What were the advantages/disadvantages of using trenches?
The trenches were like anything in the war; it had its pros and cons, some of which outweighed the other. There were many advantages, yet also many disadvantages of the of trench system, which were all considered. However, sometimes, even when the bad outweighs the good, the trenches were still seen as the best options for soldiers. This is partially because it was better than the others, and partially because there were no real other options.
While most saw the trenches as bad news, there was a silver lining. The trenches sure had their set of advantages, even when the soldiers would’ve rather been in hell. For a start, the trenches provided substantial cover from enemy bullets. The sandbags used to support the trench walls were made of thick clay that would stop the small, low calibre bullets used in the war. The enemy clay could also tell soldiers what the enemy was up to. By shooting a clay bag, the soldiers could gauge the colour of the clay within to the colour of clay found at certain levels underground. For example, if soldiers saw that the enemy had bags filled with blue clay, when blue clay was only found deep underground, they could assume that the enemy was planning to dig through into their trenches. Of course, the enemy could also use this to help find out what the soldiers were doing, so really it was useful for both sides. Another advantage was that an enemy gas attack was near useless as the soldiers would have all of their gas masks on by the time that the heavy gas was able to concentrate into the small spaces that were the trenches. Finally, the trenches provided the soldiers with some sort of security from what was going on around them. The enclosed space meant that if the soldiers played it safe, enemies would not be able to take them out with ease. It let them think that they were safe; that they had a place where they could have peace from the war. Of course, the sense of security soon lead to discomfort as the weeks went on.
One of the main disadvantages of the trenches was that there was no-where to run. If an enemy had a planned attack coming, then there was no retreating.
One of the main disadvantages of the trenches was that there was no-where to run. If an enemy had a planned attack coming, then there was no retreating. While soldiers had the advantage of cover while in the trenches, if the enemy somehow breached the trenches, they could cause a lot of damage. Also, if a shrapnel bomb or grenade was thrown into a trench, not only would all the force of it run through the trench, but nobody would be able to get away from it in time and a single bomb could devastate a whole squad of soldiers. While the trenches may have been great for keeping out the enemy, it also made it hard to bring things in. Supplies and troops had a very hard time getting into the trenches, as they were always in danger of being taken out by a covered enemy sniper. Finally, the biggest problem of the trenches was the health complications. If one person in a trench caught a disease, unless treated almost instantly, almost everybody within that trench would end up with the disease. Many diseases were the bi-product of all of the corpses lying around, and the rest were caused by the poor living conditions and hygiene within the trenches. However, possibly the biggest health problem in the trenches was the notorious Trench Foot. With all of the wet conditions and limited number of socks and boots, the water began to cause the soldiers’ feet to rot. It started with numb feet, then extreme pain, and if left untreated for long enough, would cause the flesh to go soft and start falling off, similar to gangrene. The consequences for living in the trenches were horrible.
Overall, the trenches were a terrible place to fight. The disadvantages and discomforts of the trenches almost completely outweigh the advantages, and considering not only did they live in the trenches, but also had the constant tension of war going on around them. Many would wander why the Australian Imperial Forces would use trench warfare over other methods of fighting, and the answer to that is simply that there were no other methods. The trenches were the only method available that would cater for the needs of the soldiers on the western front and fit the terrain in which the soldiers were fighting.
Written By Sean Crampton