3.2 What was it like to serve in the trenches?

Life in the trenches was largely boring. Aside from pre-planned trench raids, the only real activity was the stand to every morning. For the rest of the time, soldiers were occupied with repairs to trenches, bringing up supplies, or trying to stay warm, dry and fed. The worst conditions facing the soldiers were during actual trench attacks and battles. The films on this page show a variety of scenes from trench life.

3 MINS 23 SECS, SILENT, B/W, 1914

This film of British soldiers ('Tommies') on the Western Front shows troops disembarking from a ship, marching, and riding on the top of buses which have been converted for war service. The film then shows soldiers in a trench, fixing their bayonets, and footage of 'no man's land'.


0 MINS 53 SECS, SILENT, B/W, 1914-1918

On the Western Front, British soldiers stand in a trench around a bucket which is being heated on a fire. The cook then dishes up the Christmas pudding for the men to eat. The brief film ends with a shot of the soldiers facing the camera and eating, with big grins on their faces.


2 MINS 54 SECS, SILENT, B/W, 1914

This film features German and French soldiers at the start of the First World War. German troops walk through their trench, talking and keeping a lookout over 'no man's land'. The film then shows French soldiers marching and in a trench which has been fortified with sandbags.


5 MINS 22 SECS, SILENT, B/W, 1916

This film documents the French army in action at Verdun, France, during the autumn of 1916 in which they regained territory lost to Germany in the spring and summer. The film includes trench and battlefield footage, a very dramatic aerial scene of a damaged biplane hurtling to earth, some interesting images of a barrage balloon, and examples of wartime communications technology.


0 MINS 22 SECS, SILENT, B/W, 1914-1918

This footage of French soldiers firing from a trench was probably captured in Argonne, France. A film featuring some, but not all, of this material was released under the following title: Trench Warfare. Unique Pictures Actually Taken Under Fire in the Argonne.

All rights reserved. Use of footage from this site requires a licence.

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