The Trench System- The front line trenches were usually around seven feet deep and six feet wide. The front trench was called the parapet. The top two or three feet of the parapet were shielded with sandbags, barbed wire, and machine gun posts. These would absorb bullets and shell fragments. Because the trench was so deep, it was impossible to see over, so a two or three foot ledge, known as the fire step, was added. Trenches weren't dug in a straight line because, otherwise, if the enemy overcame the front trenches, they could shoot straight along the line. Each trench was dug with alternate fire-bays and traverses. Support and reserve trenches were behind the front line. Communication trenches were dug at an angle to the front line trenchand were used to transport men, equipment and food supplies.
Shell Shock-The patients who were diagnosed with shell shock usually went mad and suffered from mental breakdowns. It was suicidal to leave them in the front line. Doctors believed that they had to be sent home, away from fighting, to fully recover. This was mostly the case for officers. Ordinary soldiers were called cowards and thought to be faking sickness to get a break. The soldiers would be sent back to the front line. They would often commit suicide or break down completely and not follow orders. If they didn't follow orders, they were shot on the spot, or sent to court and executed.
Dysentery-Dysentery is the inflammation of the large intestines. This causes vomiting, stomach pain, diarrhea, and fever. "The bacteria enters the body from food, water, human waste, and contact with infected people." Dysentery was a major problem in World War One because of contaminated water. Soldiers would drink from water in shell-holes and other cavities. The water was contaminated so they would catch the virus.
Many men were killed by being buried alive if a trench caved in. Food scraps, dead bodies, and tin cans would attract millions of rats. "One pair of rats can produce 880 offspring in a year." The trenches were soon swarming with them. One soldier wrote that the rats were so huge that they could eat a whole wounded soldier if he couldn't defend himself. Two or three rats would always be found on a dead body. They would usually go for the eyes, and then burrow their way right through the corpse.
Trench Foot- Many of the soldiers who fought in the war suffered from trench foot. Trench foot is an infection of the foot from hours and hours of standing in wet, cold, and unsanitary conditions. The feet would gradually go numb and turn red or blue. If the person's foot wasn't treated, it would have to be amputated. The only cure, available during the war, was for the soldiers to carry several pairs of socks and try to keep their feet and socks dry. They also had to cover their feet with grease made from whale oil. The grease would soothe their feet.