Trench warfare question

sirbhp

LE
Book Reviewer
What I could never fathom out was , you got two sets of trenches sometimes a close as 6 foot to each other.
How did this come about ? were both armies on a truce as they were digging away .. did one lot dig a trench then the other lot dig sort of left to right of the other ?
I bet the awnswer is simple but buggered if i can work it out .
 

4(T)

LE
When the armies went to ground in winter 1914, the soldiers were in shell scrapes and small slit trenches - a tactical distance from the enemy, depending upon terrain. These initial diggings became linked up into the continuous trenches characteristic of most of the war.

What happened then was that the front lines moved back and forth. Each time the line "went firm", they'd dig in again. By this time there were at least three parallel trenches used (front, support, etc) by each side - thus eventually there were dozens of trench lines in the front zone. As each side would re-use whatever trenches they captured, and salients would alter the angle of occupied trenches, it didn't take long for a wild maze of trenches to develop.

Hence - under the right tactical conditions - it was possible for both side to be very close to each other. Sometimes they'd be in the actual same trench, with a hasty barrier erected to block off the other side.

Digging mostly took place at night and, if both sides needed to dig/repair, it wasn't uncommon for the sides to dig unmolested within earshot of each other.
 

sirbhp

LE
Book Reviewer
thanks for that .
I remember an old soldier on the radio in the 1970's complaing that the German trenches were made of concrete ,
and when the Brits over ran them they were disgusted to see lots of bags of Blue Circle Cement in use .
 

4(T)

LE
The German trenches themselves were not made of concrete (all sides used a range of methods from bare earth up to fully revetted with corrugated iron and sump drains), but in stable areas they used concrete in deep dug-outs and shelters and, later in the war, in surface pill boxes and strong points.

There was a reason for the better quality of German field constructions: they had taken up defensive positions on high, dryer ground because they were the invading army and were free to use or discard the land that they occupied. The allies, by contrast, were obliged to recover as much Belgian and French land as they could, and thus were forced to close up to the Germans regardless of the terrain. Unfortunately this meant in many cases the soggy river plains in front of and below German positions on higher ground.

The Blue Circle Cement story sounds like old soldiers' bollox. The company did exist in 1914-18, but IIRC did not at that time include any foreign subsidiaries. British goods did continue to be delivered to Germany until 1917 (!) through neutral countries, although portland cement is not mentioned in the listings.
 
There was the phase known as the 'Race to the Sea' where everyone tried to outflank the other by racing northwards, until it was impossible to go any further.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Race_to_the_Sea
The problem was that the technology of the day made defence far more effective than attack. The German strategy was to take and hold, so they generally engineered their trenches better, and in depth.
The Allies had an offensive mindset, so didn't dig in to such an extent.
 
I remember a TV series called The Trench, in which they had 30 volunteers to re-enact a First World War trench scenario. They were kitted out and dressed in World War I uniforms, with weapons and equipment, and lived the day-to-day lives of British soldiers of that time. Having said that, the Germans must have lived in a pretty similar way.

The TV station would have some explosions, simulating a bombardment, and in event of a new shell-hole near the trench, they had to dig from their trench to connect with the new shell-hole and make it part of their trench system.
 
thanks for that .
I remember an old soldier on the radio in the 1970's complaing that the German trenches were made of concrete ,
and when the Brits over ran them they were disgusted to see lots of bags of Blue Circle Cement in use .

I remember him as well, he clearly made an impression. ISTR his best mate had been killed whilst assaulting the Blue Circle improved German trenches in 1918, within weeks of the Armistice. The empty bags had been used to cover the floors of the dug-outs.

I remember him on the telly though, so either you had your eyes shut or I was hallucinating.

I think the story was that it was British cement that had been sold to the Dutch (neutral) and they'd sold it on for a big profit. I repeated that on Arrse and someone pooh-poohed it. Apparently it had been discussed on a WW1 forum and the revised theory was that it had been made on the continent by a Blue Circle subsidiary.

Edit; It was discussed here;
That was researched during the War- according to the history of fortificatiosn on the Wstern Front. The Bluce circle bags were from APC - a British name, but a Belgian subsidiary with the A sytanding for "Antwerp". British geologists carried out analysis of the aggregates used in constructing concrete bunkers on the West front and discovered that thery were from German gravel pits. Britian then pursued a case against the Dutch for allowing the Germans to ship a war matterial -aggregate , through Dutch waterways.
The bad news for the Germans was that they could not buy enough from the US to exert any legerage.
 
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