Imagine for a moment that you are a soldier and it is 1915. You and hundreds of other boys are dropped into the throes of World War I. Machine gun and artillery fire are whizzing past your helmet as you watch men being cut down on your left and right. You don’t know which way to run because there are land mines in the area as well. What do you do? You dig!!!
Trench warfare became the primary style of fighting during WWI. Unlike previous wars, this style of fighting gave the advantage to the defense. It seems weird to talk about war like a football game, but there are similarities. Imagine how much more effective the Falcons would have been in the Superbowl if they could have dug a big trench along the line of scrimmage. Then visualize a bunch of barbed wire, land mines, and artillery fire on the other side of the ditch. The Patriots would not have gotten very far.
This style of fighting created a no man’s land between trenches where men entered at their own peril. Almost every soldier that left their trench to enter this area in daylight was killed or wounded. It eliminated the mobility of the offense making them sitting ducks for the opposition. The trench itself was the only reasonably safe place on the battlefield.
How Trenches Were Built
Trenches were built in zigzag patterns so that soldiers could only see a short stretch of trench in front of them. There were three ways that you could dig a trench… entrenching, sapping, and tunneling. Entrenching was digging straight down and allowed dozens of men to work on the trench, but would you want to jump out in front of dozens of enemy soldiers and dig while they fired at you? Not me!
Sapping was extending a trench by digging out the end. This was safer, but only allowed two men to dig at once. Tunneling was basically digging a tunnel and then collapsing the roof to create a trench. I would not want to be the guy that got stuck bringing down the roof. With this type of battle there was one tool that every soldier had to have… a SHOVEL!
Life in the Trenches
If you go back to imagining that you are in the trenches, life was pretty weird. Most of the time you sat shoulder to shoulder in your trench with other soldiers and played cards to pass the time. The only time you saw any action was when enemy soldiers would pour into the trench for close quarter combat, or when you were ordered to leave the trench and do the same to them. Think about how you would react if you were taking a nap and suddenly there were enemy troops swinging bayonets just a few feet from you.
Death in the trenches didn’t just come from bullets and artillery shells. There were no antibiotics, so even a small cut could get infected and kill you. As you spent day after day and night after night in your trench, water would build up and cause trench foot. Disease would spread because of the close quarters and dead bodies strewn about. And if all of that didn’t kill you, you might just freeze to death. Cold air would gather in trenches during the winter and freeze men solid. Not very fun.
The Trench Shovel
As I said before, the most important tool for trench warfare was the trench shovel. This tool was issued to every infantryman on both sides of the battle. The most common versions of this tool included a spade, a handle, and sometimes a pick as well. The handles were either straight, D-Shaped, or T shaped. Many either folded or came in pieces so that it could be broken down. This way it would take up less space in a pack.
The trench shovel was vital for digging trenches, but it also had other purposes. They were often used for digging latrines or for burying the dead. Without these shovels, the sanitary conditions of the trenches would have been much worse. They also would have smelled really bad.
In addition, the trench shovel served as a backup weapon for close quarters combat. Conditions were pretty tight in the trenches and often your rifle with bayonet was too long to effectively use as a weapon. Soldiers were rarely fortunate enough to have a sidearm in addition to their rifle. The edges of the trench shovel were sharpened so that it could be easily used to cut a throat. If an enemy soldier jumped into the trench, they were in for a surprise.
As stated above, trench shovels needed to have multiple uses. In addition, the shovel had to be strong and reliable. In the last 100 years the tactical shovel has come a long way. Some companies have gone to thinner and cheaper materials in an effort to save money and make a lighter product. However, this leaves a shovel that will not last when really put to the test.
The ABP Tactical Shovel doesn’t have that problem. It is constructed of thick cast aluminum that can handle the most severe abuse. Also, it is packed with additional tools to help you in a survival situation. The shovel is 29 inches long giving it plenty of leverage to get the job done. The spade can be turned 90 degrees to use as a hoe or pick as well.
The spade comes with one sharpened edge and one serrated edge which makes it ideal for cutting poles or trimming branches. It also has a gut hook and a hex tool built in. One piece of the handle has a glass breaker that works well for rescuing victims that are trapped in a vehicle. Another piece has a Philips head and a flathead screwdriver. The next piece has another serrated edge and another straight edge for finer cutting work along with a bottle opener. The last piece has a ferro rod for starting fires and a compass in the end to help with orienteering.
I recently did a full review of this product and tested it in every way possible. It is by far the toughest and most functional tactical shovel I have ever used. I would highly recommend this product to add to your survival gear.