bear 7 years ago

Some of the most concise, well written, and balanced articles on WWI I have read. Have set my RSS to catch any other pages added. Thanks.


Ben  7 years ago

This is a good summery of the war, but it does not tell people about the trench life: example, the rats, the winter, christmas, the other enemys an so on.


Jord 7 years ago

Cheers My Dears Helped Me With My History :)

Nice Hub Btw


darkness 7 years ago

wear were the american soldiers located from the trenches


Dolores Monet profile image

Dolores Monet 7 years ago from East Coast, United States

sounds like hell, thank God for the tea


jorhe 7 years ago

thanks you help me with homework :D!!!!!


harry farr 7 years ago

nice


gothgirl 7 years ago

ths hlps a lt wth my rprt 4 hstry. thnxs


alex mizon 7 years ago

bout wolrd war one and this nweb site helped me a lot

thank you

xx

f rom alex mizon


panda-lovr 7 years ago

hey thanks for this!!!!!!!

it really helps!!

EWWWW!!!!! RATS!!!!! and LICE!!!!!!


callum 7 years ago

Thanksm ate this has really helped me with my history essay


bobby leonard 7 years ago

thank you very much!! this helped me so much... i love history and this allowed me to learn a lot about it! :)


John Hestand profile image

John Hestand 7 years ago

I think the muddy battlefield picture was a great addition. You see that poor shlep covered in mud with his hands over his face, and you see everything around him all blown to hell, and you get a pretty good idea of what life in those trenches must have been like.


MegZ  7 years ago

thanks u helped me finish my project

xxx


Hyungjun Kim 7 years ago

AWSM

you rock

u made me ace my school assesment!!!!!

you are awsm(not just with this hub, all your hubs are good)


hot babe 7 years ago

this info is so helpful and those poor sheep++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++


Zaac 7 years ago

awesome page helped me a lot


Al. 7 years ago

yay :) this helps me so much with my assignment!


Revilo-95 7 years ago

Hi I'm doing a history project on trench warfare and I've been reading your hubs and there amazing! brilliant for jotting down notes, I was really shocked at how diverse the british diet was even then and how most rations on the front were better than homes weird huh? anyway hubs are totally awesome man thanks a million.


badboi75 7 years ago

this was so useful in many ways


abbie  7 years ago

ermmm i'm in year nine and we need to know about world war 1 trenches we already know about trench foot but our teacher told us they only really ate corned beef just so you know :) x


sexyshawty 7 years ago

yeah help me soamuch with my assignment damn s.s


bethanieex 7 years ago

this helped a lot in my history project thanks


Waine Carr 7 years ago

this is a very useful document and i wrote 12 pages full of information, thankyou. iloveyou x


Kathh :P 7 years ago

Thanks helped with my history homework :)


happy 7 years ago

thanx 4 this - doing a test on monday nd i needed sum gd info to revise - well written and researched so thanx :D


luke 6 years ago

thanks gotta do some diary entry as a soldier in the trench.


Abbey xx 6 years ago

I think this page is very useful and will be for any students that do history, so why not use it now?


Rach 6 years ago

THANK YOU


ssss 6 years ago

Great sight. Reely helped me with my project that I am doing on life in the trenches.


bob 6 years ago

haha kidding good page helpful with history homework cheers :D


caleb  6 years ago

sweet page thanks to this page i should get a good mark haha


bob 6 years ago

thnx for help copy and paste a legend lol


bree 6 years ago

wow great page helped me with my history assignment.


tee 6 years ago

this page is helpful, but this is very bad what happen during the war.


alco 6 years ago

excellent page but a very sad thing


WKoppin 6 years ago from Michigan

Very well done; a great multi-part look. Would you consider posting something on conditions prior to major assaults, or just procedures for raids, counterattacks e.c.t.?


shanbabez 6 years ago

this was hell i would really hate to be in ur shoes thank god it does not happen now i would hate the live in the trenches coz it would have been easy 4 the other side to gdt in ............ x x x x


chickk_ 6 years ago

When did you write this statement??

the "Trench Living" one..


Kayleigh 6 years ago

Very Good Usful for homework xx


jazz 6 years ago

really good stuff mate...

don't take it badly or anything, but it's ironic you don't mention anything about France or french soldiers if u know what i mean (and plz no anti-french comments here...).

Any ways,

keep up the awesome work!!!!!


Alana  6 years ago

can anyone help me with the games they played or how they entertain themseleves in the trenches during WW1?


