A Booby trap was, as classically described in Soldier and Sailor Words and Phrases, the “name given at the Front during the First World War to the devices, often of fiendish ingenuity, employed by the Germans, in particular after evacuating positions and occupied districts. They were of every kind and form. A helmet, for instance, would be left lying about in a deserted trench, and when one of our men anticipated a souvenir went to pick it up, a bomb, secretly attached to the helmet, would go off and kill the man. Pianos were left in German officers' dug-outs or quarters with wires attached secretly connecting the keys with an infernal machine. Mines were buried at cross roads in many cases timed to explode at a certain time or number days after the enemy had withdrawn.
“A story which had a wide circulation on the Western Front related to a wretched kitten which some Germans had left nailed alive to a barn door. A soldier was said to have hastened to take down the poor creature, whereupon the unfortunate man was blown to pieces by a concealed bomb, secretly attached to the kitten. An American writer vouched for the story in a book [titled] Small Things (p.128), but it's authenticity has been doubted. At any rate, however, the kitten story was very widely believed among our men.
“It was the same on all fronts. In Palestine, for instance, after the taking of Beersheba and Gaza, booby traps were found connected with wells and all over the public buildings, with trip wires in the streets etc., attached to in one case a mine of 600 lbs of high explosive. Sentries were always posted where booby traps were suspected, until investigation could be made.” 
References / notes
- Edward Fraser and John Gibbons (1925). Soldier and Sailor Words and Phrases. Routledge, London p.33.
Glossary of terms and customs
This page forms part of our glossary of words and phrases of the Armed Forces of the United Kingdom of Great Britain during the Great War, which also includes: technicalities, trench slang, expressions in everyday use, nicknames, sobriquets, the titles and origins of British and Commonwealth Regiments, and warfare in general. Please feel free to help expand and improve this content.
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