Daily life at the front

Corporal Irvine and his makeshift tailor’s shop at Bray in summer 1916

Corporal Irvine and his makeshift tailor’s shop at Bray in summer 1916

Jocks of Auchterarder Company picking lice out of their clothing

Jocks of Auchterarder Company picking lice out of their clothing

The First World War has become known for the trenches on the Western Front that stretched from Switzerland to the North Sea. Soldiers would generally spend four days in the front line, with four in the support trenches, followed by a period in reserve.

Trench life was physically demanding and often fairly dull. At dawn and dusk men in the firing line would ‘Stand To’ in preparation for an enemy attack, otherwise his average day would be filled with routine duties, maintaining the trench, or snatching a few hours’ sleep. Conditions varied greatly but could be very difficult.

A letter home

There was a sniper playing ping-pong with us but we kept well down…

Writing to his parents in Kinloch Street, 1071 Lance-Corporal Adam Brown, 4th Black Watch, gave an account of the experiences of Dundee’s Own a few weeks after the Battalion had arrived in France.

Lance-Corporal Brown’s letter appeared in The Courier on 17 March 1915.

A sketch by Joseph Lee depicting life in the trenches.

A sketch by Joseph Lee depicting life in the trenches.

Just a note to let you know how we got here. I never saw so much mud in all my life. I think we hold the record for a Territorial regiment, for in less than ten days we were in the second line of trenches. We were just an hour or two posted up in our billets when we were ordered forth. By jove! it was a hasty and cold turn out. There was a sniper playing ping-pong with us, but we kept well down, and managed to evade him’.

Picture Credits: Corporal Irvine and his… and Jocks of Auchterarder Company… Courtesy of The Black Watch Museum. Sketch by Joseph Lee… Courtesy of D.C. Thomson & Co Ltd.