Explore These World War I Trenches and Tunnels in France and Belgium

These four sites give visitors a glimpse into the trench warfare tactics soldiers experienced during the Great War

Jennifer Nalewicki

Travel Correspondent

Canadian Memorial at Vimy, France

For troops serving on the front lines during World War I, trench warfare was common practice. The use of machine guns and rapid-fire field artillery pieces forced soldiers on both sides, the Allies and the Central Powers, to bore intricate trench systems into the ground. These trenches served as protection against enemy fire and allowed soldiers to fire back without being fully exposed. Tunnels, on the other hand, were used to surreptitiously place explosives beneath unsuspecting enemy soldiers and move supplies between different parts of a battleground. In one known instance, a tunnel was used as an underground hospital.

While overgrowth and erosion have largely overtaken many battlegrounds in the 100 years since the Treaty of Versailles was signed, officially ending the war between Germany and the Allies, archaeologists, historians and even civilians have uncovered the remnants of these protective hideaways throughout Europe. These sites are important glimpses, even today, into battles that took place during the Great War.

Here are four tunnels and trenches visitors can see firsthand:

Canadian Memorial, Vimy, France

Trench

One of the first things visitors notice at this memorial site in northern France, about 125 miles north of Paris, is the massive limestone monument that commemorates the thousands of Canadian soldiers who went missing or were presumed dead during the First World War. The memorial sits on the site of the Battle of Vimy Ridge overlooking the restored remnants of an elaborate system of brick-lined trenches and tunnels burrowed in the surrounding green hills.

In preparation for the battle, the Canadian Armed Forces worked with several British tunneling companies to create an intricate underground network of tunnels, some nearly a kilometer in length to protect soldiers and to facilitate and disguise the movement of troops and supplies. This was particularly important as the Germans held the higher ground in the region and could easily spot activity on the surface. Some tunnels were outfitted with running water and lighting systems. Others were used to covertly position explosives beneath German fortifications.

On the morning of Easter Sunday, April 9, 1917, during a sleet storm, the Canadian Armed Forces attacked the German Sixth Army. Waves of Canadian troops poured over the trench walls following close behind an artillery attack designed to give the Canadians time to reach the German positions before the Sixth Army could recover from the barrage. Despite heavy losses, the Canadians succeeded in driving the Germans back.

Today, tour groups can explore both the tunnels and trenches with guides, or virtually via Google Canada .

Wellington Quarry, Arras, France

Wellington Quarry, Arras, France

The tunnels associated with the Wellington Quarry , or la Carrière Wellington, located 110 miles north of Paris, were so elaborate that they contained a working hospital for the British Army and Allied Powers fully equipped with 700 beds and operating theaters. Not only that, but workers from the New Zealand Tunneling Company—tapped to complete the massive project—built the labyrinth of passageways so that they interlinked with preexisting tunnels dating back to the Middle Ages. (The name Wellington is a nod to New Zealand's capital city.) Today, the Carrière Wellington Museum resides underground, and tours include an elevator ride 70 feet below the surface, a description of the 1917 Battle of Arras that happened here between the British Empire and German Empire, and a glimpse at soldiers’ subterranean lives by visiting their sleeping quarters and the hospital for wounded soldiers.

Sanctuary Wood, Ypres, Belgium

Sanctuary Wood, Ypres, Belgium

Once the dust settled after the final battle of World War I and citizens received the all clear, one farmer by the name of Schier returned to reclaim his property and discovered a maze of trenches bored into his land in western Belgium. Rather than replant his crops, he decided to keep the land as it was to preserve the memory of the Great War and those who lost their lives in battle. In the century since, the property remains in the hands of the same family, the Schiers, who maintain it and have kept it largely the way it appeared when their late relative discovered it. Today, Sanctuary Wood serves as a museum filled with artifacts discovered onsite, including weapons, ammunition, gravesites, soldiers’ personal belongings and photos. But arguably the main feature is the series of zigzagging, corrugated metal-lined trenches that stand as a reminder of where the British front line once resided and where hundreds of men lost their lives.

Beaumont-Hamel Newfoundland Memorial, Beaumont-Hamel, France

Beaumont-Hamel Newfoundland Memorial, Beaumont-Hamel, France

Among the trenches that make up this network constructed in a pocket of northern France, located about 100 miles southwest of Belgium, are some of the most shallow built during the war. In the years since, they have been taken back by nature. The undulating hills and valleys appear, on first glance, to be a mere quirk of the landscape, but in reality they served as protection for the Allied Powers. Today, the 74-acre site is home to a memorial —a bronze caribou atop a granite pyramid—commemorating soldiers of the Canadian Armed Forces, in particular those from Newfoundland who bravely served their country.

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Jennifer Nalewicki | | READ MORE

Jennifer Nalewicki is a Brooklyn-based journalist. Her articles have been published in The New York Times , Scientific American , Popular Mechanics , United Hemispheres and more. You can find more of her work at her website .

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WW1 Lives: The Experience of War

Although photographs of men in trenches are the most enduring image of World War 1, trench life was only part of a soldier’s experience on active duty. Soldiers also resided at the main military headquarters (HQ) and in training camps where they also played sports to keep themselves occupied and fit for action. Rest periods might be spent using the facilities of local towns.

The Allies and their enemy had a different approach to the use of trenches – the German trenches built defensive trenches designed to hold ground against the Allies on two fronts - West and East.

The Allied trenches developed from individual fox holes that were then joined together to form temporary trenches . These were used to prepare for attack while being protected from the shells of enemy artillery fire. Temporary trenches evolved to become permanent placements for frontline troops with reserve trenches to house troops rotated to and from the frontline. Private William Tapp of the Royal Warwickshire Regiment called one of these the ‘Starvation Trench’ due to the poor supply of provisions. Communication trenches were used to bring supplies including food to the frontline.

A soldier’s basic kit apart from their uniform was a Short Magazine Lee Enfield (SMLE or ‘Smelly’) Rifle, an entrenching tool to dig or maintain trenches, a gas mask, a water canteen, and a spoon and a mess tin for eating. Troops were required to supply their own soap because army soap was of such poor quality, and also toilet paper and foot powder to keep feet dry and prevent sores.

Food rations were basic. Most food was eaten cold and tinned food such as corn beef and potatoes or Maconochie (‘trench stew’), made up of carrots, turnips, potatoes, onions, and beans, were a standard ration.  There were also whole wheat biscuits so hard that they had to be broken with stone and put in hot water to make porridge or an addition to stews. The main British producer of these was Huntley & Palmers, then the largest biscuit manufacturer in the world and still in business today. Bread, jam (usually plum and apple) and local vegetables broke the monotony of the daily diet.

This uninspiring food was washed down with cups of tea if you were lucky enough to have a ‘Tommy cooker’ which was a folding stove that used wood or meths fuel. Water for the tea was often stored in reused petrol cans which gave a petrol taste which was thinly disguised by the tea.

A private soldier was paid just a shilling a day (£5.45 today), a Sergeant 2 shillings and 4 pence (£12.70), a Second Lieutenant 7 shillings and 6 pence (£40.90), a Lieutenant 8 shillings and six pence (£46.30) and a Captain 12 shillings and 6 pence (£68.10).  

In WW1 Lives :

The Experience of War: - Introduction - Artefacts

Coping with War: - Introduction - Artefacts - Bairnsfather Cartoons

text

Flight of Fleas(?) from Flanders - Xmas 1914. Designed as a Christmas Card to send home by soldiers of the 4th Division. Both officers and soldiers suffered from fleas and lice that bit and itched the skin. To combat this, delousing stations were set up. In this cartoon soldiers are bathing together in a large tub while their clothes are being disinfected. Unfortunately lice eggs stayed in the folds of uniforms and so lice would reemerge once the soldiers dressed.

first world war trenches visit

Loud-tac or Hard-tac biscuit - Inscribed 'Great War From France nov 19th 1914' given to 20435 Private F.T. Plater.Produced by Huntley & Palmers, they were designed to be broken down in hot water to make porridge or added to stews.

Artefacts on display in the museum

The following is a selection of items from our collection that are on display in the "World War 1 Lives" exhibition in the Fusilier Museum, Warwick.

View more artefacts relating to the theme of "The Experience of War".

