Ww1 Living Conditions Essay

There was nothing glamorous about trench life. World War 1 trenches were dirty, smelly and riddled with disease. For soldiers life in the trenches meant living in fear. In fear of diseases (like cholera and trench foot) and of course, the constant fear of enemy attack.

Trench warfare WW1 style is something all participating countries vowed never to repeat and the facts make it easy to see why.

Constructing WW1 Trenches

The British and the French recruited manpower from non-belligerent China to support the troops with manual labour. Their most important task was digging the trenches in WW1.

140,000 Chinese labourers served on the Western Front over the course of the First World War (40,000 with the French and 100,000 with the British forces). They were known as the Chinese Labour Corps.

No Man’s Land

The open space between two sets of opposing trenches became known as No Man’s Land because no soldier wanted to traverse the distance for fear of attack.

The climate in France and Belgium was quite wet, so No Man’s Land soon became a mud bath. It was so thick that soldiers could disappear into it never to be seen again.

Hell on Earth

There were millions of rats in ww1 trenches. A pair of rodents could produce as many as 900 young a year in trench conditions so soldiers attempts to kill them were futile.

80,000 British Army soldiers suffered from shell shock over the course of the war. That’s approximately 2% of the men who were called up for active service.

World War 1 trench warfare was so intense that 10% of all the soliders who fought were killed. That’s more than double the percentage of fighting soldiers who were killed in the Second World War (4.5%).

What where the living conditions in Trench Warfare?


The soldiers during World War 1 were put through
so much devastation, not only did they deal with the loss of their fellow mates,
but they had to deal with many diseases and horrible living conditions. Life in
  trenches for soldiers left them in hysterics and caused some of them to
  continuously feel traumatised. 
This is a quote from a man in WW1;

“Col. Joseph Hyde Pratt described in his diary trying to sleep
with a German plane flying over his camp: "July 24, [1918] Wednesday. Last night
was a beautiful moonlight night, a few clouds but clear. Just the kind that the
  aeroplanes want in making the raids. We knew the German planes would be over
  and we were not (agreeably) disappointed. They came over and it seemed as
  though one of them just persisted in circling our camp looking for a good place
  upon which to drop a bomb. Each one of us feels that our hut or tent is the
  particular one that the aeroplane is hunting for, and as one lies there,
  listening to the enemy plane, he begins to swell up and grow in size until he
  knows that it is impossible for the observer to miss seeing him or the bomb to
  miss hitting him. That was the way I felt last night. I just knew that
  particular machine was flying continuously back and forth over my hut looking
  for a good place to drop a bomb. Nothing happened and I got a pretty good
  night's sleep. I can sleep through the artillery fire even if the guns are
  somewhat close by."
From the
Diary of Colonel Joseph Hyde Pratt, page
The weather confined in World War 1 caused many soldiers to suffer
server diseases like Trench Foot. During the War the grass and trees had been
killed dew to constant bombardment in the area. The earth was transformed into
mud and slush from all the rain. This was in perfect condition for Trench Foot
disease to occur. The weather affected the WW1 soldiers by the continuous
  dampness that was created by a mixture of defoliation and precipitation. The
  damp conditions caused the injuries to become more infected as they didn’t have
  a dry environment to heal in. During winter most of the soldiers surfed due to
  frost bite and lack of warmth. However in contrast to that, summer was
  completely different, many soldiers became dehydrated.  

In trench warfare countless infections and diseases occurred,
  many of which ended the young men’s lives. These are some of the many common
  diseases and infections that occurred; Trench foot, shell shock,
  blindness/burns from mustard gas, lice, trench fever, cooties (body lice) and
  the ‘Spanish Flu’. These not only left the men fighting for their country, but
  they were fighting for survival. The common cold and flu was also a big part of
  trench warfare. During the war, “rats were detested by both sides; they carried
  diseases and grew fat and sluggish on the rich pickings of German, French and
  Britain alike in no man’s land.” (The Western Front, David Ray, page 39 

The soldiers also had to wear ‘gas masks’, these
were in packs
that were placed on their backs and they were constant risk
of being gassed.
This meant that they were at risk of dying all the time even when they slept.
The American soldiers dreaded clear nights because
the German plans hovered
around the Trenches dropping random bombs on their fields. Cooties were one of
the common irritations that left the men with skin rashes that became infected.
However although they were extremely
irritating, some of the men claimed that
they saved their life. This
particular man is an example;

"August 9,
1918, Friday. … The Reward of the Kootie- A British
officer was going
through the front line trench, when he stooped over and
reached back of his
neck to pick off a "kootie" that was particularly
irritating. Just as he got him off, a bullet passed immediately over his neck… I
know of no way to
reward you except to put you back where you were and let you
keep on
biting.' This he did."

the Diary of Colonel Joseph Hyde Pratt, page


Food in the Trenches for the soldiers was known as a luxury. Very
rarely was hot food prepared for the soldiers when a battle was on going (in
full flow) or in imminent. However food was easily accessible when war was at
stand-down. Life for the Triple Entente was very deprived compared to the
  contrasting life of the Triple Alliance. 

Food in the Trenches for the soldiers was known as a luxury. Very
rarely was hot food prepared for the soldiers when a battle was on going (in
full flow) or in imminent. However food was easily accessible when war was at
stand-down. Life for the Triple Entente was very deprived compared to the
  contrasting life of the Triple Alliance. 

theoretical daily rations for a British soldier

The rations where occasionally supplemented by welcomed food
  parcels from the Red Cross. The smoking of cigarettes helps reduce the apatite
  of the men, although cigarettes were bad for you it came in useful because they
  were able to run off little amounts of food. Back during World War one, the men
  did not know that smoking was bad for their health; in fact they thought that
  it calmed their nerves. The water in Trench warfare was shipped in large
  containers that were sometimes contaminated with bacteria and bugs. The food
  contained in World war one was very little for every individual and was barely
  enough to keep them going.

Life in the Trenches was almost unbearable. The
men were forced to become unhygienic and never once had a clean pair of
clothing. They continuously suffered severe diseases and they hardly ever had a
full tummy to keep them going.  The
men were continuously tormented by the ongoing threat of death. Life in the
Trenches was like hell on earth! 

20 ounces of  bread

16 ounces of  flour instead of

3 ounces of 

5/8 ounces of

4 ounces of jam

½ ounce of salt

1/36 ounce of 

1/20 ounce of 

8 ounces of fresh  vegetables 

1/10 gill lime if  vegetables not

½ gill of rum

maximum of 20  ounces of

1/3 chocolate – 

4 ounces of  oatmeal instead of

1 pint of porter  instead of

4 ounces of dried  fruit instead of

4 ounces of 

2 ounces of dried 


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *