During the first world war; which last between 1914 -1918 and resulted in the loss of hundred’s of thousand’s of men, during that devastating and horrific war the Soldier’s who fought on the Western Front, fought in trenches. Trenches were long, narrow ditches dug into the ground where soldiers lived, fought and more than often died. There were many lines of German Trenches on one side and many lines of Allied Trenches on the other, In the middle, was no man’s land, so-called because it did not belong to either army. It is known that the German Trenches were far more habitable than the Allied Trenches were, many of the German Trenches had underground bunker’s that contained basic furniture and basic comfort’s that made Trench life more comfortable and habitable.
The Trenches were dirty and smelly and there was lot’s of disease circulating, the latrines regularly over flowed into the Trench itself and the dead had to be hastily buried nearby, which also would have bred disease. it wasn’t just the Trenches themselves that caused problem’s for the Soldier’s they had to deal with Million’s of Rat’s infested the Trenches and on some account’s they grew as big as cat’s and then there was the Lice that tormented the Soldier’s on a daily basis, the lice infested hair, clothing and bedding which would have made live pure hell.
A Typical Day In The Trenches
Like today’s soldier’s the soldier’s from WW1 had their day to day life strictly regulated, and every hour was always thoroughly planned out.
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 and Hear from veteran’s (that would give a moral boost for new Tommies)
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 on wards – 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)
Joining The Army
A man had to pass a physical test to enlist in the army. At the outbreak of war, he had to be aged between 19 and 38 and taller than 5 feet 3 inches. However, there were many younger and older soldiers who lied about their age. Once conscription came was introduced all men within the age group had join up other wise they could be arrested, the only exception’s for this was men that worked in grueling and hard work places like the Colliery and Steelworks.
Once he was in the army, a soldier was given a rank, most soldiers were privates to begin with, some also moved up the ranks to become corporals, sergeants and officers. The higher the rank, the more a soldier was seen as a leader and Ranks defined a soldier’s or officer’s role and how much responsibility he had, they could be distinguished by the stripes and badges worn on the cuff of a soldier’s or officer’s coat.
Each soldier had to carry a lot of equipment whilst out on the front line, These included various protective equipment, weapon’s and spare ammunition and some few personal item’s that they would have been allowed to take with them.
- Gas mask. This protected him against gas attacks from the enemy.
- Weapons and ammunition : Rifle, Bullets, Bayonet and Grenades.
- Protective clothes, Items which were suitable for the trenches (However, this was not always enough for the very damp conditions the soldiers lived in)
- Ground Sheet
- Puttees (long strips of cloth worn from the ankle to the knee)
- Webbing equipment (kit made from strong, cotton webbing material).
- Knife and Fork
- Shaving kit, Soap and a Towel
- Water Bottle
- Shovel. (This helped him keep the trench the way it needed to be, He could use it to remove excessive mud)
Soldiers suffered from many illnesses and injuries on the the front line, Soldiers had to live with the constant fear of getting injured in battle and falling ill from the dirty and unhygienic conditions. Body lice were pests that made soldiers so itchy that they had to shave off their hair completely. Soldier’s had to have daily foot inspection’s and they had “Foot Buddy’s” which were fellow soldier’s who’s purpose was to look after each other’s feet. The theory was that if they had the sole responsibility of another’s feet on their shoulder’s, then they would take proper care of them unlike if they only had to look after their own.
Even though food was very short in Britain during World War One, families often sent parcels to their fathers and brothers fighting at the front. The parcels contained Presents of : Chocolate, Cake, Tobacco and Tinned Food.
At the beginning of the war, soldiers got a daily ration of Just over one pound of Meat, The same amount in Bread and Eight ounces of Vegetables each day. Some soldiers worked in field kitchens which were set up just behind the trenches to cook meals for the soldiers who were fighting. By 1917 the official ration for the average British ‘Tommy’ was much smaller. Fresh meat was getting harder to come by and the ration was reduced to Just 6 ounces of ‘bully beef’ (which we call corned beef today) and Soldiers on the actual front line got even less meat and vegetables than this.
