How to Make a Trench Model

how to make a trench model

Trenches played a huge role in the First World War, both on the Western and Eastern fronts. This post describes, step by step, how to make a trench model, complete with cat sized rats, compliments of my youngest.

How to Make a Trench Model: Fashioning the Individual Parts

Corrugated Iron to Hold Up Mud Walls

To make the corrugated iron, I painstakingly pulled off one layer of the corrugated cardboard. This took forever! I used a seam unpicker. I then painted the bumpy side a rusty iron colour, adding some black to make it look a little more authentic:

Sand Bags to Help Protect Trench from Heavy Rainfall

Abigail made these from mud, sand and plaster cast. She mixed a small amount of everything and formed small sandbag-like shapes. Next she left them to dry, before using a glue gun to cover them in hessian:

Here are the final mini ‘sand bags’:

Cat-Sized Rats

Becca made these using a glue gun, grey and pink felt and tiny beads for eyes:

Clay Bricks to Step Up on to Fire at the Enemy

These were made very simply from clay. And were allowed to dry over night. Also, Becs made a helmet, although I am unsure why…

Building and Painting the Trench

Unfortunately, I didn’t get many photos of this. In the first picture you can see Becca making some ladders from card strips. She had already made the wooden boards to go at the bottom of the trench (these you can see sitting in front of the shoe box that Abigail is working on. Abigail is building up the shoe box sides and lid to make it look like mud rather than smooth card. In the second picture the girls are both painting the whole box in many shades of browns:

Adding the Components

The girls added all the different components that they had made. In the photo below you can see the sand bags being stuck onto the shoe box:

On the lid, which is meant to be no-man’s-land, you can see the hat (I guess to signify the death of a soldier on no-man’s-land?), barbed wire, and some standing water (it was, after all, very, very wet in the trenches). The sand bags were stuck to the edge of the trench protecting the trench from flooding and also adding some more protection from shells:

Make a trench model

In the trench itself, you can see the wooden boards, cat-sized mice, ladders and bricks for standing on for more height and also as somewhere to sit (bricks). You can’t see it from this angle, but there is also a cave at the back where the soldiers slept.

Below are some close ups. Click on the pictures to see full size. There are a couple which show the cave:

Here is the final model of the trench:

Make a trench model

This was a great learning activity and really brought an understanding of how uncomfortable living in these conditions would be.


  1. So sad that this war/fighting happened in real life, but incredible that you thought of making this model. If you are ever in the US, there is a WWI museum in Kansas City. Their models of the trenches are similar to yours, but much bigger. Your girls will remember this well.

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