Following on from the first of the images from the Kensingtons published yesterday, today we have two images showing the reality of living in the trench system they were shown digging in the previous image. Above is a 1915-style dugout being used by men of the 13th London Regiment whose trenches these were. It shows how basic such constructions were in early 1915. Inside the men have an array of comforts – many ordinary soldiers in this battalion were from well off London families and one wonders how many treats from top London stores are among them! – and they are pretty informally dressed; the man on the right has Wellington boots on and they are all wearing Gor Blimey hats. A bucket with punched out holes serves as a make-shift brazier.
Below is a close up another dugout again showing its flimsy construction, with one wall being a propped up piece of wobbly tin or ‘elephant iron’ as it was known at the time. The Balaclava helmet being worn by the man in the dugout is a good example of another piece of cold-weather gear worn by troops at this time; many of these came from home knitted by mothers, wives or sisters.
This image is the first of a number that will appear on the site this week which are taken from a small collection of photographs taken by a soldier in the 1/13th Battalion London Regiment (Kensingtons). The Kensingtons were a pre-war Territorial Force battalion – Saturday Night Soldiers as they were popularly known – who had crossed to France in November 1914 where they served in the Neuve-Chapelle sector with the 8th Division.
This sector of the Western Front was very flat and dominated on the German side by the Aubers Ridge. The trenches here were a mixture of trenches and breastworks built above ground level, as seen here. Taken in early 1915 the photo shows that the trenches here were still very primitive at this stage and offered little protection from the elements let alone shell fire; both sides were still learning about the realities of static warfare at this stage in the conflict. Given that the men are pretty exposed in this photograph – as well as the photographer himself – it is likely to be a reserve position, away from the front and out of view of the enemy.