Trench warfare
Overview
Trench warfare is a form of occupied fighting lines, consisting largely of trench
Trench
A trench is a type of excavation or depression in the ground. Trenches are generally defined by being deeper than they are wide , and by being narrow compared to their length ....

es, in which troops are largely immune to the enemy's small arms
Small arms
Small arms is a term of art used by armed forces to denote infantry weapons an individual soldier may carry. The description is usually limited to revolvers, pistols, submachine guns, carbines, assault rifles, battle rifles, multiple barrel firearms, sniper rifles, squad automatic weapons, light...

 fire and are substantially sheltered from artillery
Artillery
Originally applied to any group of infantry primarily armed with projectile weapons, artillery has over time become limited in meaning to refer only to those engines of war that operate by projection of munitions far beyond the range of effect of personal weapons...

. It has become a byword for attrition warfare
Attrition warfare
Attrition warfare is a military strategy in which a belligerent side attempts to win a war by wearing down its enemy to the point of collapse through continuous losses in personnel and matériel....

, for stalemate in conflict, with a slow wearing down of opposing forces.

Trench warfare occurred when a military revolution
Revolution in Military Affairs
The military concept of Revolution in Military Affairs is a theory about the future of warfare, often connected to technological and organizational recommendations for change in the United States military and others....

 in firepower
Fire power
Firepower is the military capability to direct force at an enemy. It is not to be confused with the concept of rate of fire, which describes cycling of the firing mechanism in a weapon system. It involves the whole range of potential weapons...

 was not matched by similar advances in mobility
Mobility (military)
Mobility in military terms refers to the ability of a weapon system, combat unit or armed force to move toward a military objective. Combat forces with a higher mobility are able to move more quickly, and/or across more hostile terrain, than forces with lower mobility.Mobility is regarded as a...

, resulting in a grueling form of warfare in which the defense held the advantage.
Encyclopedia
Trench warfare is a form of occupied fighting lines, consisting largely of trench
Trench
A trench is a type of excavation or depression in the ground. Trenches are generally defined by being deeper than they are wide , and by being narrow compared to their length ....

es, in which troops are largely immune to the enemy's small arms
Small arms
Small arms is a term of art used by armed forces to denote infantry weapons an individual soldier may carry. The description is usually limited to revolvers, pistols, submachine guns, carbines, assault rifles, battle rifles, multiple barrel firearms, sniper rifles, squad automatic weapons, light...

 fire and are substantially sheltered from artillery
Artillery
Originally applied to any group of infantry primarily armed with projectile weapons, artillery has over time become limited in meaning to refer only to those engines of war that operate by projection of munitions far beyond the range of effect of personal weapons...

. It has become a byword for attrition warfare
Attrition warfare
Attrition warfare is a military strategy in which a belligerent side attempts to win a war by wearing down its enemy to the point of collapse through continuous losses in personnel and matériel....

, for stalemate in conflict, with a slow wearing down of opposing forces.

Trench warfare occurred when a military revolution
Revolution in Military Affairs
The military concept of Revolution in Military Affairs is a theory about the future of warfare, often connected to technological and organizational recommendations for change in the United States military and others....

 in firepower
Fire power
Firepower is the military capability to direct force at an enemy. It is not to be confused with the concept of rate of fire, which describes cycling of the firing mechanism in a weapon system. It involves the whole range of potential weapons...

 was not matched by similar advances in mobility
Mobility (military)
Mobility in military terms refers to the ability of a weapon system, combat unit or armed force to move toward a military objective. Combat forces with a higher mobility are able to move more quickly, and/or across more hostile terrain, than forces with lower mobility.Mobility is regarded as a...

, resulting in a grueling form of warfare in which the defense held the advantage. In World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

, both sides constructed elaborate trench and dugout systems opposing each other along a front
Front (military)
A military front or battlefront is a contested armed frontier between opposing forces. This can be a local or tactical front, or it can range to a theater...

, protected from assault by barbed wire
Barbed wire
Barbed wire, also known as barb wire , is a type of fencing wire constructed with sharp edges or points arranged at intervals along the strand. It is used to construct inexpensive fences and is used atop walls surrounding secured property...

. The area between opposing trench lines (known as "no man's land
No man's land
No man's land is a term for land that is unoccupied or is under dispute between parties that leave it unoccupied due to fear or uncertainty. The term was originally used to define a contested territory or a dumping ground for refuse between fiefdoms...

") was fully exposed to artillery fire from both sides. Attacks, even if successful, often sustained severe casualties as a matter of course.

Field works

Field works are as old as armies. Roman legions when in the presence of an enemy entrenched camps nightly on the move. Similar measures, from Frederic the Great's camp at Bunzelwitz, to Arthur Wellesley
Arthur Wellesley
Arthur Wellesley may refer to:*Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington , Anglo-Irish soldier and statesman*Arthur Wellesley, 2nd Duke of Wellington , British soldier and nobleman...

's with his defense lines at Torres Vedras, to the French lines of Weissenburg
Lines of Weissenburg
The Lines of Weissenburg or Lines of Wissembourg, entrenched works — an earthen rampart dotted with small outworks — along the river Lauter.-History:...

, were frequently used.

Nor were fortifications restricted to European powers. Elaborate trench and bunker systems were independently developed by the Maori, who successfully employed by them as early as the 1840s to withstand British cannon, muskets, and an experimental poison-gas mortar, in the New Zealand Wars. British casualty rates of up to 45 per cent, such as at the Battle of Ohaeawai
Battle of Ohaeawai
The Battle of Ohaeawai was fought between British forces and local Māori during the Flagstaff War in July 1845 at Ohaeawai in the North Island of New Zealand...

 in 1845, proved contemporary firepower was insufficient to dislodge defenders from a trench system.
Field works were later employed on an even larger scale in the American Civil War
American Civil War
The American Civil War was a civil war fought in the United States of America. In response to the election of Abraham Lincoln as President of the United States, 11 southern slave states declared their secession from the United States and formed the Confederate States of America ; the other 25...

, the Paraguayan War, the Second Anglo-Boer War, and the Russo-Japanese War
Russo-Japanese War
The Russo-Japanese War was "the first great war of the 20th century." It grew out of rival imperial ambitions of the Russian Empire and Japanese Empire over Manchuria and Korea...

. Fundamentally, as the range and rate of fire of rifled small arms increased, a defender shielded from enemy fire (in a trench, house window, behind a large rock, or behind other cover) was often able to kill several approaching foes before they closed with his position. This was only made more lethal by the introduction of rapid-firing artillery
Artillery
Originally applied to any group of infantry primarily armed with projectile weapons, artillery has over time become limited in meaning to refer only to those engines of war that operate by projection of munitions far beyond the range of effect of personal weapons...

, exemplified by the "French 75"
Canon de 75 modèle 1897
The French 75mm field gun was a quick-firing field artillery piece adopted in March 1898. Its official French designation was: Matériel de 75mm Mle 1897. It was commonly known as the French 75, simply the 75 and Soixante-Quinze .The French 75 is widely regarded as the first modern artillery piece...

, and high explosive fragmentation
Fragmentation
-In biology:* Fragmentation , a form of asexual reproduction* Fragmentation * Habitat fragmentation* Population fragmentation-Music:* Fragmented , the debut album from the Filipino independent band Up Dharma Down-Other:...

 rounds. The increases in firepower had outstripped the ability of infantry
Infantry
Infantrymen are soldiers who are specifically trained for the role of fighting on foot to engage the enemy face to face and have historically borne the brunt of the casualties of combat in wars. As the oldest branch of combat arms, they are the backbone of armies...

 to cover the ground between firing lines, and the ability of armor to withstand fire, even for cavalry
Cavalry
Cavalry or horsemen were soldiers or warriors who fought mounted on horseback. Cavalry were historically the third oldest and the most mobile of the combat arms...

. It would take a revolution in mobility to change that.

Trench warfare is strongly associated with World War I, when it was employed on the Western Front
Western Front (World War I)
Following the outbreak of World War I in 1914, the German Army opened the Western Front by first invading Luxembourg and Belgium, then gaining military control of important industrial regions in France. The tide of the advance was dramatically turned with the Battle of the Marne...

 from September 1914 until the last weeks of the war. By the end of October 1914 the whole front in Belgium and France had solidified into lines of trenches, as it became clear infantry assaults were futile in the face of artillery fire as well as rapid rifle and machine gun fire. Both sides concentrated on breaking up enemy attacks and on protecting their own troops by digging deep into the ground. Trench warfare was also conducted on other front
Front (military)
A military front or battlefront is a contested armed frontier between opposing forces. This can be a local or tactical front, or it can range to a theater...

s, including Italy
Italian Campaign (World War I)
The Italian campaign refers to a series of battles fought between the armies of Austria-Hungary and Italy, along with their allies, in northern Italy between 1915 and 1918. Italy hoped that by joining the countries of the Triple Entente against the Central Powers it would gain Cisalpine Tyrol , the...

 and Gallipoli.

Symbol for the futility of war

Trench warfare has become a powerful symbol of the futility of war. Its image is of young men going "over the top" (over the parapet of the trench, to attack the enemy trench line) into a maelstrom of fire leading to certain death, typified by the first day of the Somme (on which the British suffered 57,000 casualties) or the grinding slaughter in the mud of Passchendaele. To the French, the equivalent is the attrition of the Battle of Verdun
Battle of Verdun
The Battle of Verdun was one of the major battles during the First World War on the Western Front. It was fought between the German and French armies, from 21 February – 18 December 1916, on hilly terrain north of the city of Verdun-sur-Meuse in north-eastern France...

 in which they suffered 380,000 casualties.

Trench warfare is associated with needless slaughter in appalling conditions, combined with the view that brave men went to their deaths because of incompetent and narrow-minded commanders who failed to adapt to the new conditions of trench warfare: class-ridden and backward-looking generals put their faith in the attack, believing superior morale and dash would overcome the weapons and moral inferiority of the defender. The British and Empire troops on the Western Front are commonly referred to as "lions led by donkeys
Lions led by donkeys
"Lions led by donkeys" is a phrase popularly used to describe the British infantry of the First World War and to condemn the generals who commanded them. The contention is that the brave soldiers were sent to their deaths by incompetent and indifferent leaders...

." This view persisted in the Imperial Japanese Army
Imperial Japanese Army
-Foundation:During the Meiji Restoration, the military forces loyal to the Emperor were samurai drawn primarily from the loyalist feudal domains of Satsuma and Chōshū...

 in World War II.

In fact the picture is far more complex. It is easy to find examples of backward and inflexible generals early in World War I. There were failures such as Passchendaele, and Sir Douglas Haig
Douglas Haig, 1st Earl Haig
Field Marshal Douglas Haig, 1st Earl Haig, KT, GCB, OM, GCVO, KCIE, ADC, was a British senior officer during World War I. He commanded the British Expeditionary Force from 1915 to the end of the War...

 is criticised for allowing his battles to continue long after they had lost any purpose other than attrition. Trench raiding and patrolling led to high casualties. There was an emphasis on seeking breakthroughs, rather than being content with "bite and hold" battles. Yet there were also tactical and technical innovations. The problems of trench warfare were recognized, and attempts were made to address them. Solutions included improvements in artillery
Artillery
Originally applied to any group of infantry primarily armed with projectile weapons, artillery has over time become limited in meaning to refer only to those engines of war that operate by projection of munitions far beyond the range of effect of personal weapons...

, better infantry tactics and the development of tank
Tank
A tank is a tracked, armoured fighting vehicle designed for front-line combat which combines operational mobility, tactical offensive, and defensive capabilities...

s. The lessons of the first day of the Somme were learned very quickly, and by 1918 attacks were generally more successful and suffered fewer casualties; in the hundred days
Hundred Days Offensive
The Hundred Days Offensive was the final period of the First World War, during which the Allies launched a series of offensives against the Central Powers on the Western Front from 8 August to 11 November 1918, beginning with the Battle of Amiens. The offensive forced the German armies to retreat...

 there was even a return to mobile warfare. The Allies eventually achieved a decisive victory.

In Britain, the reputations of the generals suffered from postwar attacks by prominent politicians deflecting blame from their own conduct of the war, from tactical experts promoting their own reputations and from nationalistic commentators from Empire nations blaming their British commanders for their losses. The Germans fared no better than the Allies.

Implementation

Although technology had dramatically changed the nature of warfare by 1914, the armies of the major combatants had not correctly anticipated the implications. The French and German armies adopted dramatically different tactical doctrines
Military tactics
Military tactics, the science and art of organizing an army or an air force, are the techniques for using weapons or military units in combination for engaging and defeating an enemy in battle. Changes in philosophy and technology over time have been reflected in changes to military tactics. In...

. The French relied on the attack with speed and surprise. The Germans relied on firepower, investing heavily in howitzer
Howitzer
A howitzer is a type of artillery piece characterized by a relatively short barrel and the use of comparatively small propellant charges to propel projectiles at relatively high trajectories, with a steep angle of descent...

s and machine gun
Machine gun
A machine gun is a fully automatic mounted or portable firearm, usually designed to fire rounds in quick succession from an ammunition belt or large-capacity magazine, typically at a rate of several hundred rounds per minute....

s. The British lacked a coherent tactical doctrine, with an officer corps that rejected theory in favour of pragmatism.

While the armies expected to use entrenchments and cover, they did not allow for the effect of defences in depth
Defence in depth
Defence in depth is a military strategy; it seeks to delay rather than prevent the advance of an attacker, buying time and causing additional casualties by yielding space...

