Well, in general terms they certainly kept men safer than they would have been out in the open. Trenches gave considerable protection from the shrapnel flying around at ground level. They offered (depending on the location and direction of the trench) fair protection from blast, effective protection from snipers (provided you remembered to keep your head down) and somewhere relatively safe to rest/eat during lulls in the fighting.
On the down side they could flood leaving the troops up to their chests in water/mud struggling to fight or even move. The walls of the trenches could collapse during shelling. The shell blast from a near miss could be trapped by the trench and funnelled along it killing more men than it otherwise would. They were open to the elements rain, hot sun, snow etc. And being heavier than air, poison gas could be trapped in the trenches for several days after an attack.
Any safety afforded by a trench was, however, lost immediately the troops went on the offensive and climbed out of their own trenches to walkacross "no-man's land" totally exposed to the fire of the enemy trench not only in front but also for a mile on either side of them- horrendous! I Warner Trenches also have several forms of protection. They had barbed wire lining them to slow the enemy when trying to overpower the trench so they could shoot at them. they also had sand bags to absorb the shock of shrapnel and other ammunition from heavy artillery.
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