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The Great War (1914-1918) Forum

Remembered Today:

Man Trap


Guest JlstewartAk2012

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Guest JlstewartAk2012

My father-in-law served in the ambulance corps in WWI and he brought back this, which he described as a man trap which the German soldiers left in the trenches as they abandoned them. We have other items from his time in service and had no reason to doubt his explanation. However, I have tried to research these, but have come up with very little information. It does not look like other man traps or gin traps I have seen photos of. Any ideas? post-104306-0-07813600-1385315920_thumb.

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Hi'

Looks to me pretty much like any other large animal trap (bear), not uncommon in North America in the 19th & 20th centuries, I doubt if you will find a great deal of research data under military, more likely under animal traps. From memory someone already posted something similar not too long ago. Its not impossible that it could have been used in WW1 but I don't consider it a military device, and I would imagine if you were caught setting one or in possession of, punishment would have been swift and final

khaki

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Guest JlstewartAk2012

I did see those other posts. One item I found that seemed most pertinent was the NY Times article from 1918 which described these as being used in the war just as my husband remembers his father telling the story from his time in service. It may be one of those family history stories that can never be proven one way or the other.

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Man traps were illegal throughout Europe long before WW1. They were still legal in some states in the USA. Any such large traps are almost certainly intended for large (non human) animals. Some may have been used as improvised booby traps but would have been rarities by 1914 as European countries began to ban even these as cruel

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Man traps were illegal throughout Europe long before WW1. They were still legal in some states in the USA. Any such large traps are almost certainly intended for large (non human) animals. Some may have been used as improvised booby traps but would have been rarities by 1914 as European countries began to ban even these as cruel

When exactly were man traps made illegal in the UK?

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Usually referred to as gin traps the gin being a shortening of engine. I believe that there was some resistance in Scotland to their abolition those twinkle eyed benevolent old lairds regarding them as essential in deterring deer poachers. They lingered on in the USA mainly in some Southern states especially before the abolition of slavery and even today they can be used to trap but not injure however there have been some expensive injury settlements to one legged claimants and generally they have fallen into disuse.

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The spring guns ( prohibition ) act of 1827 outlawed the use of any 'engine' set to trap or injure a man

Moved by Charles Tennyson in the Commons and Lord Suffold in the Lords, Lord Melbourne tried to revise this in 1831 to make it legal again but failed. It was eventually subsumed in the Offences Against Persons Act 1861. The last successful prosecution for setting an "infernal engine" was in January 1944 in East Sussex after a home made device blew off an estate workers foot - the land owner was fined £5. The estate worker may have been complicit in setting it.

Although it was an offence to set a man trap it wasn't to manufacture one and for a while they were still made for export mainly to the Southern slave owning states in the USA and to parts of the Russian Empire (particualrly Poland) They had mainly been used in Britain against poachers and body snatchers (including medical students) in most of continental Europe the game laws were very different and arrangements had been made to secure an adequate supply of corpses for medical schools and so they had never been needed.

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Can't add anything other than this picture that I came across a few years ago, looks to be GW period american but as to location who knows

Jon

post-15439-0-70085300-1385912269_thumb.j

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Every army has idiots. This part of human nature doesn’t change, but if the use had been official policy by any major government during the war, it would rapidly have become a major propaganda tool and this use would be well documented.

Much of the propaganda during the war was relatively crude and discredited after the war. The lessons from the Great War were instrumental in the creation effective propaganda by all sided in the Second War. This of course is the basis of the modern advertising industry.

Regards

Ross T

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