Maconchie’s meat stew’ and hard biscuits was a meal that many soldiers ate, Sadly the meat was mostly fat. This, along with a shortage of fresh fruit and vegetables, was responsible for many soldiers to suffer from upset stomachs!
Most letters sent from the front line were read by an officer who checked it was acceptable to send, He checked for anything that might give away British army secrets. He also made sure that letters were not too sad, so they did not spoil the morale (the way people felt) back home. This was called censorship. Some could be sent without being read. Soldiers were trusted not to give information away. As well as letters and postcards, newspapers were also sometimes delivered to the trenches. This meant the soldiers could keep up to date with what was happening in the war, at home and in other parts of the world.
To be considered Middle Class you would normally need to have at least one servant, during 1914 the the Middle Class was declining and only about 20% of Britain classed themselves as Middle Class, those who did lived lived very comfortably wearing fashionable clothes, lived in comfortable houses, however by today’s standard’s their home’s would seem over crowded, and the majority of the Middle Class had all the latest mod – con’s of the day.
The Middle Class Home : There would have been expensive and antique furniture, Ornament’s and a abundance of Nick-Nack’s in every room. The Middle Class would have had Gas fire’s as they became common in the 1880’s, Gas cooker’s became popular in the 1890’s. In 1914 most town’s had Electric Street Light, but not all as the first Electric Light’s were very expensive, the really rich would have branched out and had the Electric Light Bulb fitted in their home’s as the light Bulb was invented in 1879 those that couldn’t afford it still lit their home’s Gas lantern’s. By 1914 most Middle Class in Britain usually had bathroom in their home’s, the water was heated by gas.
Middle Class Leisure : In 1914 the Middle Class thought that to do various type’s of sport’s and games was a sign that you were rich and popular in society so they like to do various different leisurely thing’s like Lawn Tennis, Snooker and Bicycling was a popular sport. (The safety bicycle went on sale in 1885), Bicycling clubs became very common. Off course being Middle Class meant that they had to attend the Theater, all dressed up in their finery and around 1910 Cinemas were being built in many town’s although film’s were silent and in black and white the Richer Middle class enjoyed this new past time.
They also loved Board game’s like Snakes and Ladder’s and Ludo and off course the Middle Class like to show just how intelligent they were and they liked nothing better to read a new form of writing was being pioneered by men like H.G Wells. Another popular past time for those who could afford it was Photography, as the first cheap camera was invented in 1888 by George Eastman. Newspapers also became much more common such as The Daily Mail was first published in 1896. The Daily Express was first published in 1900 and The Daily Mirror began publication in 1903.
Middle Class Children in Britain had plenty of toy’s to play with such as Wooden and Porcelain Doll’s and Noah’s Ark with Wooden Animal’s.
For the working class in 1914 life was hard and terrible poverty was common, at the beginning of the 20th century survey’s show that 25% of the population of Britain was living in poverty, the survey’s show that 15% of people were living at subsistence level basically they had just enough money for the very basic’s such as Food, Rent and Fuel. Working Class couldn’t afford “Luxuries” such as newspaper’s and public transport.
The main cause of extreme poverty was the loss of the main Breadwinner, if the husband was dead, ill or unemployed it was a disaster, the Wife might get a job but women were paid much lower wages than men. Surveys also found that poverty tended to go in a cycle, Working class people might live in poverty when they were children but things usually improved when they left home and found a job. Then when they married and had children things would take a turn for the worse, their wages might be enough to support a single man comfortably but not enough to support a wife and children too. Finally when the children grew old enough to work things would improve again only to deteriorate once he was old a worker might find it hard to find work, except the most low paid kind and be driven into poverty again.
Never the less life was improving and certain reforms were introduced around that time, a Liberal government was elected in 1906 and they made some reforms, From 1906 poor children were given free school meals. January 1909 the first old age pensions were paid (Which were only 5 shillings a week and was only paid to people over 70) Also in 1909 the government formed “wages councils” In those days some people worked in the so-called ‘sweated industries’ such as making clothes and they were very poorly paid and had to work extremely long hours just to survive. The wages councils set minimum pay levels for certain industries.
