Colour Photos of World War One

Three Tommies take a cigarette break


This photograph and caption appeared in the Daily Mail Weekend magazine in 2007

Unlike today, when cigarettes are increasingly frowned upon on health grounds, smoking was a popular pastime among the troops. King George V's only daughter, Princess Mary, sent a box of `comforts' to every serving soldier at Christmas 1914, which included a packet of Woodbines - untipped cigarettes - and acid drops for the few who did not smoke. Officers tended to prefer smoking pipes, and the Germans favoured cigars. British troops swapped cigarettes with German cigars during the famous Christmas truce of 1914. Most soldiers spent a week in the front line trenches, a week in support trenches, and a

week behind the lines `resting', before returning to the front. During their rest periods, they would do drill to keep fit, as well as practise bayoneting the enemy. In their rare free time, concerts would be organised, they were allowed to visit French cafes (and the officers to patronise licensed brothels) and occasionally music-hall stars such as Marie Lloyd would tour the front to entertain the troops. Arrangements for transporting troops across the Channel to and from the front were surprisingly speedy: it was possible for a soldier to wake up in the trenches in France and be watching a West End show in London that same evening.