On the Western Front

On the Western Front

On the Western Front Warning: Some of the images in this section will be graphic Conditions in the trenches were very unpleasant. Sanitary or hygie...

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On the Western Front

Warning: Some of the images in this section will be graphic

Conditions in the trenches were very unpleasant. Sanitary or hygienic, conditions for such large numbers of people posed a problem Summer:


Sewage, dead bodies & heat led to horrific smell & disease everywhere

Bad weather led to flooding, frostbite (6000 cases in December 1914)

During the winter of 1914-15 over 20,000 men in the British Army were treated for trench foot

This was an infection of the feet caused by cold, wet and filthy conditions. In the trenches men stood for hours on end in waterlogged trenches without being able to remove wet socks or boots. The feet would gradually go numb and the skin would turn red or blue. If untreated, trench foot could turn gangrenous and result in amputation. The only remedy for trench foot was for the soldiers to dry their feet and change their socks several times a day, also rubbing whale oil into their feet. Soldiers in the trenches had to have three pairs of socks with them and were under orders to change their socks at least twice a day. Once gangrene set in, amputation was the only solution!

Audio in folder

Sergeant Harry Roberts, Lancashire Fusiliers, interviewed after the war. u

“If you have never had trench feet described to you. I will tell you. Your feet swell to two or three times their normal size and go completely dead. You could stick a bayonet into them and not feel a thing. If you are fortunate enough not to lose your feet and the swelling begins to go down. It is then that the intolerable, indescribable agony begins. I have heard men cry and even scream with the pain and many had to have their feet and legs amputated”. If you were lucky enough to avoid trench foot…

Trench Fever:

J.R.R Tolkien

• Flu like symptoms with high temperature, headaches and aching muscles • This was a major problem as it affected half a million men

A.A Milne

Solutions: • They worked out it was caused by lice. • Delousing stations were set up

CS Lewis

"The things lay in the seams of trousers. A lighted candle applied where they were thickest made them pop like Chinese crackers. After a session of this, my face would be covered with small blood spots from extra big fellows which had popped too vigorously." George Coppard

One night, as we lay in bed my friend Jock said 'damn this, I cannot stand it any longer!' He took off his tunic - we slept in these - then he took off his jersey, then his shirt. He put his shirt in the middle of the dug-out floor and put his jersey and tunic on again. As we sat up in bed watching the shirt he had taken off and put it on the floor it actually lifted; it was swarming with lice.

Henry Gregory of 119th Machine Gun company was interviewed after the war about life in the trenches.


Tiredness, headaches, nightmares, loss of speech, shaking and complete mental breakdown.

80,000 troops got shellshock

Some soldiers were treated back in Britain, some however were accused of cowardice and punished!

Nature of wounds 1: Rifles & explosives: • High explosive shells and shrapnel were responsible for 58% of wounds • 60% of injuries were to arms and legs

• Bullets were responsible for 39% of wounds • Machine guns could fie 450 rounds a minute • Rifles could fire accurately up to 500 m

Warning images are graphic

Nature of wounds 2:

Shrapnel, wound infection & head injuries:

• When men were injured, either by shrapnel or bullets, the metal would enter their body taking with it the fabric of the uniform. • The dirt alone would have caused infection, but remember the soil here had bacteria from the fertiliser used on the land before the war • Gas gangrene is an infection that produces gas in the gangrenous wound – it could spread and kill within 1 day!

Brodie Helmet

This was a steel helmet with a strap that prevented it being thrown off in an explosion. It reduced fatal wounds by 80%

Nature of wounds 3: Gas attacks:

Gas attack caused great panic and fear Only 6,000 British soldiers died from gas but it was still greatly feared Gas masks were provided in 1915

Design an infographic for Gas attacks – it should be short and informative

Dulce! Watch this clip & listen carefully to the words. Briefly describe Owen’s experience of Gas






3 Which is best source as a description of a gas attack and why?

Asking Questions: Exam skills Content Question: What can you learn from the content Provenance questions: Nature: It is a photograph Origin: Taken in same month as 2nd Battle of Ypres, April 1915 Purpose: Purpose can be difficult for a photograph, might it have been; • Propaganda? • Was it set up? Why might it be? • Perhaps it was to inform soldiers about the best way to protect themselves against gas attack? Context Question: You know 2 things that are relevant to Source E:

1) The first use of chlorine gas was by the Germans in April 1915 and the 2nd Battle of Ypres 2) The British were not prepared for gas attacks and so they had to experiment to find ways to protect the soldiers

Source F: Written may years later, although detailed references to dates and figures might suggest this information was remembered from information recorded at the time, in a diary maybe?

Source G is a historical photograph capturing a moment in time Source F describes the work done by doctors on an ambulance train

1) Summarise the message of each source 2) Identify problems / limitations that might affect is usefulness

Source G: We don’t know exactly when this photo was taken, only the month and year. Its purpose was to record the awful conditions that faced men on the W.Front

Use the text book or ask for a copy of the sources