WWI Trench Rats: How Did Soldiers Get Rid Of Fearless Trench Rats

In World War I, trenches were most effective for defense, counterattack and to protect soldiers from poison gas, giving them time to put on gas masks. They were giant and muddy. Germans built huge trench networks during the battle of the Somme.

The soldiers had to face many problems in the trenches, and one of them was omnipresent rats. These rats were giant and cats were afraid of them. These rats stole food and were attracted by the human waste of war and bodies of buried soldiers that repapered after rain or heavy shelling. There was no proper system of waste disposal in trench life. Two or three rats would always be found on a dead body. Many troops were awakened by rats crawling across their bodies and faces. They did not even shoot these rats because that would be pointless and waste of ammunition. However, many soldiers fired bullets and used bayonets to kill these rats.

Usually, Cats and terriers were kept by soldiers in the trenches to cope with rats. Terriers were more effective in killing rats as compared to cats. Because the cats usually go after a single mouse at a time and often rest to eat. While a good terrier, can scare the rats and they don’t stop to eat. They kill, then move immediately to the next creature.

Have a look at these photos below in which the soldiers are proudly showing rats they caught or killed in the trenches during world war one.

#1 Rats on German trenches. The rat problem remained for the duration of the war (although many veteran soldiers swore that rats sensed impending heavy enemy shellfire and consequently disappeared from view).

#2 Two German soldiers posing with rats caught in their trench.

#3 The result of 15 minute’s rat-hunting in a French trench. Note the Jack Russell Terrier in the gentleman’s arms at left.

#4 Three German soldiers display rats killed in their trench the previous night. 1916.

#5 A French soldier showing his “catch” to his comrade.

#6 German artillerymen preparing several dead rats and one hapless mouse (or a skittish rat) for their evening repast.

#7 Soldiers posing with the rats, they caught after few hours of hunting. Some of the men are toting shovels and improvised clubs, undoubtedly the weapons of choice in this particular ‘Rattenjagd’.

#9 An official rat-catcher, with his dog, and their bag. Illustration for The Illustrated War News, February 1916.

An official rat-catcher, with his dog, and their bag. Illustration for The Illustrated War News, February 1916.

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Written by Aung Budhh

Husband + Father + librarian + Poet + Traveler + Proud Buddhist. I love you with the breath, the smiles and the tears of all my life.

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