In World War I how did English soldiers travel to France? Were they in good conditions?I have to write a letter home from World War I to family so anyother experiences they would go through would...

In World War I how did English soldiers travel to France?

Were they in good conditions?

I have to write a letter home from World War I to family so anyother experiences they would go through would help.

Expert Answers
athenaia86 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Aviation was in its infancy during the First World War, so British troops traveled to France via ferry across the English Channel. Once in France, the troops made their way to the front by train, by car, or (often) on foot.

The conditions in which the troops travelled varied depending on their rank—officers tended to travel in better style than enlisted men—but the conditions generally deteriorated over the course of the war, as more and more strain was put on transport services by the amount of men and material crossing the Channel.

As a point of interest, there was an extensive network of railways in Belgium and France which was heavily used by the French and the Germans; however, the static nature of the railways made them vulnerable to attack, and they were often sabotaged (by both sides) to disrupt troop transport and supply lines. The British adapted to this problem by importing large numbers of motor vehicles and horses, so British troops originally traveled to and around the front by car or horse-drawn transport. This made the British army more mobile than their French and German counterparts, but limited the number of men and supplies they could move. Later in the war, the British decided to build their own light railway systems to augment their transport capabilities, so troops spent more time traveling by train.

You may find the Imperial War Museum's article on Transport and Supply useful:

https://www.iwm.org.uk/history/transport-and-supply-during-the-first-world-war

The IWM also has a collection of letters from British troops to their families, which might give you helpful details about life at the front as the troops experienced it:

https://www.iwm.org.uk/history/letters-to-loved-ones

gbeatty eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There is a website call the "The Long, Long Trail" that might provide good background research for your question. You'll find it here: http://www.1914-1918.net

There are also letters from soldiers online: http://wwar1.blogspot.com/

In general, the British soldiers were transported several ways. They tended to take the train in Britain, to get to recruiting or training centers. Once trained, they were back on trains or trucks and then to the ports. They then took ships across the water to France. Once in France, they were back on trains (if they existed), on trucks, or, for a lot of the final distance, marching on foot. Conditions varied. The original trains were fine: they were civilian trains. The later ships were very crowded—but the distance was small, so conditions weren't too bad. However, once in France, conditions got bad indeed, as they were often marching into battle, under fire, or into poison gas.