Excerpt from 'The Crimean War: A History' by Orlando Figes: 'Trench Madness'
“Trench fatigue was the big enemy of the summer months. By the tenth month of the siege soldiers had become such nervous wrecks from living under bombardment, so exhausted from the lack of sleep, that many of them could no longer cope. In their memoirs, many soldiers wrote of ‘trench madness’ – a mixed bag of mental illnesses, as far as one can tell, from claustrophobia to what later would be known as ‘shell shock’ or ‘combat stress’. Louis Noir, for instance, recalled many cases when ‘entire companies’ of battle-hardened Zouaves would ‘suddenly get up in the middle of the night, seize their guns, and call to others hysterically for help to fight imaginary enemies. These incidents of nervous over-excitation became a contagion affecting many men; remarkably, it affected first of all those who were the strongest physically and morally.’ Jean Cler, a colonel in the Zouaves, also recalled seasoned fighters who ‘suddenly went mad’ and shot themselves. Suicides were noted by many memoirists. One wrote of a Zouave, ‘a veteran of our African wars’, who appeared all right until, one day, sitting by his tent and drinking coffee with his comrades, he said that he had had enough; taking up his gun, he walked away and put a bullet through his head.” The Crimean War: A History by Orlando Figes, Pgs. 374 - 375.