Vimy Ridge

Vimy Ridge reveals a great deal about conditions in the trenches. Although it does not contain enough information, it shows how overcrowded trenches were during the war along with dangerous natures of trenches and sheer lack of facilities that existed within the battle. When visiting Vimy Ridge, it is evident that the trenches were extremely unhygienic but what Vimy Ridge fails to demonstrate is the fact that the trenches were so unstable. This is due to the fact that the trenches have been sanitised and a lot of changes have been made to make trenches safer for visitors.

Not only that, but they have tried to rebuild certain areas which give us a false impression of what trench life was like. Aside from this, Vimy Ridge was interesting and contained some information, although I felt more artefacts needed to be included. With remembering my visit to Vimy, and reading the different sources, I have a clear and vivid image of life in the trenches in World War 1, along with my own knowledge. Danger played a big part in the war and was the result of many men losing their lives. At Vimy itself, there are many sources showing us the destruction of the war.

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Some of the sources we are provided with give us detailed descriptions of trench life during the war, for example, Source B: “Fly away Peter” written by David Malouf, who at the time was a 25 year old Australian who wrote this book at the end of the Vietnam War. This doubts our views on this source as we feel his opinions could be biased, not telling us the whole picture of war life. This means that his source could be unreliable as we do not know whether to trust his source and that his views could be bitter.

Apart from this, he does give us a reliable source of info on trench life, for example, certain dangers that soldiers had to face such as German snipers, shell bombing, etc. “Stinking water” and “the smell around” them, was something else they had to contend with as it would affect the whole area around and in the trenches, even bringing “old horrors back into the light,” suggesting that rats were around, causing diseases and other illnesses, and that soldiers had nightmares of battles to come and of their enemies.

Although some of his account is reliable of what we can trust our knowledge on, his use of language and way of writing as he writes of rats “skittering” across the “faces of fellow soldiers,” eating the dead and, in some cases, the alive. This is a bit too vivid and we’re not entirely sure we can trust this; however, it gives us an idea of how bad the rat situation could have got. Albeit that this source is informative and realistic, he was not actually at the Vimy Ridge battle, gathering his info from the government and others and did not actually fight during the war.

This makes us more suspicious on the biased views, and that not all of his revelations can be trusted. Another source of which I can trust to be reliable and accurate and that agrees with source B is source D. Source D was written by W. G Smith of who was a private during the beginning of the war, ending his career being a Sergeant Major, writing this account of battles after it had ended. It says that the “Lesson of Vimy was lost on the high command”. This gives us the impression that he blames the death of soldiers and the cost of lives and money on the government, due to their lack of caring and support for those at war.

It also speaks of the artillery “smashing” the country so badly they lost communication with the forward areas. He also believes and writes that it was a “Senseless action whose aftermath ruined Britain so that to this day she has never recovered”. Although this can be looked upon as a useless quote, I feel that this is probably the most vivid quote as it gives such a vivid image of how Britain and peoples lives were damaged and that through the hard bombing and shelling, the country (including men and women alike) have never recovered.

This source is not very descriptive or accurate on trench life though it does tell us a great deal of aftermath problems and that there was two sides fighting, not just one and the fact that he was in the war, fighting for his people and his country, helps us to rely on his evidential account. From visiting Vimy Ridge, we learnt a great deal of life in-between battles, not just during. From standing inside one of the newly built trenches, we easily saw how over crowded trenches were and how little space there was for sleeping, eating, getting rid of bodily wastes and storage, for guns, bombs, shells, etc.

We already know that the trenchers were only just big enough for someone to stand in, not to mention a soldier in full outfit with his equipment, trying to prepare himself for a battle. Whilst walking through the trenches my mind drifted to think that life in trenches was not quite as bad as I first thought. This is due to the rebuilding and modelling of trenches for visitors and safety. This is misleading and can give unreliable evidence. Granted that safety is required, we want true facts on the war, not misleading, inaccurate, newly built tunnels.

Source A is also misleading as we can see a picture of a perfectly sanitised and seemingly rather large trench. However we cannot totally trust this picture because it may have been tampered with to make it more agreeable with the public and to make more soldiers join up to fight (as they thought that living conditions were ok and substantial). Other sources given, were not informative about trench life itself, more on the aftermath or battles, though it gave ideas of soldiers feelings and how they had to wait, crowded in trenches whilst waiting for their commander to give the signal for an attack.

I feel this may have been the worst part of the war: the waiting. But to conclude, I feel that neither Vimy Ridge nor the sources are better in giving information on the battle of Vimy. Both are reliable but at the same time not entirely accurate. On one hand Vimy is excellent as you can see where soldiers fought for their country and people, and walk around trenches, (although they have been rebuilt, you can still get an idea and feeling on what it was like). However, these rebuilt trenches were not realistic enough and did not give enough information.

This could be misleading to those wanting to learn about the war. The same goes for the sources. On one hand they are informative on the battle overall, giving us detailed accounts of trench life, battles and the aftermath. Although some of the trench accounts are more vivid and realistic, giving us more of an idea of trench life, we are not entirely sure if they are trustworthy (as source A backs this. It was an incorrect drawing to persuade more men to fight). Due to this, both sources and the Vimy Ridge site together are brilliant sources into the life of soldiers during the war and how trench life affected them.