Battalion sign

Painting of regimental antelope on black ground with '1' in top left hand corner. Hung outside Headquarters (HQ)  of 1st Battalion of the Royal Warwickshire Regiment, France 1916.  The Commanding Officer of the battalion at the time was Lieutenant Colonel  G.N.B. Forster D.S.O who was later Bridgadier General C.M.G. D.S.O. He died near Amiens in 1918. 

first world war trenches visit

My Dream for Years to Come

Bruce Bairnsfather drawing: My Dream for Years to Come. Published in Fragments from France. This subject was used in more cartoons by Bairnsfather as the war went on more men suffered from shell shock due to the constant bombardments. 

first world war trenches visit

First Field dressing pack

This item is a one of two bandages which were packed into a soldiers field dressing pack along with two metal safety pins, these packs were issued as part of a soldiers kit. Soldiers who were caught without the dressing were charged under Military law Their intention was that men could have their wounds dressed & attended to quickly if no medical assistance was close by. The field dressing was stored in an inside pocket of their tunic under the outer right hand side flap. This one is part of the field dressing manufactured by Cuxon, Gerrard & Co Ltd  Birmingham & Oldbury & dated August 1918

first world war trenches visit

  • Military History

Trench Warfare

Black and white photograph of a narrow trench. One side is lined with wooden structures. Several men in military combat gear peek out from under the eaves of the structures or stand next to them.

World War I was a war of trenches.

After the early war of movement in the late summer of 1914, artillery and machine guns forced the armies on the Western Front to dig trenches to protect themselves. Fighting ground to a stalemate. Over the next four years, both sides would launch attacks against the enemy’s trench lines, attacks that resulted in horrific casualties.

Black and white photograph of the inside of a trench lined with sandbags and wooden stakes.

Inside a trench, all that is visible is just a few feet on either side, ending at the trench walls in front and back, with a patch of leaden sky visible above. Trenches in WWI were constructed with sandbags, wooden planks, woven sticks, tangled barbed wire or even just stinking mud.

Black and white photograph of two men in military combat gear and steel helmets walking toward the viewer in a trench. They are up to their ankles in water.

Despite the use of wooden plank ‘duckboards’ and sandbags to keep out the water, soldiers on the front lines lived mired in mud. “The mud in Belgium varies in consistency from water to about the thickness of dough ready for the oven,” one British infantry soldier wrote. The constant damp often led to a condition known as ‘trenchfoot,’ which if left untreated, could require amputation to stave off severe infection or even death.

Faded black and white photograph of the inside of a narrow trench. A handful of soldiers wearing steel helmets sit or stand inside.

Trenches became trash dumps of the detritus of war: broken ammunition boxes, empty cartridges, torn uniforms, shattered helmets, soiled bandages, shrapnel balls, bone fragments. Trenches were also places of despair, becoming long graves when they collapsed from the weight of the war.

Black and white photograph of a snowy trench stretching directly away from the viewer. It is lined with wooden supports and wooden roof scaffolding. Several soldiers holding shovels pose for the photograph in the trench.

‘No-man’s land,’ was an ancient term that gained terrible new meaning during WWI. The constant bombardment of modern artillery and rapid firing of machine guns created a nightmarish wasteland between the enemies’ lines, littered with tree stumps and snarls of barbed wire. In battle, soldiers had to charge out of the trenches and across no-man’s land into a hail of bullets and shrapnel and poison gas. They were easy targets and casualties were enormously high. By the end of 1914, after just five months of fighting, the number of dead and wounded exceeded four million men.

Black and white aerial photograph of a large flat area of fields and dirt criss-crossed with dark squiggly lines.

The trench systems on the Western Front were roughly 475 miles long, stretching from the English Channel to the Swiss Alps, although not in a continuous line. Though trenches offered some protection, they were still incredibly dangerous, as soldiers easily became trapped or killed because of direct hits from artillery fire.

Learn more about WWI trenches

Preserved WW1 Trenches at Vimy Memorial Park

One of the places to see preserved First World War trenches is at the Vimy Memorial Park in northern France.

In 1922 the Canadian Government was granted a piece of land by France, on which to build a national memorial to her Canadian Forces who had served in the First World War in France and Belgium. This land was at the western end of the Vimy Ridge, a battlefield location where the Canadian Corps had fought and succeeded in pushing the Germans out of their heavily entrenched positions on the ridge in April 1917. The position of the national monument was agreed at the highest point of the ridge at Hill 145. In addition to the ground for the national monument the Canadian Government negotiated with the French Government to ask for an additional tract of the former battlefield so as to preserve it as a memorial park.

The battlefield was cleared and made safe in parts of the designated memorial park, but much of the ground was left untouched in its cratered state. This battlefield had been fought over by French and German troops before the British arrived to take over the sector in early 1916. As a strategic defensive line for the Germans high on the ridge from , they were protecting the view to the east across the Lens-Douai plain and their rear areas and lines of communication. The ground was pock-marked with crater of all sizes, it was entrenched with Front Line and support trenches and tunneled into by both sides.

During the construction of the Canadian National Vimy Memorial in the 1920s and 1930s the principal Canadian engineer working on the site, Major Unwin Simson, saw that some of the trenches were collapsing due to weather damage. He wondered if they might be preserved in a more permanent way. This would help prevent naturally occuring damage to them by the weather and undergrowth and the number of visitors wishing to walk through them. While he was waiting for the limestone to arrive for the construction of the national memorial on Hill 145, Major Simson gave a job to his workers to rebuild a section of the Allied and the German trenches using sandbags filled with concrete.

The trenches on the Vimy Ridge preserve a short section of the Allied Front Line and the German Front Line, with a few metres of No-Mans-Land in between them. This was the position of the two Front Lines on this part of the Vimy Ridge at the time of the launch of the Allied offensive as the Battles of Arras in April and May 1917. By the end of the Battle of Vimy Ridge (9 th - 11 th April 1917) the Canadians had pushed forward to the north-east and had pushed the German defenders out of their positions, one small section of which is preserved, to the far side of the ridge and down onto the plain.

Free Guided Visits

From mid January to mid December Canadian university students work for Veterans Affairs Canada as guides for visitors to the Memorial Park. Free guided tours of the preserved trenches and tunnels are available during the opening hours of the Vimy Interpretive Centre, subject to availability. Tours for groups of 10 or more persons can be arranged by reservation (except Mondays and certain holiday days).

For hours of opening and contacts for reservations go to our page at:

Interpretive Centre at Vimy Memorial Park

The part of the Vimy Memorial Park where the preserved trenches are located is not subject to hours of opening, so is accessible by visitors at all hours of the day and every day of the year.

Visitors are respectfully asked only to walk on marked pathways throughout the site. As areas of the Memorial Park have never been cleared of battlefield debris, there may be dangers from unexploded munitions if walking beyond the designated access routes. As a site where thousands of Allied and German troops on lost their lives and whose final resting place has never been found, visitors are respectfuly reminded of this.

Wheelchair Access

Paths are provided as an alternative to steps at the Vimy Interpretation Centre and through the centre of the site of the preserved trenches. The trench system itself and the tunnels on the site are not wheelchair accessible.

There is ample free parking for cars and coaches at the Vimy Memorial Park both at the Canadian National Memorial and at the Interpretive Centre. There is a gate across the entrance to the car park next to the Interpretive Centre. This car park is closed to vehicles at the times when the Interpretive Centre is closed (see opening hours above), but visitors can park outside this gate and walk through to visit the preserved trenches.

There are toilets available for visitors next to the Vimy Interpretive Centre, available for visitors during the opening hours of the Interpretive Centre (see below for link).

Preserved Trenches at Vimy Memorial Park Location

Preserved trenches, vimy memorial park.

50.37147318849236

2.771848440170288

  • Canadian National Vimy Memorial

Latitude N 50° 22' 17" ; Longitude E 2° 46' 17"

The preserved trenches are located in the Canadian National Vimy Memorial Park. This is located near the village of Vimy about 5 miles (8 kilometres) north-east of Arras on the N17 to Lens. The memorial park is signposted just south of the village of Vimy. The Vimy Interpretive Centre and the location of the Vimy Memorial, the preserved trenches and tunnels are well signposted in the park.

