How much soil could a man displace in unfrozen ground?

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Felix C
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How much soil could a man displace in unfrozen ground?

Post by Felix C » 13 May 2022 23:10

We read infantry always dugin when in a new position. two man foxholes common. Did digging continue until a hole of regulation size was made? How much time did this consume with a standard shovel? When I read memoirs in the ETO it seems to be a four foot deep hole wide enough for two and long enough so we can lay down. There were other version deeper and narrower for standing only. Then if time allowed they were roofed over.

I am guessing it was known how much a man could dig in one, two, three hours. Also I read Japanese shovels were more efficient as they had holes and soil did not cake onto the spade compared to the solid ones.

I am thinking in Italy, when the terrain was mountainous it was no longer holes instead, sangers were made or caves were excavated by engineers.

Art
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Re: How much soil could a man displace in unfrozen ground?

Post by Art » 15 May 2022 14:46

"one man digs in an hour, cubic meters:
Sapper (large) spade - 0.5 in clay soild, 1 in turf soil, 1.25 in sandy soil
Small spade - circa 0.3 in caly soil, 0.5 in turf soil, 0.75 in sandy soil"
From the instruction for the Red Army's infantry, 1939

Felix C
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Re: How much soil could a man displace in unfrozen ground?

Post by Felix C » 15 May 2022 20:27

thanks

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Sheldrake
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Re: How much soil could a man displace in unfrozen ground?

Post by Sheldrake » 16 May 2022 10:10

From personal experience it can take a bit longer in chalk, rocky ground or where there are lots of tree roots. I recall it taking about six hours in the chalk of Salisbury Plain and twelve hours scratching a slit trench in a rocky ridge in West Germany.

There is a definite skill to digging. Agricultural or industrial labourers of a less automated age had physical skills that needed to be learned by their comrades from the office or school room. I worked with the Irish Guards in the 1980s. The MFC party had their trenches dug by a scouse Guardsman who dug much faster than anyone I have ever seen. But he had been a grave digger before joining the Micks.

I would not take the Red Army's figures on its own as the norm. The British Field Service Pocketbook (1914) has the following.

Excavation only: one cubic foot takes one man three minutes with a pick and shovel. (Average, over a four hour relief, in easy soil.)

Two paces of fire trench: 100 minutes for 45 cubic feet - including dispersal of spoil.

Felix C
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Re: How much soil could a man displace in unfrozen ground?

Post by Felix C » 20 May 2022 15:19

Thanks as well. I was thinking the infantry withdrew from small arms fire & observation range so they could dig in as it took several hours to create a hole. In addition to taking advantage of terrain contours from the point of view of the defense. I have also read of men digging in under fire and it seems near impossible.

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