Men were living outside for days or weeks on end, with limited shelter from cold, wind, rain and snow in the winter or from the heat and sun in summer. Artillery destroyed the familiar landscape, reducing trees and buildings to desolate rubble and churning up endless mud in some areas. The incredible noise of artillery and machine-gun fire, both enemy and friendly, was often incessant. Yet soldiers spent a great deal of time waiting around, and in some quiet sectors there was little real fighting and a kind of informal truce could develop between the two sides. Even in more active parts of the front, the battle was rarely continuous and boredom was common among troops, with little of the heroism and excitement many had imagined before the war.The Italian infantry officer Emilio Lussu wrote that life in the trenches was ‘grim and monotonous’ and that ‘if there were no attacks, there was no war, only hard work’.The order to attack – or news of an enemy assault – changed everything.