(Note that the aerial satellite image of the Vimy Memorial on the location map includes the scaffolding for the renovation work which was completed in 2006.)

Related Topic

Find out more about the Canadian National Memorial, the origins of the design by Walter Allward and other places of interest in the Memorial Park:

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Life in the Trenches of World War I

By: Brian Dunleavy

Updated: April 26, 2021 | Original: April 23, 2018

first world war trenches visit

When Union Army General William Tecumseh Sherman famously said “War is hell,” he was referring to war in general, but he could have been describing trench warfare, a military tactic that’s been traced to the Civil War . Trenches—long, deep ditches dug as protective defenses—are most often associated with World War I , and the results of trench warfare in that conflict were hellish indeed.

Trenches were common throughout the Western Front.

Trench warfare in World War I was employed primarily on the Western Front, an area of northern France and Belgium that saw combat between German troops and Allied forces from France, Great Britain and, later, the United States.

Although trenches were hardly new to combat: Prior to the advent of firearms and artillery, they were used as defenses against attack, such as moats surrounding castles. But they became a fundamental part of the strategy with the influx of modern weapons of war.

Long, narrow trenches dug into the ground at the front, usually by the infantry soldiers who would occupy them for weeks at a time, were designed to protect World War I troops from machine-gun fire and artillery attacks from the air.

As the “Great War” also saw the wide use of chemical warfare and poison gas, the trenches were thought to offer some degree of protection against exposure. (While significant exposure to militarized chemicals such as mustard gas would result in almost certain death, many of the gases used in World War I were still relatively weak.)

Thus, trenches may have afforded some protection by allowing soldiers more time to take other defensive steps, such as putting on gas masks.

Trench warfare caused enormous numbers of casualties.

At least initially in World War I, forces mounted attacks from the trenches, with bayonets fixed to their rifles, by climbing over the top edge into what was known as “no man’s land,” the area between opposing forces, usually in a single, straight line and under a barrage of gunfire.

Not surprisingly, this approach was rarely effective and often led to mass casualties.

Later in the war, forces began mounting attacks from the trenches at night, usually with the support of covering artillery fire. The Germans soon became known for effectively mounting nighttime incursions behind enemy lines, by sending highly trained soldiers to attack the trenches of opposing forces at what they perceived as weak points.

If successful, these soldiers would breach enemy lines and circle around to attack their opponents from the rear, while their comrades would mount a traditional offensive at the front.

The brutality of trench warfare is perhaps best typified by the 1916 Battle of the Somme in France. British troops suffered 60,000 casualties on the first day of fighting alone.

German soldiers lying dead in a trench after the Battle of Cambrai, 1917. (Credit: Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Disease and ‘shell shock’ were rampant in the trenches.

With soldiers fighting in close proximity in the trenches, usually in unsanitary conditions, infectious diseases such as dysentery, cholera and typhoid fever were common and spread rapidly.

Constant exposure to wetness caused trench foot, a painful condition in which dead tissue spread across one or both feet, sometimes requiring amputation. Trench mouth, a type of gum infection, was also problematic and is thought to be associated with the stress of nonstop bombardment.

As they were often effectively trapped in the trenches for long periods of time, under nearly constant bombardment, many soldiers suffered from “ shell shock ,” the debilitating mental illness known today as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

It’s likely all of these factors, which stemmed from the widespread use of trench warfare, made World War I the deadliest conflict in global history to that point. It’s believed that as many as one in 10 of all fighting forces in the conflict were killed.

It was also the first conflict in world history to have more deaths caused by combat, rather than from disease spread during the fighting.

Trench warfare was also employed in World War II and in the Korean War to some degree, but it has not been used regularly during conflicts in the ensuing decades.

first world war trenches visit

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Step back in time and explore the ww1 trenches with your class for free, explore the ww1 trenches in vr….

Transport your class back in time and experience life in the First World War trenches for free with incredible 360 virtual trench experiences!

Visit the full First World War Virtual Trench Experience for free on the Seymour & Lerhn platform or dive straight in with the WW1 in VR Virtual Trench 360 video!

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Walk the WW1 Trenches for free!

Designed to meet UK National Curriculum requirements, this tour takes you on an immersive adventure through the trenches, building empathy and developing understanding of the conditions faced by WW1 soldiers, making this a perfect classroom activity to assist with emotive creative writing or themes in British History . 

Pupils can explore in full 360, or use a Google Cardboard, Homido Grab, or similar low-cost VR headset for even more immersion into the history of the First World War. Listen to stories told by your guide, Peter, as he describes his role and experiences on the front line. 

Walk through a WW1 Trench with 360 video!

Take an immersive guided tour through the trenches with this 360 virtual reality experience of the trenches in World War 1.

Follow along with your guide, Peter, to discover how WW1 soldiers lived, worked, and fought in the First World War trenches.

View across No Man’s Land, explore an officer’s quarters, step inside the first aid field hospital and navigate the wet and muddy trench system.

Click the button below to open the video in the YouTube app and explore the WW1 Trenches in VR mode!

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Life in the trenches during WWI: your essential guide

Peter Hart answers questions about the experiences of the men who served in some of the harshest conditions of World War I

Soldiers in First World War uniform eat in the trenches

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What exactly is a trench?

Trenches are defensive structures that have been used in conflicts right up to the present day, but they are perhaps most commonly associated with combat during World War I.

In its simplest form, the classic British trench used during the 1914–18 war was about six feet deep and three-and-a-half feet wide. It had a fire step, which was about 18 x 18 inches, where soldiers could stand and shoot at the enemy. In front of the trench there was a parapet, which was about three feet tall and six feet deep, to protect soldiers from bullets. Behind the trench, there was a similar structure called a parados. Trenches could also have an A-frame, with wood and chicken wire riveting to prevent collapse. However, it’s important to note that trenches varied in design and structure depending on the location and circumstances. Some were just ditches, while others were concreted. But their main purpose was to provide a safe place for soldiers to defend themselves against the enemy.

Trenches near Jasionna, Poland, during WW1

How far did trenches stretch during WW1?

The trenches stretched from the North Sea all the way down to Switzerland, covering a distance of about 475 miles. However, this was just the front line; there were also communication trenches, support lines, and lines that stretched back from the front line.

So, that’s an approximate distance of 1,500 miles.

But that’s not all. There were many other trenches – sometimes multiple systems of trenches – stretching many thousands of miles. It’s quite a remarkable feat when you think about it, but also important to remember that it was the soldiers who had to dig them, which was a very difficult task.

More like this

first world war trenches visit

How was trench warfare on the Eastern Front different to that on the Western Front?

The two were similar in many ways, but there were some key differences. To start with, the Eastern Front covered a much larger area, with the Austro-Hungarian, German, and Russian armies fighting each other for three or four years. The trenches of the Eastern Front stretched from the Baltic to the Black Sea and covered a distance ranging from 800 miles to 1,500 miles.

The fighting on the Eastern Front, however, was just as brutal and the casualties were actually often higher there than on the Western Front. The trenches themselves were similar, but their sophistication depended on the terrain on which they were built. For instance, breastworks [hastily constructed fortifications built to breast height] were often located in marshy areas.

  • Read more about how trench warfare was fought in WW1

Another thing to note is that the Eastern Front was much colder during winter than the Western Front. Siberian winds would rush across the area, making life even more difficult for soldiers. Overall, it’s important that we remember the Eastern Front and not just focus on the Western Front; life there was just as bad.

Who was stationed in the trenches?

Everyone who was in the army – other than women – and in a fighting unit was stationed in the trenches at some point. The British had a system where battalions were rotated constantly, so soldiers would spend a maximum of two or three days on the front line before going back to the support or reserve lines, and then on to rest. This preserved morale and gave soldiers something to look forward to.

Indian soldiers serving in WWI

The Germans and French did not have such an organised system, so soldiers often spent longer on the front line. And of course, behind the fighting battalions were other essential groups such as Britain’s Army Service Corps, who provided food and supplies, artillery, and people working in the camps and railways.

What role did empire troops play on the front line?

