Life in the Trenches

By: Cherise Leung

What are Trenches?

Trenches were long, narrow ditches dug into the ground to protect soldiers from open soldiers. Dead bodies were buried nearby, making the trenches unsanitary, and often infested with rats the size of a small cat!

Living Conditions

Soldiers were required to stay in their trenches day and night. Because of the muddy floor, many soldiers developed Trench Foot - a medical condition caused by prolonged exposure of the feet to damp, unsanitary, and cold conditions. Frogs, beetles and lice was found everywhere, and the latrines was often unusable, they were either overflowing or too shallow.


A typical day for the soldiers would be like this:

  • 5am - 'Stand-to' (short for 'Stand-to-Arms', meaning to be on high-alert for enemy attack) half an hour before daylight
  • 5.30am - Rum ration
  • 6am - Stand-to half an hour after daylight
  • 7am - Breakfast (usually bacon and tea)
  • After 8am - Clean themselves, clean weapons, tidy trench
  • Noon - Dinner
  • After dinner - Sleep and downtime (one man per ten on duty)
  • 5pm - Tea
  • 6pm - Stand-to half an hour before dusk
  • 6.30pm - Stand-down half an hour after dusk
  • 6.30pm onwards - Work all night with some time for rest (patrols, digging trenches, putting up barbed wire, getting stores, replacement of unit of soldiers every five days)


Given that each side's front line was constantly under watch by snipers and look-outs during daylight, movement was rather restricted until night fell. Thus, once men had concluded their assigned tasks they were free to attend to more personal matters, such as the reading and writing of letters home. To pass the time, they would also play cards and smoke cigars together.


Chores included...

  • Refilling Sandbags
  • Repair of the floorboards
  • Draining of the trenches
  • Move ammunition to the front
  • Dig more trenches
  • To clean out any dead bodies