First World War in the News is an edited review of hand-picked World War I (1914-1918) articles - covering everything from the soldiers and generals to the trenches and militaria.

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World War II

Trenches and Fortifications warfare

Latest hand-picked First World War news. See also: See also 'Knives', 'WW1 Tours', 'Weapons: Machine Guns', 'WW1 Tanks', 'Historical Reenactment', 'WW1 Archives'.

Archaeological dig begins to unearth scale model of a WW1 battlefield created by German POWs to help train British troops
It was a permanent reminder of one of the First World War's bloodiest battlefields, a scale model of the opposing lines created in an English field for the education of Allied troops. Now a dig to uncover the model built by German prisoners of war which long since has become covered by earth and foliage is set to start. Archaeologists will begin charting the site, the only example of its kind left in the UK, which was planned out in painstaking detail by troops returned from the Battle of Messines on the Western Front, fought in June 1917.

Aerial archaeology revealed a network of WWI trenches on the Hoo Peninsula (video)
Aerial archaeology has revealed a network of WWI trenches on the Hoo Peninsula which could rewrite military history. English Heritage's new aerial surveys have revealed that the Peninsula was once at the centre of military technology experiments in trench design and warfare. A network of trenches has been discovered in the area next to the former Chattenden Barracks which were used to practise trench digging and design. It was previously thought troops were thrown into battle in World War I with little preparation and training, but the discovery may require historians to rethink that view.

Inside France's secret WWI bunker: Urban explorers find wartime weapons stowed away in underground quarry
A sprawling military bunker containing a treasure trove of vehicles and weaponry spanning more than two world wars has been discovered at a secret location deep within a French forest. Like a giant time capsule, the huge installation, carved out of solid rock, contains wartime relics from a German 77mm Model-1896 World War One cannon to military vehicles dating from the 1960s and 1970s. It was discovered by a team which specialises in exploring urban areas. Although they will not reveal the exact location, the bunker once formed part of the Maginot line.

Pill Boxes on the Western Front: A guide to the design, construction and use of concrete Pill Boxes, 1914-1918
This is the new paperback edition of a book published back in 1995. Author Peter Oldham had a career as a concrete technologist, and he took an interest in the development of Pill Boxes, or MEBUs as the Germans referred to them (Mannschafts-Eisen-Beton-Unterstand = reinforced concrete shelter for troops to stand under). Although we think of the static Trench Warfare of the years of WW1, it was originally seen as a war of movement (one which didn't happen). It was the German army that first took best advantage of using concrete shelters for their troops, to protect them against artillery and machine gun fire. As the war progressed, so did the technology of the designs.

The forgotten father of mechanized warfare - Raymond Brutinel
Raymond Brutine - the French officer in the Canadian army who saw the machinegun and the motorcar as the weapon of the future battlefields - was one of the men who funded the unit that was to become the 1st Motor Machine Gun Brigade (the Emma Gees).

First World WAr training trenches preserved in field in Scotland
A second set of trenches dug for training purposes during the First World War has been explored by experts in an area that saw heavy use in wartime. The line of three trenches lies 2 miles from where other remains were found to have survived in a field in Ross-shire in 2008. The Royal Commission on Ancient and Historic Monuments of Scotland (RCAHMS) have studied the site. RCAHMS were made aware of the trenches during a search through archive images of the area around Invergordon, an important port for the Royal Navy before, during and after the First World War.

Touring First World War trenches of Le Linge in Alsace
Some of the most fierce fighting of WW1 took place 1914-1916 in the trenches along the peaks of the Vosges Mountains that formed the German-French border in 1914. Having seized the area by war against France in 1870, Germany had fortified it heavily, and the area formed the southern end of Germany's defenses. Now within French borders, the battlefield at Le Linge has a great museum, showcasing the war through historical objects excavated from the battlefield. Military uniforms and helmets, firearms intact and as recovered rusted and destroyed from the ground, coins and personal items of soldiers, as well as photographs of the battlefield create a sense of what happened here.

The Secret Battle: Emotional Survival in the Great War [book review]
The part played by families' letters and packages in supporting what was in reality a young and amateur army is highlighted in Michael Roper's book, The Secret Battle: Emotional Survival in the Great War. It shows how soldiers adapted everyday habits (like sewing) to the trenches. It reveals, too, how battlefield trauma exposed the deepest emotional ties of childhood - and how First World War experiences scarred soldiers' lives long after their return home. Because of the increasingly mechanised and deadly weapons, violence was random and unpredictable, and troops never knew when death would come.