. They required a deliberate approach to seizing positions from which fire support could be given for the next phase of the attack, rather than a rapid move to break the enemy's line. Critically, it was assumed that artillery could still destroy entrenched troops, or at least suppress them sufficiently for friendly infantry and cavalry to manoeuvre.
In the face of modern firepower, digging in was standard practice by the start of World War I. To attack frontally was to court crippling losses, so an outflanking operation was the preferred method of attack against an entrenched enemy. After the Battle of the Aisne in September 1914, an extended series of attempted flanking moves, and matching extensions to the fortified defensive lines, soon saw the celebrated "race to the sea
Race to the Sea
The Race to the Sea is a name given to the period early in the First World War when the two sides were still engaged in mobile warfare on the Western Front. With the German advance stalled at the First Battle of the Marne, the opponents continually attempted to outflank each other through...

"; German and Allied armies produced a matched pair of trench lines from the Swiss border in the south to the North Sea
North Sea
In the southwest, beyond the Straits of Dover, the North Sea becomes the English Channel connecting to the Atlantic Ocean. In the east, it connects to the Baltic Sea via the Skagerrak and Kattegat, narrow straits that separate Denmark from Norway and Sweden respectively...

 coast of Belgium.

Trench warfare prevailed on the Western Front
Western Front (World War I)
Following the outbreak of World War I in 1914, the German Army opened the Western Front by first invading Luxembourg and Belgium, then gaining military control of important industrial regions in France. The tide of the advance was dramatically turned with the Battle of the Marne...

 from 16 September 1914 until the Germans launched their Spring Offensive
Operation Michael
Operation Michael was a First World War German military operation that began the Spring Offensive on 21 March 1918. It was launched from the Hindenburg Line, in the vicinity of Saint-Quentin, France...

 on 21 March 1918. After the buildup of forces in 1915, the Western Front became a deadlocked struggle between equals, to be decided by attrition. Frontal assaults, and their associated casualties, became inevitable because the continuous trench lines had no open flanks. Casualties of the defenders matched those of the attackers, as vast reserves were expended in costly counter-attacks or exposed to the attacker's massed artillery. There were periods in which rigid trench warfare broke down, such as during the battle of the Somme, but the lines never moved very far. The war would be won by the side that was able to commit the last reserves to the Western Front.

Early trenches were simple. They lacked traverses, and according to pre-war doctrine were to be packed with men fighting shoulder to shoulder, leading to heavy casualties from artillery fire. This, and the length of the front to be defended, soon led to front line trenches being held by fewer men. In addition to the trenches themselves, barbed wire was strung up to impede movement, and wiring parties went out every night to improve these forward defences.

The small, improvised trenches of the first few months grew deeper and more complex, gradually becoming vast areas of interlocking defensive works. They resisted both artillery bombardments and mass infantry assaults. Shell-proof dugouts became a high priority. The space between the opposing trenches was referred to as no man's land and varied in width depending on the battlefield. On the Western Front it was typically between 100 and 300 yards (90–275 m), though only 30 yards (27 m) on Vimy Ridge
Battle of Vimy Ridge
The Battle of Vimy Ridge was a military engagement fought primarily as part of the Battle of Arras, in the Nord-Pas-de-Calais region of France, during the First World War. The main combatants were the Canadian Corps, of four divisions, against three divisions of the German Sixth Army...

.

After the German withdrawal to the Hindenburg line
Hindenburg Line
The Hindenburg Line was a vast system of defences in northeastern France during World War I. It was constructed by the Germans during the winter of 1916–17. The line stretched from Lens to beyond Verdun...

 in March 1917, it stretched to over a kilometre in places. At the infamous "Quinn's Post" in the cramped confines of the Anzac battlefield at Gallipoli, the opposing trenches were only 16 yards (15 m) apart and hand grenade
Hand grenade
A hand grenade is any small bomb that can be thrown by hand. Hand grenades are classified into three categories, explosive grenades, chemical and gas grenades. Explosive grenades are the most commonly used in modern warfare, and are designed to detonate after impact or after a set amount of time...

s were thrown constantly. On the Eastern Front
Eastern Front (World War I)
The Eastern Front was a theatre of war during World War I in Central and, primarily, Eastern Europe. The term is in contrast to the Western Front. Despite the geographical separation, the events in the two theatres strongly influenced each other...

 and in the Middle East, the areas to be covered were so vast, and the distances from the factories supplying shells, bullets, concrete and barbed wire so great, trench warfare in the West European style often did not occur.

In the Alps
Alps
The Alps is one of the great mountain range systems of Europe, stretching from Austria and Slovenia in the east through Italy, Switzerland, Liechtenstein and Germany to France in the west....

, trench warfare even stretched onto vertical slopes and deep into the mountains, to heights of 3900 m (12795 ft) above sea level. The Ortler
Ortler
Ortler is, at above sea level, the highest mountain in the Eastern Alps outside the Bernina Range. It is the main peak of the Ortler Range. It is the highest point of the Southern Limestone Alps, of the Italian province of South Tyrol, of Tyrol overall, and, until 1919, of the Austrian-Hungarian...

 had an artillery position on its summit near the front line. The trench-line management and trench profiles had to be adapted to the rough terrain, hard rock, and harsh weather conditions. Many trench systems were constructed within glaciers like the Adamello-Presanella
Adamello-Presanella
The Adamello-Presanella Alpine group is a mountain range in the Italian Alps. It is part of the Southern Limestone Alps. It is located in the provinces of Trentino and Brescia...

 group or the famous city below the ice on the Marmolada
Marmolada
Marmolada is a mountain in northeastern Italy and the highest mountain of the Dolomites ....

 in the Dolomites
Dolomites
The Dolomites are a mountain range located in north-eastern Italy. It is a part of Southern Limestone Alps and extends from the River Adige in the west to the Piave Valley in the east. The northern and southern borders are defined by the Puster Valley and the Sugana Valley...

.

Trench defensive systems

Very early in the war, British defensive doctrine suggested a main trench system of three parallel lines, interconnected by communications trenches. The point at which a communications trench intersected the front trench was of critical importance, and it was usually heavily fortified. The front trench was lightly garrisoned and typically only occupied in force during "stand to" at dawn and dusk. Between 70 and 100 yards (64–91 m) behind the front trench was located the support (or "travel") trench, to which the garrison would retreat when the front trench was bombarded.

Between 300 and 500 yards (275–460 m) further to the rear was located the third reserve trench, where the reserve troops could amass for a counter-attack if the front trenches were captured. This defensive layout was soon rendered obsolete as the power of artillery grew; however, in certain sectors of the front, the support trench was maintained as a decoy to attract the enemy bombardment away from the front and reserve lines. Fires were lit in the support line to make it appear inhabited and any damage done immediately repaired.

Temporary trenches were also built. When a major attack was planned, assembly trenches would be dug near the front trench. These were used to provide a sheltered place for the waves of attacking troops who would follow the first waves leaving from the front trench. "Saps" were temporary, unmanned, often dead-end utility trenches dug out into no-man's land. They fulfilled a variety of purposes, such as connecting the front trench to a listening post close to the enemy wire or providing an advance "jumping-off" line for a surprise attack. When one side's front line bulged towards the opposition, a salient was formed. The concave trench line facing the salient was called a "re-entrant." Large salients were perilous for their occupants because they could be assailed from three sides.

Behind the front system of trenches there were usually at least two more partially prepared trench systems, kilometres to the rear, ready to be occupied in the event of a retreat. The Germans often prepared multiple redundant trench systems; in 1916 their Somme
Somme
Somme is a department of France, located in the north of the country and named after the Somme river. It is part of the Picardy region of France....

 front featured two complete trench systems, one kilometer apart, with a third partially completed system a further kilometer behind. This duplication made a decisive breakthrough virtually impossible. In the event that a section of the first trench system was captured, a "switch" trench would be dug to connect the second trench system to the still-held section of the first.

The Germans, who had based their knowledge on studies of the Russo-Japanese War
Russo-Japanese War
The Russo-Japanese War was "the first great war of the 20th century." It grew out of rival imperial ambitions of the Russian Empire and Japanese Empire over Manchuria and Korea...

, made something of a science out of designing and constructing defensive works. They used reinforced concrete to construct deep, shell-proof, ventilated dugouts, as well as strategic strongpoints. They were more willing than their opponents to make a strategic withdrawal to a superior prepared defensive position. They were also the first to apply the concept of "defense in depth", where the front-line zone was hundreds of yards deep and contained a series of redoubt
Redoubt
A redoubt is a fort or fort system usually consisting of an enclosed defensive emplacement outside a larger fort, usually relying on earthworks, though others are constructed of stone or brick. It is meant to protect soldiers outside the main defensive line and can be a permanent structure or a...

s rather than a continuous trench. Each redoubt could provide supporting fire to its neighbours, and while the attackers had freedom of movement between the redoubts, they would be subjected to withering enfilade
Enfilade and defilade
Enfilade and defilade are concepts in military tactics used to describe a military formation's exposure to enemy fire. A formation or position is "in enfilade" if weapons fire can be directed along its longest axis. A unit or position is "in defilade" if it uses natural or artificial obstacles to...

 fire.

The British eventually adopted a similar approach, but it was incompletely implemented when the Germans launched the 1918 Spring Offensive and proved disastrously ineffective. France, by contrast, relied on artillery and reserves, not entrenchment. The characteristic barbed wire placed before trenches, in belts 15 m (50 ft) deep or more, differed, too; the German wire was heavier gauge, and British wire cutters, designed for the thinner native product, were unable to cut it.

Trench construction

Fighting trenches were usually about 12 feet (3.7 m) deep. Trenches were never straight but were dug in a zigzagging or stepped pattern. Later fighting trenches broke the line into firebays connected by traverses. This meant that a soldier could never see more than 10 yards (9.1 m) or so along the trench. Consequently, the entire trench could not be enfiladed
Enfilade and defilade
Enfilade and defilade are concepts in military tactics used to describe a military formation's exposure to enemy fire. A formation or position is "in enfilade" if weapons fire can be directed along its longest axis. A unit or position is "in defilade" if it uses natural or artificial obstacles to...

 if the enemy gained access at one point; or if a bomb or shell landed in the trench, the blast could not travel far.

The banked earth on the lip of the trench facing the enemy was called the parapet
Parapet
A parapet is a wall-like barrier at the edge of a roof, terrace, balcony or other structure. Where extending above a roof, it may simply be the portion of an exterior wall that continues above the line of the roof surface, or may be a continuation of a vertical feature beneath the roof such as a...

 and had a fire step. The embanked rear lip of the trench was called the parados. The parados protected the soldier's back from shells falling behind the trench. The sides of the trench were often revetted with sandbags, wooden frames and wire mesh. The floor of the trench was usually covered by wooden duckboards. In later designs the floor might be raised on a wooden frame to provide a drainage channel underneath.

Dugouts of varying degrees of luxury would be built in the rear of the support trench. British dugouts were usually 8 to 16 ft (2.4 to 4.9 m) deep, whereas German dugouts were typically much deeper, usually a minimum of 12 feet (3.7 m) deep and sometimes dug three stories down, with concrete staircases to reach the upper levels.

To allow a soldier to see out of the trench without exposing his head, a loophole could be built into the parapet. A loophole might simply be a gap in the sandbags, or it might be fitted with a steel plate. German snipers used armour-piercing bullets that allowed them to penetrate loopholes. Another means to see over the parapet was the trench periscope
Periscope
A periscope is an instrument for observation from a concealed position. In its simplest form it consists of a tube with mirrors at each end set parallel to each other at a 45-degree angle....

—in its simplest form, just a stick with two angled pieces of mirror at the top and bottom. In the Anzac trenches at Gallipoli, where the Turks
Turkey
Turkey , known officially as the Republic of Turkey , is a Eurasian country located in Western Asia and in East Thrace in Southeastern Europe...

 held the high ground, the periscope rifle
Periscope rifle
A periscope rifle was first invented by Sergeant William Beech, a builder's foreman in civilian life, of the 2nd Battalion NSW, Australian Imperial Force, in May 1915...

 was developed to enable the Australians and New Zealanders to snipe at the enemy without exposing themselves over the parapet.

There were three standard ways to dig a trench: entrenching, sapping, and tunneling. Entrenching, where a man would stand on the surface and dig downwards, was most efficient, as it allowed a large digging party to dig the full length of the trench simultaneously. However, entrenching left the diggers exposed above ground and hence could only be carried out when free of observation, such as in a rear area or at night. Sapping
Sapping
Mining, landmining or undermining is a siege method which has been used since antiquity against a walled city, fortress, castle or other strongly held and fortified military position.-Antiquity:...

 involved extending the trench by digging away at the end face. The diggers were not exposed, but only one or two men could work on the trench at a time.

Tunneling was like sapping except that a "roof" of soil was left in place while the trench line was established and then removed when the trench was ready to be occupied. The guidelines for British trench construction stated that it would take 450 men 6 hours at night to complete 250 m (275yd) of front-line trench system. Thereafter, the trench would require constant maintenance to prevent deterioration caused by weather or shelling.

