The Pests Of World War I

My interest in World War I stories led me to pests on the trenches. It is easy to forget about this fact about the lives of the gallant soldiers of the trenches. Imagine having to live in those trenches for years without any way of disposing your wastes? The pests are sure to live abundantly in those conditions.

I suddenly feel thankful that when I needed to get rid of some unwanted guests, it was as easy as searching for local pest control Bakersfield company on the internet and call them  (btw those guys did a great job, I haven’t had any problems since). The people of 1914 did not have the same luxury. Even a proper toilet must be difficult to find during those time.

The major pest that the soldiers need to deal with were the rats. The rats fed on rotting food on the trenches. With the dreadful war situation, I think garbage collection was the last thing on the minds of the soldiers. The population of rats continued to thrive because of the abundant supply of food and no threat from predators. They even grew to the size of cats!

These rats did not stop at eating leftovers and snatching food from the soldiers, they even gnawed on the remains of fallen soldiers in the battlefield. It was so horrific they were called “corpse rats”.

The soldiers had to tackle them with their bare hands or hit them with anything they can find because using their guns is a total waste of ammunition. They also used their dog companions as rat hunters.

Despite of this, the soldiers found a good use for the rats. Because of the rat’s keen sense of hearing, they were the first to retreat when someone from the other side is going to attack. The rat’s movement warned the soldiers of an impending attack from the opponent. That gave them some time to stay alert and prepare. Some soldiers even made pets out of the rats.

The next thing that bothered the soldiers were the lice. A lot of World War I biographies cited their itchy experience with lice. One mentioned that the lice had a sour, stale smell to it. The lice even grew to the size of a grain of rice.

The soldiers burned the lice using hot wax. However, the soldiers wore their uniforms repeatedly without any washing for an extended period of time. These clothes were riddled with lice and eggs all the time. Even if the soldiers could find all the crawling lice, the invisible eggs continue to survive and hatch with the help of the soldier’s body heat. Repeating the cycle of itchiness and red bite marks all over the bodies of the soldiers.

The lice not only gave the soldiers something to scratch. The pest also spread Trench Fever or Pyrrexhia among the soldiers. The Trench Fever was not a deadly disease but it can down a whole platoon of troops. The illness gave the soldiers shooting pains to the shin followed by high fever.

Hats off to the soldiers who endured the hardships of the war. I cannot imagine how they survived on the trenches for so long. This is a real testament to the resilience and fighting spirit of mankind.

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What Happened In World War I

The assassination of the Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand ignited the start of World War I. However, his death was not the only reason why the Great War progressed. The secondary cause of the Great War was the mutual defense alliances between the countries involved. These alliances inevitably caused the participation of many nations in the war.

Archduke Franz Ferdinand Carl Ludwig Joseph Maria, the heir presumptive to the Austria-Hungary throne, was assassinated in Sarajevo. He was assassinated by the young Gavrilo Princip, a Bosnian Serb Yugoslavist. It must be remembered that Austria-Hungary seized control of Serbia to claim its resources. This seizure inflamed that nationalism of the people that led to the assassination of the Archduke.

Austria-Hungary did not take the murder lightly. It resulted to the proclamation of war of Austria-Hungary against Serbia. This war declaration led Russia to join the war due to its mutual defense treaty with Serbia. The agreement stated that they would help each other when war the country goes to war.

Many alliances formed soon after the declaration of war. The country of Germany allied with Austria-Hungary. France allied with Russia bringing in Britain and Belgium with it. Japan came into the picture because it is allied with Britain. The United States came in late into the game to fight against the Germans.

The first major battle during World War I was the battle of Tannenberg on August 26, 1914. The next major battle was the Battle of Marne in France on September 5, 1914. The German submarines or U-boats caused a major block that prevented vessels from traveling. The Battle of Marne also started the trench warfare.

Trench warfare uses a network of trenches that protected the soldiers from the enemy’s rifle shots and are substantially sheltered from artillery. These trenches were separated by distances that are shorter than the firing range of a rifle.

On November 1917, Russia pulled out of the war due to the Bolshevik Revolution. Russia signed a peace treaty which marked the end of its war with Germany and Austria-Hungary. The end of the war with Russia strengthened Germany because they focus their efforts and resources on the Western Front.

The United States wage war against Germany in April 1917. Germany continued to fight the war, but it failed and suffered significant casualties. The Allied powers gained an advantage in the war, and the strike of the German soldiers forced Germany to surrender. Germany signed the Armistice, an agreement of warring parties to stop fighting, on November 11, 1918. Germany and the Allied forces then signed the Treaty of Versailles on June 28, 1919, to formally end World War I.

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The Western Front And Its Weapons of Destruction

Western Front is considered as the symbol of World War I because it was the center of action during the Great War. The Western Front spans miles of trenches that started from the Swiss border to the North Sea. It traversed in north-east of France and ended in Belgium and southern Germany. The battles of Marne, Ypres, Verdun and Somme were fought along the Western Front.

The Western Front started to take form in 1914 after the German’s advance through the northern France was stopped at the Battle of Marne. The Germans proceeded to the Aisne River and started to dig a network of trenches to hold their position. The Allies also built their trench systems as a response to the Germans. Both sides continued to extend their trenches, even racing each other to reach the North Sea. The trenches proved to be useful in preventing the enemy’s attack, and ensuring an unhampered supply chain.

The trench line grew even further by the end of 1914. Troop reinforcements from both sides filled the trenches with active soldiers resulting in a stalemate.

Germany took the defensive side and was determined not to be forced out of France. The German’s then adopted a new strategy that would inflict more deaths and injury to the Allied soldiers. Major assaults were then launched using weapons such as artillery and poison gas.

The British and French committed to keeping their offensive stance. The Allied tried to break through the front at Champagne and Loos but were unsuccessful because of the heavy artillery and machine guns from the German side.

In 1916, two major battles ensued in the Western Front. These are the Battle of Verdun and the Battle of Somme. These two battles were the deadliest, but there was no clear victor on both sides.

It is also interesting to know the different weapons used in the Western Front. These weapons on both sides contributed to the stalemate on the Western Front for many years.

Rifles

The British army used a Lee-Enfield .303 rifle. The gun uses a magazine that could hold ten bullets. A trained soldier could fire 15 rounds per minute with this weapon.

The German soldiers used a Gewehr 98 rifle. The Gewehr was an accurate rifle, but it did not fit into the conditions on the Western Front due to its length.

Barbed Wires

The humble barbed wire became a deadly defensive weapon on the Western Front. It slowed down the advance of the attackers, and it made them sitting ducks for the snipers.

Machine Gun

The German army used the standard heavy machine gun called Maschinengewehr 08. This machine gun could fire 400 rounds a minute. The British equivalent to the Maschinengewehr 08 was the Vickers. This machine gun could fire at least 450 rounds per minute.

Artillery

This weapon inflicted the most casualty in the Western Front. The artillery bombardment lasted for weeks. The British used the Howitzer Mark 1. It could fire two rounds of 290 lbs. shells per minute.

The Germans, meanwhile, used the “Paris Gun.” It had an 118 ft. long barrel and could fire a shell 25 miles into the air. The long range artillery allowed the Germans to target objects in far locations.

Poison Gas

The Germans used the chlorine gas the Second Battle of Ypres in April 1915. The British also deployed chlorine gas. An even deadlier gas, such as phosgene and mustard gas, were used as the war progressed.

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