Today, we describe being in the trenches as a stressful day on the front lines of the office. But the reality for soldiers in WWI was much worse. Seriously, the Great War is known as one of the most heartbreaking and catastrophic events in world history for a reason. Read on to discover what this harrowing lifestyle was really like for those risking it all in World War I.

A different world

Trenches were a series of elaborately, carved out paths in the ground that gave soldiers on the front lines cover from enemy fire. They were usually strategically placed on the front lines of battle.

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The ground in between opposing trenches was typically tangled with barbed-wire and no other shelter, making crawling in and out of the trenches a terrifying fight for life. Because of this, the trenches became an unwilling home for those that relied on its protection.

The threats of an uninhabitable hideout

Soldiers were forced to reside in these trenches for weeks at a time, which wreaked havoc on their mental and physical health. Wet, muddy conditions caused the deep ditches to shift and slide under the weight of their bodies, soaking many to the bone and filling heavy boots with slime and sludge. Trench foot was a very common result.

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Parts of trenches doubled as bathrooms since it was too dangerous to leave the hideout, creating a breeding ground for illnesses. Rodents and lice were abundant in the trench environment, spreading diseases like trench fever and influenza.

It united those within

While living in the trenches could result in severe sickness or PTSD, it also served to unite the soldiers who lived in them. Handmade magazines, cartoons, and shared jokes helped people cope and brought them closer together.

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There was also the occasional promise of alcohol, which certainly didn’t hurt. The shared experience formed a bond of brotherhood that strengthened their determination and willpower to not only survive, but eventually, win the war.