The role of the empire troops during World War I was a crucial one. The Indian Army, which included soldiers from India, Bangladesh and Pakistan, made the biggest contribution in terms of numbers. Many Indian soldiers served on the Western Front, with two corps – some 30,000– 50,000 men – arriving in October 1914, just in time to aid the British Army. They proved to be good fighting men and really saved the day. Their contribution was immense, and many of the soldiers were later sent away to serve in Palestine and Mesopotamia, where they formed the backbone of the force. Both of those campaigns were ultimately successful.

  • Read more | David Olusoga shines a light on forgotten clashes of WWI in distant lands, and on the extensive contributions of Africans and Asians

Aside from the Indian Army, soldiers from other countries in the empire also made significant contributions. The Australians and New Zealanders, commonly known as the Anzacs, were regarded as elite formations by themselves and others. Although they took some time to learn the ropes, by 1917 and 1918 the Anzacs had become a formidable group of fighting men and were actually reserved by Field Marshal Haig as an elite force. The Canadian troops were also brilliant.

Anzac soldiers repair a divisional car in Bonnières, France, August 1918

So, all together, the empire troops – along with soldiers from many other countries that I haven’t mentioned – made incredibly important contributions on the Western Front.

How much time did soldiers in the trenches spend in actual combat?

When it comes to the amount of time soldiers spent in actual combat during World War I, there is an interesting perspective provided by the historian Gordon Corrigan, who pointed out that the British Army spent more time playing football than it did going over the top. Of course, this is because a football match takes an hour and a half, whereas going over the top doesn’t take very long at all.

  • Read more | The Somme: was it really a monstrous failure?

However, Corrigan’s point is a serious one – on average, soldiers would only attack or be attacked a couple of times during their entire trench experience. Again, this varied depending on how long a soldier was stationed in the trenches, but even during a two or three-day stay it was unlikely that a soldier would engage in actual combat. Instead, most losses were incurred through shellfire or sniping.

When soldiers were attacked, it was an incredibly tense and horrible ordeal. RC Sherriff’s play (and later film) Journey’s End depicts the lead-up to a big German attack in 1918, and it conveys just how awful it was for soldiers who faced this kind of threat. They knew it was coming, and they knew that the Germans would cut them off with shellfire. It was a nightmare experience that left a lasting impact on those who survived it.

How did soldiers on the front spend their free time?

Most of the free time that soldiers had was at night, or in between their sergeant coming around and giving them orders. One thing that many soldiers did during in their downtime was drink tea. It became a bit of a fixation, actually; soldiers of the British Army still drink lots of hot, sweet tea to this day.

Crucially, soldiers would also write letters home and read letters from loved ones. This was incredibly important to them, because in those days they never knew if they would hear from their families again, and some soldiers were wonderful authors. They would sit around and talk about what they wished they were eating, like steak and kidney pie, and imagine fantastic meals. They talked about anything and everything to keep their minds off the war.

Another thing soldiers did in their free time was sleep, because they were so tired. Even though they might only be on the front line for two or three days, it was a tiring and stressful experience.

What sort of food did the soldiers eat, and how did they cook it?

British soldiers were provided with a diet that contained roughly 4,000 calories a day. This was meant to ensure they had enough energy to perform their duties despite the physical and mental demands of the war. However, the food was often tinned and canned, which meant it lacked variety and freshness. They also had dog biscuits, which were highly nutritious but not very tasty, as well as salted bacon, which they could fry and then use the lard for other dishes.

In addition, there was Maconochie, which was a meat and vegetable stew that was quite unpopular among soldiers due to its unpleasant taste, especially if it wasn’t warmed through properly. Finally, they had pork and beans – mainly beans, with very little pork – but this was still considered tasty by some soldiers. The soldiers used portable stoves known as Tommy cookers to prepare their meals, but it wasn’t the same as cooking – it just warmed the food up a bit.

What would you say is the biggest myth about life in the trenches?

There is a common perception that the British generals during World War I were incompetent and spent their time in châteaux far away from the front lines. However, this is simply not true. Yes, generals were often stationed in châteaux, but they served as communication centres from which they could effectively command their troops. It’s important to remember that four lieutenant generals (each commanding of a corp of around 60,000 men), 12 major generals (each commanding a division of 12,000 to 18,000 men), and 81 brigadier generals, (each commanding 3,000 to 4,000 men) were killed during the conflict, with a further 146 wounded or taken as prisoner of war. So many of those in charge lost their lives as well.

Allied generals of the Somme offensive

Another myth is that the British generals were old and incompetent buffoons. However, many of them were actually only in their forties or fifties, with some even younger, and had already proven themselves in previous conflicts like the Second Boer War (1899–1902). They had a lifetime of experience behind them, so it’s unfair to dismiss them as inept. Life in the trenches was a brutal and deadly experience for all involved, including the officers who led their troops into battle.

Interview by Emily Briffett

This article was first published in the July 2023 issue of BBC History Revealed

Peter Hart is the former oral historian at the Imperial War Museum, London

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World War 1 Tours – Trenches

Our guests often ask us if it is possible to see World War 1 trenches on our battlefield tours. We visit a number of fascinating sites where you can see preserved trenches. Archaeologists have excavated a section of British front line trench in Thiepval Wood which was used on the first day of The Battle of the Somme and to visit these, see the artefacts found in them and hear the stories of soldiers who fought there is a real highlight of our tours. Also on the Somme we see the preserved trenches in Newfoundland Park. The whole battlefield was preserved after World War 1 and both the British and German trenches are clearly visible on the ground, as is no man’s land in between, pockmarked with shell holes. We also see both of these sites on our Treading in Tommy’s Footsteps and Recalling the Somme tours.

Excavated trenches Thiepval Wood

Excavated trenches Thiepval Wood

Hooge at Ypres was one of the most feared and fought over places on the Western Front and a highly atmospheric section of British trenches has been excavated here. This was the site of the first flamethrower attack and not only includes trenches, but also a series of mine craters and a concrete bunker which our guests enjoy exploring. At Yorkshire trench, archaeologists discovered a major British underground bunker system. These trenches were used during The Third Battle of Ypres (The Battle of Passchendaele) and are another site which our guests never fail to find of great interest. We visit these sites on our Chapters from the Western Front and Ypres Remembered tours.

Preserved Trenches at Hooge

Preserved Trenches at Hooge

Another site at which both British and German trenches have been preserved is at Vimy. As at Newfoundland Park, a section of the battlefield was preserved after World War 1. The whole area is scarred by gigantic mine craters, shell holes and trench lines. Our guests are always amazed by just how close together the opposing trenches could be. We visit Vimy on our Battles of 1917- 1918 tour. Another set of trenches which our guests never fail to find fascinating and which we also visit on our Battles of 1917- 1918 tour are the German trenches at Bayernwald. Overlooking the British lines on the Messines Ridge, this trench system includes the entrance to a German mine shaft and a series of concrete bunkers.

German bunkers at Bayernwald

German bunkers at Bayernwald

None of the preserved trenches can accurately portray the realities of World War 1, but visiting them is a fascinating experience which definitely helps the visitor to understand the war more fully and help bring the battlefields to life.

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first world war trenches visit

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  • Travelling to Ypres
  • Staying in Ypres
  • Passchendaele
  • Sanctuary Wood
  • Bayernwald Trenches and Kemmel
  • Lijssenthoek Cemetery

Yorkshire Trench

  • Polygon Wood
  • Five Must See Somme Sites
  • Travelling to the Somme
  • Staying in the Somme
  • Beaumont Hamel
  • Newfoundland Memorial Park
  • Ulster Tower
  • Lochnagar Crater & Area
  • Iron Harvest
  • Delville Wood
  • Trones Wood, Guillemont & Area
  • Villers-Bretonneux
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World War One Battlefields

Visiting the first world war battlefields of the western front.

