protection

Hans Hildenbrand. German trenches, Alsace, 1915.

It was often said that when a German trench was captured the British were struck by how well they were constructed.  Hans Hildenbrand was a photographer from Stuttgart who had been experimenting with colour film since 1911, and had been sent to record the progress at the front, mostly in Alsace and Champagne.  We don't often see the other side, but there is a new book out, Endzeit Europa, colour photographs of WWI, and a selection of images is on der Spiegel online.

Just in this small cross section of one trench there is order and hierarchy, massive protection compared to the sandbags at Vimy: enough infrastructure to remove the sense of being caught in a hole dug in the ground.  One of the Airborne Regiment, after it had disbanded, told me how much time he had spent in Somalia, lying in a very shallow depression in the dust beside the highway leading to Belet Uen, covered only by his tarp.

How much 'building' does it take to protect, without giving a false sense of protection.  These German troops seem very confident, but these are posed photographs, not taken in the heat of battle.  They too left their trenches for that darkling plain that was the no-man's land.