A Memory of Trench Life

The trenches were not laid out in an orderly way.  They were purely strategic, and described the lines we wanted to defend, and were filled out in between by innumerable communication trenches.  I think the better part of the trenches were communication trenches.

Navigating them was easier than you might think, especially if you were accustomed to English country roads.  You came to know them by the peculiar bends in certain areas, by the battle debris nearby, and by areas frequented by predictable people or groups.  Growing up near the sunken lanes of East Coker had made that part of trench life easy.

What was difficult about navigating the trenches was the sheer number of soldiers you would have to push past if you needed to get somewhere in a hurry.  Now and then one of our boys would be hurt by someone shoving them out of the way and down the stairs of a nearby dugout.  Not on purpose, of course.  Not that we were aware of. 

The other difficulty came in the very nature of the war.  Sometimes, a familiar landmark or peculiar bend in the trench simply wasn’t there one day, because they’d been shelled the night before and had to shore it up, or in some cases dig the whole thing back out again.

Now and then, you’d see hand-painted road signs that helped in some of the more difficult areas.  These weren’t officially sanctioned, but were there to help soldiers find their way, much like the signs for hard-hit battlefield locations like Hellfire Corner.

This last detail is interesting.  I need to look into that because it’s the one plausible thing I got out of this.  Although I know many trenches were named after streets in various cities in the UK, like The Strand or Lothian Avenue, I don’t know if there were actually hand-painted signs for these, or how prevalent they were.


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