A fantastic overview of trench life using a variety of source materials and links to short YouTube clips. It includes a GCSE style question and suggestions for extension activities.
Following a series of battles in the first three months of the year (e.g. at Mons, Marne and Ypres) there was a dash to the sea to stop the enemy controlling the coast. This is now known as the ‘race to the sea’ as the opposing armies tried to go round the end of each other. Once the coast had been reached, the result was a stalemate.
In early 1915, the Imperial German Army began selecting the most favourable high ground to start construction of a strong defensive line of trenches, barbed wire defences, mined dugouts and deep bunkers, reinforced concrete emplacements and selected strongpoints.
It is easy to think only of the front line trench but the British Army initially used a system of three parallel trenches, linked by communications trenches: the front trench; a support or travel trench approximately 65 and 90 metres behind the front trench; and the third reserve trench further to the rear.
Between the two front lines was ‘no man’s land.’ This was fully exposed to artillery and rifle/machine gun fire from both sides and attacks usually resulted in sustained and severe casualties. On the Western Front, ‘no man’s land’ was typically between 90 and 275 metres. However, at Vimy Ridge, there was a gap of only 25 metres between the two front line trenches.