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image for Tarts of the Somme The trenches of WW1 was a wonderful place for pleasure-seeking men of leisure

Ever since the dull Wilfred Owen wrote his famous poem, "Prossies lose decorum if", there has been a fascination with the ladies of the night who frequented the trenches of the Western Front during World War One. They struggled with great hardship in sticky times.

The Front was harsh, lonely and felt like the very bottom of the world. Most poor soldiers were therefore very pleased to have a lady's front bottom at hand.

Amazingly there was an entire industry devoted to delivering hookers to the front line and bringing them back safely. Future Prime Minister Winston Churchill was a lady trafficker during the First World War, and used to smuggle them through France hidden in a wardrobe.

He wrote in his memoirs, "If a Frog should catch a glimpse of one of our fine British tarts, his filthy desires would make him want to confiscate her immediately and bathe her in wine and foie gras. We must protect our pleasure ladies from such gluttonous depravity. British boys usually just want to look up her skirts."

Tens of thousands of British prostitutes signed up for front line service during the war. Conscription offices were overwhelmed with quim queueing up to do their duty. There was no secret that it was a lucrative business, with free stockings being provided to every official army prostitute. However, it was not without its risks, for example trench throat.

One of the most popular call girls on the Western Front was a busty redhead called Big Sally. One day she somehow managed to end up in the German trenches and had to complete the walk of shame over no man's land. The details she told of what she had got up to with the German troops are too disgusting to repeat here, but she refused to eat solid food for at least a month.

However, it wasn't all fun and games. After an incident in which two ladies of the night were gunned down while soliciting outside a trench, the industry was quietly stopped. Troops were ordered to take care of their own needs instead, or to try homosexuality. It was a sad end to an era.

"Tarts of the Somme" will be shown on Channel -1 on Thursday evening at 9pm.

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