The battlefield of Flanders
Flanders
Flanders is the community of the Flemings but also one of the institutions in Belgium, and a geographical region located in parts of present-day Belgium, France and the Netherlands. "Flanders" can also refer to the northern part of Belgium that contains Brussels, Bruges, Ghent and Antwerp...

 presented numerous problems for the practice of trench warfare, especially for the Allied forces, mainly British and Canadians, who were often compelled to occupy the low ground. Heavy shelling quickly destroyed the network of ditches and water channels which had previously drained this low-lying area of Belgium. In most places, the water table
Water table
The water table is the level at which the submarine pressure is far from atmospheric pressure. It may be conveniently visualized as the 'surface' of the subsurface materials that are saturated with groundwater in a given vicinity. However, saturated conditions may extend above the water table as...

 was only a meter or so below the surface, meaning that any trench dug in the ground would quickly flood.

Consequently, many "trenches" in Flanders were actually above ground and constructed from massive breastworks of sandbags filled with clay. Initially, both the parapet and parados of the trench were built in this way, but a later technique was to dispense with the parados for much of the trench line, thus exposing the rear of the trench to fire from the reserve line in case the front was breached.

Trench geography in World War I

The confined, static, and subterranean nature of trench warfare resulted in it developing its own peculiar form of geography
Geography
Geography is the science that studies the lands, features, inhabitants, and phenomena of Earth. A literal translation would be "to describe or write about the Earth". The first person to use the word "geography" was Eratosthenes...

. In the forward zone, the conventional transport infrastructure of roads and rail were replaced by the network of trenches and light tramways. The critical advantage that could be gained by holding the high ground meant that minor hills and ridges gained enormous significance. Many slight hills and valleys were so subtle as to have been nameless until the front line encroached upon them. Some hills were named for their height in meters, such as Hill 60
Battle of Hill 60 (Western Front)
The Battle of Hill 60 was an Australian assault that was subsidiary to the Battle of Neuve Chapelle.-1914-15:Hill 60 was a low rise on the southern flank of the Ypres Salient and was named for the 60 metre contour which marked its bounds. Hill 60 was not a natural highpoint, but was created as a...

. A farmhouse, windmill, quarry, or copse of trees would become the focus of a determined struggle simply because it was the largest identifiable feature. However, it would not take the artillery long to obliterate it, so that thereafter it became just a name on a map.

Battlefield features could be given a descriptive name ("Polygon Wood" near Ypres
Ypres
Ypres is a Belgian municipality located in the Flemish province of West Flanders. The municipality comprises the city of Ypres and the villages of Boezinge, Brielen, Dikkebus, Elverdinge, Hollebeke, Sint-Jan, Vlamertinge, Voormezele, Zillebeke, and Zuidschote...

 or "Lone Pine
Battle of Lone Pine
The Battle of Lone Pine was a battle between Australian and Turkish forces that took place during the Gallipoli campaign from 6–10 August 1915. It was part of a diversion to draw attention from the main assaults of 6 August against the Sari Bair peaks of Chunuk Bair and Hill 971, which became...

"), a whimsical name ("Sausage Valley
Sausage Valley
Sausage Valley was the name given by British soldiers during the First World War to a shallow valley south of the village of La Boisselle in the Somme département, France. Sausage Valley was so named because the Germans would fly an observation balloon, known as a "sausage", at the head of the valley...

" and "Mash Valley" on the Somme), a unit name ("Inniskilling Inch" at Helles named for the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers
Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers
The Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers was a Irish infantry regiment of the British Army formed in 1881 by the amalgamation of the 27th Regiment of Foot and the 108th Regiment of Foot...

) or the name of a soldier ("Monash Valley" at Anzac
Anzac Cove
Anzac Cove is a small cove on the Gallipoli peninsula in Turkey. It became famous as the site of World War I landing of the ANZAC on April 25, 1915. The cove is a mere long, bounded by the headlands of Ari Burnu to the north and Little Ari Burnu, known as Hell Spit, to the south...

 named after General John Monash
John Monash
General Sir John Monash GCMG, KCB, VD was a civil engineer who became the Australian military commander in the First World War. He commanded the 13th Infantry Brigade before the War and then became commander of the 4th Brigade in Egypt shortly after the outbreak of the War with whom he took part...

). Prefixing a feature with "Dead Man's" was also popular for obvious reasons, such as "Dead Man's Road" leading in to Pozières, or "Dead Man's Ridge" at Anzac.

There were numerous trench networks named "The Chessboard" or "The Gridiron" because of the pattern they described. For the Australians at Mouquet Farm
Battle of Mouquet Farm
The Battle of Mouquet Farm, which began on 5 August 1916, was part of the Battle of the Somme and followed the Battle of Pozières. The farm was eventually captured on 26 September by No. 16 Section of the 6th East Yorkshire Pioneers.-Battle:...

, the advances were so short and the terrain so featureless that they were reduced to naming their objectives as "points" on the map, such as "Point 81" and "Point 55."

Enemy trenches, which would become objectives in an attack, needed to be named as well. Many were named for some observed event such as "German Officers' Trench" at Anzac or "Ration Trench" on the Somme. The British gave an alcoholic flavour to the German trenches in front of Ginchy: "Beer Trench", "Bitter Trench", "Hop Trench", "Ale Alley", and "Pilsen Trench." Other objectives were named according to their role in the trench system, such as the "Switch Trench" and "Intermediate Trench" on the Somme.

Some sections of the British trench system read like a Monopoly
Monopoly (game)
Marvin Gardens, the leading yellow property on the board shown, is actually a misspelling of the original location name, Marven Gardens. The misspelling was said to be introduced by Charles Todd and passed on when his home-made Monopoly board was copied by Charles Darrow and thence to Parker...

 board, with names such as "Park Lane" and "Bond Street". British regular divisions habitually named their trenches after units, which resulted in names such as "Munster Alley" (Royal Munster Fusiliers
Royal Munster Fusiliers
The Royal Munster Fusiliers was a regular infantry regiment of the British Army. One of eight Irish regiments raised largely in Ireland, it had its home depot in Tralee. It was originally formed in 1881 by the amalgamation of two regiments of the former East India Company. It served in India and...

), "Black Watch Alley" (Black Watch Regiment
Black Watch
The Black Watch, 3rd Battalion, Royal Regiment of Scotland is an infantry battalion of the Royal Regiment of Scotland. The unit's traditional colours were retired in 2011 in a ceremony led by Queen Elizabeth II....

) and "Border Barricade" (Border Regiment
Border Regiment
The Border Regiment was an infantry regiment of the line in the British Army, formed in 1881 by the amalgamation of the 34th Regiment of Foot and the 55th Regiment of Foot....

). The Anzac
Australian and New Zealand Army Corps
The Australian and New Zealand Army Corps was a First World War army corps of the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force that was formed in Egypt in 1915 and operated during the Battle of Gallipoli. General William Birdwood commanded the corps, which comprised troops from the First Australian Imperial...

s tended to name features after soldiers ("Plugge's Plateau", "Walker's Ridge", "Quinn's Post", "Johnston's Jolly", "Russell's Top", "Brind's Road" and so forth).

World War I: Life in the trenches

An individual unit's time in the front-line trench was usually brief; from as little as one day to as much as two weeks at a time before being relieved. The Australian 31st Battalion once spent 53 days in the line at Villers Bretonneux, but such a duration was a rare exception. The 10th Battalion, CEF
10th Battalion, CEF
The 10th Battalion, Canadian Expeditionary Force was a Canadian field force unit created during the First World War. Technically distinct from the Militia from which its soldiers were drawn the unit served in the Canadian Expeditionary Force , specifically in the 1st Canadian Division from 1914 to...

, averaged front line tours of six days in 1915 and 1916.

On an individual level, a typical British soldier's year could be divided as follows:
  • 15% front line
  • 10% support line
  • 30% reserve line
  • 20% rest
  • 25% other (hospital, travelling, leave, training courses, etc.)


Even when in the front line, the typical battalion would only be called upon to engage in fighting a handful of times a year—making an attack, defending against an attack or participating in a raid. The frequency of combat would increase for the units of the "elite" fighting divisions—on the Allied side; the British regular divisions, the Canadian Corps
Canadian Corps
The Canadian Corps was a World War I corps formed from the Canadian Expeditionary Force in September 1915 after the arrival of the 2nd Canadian Division in France. The corps was expanded by the addition of the 3rd Canadian Division in December 1915 and the 4th Canadian Division in August 1916...

, the French XX Corps and the Anzac
Australian and New Zealand Army Corps
The Australian and New Zealand Army Corps was a First World War army corps of the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force that was formed in Egypt in 1915 and operated during the Battle of Gallipoli. General William Birdwood commanded the corps, which comprised troops from the First Australian Imperial...

s.

Some sectors of the front saw little activity throughout the war, making life in the trenches comparatively easy. When the I Anzac Corps
I Anzac Corps
The I ANZAC Corps was a combined Australian and New Zealand army corps that served during World War I.It was formed in Egypt in February 1916 as part of the reorganisation and expansion of the Australian Imperial Force and the New Zealand Expeditionary Force following the evacuation of Gallipoli...

 first arrived in France in April 1916 after the evacuation of Gallipoli, they were sent to a relatively peaceful sector south of Armentières
Armentières
Armentières is a commune in the Nord department in the Nord-Pas-de-Calais region in northern France. It is part of the Urban Community of Lille Métropole, and lies on the Belgian border, northwest of the city of Lille, on the right bank of the river Lys....

 to "acclimatise". Other sectors were in a perpetual state of violent activity. On the Western Front, Ypres
Ypres
Ypres is a Belgian municipality located in the Flemish province of West Flanders. The municipality comprises the city of Ypres and the villages of Boezinge, Brielen, Dikkebus, Elverdinge, Hollebeke, Sint-Jan, Vlamertinge, Voormezele, Zillebeke, and Zuidschote...

 was invariably hellish, especially for the British in the exposed, overlooked salient. However, quiet sectors still amassed daily casualties through sniper
Sniper
A sniper is a marksman who shoots targets from concealed positions or distances exceeding the capabilities of regular personnel. Snipers typically have specialized training and distinct high-precision rifles....

 fire, artillery, disease, and poison gas
Poison gas in World War I
The use of chemical weapons in World War I ranged from disabling chemicals, such as tear gas and the severe mustard gas, to lethal agents like phosgene and chlorine. This chemical warfare was a major component of the first global war and first total war of the 20th century. The killing capacity of...

. In the first six months of 1916, before the launch of the Somme Offensive, the British did not engage in any significant battles on their sector of the Western Front and yet suffered 107,776 casualties. About 1 in 2 men would return alive and unwounded from the trenches.

A sector of the front would be allocated to an army corps
Corps
A corps is either a large formation, or an administrative grouping of troops within an armed force with a common function such as Artillery or Signals representing an arm of service...

, usually comprising three division
Division (military)
A division is a large military unit or formation usually consisting of between 10,000 and 20,000 soldiers. In most armies, a division is composed of several regiments or brigades, and in turn several divisions typically make up a corps...

s. Two divisions would occupy adjacent sections of the front and the third would be in rest to the rear. This breakdown of duty would continue down through the army structure, so that within each front-line division, typically comprising three infantry
Infantry
Infantrymen are soldiers who are specifically trained for the role of fighting on foot to engage the enemy face to face and have historically borne the brunt of the casualties of combat in wars. As the oldest branch of combat arms, they are the backbone of armies...

 brigade
Brigade
A brigade is a major tactical military formation that is typically composed of two to five battalions, plus supporting elements depending on the era and nationality of a given army and could be perceived as an enlarged/reinforced regiment...

s (regiments for the Germans), two brigades would occupy the front and the third would be in reserve. Within each front-line brigade, typically comprising four battalion
Battalion
A battalion is a military unit of around 300–1,200 soldiers usually consisting of between two and seven companies and typically commanded by either a Lieutenant Colonel or a Colonel...

s, two battalions would occupy the front with two in reserve. And so on for companies and platoons. The lower down the structure this division of duty proceeded, the more frequently the units would rotate from front-line duty to support or reserve.
During the day, snipers and artillery observer
Artillery observer
A military artillery observer or spotter is responsible for directing artillery fire and close air support onto enemy positions. Because artillery is an indirect fire weapon system, the guns are rarely in line-of-sight of their target, often located tens of miles away...

s in balloons made movement perilous, so the trenches were mostly quiet. Consequently, trenches were busiest at night, when cover of darkness allowed the movement of troops and supplies, the maintenance and expansion of the barbed wire and trench system, and reconnaissance of the enemy's defenses. Sentries in listening posts out in no man's land would try to detect enemy patrols and working parties or indications that an attack was being prepared.

Pioneered by the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry
Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry
Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry is one of the three regular force infantry regiments of the Canadian Army. The regiment is composed of four battalions including a primary reserve battalion, for a total of 2,000 soldiers...

 in February 1915, trench raid
Trench raiding
Trench raiding was a feature of trench warfare which developed during World War I. It was the practice of making small scale surprise attacks on enemy position. Raids were made by both sides in the conflict and always took place at night for reasons of stealth...

s were carried out in order to capture prisoners and "booty"—letters and other documents to provide intelligence about the unit occupying the opposing trenches. As the war progressed, raiding became part of the general British policy, the intention being to maintain the fighting spirit of the troops and to deny no man's land to the Germans. As well, they were intended to compel the enemy to reinforce, which exposed his troops to artillery fire.

Such dominance was achieved at a high cost when the enemy replied with his own artillery, and a post-war British analysis concluded the benefits were probably not worth the cost. Early in the war, surprise raids would be mounted, particularly by the Canadians, but increased vigilance made achieving surprise difficult as the war progressed. By 1916, raids were carefully planned exercises in combined arms and involved close co-operation of infantry and artillery.

