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Trench Warfare

What was it like to fight in the trenches?

From service in the front line, to artillery bombardments and underground warfare, trenches provided a very efficient way for soldiers to protect themselves against heavy firepower.

Presentation + Life Stories + Activity = Your Lesson!

Introductory Presentation

Use this ready-made PowerPoint to introduce Lives of the First World War to your class.

Download (14MB)
Choose your Life Stories

Pick Life Stories to investigate and download the Powerpoint containing primary sources relating to that person.

Life Stories
Follow the Activity

Take a look at our suggested activities to try with your class, as well as other IWM resources that relate to the theme.

Next step

Use Lives of the First World War to research names on your local war memorial - this could be a school memorial to former pupils, or a town or community monument.

Create a Community

Recommended Life Stories

We have selected Life Stories connected to this theme. Download the pack of sources connected to the Life Story.

Photo of Alan Scrivener Lloyd

Alan Scrivener Lloyd

Alan was a forward observing officer, calculating enemy positions

Download Pack
Photo of Thomas Henry Edmed

Thomas Henry Edmed

Thomas fought in Gallipoli and on the Western Front

Download Pack
Photo of Dorothy Lawrence, alias Denis Smith

Dorothy Lawrence, alias Denis Smith

Dorothy dressed as a soldier to serve in the trenches

Download Pack
Photo of William Hackett

William Hackett

William was a tunneller planting explosives under German trenches

Download Pack
Photo of Rufus Gordon Rigney

Rufus Gordon Rigney

Rufus took part in the Battle of Passchendaele in 1917

Download Pack
Photo of Alfred Henry Roy Reiffer

Alfred Henry Roy Reiffer

Alfred was in machine gun and tank crews

Download Pack

Suggested Activities

1. Use the facts, images, evidence and stories on Life Story pages to compare and contrast individual experiences - think about similarities and differences between these people’s lives.

  • How did they experience life in the trenches?
  • What are the key themes in their stories? Consider concepts such as identity, separation, friendship, love, bravery and loss.


2. Study one of the primary sources in detail. When was it written, and for what purpose? What does it tell you about the person’s Life Story? Pick out details about their age, background and family. How does this information relate to their wartime experiences?


3. Create a mini exhibition based on one person’s story. Select three sources from the person’s Life Story page, and create a title and theme for the exhibition.

4. Encourage creative responses inspired by a Life Story, such as poetry, letters, art, drama, music, or dance.

Activity Resources

Supported by

The Charles Skey Charitable Trust


It is a really engaging way to teach historical interpretation. A fantastic resource!

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