Video: First World War trenches discovered in Folkestone
A unique system of First World War trenches, which lay undiscovered for nearly a century, has been uncovered by a team of archaeologists and historians in Folkestone.

Rats, lice common in trenches during First World War   (Article no longer available from the original source)
Life in World War I trenches marked a man deeply. And Major Charles Styan spent the better part of the WWI in the trenches of Western Europe. Usually, a day in the trenches began before dawn when the men on the night watch passed the word for 'Stand to' and the men would then tumble out of dugouts where they slept using empty sand bags for warmth. After 8am breakfast, the men cleaned rifles, shaved and tidied the trench. Snipers would head out for the day and there would be discussion of what the enemy was up to. "Certain men were always on look-out duty at vantage points with periscope and mirror on the bayonet attached to a rifle..."

Forgotten World War I trenches ... in UK
Remains of WWI-era trenches dug by troops stationed in the Highlands are still visible. Their existence is mostly unknown and the Royal Commission on Ancient and Historic Monuments (RCAHMS) only documented them couple of years ago. Aerial photos uncovered the system in a field in Ross-shire, motivating a closer review. Allan Kilpatrick said they may have been dug for training, as two separate sets of trenches seem to have been dug, one representing British lines and the other German, with 400 yards of no man's land between them. "Given the scale of the armed forces at the time of WWI, there was a lot of trenches being dug around the country for training."

An Officer's Manual of the Western Front by Stephen Bull -- Book review
Life in the Western Front trenches was hard enough without worrying about remembering to shave every day or taking the rubbish out at night. But a new book has revealed in detail the standards expected of Britain's soldiers fighting on the WWI frontlines. The compilation of officers' manuals, published for the first time, gives a new insight into the daily dangers the men faced as well as the lighter side of army life. The pamphlets reveal what soldiers were supposed to do in any circumstance, from standing "perfectly still" at the sight of enemy aircraft to having an extra sock under their jacket so they could be changed if their feet got wet.

Canadian War Museum recreates life in the trenches
Two periscopes offer views above the trench line, vintage black-and-white movie footage that shows battle scenes Canadian troops would have saw during the 1914-1918 carnage. In another display, viewers can walk through a WWI battlefield panorama - a re-created scene of pulverized ground, skeletal trees and a landscape filled with barbed wire, smashed machine guns and the remains of a fallen soldier buried in the mud. Running in parallel with these permanent First World War displays, "Trench Life: A Survival Guide" continues at the Canadian War Museum until April 13, 2009, presenting a unique glance at a different side of soldiers' battlefield experience.

The Soldier's War by Richard Van Emden - Book review
Richard van Emden provides a year-by-year sum-up of the action on the Western Front. But there are no military maps as this is psychological history about what troops were thinking and feeling. They spent most of their time waiting for something to happen. When it did, these descriptions from a Tommy's eye-view are powerful - But they are balanced by the monotony, everyday endurance of war. The overwhelming endurance was of shellfire, the biggest killer by far: relentless shells that left no-man's-land a desolation of craters, filled with rain and bodies. What kept soldiers going was camaraderie. You fought for comrades, not for patriotism or democracy.

Historical First World War camouflage tree debarked
The Australian War Memorial (AWM) in Canberra exhibits millions of items, but there are thousands more in storage - put away for safe keeping or restoration. Fortunately many of those objects will be on show when the AWM's storage facility and workshop is open up to the public. One of the relics is a rare WWI German camouflage tree. The metal observation tower is the only one of its kind left. --- As far as the enemy are concerned: all they see before they go to sleep one night is a certain number of trees on the horizon. The next morning they wake up there's the same number of trees, because the troops have removed one of those trees and replaced it with steel tree.

Trench Life: A Survival Guide - exhibition at the Canadian War Museum
The Canadian War Museum (CWM) opened "Trench Life: A Survival Guide" -exhibition, which examines how, in the harsh world of First World War trenches, Canadian soldiers created and relied upon a distinct culture to make sense of their wartime experiences and deal with the strain of neverending death and destruction. Trench Life explores the history of World War I in its most personal dimension: the words, images, art, and songs by frontline soldiers. " in the trenches was more than just fighting and dying. Soldiers created a vibrant culture as a shield against the strain of war." explained Mark O`Neill.