  •         - Cookie Policy
  •         - Privacy Policy & Terms of Use
  •         - Travelling to Ypres
  •         - Staying in Ypres
  •         - Passchendaele
  •         - Tyne Cot
  •         - Essex Farm
  •         - Ypres
  •         - Sanctuary Wood
  •         - Hill 60
  •         - Bayernwald Trenches and Kemmel
  •         - Hooge
  •         - Lijssenthoek Cemetery
  •         - Messines
  •         - Plugstreet
  •         - Yorkshire Trench
  •         - Langemark
  •         - Polygon Wood
  •         - Five Must See Somme Sites
  •         - Travelling to the Somme
  •         - Staying in the Somme
  •         - Thiepval
  •         - Beaumont Hamel
  •         - Newfoundland Memorial Park
  •         - Ulster Tower
  •         - Albert
  •         - High Wood
  •         - Lochnagar Crater & Area
  •         - Iron Harvest
  •         - Delville Wood
  •         - Trones Wood, Guillemont & Area
  •         - Serre
  •         - Mametz
  •         - Villers-Bretonneux
  •         - Arras
  •         - Cuinchy, Cambrin and Vermelles
  •         - Fromelles
  •         - Verdun
  •         - Vimy Ridge
  •         - Vimy Ridge Area

Preserved Trench System

Battlefield visitors are fascinated by the experiences which the soldiers endured in the trenches of the First World War. Since a century has now passed since these were in use, it’s not surprising that there are few examples of trench systems still to be seen.  However, there are a number of areas on the Western Front where World War One trench systems have been either maintained, or restored – examples of the former include Vimy Ridge and the Newfoundland Memorial Park .

Yorkshire Trench Site and Location

The Yorkshire trench is an example of one which was lost for many years, but then rediscovered and the trench lines recreated. The image above shows a satellite image of the preserved trench lines, and can also be used as a location map (use the minus button to zoom out).

The Yorkshire Trench is located near the village of Boezinge (previously known as Boesinghe). It’s reached by heading north out of Ypres on the N369 until Boezinge, then turning right over the canal  (sign-posted Langemark-Poelkapelle). This road curves to the right, and just after a Peugeot garage take another right turn. This road heads into a large industrial estate, with wind turbines set among the buildings. The trenches are found to your right, just before some large triangular-shaped buildings.

There are spaces for about 3 cars just before and after the site entrance, and there is no charge for entry. There is an information board at the entrance to the site, which shows the layout of the trenches that were excavated.

Information board at the Yorkshire Trench

The excavation work on the trench system here was undertaken by a group of amateur Belgian archaeologists, known as The Diggers. A British dugout from 1917 was explored by the Diggers as early as 1992, but the majority of excavation work on the site took place in the summer of 1998 and in April 2000. The excavations were filmed by BBC TV for their Meet the Ancestors series, with the programme, “The Forgotten Battlefield”, first shown back in March 2002.

Trenches from 1915 and later in the war were excavated. The position of the 1915 trench is shown at ground level by a wooden slatted path, but the 1917 section has been recreated. The position of the “Yorkshire trench” which has been recreated can be seen on, and matched with trenches marked on British trench maps from September 1916.  The 1915 trench location was around two yards behind that of 1917.

Interior of one of the trenches - Yorkshire Trench

There are several information boards placed at various points around the site, and there is a reconstruction of the A-frame and duckboard construction used to provide the base of the trenches, and of use in raising the bottom level of the trench where standing water was an issue – as it was here in the Ypres Salient. Some of the A-Frames excavated are now in the “In Flanders Field” museum in Ypres. Other information boards have photographs from the actual excavation, plus historical pictures from the war and more information.

The 1917 trench is surprisingly narrow, and somewhat claustrophobic. The entrances to the dug-outs can be seen leading off it, but are covered by wire and often flooded. Within the trench are recreated firesteps, complete with loopholes The site itself is actually quite small, although the trench system here extended beyond this. In fact more of the site was excavated than has been preserved.

One of the dugout entrances at the Yorkshire Trench

Yorkshire Trench is well worth the visit. There are not too many sites with preserved or recreated trenches, and this one is based on the careful excavation of a site threatened with destruction, and the eventual preservation of at least a portion of it for public view. The ground here had probably been undisturbed since the end of the Great War before the industrial estate construction started in the 1990s, and it’s a reminder of what still lies below the surface of the ground where these battles were fought 100 years ago. As a grim reminder of the human cost, the remains of more than 200 soldiers were also found during these excavations.

The remains of soldiers who fought in the Great War are still discovered today, and when British or Commonwealth soldiers are subsequently laid to rest in a war cemetery, the CWGC lists these on their News page .

Sources & Acknowledgements

Paul Reed: Walking Ypres

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first world war trenches visit

Russia-Ukraine war latest: Missiles rain down on Ukrainian cities in massive Russian overnight attack

LIVE – Updated at 07:24

Loud explosions and bombings rocked several of Ukraine ’s cities early today as authorities reported a fresh wave of more than 40 Russian missile strikes and 40 drone attacks.

Explosions were heard in the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv, mayor Ihor Terekho, said on Telegram , as well as in the Zaporizhzhia region, according to governor Ivan Fedorov.

The governor of the western Lviv region, Maksim Kozytskyi, said on Telegram that air defences were working in the area.

“Some missiles and ‘Shahed’ drones were successfully shot down. Unfortunately, only a part of them. Russian terrorists have once again targeted critical infrastructure,” Volodymyr Zelensky said.

He added: “We need air defence systems and other defence assistance, not just turning a blind eye and having lengthy discussions.”

The renewed powerful attack by Russia targeted power generation and distribution facilities in the Kharkiv, Zaporizhzhia, Lviv and Kyiv regions, officials said.

Casualties and damage to residential areas is not immediately known.

This comes just a day after a Russian missile attack killed four people, including a 10-year-old girl, and injured seven in Odesa district in southern Ukraine.

Russian missile strike targets cities across Ukraine

Up to 200,000 left without power, kyiv says.

  • Zelensky visits trenches in Kharkiv
  • Ukraine struck Russian aviation factory in Voronezh region, Ukrainian spy source says
  • Lord Cameron to meet Blinken in Washington today over Ukraine aid
  • US slams Russia’s ‘dangerous game’ at Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant

A Russian attack on Ukraine’s eastern region of Kharkiv snapped power links to more than 200,000 consumers on Thursday, Oleksiy Kuleba, the deputy head of the Ukrainian president’s office, said on the Telegram messaging app.

Loud explosions and bombings rocked several of Ukraine’s cities early today as authorities reported a fresh wave of more than 40 Russian missile strikes and 40 drone attacks.

Explosions were heard in the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv, mayor Ihor Terekho, said on Telegram, as well as in the Zaporizhzhia region, according to governor Ivan Fedorov.

David Cameron rejects Trump’s peace plan as he warns against ‘appeasing’ Putin

Cameron rejects Trump’s Ukraine peace plan as he warns against ‘appeasing’ Putin

Loud explosions and bombings rocked several Ukraine’s cities this morning as authorities reported a fresh wave of Russian missile strikes.

Explosions were heard in the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv, mayor Ihor Terekho, said on Telegram, as well as in the Zaporizhzhia region, according to governor Ivan Fedorov, also on the app.

Ukrainian energy minister Herman Halushchenko said on Telegram that the attacks targeted power generation and distribution facilities in the Kharkiv, Zaporizhzhia, Lviv and Kyiv regions.

Officials in Kyiv said the attacks have damaged its power grid facilities.

Russia has penetrated US politics, says Zelensky

Russian influence has penetrated American political system, claimed Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky.

“They have their lobbies everywhere: in the United States, in the EU countries, in Britain, in Latin America, in Africa,” Mr Zelensky told The Politico while referring to Russia.

“When we talk about the Congress – do you notice how they work with society in the United States?”

He also warned against the Russia’s information warfare and its influence on American media and citizens.

“They pump their narratives through the media,” Mr Zelensky said. “These are not Russian citizens or natives of Russia, no. They are representatives of certain media groups, citizens of the United States. They are the ones in the media with the appropriate messages, sometimes very pro-Russian.”

Ukraine will be outgunned by Russia 10 to 1 in weeks without US help, top Europe general says

The top general for US forces in Europe told Congress that Ukraine will be outgunned 10 to one by Russia within a matter of weeks if Congress does not find a way to approve sending more ammunition and weapons to Kyiv soon.

The testimony from Army Gen Christopher Cavoli, head of US European Command, and Celeste Wallander, assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs, comes as Congress enters pivotal weeks for voting for aid for Ukraine, but there’s no guarantee funding will be improved in time.

Ukraine has been rationing its munitions as Congress has delayed passing its $60bn supplemental bill.

