In this, and subsequent descriptions of the trenches, I may lay myself open to the charge of exaggeration. But it must be remembered that I am describing trench life in the early days of 1914, and I feel sure that those who had experience of them will acquit me of any such charge.
To give a recipe for getting a rough idea, in case you want to, I recommend the following procedure. Select a flat ten-acre ploughed field, so sited that all the surface water of the surrounding country drains into it. Now cut a zig-zag slot about four feet deep and three feet wide diagonally across, dam off as much water as you can so as to leave about one hundred yards of squelchy mud; delve out a hole at one side of the slot, then endeavour to live there for a month on bully beef and damp biscuits, whilst a friend has instructions to fire at you with his Winchester every time you put your head above the surface.
Well, here I was anyway, and the next thing was to make the bets of it. As I have before said, these were the days of the earliest trenches in this war; days when we had none of those “props” such as corrugated iron, floorboards, and sand bags.
When you made a dug-out in those days you made it out of anything you could find, and generally had to make it yourself.”
Some British soldiers found that captured German trenches were better built than British ones – as H S Clapham wrote after a successful attack on a German trench in Y Wood.
“When I dropped into the Hun trench I found it a great place, only three wide, and at least eight feet deep, and beautifully made of white sandbags, back and front. At that spot there was no sign of any damage by our shells, but a number of dead Huns lay in the bottom. There was a sniper’s post just where I fell in, a comfortable little square hole, fitted with seats and shelves, bottles of beer, tinned meats and a fine helmet hanging on a hook.”
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