The story of the great battles of the First World War has been told by historians, journalists and others. The shock and slaughter of the Somme, Verdun and Passchendaele, where soldiers endured unimaginable casualties with amazing courage, is a major theme of most books. Large-scale battles, however, comprised the small part of soldier's total time in combat. For 90 per cent of that time soldiers fought small-scale battles which took place between and throughout large battles. These small conflicts were violent, continual and involved complex weaponry and specialised tactics. Yet, during small battles, soldiers could and often did make choices not possible during large ones. From these choices, there evolved between enemies a curious culture of live and let live which constrained the war culture of kill or be killed in fundamental ways. It was a culture that was spontaneous, unplanned yet ongoing throughout the war, and it gave soldiers some control over the conditions of their existence.
The trench warfare culture emerged from a context of mistrust between enemies, dug in within yards of each other and armed to the teeth, where both were rewarded for aggression and punished for the lack of it. It is a story which has not hitherto been told.