Lieutenant Bruce Bairnsfather describes how the design of the trenches was ‘haphazard’- random and irregular, but how this was well though out. The first image was that it was ‘strange, wet and horrid’. Dug outs would often cave in, and would have ‘floated off down stream’ meaning there would have been a lack of places to sleep and stay in. Clearly it was very wet because it was the first noticeable characteristic of the trenches, but also as it was quite common for things to be floating off in the water.
The lieutenant spent much of his first night trying to ‘find places for the gunners to sleep in’ implying either there were lots of people, there was a lack of dug-outs to sleep in, or the design of the trenches was so irregular, it was hard to actually find them. It was a very different experience, as everything seems to be curious to the Lieutenant. It is also very clear that overall it was horrible, as the lieutenant describes the trenches quite negatively. Although the trenches did fulfil some of the war’s practical needs, for example the lieutenant was able to ‘fix up machine guns at various points’.
Do sources B and C support the evidence in Source A about the conditions in the trenches in the First World War? Sources B and C support Source A to some extent. Source B supports the idea in Source A that the trenches were very wet and sometimes even had streams of water. The edges of the trenches in Source B are crumbled and worn out which may suggest that dug outs caved in supporting source A. Though, because in source B the trenches are flooded, it might have been eroded by rain which caused the flooding. In source A it isn’t clear whether it is flooded, so it is hard to make a comparison to Source B.
Source A doesn’t talk about barbed wire, whereas a lot of the text in Source C is about barbed wire. Though source C does say that it was very wet in some parts of the trenches. There is only one idea regular in all the sources- that there was a lot of water at some point. How useful are those sources in helping you to understand what conditions were like for soldiers in the trenches? From Sources D, E and F we can learn about the pests, namely rats and lice. Clearly the trenches were very dirty, smelly and unhygienic, as these are the conditions rats in particular thrive on.
There were an ‘extraordinary number of rats’ or ‘millions’ of them. They infested the trenches completely, everywhere from the dugouts to the duck-boards. They took food away from the soldiers, but also ate the dead bodies lying on the floor of the trenches. This left the soldiers devastated as the rats ate their friends. The only two sources that talk about the rats describe how sometimes they grew ‘as big as rats’. They also managed to be under the blankets beside the soldiers when they woke up at night. The soldiers sometimes got ‘full day’s rest’, they would spend these days trying to kill the lice, or ‘chatting’.
They would pop the lice with their nails, or with a flame on a candle where they were the thickest. The lice managed to get everywhere especially in folds of clothes. Those who had family would keep in touch with them by writing and by sending parcels. It was common to receive powder or liquid supposedly killing lice. It didn’t kill the lice. Overall the sources are very useful learning about particularly the pests and conditions surrounding them. Why do you think the sources differ about the quantity and quality of food in the trenches? The two sources vary a lot because of the different ranks.
One was a major and received a lot of food. The other is a private and received a biscuit at least, the soldier may have got more food but it only talks about the biscuit. Still it was very poor quality food. A private is the lowest rank in the army, and in world war one, most people who signed up automatically became a private. Most people who signed up would never reach any other rank, and would get a blighty injury, run away, die or simply leave once there could go. Privates would have to work up the ranks. A major is quite an important position, six ranks up from a private.
Also there were less people as the ranks increased, for example less people would be a lieutenant than a private, and less people would be a major than a lieutenant. This would mean the higher the rank you are, the more food you would get, because there would be less demand. Also as majors are much more important and more valued they were in general treated a lot better and fed properly. Also the soldiers could have been in different places, one may have been on the front line trench, and the other may have been far away from no mans land.
Possibly the people didn’t get as much food on the front line trenches because it was harder to get food there. Somebody would need to risk their lives to get food there. Also the sources could have been written at different times of the war. The major’s one may have been written at the beginning of the war, and the private’s source may have been near the end of the war. Nearing the end of the war, there was a shortage of food. Still though, the private in the source received a fair amount of food, and enough to live on, they got milk, water and basic food.
