Friday, 28 November 2014

Military History Photo Friday: Digging Trenches in World War One

This photo shows British troops digging a trench while protected by rudimentary gas masks. I have no information about this picture but some of the details give us clues as to where and when this was taken.

First off, the soldiers are wearing service caps and not steel helmets. At the beginning of the war in 1914, no army issued steel helmets to their troops. The British wouldn't get their trademark Brodie helmets until 1916.

The Germans didn't use gas to any significant degree until 1915, catching the Allies entirely off guard. The men scrambled to make some sort of protection. The first things used were bandannas soaked in various substances and tied around the nose and mouth. Other troops fashioned their own masks or used whatever was available. The fellow in the center seems to be wearing a surgical mask! Because of the primitive gas protection, I'm thinking this was taken in early 1915, probably still in winter considering that the men are wearing sweaters even while digging.

I also think this was taken in a support area or maybe during a drill well behind the lines. No weapons are visible and the photographer is standing atop the parapet, something you wouldn't do in battle!

Digging trenches was hard work, as I make clear in a couple of scenes in my latest WWI action novel, Digging In.

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