Extra, Extra, Read All About It: Trench Newspapers

A cartoon showing a soldier carefully trying not to let mud ruin his shoes

Extra, Extra, Read All About It: Trench Newspapers

The front page of trench newspaper Honk
“The organ of the gear-box missions”

Don’t believe what you see in the movies.  Soldiers during World War I were not constantly at the front.  Between battles, they experienced periods of painful boredom.  To keep themselves entertained, they put on plays and published trench newspapers, among other things.

These activities kept soldiers occupied and no doubt kept them from sinking into depression by dwelling too much on their situation.  Over time, the trenches produced their own culture.

What Were Trench Newspapers?

As the name implies, trench newspapers were published by soldiers in the trenches. They became extremely popular with more than 30 published by Canadian troops alone. The British published 100 while the French published more than 400.

Although some were handwritten and duplicated with the aid of carbon paper, many were printed on printing presses. Some editions had circulations in the hundreds.

They were generally published by one unit for its use and often had funny titles.

The famous Canadian trench newspaper, Dead Horse Corner Gazette
The famous Canadian trench newspaper, Dead Horse Corner Gazette

Why Were they Published?

Stacks of German trench newspaper Kriegszeitung
Stacks of German trench newspaper Kriegszeitung

Traditional, civilian newspapers were censored during the war. This means they often contained propaganda, misinformation and political rhetoric.

In comparison, trench newspapers only censored information that shouldn’t fall into enemy hands. Soldiers, for the most part, were free to write their feelings and observations of the war, trench life, commanding officers and death.

Examples of Trench Newspapers

Trench newspapers were published by both sides and in several languages.

A French trench newspaper, Le Poilu
A French trench newspaper, Le Poilu

They contained humorous or satirical articles and advice.

A page from a trench newspaper
A page from a trench newspaper
The results of a mustache growing competition
The results of a mustache growing competition in three categories — Charlie Chaplin, ferocious and nondescript

They also contained jokes and political cartoons.

A cartoon showing a soldier carefully trying not to let mud ruin his shoes
“Mercy, I’m afraid this mud will ruin my pumps”

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Updated:  20 October 2020
Melina Druga
Most kids have an active imagination. My imagination has stayed strong into adulthood, and I’ve funneled that creativity into a successful writing career. I write history, both fiction and nonfiction, because although your school history classes may have been boring, the past is not. My goal is to bring the past to life in all its myriad of colors.
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