Pictures of World War I

Each Worth 1000 Words…

It Certainly Is A Long Way to Tipperary: Marching Soldiers

During the Great War, marching would become the bane of many a soldier’s existence. It was a necessary skill, it was a means of travel and it was a means of punishment. Other than highly ranked members of the military, it would only be those in the trenches, the worst possible place in the war, who would receive a reprieve from some sort of daily form of marching.

A Soldier’s Skill like Any Other

All soldiers received some sort of basic training. Though the length of time would vary depending on what country the ally was coming from, basic skills for survival were taught and taken very seriously. Along with target practice, physical exercise, lessons in strategy and information on how to keep healthy at the front, new soldiers would learn marching as a basic skill.

Soldiers would learn to keep the rhythm of their comrades and would learn to turn in unison. Marching in configuration was, much like today, reminiscent of a well timed and oiled machine, calibrated to perfection. It was important to keep in step not only for the benefit of not being called out by your superiors, but also to ensure you weren’t running into the person in front of you, or being goosed by those behind. With weapons in hand, being out of step could be a hazardous mistake.

Of course, the best laid plans are not always realized. As seen in these pictures, formations were usually observed, but when highly ranked officers were scarce and the long war dragged on, less formal formations would be assumed.

Marching Troops Without Fear

Though there were horses and buggies and some vehicles used to transport soldiers across Europe, from town to town, the reality was that most soldiers marched from one destination to the next. To keep morale up and boredom down, while also offering an easy way for soldiers to keep beat with one another, many marching songs were developed and sang along the way. Marching songs such as “Pack up your Troubles in your Old Kit Bag” or “If you want the Old Battalion” were sung during the long, tedious treks.

Soldiers would march for days at a time and many would suffer severe exhaustion. Men marched in their sleep, very similar to how we feel today when we are driving and realize we don’t remember the last five minutes of road. To keep the monotony from getting to the unit, tempo and speed would vary from slow walking to moderate jogging, depending on the distance to be made for that day.

Armies on both sides marched wherever they went – it was the only easy and cost effective way to move around. Inhabitants of communities, both rural and urban, would have been invested in the sounds of feet and songs as they travelled down the roads. The sound of allied forces would be welcomed while that of the enemy would be feared.

Troop Marching Dangers

Today we see injuries from walking, often in relation to over exertion at the gym or weather related slips and falls. In the war, soldiers who were marching all day and night could literally be sidelined by a simple piece of sand that irritated the foot and turned into a blister. Blisters could progress to debilitating levels, rendering soldiers incapable of carrying on.

Trench soldiers would not often march far, as they would be tied down to a specific place. Those in the reserves, however, would still have drills to do or errands and duties that required extensive marching. Having blisters while moving from reserve life to the trenches where mud, moisture and bacteria were rampant could put a soldier at risk for trench foot and serious infection.

The importance of marching as a basic tool during the war cannot be overstressed. This main mode of transportation kept the soldiers fit and in tune with one another, while adding a great feeling of comradery.


World War 1 Marching Soldier Photos