Segments in this Video

Living Like Rats (03:42)


In 1915, no one knew about conditions at the front. French, British, and German soldiers lived among vermin in the trenches. Artillery and shrapnel maimed and disfigured soldiers; doctors encountered shell shock for the first time. (Credits)

New Helmets (02:38)

Hear the state of Eastern, Western, and Southern fronts in September 1915. Allied troops needed better protection to hold trench positions. French factories, staffed by women, produced new helmets and uniforms. The British and Germans also adopted metal headgear.

Chemical Warfare (03:49)

Trenches had to be held under all types of artillery attack. Chlorine gas first appeared at the Battle of Ypres; hear a description of its physical effects. French and British soldiers were issued crude, ineffective gas masks until they discovered and adopted the German "gummi" mask.

Trench Layout (02:57)

Germans occupied most of Belgium and 10 French provinces. Troops took over livestock and residences abandoned by civilians. Trenches were organized in three successive lines. Types of weapons included rifle grenades, crossbows, and the British slingshot. Between artillery attacks, soldiers played cards and made objects from copper cartridges.

Unhygienic Conditions (03:30)

French soldiers suffered rats, fleas, and lice. After a week, troops in the first line of trenches were relieved by those in the second line. At the third line, they could bathe and rest. British and German soldiers suffered from similar problems.

Army of the Orient (03:19)

In October 1915, Germans, Austrians, and Bulgarians occupied Serbia. The Allies opened a new front in Salonika to bring Greece into the war on their side. British and French troops camped around the city and suffered diseases as they waited for combat.

Refusing to Withdraw (02:01)

King George V was concerned about the fate of British troops. All sides sought vengeance and felt they had lost too much to negotiate peace. In December 1915, Allied leaders convened in Chantilly to plan the Somme Offensive— but Germans would advance on Verdun first.

Battle of Verdun (04:15)

In February 1916, Kaiser Wilhelm II visited the Crown Prince before he attacked the fortress. The French decided to defend their position at all costs; General Petain took command. Hear Jean Giono's account of being stuck on the battlefield.

Supporting Verdun (graphic) (03:57)

The French devised a rotation system to supply the front with troops. Munitions were transported via special railway; horses wounded in combat were slaughtered to provide meat. Marksmen on both sides targeted supply convoys. Trenches lacked water; soldiers drank alcohol before assaults.

Aerial Battle at Verdun (04:25)

Hear a German description of trench warfare. Herman Goering was among aviators in March 1916. French artillery spotters in balloons were easy targets, but French anti-aircraft weapons and fighter pilots soon gained control of the skies. In April 1916, the Verdun soil became mud.

Wartime Romances (02:22)

For 300 days at Verdun, the Germans attacked and the Allies held the line. Corporal Pierre Verbere was wounded at the front and fell in love with Charlotte, a nurse. Men too old to fight served in hospitals, factories, and offices. In Britain, couples married quickly before men returned to the front.

Conscription for the Somme (02:31)

As the British Empire ran low on manpower, French Canadian troops were sent to the front in summer 1916. General Joffre argued for relieving French forces at Verdun. Generals Foch and Haig would command the Somme Offensive.

Tunneling under the Trenches (02:56)

Hear the Somme Offensive plan. Nearly 600,000 men gathered; most were new recruits. The British counted on underground explosives to destroy the German front line, but the Germans had already withdrawn.

Battle of the Somme (03:30)

After shelling the German line for a week, British artillery paused. The Germans set up machine guns and felled 20,000 British troops in the first day. Survivors reported that the shelling had not reached the enemy; General Haig ordered more attacks anyway.

Somme Conclusion (02:52)

In September 2016, the British introduced tanks but early models proved easy artillery targets. After five months, in November, French and British leaders announced the battle's end. They had advanced 10 miles and recaptured a few German trenches. View footage of British troops and captured German soldiers.

Protesting Trench Warfare (02:21)

In 1917, after the failed Chemin des Dames Offensive, thousands of French troops refused to move up to the front line. One mutineer advocated revolution, which had already broken out in Russia.

Credits: Apocalypse WWI: Episode 3—Hell (00:45)

Credits: Apocalypse WWI: Episode 3—Hell

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Apocalypse WWI: Episode 3—Hell

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September 1915. Millions of men are caught in the snares of a gigantic war. From the trenches in France to the Italian Alps and the Balkans, and beyond to the gates of the Eastern world, the whole of Europe is on fire. New weapons, new defenses; warfare has become industrial and chemical. Fighting reaches an unprecedented level of violence. Artillery relentlessly pounds the enemy. Attacks are launched with poison gas, flame-throwers and shrapnel, a mixture of gunpowder and pellets that destroys human bodies and faces. The assaults are terrifying, reckless. Ear-splitting storms of steel drive soldiers to madness. Wounds are atrocious, hygiene and living conditions in the combat zones are dreadful and the ensuing epidemics wreak havoc… This is hell on earth. In February of 1916, in France, the Germans launch a major offensive on Verdun. The French lines hold on at all costs. The Battle of the Somme, the bloodiest battle of the war, begins on July 1, 1916. In only a few hours, the British army loses 30,000 men. 5 million men have already succumbed in just 16 months. But for the leaders, the human and material cost is so high that the enemy must pay and the war must go on. How to put a stop to this madness, to stymie the rage?

Length: 52 minutes

Item#: BVL120614

ISBN: 978-1-63521-655-4

Copyright date: ©2014

Closed Captioned

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