Blood and Muck: The WWI Trench Warfare Quiz

By: John Miller

Blood and Muck: The WWI Trench Warfare Quiz
Image: shutterstock

About This Quiz

World War I was notorious for its siege-like warfare of attrition. Massive, well-armed armies found themselves unable to maneuver due to withering enemy fire, so they simply hunkered down. How much do you know about World War I trench warfare?
Why did armies in World War I resort to digging trenches?
the officers were under-trained
their guns were too weak
they didn't have enough mobility
Advances in weapons far outpaced army mobility, so as a result, moving soldiers anywhere on the front line meant heavy casualties. In response, armies dug in or attempted endless flanking maneuvers. The result was a war of attrition.

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What was "no man's land"?
a sniper's nest
an area between trenches
"No man's land" was the area between opposing trenches. Any soldier who was forced to charge through no man's land was subjected to terrifying enemy fire.
a city where all of the men were dead

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In early trenches, how were men distributed?
only a few men served in the trenches
spread far apart
shoulder to shoulder
Early in the war, officers packed men shoulder to shoulder in the trenches, thinking that the soldiers would be safe. But they quickly learned that high density equaled death from artillery shells … so the soldiers began to spread out.

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Trenches had their own newspapers.
true
Soldiers mistrusted public news. They began distributing their own papers, with names like "The Dead Horse Corner Gazette" and "The Listening Post." Canadian troops alone printed dozens of different papers during the long conflict.
false

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In some cases, no man's land was how narrow?
just 10 yards
In some areas, no man's land was a tiny strip of land just 10 yards wide. Enemy soldiers were so close that they could hear men from across the line speaking to each other.
just 200 yards
just half a mile

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What was the "parapet"?
the basement of the trenches
the top of the trenches
The parapet was the top of the trenches. Peeking over the parapet could get you instantly killed by a sniper. Some new soldiers were killed within a single day of action because they failed to take basic precautions.
the wooden floor of some trenches

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Why was nighttime often the busiest time during trench warfare?
the men were intoxicated … and braver
darkness offered cover
Darkness offered cover to men languishing in the trenches. At night, they could crawl forward and repair barbed wire barricades, start new trenches and perform other activities too perilous in daylight.
it was cooler

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When major attacks weren't underway, the trenches were fairly safe from violence.
true
false
Even when there were no advances taking place, the trenches saw a continuous stream of death, often from artillery shells that fell directly into the trenches.

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There were two main types of rats that infested the trenches: brown and black rats. Which did the soldiers despise more?
brown rats
The soldiers particularly despised brown rats. That's because they could grow to the size of small cats, skittering and chattering their way through the quagmire of the trenches.
black rats
they hated them equally

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In a single year, one pair of rats could produce how many offspring?
about 100
about 300
about 900
The trench rats were incredibly prolific. Just one mating pair could produce around 900 offspring. It's no wonder these creatures overran the trenches. Some soldiers kept dogs (like terriers) bred to hunt varmints. The dogs helped to keep the infestations somewhat under control.

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Army engineers often sat in small tunnels that extended from the main trenches. Why did they sit in silence?
they were listening
Engineers would sit in total silence, listening for enemy tunnelers. Tunnelers would create passageways to enemy trenches, stack explosives, and then blow the whole thing sky-high. If they caught these plots in time, engineers plotted their own tunnels to counter the enemy.
they were reading
they were praying

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In general, how deep were front-line trenches in World War I?
about 4 feet deep
about 12 feet deep
Most trenches were about 12 feet deep and about six feet wide. They were just big enough to hide men from bullets and wide enough for soldiers to pass each other.
about 20 feet deep

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What were "saps"?
special trench soldiers
temporary trenches
"Saps" referred to sap trenches. These were short, often temporary trenches that extended towards enemy lines. They could be used as listening stations or as places to stage an attack.
large trench guns

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What was "Zone Rouge"?
slang for German trenches
a former no man's land
After the war, the French government isolated a huge part of no man's land called Zone Rouge, where unexploded ordnance and chemical traces made human habitation impossible. Today, there are still parts of Zone Rouge that are too dangerous for people.
a World War I trench brothel

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What did soldiers place in front of their trenches to thwart enemy attacks?
cute puppies
barbed wire
Barbed wire was a mainstay of no man's land. Some units placed incredibly long, wide sections of barbed wire in front of trenches, making it impossible for enemies to launch attacks on foot.
signs that read "Wrong Way"

