Online Simulation: Officer in a First World War Trench
Though trench warfare varied greatly and cannot really be taught as being a ‘standard’, there are some aspects of the attritional conditions that remain reasonably constant. In this simulation resource, learners are asked to place themselves in the position of an officer on the Front Lines of the Western Front trenches.
This exercise is quite short in itself but can lead to a great deal of discussion, debate and understanding about the changing nature of warfare on the Western Front in the First World War. In placing pupils in the position of an officer, it gets them to think about the situation, the surroundings, the consequences of actions that they do or do not take.
Myths and preconceptions can be identified and dealt with quite quickly as a result of some learners making mistakes. They apply ‘logic’ that simply wouldn’t have worked on the battlefield. In a short interactive exercise, they begin to empathise with the officer of the front lines.
The trenches changed a lot though. The nature of fighting changed a lot. The different armies developed or maintained different types of trench structures. The exercise allows comparison. The image above shows an early tank. The officers reactions to tank warfare would have been different to those made in 1914, or 1915. The German officer on the Hindenburg line, or the French at Verdun, would have thought differently due to the defensive differences.
This activity can be used as an individual learner task. Pupils should record their results and thoughts, they are important for future reference. Alternatively the options can be discussed as a whole class, or in groups. Whilst this would take longer, it does enable the teacher to build on the above points and develop awareness.
This activity has been used for over ten years with Key Stage 3 and GCSE history students.