In 1910 the first labor exchanges where jobs advertised were set up. However the economy was stable in the years 1900-1914 and unemployment was fairly low, 1911 the government passed an act establishing sickness benefits for workers.The act also provided unemployment benefit for workers in certain trades such as shipbuilding, where periods of unemployment were common. Meanwhile the workers had formed powerful trade unions which was on the side of the worker’s.
Working Class Homes : In 1914 a typical Working Class family would have lived in a “two-up two-down” which for most of us still live in these houses today, they would have had two bedroom’s which would have had to accommodate all the family which would have consisted of Children, adult children, Parent’s, Grandparent’s and in some cases their Aunt’s and Uncle’s and various other in-law’s. They would have had to share bed’s “top to tail” and they could have been four or five in a single bed.
The downstairs would consist of the large, Front Family Room which would have been reserved for best and would have had all their best furniture and ornament’s in that room, whereas the the back Kitchen was were the family practically lived in and that would have served for kitchen, living room and laundry. Unlike the more richer Middle Class, Working Class families didn’t have the luxury of a indoor working bathroom they had to use an out door lavatory or chamber pot’s.
Working Class Leisure : In the early 1900’s the average working week in Britain was 54 hour’s so there wasn’t a lot of free time for leisurely pursuit’s. Nether the less the Working Class enjoyed various sport’s and Football matches fast becoming a very popular past time as it still is today and many town’s had free libraries so the Working Class could start to enjoy free book’s and newspaper’s that was before then unreachable for them.
Because of the hard life the Working Class had to live by 1914 life expectancy in Britain was about 50 for a man and about 54 for a woman.
Children from poorer families did not have any toys, except for cheap toy’s that was either made for them or passed on to them by sibling’s or neighbor’s such as Rag Doll’s, Wooden Block’s and Home made wooden Cart’s.
I am a huge History fan and I have a certain fondness for the world war one era of 1914-1918, it basically came about while I like thousand’s other’s started researching my my family history which was not only enlightening but it also brought to the surface my adoration of past era’s especially this one. I love researching and learning about the clothe’s the life style’s and just the basic day to day family life and what they went through during that turbulent time and thought it would be fun to share with you all some little bit’s and bob’s that I found interesting. I’ll be doing a series so that I won’t be bombarding you all with my babbling all at once, I haven’t quite figured out how many part’s there is going to be. So part one is. . .
Ladies Fashion during 1914
In the 1900’s people, women especially covered up more especially women and young girl’s and it was thought quite decadent for women to even think about wearing trouser’s. . .Ooh the thought! They would always keep their leg’s covered, even to show an ankle was deemed scandalous and so they had to wear long dresses and skirt’s.
Clothes were made from natural material’s such as wool and linen, seeing as there were no zipper’s on the market yet and Velcro wasn’t even invented clothes were fastened by button’s hooks and laces. Shoe’s and boot’s were made from leather and were kept on their feet with laces or buttons other shoe’s around in 1914 were canvas slipper’s with rubber shoes also known as plimsoll’s which are still going strong today (who hasn’t got a pair of plimsoll’s for lounging around in?)
A well dressed woman would either wear on a day to day basis :
Dresses : Which had long puffed sleeves or a shorter sleeve that ended at the elbow, the collars and cuff’s were often fringed with lace, short sleeved evening dresses would have been worn with long gloves often white that reached the elbow.
Long Skirt’s : The skirt’s were more or less always dark (Blue, Black and Green) and they were worn with a long sleeved lacy white blouse.
Finished of with either little shoe’s or leather ankle boot’s ( High heeled shoe’s only become popular after 1918).
When going out they would wear a ankle length coat that came in tight at the waist so that it would accentuate that tiny waist with that they wore a big hat that was named the “cartwheel” because the brim was so wide and it would be decorated with piles of feather’s, artificial flower’s and fruit and it was also known for the more extravagant women to wear whole stuffed bird’s on their hat’s. People of all social classes usually wore hat’s when outside.
