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Trench warfare is a war tactic, or way of fighting that was commonly used on the Eastern Front and the Western Front in WW1. In trench warfare, the two sides fighting each other dig trenches in a battlefield to stop the enemy from advancing. See below for more facts about World War 1 trenches.
Trench warfare is a type of fighting where both sides dig deep trenches in the ground as a defence against the enemy. The World War 1 trenches could stretch many miles and made it almost impossible for one side to advance on the other.
The Western Front in World War 1, located in France, was fought using trench warfare. WW1 started on 28 June 1914, and by the end of 1914 both sides had built trenches that went from the North Sea and through Belgium and France. Neither side made much ground for nearly three and a half years – from October 1914 to March of 1918.
Facts about World War 1 Trenches
- It is estimated that there were about 2,490km of trench lines dug during World War 1. Most trenches were between 1-2 metres wide and 3 metres deep.
- Life in the trenches was very difficult because they were dirty and flooded in bad weather. Many of the trenches also had pests living in the trenches including rats, lice, and frogs. Rats in particular were a problem and ate soldier’s food as well as the actual soldiers while they slept. Lice also caused a disease called Trench Fever that made the solders’ itch terribly and caused fever, headache, sore muscles, bones, and joints.
- Many soldiers living in the trenches suffered from Trench Foot. Rain and bad weather would flood the trenches making them boggy, muddy and could even block weapons and make it hard to move in battle. The sustained exposure to the wet, muddy conditions could cause Trench Foot, which sometimes would result in the foot being amputated. Cold weather was dangerous, too and soldiers often lost fingers or toes to frostbite. Some soldiers also died from exposure in the cold.
- Soldiers rotated through three stages of the frontline. Most soldiers would spend anywhere from one day up to two weeks in the trenches at a time. They spent some time in the frontline trenches, time in the support trenches and also time resting. Even when they weren’t fighting, soldiers had to work to do – including repairing the trenches, moving supplies, cleaning weapons, undergoing inspections or guard duty.
- Trenches weren’t dug in straight lines, but were instead dug in a zig-zag pattern. The WW1 trenches were built as a system, in a zigzag pattern with many different levels along the lines. They had paths dug so that soldiers could move between the levels.
- Trenches typically had an embankment at the top and a barbed wire fence. Often, trenches in World War 1 would be reinforced with sandbags and wooden beams. In the trench itself, the bottom was covered with wooden boards called duckboards. These were meant to protect the soldiers’ feet from the water in the trenches to try and prevent Trench Foot.
- The land between the two enemy trench lines was called “No Man’s Land.” No Man’s Land was sometimes covered with land mines and barbed wire. The distance between enemy trenches was anywhere from 50 to 250 yards apart.
- The trenches were dug by soldiers and there were three ways to dig them. Sometimes the soldiers would simply dig the trenches straight into the ground – a method known as entrenching. Entrenching was fast, but the soldiers were open to enemy fire while they dug. Another method was to extend a trench on one end. It was called sapping and was a safer method but took a lot longer. Tunneling – which is digging a tunnel and then removing the roof to make a trench when it is complete – was the safest method, but it was the most difficult too.
- It was very difficult to sleep in the trenches. The noise and uncomfortable surroundings made it very difficult to sleep in trenches. Soldiers were constantly tired and in danger of falling asleep. This is why the watch shift was kept to 2 hours to avoid men falling asleep while on watch.
- There were several cease fires or truces in the trenches during World War I. In 1914, around Christmas time, both the British and German soldiers put down their weapons, came out of their trenches and exchanged gifts and sung carols – ceasing fire to celebrate Christmas. This is now known as the Christmas Truce.
More Amazing WW1 Trench Facts
- If all of the trenches built along the Western Front in World War 1 were laid end-to-end, it is estimated that they would be more than 25,000 miles long.
- Trenches needed to be repaired constantly to prevent erosion from the weather and from enemy bombs and gunfire.
- It took 450 men six hours to build around 250 metres of British trenches.
- The majority of raids in WW1 happened at night when soldiers would sneak across No Man’s Land, dodging mines, to attack the enemy in darkness.
- Every morning, soldiers would “stand to“. This is when they stand up and prepare for battle, because many attacks would take place first thing in the morning.
- A typical WW1 soldier would have a rifle, bayonet and a hand grenade with them while fighting in the trenches.
Looking for more information on World War I? Read our WW1 facts page for more amazing facts about the First World War.
WWI Trenches Worksheets
This bundle contains 17 ready-to-use WWI Trenches worksheets that are perfect for students to learn about Trench warfare the war tactic, or way of fighting that was commonly used on the Eastern Front and the Western Front in WW1. In trench warfare, the two sides fighting each other dig trenches in a battlefield to stop the enemy from advancing.
Students will also learn key facts surrounding the Trenches in WWI including the horrendous conditions brave soldiers had to endure. Throughout the extensive worksheet pack there are multiple activities and quizzes for students to practice their knowledge which can be used within the classroom or homeschooling environment.
WWI Trenches worksheets:
Anatomy of a Trench
Students will be challenged to utilise their knowledge and label a trench. Diagram labelling is a core skill for students to learn.
A number of challenging questions where students have to think about rations and conditions. Emotive answers required.
WWI Trenches Fill in the Blank
Fill in the blanks activity based on the knowledge picked up on WWI Trenches.
Fantastic cause and effect comprehension exercise on how and why soldiers got Trench foot. Key learning skills developed here.
WWI Messenger Dogs
Decode the messages on this challenging task.
Dangers of the Trenches
Task where students are challenged to think about what they already know and expand upon the dangers of the trenches. Superb writing exercise.
WWI Trench Diagnosis
Another core writing skill developed here. Students are challenged to finish the damaged doctors note and describe the conditions of the soldier.
WWI Trenches Terms
A number of terms with close relation to the Trenches. Students are tasked to research and describe the meaning of the words.
WWI Trench Hidden Message Word Search
Word search filler task based upon what they have learnt from the study guide.
A Letter Home
It was lonely as a soldier and you constantly missed home. Letter writing is also a key skill for students to pick up. Students are tasked with exploring emotions and letter writing in this final exercise.
After completing these worksheets students will be able to:
- Have a clear understanding of WWI Trenches and the harsh conditions all soldiers had to live through.
- Understand key challenges soldiers faced within the soldiers and further delve into the living conditions.
- Show empathy to the soldiers involved through creative writing tasks.
- Core skills of letter and doctors note writing. Fantastic comprehension.
- Successfully label diagrams in the correct area.
- Show an emotional attachment to the work and be able to convey that in their own writing.
Use With Any Curriculum
These worksheets have been specifically designed for use with any international curriculum. You can use these worksheets as-is, or edit them using Google Slides to make them more specific to your own student ability levels and curriculum standards.