An entrenching tool, E-tool, or trenching tool is a collapsible spade used by military forces for a variety of military purposes. Survivalists, campers, hikers and other outdoors groups have found it to be indispensable in field use. Modern entrenching tools are usually collapsible and made using steel, aluminum, or other light metals.
During the 20th century, the ancestor of the modern entrenching tool appeared in the form of the handled entrenching shovel or spade, designed to be used with both hands, yet more compact than traditional, full-sized engineer shovels or spades. These tools became extremely important with the introduction of trench warfare. Entrenching tools designed for the individual infantryman soon appeared with short straight handles, T-handles, D-handles, and other designs. The British entrenching tool of this period was a two part design, with a metal head and a wooden handle, the metal head consisted of an adze/spade blade and a pick spike, used alone the head could be used as a spade with the pick spike serving as a handle. Between the blade and the spike was a ring into which the handle could be inserted at right angles to the head, with the handle inserted the tool could be used as a pick mattock. Besides being used for digging defensive fighting positions, entrenching tools were used for digging latrines and graves.
During the First World War, the entrenching spade was also pressed into service as a melee weapon. In the close confines of a trench, rifles and fixed bayonets were often too long for effective use, and entrenching tools were often used as auxiliary arms for close-quarter fighting. From 1915, soldiers on both sides routinely sharpened the edges of entrenching shovels for use as weapons. After the First World War, entrenching tools were again redesigned to be more compact and lighter in weight. Folding designs became increasingly popular, usually incorporating a fixed handle with a folding shovel head, and sometimes encompassing a pick into the design. Like all individual entrenching tools, they were designed to be easily carried as part of an infantry soldier's standard pack equipment. The British 1937 Pattern web equipment added a bayonet lug to their entrenching tool, allowing the spike bayonet to be mounted on the end and converting the tool into a mine prodder.
References / notes
- Entrenching tool. Wikipedia: The free encyclopedia. Accessed 22 April, 2017.
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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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