WW1 No Man's Land: Monsters of the Trenches

With so many possible sources out there, this info come from the Smithsonian Magazine.
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During the Great War that a legend arose out of the real-life horrors that occurred in this wartime hellhole. Part Night of the Living Dead and part War Horse, like all oft-told tales, it had several variants, but the basic kernel warned of scar-faced and fearless deserters banding together from nearly all sides - Australian, Austrian, British, Canadian, French, German, and Italian (though none from the United States) - and living deep beneath the abandoned trenches and dugouts. According to some versions, the deserters scavenged corpses for clothing, food and weapons. And in at least one version, the deserters emerged nightly as ghoulish beasts, to feast upon the dead and dying, waging epic battles over the choicest portions.
  • Historian Paul Fussell called the tale the “finest legend of the war, the most brilliant in literary invention and execution as well as the richest in symbolic suggestion” in his prize-winning 1975 book. Fussell, a professor of English at the University of Pennsylvania who had served as a lieutenant during World War II, knew well the horrors of combat, which he vividly described in his 1989 Wartime.
  • One of the earliest published versions of the “wild deserters” legend appeared in the 1920 memoir The Squadroon by Ardern Arthur Hulme Beaman, a lieutenant colonel in the British cavalry. No other telling of the legend - at least in print - is as horrifying as Beaman’s. Written just two years after the war’s end, Beaman's tale begins in early 1918 on the marshes of the Somme in northern France. This is where some of the bloodiest battles of the war were fought and Beaman is convinced that he has witnessed two dozen or so German prisoners of war vanish into the ground. He wants to send a search party into the maze of abandoned trenches but is advised against it because the area “was peopled with wild men, British, French, Australian, German deserters, who lived there underground, like ghouls among the mouldering dead, and who came out at nights to plunder and to kill. In the night, an officer told him, mingled with the snarling of carrion dogs, they often heard inhuman cries and rifle shots coming from that awful wilderness as though the bestial denizens were fighting among themselves.”
  • The Legend of What Actually Lived in the "No Man's Land" Between World War I's Trenches
Here is an interested related podcast:


KD: Wondering how much of a legend we have in this legend. Could we have a cover up of sorts?
 
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