Eye-Deep In Hell: Trench Warfare In World War I by John EllisIlluminates the Horrific, Primal Nature of the Great War …
While World War I has always been dubbed “The Great War”, it may actually be the “Forgotten War” in terms of how little is remembered of the horrible manner in which it was fought. John Ellis’ EYE-DEEP IN HELL provides an excellent detailing of how armies endured almost four years of killing and dying in the bowels of endless, filthy trenches.
Ellis offers readers a rather blunt portrayal of the average infantryman’s experience in the trenches on the Western Front from 1914-1918. Starting with a basic overview of the inevitable circumstances that led to such static warfare, Ellis begins to meticulously delve into specifics: from trench construction specifics to food and entertainment activities, not to mention combat and death. By chronicling every conceivable facet of life in the trenches, we get a much clearer picture of how terribly miserable, unique and personal the war truly was.
While the book leans to documenting the Allied armies’ trench experience (mainly British and French), almost every topic is countered with a German perspective as well. I found this particularly appealing in that it gave the book a great deal of balance. EYE-DEEP IN HELL is told in a manner that gives readers a comprehensive understanding of how utterly miserable it must have been for the men who experienced life in the trenches. While I had a basic knowledge of trench-warfare, Ellis rendered that knowledge superficial … it was much worse than I had previously thought. Vivid accounts of men living in knee-deep, stagnant water contaminated with human waste and rotting corpses. The men were always wet, cold and hungry; they were exposed to perpetual artillery bombardment and constantly spied-on by enemy snipers eagerly seeking an opportunity to kill any man who briefly and carelessly exposed himself. Even worse were the accounts of wounded men too weak to keep themselves from drowning in the water and mud of their own trenches, the overwhelming, putrid smell of rotting corpses, swarms of flies and an incident where one soldier realized the movement of a corpse in no-man’s land was due to rats feasting on it from within. Ironically, these horrors listed are what men experienced from WITHIN the trenches … “going over the top” (leaving the trenches to attack the enemy) is another ghastly experience all together as men are senselessly ordered to charge point-blank into enemy artillery and machine-gun fire. EYE-DEEP IN HELL provides a well-rounded education in the weaponry, equipment, tactics and wholesale slaughter of Western Front in a brief, but insightful manner.
Readers will readily realize the futility of a war in which men were either sitting ducks in their trenches or charging suicidal into direct enemy fire. EYE-DEEP IN HELL doesn’t ignore detailing how men “cracked” under the circumstances and how others, more amazingly, found ways to endure … entire segments of the book are dedicated to the “attitude” of the men doing the fighting, the methods they used to cope and how technology advancements saved countless lives. Poems, excerpts from letters and an abundance of pictures throughout the book add both a personal and graphic quality that enhances Ellis’ writing.
I was looking for a book to give me a clearer idea of what trench warfare was like and got more than I bargained for with EYE-DEEP IN HELL. I felt that John Ellis’ book provided me an excellent and detailed account of World War I from the ground-level. The book is concise, yet very informative. EYE-DEEP IN HELL has certainly triggered my interest in learning more about the Great War.
What is Trench Warfare?
Trench warfare is a type of land warfare using occupied fighting lines largely comprising military trenches , in which troops are well-protected from the enemy's small arms fire and are substantially sheltered from artillery. Trench warfare proliferated when a revolution in firepower was not matched by similar advances in mobility , resulting in a grueling form of warfare in which the defender held the advantage. The area between opposing trench lines known as " no man's land " was fully exposed to artillery fire from both sides.
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Warfare in which opposing sides occupy trenches; usually very bloody, miserable, and endless. Trench warfare is a form of land warfare using occupied fighting lines consisting largely of trenches, in which troops are significantly protected from the enemy's small arms fire and are substantially sheltered from artillery. It has become a by word for stalemate, attrition and futility in conflict. Trench warfare occurred when a revolution in firepower was not matched by similar advances in mobility, resulting in a grueling form of warfare in which the defender held the advantage. In World War I, both sides constructed elaborate trench and dugout systems opposing each other along a front, protected from assault by barbed wire. The area between opposing trench lines was fully exposed to artillery fire from both sides. Attacks, even if successful, often sustained severe casualties as a matter of course.
Trench warfare becomes necessary when two armies face a stalemate , with neither side able to advance and overtake the other. Although trench warfare has been employed since ancient times, it was used on an unprecedented scale on the Western Front during World War I. In the early weeks of the First World War late in the summer of , both German and French commanders anticipated a war that would involve a large amount of troop movement, as each side sought to gain or defend territory. The Germans initially swept through parts of Belgium and northeastern France, gaining territory along the way. They subsequently "dug in" to avoid losing any more ground. Unable to break through this line of defense, the Allies also began to dig protective trenches.
After trench-warfare days there was an incongruity in some episodes, which was not devoid of humour. - Trench warfare , warfare in which opposing armed forces attack, counterattack, and defend from relatively permanent systems of trenches dug into the ground.
It was never intended by any of the military that the Western Front in the First World War should become bogged down into a campaign of attrition, fought with the infantry bottled up in trenches stretching some miles from Switzerland to the Belgian coast. Wrap up France et al quickly, then concentrate on Russia. The French and the Germans had large conscript armies, and many reserves. The British had a small but highly professional army, which was used to keeping the natives in the colonies under control. Britain had not committed large forces to conventional land battles since Waterloo, Trench warfare was not unknown. It had happened between the Russians and the Japanese on