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Why Did Ww1 Soldiers Fight For Rewards?


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#1 Falora

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Posted 25 February 2004 - 07:02 PM

In World War one, even though trenchlife was so miserable, soldiers kept on fighting. I understand that some of it is patriotism, others for their friends, or they were forced to, but I've heard that some soldiers fought because they got rewards and had a better lifestyle.

So what sort of rewards did they get? What sort of different lifestyle did they have, which was better (eg food)? How did this encourage them to carry on fighting? :unsure:

Thank you so much.

Edited by Falora, 25 February 2004 - 07:04 PM.


#2 Mr R Drew

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Posted 25 February 2004 - 09:01 PM

youare right to identify that there are a number of reasons why soldiers stayed to fight Falora. For each soldier their own motivations would have been different.

For many wages and lifestyle were important:

~ In many parts of britain there was a large amount of poverty and unemployment in the 1910's (and lots of strikes over poor wages and conditions), and a soldier's wages were often higher than those of unskilled workers

~ For many workers it was a chance to escape from the terrible working conditions, especially those who worked in coalmines and other very physical and dangerous jobs

Also the lifestyle was not always as bad as the popular myth would have it:

~ The average British soldier gained over a stone in weight during their training after they signed up. the food and conditions were often much better than they experienced at home

~ Also remember that soldiers did not spend all of their time in the frontline trenches. They had spells in the support and reserve trenches, and away from the trenches completely in 'billets' or even back home on holiday. In fact on average they only spent about 20% of their time in the frontline

~ For many soldiers the prospect of actually going into battle was a rarity. The average British batallion spent only 20 days out of the whole war fighting in battles

I hope these points help

#3 A Finemess

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Posted 25 February 2004 - 11:48 PM

This is an excellent question! You have hit on one of the key areas which military historians have debated in the last twenty years.

It used to be thought that soldiers fought mainly for reasons to do with their gender. They did not want to be shown up in front of their mates or buddies. This is partly why military training encourages "male bonding" and the "buddy system". It is also a reason why commanders in the various armies today will not consider the possibility of women becoming front line troops.

Other historians have claimed that in some wars at least, a soldier's beliefs have been important. They were fighting for a cause. An example of this might be the American Civil War and WW2. Perhaps even WW1.

Well done again!

#4 Falora

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Posted 03 March 2004 - 05:58 PM

OK. Well, there's about seven different reasons for this - patriotism, comradeship, fear of being shot, rewards, joy of war, habit of obedience, etc. I was wondering which would be THE most important reason - and what order the others will go in. ;)

#5 Mr Field

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Posted 03 March 2004 - 06:40 PM

Falora, this is a personal thing for you to consider. You need to examine the evidence and any information you can find and then put such reasons in your own order.

To help you do this, you could explore this site that provides further information about the Trench experience: http://www.bbc.co.uk...ls/worldwarone/ - see this part specifically: http://www.bbc.co.uk...front1_02.shtml

#6 Falora

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Posted 03 March 2004 - 06:44 PM

OK. Thanks for your help anyway - I'll take a look at those sites. :)

#7 Mr. D. Bryant

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Posted 02 April 2012 - 09:49 AM

In World War one, even though trenchlife was so miserable, soldiers kept on fighting. I understand that some of it is patriotism, others for their friends, or they were forced to, but I've heard that some soldiers fought because they got rewards and had a better lifestyle.

So what sort of rewards did they get? What sort of different lifestyle did they have, which was better (eg food)? How did this encourage them to carry on fighting? :unsure:

Thank you so much.


I'm continuing this thread because it raises lots of interesting questions. When motivation of soldiers in the First World War is discussed, it generally concentrates on why soldiers 'joined up'. However, Falora's question focused on improving motivation during the rest of the war.

The British certainly felt that rewards for soldiers encouraged them. They awarded large numbers of existing medals and decorations (such as the Victoria Cross and the Distinguished Service Order) as well as introducing new ones (e.g the Military Cross for officers in 1914 and the Military Medal for soldiers in 1916). Thousands of medals were awarded during the First World War. Other distinctions were available as well such as the 'Mention in Despatches' (M.i.D.) where a soldier's or officer's name was publihsed on an official list. However, the effectiveness of encouraging soldiers is hard to judge. I feel that it is most unlikely that most recipients of medals acted as they did so they could get a medal. There were probably a few 'glory-hunters' but most soldiers did brave things for different reasons, including helping their friends, survival or 'just doing their job'. Furthermore, fighters in the front line often felt that officers safe behind the lines seemed to win more medals than the men at the front. However, overall it was a mark of honour to be awarded a gallantry medal.

A lesser-known reward was a certificate awarded by formations at Corps, Division or Brigade level or by individual units to officers and soldiers who had not been awarded a medal but had served particularly well or bravely. These awards were not 'official' in the way of the medals mentioned above, but enough survive in museum collections to show that they were important to some soldiers. It was a way of showing a soldier that his contribution was valued.

Promotions were given as a reward for service. Private soldiers could be promoted to non-commissioned officer and, later in the war, sent for officer training. Officers who did well could also be promoted. However, such promotions were not usual and most men rose in the army only through length of service. Not all soldiers wanted to be promoted, as becoming a corporal set you apart from your friends. However, promotion meant higher status and more pay so it was an incentive for some.

Unless you were lucky enouggh to be posted away from the front, living conditions for 'decorated' and 'ordinary' soldiers were the same.

These comments refer to the British Army. All armies had systems of medals and decorations. However, some such as the German army, did not tend to promote officers in the same way.

I personally believe that 'small-unit cohesion', supporting your mates, and expectations of honour and duty were more important than rewards, but that's just my opinion; and another story.




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