A raid would begin with an intense artillery bombardment designed to drive off or kill the front-trench garrison and cut the barbed wire. Then the bombardment would shift to form a "box barrage", or cordon, around a section of the front line to prevent a counter-attack intercepting the raid. However, the bombardment also had the effect of notifying the enemy of the location of the planned attack, thus allowing reinforcements to be called in from wider sectors.

World War I: Death in the trenches

The intensity of World War I trench warfare meant about 10% of the fighting soldiers were killed. This compared to 5% killed during the Second Boer War
Second Boer War
The Second Boer War was fought from 11 October 1899 until 31 May 1902 between the British Empire and the Afrikaans-speaking Dutch settlers of two independent Boer republics, the South African Republic and the Orange Free State...

 and 4.5% killed during World War II. For British and Dominion troops serving on the Western Front, the proportion of troops killed was 12.5%, while the total proportion of troops who became casualties (killed or wounded) was 56%.

Medical services were primitive and antibiotic
Antibiotic
An antibacterial is a compound or substance that kills or slows down the growth of bacteria.The term is often used synonymously with the term antibiotic; today, however, with increased knowledge of the causative agents of various infectious diseases, antibiotic has come to denote a broader range of...

s had not yet been discovered. Relatively minor injuries could prove fatal through onset of infection and gangrene
Gangrene
Gangrene is a serious and potentially life-threatening condition that arises when a considerable mass of body tissue dies . This may occur after an injury or infection, or in people suffering from any chronic health problem affecting blood circulation. The primary cause of gangrene is reduced blood...

. The Germans recorded that 15% of leg wounds and 25% of arm wounds resulted in death, mainly through infection. The Americans recorded 44% of casualties who developed gangrene died. 50% of those wounded in the head died and 99% of those wounded in the abdomen
Abdomen
In vertebrates such as mammals the abdomen constitutes the part of the body between the thorax and pelvis. The region enclosed by the abdomen is termed the abdominal cavity...

 died. 75% of wounds came from shell
Shell (projectile)
A shell is a payload-carrying projectile, which, as opposed to shot, contains an explosive or other filling, though modern usage sometimes includes large solid projectiles properly termed shot . Solid shot may contain a pyrotechnic compound if a tracer or spotting charge is used...

 fire. A wound resulting from a shell fragment was usually more traumatic than a gunshot wound.

A shell fragment would often introduce debris, making it more likely that the wound would become infected. These factors meant a soldier was three times more likely to die from a shell wound to the chest than from a gunshot wound. The blast from shell explosions could also kill by concussion. In addition to the physical effects of shell fire, there was the psychological damage. Men who had to endure prolonged bombardment would often suffer debilitating shell shock
Combat stress reaction
Combat stress reaction , in the past commonly known as shell shock or battle fatigue, is a range of behaviours resulting from the stress of battle which decrease the combatant's fighting efficiency. The most common symptoms are fatigue, slower reaction times, indecision, disconnection from one's...

, a condition not well understood at the time.

As in many other wars, World War I's greatest killer was disease. Sanitary
Sanitation
Sanitation is the hygienic means of promoting health through prevention of human contact with the hazards of wastes. Hazards can be either physical, microbiological, biological or chemical agents of disease. Wastes that can cause health problems are human and animal feces, solid wastes, domestic...

 conditions in the trenches were quite poor, and common infections included dysentery
Dysentery
Dysentery is an inflammatory disorder of the intestine, especially of the colon, that results in severe diarrhea containing mucus and/or blood in the faeces with fever and abdominal pain. If left untreated, dysentery can be fatal.There are differences between dysentery and normal bloody diarrhoea...

, typhus
Typhus
Epidemic typhus is a form of typhus so named because the disease often causes epidemics following wars and natural disasters...

, and cholera
Cholera
Cholera is an infection of the small intestine that is caused by the bacterium Vibrio cholerae. The main symptoms are profuse watery diarrhea and vomiting. Transmission occurs primarily by drinking or eating water or food that has been contaminated by the diarrhea of an infected person or the feces...

. Many soldiers suffered from parasites and related infections. Poor hygiene also led to fungal conditions, such as trench mouth and trench foot
Trench foot
Trench foot is a medical condition caused by prolonged exposure of the feet to damp, unsanitary, and cold conditions. It is one of many immersion foot syndromes...

. Another common killer was exposure, since the temperature within a trench in the winter could easily fall below freezing. Burial of the dead was usually a luxury that neither side could easily afford. The bodies would lie in no man's land until the front line moved, by which time the bodies were often unidentifiable. On some battlefields, such as at the Nek
Battle of the Nek
The Battle of the Nek was a small World War I battle fought as part of the Gallipoli campaign. "The Nek" was a narrow stretch of ridge in the Anzac battlefield on the Gallipoli peninsula. The name derives from the Afrikaans word for a "mountain pass" but the terrain itself was a perfect bottleneck...

 in Gallipoli, the bodies were not buried until after the war. On the Western Front, bodies continue to be found as fields are ploughed and building foundations dug.

At various times during the war—particularly early on—official truces were organised so that the wounded could be recovered from no man's land and the dead could be buried. Generally, senior commands disapproved of any slackening of the offensive for humanitarian reasons and so ordered their troops not to permit enemy stretcher-bearers to operate in no man's land. However, this order was almost invariably ignored by the soldiers in the trenches, who knew that it was to the mutual benefit of the fighting men of both sides to allow the wounded to be retrieved. So, as soon as hostilities ceased, parties of stretcher bearers, marked with Red Cross flags, would go out to recover the wounded, sometimes swapping enemy wounded for their own.

There were occasions when this unofficial cease fire was exploited to conduct a reconnaissance or to reinforce or relieve a garrison. One famous truce was the Christmas truce
Christmas truce
Christmas truce was a series of widespread unofficial ceasefires that took place along the Western Front around Christmas of 1914, during the First World War...

 between British and German soldiers in the winter of 1914 on the front near Armentieres. German soldiers began singing Christmas carols and soon soldiers left their trenches. The soldiers exchanged gifts and stories, and played several games of football. As mentioned previously, the commanders of the warring nations disapproved of this cease fire, and the British court-martialed several of their soldiers. The spirit of this truce is portrayed in the 2005 movie Merry Christmas.

Infantry weapons

The common infantry
Infantry
Infantrymen are soldiers who are specifically trained for the role of fighting on foot to engage the enemy face to face and have historically borne the brunt of the casualties of combat in wars. As the oldest branch of combat arms, they are the backbone of armies...

 soldier had four weapons to use in the trenches: the rifle
Rifle
A rifle is a firearm designed to be fired from the shoulder, with a barrel that has a helical groove or pattern of grooves cut into the barrel walls. The raised areas of the rifling are called "lands," which make contact with the projectile , imparting spin around an axis corresponding to the...

, bayonet
Bayonet
A bayonet is a knife, dagger, sword, or spike-shaped weapon designed to fit in, on, over or underneath the muzzle of a rifle, musket or similar weapon, effectively turning the gun into a spear...

, shotgun
Shotgun
A shotgun is a firearm that is usually designed to be fired from the shoulder, which uses the energy of a fixed shell to fire a number of small spherical pellets called shot, or a solid projectile called a slug...

, and hand grenade
Hand grenade
A hand grenade is any small bomb that can be thrown by hand. Hand grenades are classified into three categories, explosive grenades, chemical and gas grenades. Explosive grenades are the most commonly used in modern warfare, and are designed to detonate after impact or after a set amount of time...

. The standard issue British rifle was the .303
.303
.303 may refer to:* .303 British, a rifle cartridge* .303 Savage, a rifle cartridge* Lee-Enfield rifle* .303 , a short film...

 Short, Magazine, Lee-Enfield
Lee-Enfield
The Lee-Enfield bolt-action, magazine-fed, repeating rifle was the main firearm used by the military forces of the British Empire and Commonwealth during the first half of the 20th century...

 (SMLE), originally developed as a cavalry carbine, with a maximum range of 1400yd (1280 m). The Ross rifle
Ross rifle
The Ross rifle was a straight-pull bolt-action 0.303 inch calibre rifle produced in Canada from 1903 until the middle of the First World War....

 was widely used by the Canadian Corps
Canadian Corps
The Canadian Corps was a World War I corps formed from the Canadian Expeditionary Force in September 1915 after the arrival of the 2nd Canadian Division in France. The corps was expanded by the addition of the 3rd Canadian Division in December 1915 and the 4th Canadian Division in August 1916...

 early in the war and was reputedly more accurate than the British SMLE. However, it proved notoriously unreliable under battlefield conditions, often jamming when dirty or fired rapidly, and was gradually discarded for routine use in favour of the SMLE, except for sniping. Early in the war, the British were able to defeat German attacks at Mons
Battle of Mons
The Battle of Mons was the first major action of the British Expeditionary Force in the First World War. It was a subsidiary action of the Battle of the Frontiers, in which the Allies clashed with Germany on the French borders. At Mons, the British army attempted to hold the line of the...

 and the First Battle of Ypres
First Battle of Ypres
The First Battle of Ypres, also called the First Battle of Flanders , was a First World War battle fought for the strategic town of Ypres in western Belgium...

 with massed rifle fire, but as trench warfare developed, opportunities to assemble a line of riflemen disappeared.

The German counterpart to the Lee-Enfield was the 7.92x57mm (.323") Mauser
Mauser
Mauser was a German arms manufacturer of a line of bolt-action rifles and pistols from the 1870s to 1995. Mauser designs were built for the German armed forces...

 Gewehr 98
Gewehr 98
The Gewehr 98 is a German bolt action Mauser rifle firing the 8x57mm cartridge from a 5 round internal clip-loaded magazine that was the German service rifle from 1898 to 1935, when it was replaced by the Karabiner 98k. It was hence the main rifle of the German infantry during World War I...

. It was less suited to rapid fire than the SMLE, due to its smaller magazine and slower rate of fire
Rate of fire
Rate of fire is the frequency at which a specific weapon can fire or launch its projectiles. It is usually measured in rounds per minute , or per second .-Overview:...

. The British soldier was equipped with a 21-inch (53 cm) sword bayonet
Sword bayonet
thumb|300px|right|[[Ishapore 2A1]] Lee-Enfield w/ P1907 sword bayonetA sword bayonet is any long, knife-bladed bayonet designed for mounting on a musket or rifle. Its use is thought to have begun in the 18th century and to have reached its height of popularity throughout the 19th and into the early...

, which was too long and unwieldy to be particularly effective in close-quarters combat. However, bayonet use was safer than firing the rifle which, in a mêlée
Mêlée
Melee , generally refers to disorganized close combat involving a group of fighters. A melee ensues when groups become locked together in combat with no regard to group tactics or fighting as an organized unit; each participant fights as an individual....

, might strike an ally instead of an enemy. British figures recorded only 0.3% of wounds were caused by bayonets. The bayonet was also used to finish off wounded enemy soldiers during an advance, both saving ammunition and reducing the probability of being attacked from the rear. Imperial German soldiers generally carried the S98/05 "Butcher-blade" bayonet, which was an effective weapon in the open, but like the British bayonet, difficult to use in the narrow trenches when attached to a rifle.

A specialized group of fighters called trench sweepers (Nettoyeurs de Tranchées or Zigouilleurs) evolved to fight within the trenches. They cleared surviving enemy personnel from recently overrun trenches and made clandestine raids into enemy trenches to gather intelligence. Volunteers for this dangerous work were often exempted from participation in frontal assaults over open ground and from routine work like filling sandbags, draining trenches, and repairing barbed wire in no-man's land. When allowed to choose their own weapons, many selected grenades, knives and pistols. FN M1900
FN M1900
The FN Browning M1900 is a single action, semi-automatic pistol designed ca. 1896 by John Browning for Fabrique Nationale de Herstal and produced in Belgium at the turn of the century...

 pistols were highly regarded for this work, but never available in adequate quantities. Colt Model 1903 Pocket Hammerless
Colt Model 1903 Pocket Hammerless
The Colt Model 1903 Pocket Hammerless is .32 ACP caliber, self-loading, semi-automatic pistol designed by John Browning and built by Colt Patent Firearms Manufacturing Company of Hartford, Connecticut...

, Savage Model 1907
Savage Model 1907
The Savage Model 1907 is a 10-round semi-automatic pistol produced by the Savage Arms Company of Utica, New York, from 1907 until 1920 in .32 ACP and from 1913 until 1920 in .380 ACP caliber. Although smaller in size, it is derived from the .45 semi-automatic pistol Savage submitted to the...

, Star Bonifacio Echeverria and Ruby pistol
Ruby pistol
The self-loading Ruby pistol is best known as a French World War I sidearm, the Pistolet Automatique de 7 millim.65 genre "Ruby". A very international piece of weaponry, it was closely modeled after the American John Browning's M1903 made by the Belgian Fabrique Nationale de Herstal, and was...

s were widely used.

According to the semi-biographical War-Novel All quiet on the Western Front
All Quiet on the Western Front
All Quiet on the Western Front is a novel by Erich Maria Remarque, a German veteran of World War I. The book describes the German soldiers' extreme physical and mental stress during the war, and the detachment from civilian life felt by many of these soldiers upon returning home from the front.The...