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The Germans created large trench systems. How deep were some German trenches?
three stories
The Germans expended tremendous energy to create deep, complex trenches. In some places, they were reinforced with concrete and went as deep as three stories, where they were impervious to artillery attacks.
eight stories
ten stories

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What caused the development of "periscope rifles"?
enemy artillery
enemy snipers
Snipers on both sides became incredibly adept at shooting enemy soldiers who peeked over the parapet. In response, some units developed periscope rifles that used mirrors to spot targets, and better yet, didn’t require the shooter to expose himself at all.
enemy mine layers

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Rats often ate human remains. What parts did they go for first?
eyes
The rats gorged themselves on dead soldiers. And they often started with the soft, easily-accessible eyes, which only added to the horror of the situation.
hands
feet

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Front-line trenches were dug in a straight line.
true
false
Straight trenches meant death. Artillery shrapnel could blast along straight trenches, and in the event of a breach by the enemy, straight trenches meant that the invaders had a clear line of sight to shoot. That's why trenches were zig zags, with hiding spots along their length.

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How much time did Allied soldiers typically spend in front-line trenches?
not very long
The Allies knew that front-line trench life was horrendous. They quickly rotated men in and then back out. Often, soldiers were on the front line only for a day or two before they were sent to other (safer) areas. Unfortunate soldiers sometimes spent much longer stretches in front-line situations.
four weeks or so
months at a time

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What did soldiers do with the bodies of men who died in no man's land?
they buried them immediately
they crawled out and dragged them back
they left them
No man's land claimed countless lives, and it was often too dangerous to retrieve bodies for burial. So fallen soldiers were left for weeks or months until there was nothing left to bury.

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What did "trench sweepers" do?
they killed enemy soldiers
Trench sweepers were the soldiers who were especially skilled at close quarters trench combat. They'd dive into enemy trenches on daring attacks … or they'd "clean out" invaders who dared enter their own trenches.
rebuilt damaged trenches
cleaned the trenches

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What was "morning hate"?
the act of simply waking up in the trenches
the first attacks of the day
Every morning, soldiers would "stand to" by climbing firing steps and looking for signs of an enemy attack. Then they'd unleash "morning hate," a volley of gunfire and shells to start the day.
terrible coffee

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Why did many trench soldiers shave their heads?
to stay cool
to remove lice
Lice infested trenches no matter how hard soldiers tried to avoid them. In desperation, some soldiers shaved their heads to prevent (at least a little) of the itchiness and general awfulness of lice.
to make a fashion statement

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What was the most effective chemical weapon of World War I?
phosphene
chlorine
mustard gas
Both sides deployed mustard gas, which would drift through enemy trenches, killing them or burning them in horrible ways. It was hard to detect, meaning that many soldiers clung to gas masks for fear of dying in a sudden chemical attack.

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How did front-line soldiers relieve themselves?
they went in no man's land
in latrine trenches
Front-line soldiers dug short tunnels to latrine trenches, which quickly accumulated human waste. The smell, as you can imagine, was overwhelming, and these trenches were often more vulnerable to enemy fire, making the process terrifying as well as disgusting.
right on the spot

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On the western front, German lines often included how many lines of trenches?
3
The Germans were big on redundant defensive positions, and they often built three lines of trenches, a firing line, a support line and a reserve line. In the event of a retreat, the soldiers would simply fall back to one of the lines and begin their defense anew.
10
15

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How were aircraft used during trench warfare?
for spotting purposes
Aircraft were brand-new creations during World War I. The flimsy planes were used mostly for spotting purposes, and they had a tremendous impact in helping both sides anticipate (and then stop) enemy offensives.
they dropped bombs
they strafed trenches

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What did it mean to "go over the top"?
install new machine guns
retreat to reserve trenches
charge out of trenches towards the enemy
If you were ordered to "go over the top," it meant that you had to climb out of the trench and charge into no man's land. Going over the top was every solider's worst nightmare. Many men were killed in just seconds.

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Which weapon started the war as a minor afterthought and became a constant menace by the war's end?
knives
artillery
grenades
Early grenades were primitive and unreliable. But trench warfare expedited the development of grenades, and front-line soldiers used them in countless numbers. After all, it was safer to lob a grenade than to fire a rifle.

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You Got:
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