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Men of the Volkssturm-militia digging an anti-tank ditch during the Battle of Berlin at the outskirts of the city (February 1945)

Anti-tank trenches, also called anti-tank ditches, are ditches dug into and around fortified positions to hold up the advance of enemy tanks.[1][2] Anti-tank ditches were first used in World War I by Germany in an effort to protect their trenches against the newly developed British and French tanks. An anti-tank ditch has to be wide enough and deep enough to prevent a tank from crossing. Armies have been known to disguise anti-tank ditches[3] to enable the ditch to disable an enemy tank. Anti-tank trenches can be defeated by use of a fascine. Anti-tank ditches can also be crossed by use of bridges either laid by armoured vehicles or built over them, they can also be defeated by demolition of each side, using explosives, to make inclines that can be crossed or can be filled in by earth moving equipment.

According to the United States Army, there are several methods by which combat engineers can dig an anti-tank ditch on the battlefield. Using only hand tools, a platoon of soldiers can dig a triangular-shaped ditch 100 feet (30 m) long, 12 feet (3.7 m) wide and 6 feet (1.8 m) deep in seven and a half hours; a trapezoidal-shaped ditch of similar dimensions would take fourteen hours. Equipping the platoon with a 34 cubic yard (0.57 m3) power shovel cuts these digging times to four and a half hours and nine hours respectively. Alternatively, a squad of soldiers with a power auger and sufficient demolition charges can blast a ditch 100 yards (91 m) long, 30 feet (9.1 m) wide and 12 feet deep in twelve hours.[4]

See also


  1. ^ "12. Antitank Obstacles and Road Blocks: Beach Obstacles: German Coastal Defenses, WWII Military Intelligence Service, Special Series No. 15, June 15, 1943 (Lone Sentry)". Retrieved 2017-12-18.
  2. ^ Rottman, Gordon L. (2012-12-20). Soviet Field Fortifications 1941–45. Bloomsbury Publishing. ISBN 978-1-84908-061-3.
  3. ^ The Military Engineer. Society of American Military Engineers. 1919.
  4. ^ United States Department of the Army (1971). Engineers' Reference and Logistical Data. The Department. pp. 11–6.