Donald Trump’s plan for peace in Ukraine means no peace at all

It cannot have been a great surprise to the foreign secretary, David Cameron , that Donald Trump showed such little interest in supporting Ukraine ’s war of resistance. Had Mr Trump wanted to see Ukraine receive the military assistance that Kyiv has been begging for, and which remains stalled in the House of Representatives, he’d have given it the nod months ago, and the Republican caucus would have responded with alacrity.

The fact that Trump’s puppet, speaker of the House Mike Johnson , couldn’t find time in his diary to speak to His Britannic Majesty’s Secretary of State for the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office speaks volumes for the indifference America feels for its allies and the weakness of the now almost satirically-styled “special relationship”.

We’re learning, if we had not already, the full gruesome nature of what lies behind the slogan “ America First ”. Mr Trump, as he’s already practically admitted, is not interested in helping President Biden get his plan through Congress; nor is he much bothered about the territorial integrity of Ukraine. He plainly regards the war as a waste of money and a lost cause – indeed, a cause for which he feels little sympathy.

Read The Independent ’s Editorial here:

Editorial: Donald Trump’s plan for peace in Ukraine means no peace at all

Russia shells farmland in Novgorod-Siversky

Pictures of blackened farmland and destroyed tractors show the aftermath of a recent Russian shelling.

The civil agricultural enterprise in Novgorod-Sivers was struck with damage to buildings and the silo.

Fortunately, people were not hurt.

The police of Novgorod-Siversky said the event will be submitted to the Unified Register of Pre-trial Investigations under article 438 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine.

‘A battle for democracy’: Ukraine bishop urges UK and US to keep supporting fight against Russia

The bishop for Ukraine in London has urged the UK and the US to “honour their pledges” and not forget that Ukraine is fighting Russia to save the “rule of law and democracy”.

In a major intervention, Bishop Kenneth Nowakowski said Ukraine was not asking for soldiers on the ground but for funding to continue fighting Russian president Vladimir Putin .

Two years ago, Russia launched a devastating full-scale invasion of Ukraine , capturing nearly a quarter of the country and displacing more than 10 million people. There are now at least six million Ukrainian refugees in Europe, including around 250,000 in the UK.

“This is not just a battle for Ukraine,” the Catholic bishop told The Independent . “It is the battle for rule of law, democracy and freedoms that we have all taken advantage of. That we stand to lose.

Bel Trew reports:

Ukraine bishop urges UK and US to keep supporting fight against Russia

Mariupol Resistance reports plans for Russian draft in Spring

Resistance fighters in Mariupol say that Russian occupying forces are mobilising a spring draft to begin in May.

Mariupol City Council said on Telegram: “The so-called military commissariat of Mariupol and the district issued an order according to which the occupation administration must provide all data on enterprises in the city for mobilisation activities by April 15. This is reported by the Mariupol Resistance.

“We remind you that the spring draft of men born in 1994-2006 is also starting in the occupied territories. Russians want to throw Ukrainian men to the front to die for Putin.”

Russia attacks Ukraine’s Kharkiv, Zaporizhzhia region as blasts heard

Explosions were heard in the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv today morning as it was being attacked by Russian missiles, mayor Ihor Terekhov said.

Separately, Zaporizhzhia governor Ivan Fedorov said blasts were heard in the southern Ukrainian region, and Ukrainian media reported more cruise missiles were in the air.

Switzerland to host Ukraine peace summit on June 15-16

The Swiss government will host a two-day high-level conference in June aimed at achieving peace in Ukraine.

“There is currently sufficient international support for a high-level conference to launch the peace process,” a statement said.

The conference will be held June 15-16 at the Burgenstock resort in the canton of Nidwalden outside the city of Lucerne.

It will aim to create a framework favourable to a comprehensive and lasting peace in Ukraine as well as “a concrete roadmap for Russia’s participation in the peace process.”

Swiss authorities have yet to disclose a full list of participants.

Russians flee 'very unusual' floods in boats clutching valuables, food, pets

Residents of the flood-stricken Russian city of Orenburg arrived at evacuation points on Wednesday by inflatable boat, carrying whatever they could grab from their homes in small bags.

One elderly woman in a life-jacket clutched a terrified-looking cat as she descended from a boat onto dry land.

“There was no water in the house yesterday. It came very quickly at night,” Taisiya, 71, told Reuters. “By the time I got ready, I couldn’t get out.”

Historic floods have engulfed cities and towns across Russia and Kazakhstan this week after Europe’s third-longest river burst its banks, forcing about 110,000 people to evacuate and swamping parts of Orenburg, a city with a population of 550,000 about 1,200 km (750 miles) east of Moscow.

Swiftly-melting snow has swelled several major rivers, including the Ural, which runs through Orenburg towards the Caspian Sea. Whole areas of the city were underwater on Wednesday and at least 7,700 residents were evacuated.

Russian missile attack kills four in Odesa district, governor says

An early evening Russian missile attack killed four people on Wednesday, including a 10-year-old girl, and injured seven in Odesa district in southern Ukraine, the regional governor said.

Oleh Kiper, writing on the Telegram messaging app, said one of the injured was in serious condition after having his legs amputated.

Emergency teams were at the site, he said, and “doctors are doing all they can”.

The missiles, presumed to be Iskander-M ballistic missiles, struck between 3pm and 3.30pm GMT and also damaged transport infrastructure, including nearby trucks.

Arsenal star Oleksandr Zinchenko would fight in Ukraine if called up

Ukraine military chief’s chilling warning to the West about Russia’s threat

UK needs wartime defence spending in face of most dangerous time since Cold War, ex-civil service chief warns

Britain must spend more on defence, warns former top civil servant

Western leaders face hard choices to help Ukraine resist Putin’s aggression

Editorial: Western leaders face hard choices to help Ukraine resist Putin

UN warns of ‘reckless’ Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant drone attacks

Locked up for opposing Putin: Inside Vladimir Kara-Murza’s brutal prison ordeal

The last time Vladimir Kara-Murza – Russia ’s most prominent opposition leader after the death of Alexei Navalny – was allowed to speak to his family , his wife Evgenia declined the opportunity. It had been months since they last spoke .

Kara-Murza, who faces 25 years in a remote penal colony for speaking out against Vladimir Putin, the longest sentence handed to a Kremlin critic since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, was only allowed to use the phone for 15 minutes.

Tom Watling reports on his ordeal:

Cameron defends ‘entirely proper’ meeting with Trump

Cameron defends meeting with Trump and says he won’t ‘lecture anybody’ on Ukraine

‘I live in constant fear that he will die’: Mother of jailed Putin critic says time running out to save him

Mother of jailed Putin critic Vladimir Kara-Murza says time running out to save him

US general warns time running out for Ukraine without US aid

Ukraine will run out of artillery shells and air defense interceptors “in fairly short order” without American support, leaving them vulnerable to a partial or total defeat, the top US general in Europe said.

“If one side can shoot and the other side can’t shoot back, the side that can’t shoot back loses. So the stakes are very high,” General Christopher Cavoli, the commander of European Command, told the House Armed Services Committee.

Republican House of Representatives Speaker Mike Johnson is refusing to call a vote on a bill that would provide $60 billion more for Ukraine and the White House is scrambling to find ways to send assistance to Kyiv, which has been battling Russian forces for more than two years.

Cameron admits he is meeting US politicians with ‘great trepidation’ but is passionate about Ukraine

Cameron admits he is meeting US politicians with ‘trepidation’ about Ukraine

Russian airstrikes kill at least three people

Russian air strikes on Ukraine’s northeastern Kharkiv region on Wednesday afternoon hit a clinic and a pharmacy, killing at least three people, a local official said.

Kharkiv and the surrounding region have long been targeted by Russian attacks but the strikes have become more intense over recent weeks, hitting civilian and energy infrastructure.

A 14-year-old girl, and two women were killed in the village of Lyptsi, where a pharmacy came under attack, regional governor Oleh Synehubov said on Telegram.

The Russian glide bombs changing the face of the war in Ukraine

Switzerland to host Ukraine peace summit this year

The Swiss government will host a two-day high-level conference in June aimed at achieving peace in Ukraine, it said on Wednesday, although Russia has made clear it will not take part in the initiative.

