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.