Patricia 6 years ago

I thought their food supplies were bad?


Corina 6 years ago

I think this webpage is GR8TE!!!!!!!!!


Sammy  6 years ago

Thanks this was great for my history homework :)


emzysmith 6 years ago

it must be so sad to live in those trenches i would have hated it cuz i hate rats lol xx


Bobby 6 years ago

So these trenches what are they?


katrina 6 years ago

its really hepl ful website. easy 2 follow what it says. it got all the answer that i needed thanks...


katrina 6 years ago

its really helpful website


Brandon Youngpaddock 6 years ago

This site is mad as. it was very useful for my history essay. thanks. :)


georgia (12) 6 years ago

its a really useful website so young people like myself can do homework on it as i'm doing worldwar 1 . thanks


stairwagon 6 years ago

were the us involved in ww1? i know we were.


jbbb 6 years ago

this was helpful, but i need to know more about

the advantages of trenches!


Jon 6 years ago

Sorry to be picky but "The soldiers in the trenches ate quite well, and the food was considered to be luxurious, compared to what their families back at home were eating" !??!!? - THIS IS NOT TRUE!!

I think you'll find that there were massive problems with supplying the actual foods listed!!


heyy 6 years ago

this is a good site it has helped me with mi history projct thanks x (: x


Saskia.... :P 6 years ago

Thanks for posting this! Has been v. helpful!


Skye  6 years ago

Thank you for posting site. It was very helpful to find all of the information that i needed.


ish 6 years ago

thanks mate

that helped a lot:)


jenon 5 years ago

interesting


Bob 5 years ago

Thanks! Helped a lot.


nia 5 years ago

omg thx 2 u soilders


aimee 5 years ago

this was very useful i used it for enlish war poetry


jacob 5 years ago

havnt read it all, but i dont think you mentioned that solderers rarely ever got that much, and often soldiers complained about having just bread for breakfast and hard biscuits for tea


l.b 5 years ago

tnx that helped me wiv hmwk ;)


bill 5 years ago

this is gr8. helped me complete my hmwk on poetry


ruby 5 years ago

this is so good for my homework!!!!!!!!!!!


5 years ago

it is soo help for my project about ww1 trench life thatn every one


Florian Poddelka 5 years ago

thnx for who writen this thing that is soo useful for me


tom 5 years ago

good for homework


lizzie hoffman 5 years ago

really helpful! thnx


 5 years ago

i'm doing a report on this with my friend and it was really helpful. thank u to whoever wrote it! but i'm wondering, was the food really better than the people's at home? i always thought the trenches were horrible in every way!


taxi 5 years ago

glad i wasn't alive then!


dylan gore 5 years ago

helped me with a project thnkz


Ella 5 years ago

Thank you SO much i mean it i mean i forgot all about my project and needed to know about the trenches and other stuff i had my homewoek


5 years ago

i need to know a lot about ww1 trenches for something i am taking part in. easy to understand facts would to useful, thanks


Louise 5 years ago

Yes, like 'J', I also need some simple facts on 'World War One' trenches. This website has helped a lot but I would need some more information. If anybody has any suggestions of websites that I could go on to that would be fantastic. However, information and facts that you already know would be just as useful. Thank you.


hj 5 years ago

Scary place always anticapating fire.


gonzo 5 years ago

helped me whith my project


V Kuro 5 years ago

Thanks. Good work.


christyna 5 years ago

sorry my grandma always corrects me so its sorta become a habit. what poor living conditions wow they are heroes in every way


MegsEds 5 years ago

You've saved my life with my GCSE English. Wikipedia is a load of rubbish so thank you. Only now do I really learn to respect my great-grandparents... wish I could say thank you. Its so crazy that this escalated from one Archduke from being shot... quite amazing... Thank you MegsEds


Tessa mayleese mullenville 5 years ago

thankyou this page was great it really helped me with some reseach i had to do!! :) thx


wonders 5 years ago

thx fr helping me with my english h/w couldn't of dne it without u... wikepedia is useless


claudiaa 5 years ago

thanks this really helped me thankyou :) xx


timi 5 years ago

thx it helped me


xboxlive 5 years ago

thank you helped lots with history


bob everheart 5 years ago

that was sooo cool it helped of how life was like


TeddyBear 5 years ago

Great Page! Thanks sooo much!


eddie reyes 5 years ago

this mad me pss my test thank you


E.T 5 years ago

cheers soilders


lol 5 years ago

thank you


5 years ago

this has helped


pez3605 5 years ago

thanks for the info helped lots with history.


hannah 5 years ago

you're the best just saved my life i didn't have a clue what i was doing i thank you so much you're a star best website i could find and believe me i'm like an expert on th computer but this hlpd a lot :D


sillywilly 5 years ago

this has really helped me with my enquiry and i thank you so much .:)


leecee 5 years ago

this is amazing !

thibodaux, la


dave the quaver 5 years ago

thanks bud great helpn P:)


lily 5 years ago

this help a lot for myschool projects thanks :)


garret 5 years ago

history project :/

thank you very much for the information though!