, many soldiers preferred to use a sharpened folding spade
Entrenching tool
An entrenching tool or E-tool is a collapsible spade used by military forces for a variety of military purposes. Survivalists, freedivers, campers, hikers and other outdoors groups have found it to be indispensable in field use...

 as a improvised melee weapon instead of the bayonet, as the bayonet tended to get "stuck" in stabbed opponents, rendering it useless in heated battle. The shorter length also made them easier to use in the confined quarters of the trenches. These tools could then be used to dig in after they had taken a trench. Since the troops were often not adequately equipped for trench warfare, improvised weapons were common in the first encounters, such as short wooden clubs and metal maces, as well as trench knives and brass knuckles
Brass knuckles
Brass knuckles, also sometimes called knuckles, knucks, brass knucks, or knuckledusters, are weapons used in hand-to-hand combat. Brass knuckles are pieces of metal, usually steel despite their name, shaped to fit around the knuckles...

. As the war progressed, better equipment was issued, and improvised arms were discarded.

Used by American soldiers in the Western front, the pump action shotgun
Pump action shotgun
Pump-action shotguns, also called 'slide action repeating shotguns' or 'slide action shotguns' are a class of shotguns that are distinguished in the way in which spent shells are extracted and fresh ones are chambered. The weapon has a single barrel above a tube magazine into which shells are...

 was a formidable weapon in short range combat, enough so that Germany lodged a formal protest against their use on 14 September 1918, stating "every prisoner found to have in his possession such guns or ammunition belonging thereto forfeits his life", though this threat was apparently never carried out. The U.S. military began to issue models specially modified for combat, called "trench guns", with shorter barrels, higher capacity magazines, no choke, and often heat shields around the barrel, as well as lugs for the M1917 bayonet
M1917 Bayonet
The M1917 bayonet was designed to be used with the US M1917 Enfield .30 caliber rifle, as well as with the Winchester Model 1897 and M12 trench shotguns. The blade was 16 inches long...

. Anzac
Australian and New Zealand Army Corps
The Australian and New Zealand Army Corps was a First World War army corps of the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force that was formed in Egypt in 1915 and operated during the Battle of Gallipoli. General William Birdwood commanded the corps, which comprised troops from the First Australian Imperial...

 and some British soldiers were also known to use sawn-off shotguns in trench raids, because of their portability, effectiveness at close range, and ease of use in the confines of a trench. This practice was not officially sanctioned, and the shotguns used were invariably modified sporting guns.

The hand grenade came to be the primary infantry weapon of trench warfare. Both sides were quick to raise specialist bombing squads. The grenade enabled a soldier to engage the enemy without exposing himself to fire, and it did not require precise accuracy to kill or maim. Another benefit was that if a soldier could get close enough to the trenches, enemies hiding in trenches could be attacked. The Germans and Turks were well equipped with grenades from the start of the war, but the British, who had ceased using grenadiers in the 1870s and did not anticipate a siege war, entered the conflict with virtually none, so soldiers had to improvise bombs with whatever was available (see Jam Tin Grenade
Jam Tin Grenade
The Double Cylinder, No 8 and No 9 hand grenades, also known as the "Jam Tin", were early designs used by the British Army in World War I.The Double Cylinder was one of the many grenades designed for British use in the early part of the First World War in response to the failings of the No 1...

). By late 1915, the British Mills bomb
Mills bomb
Mills bomb is the popular name for a series of prominent British hand grenades. They were the first modern fragmentation grenades in the world.-Overview:...

 had entered wide circulation, and by the end of the war 75 million had been used.

Tanks

Tank
Tank
A tank is a tracked, armoured fighting vehicle designed for front-line combat which combines operational mobility, tactical offensive, and defensive capabilities...

s were first introduced by the British as a means to break the deadlock of trench warfare. They were first deployed at the Battle of Somme in limited numbers. They proved unreliable and ineffective at first, largely because of poor strategic and tactical planning, being spread too thinly on the ground. In addition, they were originally used over ground torn apart by large amounts of shell fire, which early tanks had trouble traversing. Later on, improved tanks and tactics allowed them to break through enemy lines to become a significant element of warfare.

Machine guns

The Germans embraced the machine gun from the outset—in 1904, sixteen units were equipped with 'Maschinengewehr'—and the machine gun crews were the elite infantry units; these units were attached to Jaeger (light infantry) battalions. By 1914, British infantry units were armed with two Vickers machine gun
Vickers machine gun
Not to be confused with the Vickers light machine gunThe Vickers machine gun or Vickers gun is a name primarily used to refer to the water-cooled .303 inch machine gun produced by Vickers Limited, originally for the British Army...

s per battalion, the Germans had six per battalion, the Russians eight. The Americans had to wait until 1917 to see every infantry unit carry at least one machine gun. After 1915, the Maschinengewehr 08
Maschinengewehr 08
The Maschinengewehr 08, or MG08, was the German Army's standard machine gun in World War I and is an adoption of Hiram S. Maxim's original 1884 Maxim Gun. It was produced in a number of variants during the war. The MG 08 remained in service until the outbreak of World War II due to shortages of...

 was the standard issue German machine gun; its number "08/15" entered the German language as idiomatic for "dead plain". At Gallipoli
Gallipoli
The Gallipoli peninsula is located in Turkish Thrace , the European part of Turkey, with the Aegean Sea to the west and the Dardanelles straits to the east. Gallipoli derives its name from the Greek "Καλλίπολις" , meaning "Beautiful City"...

 and in Palestine
Palestine
Palestine is a conventional name, among others, used to describe the geographic region between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River, and various adjoining lands....

 the Turks provided the infantry, but it was usually Germans who manned the machine guns.

The British High Command were less enthusiastic about machine guns, supposedly considering the weapon too "unsporting" and encouraging defensive fighting; and they lagged behind the Germans in adopting it. Field Marshal Sir Douglas Haig is quoted as saying in 1915, "The machine gun is a much overrated weapon; two per battalion is more than sufficient", an attitude which resulted in record numbers of British casualties. In 1915 the Machine Gun Corps was formed to train and provide sufficient heavy machine gun teams.

It was the Canadians that made the best practice, pioneering area denial and indirect fire
Indirect fire
Indirect fire means aiming and firing a projectile in a high trajectory without relying on a direct line of sight between the gun and its target, as in the case of direct fire...

 (soon adopted by all Allied armies) under the guidance of former French Army Reserve officer Major General Raymond Brutinel
Raymond Brutinel
Brigadier-General Raymond Brutinel CB CMG DSO was a geologist, journalist, soldier, entrepreneur and a pioneer in the field of mechanized warfare who commanded the Canadian Automobile Machine Gun Brigade during World War I....

. Minutes before the attack on Vimy Ridge the Canadians thickened the artillery barrage
Barrage (artillery)
A barrage is a line or barrier of exploding artillery shells, created by the co-ordinated aiming of a large number of guns firing continuously. Its purpose is to deny or hamper enemy passage through the line of the barrage, to attack a linear position such as a line of trenches or to neutralize...

 by aiming machine guns at the precise angle to rain down on the Germans. They also significantly increased the number of machine guns per battalion. To match demand, production of the Vickers machine gun was contracted to firms in the United States. By 1917, every company in the British forces were also equipped with four Lewis light machine gun
Lewis Gun
The Lewis Gun is a World War I–era light machine gun of American design that was perfected and widely used by the British Empire. It was first used in combat in World War I, and continued in service with a number of armed forces through to the end of the Korean War...

s, which significantly enhanced their firepower.

The heavy machine gun was a specialist weapon, and in a static trench system was employed in a scientific manner, with carefully calculated fields of fire, so that at a moment's notice an accurate burst could be fired at the enemy's parapet or a break in the wire. Equally it could be used as light artillery in bombarding distant trenches. Heavy machine guns required teams of up to eight men to move them, maintain them, and keep them supplied with ammunition. This made them impractical for offensive maneuvers, contributing to the stalemate on the Western Front
Western Front (World War I)
Following the outbreak of World War I in 1914, the German Army opened the Western Front by first invading Luxembourg and Belgium, then gaining military control of important industrial regions in France. The tide of the advance was dramatically turned with the Battle of the Marne...

.

Mortars

Mortar
Mortar (weapon)
A mortar is an indirect fire weapon that fires explosive projectiles known as bombs at low velocities, short ranges, and high-arcing ballistic trajectories. It is typically muzzle-loading and has a barrel length less than 15 times its caliber....

s, which lobbed a shell in a high arc over a relatively short distance, were widely used in trench fighting for harassing the forward trenches, for cutting wire in preparation for a raid or attack, and for destroying dugouts, saps and other entrenchments. In 1914, the British fired a total of 545 mortar shells; in 1916, they fired over 6,500,000. Similarly, howitzers, which fire on a more direct arc than mortars, raised in number from over 1,000 shells in 1914, to over 4,500,000 in 1916. The smaller numerical difference in mortar rounds, as opposed to howitzer rounds, is presumed to be related to the expanded costs of manufacturing the larger and more resource intensive howitzer rounds.

The main British mortar was the Stokes
Stokes Mortar
The Stokes mortar was a British trench mortar invented by Sir Wilfred Stokes KBE which was issued to the British Army and the Commonwealth armies during the latter half of the First World War.-History:...

, a precursor of the modern mortar. It was a light mortar, but was easy to use, and capable of a rapid rate of fire by virtue of the propellant cartridge being attached to the shell. To fire the Stokes mortar, the round was simply dropped into the tube, where the cartridge was ignited automatically when it struck the firing pin at the bottom. The Germans used a range of mortars. The smallest were grenade-throwers ('Granatenwerfer') which fired "pineapple" bombs. Their medium trench-mortars were called mine-throwers ('Minenwerfer
Minenwerfer
Minenwerfer is the German name for a class of short range mortars used extensively during the First World War by the German Army...

'), dubbed "moaning minnies" by British Commonwealth troops. The heavy mortar was called the 'Ladungswerfer', which threw "aerial torpedoes", containing a 200 lb (90 kg) charge to a range of 1000yd (914 m). The flight of the missile was so slow and leisurely men on the receiving end could make some attempt to seek shelter.

Artillery

Artillery
Artillery
Originally applied to any group of infantry primarily armed with projectile weapons, artillery has over time become limited in meaning to refer only to those engines of war that operate by projection of munitions far beyond the range of effect of personal weapons...

 dominated the battlefields of trench warfare. An infantry attack was rarely successful if it advanced beyond the range of its supporting artillery. In addition to bombarding the enemy infantry in the trenches, the artillery could be used to precede infantry advances with a creeping barrage
Barrage (artillery)
A barrage is a line or barrier of exploding artillery shells, created by the co-ordinated aiming of a large number of guns firing continuously. Its purpose is to deny or hamper enemy passage through the line of the barrage, to attack a linear position such as a line of trenches or to neutralize...

, or engage in counter-battery duels to try to destroy the enemy's guns. Artillery mainly fired fragmentation
Fragmentation (weaponry)
Fragmentation is the process by which the casing of an artillery shell, bomb, grenade, etc. is shattered by the detonating high explosive filling. The correct technical terminology for these casing pieces is fragments , although shards or splinters can be used for non-preformed fragments...

, high explosive, or, later in the war, gas shells. The British experimented with firing thermite
Thermite
Thermite is a pyrotechnic composition of a metal powder and a metal oxide that produces an exothermic oxidation-reduction reaction known as a thermite reaction. If aluminium is the reducing agent it is called an aluminothermic reaction...

 incendiary shells
Incendiary ammunition
-World War I:One of the first uses of incendiary ammunition occurred in World War I. At the time, phosphorus—the primary ingredient in the incendiary charge—ignited upon firing, leaving a trail of blue smoke. They were also known as 'smoke tracer' for this reason. The effective range of...

 to set trees and ruins alight. However, all armies had experienced shell shortages during the first year or two of World War I, due to under-estimating their usage under intensive combat. A knowledge that the combatant nations had already learned from the Russo-Japanese War
Russo-Japanese War
The Russo-Japanese War was "the first great war of the 20th century." It grew out of rival imperial ambitions of the Russian Empire and Japanese Empire over Manchuria and Korea...

 in 1904–1905, but had failed to capitalize on; when daily artillery fire consumed ten times more than daily factory output.

Artillery pieces were of two types: gun
Gun
A gun is a muzzle or breech-loaded projectile-firing weapon. There are various definitions depending on the nation and branch of service. A "gun" may be distinguished from other firearms in being a crew-served weapon such as a howitzer or mortar, as opposed to a small arm like a rifle or pistol,...

s and howitzer
Howitzer
A howitzer is a type of artillery piece characterized by a relatively short barrel and the use of comparatively small propellant charges to propel projectiles at relatively high trajectories, with a steep angle of descent...

s. Guns fired high-velocity shells over a flat trajectory and were often used to deliver fragmentation and to cut barbed wire. Howitzers lofted the shell over a high trajectory so it plunged into the ground. The largest calibers were usually howitzers. The German 420 mm howitzer weighed 20 tons and could fire a one-ton shell over 10 km. A critical feature of period artillery pieces was the hydraulic recoil mechanism
Hydraulic recoil mechanism
A Hydraulic recoil mechanism is a way of hindering recoil and adding to the accuracy and fire power of the artillery piece....

, which meant the gun did not need to be re-aimed after each shot.

Initially each gun would need to register its aim on a known target, in view of an observer, in order to fire with precision during a battle. The process of gun registration would often alert the enemy an attack was being planned. Towards the end of 1917, artillery techniques were developed enabling fire to be delivered accurately without registration on the battlefield – the gun registration was done behind the lines then the pre-registered guns were brought up to the front for a surprise attack.