Re-enactment revives memories of the Great War trenches
90 years ago, a piece of land on the edge of Barnsley was given to the 13th and 14th Battalions of the York and Lancaster Regiment to prepare for war. A training trench was dug, and soldiers spent hours perfecting their military skills. Recently a group of historians reenacted the scene. Organiser Duncan Simpson said the site on the edge of the village of Dodworth was "unique" because it was the only WWI training ground to still bear evidence of its original use. The site is owned by the national Scout Association, but last weekend men in authentic York and Lancaster uniforms pitched their tents.

WW1 battlefield tactics were stupid, says Victoria Cross winner Keith Payn
One of Australia's biggest heroes, Vietnam War veteran Keith Payne, says First World War generals were "stupid" to use the tactic of going "over the top". Going "over the top" meant leaving your trench to fight - a tactic which saw the slaughter of thousands. Payne reflected on the courage and mistakes of Australian soldiers as he launched "The Courage of Ordinary Men: Three Stories of the Victoria Cross" -exhibition at Queensland Museum. "I don't think somehow I would've gladly gone 'over the top' as they did in those days, because my training says to me that this is stupidity..."

First World War training trenches excavated
Archaeologists have excavated trenches dug across Northumberland moorland and used to train soldiers before they saw action in the First World War. The army would have often dug trenches in the UK to help men learn how to sleep and fight in the conditions in France and Flanders. The discovery of the trenches was made by volunteers examining the Rothbury area. Archaeologist Chris Burgess said it was a significant reminder to the sacrifices made during the conflict.

Scots' World War One underground shelter discovered in Ypres
A World War I underground shelter made by Scottish troops has been unearthed in Ypres. The Vampire Dugout was discovered by archaeologists on the site of the 1917 Battle of Passchendaele. Now experts are preparing to enter the tunnel complex. 25 men from B company of the 9th Battalion Highland Light Infantry Regiment spent 3 months in 1918 building the shelters and headquarters. Historian Peter Barton said: "We've had to pump out gallons of water from the tunnels... items like beds, weapons, clothing... will still be intact. So far we've recovered a clip of rifle ammunition, a water container, machine parts and even a brass safety pin."

Western Front: Exploits of NZ tunnellers showed in a museum 22m underground
France: On the streets of Arras people head to work. But below the city, a maze of tunnels probe deep into the rock. The darkness become oppressive, raised only by astonishment at how any man could work and fight in this underworld. Yet such was the life of a band of Kiwis: the 446 men of the New Zealand Tunnelling Company, whose feats on WW1's Western Front are being presented in a museum 22m below ground. The tunnellers were brought to France in a bid to break the gridlock of trench warfare. Allied commanders dealing with the barbed wire, machine-gun nests and concrete shelters saw that the best chance of a breakthrough might come from underground.

Letter that tells the grim truth about life in the trenches in WWI
To many World War 1 soldiers, the Xmas Truce of 1914 was a morale-boosting break. But the day when the British exchanged gifts with German enemy was not remembered warmly by everyone on the Western Front. A letter by Trevor Bird tells of experiences which were a far cry from the carol singing experienced by other troops. He was shot at while lying waist deep in water for 26 hours, and crawling through mud on his hands and knees while under fire during a patrol - only to be arrested as a spy by his own side on his return. He criticises his superiors for their tactics, writing about a planned bayonet charge, called off at the last-minute, as "a criminal order".

First World War training trenches mapped out in Pullingshill Wood
Trenches from the Great War now have a place in Marlow's history after 3 years of work. The training trenches in Pullingshill Wood were used by a number of groups 1915-1916 before they tackled the front lines for real. The Archaeology in Marlow group has been researching and recording their findings for the past 3 years as part of Recording of Marlow and District's Ancient Monuments (ROMADAM) project. "Many training camps with trench systems were set up in 1914 and 1915 to give new recruits experience and skills before setting off for the front lines. The trenches in Pullingshill Wood are the best and most complete set left in the UK," said David Greenwood.

WW1 tunnels to yield their secrets - British troops on the Western Front
As battle raged across the battlefields of Flanders, British soldiers found respite from the horrors of the Great War in "underground towns" far below the mud. Now, more than 90 years after the dozens of miles of tunnels were flooded, the task of revealing their secrets has begun. The prize is an insight into the lives of British troops on the Western Front as historians believe that, because of the absence of light and oxygen in the flooded tunnels, possessions, such as weapons, helmets and uniforms, will have been preserved and will be found as they were left in 1918. According to the original trench maps hospitals, mess rooms, blacksmiths were hewn from the soil.

