In early 1916, life in the trenches was considered more comfortable by many Australian troops. For those who had served on Gallipoli, the conditions on the Western Front seemed very different. Billets were within 2 kilometres of the front. There were army canteens selling groceries, tobacco and clothing, and the men could buy champagne and beer from the closest estaminet.
This would all change with the arrival of winter, the most severe experienced in northern France in 36 years. Thoroughly churned up by the bombardment of the first battle of the Somme, the ground became so waterlogged it turned into a quagmire that was almost impassable. The rains that fell throughout October and November were followed by almost continuous frost and snow, which aggravated the unpleasant living conditions nearer the front.