Food was in short supply and so too was fuel and winter clothing.
The government exhorted British women to urgently knit scarves, socks, gloves and balaclava hats for the troops while the army sought to issue each soldier with a goatskin overcoat. Whether it came in a tin or in a cube, tea was always welcome in the British trenches. The water for the tea would have been delivered to the front line in former petrol cans and would have been cloudy through the addition of chloride of lime — used for purification. Milk was usually of the thick, sweet, condensed variety — the sort used for fudge. Sugar was already present either in the can or pressed into the cube of tea.
To heat the brew the soldiers first had to find a level and dry area. Thin shavings of wood were used for the fire in order to minimise the amount of smoke — in case this attracted some hostile action from the enemy. Inevitably the tea took an age to reach an acceptable temperature but was it worth the wait?
In early , holiday homes along the French coast were turned into hospitals including that of the Rothschild family at Deauville above which was used for convalescent officers. With drugs in short supply, some wounded soldiers were plied — for the purpose of pain relief- with champagne and brandy. Here the Stamford family put their art treasures and carpets in storage and set up 25 beds.
During the war around ordinary Tommies no officers were treated here for shell shock and trench foot as well as the effects of gas. Operations took place in the entrance hall and on one occasion a soldier had a bullet removed from his brain. It quickly became apparent that too many British soldiers were dying from minor wounds that would not have proved fatal in previous wars. The problem was gas gangrene - a bacterial infection that spreads quickly through the body.
The root cause was the heavily fertilized Flanders soil and in particular, horse manure and the various bacili it contains. The French tended to cut away more infected flesh than British surgeons and washed the wound with a saline solution and had far fewer casualties as a result. On the 23rd December , snow fell across the Western Front and temperatures plummeted.
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The Flanders weather was a fickle foe and the battle faced by front line troops was keeping warm. The explanation was simple - his saturated coat had frozen!
Home knitted scarves and gloves were delivered in vast quantities and the men were receiving so many pairs of socks that these were often discarded after being worn only once. A fire would have been welcome but a column of smoke would generally welcome an enemy mortar shell. The winter of was incredibly bitter and the men were desperate for warmth.
In one sector, on one night both Germans and British climbed out of their narrow trench so that they could walk up and down and beat their arms about their bodies.
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No-one fired a shot. In early January , a group of freezing Tommies shifted a brazier holed bucket from into their dug-out to keep them warm at night.
They were found in the morning - apparently sleeping peacefully -but actually dead through asphyxiating fumes from the coke smokeless coal they had burned. Freezing weather gave the British soldiers a chance to wage war on a different foe. Chats lice infested their clothing, fed on their blood and made them scratch incessantly.
One trick was to take off your shirt after dark and drape it over the nearest strand of barbed wire. However it seems that the cold merely stunned the parasites and they became active again as soon they were warmed up.
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To make matters worse they were now hungrier than ever! I shook the sleeper by the arm and noticed the hole in the back of his head. He had taken off the boot and sock to pull the trigger of his rifle with one toe; the muzzle was in his mouth. Usual sort of letter, tell them he died a soldiers death, anything you like. Prior to the outbreak of war, many Territorial Army units might be considered to be more like social rather than military groups. Outside H. It has been estimated that at the height of the conflict around 20, miles of trenches were in use.
This figure includes front, reserve and communication trenches. Trenches were not invented in as they featured in the Boer War, American Civil War and even earlier conflicts. In October , Ypres was the only major Belgian town as yet unoccupied. They found it hard to pronounce Belgian place names and came up with their own alternatives. Other difficulties became obvious as they began to dig.
Almost immediately the rain began to fall and the clay soil quickly turned to sticky mud. Furthermore, the low lying plain has a high water table and their new trenches began to fill with water. On their left, soldiers of the Belgian army were digging in along the banks of the River Yser to complete the line of trenches that ran from the Channel to Switzerland.
Church parades resumed and sometimes with a competitive edge.
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One British unit sang as loudly as they could to try to drown out the German church parade that was taking place less than half a mile away. A favourite pastime of these young officers was to drive or be driven as close as they could to the front - only turning back when they attracted enemy rifle fire. Records show that on the 21st January , the mascot of the 2nd Battalion Welsh Regiment — a goat - died of heart failure. The diarist presumed that the demise of this poor animal was prompted by the protracted cold spell.
By their labours these men had helped create around 20, miles of trenches on the Western Front by the end of In January there was still a disinclination among the Tommies to believe that these miserable ditches would also be their homes. However it was the policy of the British high command to keep their men in discomfort to encourage an offensive spirit.
Meanwhile a few hundred yards away the Germans were preparing underground barracks, bakeries and hospitals often with running water and electric lights. The trench coat has remained fashionable for years. It was created in response to a request from the British government for a coat for officers. The standard woollen great coat was not popular, as although it was warm when dry, it could become very heavy when saturated with water and plastered with mud. The heaviest recorded weighed a leg buckling 78 pounds 26 kilos! The burberry trench coat. The trench coat was a huge hit.
Indeed they even had to open up fitting rooms in Flanders to help deal with demand from British army officers.
It was made from gabardine — a new material that had been successfully tested in extreme environments including the hot South African veldt and arctic expeditions. It had design features that made it especially suited for those with rank such as the epaulettes on the shoulders for officers insignia and the D-ring on the belt that was for attaching equipment such as a map case. In , the family of Humphrey Bogart took court against Burberry claiming illegal use of an image of the Hollywood star in an advert.
The matter was settled amicably. With the life expectancy for junior officers in the front line a mere 6 weeks manufacturers recognised that mothers and wives were desperate for ways to protect their loved ones. The value of this stylish garment is hard to measure as only survivors could pass comment. The advert boasts that its tempered steel lining could stop a revolver bullet but most Germans were equipped with Mauser rifles and most injuries were inflicted by artillery shells.
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A Wilkinson Sword bullet-proof jacket was bought recently from a junk shop. The garment had two dissimilar tears in the back; a bloodstained gash that suggested that it had been pierced by a large chunk of shrapnel and a slice that suggested it had been cut by a scalpel.
The fact that the jacket was for sale in the U. One of the best options for bullet proofing was recently tested by the Royal Armouries, Leeds. Archduke Franz Ferdinand forgot to wear it on the day of his assassination - but as he was shot in the neck, it would not have saved him.
Sixty five crossed in and these represented different branches of Christianity and other faiths such as Judaism. By the end of the war 3, had ministered to the troops overseas and although not involved in the fighting, around were killed in action.