Switzerland said in January it would host a peace summit at the request of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy and has since held talks with the EU, G7 member states and countries such as China and India to garner their support.

“There is currently sufficient international support for a high-level conference to launch the peace process,” the Federal Council said in a statement.

Zelensky slams Trump’s peace plan as ‘primitive'

Volodymyr Zelensky has slammed Donald Trump’s reported idea of giving up swathes of territory to Russia as “primitive”.

The US presidential candidate is said to have suggested Kyiv cede Crimea and the Donbas to Vladimir Putin to end the war.

But the Ukrainian president said such a deal would pave the way for more Russian conquest. “If the deal is that we just give up our territories, and that’s the idea behind it, then it’s a very primitive idea,” Mr Zelensky told Politico.

Cameron: ‘Don’t listen to Putin’s lies’

British foreign secretary Lord Cameron has urged US politicians not to be taken in by propaganda from Vladimir Putin.

The former prime minister is in Washington DC as part of an effort to unlock US funding for Ukraine which is currently being blocked by Republicans.

Senior figures including House intelligence committee chairman Mike Turner and foreign affairs committee chairman Michael McCaul have warned that some of their fellow Republicans are being influenced by Russian propaganda.

Asked about the situation, Lord Cameron told MSNBC: “Don’t listen to Putin’s lies about Ukraine. It is a free democracy that wants to be an independent sovereign country, that wants to be our ally and our friend.

“And we should be standing by our friends, because the world will be watching if we don’t.”

David Cameron was quite right to drop in on Donald Trump

Ukraine and UK sign agreement to cooperate on arms production

Ukraine and Britain have signed a framework agreement to cooperate in the defence and arms production sector, officials said in Kyiv, part of a wartime effort to build up Ukraine’s domestic weapons industry by working with allies.

The document was signed at a military industry conference in Kyiv that was attended by about 30 British defence companies who visited to discuss potential joint ventures with Ukrainian weapons and defence producers.

“It is the first intergovernmental agreement on cooperation,” Oleksandr Kamyshin, Ukraine’s Minister for Strategic Industries, told reporters after the signing ceremony.

“Today British companies are working with Ukrainian companies and looking for opportunities to produce more weapons jointly.”

Greg Hands, UK Minister for Trade Policy, said he hoped the agreement would bring gains for Ukraine on the battlefield and also benefit its battered economy in the longer term.

Watch as Cameron and Blinken hold joint press conference in Washington DC

Watch live as Cameron and Blinken hold joint press conference in Washington DC

Ukraine denies a Russian claim that it launched drone strikes on a major nuclear power plant

Kyiv downs 14 out of 17 Russian drones, air force claims

Kyiv has downed dozens of Putin’s drones and two guided missiles as Ukraine was accused of hitting a Russian-controlled nuclear power plant.

The Ukrainian Air Force claimed 14 out of 17 attack drones launched by Moscow were downed and two of several guided missiles targeting Odesa and Mykolaiv were destroyed.

Energy infrastructure in Mykolaiv was damaged as a result of the attack, disrupting power supply for several hours. There were no casualties in the attacks, the military said.

David Cameron says it’s possible for Ukraine to win war if armed with ‘what they need’

David Cameron says its possible for Ukraine to win war if armed with ‘what they need’

Wider war in Europe ‘no longer a fantasy’, warns EU’s top diplomat

A wider war in Europe is “no longer a fantasty” and the continent should prepare for war with Russia, the EU’s top diplomat warned.

“Russia threatens Europe,” both through its ongoing war in Ukraine and hybrid attacks on EU member states, Josep Borrell said.

“War is certainly looming around us,” said Mr Borrell. “A high-intensity, conventional war in Europe is no longer a fantasy.”

Zelensky invites Trump to Ukraine

Volodymyr Zelensky invited US presidential candidate Donald Trump to Ukraine, saying he was open to hearing his proposal for ending the war.

The Ukrainian president, however, was sceptical about suggestions involving giving up the captured region to Russia, saying such a deal would pave the way for more Russian conquest in the future.

“If the deal is that we just give up our territories, and that’s the idea behind it, then it’s a very primitive idea,” Mr Zelensky told The Politico.

“I need very strong arguments. I don’t need a fantastic idea, I need a real idea, because people’s lives are at stake.”

Russians stage a rare protest after a dam bursts and homes flood near the Kazakh border

Russians in the city of Orsk gathered in a rare protest Monday calling for compensation following the collapse of a dam and subsequent flooding in the Orenburg region near the border with Kazakhstan.

Protests are an unusual sight in Russia where authorities have consistently cracked down on any form of dissent following President Vladimir Putin ‘s invasion of Ukraine . Hundreds of people gathered in front of the administrative building in Orsk Monday, Russian state news agency Tass said, while videos shared on Russian social media channels showed people chanting “Putin, help us,” and “shame.”

Ukraine ‘hits’ aviation training center in Russia’s Voronezh Oblast

Ukraine hit Russian aviation training center in Voronezh Oblast overnight on 9 April, a representative of Ukraine military intelligence (HUR) told Kyiv Independent on the condition of anonymity.

Two drones over Belgorod Oblast and two over Voronezh Oblast were shot down by Russian air defences, claimed Moscow.

The Ukrainian strikes on Russian military and industrial target have intensified in recent weeks, with Russia allegedly losing seven military aircraft during drone attacks, according to HUR.

US Department of Defense sees ‘huge’ increase in military sales since Ukraine invasion

The US Defense Department set a record for sales of military equipment and hardware last year, especially among European partners and allies, said the director of the Defense Security Cooperation Agency.

“We’ve had a huge increase in demand from our European allies and partners over the last few years since the ... invasion by the Russians in Ukraine,” James Hursch said yesterday during the 2024 Sea-Air-Space maritime exposition just outside of Washington. These include Sweden, Poland and the Netherlands.

In the fiscal year of 2023, the US did more than $80bn in business through the foreign military sales system, including grant assistance. “That is a record,” Mr Hursch said.

Editorial : The British people want to support the Ukrainians, but they must bear the cost

David Cameron holds talks with Donald Trump in Mar-a-Lago surprise meeting

Lord Cameron has held face to face meetings with Donald Trump in Florida during his push for the US to back more funding for Ukraine.

The foreign secretary is visiting the former US president despite previously calling him “divisive, stupid and wrong”. It was the first meeting between a senior British minister and the former Republican president since he left office in 2021.

Lord Cameron is on a high profile visit to the US to press Congress to pass the blocked aid package for Ukraine and will also discuss Israel ’s war in Gaza .

Editorial: David Cameron was quite right to drop in on Donald Trump

The former president and his supporters in Congress need to hear the message that the support for Ukraine is not only just, but also in America’s interest.

UKRAINE-RUSSIA-CONFLICT-WAR

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Ukraine desperately needs to replenish its depleted forces in the face of relentless Russian attacks.

So it has lowered the draft age from 27 to 25.

That means that more young people will have to leave their jobs to join the army.

And face an almost certain future of violence and tragedy.

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‘Waiting for My Time to Come’: Ukraine’s New Draft Law Unsettles the Young

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Photographs by David Guttenfelder

By Yurii Shyvala and Thomas Gibbons-Neff

David Guttenfelder and Yurii Shyvala traveled across Ukraine to talk to young people about the country’s conscription law.

President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine probably changed the fates of thousands of Ukrainian men when he signed a law lowering the draft age to 25 from 27 this month , more than two years after Russia began its full-scale invasion.

Ukrainian forces are struggling to hold back the far larger Russian Army, and desperately need their ranks replenished. Now many of the young men who remain in Ukraine — thousands of others have illegally fled the country — worry about their future.

Reporters from The New York Times spoke to Ukrainian men who could be affected by the change.

‘I am worried, even a little scared’

Yegor Khomchenko, the owner of a communal bakery in eastern Ukraine who turns 25 next month, said he had many friends who had gone to war.

But he said that his wife, Amelia, had told him that she would “do everything possible to prevent me from being taken away” if he were to be drafted.

“I am worried, even a little scared,” Mr. Khomchenko said. “But everything will be as God intended.”

