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The Great War (1914-1918) Forum

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I know this being a VERY wide and complicated question, but I`m simply trying to get a accurate and clear picture of the weather conditions on the Western Front during the war.

Personally I`m not too familiar with weathers or climates of the other European areas than the one here in Finland. Here summer is relatively nice and hot starting around May/June and ending somewhere in September (of course the actual "summer" being in June-August). Snow comes as early as October/November (sometimes just before Christmas) and the cold weather lasts the whole winter sometimes melting away as late as April... This is pretty different from weather in France and Belgium. I have got the image that when we are getting rid of snow and facing sleet and mud, the spring is in full bloom in the area! :D

So far I have noticed that during the war, weather acted pretty weird in some cases, some times even unpredictably. I`d also want to know how much geographical differences effect the weather, are there certain areas with differing climates?

There few cases that I`d like to sort out;

There are accounts of snowing and ground freezing in the winter of 1914, in other sources it has been said that it rained most of the winter.

In February and March 1916 just before the German opening moves there were snow storms and even blizzards. How quickly the snow melted away, since rain and mud became the weather factors during the fighting in the spring, before hot summer.

While French troops encounterd sleet in April 1917, British faced another blizzard in Arras-area. Snow in April must have been unusual.

Of course the weather in Flanders was notorious, the August and October having the record-rain in 1917 during the Third Ypres. Winter 1917/18 being once again snowy.

Weather reports and weather maps are welcome! :D


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From the History of the 8th Royal Scots(Pioneers to the 51st Highland Division) written for a Newspaper just after the War


"The remainder of 1916 was spent in the Courcelette sector.The work was principally wiring the front line,repairing the Courcelette and Pozieres Roads,constructing some 3000 yards of trench railway,making dug-outs,erecting shelters,and,in spare time,removing mud.The weather was wretched,and the mud of the best.The latter was rich,deep,and clinging,and so loving that frequently a man gave his boots to get rid of it.The long walk through twisting trenchings,knee-deep in mud taxed all ranks to the utmost,so it is not surprising that sick parades became popular.The enemy objected to the Battalion's camp,and shelled it frequently,and often of a night Companies would meet other Companies mole-hunting in the trenches close by.Christmas and New Year's Day were spent at work,so it was with the joy of schoolboys that the Battalion began its long trek,on the 12th January 1917,back to Le Plessiel,near Abbeville"


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While French troops encounterd sleet in April 1917, British faced another blizzard in Arras-area. Snow in April must have been unusual.

It might have been unusual to soldiers of the BEF, but it is not at all unusual in Northern France. Having lived there for approaching 12 years, snow between January and April is very common, as are sub-zero temperatures. I have encountered -25 on the Somme in January, which is about what it was in the winter of 1916/17.

As the account above, describing the village where I have my house, relates - the mud on the Somme is really something special. It clings in a way I have never experienced before and must have made movement in the winter months and wet periods very difficult indeed.

The whole Somme region is very damp - a dampness that gets into your bones if you spend a lot of time out of doors.

Hope that helps a little; I am lucky as I've only experienced the weather, and not the other (battle) conditions that these men knew.

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I'd agree with Paul. The weather in N.France, Belgium and Luxembourg is changeable and can do strange things. Over the 30 or so years I've lived in this area (Luxembourg), I've seen temps of over 20C in Jan, Feb and March when the S. winds are blowing, snow and frost in April and even into May and occasionally frost in June as well. It can pour with rain all summer and then be dry in winter, or rain solidly for 3-4 months in winter. This year we have had very little cold or snowy weather - until 2 weeks ago. Today, almost in March, it was -7C where I live and there are about 6" of snow. I'm told that up in the N of of Luxembourg this morning it was -17C.


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