This course provides a beginners overview of what daily life in the trenches was like for WW1 soldiers and took me just under an hour to complete. It is split up into several sections and includes two longer videos (13-14 mins each) presented by distinguished military historian Andy Robertshaw. These immersive videos, “Life in the Trenches” and “Fighting in the Trenches”, are the highlight of the course. Andy's WW1 expertise shines through and he paints a vivid picture of the practicalities of day-to-day life in the trenches. I was particularly impressed with the “Life in the Trenches” video which provides great detail on aspects of a soldier’s uniform, kit and food rations. What do different chevrons and bars mean on a uniform? How did the soldiers deal with lice? What was the food really like? Andy answers these questions and many more with a few surprising details along the way. The “Fighting in the Trenches” video is in the same vein but concentrates on the weapons soldiers used and the varied duties and routines they would undertake each day.
The remaining sections of the course are adeptly presented by Family Tree Magazine’s editor Helen Tovey. The videos in these sections are shorter (1-3 min) and not set in the trenches themselves. Helen covers some of the most significant documents for a WW1 soldier’s paper trail such as medal index cards, medal rolls, service records, silver war badges, the London Gazette, unit war diaries and trench maps. Both Helen and Andy demonstrate that information on the original medals or memorabilia such as photographs and postcards can provide clues to aid your research. Additionally Helen explains how helpful the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) website can be but it’s a shame the Soldiers Died in the Great War (SDGW) index wasn’t mentioned as it’s another essential record set for casualties. It would also have been useful for complete beginners if the sites that host particular record sets were highlighted.
Halfway through the course a short “Test Your WW1 Knowledge” quiz provides a fun and helpful tool to ensure you’ve taken on board the information being presented. Then upon course completion, as a bonus, there is a free downloadable guide (in PDF format) to the “Tommy's Kit in 1916” that can be kept for future reference. This covers some of the same ground as the “Life in the Trenches” video but it’s beneficial to have a written version and it contains extra facts that make it well worth a read.
Overall I found this an engaging, informative and interesting guide to life in the trenches and would recommend it to anyone who wishes to learn more about the day-to-day lives of our WW1 soldier ancestors and relatives.