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Transcript
Battalions
…recruitment of men to get them to join the Army.
…men would be more willing to enlist if they knew they would serve with people they knew.
…1,600 men.
…encourage towns and villages to organize recruitment campaigns based on the promise that the men could serve with friends, neighbors and
workmates. These units were raised by local authorities, industrialists or committees of private citizens.
Boy Soldiers
…hundreds of thousands of men would be needed to help defeat Germany.
…well-designed posters and passionate recruitment speeches encouraged thousands of men to join the armed forces.
…many of those who had signed up were younger than the official minimum age of nineteen.
...recruitment campaigns were meant to encourage adults to sign up for the armed forces. Unfortunately, some younger citizens saw the posters and
thought that it would be fun to be in the army. Others saw the army as an opportunity to travel or to get away from strict parents.
… boys falsified birth dates to meet the minimum age requirements. Desperate for soldiers, recruiting officers did not always check the boy's details
very carefully. A sixteen year-old later told of how he was able to join the army: "The recruiting sergeant asked me my age and when I told him he said,
'You had better go out, come in again, and tell me different.' I came back, told him I was nineteen and I was in."
…Private E. Lugg was able to join the 13th Royal Sussex Regiment at the age of thirteen. However, he was not the youngest soldier in the British
Army, Private Lewis served at the Somme when he was only twelve.
…on the battlefield, however, young soldiers were finding out that it was not as enjoyable as they had thought it would be.
…people who were late in signing up for the army began to hear about the horrors of trench war. Consequently the number of boy soldiers declined
and so it was left to adults to face the terror of the battlefield.
Regulation Equipment
When a soldier was ordered to attack the enemy on the Western Front he carried a total of 30 kilograms (66 lbs) of equipment.
…included a rifle, two grenades, 220 rounds of ammunition, a steel helmet, wire cutters, field dressing, entrenching tool, greatcoat, two sandbags,
rolled ground sheet, water bottle, haversack, mess tin, towel, shaving kit, extra socks, message book and preserved food rations.
…weight of the equipment made it difficult to move very fast across No Man's Land.
Base Camp
…soldiers destined for the Western Front usually landed at the French ports of Le Havre and Boulogne.
…men were then transported to the main base camp. …100,000 soldiers at a time were housed at base camps.
…attempts were made to prepare men for life in the trenches.
…new soldiers received lectures on how to deal with problems such as lice, trench foot and poison gas.
Frontline
After two weeks training at a base camp, soldiers were sent to the Western Front. This usually involved a journey of about 60 miles. This was usually a
combination of a train journey and several hours of marching…became known as going 'Up the Line'.
Horses and Mules
…25,000-165,000 horses were recruited for the war effort.
…horses were purchased from the USA, New Zealand, South Africa, India, Spain and Portugal. Horses aged three to twelve were trained as rapidly as
possible.
…very dependent on horses for transporting good and supplies…conditions made it very difficult to use motor vehicles.
…mules had amazing stamina and endured the terrible conditions in the front-line better than the horse.
Trench Food
…3,240,948 tons of food was sent from Britain to the soldiers fighting in France and Belgium during the First World War.
…at the beginning of the war, soldiers were given 6-10 ounces of meat, 5-8 ounces of vegetables a day and bread.
…soldiers were very critical of the quantity and the quality of food they received.
…bulk of their diet in the trenches was caned corned beef, stale bread and biscuits…”home-made stews” if possible with local items.
Waterlogged Trenches
…men ordered to dig trenches that would provide them with protection from the advancing troops.
…both Allies and Central Powers realized that they could not break through each other’s lines, they also began to dig trenches.
… first , choose the best places to build the trench.
…possession of the higher ground not only gave a tactical advantage, but forced the enemy to live in the worst conditions.
…trenches were rarely dug a few feet above sea level. As soon as soldiers began to dig down they would invariably find water two or three feet below
the surface.
…trench life involved a never-ending struggle against water and mud.
…duck-boards were placed at the bottom of the trenches to protect soldiers from problems such as trench foot.
Trench Foot
…many soldiers suffered from trench foot.
…an infection of the feet caused by cold, wet and insanitary 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.
…trench foot was a particular problem in the early stages of the war.
… remedy for trench foot was for the soldiers to dry their feet and change their socks several times a day. By the end of 1915 British 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. As well as drying their feet,
soldiers were told to cover their feet with a grease made from whale-oil. It has been estimated that a battalion at the front would use ten gallons of
whale-oil every day.
Dysentery
…disease involving the inflammation of the lining of the large intestines.
…causes stomach pains, diarrhea, vomiting and fever.
…bacteria enters the body through the mouth in food or water, and by human feaces and contact with infected people.
…diarrhoea causes people suffering from dysentery to lose important salts and fluids from the body…can be fatal if the body dehydrates.
…struck the men in the trenches as there was no proper sanitation.
…latrines in the trenches were pits four to five feet deep. When they were within one foot they were supposed to be filled in and the soldiers had the
job of digging a new one. Sometimes there was not time for this and men used a nearby shell-hole.
…dysentery caused by contaminated water was especially a problem throughout the war.
…soldiers were supplied with water bottles, that could be refilled when they returned to reserve lines. However, the water-bottle supply was rarely
enough for their needs and soldiers in the trenches often depended on impure water collected from shell-holes or other cavities. Later, to purify it,
chloride of lime was added to the water. This was not popular with the soldiers as they disliked the taste of the purified water.
Lice
…men in the trenches suffered from lice…”pale fawn in color, and left blotchy red bite marks all over the body…created a sour, stale smell.”
…various methods were used to remove the lice. A lighted candle was fairly effective but the skill of burning the lice without burning your clothes.
Trench Rats
…men killed in the trenches were buried almost where they fell.
