Winter in Wartime.


As the cold blasts sweep across the UK and snow and ice grips the country, thoughts turn to those who are less fortunate than ourselves. From a wartime perspective, our thoughts might be turn towards those who were and are being made homeless by war, or those men and women who found themselves, or now find themselves, bitten by the winter weather in their line of duty. Winter in the Trenches Back in the First World War War men struggled to keep warm as the elements became an additional enemy in their fight for survival. Restricted in space and their inability to move around constantly to stay warm, the harsh conditions must have had a profound effect on the men. As Christmas Day approached in 1914, truces occurred to enable both sides to bury their dead. This would have been a horrific prospect in itself, let alone then being faced with freezing ground to dig into. In the bleak mid winter with freezing conditions, destruction and death all around, it would be understandable for morale to suffer. It must have been difficult to see when and how it would all end and how they might get through it. This website (https://norfolkinworldwar1.org/2017/02/14/snow-in-the-trenches-the-harsh-winter-of-19161917/ ) with excerpts from letters home, gives an idea of what conditions were like at home and overseas at the end of 1916 and start of 1917. The Battle of the Bulge - WW2 During the famous battle (December 1944 -January 1945) it has been suggested that it was the coldest and snowiest winter for decades. Freezing temperatures and snowstorms threatened life without the need for weapons. Many of the Americans were not adequately equipped for winter combat. Their clothing and footwear were no match for the conditions and frostbite was an evil and unwelcome companion for the soldiers. They took shelter in makeshift Fox holes (when and where it was possible to dig them), whilst others used craters already cut into the earth by German artillery. Fires were mostly prohibited for fear that they would give away positions to the enemy, although moreso during the hours of dark. Some men were lucky enough to be able to dry out their socks from time to time, others were not so lucky. It is hard to think how those men were able to remain battle-ready for long periods of time under these conditions. Many men lost toes, other limbs and some even noses and ears due to the adverse weather, and decades later, cold temperatures back at home were always compared favourably to the temperatures in the Ardennes. In other areas of the Battle of the Bulge the Americans were also finding the weather working against them. In December 1944, at a crossroads between Hotton and Soy in Belgium, the men of the 517th Parachute Infantry Regiment found themselves pinned down in open ground with nowhere to go. With temperatures of ten degrees below zero, digging in to gain any form of defensive shelter was impossible. It took an act of huge selfless bravery by a twenty-one-year-old, to rescue the men on the crossroads. Follow this link (https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=_SUW08K5XSo) to hear this story in our documentary 'Searching for the Rescued'. There are numerous accounts we could have highlighted on this subject. Perhaps you have a tale to tell? We'd really like to hear stories you've heard about harsh weather conditions in wartime. Tell us in the comments below or send us an email: wartimereflections@gmail.com Stay safe everyone!

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