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Community Council Steps Back In Time

Almost 100 years later, the Levittown Community Council learned what life was like for the soldiers during World War I. Last week, the group welcomed Martha Kinney, an instructor from Suffolk Community College and a specialist on the topic who has more than 25 years of service in the military, five of those in active duty in Kuwait. 


“The lives of the soldiers were much more detailed then just fighting in the trenches,” Kinney said. 


Kinney started out her presentation by explaining trench warfare and how right before dawn and as through the night were the most dangerous times for the troops. “It was in the dark that the soldiers would venture out of the trenches and go to ‘to man’s land’ to recover the bodies of the wounded and make any necessary repairs,” she said. 


Chores were a necessary part of the lives of a World War I soldier, including cleaning mud from the trenches, and filling and replacing sandbags. However, their days were also filled with writing home to pass the time, preparing/eating meals and fighting battles right in their very own trenches against things like lice, trenchfoot and other bodily attacks. 


Additionally, Kinney explained that a very important—and nowadays, common—invention was brought about during World War I and that invention is the wristwatch. 


“If your general said, ‘this battle is taking place at 11 o’clock,’ you wanted to make sure you knew what time it was and you didn’t want to be fumbling for your pocket watch,” she said. 


Animals, said Kinney, were also an important part of the battle during the First World War. Dogs, horses and carrier pigeons were mobilized along with the men. More than one million horses were used during the war, the deaths of which created a shortage of horses in England, and, said Kinney, that, “it was reflected in the letters of the soldiers to home that it was often harder to see the animals die then the other men.”


However, being in battle didn’t mean that fun wasn’t had. The men, explained Kinney, were forced to take time away from the trenches and have fun.  The English soldiers were also provided with theater, since it was such an important part of their culture. 


Although fun was had, the amount of death that surrounded the soldiers came up in almost every aspect of the presentation and she explained that out of the 42 million men that were mobilized during the war, more than 5 million were killed in action. To put that in perspective, since the War in Afghanistan started, there have been more than 2,200 soldiers killed in action. 


The centennial anniversary of the First World War is July 28, 2014. 


The next meeting of the Levittown Community Council will be held on March 24, 2014 at 7:30 p.m. Michele Gentile will be on hand to help discover your bliss.