Mr. Khomchenko lives in Druzhkivka, an industrial town in the Donetsk region of eastern Ukraine. Russia has shelled the town with missiles and artillery, but life goes on, even though on most nights you can still hear the rumble of fighting on the front line nearby. At the beginning of the war, his wife, then pregnant, traveled to the central Ukraine city of Dnipro. She returned home after giving birth to their son.

“She feels quite calm here because our family is together. We can’t imagine living separately, and don’t know how people separated by war for months and years can cope with this ordeal,” he said. “Of course, when there is shelling in Druzhkivka, Amelia is scared, but we are strong together,” he added.

A row of shirtless men sitting in a sauna.

‘I was terrified at the thought of going to war’

Nestor Babskyi, 23, a physical therapist at a rehabilitation center in western Ukraine, sees several Ukrainian soldiers a day who have been wounded and maimed by the war. He said he felt guilt about not having served himself and a sense of dread for what lay ahead.

“At first,” Mr. Babskyi said, “I was terrified at the thought of going to war, but now I am calm about it.”

The wounded soldiers “have played their role and returned to live their lives, so I’m waiting for my time to come.” He added: “I realize that I will definitely be more useful there than here. This thought calms me down.”

‘Young people are the future'

Oleksandr Manchenko, 26, a journalist from Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, who has covered the war, noted the tough calculation that President Zelensky had probably faced in lowering the draft age.

“Young people are the future, no matter how trite it may sound,” Mr. Manchenko said.

“Perhaps he thought that Ukraine could do without mobilizing young people, but apparently the military situation does not allow us to have such a luxury,” he said.

Mr. Manchenko said he respected the bravery of those who enlisted in the early days of the war. “It is thanks to them that we survived,” he said, adding that he doubted his own courage and did not want to fight.

“Furthermore, I want to continue doing what I am doing because I think my work is also important,” he said. “But I’m not going to run away from mobilization and hide. So we’ll see how my fate unfolds.”

‘I need to be as professional as possible’

Maksym Sukhyi, 27, a dental technician in Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv, had already reached the minimum conscription age when the new law was signed on April 3. He said he had been training to go to war since August 2022 but had yet to enlist.

He has been looking for a unit to join while learning about weapons and tactics at a camp on the weekends and going to the gym.

Training in Ukrainian military units is often uneven at best, and those men who are drafted — rather than the ones who join voluntarily — are often assigned to the infantry. Those ground troops usually pull the hardest duty: sitting in trenches under heavy shelling and attacking enemy lines if need be.

Mr. Sukhyi said he was bracing for such possibilities.

“I need to be as professional as possible. If I go to war, I also want to be a professional there,” he said. “Therefore, I prepare for possible mobilization as much as time and financial resources allow. If I end up at war, I don’t want to be someone who knows nothing.”

‘My parents are more worried’

Vasyl Vanzhurak, 24, is a sawmill worker in western Ukraine’s Carpathian Mountains. He said that he had wanted to enlist but his father went off to fight, leaving him to take care of his mother and other relatives in the war’s early months.

“Am I worried? Yes and no,” Mr. Vanzhurak said. “My parents are more worried about me going to the army than I am.”

He said he realized that with such a brutal war going on, “they still need people there.”

‘This war, unfortunately, will last a long time’

Denys Yemets, an electrician at a steel plant in southern Ukraine, turned 25 last month. He said he was not too worried about the change in the draft age since he believed he was needed more at the steel plant than in the army. But, if called up, he would go fight, he said.

“I’ve already gotten used to the idea that this war, unfortunately, will last a long time,” he said. “At first, we all hoped that it would be over quickly, but later it turned out that reality is much harsher.”

Mr. Demets said that his uncle and stepfather, who had already fought in the war, had discouraged him from fighting. “They really did not want me to follow in their footsteps and serve in the army,” he said.

“I am the only male descendant left in the family, and they are very worried that I won’t be OK,” he said. “They would definitely want me to stay at the plant and continue to support my mother, aunt and grandmother.”

Generations of Ukrainians were upended when Russia invaded. As the war continues with no end in sight, Ukraine’s youngest are in increasing peril, at risk of being dragged toward the carnage of ground combat as they defend their homeland.

On the front lines, their fate will be decided by, as the English World War I poet Wilfred Owen once wrote, “chance’s strange arithmetic.”

Thomas Gibbons-Neff is a Ukraine correspondent and a former Marine infantryman. More about Thomas Gibbons-Neff

Our Coverage of the War in Ukraine

News and Analysis

China’s top leader, Xi Jinping, and Russia’s foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, met in Beijing . The visit came days after the United States threatened new sanctions against Chinese companies if they aided Russia’s war in Ukraine.

The head of the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency has condemned recent drone strikes at the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant , saying “such reckless attacks significantly increase the risk of a major nuclear accident.”

Russian rockets slammed into residential buildings in Kharkiv, Ukrainian officials said, killing at least seven people and injuring at least 11 more in the latest assault on Ukraine’s second-largest city .

Conditional Support: Ukraine wants a formal invitation to join NATO, but the alliance has no appetite for taking on a new member  that would draw it into the biggest land war in Europe since 1945.

‘Shell Hunger’: A desperate shortage of munitions in Ukraine  is warping tactics and the types of weapons employed, and what few munitions remain are often mismatched with battlefield needs.

Turning to Marketing: Ukraine’s troop-starved brigades have started their own recruitment campaigns  to fill ranks depleted in the war with Russia.

How We Verify Our Reporting

Our team of visual journalists analyzes satellite images, photographs , videos and radio transmissions  to independently confirm troop movements and other details.

We monitor and authenticate reports on social media, corroborating these with eyewitness accounts and interviews. Read more about our reporting efforts .

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Government of Canada to lead a delegation of 2SLGBTQI+ Veterans to commemorate the First World War in Europe

From: Veterans Affairs Canada

Media advisory

The Government of Canada is leading an overseas commemorative program for 2SLGBTQI+ Veterans to commemorate the First World War, as we approach the 107th anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge.

Ottawa, ON – The Government of Canada is leading an overseas commemorative program for 2SLGBTQI+ Veterans to commemorate the First World War, as we approach the 107 th anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge. Starting April 6 in Belgium, a delegation composed of representatives from Rainbow Veterans of Canada and the LGBT Purge – the first Veteran delegation of this kind – will follow in the footsteps of Frederick Hardy , who was sentenced to hard labour in 1916 for charges relating to his sexuality and later died in battle, across the battlefields of Europe. This important historical moment for Veterans from the 2SLGBTQI+ community will culminate on April 9 where they will see Frederick Hardy’s name on the Canadian National Vimy Memorial and participate in the annual ceremony.

The delegation’s program in Belgium will include visits to key commemorative sites including the Passchendaele Canadian Memorial, St. Julien Canadian Memorial, and the John McCrae Memorial. They will also attend the daily act of remembrance at the Menin Gate Memorial.

Once in France, the delegation will visit the Hill 70 Memorial where Frederick Hardy died in service, as well as the Beaumont-Hamel Newfoundland Memorial. The delegation will then participate in a variety of commemorative activities at the Canadian National Vimy Memorial, including a guided tour of the visitor centre, tunnels, and trenches. Throughout the mission, stories of 2SLGBTQI+ soldiers who served in the First World War will be shared by the delegation.

The Honourable Ginette Petitpas Taylor, Minister of Veterans Affairs and Associate Minister of National Defence, will join this commemorative program on April 6 th for a full day of activities in Belgium before returning to Canada.

From April 3 to April 6, Minister Petitpas Taylor will participate in commemorative events, bilateral meetings and activities in the United Kingdom and Belgium. While in the United Kingdom, Minister Petitpas Taylor will visit Chelsea Pensioners, including a Canadian Second World War Veteran, at the Royal Hospital Chelsea, meet with the Honourable Ralph Goodale, High Commissioner for Canada in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and lay a wreath at the Shorncliffe Military Cemetery. While in Belgium, Minister Petitpas Taylor will meet with representatives from NATO including Irene Fellin, Special Representative for Women, Peace, and Security. At NATO, she will also meet with Alain Gendron, Ambassador of Canada to Belgium, and Ludivine Dedonder, Minister of Defence of Belgium.

Media Relations Veterans Affairs Canada 613-992-7468 [email protected]

Isabelle Arseneau Press Secretary Office of the Minister of Veterans Affairs [email protected]

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