Learning Curve, The Great War
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Useful notes: Source4
Orders sent out to troops of the Warwickshire Regiment, September - November 1916
(Catalogue ref: WO 95/2756)
  • These two sources give a really strong sense of daily life for a unit in or near the front line. There are many day-to-day issues that the officers have to sort out. The majority of these are designed to keep the men informed or look after their welfare.
  • In source 4a there is a reference to gaining a commission. This means becoming an officer. During the war, many ordinary men who were not from privileged backgrounds became junior officers and could rise higher. This was because the war took a heavy toll on the officers and because the best soldiers tended to rise through the ranks quickly.
  • There were many dogs on the front line for two reasons. One was companionship and the other was to catch rats.
  • Section 6 in source 4a refers to the court martialing of a trooper. Some 346 British soldiers were executed by firing squads for dereliction of duty. Around 5 million men passed through the British Army during the war. Of these, military courts sentenced 2,300 to death, but 85% of these men were pardoned. Ordinary soldiers were not always sympathetic to those put on trial because survival in the trenches depended on close-knit teams of soldiers all doing their job.
  • Source 4b mentions trench feet. This was an unpleasant infection caused by spending long periods of time in cold wet socks or boots. The most serious cases could result in amputation. It was a big problem in 1914 and 1915. However, the use of whale oil and full-length rubber boots in the worst conditions ended most of the serious cases by late 1916.
  • Puttees were the strips of cloth that soldiers wound around their legs from knee to ankle.
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