Life in the Trenches

Further Investigation and Research: Life in the Trenches 
  1. Death was a frequent visitor to the trenches. Many men died on the first days of being in the trench. Research how and why life in the trench was so dangerous. What happened to dead bodies in the trenches? 
  2. Locate the reason for “trench fever,” its effects on humans, why it spread so quickly, and how a person recovered from it.
  3. Find out the source of “nits” and how soldiers dealt with this problem. Research other insects that caused problems in the trenches.
  4. Another menace to soldiers was “trench foot.” What was its source and how was it treated?
  5. Research the problem of rats in the trenches? Why was their presence so prevalent? What was done to deal with the rats?
  6. “Stand To” was a daily routine. Research the custom of “stand to,” and discuss its positive and negative characteristics.
  7. In a number of poems and writings about the First World War there is mention of rum being given to soldiers. Research the practice and comment on why liquor was dispensed and the effects it had on the soldiers.
  8. A major responsibility during the war was keeping patrols activated for “No Man’s Land.” Report on the nature of the patrols, the dangers associated with this patrol, and how effective it was as a military strategy.
  9. Research the typical day in the life of a trench soldier. Locate original photographs to illustrate your report.



“It's a Long Way to Tipperary”

It's a long way to Tipperary, it's a long way to go.
It's a long way to Tipperary, to the sweetest girl I know.
Good-bye, Piccadilly,
Farewell Leicester Square.
It's a long long way to Tipperary, but my heart's right there.


“Oh, It's a Lovely War!”

Up to your waist in water, up to your eyes in slush,
using the kind of language that makes the sergeant blush,
Who wouldn't join the army? That's what we all enquire.
Don't we pity the poor civilian sitting by the fire.

Oh, oh, oh it's a lovely war.
Who wouldn't be a soldier, eh? Oh it's a shame to take the pay.
As soon as reveille has gone we feel just as heavy as lead,
but we never get up till the sergeant brings our breakfast up to bed.
Oh, oh, oh, it's a lovely war.
what do we want with eggs and ham when we've got plum and apple jam?
Form fours. Right turn. How shall we spend the money we earn?
Oh, oh, oh it's a lovely war.
When does a soldier grumble? When does he make a fuss?
No one is more contented in all the world than us.
Oh it's a cushy life, boys, really we love it so:
Once a fellow was sent on leave and simply refused to go.

Come to the cookhouse door, boys, sniff the lovely stew.
Who is it says the colonel gets better grub than you?
Any complaints this morning? Do we complain? Not we.
What's the matter with lumps of onion floating around the tea?


Reflective Questions:  “It’s a Long Way to Tipperary” and “Oh, It’s a Lovely War”
  1. Where are the places named in “It’s a Long Way to Tipperary?”
  2. What is the spirit expressed in the Tipperary song?
  3. What type of song is “Oh It’s a Lovely War?”
  4. What is the truth behind the song, “Oh, It’s a Lovely War!?” How might the words of the song sound if it was written seriously?
  5. How might the song, “Oh, It’s a Lovely War!” read if it were written to reflect the war in Iraq?

“Bombed Last Night”

Bombed last night, and bombed the night before.
Going to get bombed tonight if we never get bombed anymore.
When we're bombed, we're scared as we can be.
Can't stop the bombing from old Higher Germany.
They're warning us, they're warning us.
One shell hole for just the four of us.
Thank your lucky stars there are no more of us.
So one of us can fill it all alone.
Gassed last night, and gassed the night before.
Going to get gassed tonight if we never get gassed anymore.
When we're gassed, we're sick as we can be.
For phosgene and mustard gas is much too much for me.
They're killing us, they're killing us.
One respirator for the four of us.
Thank your lucky stars that we can all run fast.
So one of us can take it all alone.
“Keep the Home-Fires Burning”
Keep the home-fires burning,
While your hearts are yearning,
Though your lads are far away
They dream of home;
There's a silver lining
Through the dark cloud shining,
Turn the dark cloud inside out,
Till the boys come home.
Lyrics by Lena Ford and

music by Ivor Novello

“I Want to Go Home”

I want to go home, I want to go home.
I don't want to go in the trenches no more,
Where whizzbangs and shrapnel they whistle and roar.
Take me over the see, where the Alleyman can't get at me.
Oh my, I don't want to die, I want to go home.

I want to go home, I want to go home.
I don't want to visit la Belle France no more,
For oh the Jack Johnsons they make such a roar.
Take me over the sea, where the snipers they can't get at me.
Oh my, I don't want to die, I want to go home.

Alleyman is from the French meaning Germans and Jack Johnson means “heavy shell” and refers to a boxer by the same name.


Reflective Questions: “Bombed Last Night,” “Keep Your Home Fires Burning,” and “I Want to Go Home”
  1. Though the song, “Bombed Last Night,” seems light hearted, what is the true message of the verses?
  2. What sentiment is being shared in “Keep the Home Fires Burning?”
  3. What are the fears expressed in “I Want to Go Home?”