Trench warfare in Shiplake - Life-sized World War 1 replica
I thought maybe I'd be able to turn up, take a look at the trench, take some photos then run off. But when I reached Shiplake College to find Chris Bridgeman and Jon Cooksey in combats, wielding guns and throwing 'my' sleeping bag at me, I knew there'd be no escape. Not that the many millions of soldiers in World War I trenches had any choice either. And the life-sized WWI trench at Shiplake is designed to give teenagers an idea of the conditions their counterparts had to endure 1914-1918. "It's remarkably accurate. We studied photos of German and British trenches, then Chris built it to the exact same dimensions.," says Jon, a military historian by trade.

Absolute misery of life in the First World War trenches
Bombs, bullets and barbed wire made the front line in World War 1 a horrendous experience. But Dr John Charters has explored how, quite apart from the fighting, the appalling living conditions in the trenches added another layer of misery for the troops. He has studied the impact of disease and health breakdown among soldiers caused by factors like lice, vermin, dirt and wet and cold. "If you want an impression of how awful it was, dig a 6ft hole in the garden, fill it with dead dogs and sewage and have the neighbours shoot at you." 300,000 British troops suffered from trench fever during the war.

Digging up the past: trenches, pillboxes, underground tunnels
By the end of World War 1 life on the surface had become indefensible. Tons of steel fell from the sky in an almost continuous bombardment. The Germans retreated into concrete pillboxes. The British dug further underground. Today we often picture the British Tommy leaning against the wall of his trench. In reality, particularly around the Belgian town of Ypres, tens of thousands were living up to 40ft beneath the ground. That is how far they had to dig to be safe from the German shelling. Historian Peter Barton, expert in underground warfare, is hoping to be able to get back into the tunnels.

One soldier's story: A missive from the Western Front
The diary of Private James Beatson offers an insight into life in the trenches during the World War 1. Diary of a young Scottish soldier, caught in some of the worst days of WW1, has resurfaced to provide an account of the hardship suffered by lower ranks. It will be sold next month. --- Thursday, 23 March: Last night, while a few of us were carrying rations to D Company in the reserve trenches, young Bennet fell, hit in the forehead, two paces in front of me. Just a flutter and another gone west. I'm in easy times with death but it's damnable to be hit in the dark by a sniping cur. God pity us.

Somme Mud -- A memoir of the trenches of the Western Front
Bruce Scates of the Army History Unit wrote that 20,000 Australian soldiers of the Great War are still "missing", a euphemism for the fact that their bodies "sank in the mud, withered in the sun or were simply blown to pieces." The book Somme Mud is a memoir of the trenches of the Western Front by an infantryman, Private Edward Lynch. "Fritz" might be the official enemy but the mud is a far more evil character. "We live in a world of Somme mud. We sleep in it, work in it, fight in it, wade in it and many of us die in it. We see it, feel it, eat it and curse it, but we can't escape it, not even by dying."

Life in the trenches during World War 1
Once the initial German attack had been repelled in 1914, a new type of warfare evolved on the Western Front - very different to the war of mobility imagined in the Schlieffen Plan. Both sides consolidated defensive positions by trenches, which were protected by barbed wire, sandbags and armed soldiers. From these enclaves, they attacked enemy lines, often under the cover of heavy artillery fire, across the space between the two armies that was known as No Man's Land. On the front line, the constant threat of death on the battlefield afflicted men of all ranks. The First World War was the first major conflict in which more people died in combat than from disease.

The rise of the war knife - bayonets too long in the trenches   (Article no longer available from the original source)
In the first part of World War One, the battles were fought in deep trenches and fortifications; the different detachments trained the soldiers which became specialists in the sudden attack, the so called "coup de main". The war had demonstrated that the bayonets and rifles were too long to be used effectively in the trenches, the narrow tunnels and the wire entanglements. Many soldiers made their own war knives, using all kinds of materials and pieces of other arms.

Clear-out uncovers a letter from WW1 western front trenches
A slice of First World War history has been uncovered in a clear-out. A letter from the Western Front by soldier Joseph Lawrence to his father. "My Brother's battalion is camping about half an hour's walk from where I am at present, so I inquired whereabouts. The first tent I came to I asked for B Company, so the young chap I was speaking to, he says, who do you want? I says Sammie Lawrence. Well, he says, he was killed last Friday about six o'clock in the morning because I helped to bury him. Well after I heard that, I was very much upset. The platoon sergeant said he was the best working chap in the platoon."