…if a trench was captured, or new trenches or dugouts were needed, large numbers of decomposing bodies would be found just below the surface.
…corpses, as well as the food scraps that littered the trenches, attracted rats. One pair of rats can produce 880 offspring in a year and so the trenches
were soon swarming with them.
…rats came up from the canal, fed on the plentiful corpses, and multiplied exceedingly.
…the rats were so large: "There was no proper system of waste disposal in trench life. Empty tins of all kinds were flung away over the top on both
sides of the trench. Millions of tins were thus available for all the rats in France and Belgium in hundreds of miles of trenches. During brief moments of
quiet at night, one could hear a continuous rattle of tins moving against each other. The rats were turning them over."
… rats grew extremely large…"there were rats as big as cats"…"The rats were huge. They were so big they would eat a wounded man if he couldn't
defend himself."
...rats became very bold and would attempt to take food from the pockets of sleeping men. Two or three rats would always be found on a dead body.
They usually went for the eyes first and then they burrowed their way right into the corpse.
…I saw some rats running from under the dead men's greatcoats, enormous rats, fat with human flesh. My heart pounded as we edged towards one of
the bodies. His helmet had rolled off. The man displayed a grimacing face, stripped of flesh; the skull bare, the eyes devoured and from the yawning
mouth leapt a rat."
Shellfire
…during the first two weeks of the Battle of Passchendaele the British, Australian and Canadian guns fired 4,283,550 shells at the German defences.
… estimated that throughout the First World War the Allies used 5,000,000 tons of artillery shells against enemy positions. The Central Powers used a
similar amount of shells in their effort to win the war.
…soldiers subjected to continual exposure to shell-fire were in danger of developing shell-shock.
…early symptoms included tiredness, irritability, giddiness, lack of concentration and headaches. Eventually the men suffered mental breakdowns
making it impossible for them to remain in the front-line.
…between 1914 and 1918 the British Army identified 80,000 men (2% of those who saw active service) as suffering from shell-shock.
Shellshock
…doctors working in military hospitals noticed patients suffering from "shell shock".
…early symptoms included tiredness, irritability, giddiness, lack of concentration and headaches. Eventually the men suffered mental breakdowns
making it impossible for them to remain in the front-line.
…a conclusion of the soldiers’ condition was caused by the enemy's heavy artillery and stress.
Casualties in the Trenches
…precise number of people killed during the First World War is difficult to measure. Estimates vary from 8.5 to 12.0 million but with the collapse of
government bureaucracies in Russia, Germany, Austria-Hungary and Turkey accurate measurement becomes impossible.
…problems with the way death was defined. Most governments only published figures for men who were killed during military action. Soldiers who died
slowly from their wounds, gas poisoning or disease, did not always appear in the statistics published after the war.
…most soldiers were killed during major offensives. Over 21,300 were killed on the first day of the Somme and over 50 percent of those who took part
in the attack were wounded.
Wounds (Blighty)
…faced with the prospect of being killed or permanently disabled, soldiers sometimes hoped that they would receive what was known as a blighty
wound, and be sent back home. There were some cases where soldiers shot themselves in an attempt to end their time on the frontline.
…self-inflicted wounds (SIW) was a capital offence and if discovered, a man found guilty of this faced execution by firing-squad. A total of 3,894 men in
the British Army were convicted of SIW. None of these men were executed but they all served periods in prison.
Amputations
…many men were wounded at the front.
…soldiers suffered total or partial leg or arm amputations as a result of war wounds…fitted with artificial limbs.
Letters from the Trenches
…twelve and a half million letters were sent to the the Western Front every week.
…soldiers in the front line trenches received daily deliveries of letters.
Soldiers were also encouraged to write letters to friends and family
…most men decided it would be better to conceal the horrors of the trench warfare.
…all letters that the men wrote should have been read and censored by the officers.
Alcohol in the Trenches
…each battalion had its own supply of rum.
…a 20,000 man battalion received 300 gallons of rum.
Gas Attacks
…French Army were the first to employ it as a weapon when in the first month of the war they fired tear-gas grenades at the Germans.
…German Army began firing shrapnel shells in which the steel balls had been treated with a chemical irritant. Chlorine gas destroyed the respiratory
organs of its victims and this led to a slow death by asphyxiation.
… right weather conditions for a gas attack.
…after the first German chlorine gas attacks, Allied troops were supplied with masks of cotton pads that had been soaked in urine. It was found that
the ammonia in the pad neutralized the poison. Other soldiers preferred to use handkerchiefs, a sock, a flannel body-belt, dampened with a solution of
bicarbonate of soda, and tied across the mouth and nose until the gas passed over. It was not until July 1915 that soldiers were given efficient gas
masks and anti-asphyxiation respirators.
…one disadvantage for the side that launched chlorine gas attacks was that it made the victim cough and therefore limited his intake of the poison.
Both sides found that phosgene was more effective poison to use. Only a small amount was needed to make it impossible for the soldier to keep
fighting. It also killed its victim within 48 hours of the attack. Advancing armies also used a mixture of chlorine and phosgene called 'white star'.
…Mustard Gas (Yperite) was first used by the German Army in September 1917. The most lethal of all the poisonous chemicals used during the war, it
was almost odorless and took twelve hours to take effect. Yperite was so powerful that only small amounts had to be added to high explosive shells to
be effective. Once in the soil, mustard gas remained active for several weeks. The German Army also used bromine and chloropicrin.
…it has been estimated that the Germans used 68,000 tons of gas against Allied soldiers. This was more than the French Army (36,000) and the
British Army (25,000).
…an estimated 91,198 soldiers died as a result of poison gas attacks and another 1.2 million were hospitalized. The Russian Army, with 56,000
deaths, suffered more than any other armed force.