A soldier’s life 1914-1918

This section of the Long, Long Trail will be helpful for anyone wishing to understand the life of soldiers who served with the British Army of WW1.

 Men of the 9th London Regiment (Queen Victoria's Rifles) during a break in training on Hampstead Heath in December 1914. Imperial War Museum image Q53457.


Men of the 9th London Regiment (Queen Victoria’s Rifles) during a break in training on Hampstead Heath in December 1914. Imperial War Museum image Q53457.

What was life as a Tommy really like? Popular memory is all about mud, rats, lice, machine-guns and being shot at dawn if you disobeyed. All of these things are part of the history, but the facts of a typical Tommy’s life paint a rather different and perhaps surprising picture. For example: did you know that a typical infantry soldier was only in the front line trenches for about one quarter of his total time overseas and involved in action for a few days in the whole war? Did you know that a large proportion of soldiers never went near the front lines?

If you are new to this, work your way through the pages of the section – or just go straight to a subject of your choice.

Enlisting into the army

Rates of army pay, 1914

Training to be a soldier

Training to be an officer

Life at the front

Ranks

In trouble: military crimes

Casualty of war: wounded soldiers

Demobilisation and discharge

Casualty of war: dead

Prisoners of war

Re-enlisting in 1919

You may also find these pages useful in understanding your soldier’s story:

Common British Army acronyms and abbreviations

Letter prefixes to soldier’s numbers

Discontinuation of discharges on completion of engagement

Renumbering of soldiers on arrival in theatre of war

Renumbering of the Territorial Force in 1917

New British Army numbers issued in 1920

Paying soldiers who had been declared as missing