How close could two trenches be in a stationary war that lasted about 4 months?

Specification: Infrastructure should be established and there is artillery in use. The no man's land is mostly plain with grenade holes, so you could see the other trench.

So what distance (presumably further than a man could throw a hand grenade) is plausible?

EDIT: Both sides artillery can hit anything from distances of mortars to howitzer, the accuracy is also everything from 10m to some km. One side (the bad one) dose not care about friendly fire.

  • 3
    $\begingroup$ What's the range and accuracy of your artillery? $\endgroup$
    – Liath
    Oct 1 '14 at 7:53
  • $\begingroup$ Anything from Mortar to long range. Accuracy is about 5m for the mortars and Way way off (10 - 100) for the longest range artillerys. But, friendly fire is for one of the war partys no problem because they don´t care. $\endgroup$
    – Fulli
    Oct 1 '14 at 7:59
  • $\begingroup$ I'm new to this site and wanted to add a comment, since the existing answers seemed sufficient. However, I don't have 50 rep, yet. I recently watched this documentary on YouTube about trench warefare. (The segment about life in the trenches was particularly disturbing. Glad I wasn't alive during WWI.) You might want to check it out. I'll bet that it will give you some interesting insights that will make your scenario more realistic and gritty. [WWI Documentary: Life in the Trenches](google.com/… $\endgroup$
    – DeadZone
    Oct 1 '14 at 15:22
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ @Fulli could you edit that info into your question? $\endgroup$ Oct 1 '14 at 15:54

Assuming your tech is similar to the first world war (and it was that technology that directly led to trench warfare by providing massive firepower without mobility) then according to wikipedia:

The small, improvised trenches of the first few months grew deeper and more complex, gradually becoming vast areas of interlocking defensive works. They resisted both artillery bombardments and mass infantry assaults. Shell-proof dugouts became a high priority. The space between the opposing trenches was referred to as no man's land and varied in width depending on the battlefield. On the Western Front it was typically between 100 and 300 yards (90 and 275 m), though only 30 yards (27 m) on Vimy Ridge.

After the German withdrawal to the Hindenburg line in March 1917, it stretched to over a kilometre in places. At the infamous "Quinn's Post" in the cramped confines of the Anzac battlefield at Gallipoli, the opposing trenches were only 16 yards (15 m) apart and hand grenades were thrown constantly. On the Eastern Front and in the Middle East, the areas to be covered were so vast, and the distances from the factories supplying shells, bullets, concrete and barbed wire so great, trench warfare in the West European style often did not occur.

  • 4
    $\begingroup$ Vimy Ridge is just plain frightening... I stood in one trench and held a conversation with my parents in the other! $\endgroup$
    – Liath
    Oct 1 '14 at 8:21
  • $\begingroup$ Quinn's post is a great example of what happens when you make your trenches too close, they stop working. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Sep 2 '17 at 15:40

The distance of trenches in trench warfare depends on the effective range of the personal weapons used in your scenario.

When outside of the effective range, trenches are useless, so the maximum distance is the effective weapon range.

When the trenches are closer, there will be more casualties through personal weapon fire, because their fire is more accurate and deadly. But an assault becomes less risky because there is less distance to cross. That means a smaller distance makes it easier for either side to resolve the siege through an assault.

So when you want the trench situation to be stable over months, you should place the trenches at maximum weapon distance.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I like this answer, it gives a good description of the pros/cons of being closer and further away. $\endgroup$
    – Liath
    Oct 1 '14 at 8:29
  • $\begingroup$ grenade chucking range would be a pretty solid lower limit, there is no "no mans land" when you can chuck a grenade from your trench into the enemy trench at anyone who fires. It is no coincidence that 30 meters is the farthest a person can toss a grenade in ideal conditions and the closes most trenches ever got. . $\endgroup$
    – John
    Sep 2 '17 at 15:38

All with all things there are variations. The technology level you are describing sounds akin to that of WW1. This is where trench warfare really started, for the first time the major powers were faced with an enemy with a sufficient level of technology to decimate an open charge. As a result trenches were dug to provide cover from fire.

The trenches of in early 20th century warfare ranged from about 30 metres to several hundred metres apart. This would depend very much on the geography and geology in question (and how it could be turned to a tactical advantage).

However, the front line trenches were not the whole story, in addition there was a massive infrastructure of supply trenches to allow troops and supplies to be moved back and forth in safety from the reserve lines to the the front.

Finally trenches were often underground, as the lines became more permanent soldiers looked for more ways to defend and attack. Tunnels were dug both under their own lines to provide additional cover but also towards the enemy trenches. There are some devastating examples of what happened when one side managed to undermine the other!


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