It helped a bunch!


jordan 5 years ago

this is really helpful for my history extended learning task thanks the guy who wrote the answers down

thannnkkkksss


jonh 5 years ago

hepfull omg


xepicxsnipezzx 5 years ago

whoever posted this is a absouloute legend :)

THANKS


x Justin Beiber x 4 years ago

Can't believe that they had to live in those conditions.


LOLlol 4 years ago

thank you for this information is really helped me for my history assessment


Sinead Michael 4 years ago

thx for all that info! It really helped me!


4 years ago

thankyou so much


brandan 4 years ago

thank you for all that information it helped me a lot


Rufus rambles profile image

Rufus rambles 4 years ago from Australia

The harsh reality of life in the trenches is well shown here. My great-grandfather was a soldier in the trenches in World War 1 and his letters that we recently found tell of soldiers waking up to find rats in their clothes and having a competition about who could kill the most. I am slowly scanning and transcribing each letter and hope to add it soon to my hub. Thank you for this information. My great grandfather's letters to his mother spare her most of these greusome details - it just shows how brave and stoic the men were back then.


shh 4 years ago

might be helpful


monitor 4 years ago

waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay:L


paige 4 years ago

this helped me a lot thankyou soooooo much for macking this page i got a 5A in my work that's great thankyou sooo much !!!! :)


YMCMB 4 years ago

thanxz :)


Eric Rodriguez 4 years ago

this really helped with my world wazr one asignment thank you!!!!!!!!!!!!!


staciee 4 years ago

Thanks for this its helped me with my English homework and i feel sorry for the soldiers that are there fighting for Britain, but they are doing a brilliant job xx


RAWR! 4 years ago

thanks so much for this! it has really helped me with my history i will hopefully do well in my test thanks for letting me revise :)


Arwel Bennett 4 years ago

Cheers just helped loads with my history project


bizzymom profile image

bizzymom 4 years ago from New York

What a wonderfully informative hub! I was just looking up information for my daughter on trench warfare and came across your hub. Thank you for making her research so much easier!


bob 4 years ago

great website mate

absolutly amazing

it helped me do my home work well

ta. bob


bob 4 years ago

this website is awesome my dad is in the army it is amazing how far warfare has come


tla 4 years ago

this really helped with my history homework and its a great website :)


adam 4 years ago

this really helped although u cud of put about trench foot (fungi on the foot) but other than that it helped me with my work


Trololololol 4 years ago

Good page


Emily 4 years ago

Thanks for this page. It was great for helping me with my Yr9 history homework :)


tom 4 years ago

very good thanx


Denise G 4 years ago

"...there was plenty of life but there was no real living."

I dont know about anyone else but I found that line really cool :D

Thanks, you helped with my history homework!


michael 4 years ago

so good all info i need !!!!!!


charlie 4 years ago

helped me with drama homework thanks


Pealet58 4 years ago

Thx very much this really really helped me with my homework.

Thx again,

Pealet58


john 4 years ago

thanx that helped sssoooooooo much


jack 4 years ago

very helpful


Amy 4 years ago

pack with loads of imfo thanks for helping me do my history project on the treaches


samantha 3 years ago

hi this website is good and more people should check it out it helped me with my project that's for sure !!!!!!:}


dylan walker 3 years ago

i love this site like seriously love it


Ruairidh Fearguson 3 years ago

#this site #life #omg awsome


fatimah 3 years ago

thanks great help for history project.:D


paige 2 years ago

This website is very good it help me do my home work!


Wanker 2 years ago

Thanks this helped heaps


kayla 2 years ago

hi I love this website rip livesavers


Goy 2 years ago

Hi, i world like to know information of some names of soldiers and what happen to their feets in the water. Please can you answer before tuesday. Thanks


bob 6 months ago

this will help me in my presantation

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