"history has already prepared a special, exemplary fate in the trenches of France"


The Trenches of World War One are synonymous with the ugliness and futility of war.  Dug into the earth of Belgium and northeastern France, they represented the front lines of battle.  Troops were protected to an extent from artillery fire, but poison gas and snipers could still prove lethal even before men had run the gauntlet of going 'over the top'.  The sense of stalemate was pervasive; with both sides in the same situation, there was little to be gained in comparison with the loss of life and unsanitary conditions in which the men were forced to exist.  Death from disease was an even greater threat than weaponry, with outbreaks of typhus, cholera and dysentary all too common.  The fungal infections of 'trench foot' and 'trench mouth' were also rampant, and soldiers' bodies crawled constantly with lice.  Many injuries were caused by shelling, which typically included shrapnel wounds; in the days before antibiotics, gangrene and septicaemia were almost inevitable.  Some of the worst conditions, in every sense, were at Ypres, the Somme and Passchendaele


Soldier's testimonies about life in the trenches.

BBC virtual tour of life in the trenches.



Some of the greatest poetry of World War One was written by men who had served in the trenches; many of them composed verse whilst they were actually there.

Listen to Siegfried Sassoon read his poem 'Attack'.


Listen to 'Spring Offensive' by Wilfred Owen.