The initial martial enthusiasm was short-lived, as the campaign was neither short nor heroic. Soldiers were consigned to life in horrendous trenches where hygiene was poor, supplies were lacking, and disease and illness were rife. Long periods of boredom, rain and cold were interspersed with lethal frontal assaults on the enemy entrenchments, which did little to move the stagnated front lines. In addition, new weapons such as machine guns were being introduced, along with new forms of combat involving tanks, aircraft and poison gas.

1916 saw waves of dissatisfaction sweeping through the troops on both sides. Some soldiers allowed themselves to be captured, deliberately wounded themselves or simply deserted. Southern Jutlanders granted leave found it tempting to attempt to flee to neutral Denmark, and 2,400 of them were successful in doing so. However, this made it tougher for other Southern Jutlanders to get leave.

During the four years that hostilities lasted, a sense of camaraderie developed between soldiers with German and Danish sympathies. Everyone wanted to make it through the conflict with life and limb intact, and everyone longed to return to their homes and families – and to live in peace.