Life on the Front Lines

Even though soldiers on the front lines were surrounded by death and poor living conditions, many bonded over the hellish nightmare and walked away with life-long friends.


Four years of sleeping, eating and fighting while surrounded by death, mud, rats, lice, and wet conditions in a four-foot deep hole — that’s what soldiers in the trenches experienced during the First World War.

When the war began, soldiers quickly dug holes to protect themselves from the Germans. As the war went on, the dirt holes got deeper and more elaborate and became their homes for four years.

Throughout the war, soldiers would cycle through the three types of trenches — the front line, the trench closest to No Man’s Land; the support line, the trench behind the front line; and the reserve trench where reserve troops waited to be called in as reinforcements.

After that, soldiers would get a period of rest that varied in length. During busy times, though, soldiers could be on the front lines for months at a time without rest. The trenches were both physically and emotionally grueling and oftentimes letters home and faith were a soldier’s only solace.

If not in the trenches, some soldiers would have to fulfill other duties, including ration and water fetching, patrolling No Man’s Land, and observing enemy lines — all while avoiding exposing themselves and risk being killed. Even in less busy times at war, snipers and shells knocked out many men in the trenches, which required constant reinforcements.

It wasn’t all bad though. While living a nightmare at war, many men in the trenches bonded over the traumatizing experience and formed life-long friendships. Soldiers even published newspapers with their thoughts, poetry, and cartoons, and sang songs together in the trenches.

In 1918, the war to end all wars finally ended and life in the trenches was over, but not for all soldiers. Many suffered shellshock and would re-live war for the rest of their lives. Many also walked away from war with life-long friendships and reunited with their regiment regularly.

— Text by Danelle Cloutier


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