3.3 What was it like to 'go over the top?'

The most common form of attack from the trenches was when large numbers of soldiers climbed out of their own trench, tried to cross the open land ahead and then attempted to capture the enemy’s trench. This was called 'going over the top' and was one of the most terrifying parts of trench warfare. The films on this page show scenes like these, and tactics used to cross no man's land.

1 MIN 38 SECS, SILENT, B/W, 1914-1918

British soldiers jump up and run through a smoke-filled battlefield as smoke bombs go off around them. Given the location of the camera, this footage may well be staged, which was not uncommon in newsreels and documentaries of the period, but it gives a good indication of what a charge through 'no man's land' would have been like.


0 MINS 47 SECS, SILENT, B/W, 1918

British soldier Private J. Taylor is decorated by General Sir Francis Lloyd. Taylor survived 5 weeks in 'no man's land' after being wounded.


1 MIN 3 SECS, SILENT, B/W, 1914-1918

Soldiers demonstrate a new way to tackle barbed wire in this film. Two men unravel a roll of thick material across the barbed wire, allowing their comrades to charge over the top of it, though still with some difficulty. Some soldiers then dismantle the barbed wire, providing us with a look at the gloves required to handle it.

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