Gas

Gas was first used against trenches – unsuccessfully – by British troops against Māori warriors in the New Zealand Wars. Early World War I gasses were unreliable, as they could easily be blown back on the troops that deployed them. There were three main types used: mustard gas, chlorine
Chlorine
Chlorine is the chemical element with atomic number 17 and symbol Cl. It is the second lightest halogen, found in the periodic table in group 17. The element forms diatomic molecules under standard conditions, called dichlorine...

, and phosgene
Phosgene
Phosgene is the chemical compound with the formula COCl2. This colorless gas gained infamy as a chemical weapon during World War I. It is also a valued industrial reagent and building block in synthesis of pharmaceuticals and other organic compounds. In low concentrations, its odor resembles...

. This prompted the use of gas masks. Early on, improvised gas masks were made by urinating on a handkerchief and putting it over their nose and mouth so the urea
Urea
Urea or carbamide is an organic compound with the chemical formula CO2. The molecule has two —NH2 groups joined by a carbonyl functional group....

 would disable the poison.

Tear gas was first employed in August 1914 by the French, but this could only disable the enemy. In April 1915, chlorine was first used by Germany at the Second Battle of Ypres
Second Battle of Ypres
The Second Battle of Ypres was the first time Germany used poison gas on a large scale on the Western Front in the First World War and the first time a former colonial force pushed back a major European power on European soil, which occurred in the battle of St...

. A large enough dose could kill, but the gas was easy to detect by scent and sight. Those that were not killed on exposure could suffer permanent lung damage. Phosgene, first used in December 1915, was the ultimate killing gas of World War I—it was 18 times more powerful than chlorine and much more difficult to detect.

However, the most effective gas was mustard gas, introduced by Germany in July 1917. Mustard gas was not as fatal as phosgene, but it was hard to detect and lingered on the surface of the battlefield and so could inflict casualties over a long period. The burns it produced were so horrific that a casualty resulting from mustard gas exposure was unlikely to be fit to fight again. Only 2% of mustard gas casualties died, mainly from secondary infection
Infection
An infection is the colonization of a host organism by parasite species. Infecting parasites seek to use the host's resources to reproduce, often resulting in disease...

s.

The first method of employing gas in World War I was by releasing it from a cylinder when the wind was favourable. Such an approach was obviously prone to miscarry if the direction of the wind was misjudged. Also, the cylinders needed to be positioned in the front trenches where they were likely to be ruptured during a bombardment. Later in the war, gas was delivered by artillery or mortar shell.

Flamethrowers

The Germans employed Flammenwerfer (flamethrower
Flamethrower
A flamethrower is a mechanical device designed to project a long controllable stream of fire.Some flamethrowers project a stream of ignited flammable liquid; some project a long gas flame. Most military flamethrowers use liquids, but commercial flamethrowers tend to use high-pressure propane and...

s) during the war for the first time against the French on 25 June 1915, then against the British 30 July in Hooge. The technology was in its infancy, and use was not very common until the end of 1917 when portability and reliability were improved. It was used in more than 300 documented battles. In 1918, it became a weapon of choice for Stoßtruppen (Stormtrooper
Stormtrooper
Stormtroopers were specialist soldiers of the German Army in World War I. In the last years of the war, Stoßtruppen were trained to fight with "infiltration tactics", part of the Germans' new method of attack on enemy trenches...

s) with a team of six Pionieren (pioneers, engineers) per squad.

Helmets

During the first year of the First World War, none of the combatant nations equipped their troops with steel helmets. Soldiers went into battle wearing simple cloth or leather caps that offered virtually no protection from the damage caused by modern weapons. German troops were wearing the traditional leather Pickelhaube
Pickelhaube
The Pickelhaube , also "Pickelhelm," was a spiked helmet worn in the 19th and 20th centuries by German military, firefighters, and police...

(spiked helmet), with a covering of cloth to protect the leather from the splattering of mud.

Once the war entered the static phase of trench warfare, the number of lethal head wounds that troops were receiving from fragmentation
Fragmentation (weaponry)
Fragmentation is the process by which the casing of an artillery shell, bomb, grenade, etc. is shattered by the detonating high explosive filling. The correct technical terminology for these casing pieces is fragments , although shards or splinters can be used for non-preformed fragments...

 increased dramatically. The French were the first to see a need for greater protection and began to introduce steel helmets in the summer of 1915. The Adrian helmet
Adrian helmet
The M15 Adrian helmet was a combat helmet issued to the French Army during World War I. It was the first standard helmet of the French Army and was designed when millions of French troops were engaged in trench warfare, and head wounds became a frequent cause of battlefield casualties...

 replaced the traditional French kepi
Kepi
The kepi is a cap with a flat circular top and a visor or peak . Etymologically, the word is a borrowing of the French képi, itself a respelling of the Alemannic Käppi: a diminutive form of Kappe, meaning "cap"....

 and was later adopted by the Belgian, Italian and many other armies.

At about the same time the British were developing their own helmets. The French design was rejected as not strong enough and too difficult to mass-produce. The design that was eventually approved by the British was the Brodie helmet
Brodie helmet
The Brodie helmet, called Helmet, steel, Mark I helmet in Britain and the M1917 Helmet in the U.S., was a steel combat helmet designed and patented in 1915 by the Briton John Leopold Brodie...

. This had a wide brim to protect the wearer from falling objects, but offered less protection to the wearer's neck. When the Americans entered the war, this was the helmet they chose, though some units used the French Adrian helmet.

The traditional German 'pickelhaube' was replaced by the Stahlhelm
Stahlhelm
Stahlhelm is German for "steel helmet". The Imperial German Army began to replace the traditional boiled-leather Pickelhaube with the Stahlhelm during World War I in 1916...

or "steel helmet" in 1916. Some elite Italian units used a helmet derived from ancient Roman designs. None of these standard helmets could protect the face or eyes, however. Special face-covers were designed to be used by machine gunners, and the Belgians tried out goggles made of louvres to protect the eyes.

Wire

The use of barbed wire
Barbed wire
Barbed wire, also known as barb wire , is a type of fencing wire constructed with sharp edges or points arranged at intervals along the strand. It is used to construct inexpensive fences and is used atop walls surrounding secured property...

 was decisive in slowing infantry traveling across the battlefield. Slowed down by wire obstacle
Wire obstacle
In the military science of fortification, wire obstacles are defensive obstacles made from barbed wire, barbed tape or concertina wire. They are designed to disrupt, delay and generally slow down an attacking enemy...

s, they were much more likely to be hit by concentrated rifle and machinegun fire. Liddell Hart identified barbed wire and the machine gun as the elements that had to be broken to regain a mobile battlefield. Wiring was usually done at night, to avoid casualties in no man's land
No man's land
No man's land is a term for land that is unoccupied or is under dispute between parties that leave it unoccupied due to fear or uncertainty. The term was originally used to define a contested territory or a dumping ground for refuse between fiefdoms...

. The screw picket
Screw picket
A screw picket is a metal device used to secure something to the ground. Today, screw pickets are used widely to temporarily "picket" dogs and grazing animals such as sheep, goats, and horses...

, invented by the Germans
Germans
The Germans are a Germanic ethnic group native to Central Europe. The English term Germans has referred to the German-speaking population of the Holy Roman Empire since the Late Middle Ages....

 and later adopted by the Allies
Allies
In everyday English usage, allies are people, groups, or nations that have joined together in an association for mutual benefit or to achieve some common purpose, whether or not explicit agreement has been worked out between them...

 during the war, was quieter than driving stakes, and thus helped decrease the amount of noise working parties would create. Methods to defeat it were rudimentary. British and Commonwealth forces relied on wire cutters, which proved unable to cope with the heavier gauge German wire. The Bangalore torpedo
Bangalore torpedo
A Bangalore torpedo is an explosive charge placed on the end of a long, extendible tube. It is used by combat engineers to clear obstacles that would otherwise require them to approach directly, possibly under fire...

 was adopted by many armies, and continued in use past the end of World War II.

Aircraft

The fundamental purpose of the aircraft in trench warfare was reconnaissance
Reconnaissance
Reconnaissance is the military term for exploring beyond the area occupied by friendly forces to gain information about enemy forces or features of the environment....

 and artillery
Artillery
Originally applied to any group of infantry primarily armed with projectile weapons, artillery has over time become limited in meaning to refer only to those engines of war that operate by projection of munitions far beyond the range of effect of personal weapons...

 observation. Aerial reconnaissance
Aerial reconnaissance
Aerial reconnaissance is reconnaissance that is conducted using unmanned aerial vehicles or reconnaissance aircraft. Their roles are to collect imagery intelligence, signals intelligence and measurement and signature intelligence...

 was so significant in exposing movements, it has been said the trench stalemate was a product of it. The role of the fighter
Fighter aircraft
A fighter aircraft is a military aircraft designed primarily for air-to-air combat with other aircraft, as opposed to a bomber, which is designed primarily to attack ground targets...

 was to protect friendly reconnaissance aircraft
Reconnaissance aircraft
A reconnaissance aircraft is a manned military aircraft designed, or adapted, to carry out aerial reconnaissance.-History:The majority of World War I aircraft were reconnaissance designs...

 and destroy those of the enemy, or at least deny them the freedom of friendly airspace. This involved achieving air superiority over the battlefield by destroying the enemy's fighters as well.

Spotter aircraft would monitor the fall of shells during registration of the artillery. Reconnaissance aircraft would map trench lines, first with hand-drawn diagrams, later with photography
Photography
Photography is the art, science and practice of creating durable images by recording light or other electromagnetic radiation, either electronically by means of an image sensor or chemically by means of a light-sensitive material such as photographic film...

, monitor enemy troop movements, and locate enemy artillery batteries so that they could be destroyed with counter-battery fire.

New weapons

In 1917 and 1918, new types of weapons were fielded. They changed the face of warfare tactics and were later employed during World War II.

The French introduced the CSRG 1915 Chauchat
Chauchat
The Chauchat , was the standard light machine gun of the French Army during World War I. Under the leadership of General Joseph Joffre, it was commissioned into the French Army in 1916. It was also widely used by the US Army in 1917-1918 and by six other nations: Belgium, Greece, Poland, Russia,...

 during Spring 1916 around the concept of "walking fire", employed in 1918 when 250,000 weapons were fielded. More than 80,000 of the best shooters received the semi-automatic RSC 1917
Fusil Automatique Modele 1917
The Fusil Automatique Modele 1917 was a semi-automatic, gas-operated, infantry rifle that was placed in service in the French Army during the latter part of World War I. It was chambered in the then-standard 8mm Lebel rimmed cartridge used in other French Army infantry weapons of the time...

 rifle, allowing them to rapid fire at waves of attacking soldiers. Firing ports were installed in the newly arrived FT 1917 tanks.

The French Army fielded a ground version of the Hotchkiss Canon de 37 mm
Hotchkiss gun
The Hotchkiss gun can refer to different products of the Hotchkiss arms company starting in the late 19th century. It usually refers to the 1.65-inch light mountain gun; there was also a 3-inch Hotchkiss gun...

 used by the French Navy. It was primarily used to destroy German machine gun nests and concrete reinforced pillboxes with high explosive rounds, but an armour piercing round was designed to defeat the German tanks, making it the first anti tank gun.

A new type of machine gun was introduced in 1916. Initially an aircraft weapon, the Bergmann LMG 15
Bergmann MG15 nA Gun
The Bergmann MG15 was the World War I production version of a prototype machine gun designed in 1910, the brainchild of Theodor Bergmann and Louis Schmeisser. It should not be confused with the similarly designated Rheinmetall MG-15, which was a completely different weapon, whose nomenclature is...

 was modified for ground use, with the later dedicated ground version being the LMG 15 n. A. It was used as an infantry weapon on all European and Middle Eastern fronts until the end of World War I. It later inspired the MG 30 and the MG 34
MG 34
The Maschinengewehr 34, or MG 34, is a German air-cooled machine gun that was first produced and accepted into service in 1934, and first issued to units in 1935. It accepts the 8x57mm IS cartridge....

 as well as the concept of the general-purpose machine gun.

What became known as the submachine gun
Submachine gun
A submachine gun is an automatic carbine, designed to fire pistol cartridges. It combines the automatic fire of a machine gun with the cartridge of a pistol. The submachine gun was invented during World War I , but the apex of its use was during World War II when millions of the weapon type were...

 had its genesis in World War I, developed around the concepts of infiltration and fire and movement, specifically to clear trenches of enemy soldiers when engagements were unlikely to occur beyond a range of a few feet. The MP 18 was the first practical submachine gun used in combat. It was fielded in 1918 by the German Army
German Army
The German Army is the land component of the armed forces of the Federal Republic of Germany. Following the disbanding of the Wehrmacht after World War II, it was re-established in 1955 as the Bundesheer, part of the newly formed West German Bundeswehr along with the Navy and the Air Force...

 as the primary weapon of the stormtrooper
Stormtrooper
Stormtroopers were specialist soldiers of the German Army in World War I. In the last years of the war, Stoßtruppen were trained to fight with "infiltration tactics", part of the Germans' new method of attack on enemy trenches...

s, assault groups that specialized in trench combat.

Mining

The dry chalk of the Somme
Somme
Somme is a department of France, located in the north of the country and named after the Somme river. It is part of the Picardy region of France....

 was especially suited to mining, but with the aid of pumps, it was also possible to mine in the sodden clay of Flanders
Flanders
Flanders is the community of the Flemings but also one of the institutions in Belgium, and a geographical region located in parts of present-day Belgium, France and the Netherlands. "Flanders" can also refer to the northern part of Belgium that contains Brussels, Bruges, Ghent and Antwerp...

