Ditches would only come alive between nightfall and dawn. During the day, the grey and brownish landscape seemed completely barren and devoid of life, making it appear as a mirage.
Karel Jagodič

Soldiers would arrive at the front gradually. After conscription, they were first assigned to designated barracks for assembly, then despatched to one of the battlefields: initially the southern Serbian or eastern Russian fronts, and after 1915 also to the new Italian front. For many, their daily life would be entirely changed upon arrivals at the barracks. However, living conditions at barracks could not even begin to compare to the situation at the front lines. Order, cleanliness, regular meals and the relatively comfortable beds of the barracks would be replaced by constant migrations and sleeping on makeshift beds or even on the hard ground, meals became irregular and it was not uncommon for soldiers to even go hungry. Personal hygiene was unsatisfactory and soldiers were pestered with insects and dirt, often wore completely soaked rags that would often just dry as they were being worn.

Of course, living conditions were different from one battlefield to another. Sometimes, entire communities of shanties and other auxiliary facilities would spring up, while at other times, soldiers resided inside caverns and natural caves, and quite often even in lavishly furnished mansions, or churches, schools or barns and private homes forcefully seized from their owners. There was also an enormous contrast between the lodgings of conscripts and officers. The latter, as can be expected, were much better off. Even when conditions became impossible, officers were regularly given or built comfortable homes, and despite the general shortage of food and prevailing hunger, they were always properly fed. Many higher ranking officers were even assigned special personal servants, or Ordonnanz, responsible for taking care of their needs.

Specialised technical units tasked with the construction of roads, housing, ditches and telephone connections was responsible for the organisation and the uninterrupted day-to-day running of front line soldiers’ lives. Individual military units were also assigned mobile canteens, bakeries, laundrettes and field hospitals. A significant portion of soldiers was responsible for the numerous working and draft animals which were used for transporting equipment or to feed the several thousand soldiers. Despite food being scarce during the most intense battles, there was no general shortage during the initial years of the Great War. At certain battlefields, particularly during the summer, the lack of drinking water was considered a much greater problem that drove many a solder to the brink of insanity or severe stomach illnesses. Another headache among soldiers was caused by the general scarcity of tobacco, which was considered the most desirable and anticipated everyday necessity and was, in addition to food and alcohol, handed out to soldiers before important battles.

But what caused soldiers the most problems in general was the lack of cleanliness. After days of living and sleeping on the ground in ditches, where even washing one’s hands was impossible, every person would be filthy and reek. The odour of faeces would mix with the smell of gunpowder, blood and decaying corpses. Soldiers were left with no other option but to grow accustomed to the stench. Despite all the nuisances and endless horrors, the majority of soldiers were unable to become accustomed to lice and other pests, against which was impossible to protect yourself permanently. Furthermore, rats inhabiting ditches and nearby graveyards would invoke fear and terror. The rats would steal food and tear rucksacks and pick meat off the bones of the dead while tormenting the living in their sleep. As a result, cats were sometimes introduced into trenches which at least reduced the numbers of these pests to a degree.