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The Great War (1914-1918) Forum

Remembered Today:

Trench names


DavidMillichope

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I'm sure this has been asked before but a search didn't really throw up the sort of questions/answers I was looking for.

Who first named the trenches ? Was it purely a local, random thing

Did the names have local connections with the battalions who first dug them ?

Did that name stick with that trench forever more and a day ?

Was there any naming system to avoid duplication of names ?

Just curious

Thanks

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I'm sure this has been asked before but a search didn't really throw up the sort of questions/answers I was looking for.

Who first named the trenches ? Was it purely a local, random thing

Did the names have local connections with the battalions who first dug them ?

Did that name stick with that trench forever more and a day ?

Was there any naming system to avoid duplication of names ?

Just curious

Thanks

David

Peter Chasseaud has written a book on the subject called 'Rats Alley' available from the N&MP.

Guy

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I dont know if it was official practice but,from the few maps I've seen,several of them seem to have been named to a letter from the alphabet like,hook trench ,house trench ,home trench etc.*(I have seen this for Gommecourt).Once again,I dunno if this was for naming enemy trenches or ours alone & its true that hook trench hasn't many other H's near it (Monchy).

I wonder if it had something to do with grid ref.s?

Dave.

*just made these up

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The numbering and naming trenches adopted throughout Fourth Army is a good example of the system.

Front Trenches were numbered according to the map squares, e.g. the front trenches which ran through Squares F. 1 had the prefix F.1.

The trenches in Square F.1 were sub-divided into convenient lengths of trench which were numbered F. 1/1, F.1/2, F. 1/3 etc. according to how many sub-divisions it was desired to make, numbering from the right.

Support Trenches and Reserve Trenches were given names, e.g. 'Willow Support' 'Stone Reserve'.

Any fire trench which did not form part of the Front, Support or Reserve trenches proper was called a 'Trench' and given a name e.g. 'Sparrow Trench'.

Main communication trenches were called 'Avenues'; less important communication trenches were called 'Lanes' or 'Alleys' and named e.g. 'Gloucester Avenue' 'Munster Lane' or 'Horse Alley'.

In answer to the specific question regarding the avoidance of duplication, this was the method used by Fourth Army in April 1918. The naming of trenches was controlled by Fourth Army Intelligence and the Corps submitted a list of names commencing with the initial letter alotted to the Corps. The names were then compared with existing maps in order to see that they were not similar to those already in use.

The Australian Corps, for example (in April 1918) was allotted U, V, W, X, Y and Z.

The guidelines for naming were;

a) Names were to be as short as possible.

B) Similar names, if used for different objects, were to be kept for the same part of the map. So if 'Glencorse' existed, (as in Wood), the name was to be only applied in the vicinity of the wood.

c) Once a name appeared on a map it was not altered except under 'exceptional circumstances'.

Chris Henschke

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Absolutely brilliant ! Thank you. That explains so much .

It all looked so random to me but now I can see there was some serious organisation in it. I had noticed for example that front line trenches didn't appear to have names, but now so many unit war diary references make sense to me.

And the allocation of letters is such a simple but effective way of avoiding duplication.

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I still think "Rats Alley" is worth a look, you may find that duplication is not unknown & also many named front line trenches were taken from French/German naming. The book as suggested by Guy & myself is essential to fully understanding the trench system, especially in the early years.

Colin

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I still think "Rats Alley" is worth a look, you may find that duplication is not unknown & also many named front line trenches were taken from French/German naming. The book as suggested by Guy & myself is essential to fully understanding the trench system, especially in the early years.

Colin

Did they all have signs? If so, must have a nigh on full-time job for someone.

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For those of us who live a long way from a half decent bookshop (or library) and can't afford to splash out on every book we'd like to acquire repeating "have you read ..." aint a lot of help .... it merely irritates.

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It may be of interest to know that near the Knoll a whole section of trenches and strongpoints was named after the officers of the 15th Sherwood Foresters. This even included the Chaplain attached to the battalion.

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Centurion,

Regret it irritates you, what answer would you have given to a "question" as posed.?

Colin

Well having given us the name of the book once I wouldn't have bothered with the other two postings as they add nothing more to our knowledge.

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