Welcome new recruits. This leaflet will be your guide to surviving in the trenches so keep it safe! I, Henry, an experienced British ‘Tommy’, have been put in charge of you men and it is my duty to teach you everything that I know about serving in the front line. However, I can’t prepare you for everything you will be faced with during your experience but I will persist to help you out to the best I can.
For you soldiers, you will have a set everyday routine. Although unexpected events will occur that you cannot be prepared for. You will be awoken half an hour before dawn and will stand by in preparation for a possible enemy attack. The remainder of you day will be divided equally between work such as filling sandbags and mending trenches, sentry duty and rest. Throughout you day there will be regular inspections from sergeants and officers, so be aware!
You will experience a lot of discomfort and the men from the city will find the intense coldness extremely hard to cope with. You will be sleeping on ledges that have been dug into the sides of the trenches.
Surprisingly, you will have a lot of spare time on your hands and a lot of your time will be spent sitting around doing nothing. In your free time you may wish to read letter from family and friends, write letters, chat with friends, sing, have something to eat but nothing that attracts to much attention. You could also chaff your uniform, which will keep you occupied for hours, play football, have a cigarette and only if you’re lucky you can have a well needed sleep, as you will be up most of the night and work in the trenches is tiring.
Inspection and Chores
After breakfast, you be inspected by either the company or platoon commander. Once you have been inspected you will each be assigned a daily chore. Chores that may need to be carries out are; refilling the sand bags, repairing duckboards, draining trenches, mending trench walls and digging latrines. You much keep your riffles clean because they will also be inspected. A trick to keep your riffle in good condition is to place a sock over the top of the riffle. Most of the time you will not be able to go to sleep and if you are caught napping there will be serious consequences. Another trick I have learnt off the other men in trenches is to place your riffle under your neck while you’re standing up to keep yourself awake.
From my experience the food in the trenches isn’t too bad, (better than the living conditions anyway). The food is rationed and is always the same. You will normally have one hot meal a day like stew along with other food like; bread, cheese, jam, tinned foods, bacon and porridge. Some days you may eat nothing at all and on good days you may be able to eat sweets and chocolate.
You will receive your daily rations of food and rum. You will also regularly receive cigarette rations. Although a cigarette doesn’t offer any nutritious value, I find it helps take your mind off of your hunger.
Keep all your food safe and hidden in the trenches as some men here will come along a pinch your rations, even men that you may think are you friends. If any of your food is taken there is nothing you can do about it and it’s your fault for not keeping safe.
Rats, in there millions, infest the trenches, spreading infection and contaminating food! There are two types, the black and the brown rat. Both are a complete nuisance but the brown rat is the worst. It gorges itself on human remains and can grow to the size of a cat! The only way that I know to get rid of the pests is to club them to death! However, a rat can produce over 900 offspring a year so you’re never going to get rid of them all. They are such a pain they don’t just live on corpses, they also eat you rations of food and sometime may even nibble a live mans nose or ear.
Frogs by the dozen are found in shell holes covered in water, they are also found in the base of the trenches. Along side the frogs are slugs and horned beetles also crowding the sides of the trenches.