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Film: trench life in the First World War

Video file

This film shows conditions on the Western Front during the First World War. It includes the recollections of New Zealand veterans who were there.


Narrator: Down on the ground, winter conditions made life unbearable.

NZ soldier 1: Ghastly, hell. Just mud mud mud. Trenches half full of mud. And you’re wet through, oh all the time.

NZ soldier 2: Oh, frightful. You’ve no idea what it was like. You lived in dugouts and you were well over your ankles and mud all the time. You had no protection, you just had a ground sheet over you, you would wake up in the morning with the snow over your feet, and you were everlastingly in dampness.

Narrator: Messines, the Somme 1916 and 1918, Passchendaele, Ypres, the Hindenburg Line, Le Quesnoy. The cost of maintaining our division in France for two and a half years was appalling. Our total casualties were 18,500 dead, nearly 50,000 wounded – many twice or more. This was a terrible price to pay, our population then was only just over a million.


Film extract from The years back episode 1: the twentieth century, produced by the New Zealand Film Unit, 1973

Video supplied courtesy of Archives New Zealand. Not to be reproduced without permission of the chief archivist.

How to cite this page

Film: trench life in the First World War, URL:, (Manatū Taonga — Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated