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Why were fighting and living conditions so awful for British soldiers in World War One

World War One “The great war” was one of the most horrific and costly wars of modern history. Most of World War One was fought in trenches, which would run for miles along the borders of Belgium and France. Trenches were long ditches dug into the ground that served not only as living quarters but all the fighting took place in the trenches as well, well at least for the Germans it did. The German trenches were well built because they were more geared to defending and they expected to stay there a long time.The Germans were more geared to defending because they had already taken allot of land and if they just stayed put they wouldn’t of lost anything. The British trenches on the other hand were more geared to attacking and weren’t very well built because they were built in a rush and weren’t supplied very well because they all thought it would be a short war. Britain’s job was to reclaim the land the Germans held, so they had to attack because if all they did was defend they would never achieve this.But the tactics the British used when attacking were also flawed. The British would attack the Germans with a barrage of artillery, whilst the British did this the Germans would hide in giant bunkers behind their trenches which kept them safe. The British also weren’t helped by the fact that artillery was a fairly new invention, which meant that 30% of it would misfire and kill their own men and the ones that did fire in the right direction would usually miss. Friendly fire also demoralised the troops, as they would get all rallied up that they were attacking but then be disheartened again because of the death of a comrade. The artillery bombardment was meant to destroy all of the barbed wire and the mines so that the British could easily march over no mans land (no mans land was the area in-between the two trenches it would be littered with mines and barbed wire to halt any crossing of it).The British soldiers were told that the artillery would destroy all the barbed wire and kill all the Germans, but this didn’t happen. So whilst the British marched slowly over no mans land and got trapped in the barbed wire the Germans would come out of the bunkers to man the machine guns and just mow down the advancing British troops. The Germans would know when the British were about to attack because the artillery would stop just before they attacked. The tactics used in World War One meant the loss of many lives, the further demoralisation of the men and would often create shell shock. Another contribution to shell shock was the fear that if they didn’t go over they would be shot by the general and even if they went and managed to come back alive they might have been shot because the General thought that they had routed.The living conditions were just as horrible as the fighting conditions and in some cases much worse. The trenches were made out of clay and mud, because they were build in such a hurry, which meant that soldiers would constantly be cold and wet. It was made much worse because the bottom of the trench was a constant puddle. The puddles would be so big that if somebody was to fall asleep in it or trip and fall unconscious in it they might have drowned. The created the same demoralising factor that friendly fire did. The dampness would also make the chance of the soldiers getting trench foot much more likely. Trench foot is a painful inflamed condition resembling frostbite it happens when feet are exposed to long periods of cold and dampness.This meant that the soldiers wouldn’t be able to walk and therefore wouldn’t be able to fight which for some soldiers was a relief. The soldiers would have to leave the front line in order to get medical treatment. This was used a way to relax, socialize and cure boredom. Boredom was one of the less painful but still awful living conditions for British soldiers. The soldiers would get very bored, as actual fighting was very scarce. Some men would get so bored that the attraction of looking over the top of the trench at the enemy trench was often to tempting and they would get picked off by enemy snipers. The chance to get medical treatment was often a great chance for soldiers to relax and catch up on the news back home which helped to restore morale.There were other things that required medical attention for example, trench fever. Trench fever is characterized by a sudden onset of high fever, headaches, sore muscles, and outbreaks of skin lesions. Unfortunately trench fever wasn’t recognized as a medical condition, so the only way to lessen the discomfort was to regularly wash your hair but this was hard considering the conditions.

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