Digging In To The Trenches

The trenches of World War One certainly left their mark on those forced to  spend time in them. I knew a few of my uncles, who were still clearly traumatised by their experiences in the trenches of World War One. I have since been told of an uncle who would regularly start screaming in the middle of the night as a result of nightmares, decades after his return from the trenches..

Here is where I get controversial.It is just theory, so please do not be offended. Perhaps the soldiers needed to eat a few unusual creatures to keep going. Also of course, they were surviving in terrible conditions. Knowing nothing about immunology whatsoever, as I understand it, these outbreaks seem to originate from other species before they eventually reach humans.

Extract from ‘Dulce et Decorum Est’ written in Wilfred Owen’s own handwriting from the British Library.

Source: The British Library

They seem to have much of Wilfred Owen’s work written in his own hand. Available here.

At least one of my distant cousins was stricken with influenza in the trenches of World War One. It had taken him out of the war effort for quite some time from memory. He was killed in the Battle of Neuve Chapelle, almost immediately following his return to the battle front.

Again, The Battle of Neuve Chapelle took place in 1915. This to me suggested the soldiers may have been stricken with influenza, almost from the start of World War One.

Yesterday I decided to investigate the influenza outbreak of 1916 in the US. To my surprise several reputable sources, state that The Spanish Flu outbreak started in The US. Based on very little evidence but a whole lot of instinct, I find this unlikely. The flu did not appear to hit The US until 1916. My preliminary research has suggested, it may have been ravaging the soldiers in the trenches, much earlier.

3 replies on “Digging In To The Trenches”

  1. I know nothing about the flu pandemic of 1918, but the conditions there sound more than bad enough to cause disease, whether that disease of some other disease is moot. I guess my question would be, if the pandemic didn’t start in the US, then how did it get there so soon? According to Wiki, the US didn’t enter the war until April of 1917 so troop movements wouldn’t have been significant before then. Of course the opposite is also true; if the virus did originate in the US in 1916, then how did it get out so quickly?
    Definitely a puzzle.

    1. I was so surprised when I saw Harvard’s website (I think) state that the pandemic started on some farm in the US. The newspaper archives give strong indication that the flu was around in 2015. Like you I pondered whether it was a different strain.
      My daughter, who can tend to be sceptical about my theories, fairly rapidly discovered another historian who agreed with me.

      I find the idea it may have been around from 2015, terribly troubling.

      Do we have at least five years of this to face?(notwithstanding the discovery of an effective vaccine).

      Who knows how anything gets anywhere? The Titanic went down in 1912. There was clearly a market for travelling between Britain and The US by boat commercially. Apparently Spain was neutral in World War One, so it sounds like it may have been called Spanish Flu to deflect attention from the trenches, lest the war effort be damaged.

      The sinking of The Lusitania took place in 1915. A quick investigation has revealed that cruise ship travel between England and the US was continuing at that time. Perhaps then, as now, cruise ships proved to be great incubators of the disease.

      1. Gah…you’re so right. I hadn’t even given cruise ships a thought. Maybe the reason it took so long is because the travel opportunities took longer, cost more and were just ‘less’. My parents and I were flown out to Australia in 1957 and even then, the journey took a week, counting stopovers and short ‘hops’. Given the ease of travel these days, it makes sense that a virus like this one would spread faster. :/

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: