The Pest Control Blog North America

Rats: The Secret Enemy Of World War I

The secret enemy - ratsVeteran’s Day is almost here. Also referred to as Armistice Day, this important national holiday commemorates the end of World War I in 1918. And for many soldiers this brought an end to the horrors of trench warfare. In addition to the blood, mud and terrible hygiene conditions, the soldiers were fighting a loosing battle against a hidden enemy – rats.

Trench conditions were ideal for rats – they rapidly bred in their millions and swarmed through No-Mans Land and the trenches of both sides, attracted by food, the wet conditions and shelter. There was no proper disposal system for food scraps, and empty food cans were heaved over the top on a daily basis. At night the cans would rattle as the rats scurried to feast off the waste. The rats grew bigger and bolder and would even steal food from a soldier’s hand. Rats would also scamper across the face of sleeping men.

Rats are intelligentEven more horrific was the fact that the rats would attack soldiers, lying injured or dead in No Man’s Land. In their hundreds they would steadily work their way through the remainder of the body in a short space of time.

To preserve ammunition, shooting at rats was prohibited. Attacking rats with bayonets became an important pastime to avoid the prevention of infections such as Wiel’s Disease. Experience the horrors of the rats first hand by listening to this short BBC vodcast by veteran Harry Holman.


Veteran's Day Parade, MissouriHere in America, Veteran’s day is a national holiday. The streets are filled with parades and wreath laying ceremonies to recognize the great sacrifices of the heroes who served to protect our country and people, both past and present. This year I will be thinking about just how tough those soldiers had it, even from the so-called safety of the rat-infested trenches.

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  1. kevin
    Posted November 8, 2010 at 5:32 pm | Permalink

    they are a nightmare

  2. Arnie
    Posted November 8, 2010 at 9:24 pm | Permalink

    That’s why we keep fighting!!!!

  3. ihaterats
    Posted November 9, 2010 at 9:41 pm | Permalink

    Yet another reason to despise the vile creatures.

  4. Cynic
    Posted November 25, 2010 at 10:39 am | Permalink

    Get over yourselves guys, rats (like the majority of creatures) are opportunistic and what better opportunity to thrive than a bunch of humans killing each other in droves?

    Also, way to miss out the fact that some soldiers made pets of these supervicious monster rats. And good job using a picture of an exclusively domestic rat (the dumbo ear mutation doesn’t occur in the wild, having being bred for in fancy rats over the decades).

    Why am I even trying, as if people getting hysterical on a Rentokil blog are going to be able to understand that not every non-human is an OMG AWFUL BEAST.

  5. Cynic
    Posted December 2, 2010 at 5:06 pm | Permalink

    Rats beat a man to death with a chair leg on the steps of a church.

    India should probably decide where they stand on rats:

    Of course, this could all be academic and what I was actually trying to convey was the fact that commenters being all A BLOO BLOO BLOO MUST ERADICATE RATS COMPLETELY is pretty ridiculous. Do we see any animals transmitting AIDS or measles? Not so much.

    (PS: Gnawing)

    (PPS: Not ragging on you personally, just bringing an alternative viewpoint to the yard)

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