Woman wore their hair piled up high on the top’s of their head’s in a “bun” shape, some might wrap their hair around a small, stuffed cushion, known as a “rat” to make their bun look more luxuriant. A lot like the hair “Doughnut’s” that a lot of us wear today.
Poorer Families : During the war year’s the poorer women’s clothing became simpler in design and much more practical to wear and were often ragged, heavily darned and patched and their wardrobe’s would have consisted of a plain linen white blouse, ankle length plain skirt and usually with an apron tied around her shoulder’s to keep warm they would add a woolen shawl tied around their shoulder’s which would have been one that she would have knitted herself.
I want to wish everyone a very Happy Burn’s Night, now in my ignorance I always thought of Burn’s Night as just a happy get -together where Scottish and the like can all have a great meal and enjoy some quality time with friend’s and family but now I have learnt what Burn’s Night is all bout I hang my head in shame for not knowing. So I have collected a few fact’s and history to celebrate Burn’s Night but also Robert Burn’s who the night is so famously named after.
So for those who don’t know Burn’s Night is celebrated on the evening of 25 January, the birthday of the Scottish poet Robert Burns, on which celebrations in his honour are traditionally held in Scotland and elsewhere.
Robert Burns, also known as Rabbie Burns, the Bard of Ayrshire and various other names and epithets, was a Scottish poet and lyricist. He is widely regarded as the national poet of Scotland and is celebrated worldwide.
Robert Burns was born in Alloway, Scotland, on January 25, 1759. He died in Dumfries, Scotland, on July 21, 1796. He was a bard (poet) and wrote many poems, lyrics and other pieces that addressed political and civil issues. Perhaps his best known work is “Auld Lang Syne”, which is sung at News Years Eve celebrations in Scotland, parts of the United Kingdom, and other places around the world. Burns is one of Scotland’s important cultural icons and is well known among Scottish expats or descendants around the world. He is also known as: “Rabbie Burns”; the “Bard of Ayrshire”; “Scotland’s favorite son”; and in Scotland “The Bard”.
Robert Burns’ acquaintances held the first Burns’ supper on July 21, the anniversary of his death, in Ayrshire, Scotland, in the late 1700s. The date was later changed to January 25, which marks his birthday. Burns’ suppers are now held by people and organizations with Scottish origins worldwide, particularly in Australia, Canada, England, and the United States.
What Do People Do?
Many people and organizations hold a Burns’ supper on or around Burns’ Night. These may be informal or formal, only for men, only for women, or for both genders. Formal events include toasts and readings of pieces written by Robert Burns. Ceremonies during a Burns’ Night supper vary according to the group organizing the event and the location.
A piper in full Highland dress pipes in the haggis during a Burns’ Night celebration.
The evening centers on the entrance of the haggis (a type of sausage prepared in a sheep’s stomach) on a large platter to the sound of a piper playing bagpipes. When the haggis is on the table, the host reads the “Address to a Haggis”. This is an ode that Robert Burns wrote to the Scottish dish. At the end of the reading, the haggis is ceremonially sliced into two pieces and the meal begins.
The Scottish flag is often displayed at Burns’ Night celebrations. It is known as the Saltire and consists of a rectangular blue background with thick white bars on the diagonals. The diagonals form a cross that represents Saint Andrew, the patron saint of Scotland.
At Burns’ Night events,many men wear kilts and women may wear shawls, skirts or dresses made from their family tartan. A tartan was originally a woolen cloth with a distinctive pattern made by using colors of weft and warp when weaving. Particular patterns and combinations of colors were associated with different areas, clans and families. Tartan patterns are now printed on various materials.
Many types of food are associated with Burns’ Night. These include: cock-a-leekie soup (chicken and leek soup); haggis; neeps (mashed turnips or swedes) and tatties (mashed potatoes); cranachan(whipped cream mixed with raspberries and served with sweet oat wafers); and bannocks (a kind of bread cooked on a griddle). Whisky is the traditional drink.
“I’ve just realized it’s Burns Night tonight, and I’ve no haggis in the fridge”
So there is my own round up of Burn’s Night and I hope everyone who is celebrating that they have a great time.