World War I was a war of many technological innovations when rifles and artillery-like cannons were created and used in the narrow trenches. For the same reason, forces had to come up with weapons that could effectively be used in those foxholes dug into the ground. This war involved a lot of sneaking into the enemy’s positions that would result in brutally close combats. One well-known weapon was the trench knives (they’re pretty awesome, and we wrote about them here.) One of the not-so-famous ones was the trench club. For what it’s worth, it’s pretty amazing, too.

Combat In The Trenches

Turkish trenches on the shores of the Dead Sea (Whiting, John D. (John David), 1882-1951, photographer Larsson, Lewis, photographer Matson, G. Eric (Gästgifvar Eric), 1888-1977, photographer, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

I think we have mentioned enough that the trenches were narrow, making other weapons ineffective. The bolt-action rifle, for instance, would require one to spend a few seconds after each shot to reload. Not like your enemy would pause for a bit and wait for you to until you’re ready to engage again. Aside from that, they’re long too, so accurately aiming for a close-by enemy would be a mission so impossible you could almost hear James Bond’s catchy tune as he rappelled down into that vault. The trench knives that we mentioned above did a good job. The only hiccup about it was that you had to take time to withdraw your blade from the enemy you just stabbed. Also, they don’t get incapacitated instantly if the stab or slash is not lethal enough.

Welcome To The Club

As a solution, the troops unleashed their inner handyman and gathered old pieces of wood, usually the handles of their entrenching tools, and turned them to weapons that would rival the brave knights’ medieval maces and clubs, whatever was available— grenade shells, nails, and some other metals. They were pretty small, approximately 40-centimeters long and just two to three centimeters wide, not weighing more than 700 grams, which was just perfect for the tight spaces that they were in, plus they’re pretty easy to carry. And because they were just made there in the trenches, these clubs were not standard-issue: either the soldiers made one themselves or with the aid of their unit carpenters.

They would usually bring these improvised weapons with them into the darkness of the night and sneak into this area called “no man’s land,” a dangerous space between the enemy and friendly fortifications, and then straight to their adversaries’ trenches to silently take down their enemies with a blow or two. This activity was called trench raiding.

The Club Members

British trench clubs
British trench clubs (BunkerfunkerCC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

The most common trench clubs were made with a plain piece of hardwood attached to an empty Mill’s bomb. Another one was called the “nail club.” As the name suggests, this had grooved grips with wide heads spiked with nails, iron studs, or other sharp metals that were hammered to the club, resembling the medieval mace. The crowd favorite was the spring club: the handle was wrapped in leather and connected to the body made of a flexible metal coil spring that connects to a metal head.

Both the Allies and Central powers were avid fans of these trench clubs, although they also brought with them their familiar entrenching tools, trench knives, backed up with handguns, shotguns, submachine guns, and hand grenades, in case worse comes to worst.

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