During the first two weeks of the Battle of Passchendaele the British, Australian and Canadian guns fired 4,283,550 shells at the German defences. It is estimated that throughout the First World War the Allies used 5,000,000 tons of artillery shells against enemy positions. The Central Powers used a similar amount of shells in their effort to lớn win the war.

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Soldiers subjected to continual exposure to shell-fire were in danger of developing shell-shoông xã. Early symptoms included tiredness, irritability, giddiness, laông chồng of concentration & headaches. Eventually the men suffered mental breakdowns making it impossible for them to lớn remain in the front-line. Between 1914 và 1918 the British Army identified 80,000 men (2% of those who saw active service) as suffering from shell-shoông chồng.


By John Simkin (john
clblamgame.com) © September 1997 (updated January 2020).
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Primary Sources

(1) Private Edgar Foreman, London Regiment, letter to lớn parents (September, 1915)

The Germans can now throw a bomb 200 lbs in weight và 5ft long a distance of 1000 yards, it explodes like a mine & kills by concussion. They sent several over every day and killed a good many. One of the four men of our Battalion who were killed that way I knew quite well, he was the last of five sầu brothers all of whom have been killed in the war.

(2) Guy Chapman, A Passionate Prodigality: Fragments of Autobiography (1933)

One morning, while I was inspecting the rifles of the sentries on duty, I was startled, not to lớn say alarmed, by three whizz-bangs bursting as it seemed all round my head. I heard one coming very close, caught a glimpse of it out of the tail of my eye, & at that moment slipped. I picked myself up, but before I could reach my full height, the minnie burst. A furious hot whirlwind rushed down, seized me và flung me violently back against the earth. I lay half-stunned while a rain of earth and offal pattered down on me, followed by something which whizzed viciously và stuông chồng quivering in the trench wall; it was a piece of jagged steel eighteen inches long.

(3) Harold Chapin, letter to Alice Chapin (1st June 1915)

Things have sầu quieted down now - only aeroplanes & anti-aircraft guns with occasional, very occasional, five minutes of shelling disturb the town. After the inferno which raged "out there" for the last two weeks the result of which you have sầu seen by the papers, (it looks little enough but has cost both sides the most enormous efforts & really signifies much), the comparative calm is almost uncanny. Men of this or that battalion are wandering aimlessly about the streets, getting arrears of food into them, và losing slowly the strained and distrait manner that their experiences have sầu engendered...

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These things almost please one by their very perfection of eeriness & horror. Do you understand? They are like the works of some gigantic supernatural artist in the grotesque and horrible. I shall never fear the picturesque in stage grouping again. Never have sầu I seen such perfect grouping as when, after a shell had fallen round the comer from here a fortnight ago, three of us rushed round và the light of an electric torch lit up a little interior ten feet square, with one man sitting against the far wall, another lying across his feet và a dog prone in the foreground, all dead & covered evenly with the dust of powdered plaster and masonry brought down by the explosion! They might have sầu been grouped so for forty years - not a particle of dust hung in the air, the White light showed them, pale whitey brown, like a terracotta group. That they were dead seemed right & proper - but that they had ever been alive sầu - beyond all credence.

(4) Private Henry Russell was badly wounded by shell-fire on 1st July, 1916, at the Battle of the Somme.

I crawled inlớn a shell-hole into lớn which another colleague of mine had also crawled. He told me that he had been shot through the middle of the baông xã & that the bullet had emerged through his left ear. We had not long khổng lồ wait before a shell burst on the edge of our hole; it killed my colleague và injured me in such a way that I was virtually emasculated. I considered the situation hopeless & that even if a miracle happened and I did, in fact, get away, I would not be fit for anything in this world. I, therefore, decided to kill myself.

I managed khổng lồ get hold of the bottle of rum which I had put in my haversachồng và I drank the lot hoping that it would result in my death. In fact it did me no harm at all. It also probably made me slightly merry & bright & rather stupefied. It also probably caused me to drop off khổng lồ sleep, though I am not aware of this. However, I came to the conclusion, when I had recovered my senses, that, in spite of my condition (my left arm being torn, my left thigh damaged, my right leg wounded và strips of flesh hanging down from my abdomen) it was still worth making a serious effort to save myself.

(5) Charles Hudson, journal entry, quoted in Soldier, Poet, Rebel (2007)

No man"s land in the salient varied from a few yards, incredible as this sounds, lớn about a hundred yards. Shelling was not as common in the front line itself as further back owing to lớn the proximity of the enemy. Trench mortar fire và rifle grenades were our bugbears in the front line. I preferred, of the two, shelling. A shell came quickly, a trench mortar rose high inkhổng lồ the air & then on reaching the apex of its flight came down, turning over và over like an old boot, landing with a thud before it burst. From the apex downwards it always appeared to be making straight for you if you watched it, much as the eyes of a portrait seem to lớn follow the viewer round a room. I learned not lớn look.