. Specialist tunneling companies, usually made up of men who had been miners in civilian life, would dig tunnels under no man's land and beneath the enemy's trenches. These mines would then be packed with explosives and detonated, producing a large crater. The crater served two purposes: it could destroy or breach the enemy's trench and, by virtue of the raised lip that they produced, could provide a ready-made "trench" closer to the enemy's line. When a mine was detonated, both sides would race to occupy and fortify the crater.

If the miners detected an enemy tunnel in progress, they would often drive a counter-tunnel, called a counter-mine or camouflet, which would be detonated in an attempt to destroy the other tunnel prematurely. Night raids were also conducted with the sole purpose of destroying the enemy's mine workings. On occasion, mines would cross and fighting would occur underground. The mining skills could also be used to move troops unseen. On one occasion a whole British division was moved through interconnected workings and sewers without German observation. The British detonated a number of mines on July 1, 1916, the first day of the Battle of the Somme
Battle of the Somme (1916)
The Battle of the Somme , also known as the Somme Offensive, took place during the First World War between 1 July and 14 November 1916 in the Somme department of France, on both banks of the river of the same name...

. The largest mines—the Y Sap Mine and the Lochnagar Mine
Lochnagar mine
The Lochnagar mine was an explosive-packed mine created by the Royal Engineer tunnelling companies, located south of the village of La Boisselle in the Somme département of France, which was detonated at 7:28 am on 1 July 1916, the first day of the Battle of the Somme...

—each containing 24 tons of explosives, were blown near La Boiselle, throwing earth 4,000 feet into the air.

At 3.10 AM on June 7, 1917, 19 mines were detonated by the British to launch the Battle of Messines
Battle of Messines
The Battle of Messines was a battle of the Western front of the First World War. It began on 7 June 1917 when the British Second Army under the command of General Herbert Plumer launched an offensive near the village of Mesen in West Flanders, Belgium...

. The average mine contained 21 tons of explosive and the largest, 125 feet beneath Saint-Eloi
Saint-Éloi
Saint-Éloi may refer to the following places:-In France:*Saint-Éloi, Ain, in the Ain département*Saint-Éloi, Creuse, in the Creuse département*Saint-Éloi, Nièvre, in the Nièvre département...

, was twice the average at 42 tons. The combined force of the explosions was supposedly felt in England. As remarked by General Plumer to his staff the evening before the attack:
"Gentlemen, we may not make history tomorrow, but we shall certainly change the geography."


The craters from these and many other mines on the Western Front are still visible today. Three further mines were laid for Messines but were not detonated as the tactical situation had since changed. One blew during a thunderstorm in 1955; the other two remain to this day.

Trench battles

While trenches have often been dug as defensive measures, in the pre-firearm
Firearm
A firearm is a weapon that launches one, or many, projectile at high velocity through confined burning of a propellant. This subsonic burning process is technically known as deflagration, as opposed to supersonic combustion known as a detonation. In older firearms, the propellant was typically...

 era, they were mainly a type of hindrance for an attacker of a fortified location, such as the moat
Moat
A moat is a deep, broad ditch, either dry or filled with water, that surrounds a castle, other building or town, historically to provide it with a preliminary line of defence. In some places moats evolved into more extensive water defences, including natural or artificial lakes, dams and sluices...

 around a castle
Castle
A castle is a type of fortified structure built in Europe and the Middle East during the Middle Ages by European nobility. Scholars debate the scope of the word castle, but usually consider it to be the private fortified residence of a lord or noble...

 (this is technically called a ditch
Ditch
A ditch is usually defined as a small to moderate depression created to channel water.In Anglo-Saxon, the word dïc already existed and was pronounced 'deek' in northern England and 'deetch' in the south. The origins of the word lie in digging a trench and forming the upcast soil into a bank...

). An early example of this can be seen in the Battle of the Trench
Battle of the Trench
The Battle of the Trench also known as Battle of Ahzab, Battle of the Confederates and Siege of Medina , was a fortnight-long siege of Yathrib by Arab and Jewish tribes. The strength of the confederate armies is estimated around 10,000 men with six hundred horses and some camels, while the...

.

Only with the advent of accurate firearms, did the use of trenches as positions for the defender of a fortification become common. Elaborate trench and bunker systems were employed by the Māori to withstand British artillery barrages, poison-gas shells and bayonet charges during the New Zealand Wars in the 1840s. Trench systems were also employed in the Russo-Japanese War
Russo-Japanese War
The Russo-Japanese War was "the first great war of the 20th century." It grew out of rival imperial ambitions of the Russian Empire and Japanese Empire over Manchuria and Korea...

 and American Civil War. The military usage evolved very quickly in the First World War, until whole systems of extensive main trenches, backup trenches (in case the first lines were overrun) and communication trenches had been developed, often stretching dozens of kilometres along a front without interruption, and some kilometres further back from the opponent's lines.

Strategy

The fundamental strategy of trench warfare in World War I was to defend one's own position strongly while trying to achieve a breakthrough into the enemy's rear. The effect was to end up in attrition; the process of progressively grinding down the opposition's resources until, ultimately, they are no longer able to wage war. This did not prevent the ambitious commander from pursuing the strategy of annihilation—the ideal of an offensive battle which produces victory in one decisive engagement.

The Commander in Chief of the British forces during most of World War I, General Douglas Haig
Douglas Haig, 1st Earl Haig
Field Marshal Douglas Haig, 1st Earl Haig, KT, GCB, OM, GCVO, KCIE, ADC, was a British senior officer during World War I. He commanded the British Expeditionary Force from 1915 to the end of the War...

, was constantly seeking a "breakthrough" which could then be exploited with cavalry divisions. His major trench offensives—the Somme in 1916 and Flanders in 1917—were conceived as breakthrough battles but both degenerated into costly attrition. The Germans actively pursued a strategy of attrition in the Battle of Verdun
Battle of Verdun
The Battle of Verdun was one of the major battles during the First World War on the Western Front. It was fought between the German and French armies, from 21 February – 18 December 1916, on hilly terrain north of the city of Verdun-sur-Meuse in north-eastern France...

, the sole purpose of which was to "bleed the French Army white". At the same time the Allies needed to mount offensives in order to draw attention away from other hard-pressed areas of the line.

World War I tactics

The popular image of a trench assault is of a wave of soldiers, bayonets fixed, going "over the top" and marching in a line across no man's land into a hail of enemy fire. This was the standard method early in the war and successful examples are few. The more common tactic was to attack at night from an advanced post in no man's land, having cut the barbed wire beforehand. In 1917, the Germans innovated with infiltration tactics
Infiltration tactics
In warfare, infiltration tactics involve small, lightly equipped infantry forces attacking enemy rear areas while bypassing enemy front line strongpoints and isolating them for attack by follow-up troops with heavier weapons.-Development during World War I:...

 where small groups of highly trained and well-equipped troops would attack vulnerable points and bypass strong points, driving deep into the rear areas. The distance they could advance was still limited by their ability to supply and communicate.

The role of artillery in an infantry attack was twofold. The first aim of a bombardment was to prepare the ground for an infantry assault killing or demoralising the enemy garrison and destroying his defences. The duration of these initial bombardments varied, from seconds to days. The problem with artillery bombardments prior to infantry assaults was that they were often ineffective at destroying enemy defences and only served to provide the enemy with advance notice that an attack was imminent. The British bombardment that began the Battle of the Somme lasted eight days but did little damage to either the German barbed wire or their deep dug-outs where the defenders were able to wait out the bombardment in relative safety.

Once the guns stopped, the defenders had time to emerge and were usually ready for the attacking infantry. The second aim was to protect the attacking infantry by providing an impenetrable "barrage
Barrage (artillery)
A barrage is a line or barrier of exploding artillery shells, created by the co-ordinated aiming of a large number of guns firing continuously. Its purpose is to deny or hamper enemy passage through the line of the barrage, to attack a linear position such as a line of trenches or to neutralize...

" or curtain of shells to prevent an enemy counter-attack. The first attempt at sophistication was the "lifting barrage" where the first objective of an attack was intensely bombarded for a period before the entire barrage "lifted" to fall on a second objective farther back. However, this usually expected too much of the infantry, and the usual outcome was that the barrage would outpace the attackers, leaving them without protection.

This resulted in the use of the "creeping barrage" which would lift more frequently but in smaller steps, sweeping the ground ahead and moving so slowly that the attackers could usually follow closely behind it. This became the standard method of attack from late 1916 onward. The main benefit of the barrage was suppression of the enemy rather than to cause casualties or material damage.

Capturing the objective was half the battle, but the battle was only won if the objective was held. The attacking force would have to advance with not only the weapons required to capture a trench but also the tools—sandbags, picks and shovels, barbed wire—to fortify and defend from counter-attack. The Germans placed great emphasis on immediately counter-attacking to regain lost ground. This strategy cost them dearly in 1917 when the British started to limit their advances so as to be able to meet the anticipated counter-attack from a position of strength. Part of the British artillery was positioned close behind the original start line and took no part in the initial bombardment, being saved to support the advancing troops as they moved beyond the range of guns further back.

World War I communications

A major difficulty faced by an attacking force in a trench battle was unreliable communications. Wireless communications were still in their infancy, so the available methods were telephone
Telephone
The telephone , colloquially referred to as a phone, is a telecommunications device that transmits and receives sounds, usually the human voice. Telephones are a point-to-point communication system whose most basic function is to allow two people separated by large distances to talk to each other...

, telegraph, semaphore
Flag semaphore
Semaphore Flags is the system for conveying information at a distance by means of visual signals with hand-held flags, rods, disks, paddles, or occasionally bare or gloved hands. Information is encoded by the position of the flags; it is read when the flag is in a fixed position...

, signal lamps, signal flares, homing pigeons and runners. Messages frequently could not get through, or if they did, were out of date. A delay would pass when transferring news to the division, corps and army headquarters.

Consequently, the outcome of many trench battles was decided by the company
Company (military unit)
A company is a military unit, typically consisting of 80–225 soldiers and usually commanded by a Captain, Major or Commandant. Most companies are formed of three to five platoons although the exact number may vary by country, unit type, and structure...

 and platoon
Platoon
A platoon is a military unit typically composed of two to four sections or squads and containing 16 to 50 soldiers. Platoons are organized into a company, which typically consists of three, four or five platoons. A platoon is typically the smallest military unit led by a commissioned officer—the...

 commanders in the thick of the fighting. Senior commanders could not influence the battle for lack of information and inability to get orders to the troops. Opportunities were frequently lost because reinforcements could not be committed at the right time or place, and supporting artillery could not react to a changing situation.

World War I – Breaking the deadlock

Throughout World War I, the major combatants slowly groped their way towards the tactics necessary for breaking the deadlock of trench warfare, beginning with the French and Germans, with the British Empire forces also contributing to the collective learning experience. The Germans were able to reinforce their western front with additional troops from the east once Russia dropped out of the war in 1917. This allowed them to take units out of the line and train them in new methods and tactics, such as stormtrooper
Stormtrooper
Stormtroopers were specialist soldiers of the German Army in World War I. In the last years of the war, Stoßtruppen were trained to fight with "infiltration tactics", part of the Germans' new method of attack on enemy trenches...

s.

The new methods involved men rushing forward in small groups using whatever cover was available and laying down covering fire for other groups in the same unit as they moved forward. The new tactics, intended to achieve surprise by disrupting entrenched enemy positions, were to bypass strongpoints and attack the weakest parts of an enemy's line. Additionally, they acknowledged the futility of managing a grand detailed plan of operations from afar, opting instead for junior officers on the spot to exercise initiative. These infiltration tactics proved very successful during the German 1918 Spring Offensive
Operation Michael
Operation Michael was a First World War German military operation that began the Spring Offensive on 21 March 1918. It was launched from the Hindenburg Line, in the vicinity of Saint-Quentin, France...

 against Allied forces.
Conceived to provide protection from fire, tanks added mobility as well. As the Allied forces perfected them, they broke the deadlock. While not effectively employed at first, tanks had tremendous effects on the morale of German troops in the closing stages of the war on the Western front. The average infantryman had no anti-tank capability, and there were no specialized anti-tank guns. Once tanks began to be used in concentrations, they easily broke through German lines and could not be dislodged through infantry counterattack.

During the last 100 days of World War I, the British forces broke through the German trench system and harried the Germans back using infantry supported by tanks and close air support. Between the two world wars these techniques were used by J.F.C. Fuller
J.F.C. Fuller
Major-General John Frederick Charles Fuller, CB, CBE, DSO was a British Army officer, military historian and strategist, notable as an early theorist of modern armoured warfare, including categorising principles of warfare...

 and B.H. Liddell Hart to develop theories about a new type of warfare. The ideas were picked up by the Germans, who developed them further and put them into practice as blitzkrieg
Blitzkrieg
For other uses of the word, see: Blitzkrieg Blitzkrieg is an anglicized word describing all-motorised force concentration of tanks, infantry, artillery, combat engineers and air power, concentrating overwhelming force at high speed to break through enemy lines, and, once the lines are broken,...

 much later during World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

.