Unknown Soldiers - Personal stories from killing fields
These days, we're rather read about the people who endured history - the common foot soldier - than the generals who made it happen. In "Unknown Soldiers," Neil Hanson has pushed little-guy history one step further by telling the stories of 3 soldiers — one British, one German, one American — who disappeared without a trace on the killing fields of France. The book is a harrowing account of what it was like to fight and die in the first industrial war. The bald statistics of the Great War: 9 million soldiers dead, 21 million maimed or wounded and at least 12 million civilians killed — tend to numb us to the fact that each one of those was a human tragedy.

Soldier's photos show everyday life of war   (Article no longer available from the original source)
Photographs from war often focus on death and dying -- young soldiers crying over fallen friends, bodies scattered on the battlefield. André Jeunet, a French soldier, carried in his pocket a Kodak Vest camera and instead focused on everyday life in the military. He snapped 205 black-and-white images, 47 of which are on display for the first time publicly at The Frazier International History Museum. "They give you an idea of what day-to-day life was like for soldiers." Jeunet served on both the Eastern and Western fronts, and the images are a mix of both.

Victoria Cross awarded twice to the same man only three times
The Victoria Cross is highest award for valour and only three men have been awarded one twice. The machine-gun bullets hissing above his head, Captain Noel Chavasse staggered through the fallen soldiers and around smoking shell craters to carry the wounded man to safety. With the cries of the injured ringing in his ears, he stumbled towards the front line, promising he would return to rescue them. Incredibly, he managed to keep his word. Noel was perhaps the bravest man to emerge from the First World War - a hero among heroes. But his courage cost him his life in one of the most inspiring stories to emerge from the trenches.

Letters of WWI rifleman No 3448
His grandfather was one of millions who fought during WW1. But he knew nothing about letters sent by another ancestor who had fought in the trenches around Ypres. The first is a postcard dated 22 Jan 1915: "Dear Father and Mother, we embark for France at 2pm today. Further address: Queen Victoria Rifles, Expeditionary Force, France." Over the next months come a series of letters: Family politeness and trivia nestle between the wearisome violence of war, the miles of fruitless marching, the sniping at the Germans - David had been made a machine gunner - and the frostbite. The trenches are filled with freezing standing water, six inches to a foot deep.

Military madness of diggers lost in legend
Buried alive four times - once at Gallipoli and three times in France - by 1916 "Private A" could not stop the tremor of his head or limbs. Madness and the Military: Australia's Experience of the Great War, by Michael Tyquin is the first comprehensive study on mental illness in WWI. It shatters the stereotype of the tough Anzac, an icon that Australians look up to - but which never existed. Major Tyquin says of the soldiers who were "mentally shattered" by the war - some of whom recovered, though many did not - "I think we've erased them from our public memory. We like to celebrate Anzac, and there's no place in that myth for anyone that's less than perfect."

A living ghost from the trenches - Living Unknown Soldier
In 1915, the French writer Gabriel Boissy, who had been wounded in the First World War, described how he was not terrified of death but of going missing: I dream of the dead that we left back there, half-buried. Will I end up the same way? Death is acceptable, certainly, but this oblivion, this abandonment, this anonymity? The missing warrior is as old as the Odyssey, but the industrialisation of war changed the scale on which the abnegation of men occurred. More than 1.4 million Frenchmen died in the First World War; 300,000 of their bodies were either never found or not identified.

Kaiser's soldier: I remember the stench of death and mud
Ninety years after the start of the First World War, Charles Kuentz still feels he has to apologise for his role in it on the German side. Mr Kuentz, thought to be the only surviving soldier to have fought on both the eastern and western German fronts in the war, has now written his memoirs with the help of his children. His home region, Alsace-Lorraine, now part of France, has been claimed by Germany several times during modern history, as was the case at the outbreak of the war, and he was obliged to fight for the Kaiser.

Routine Life In The Trenches   (Article no longer available from the original source)
When troops were not engaged in actual fighting, daily life in trenches took on a routine of sorts. The day would begin with a 'Stand-To' at dawn. At this time, all men needed to be in their allocated firebay (a 10 metre section of the trench, held by 8-10 men), fully equipped and armed, looking forward to detect any possible attack. This lasted for about an hour. During daytime, one man was left on guard duty while the remainder of his section would rest, have breakfast and a tot of rum. After this, the men who were off duty would try to get some sleep. Other soldiers not on front line duty would be bringing up rations, ammunition and other stores.

See also


'WW1 Tours'

'Weapons: Machine Guns'

'WW1 Tanks'

'Historical Reenactment'

'WW1 Archives'.