Horrors of War



During the war there were many horrors the men had to face. The most worse of all is what they encountered in the trenches. One major problem was the lice.  They were pale faun in color and left blotchy red marks all over the body, and created a sour, stale smell. As well as causing horrible scratching they also caused disease which was know as pyrrexhia or trench fever. Although the disease did not kill the soldiers it did stop them from fighting and accounted for about 15% of all cases of sickness in the British army. The soldiers would spend the better part of an hour killing lice and scratching themselves. One soldier in this passage was describing a soldier next to him…

”He took off his tunic - we slept in these - then he took off his jersey, then his shirt. He put his shirt in the middle of the dugout floor and put his jersey and tunic on again. As we sat up in bed watching the shirt he had taken off and put it on the floor it actually lifted; it was swarming with lice.”

            Another major problem in the trenches was trench foot. This was an infection of the feet caused by cold, wet and unsanitary conditions. Men in the waterlogged trenches would stand for hours not being able to remove the wet socks or boots. Trench foot caused the feet to gradually go numb and the skin to turn red or blue. If untreated, trench foot could turn very dangerous and may result in amputation. Trench foot was a particular problem in the early stages of the war. During the winter of 1914-15 over 20,000 men in the British army were treated for trench foot. By the end of 1915, British soldiers had to carry at least 3 pairs of socks with them, and were under orders to change them at least twice a day. They were also told to dry their feet and rub them down in whale oil. One soldier said…”If you have never had trench feet described to you. I will tell you. Your feet swell to two or three times their normal size and go completely dead. You could stick a bayonet into them and not feel a thing. If you are fortunate enough not to lose your feet and the swelling begins to go down. It is then that the intolerable, indescribable agony begins. I have heard men cry and even scream with the pain and many had to have their feet and legs amputated.”

Many soldiers died in the trenches, and most of the time would be left where they fell. That’s when the rats would come in. Many soldiers described them as being enormous. It was said that they showed no fear. They would try to take food scraps from sleeping soldiers. As corpses and food scraps littered the trenches it attracted more and more rats, and with one pair of rats being able to produce 880 offspring in a year, the trenches were soon swarming with them.

            There were many horrors of the war… those were just a few of them. These men went through a lot. Arthur Savage, At the age of 92, was asked about his memories of life on the Western Front. And this is what he said.
“My memories are of sheer terror and the horror of seeing men sobbing because they had trench foot that had turned gangrenous. They knew they were going to lose a leg. Memories of lice in your clothing are driving you crazy. Filth and lack of privacy. Of huge rats that showed no fear of you as they stole your food rations. And cold deep wet mud everywhere. And of course, corpses. I'd never seen a dead body before I went to war. But in the trenches the dead are lying all around you. You could be talking to the fellow next to you when suddenly he'd be hit by a sniper and fall dead beside you. And there he's stay for days.”



Dia Signorelli