Colour Photos of World War One

A much-needed kip  No Man's Land


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

Sleep - except eternal rest - was not easy to find in the trenches. Baking heat or freezing cold, the constant crash of exploding shells, the whine of bullets, the chatter of machine-guns and the artificial light cast by 'star-shells' that turned night into day, and - not least - the itch of ever-present lice, all made real rest a near impossibility on the front line. These soldiers on the Somme in the summer of 1916 are collapsing into shellholes and hastily dug `scrapes' in No Man's Land for a few minutes of `kip'. When not fighting, sleeping or on guard duty, what mattered most to the troops was food. The commonest hot food was a tinned stew called Maconochies after its Scottish manufacturer. Soldiers got a weekly ration of 1 Ib of dried `bully beef'; 1žIb of bread or flour; 4oz of bacon (popular on the front because it made little smoke to attract the enemy); 3oz of cheese, plus sugar, tea, jam, salt, pepper and mustard. Troops - like sailors - also received a daily `tot' of rum, which was doubled before going `over the top'. While eating their meals, served by personal servants called batmen, officers could listen to the gramophone, while the men could read letters or newspapers - 10,000 copies of the Daily Mail were sent to the front every day.