World War II

The stunning victories by the Germans early in World War II showed that fixed fortifications like the Maginot Line
Maginot Line
The Maginot Line , named after the French Minister of War André Maginot, was a line of concrete fortifications, tank obstacles, artillery casemates, machine gun posts, and other defences, which France constructed along its borders with Germany and Italy, in light of its experience in World War I,...

 were worthless if there was room to circumvent them. At the Battle of Sevastopol
Battle of Sevastopol
The Siege of Sevastopol took place on the Eastern Front of the Second World War. The campaign was fought by the Axis powers of Germany, Romania and Italy against the Soviet Union for control of Sevastopol, a port in Crimea on the Black Sea. On 22 June 1941 the Axis invaded the Soviet Union under...

, Red Army
Red Army
The Workers' and Peasants' Red Army started out as the Soviet Union's revolutionary communist combat groups during the Russian Civil War of 1918-1922. It grew into the national army of the Soviet Union. By the 1930s the Red Army was among the largest armies in history.The "Red Army" name refers to...

 forces successfully held trench systems on the narrow peninsula for several months against intense German bombardment. The Western Allies in 1944 broke through the incomplete Atlantic Wall
Atlantic Wall
The Atlantic Wall was an extensive system of coastal fortifications built by Nazi Germany between 1942 and 1944 along the western coast of Europe as a defense against an anticipated Allied invasion of the mainland continent from Great Britain.-History:On March 23, 1942 Führer Directive Number 40...

 with relative ease through a combination of amphibious landings, naval gunfire, air attack, and airborne landings. Combined arms tactics where infantry, artillery, armour and aircraft cooperate closely made trench warfare next to obsolete.

This is not to say that entrenchment is obsolete. It is still a valuable method for reinforcing natural obstacles to create a line of defence. For example, at the Battle of Stalingrad
Battle of Stalingrad
The Battle of Stalingrad was a major battle of World War II in which Nazi Germany and its allies fought the Soviet Union for control of the city of Stalingrad in southwestern Russia. The battle took place between 23 August 1942 and 2 February 1943...

, soldiers on both sides dug trenches within the ruins. In addition, before the start of the Battle of Kursk
Battle of Kursk
The Battle of Kursk took place when German and Soviet forces confronted each other on the Eastern Front during World War II in the vicinity of the city of Kursk, in the Soviet Union in July and August 1943. It remains both the largest series of armored clashes, including the Battle of Prokhorovka,...

, the Soviets constructed a system of defence more elaborate than any other they built during World War II. These defences succeeded in stopping the German armoured pincers from meeting and enveloping the salient.

The Italian Campaign
Italian Campaign (World War II)
The Italian Campaign of World War II was the name of Allied operations in and around Italy, from 1943 to the end of the war in Europe. Joint Allied Forces Headquarters AFHQ was operationally responsible for all Allied land forces in the Mediterranean theatre, and it planned and commanded the...

 fought from 1943 until the end of the war in Europe largely consisted of the Allies storming strongly fortified German lines which stretched from one coast, over the mountains to the other coast. When the Allies broke through one line, the Germans would retreat up the peninsular to yet another freshly prepared fortified line.

At the start of the Battle of Berlin
Battle of Berlin
The Battle of Berlin, designated the Berlin Strategic Offensive Operation by the Soviet Union, was the final major offensive of the European Theatre of World War II....

, the last major assault in the European Theater of Operations during World War II, the Russians attacked over the river Oder
Oder
The Oder is a river in Central Europe. It rises in the Czech Republic and flows through western Poland, later forming of the border between Poland and Germany, part of the Oder-Neisse line...

 against German troops dug in on the Seelow Heights
Seelow Heights
The Seelow Heights are situated around the town Seelow, about 90 kilometres east of Berlin and overlook the Oderbruch, the western flood plain of the River Oder which is a further 20 km to the east....

, about 50 km (30 mi) east of Berlin. Entrenchment allowed the Germans, who were massively outnumbered, to survive a bombardment from the largest concentration of artillery in history; as the Red Army attempted to cross the marshy riverside terrain, they lost tens of thousands of casualties to the entrenched Germans before breaking through.

In the Pacific Theater, during World War II, the Japanese used a labyrinth of underground fixed positions to slow down the Allied advances on many Pacific Islands. The Japanese built fixed fortifications on Iwo Jima, Okinawa, and Guadalcanal using a system of underground tunnels to interconnect their fortified positions. The Japanese had on Battle of Iwo Jima
Battle of Iwo Jima
The Battle of Iwo Jima , or Operation Detachment, was a major battle in which the United States fought for and captured the island of Iwo Jima from the Empire of Japan. The U.S...

 several levels of honeycombed fortifications. The Japanese caused the American advance to slow down and caused massive casualties with these underground fixed positions. The Americans had to use flamethrowers to clear them out.

Post-1945 trench warfare

Trench warfare has been infrequent since the end of World War I. When two large armoured armies meet, the result has generally been mobile warfare of the type which developed in World War II. However, trench warfare reemerged in the latter stages of the Chinese Civil War
Chinese Civil War
The Chinese Civil War was a civil war fought between the Kuomintang , the governing party of the Republic of China, and the Communist Party of China , for the control of China which eventually led to China's division into two Chinas, Republic of China and People's Republic of...

 (Huaihai Campaign
Huaihai Campaign
Huaihai Campaign or Battle of Hsupeng was a military action during 1948 and 1949 that was the determining battle of the Chinese Civil War. It was one of the few conventional battles of the war. 550,000 troops of the Republic of China were surrounded in Xuzhou and destroyed by the communist...

), the Korean War
Korean War
The Korean War was a conventional war between South Korea, supported by the United Nations, and North Korea, supported by the People's Republic of China , with military material aid from the Soviet Union...

, and in some locations and engagements during the Vietnam War
Vietnam War
The Vietnam War was a Cold War-era military conflict that occurred in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia from 1 November 1955 to the fall of Saigon on 30 April 1975. This war followed the First Indochina War and was fought between North Vietnam, supported by its communist allies, and the government of...

. During the Cold War, NATO forces routinely trained to fight through extensive works called "Soviet-style trench systems", named after the Warsaw Pact
Warsaw Pact
The Warsaw Treaty Organization of Friendship, Cooperation, and Mutual Assistance , or more commonly referred to as the Warsaw Pact, was a mutual defense treaty subscribed to by eight communist states in Eastern Europe...

's complex systems of field fortifications, an extension of Soviet field entrenching practices for which they were famous in their Great Patriotic War.

Another example of trench warfare after World War I was the Iran–Iraq War, in which both armies had a large number of infantry with modern small arms, but very little armour, aircraft, or training in combined operations. Tactics used included trench warfare, machine gun posts, bayonet charges, use of barbed wire across trenches and on no-man's land, human wave attack
Human wave attack
Human wave attack, also known as human sea attack, is an offensive infantry tactic, in which an attacker conducts an unprotected frontal assault with densely concentrated infantry formations against the enemy line, intended to overrun the defenders by engaging in melee combat.-Definition:According...

s and Iraq's extensive use of chemical weapons such as mustard gas against Iranian troops and civilians as well as Iraqi Kurds. The war lasted eight years.

Although mainly a siege
Siege
A siege is a military blockade of a city or fortress with the intent of conquering by attrition or assault. The term derives from sedere, Latin for "to sit". Generally speaking, siege warfare is a form of constant, low intensity conflict characterized by one party holding a strong, static...

, it was not unusual to find an extensive trench system inside and outside the city of Sarajevo
Sarajevo
Sarajevo |Bosnia]], surrounded by the Dinaric Alps and situated along the Miljacka River in the heart of Southeastern Europe and the Balkans....

 during the siege of 1992–1996. It was used mainly for transportation to the frontline or to avoid sniper
Sniper
A sniper is a marksman who shoots targets from concealed positions or distances exceeding the capabilities of regular personnel. Snipers typically have specialized training and distinct high-precision rifles....

s inside the city. Any pre-existing structures were used as trenches, the best known example is the bobsleigh
Bobsleigh
Bobsleigh or bobsled is a winter sport in which teams of two or four make timed runs down narrow, twisting, banked, iced tracks in a gravity-powered sled that are combined to calculate the final score....

 course on Trebević
Trebevic
Trebević is a mountain in central Bosnia and Herzegovina. It is found directly to the southeast of Sarajevo, territory of East Sarajevo city, bordering Jahorina mountain. Trebević is 1627 meters tall, making it the second shortest of the Sarajevo mountains.During the Middle Ages, Trebević was...

, which was used by both Serb and Bosniak during the siege. Another example of trench stalemate was the Eritrean-Ethiopian War
Eritrean-Ethiopian War
The Eritrean–Ethiopian War took place from May 1998 to June 2000 between Ethiopia and Eritrea, forming one of the conflicts in the Horn of Africa...

 of 1998–2000. The front line in Korea
Korea
Korea ) is an East Asian geographic region that is currently divided into two separate sovereign states — North Korea and South Korea. Located on the Korean Peninsula, Korea is bordered by the People's Republic of China to the northwest, Russia to the northeast, and is separated from Japan to the...

 and the front lines between Pakistan and India in Kashmir
Kashmir
Kashmir is the northwestern region of the Indian subcontinent. Until the mid-19th century, the term Kashmir geographically denoted only the valley between the Great Himalayas and the Pir Panjal mountain range...

 are two examples of demarcation lines which could become hot at any time. They consist of kilometers of trenches linking fortified strongpoints and in Korea surrounded by millions of land mine
Land mine
A land mine is usually a weight-triggered explosive device which is intended to damage a target—either human or inanimate—by means of a blast and/or fragment impact....

s.

Further reading

  • Ashworth, Tony Trench Warfare 1914–1918: The Live and Let Live System (1980). ISBN 0330480685
  • Ashworth, Tony The Sociology of Trench Warfare, British Journal of Sociology, 21 (1968), 407-20.
  • Axelrod, Robert. (2006). The Evolution of Cooperation Revised edition Perseus Books Group, ISBN 0465005640 See excerpts from the Chapter The Live-and-Let-Live System in Trench Warfare in World War I
  • Canfield, Bruce N. "Give Us More Shotguns!" American Rifleman, May 2004.
  • Cole, James P. (Capt.) and Schoomaker, Oliver (Maj.) (2009). Trench Warfare: World War 1: Military Training, ISBN 1449553141
  • Dupuy, Trevor N.
    Trevor N. Dupuy
    Trevor Nevitt Dupuy was a Colonel, United States Army, retired, soldier and noted military historian.-Biography:Born in New York, the son of noted military historian, R. Ernest Dupuy, Trevor followed in his father's footsteps. Trevor Dupuy attended West Point, graduating in the class of 1938....

    , Colonel, AUS (rtd). Evolution of Weapons and Warfare. Indianapolis, Indiana: Bobbs-Merrill, 1980.
  • _____. Numbers, Predictions, and War. Indianapolis, Indiana: Bobbs-Merrill, 1979.
  • Fitzsimmons, Bernard, general editor. (with Gunston, Bill, Hogg, Ian V., & Preston, Anthony). Encyclopedia of 20th Century Weapons and Warfare. London: Phoebus Publishing Co, 1977. 24 volumes.
  • Gudmundsson, B.I. Stormtroop Tactics: Innovation in the German Army, 1914–1918. (1989)
  • Haber, L. F. The Poisonous Cloud: Chemical Warfare in the First World War (1986);
  • Herwig, Holger H. Operation Michael: The "Last Card". German Spring Offensive in 1918 (2001)
  • Kaye, C.A. "Military Geology in the United States Sector of the European Theater of Operations during World War II". Bulletin of the Geological Society of America, 68(1): 47-54, 1 fig., 1957.
  • Palazzo, A. Seeking Victory on the Western Front: The British Army and Chemical Warfare in World War I (2000)
  • Sheffield, G. D.
    Gary Sheffield (historian)
    Professor Gary Sheffield is an English academic at the University of Birmingham and a military historian. He has published widely, especially on the First World War, and contributes to many newspapers, journals and magazines. He frequently broadcasts on television and radio.Sheffield studied...

     Leadership in the Trenches: Officer-Man Relations, Morale and Discipline in the British Army in the Era of the First World War (2000)
  • Smith, L.V. Between Mutiny and Obedience. The Case of the French Fifth Infantry Division during World War I (1994)
  • Trench Warfare" in Oral Histories of the First World War: Veterans 1914–1918. Library and Archives Canada.
  • Denis Winter, Death's Men: Soldiers of the Great War. 1978, ISBN 0-14-016822-2
  • James Belich
    James Belich (historian)
    James Christopher Belich, ONZM is a New Zealand revisionist historian, known for his work on the New Zealand Wars.Of Croatian descent, he was born in Wellington in 1956, the son of Sir James Belich, who later became Mayor of Wellington. He attended Onslow College.He gained an M.A...

    , The New Zealand Wars (Penguin Books, 1986)
  • Michael King
    Michael King
    Michael King, OBE was a New Zealand popular historian, author and biographer. He wrote or edited over 30 books on New Zealand topics, including The Penguin History of New Zealand, which was the most popular New Zealand book of 2004.-Life:King was born in Wellington to Eleanor and Commander Lewis...

    , The Penguin History of New Zealand Pp 184 et seq, (Penguin, 2003) ISBN 97801433018671


External links

  • Johnson, Patrick, In Depth: A century of mud and fire, BBC News
    BBC News
    BBC News is the department of the British Broadcasting Corporation responsible for the gathering and broadcasting of news and current affairs. The department is the world's largest broadcast news organisation and generates about 120 hours of radio and television output each day, as well as online...

    , 27 June 2006
The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.
 
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