Unfortunately, there really are not many overviews that specifically evaluate trench warfare. Saunders 2010 is one of the few that does so. Saunders argues that the influence of industrialization and the adoption of wars of annihilation altered how Europeans fought. He asserts that Napoleon introduced wars of annihilation, and that the American Civil War influenced industrialization. However, it would not be until the Russo-Japanese War (1904–1905) and the Crimean War (1853–1856) that these lessons would influence European military thinkers; since it was at the Siege of Sevastopol, during the Crimean War, that a modern interpretation of trench warfare was truly “born.” Any evaluation of trench warfare will also include Hughes 1974. Although it does not specifically address trench warfare, this volume does engage the debate over technological advancement and the effect on warfare. Finally, Murray 2013 engages the evolution of trench warfare from its humble beginning to its use in maintaining the discipline of ill-trained, less professional soldiers, and for command and control.
Hughes, B. P. Firepower: Weapons Effectiveness on the Battlefield, 1630–1850. New York: Scribner, 1974.
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For the most part, Hughes’s book examines the evolution of firepower and how armies employed it or adapted their tactics to it. Hughes does, however, offer some examples near the end of the book of instances where entrenchments were used, such as at Ferozeshah during the Second Anglo-Sikh War.
Murray, Nicholas. The Rocky Road to the Great War: The Evolution of Trench Warfare to 1914. Washington, DC: Potomac, 2013.
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In this work, Murray traces the theories and application of trench warfare from 1740 to the First World War. Emphasis is placed on evaluation of the Russo-Turkish War, Second Anglo-Boer War, Russo-Japanese War, and Balkan Wars.
Saunders, Anthony. Trench Warfare 1850–1950. Barnsley, UK: Pen and Sword, 2010.
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While Saunders offers a good overview of the evolution of trench warfare, his book does not contain footnotes. This is problematic, since it is likely that he may not have looked at the early technical manuals. However, he offers one of the only works that examines trench warfare.
Every aspect of the war, is ugly and brutal. The worst aspect of this war was trench warfare. This trench warfare was so horrific, it cause many people to loose their minds, or even worse, loose their lives. There were many things that made this style of fighting brutal; the 3 significant ones are the fighting conditions they had to live in, the poor supplies they had to rely on, and thirdly the poor defensive conditions they were in with all the new weapons to use, like poison gasses, or shrapnel shells.
The fighting conditions of this war were ugly and hardly liveable. When it rained during the war, all of the water would collect in the bottom of the trenches and stay there for days. Soldiers couldn't keep dry, clean or warm. Consequently, their feet would literally rot in their boots. They were surrounded by dead bodies of their comrades and enemies in the trenches, and in no mans land. All of these dead bodies meant heaven for the rats. They had an inextinguishable food source. They feasted on thousands of rotting carcasses of the once brave soldiers. Lice spread through the platforms like wildfire and they had no medical supplies to combat against them. The men were put in trenches for four days at a time, then go back to a safe camp to recover. But not all men were relieved at the end of their four days. When the war was at its worst ir was recorded that some stayed in the trenches for up to 55 days straight. 55 days of dodging shrapnel shells, poison gas and bullets flying by your head, 24 hours a day. For the soldiers of World War I, this was what they called home for four years.
Fresh bison beef, sausages, fish, bread, and tea was what the soldiers lived on. This is what the public back home was told. The army made it sound like they are like kings. However in reality they got tea if they were lucky, and stale biscuits. The amount of food they got was barely adequate. The meat they got was gristle of some sort, and the biscuits that were a major part of their diet had to be soaked in water before they could be eaten. The meat, when opened, was normally tainted when it got to the soldiers. In the tenches, food was very scarce, and one day ration for the fighting soldiers, was a small tin of bully beef, which was tainted and didn't consist of all the vitamins and nutrients the body needed to stay health, and function properly. Canadians were armed with 303 enfields which were better than they had before, but they jammed very easily in the mud, and if much had gotten into the barrel the gun would blow up, blowing of a portion of their face or a limb. The mud cause a real problem for their weapons, and they were surrounded by it. There were barely enough guns for everyone to have one.
The poor defensive conditions of this war was major contribution to all of the deaths. The high powered shells that went off would burry humans alive. Furthermore, the extra ammo and guns would be lost under the mud as well. Shrapnel shells would blow up over them and they would be sprayed with pieces of metal from the shell. They had no cover from shrapnel or other shells that would be shot at them. For this reason, the soldiers couldn't go to sleep for fear of being killed. They always had to be awake and alert. Also, they couldn't go to help their friends in no mans land, they had to let them die, all by themselves. If they were shot in the stomach they could scream and suffer for days, before they would finally die. And when the Germans finally used deadly chemical gas, the Canadians weren't expecting it. They had to urinate into cloth and hold it over their mouths and noses. But when the gas would hit their eyes, it would blind them. Then they were no good, and were often shot wondering around looking for help.
In conclusion, with all of these things against them they surely would suffer shell shock to some extent. When the men would go crazy, the army wouldn't recognize this as a medical problem. They would just dismiss the fact that they were insane. Over 2000 men were officially insane, just think of how much bigger that number would have been if they would have recognized shell shock as a mental illness. This war was so horrific, every soldier who fought had some affect on his mind, big or small, they all felt shell shock to some extent.
Brandon Haines and James Bothe