Use the sources and your own knowledge to explain what affects the war had on the morale of the soldiers and the morale of those back in England? Self- esteem of the soldiers especially, was probably quite low. Just above one in three men in the army during World War one suffered injuries, went missing or died in the UK. Most other major countries in the war suffered more than half of their men resulting in these states. The war itself was so atrocious that people would rather hurt themselves, than carry on in the war, some even killed them selves.
These type of injuries were so common a slang term came around for it – a blighty wound – an injury fatal enough for the person to be allowed to go home. People in the trenches lead horrible lives, for most people, much worse than they would have lived back in England. The trenches left them defenceless to major diseases and illnesses such as ‘Trench Fever’ and ‘Trench Foot’. These illnesses included symptoms of fungal infection, skin rashes, inflamed eyes and body pains. Lice and rats, which also carried disease, made the soldiers feel uncomfortable.
These things were well known amongst soldiers, and often made them feel low as it was so easy to die, not forgetting they could have been attacked by the enemy. The idea that people who represent the country live with rats made the soldiers feel as if it is not worth it. People made very good friends in the army, friends that would be willing to die for you, when a friend died, it was very tragic and this didn’t help to make the soldiers feel better. Though there was a very different scenario in England. This was because the propaganda was very carefully controlled and only shone good light upon the army and the war.
The propaganda carefully manipulated what was happening to encourage others to join. This meant that everybody in England thought that the life in the army was a good one, you were special and worthy to be part of the country if you were in the army. Also soldiers in the army who wrote back to their family would write good things so their family wouldn’t be upset about them being there. When the soldiers joined and learnt what it was really like, they didn’t feel that it really was a glorious thing, and couldn’t wait to leave it.
They probably didn’t perform as enthusiastically as they might have done if conditions were better and casualties were reduced. ‘They wrote in the old days that it is sweet and fitting to die for one’s country. But in modern war there is nothing sweet nor fitting in your dying. You will die like a dog for no good reason. ‘-Ernest Hemingway Do you agree with this statement in view of what happened in the First World War? I almost completely disagree with Hemingway’s statement. I don’t believe it was sweet as such to die for the country in the Great War, but I do believe the people who died in the First World War died for a fitting cause.
In the First World War people were effectively defending other countries, or defending other people’s lives. For example, England was mainly defending Belgium, without our help Belgium would have been completely conquered by Germany. To be willing to die, to let another person live is glorious, to be willing to die so people will lead better lives in the future is glorious. But at the time of the war this wouldn’t have been recognised, you can only see the difference many years later, when the war had completely finished. Back then it would have been just another person.
The person would probably rot, be buried into the cave-ins from dug outs or be eaten by rats. The public wouldn’t acknowledge their death as ‘sweet or fitting’. A lot of men went missing, a lot of men didn’t have families that would think about them, and a lot of men would be forgotten. But these men joined for all the wrong reasons; because their friend was joining; because somebody wanted them to; so the public wouldn’t look down on them. The Public used to feel if a lad who was eligible to join the army didn’t join, he was a not as worthy.
A girl wouldn’t want to be with a guy who was too scared to join the army, so because of this many people joined the army. Also whole communities joined as part of the promise that if you joined up together, you would fight together. If most the people in your community joined, you would feel lonely and would probably join too. Though, the war did change millions of people’s lives, and affected a lot of the world. Ever person who died made some kind of contribution, everybody that died contributed to the success of the war. The people that died, died for a fitting cause.
I do believe that dying in a war today, your dying it is fitting and is sweet. The men and woman who sacrifice their lives today are special. These people haven’t been pressurised by the public to join, but joined because they truly wanted to. It is just as fitting to die for your country today than it was then. Wars start today on conflicts that may consequently change hundreds of thousands peoples lives. Wars start because of concerns of terrorism, gaining independence, possession of weapons of mass destruction. What makes the dying truly fitting and sweet is that they chose if they want to do it.