Over the Top

Over the Top - Glossary

"All Safe": a signal, given by siren, to announce that it is now safe to remove one's gas mask after a gas attack.

Artillery: weapon used to fire very large projectiles. Howitzers, guns and mortars are types of artillery. Popularly known as cannons.

Bayonet: steel blade, shaped like a short sword, that is fixed at the end of a rifle and used for hand-to-hand combat.

Billet: a place that is designated for soldiers to receive food and shelter.

Bully beef: from the French word boulli, meaning boiled. Meat that is pickled or canned, usually corned beef.

Communication wire: type of wire used for establishing telephone connections between posts.

Company: a unit of soldiers, normally consisting of 100 men.

Cocked: to "cock" a rifle means to draw back the hammer to prepare it for firing.

Decoration: a badge of honour; a medal awarded for bravery.

Duck-boards: floor sections made of wooden slats which can be laid on wet, muddy or cold surfaces.

Dugout: shelter dug on the side of a trench, in the ground, used as living quarters, for storage of supplies or for protection.

Firesteps: narrow ledge, located inside a trench, that allows soldiers to see over the parapet.

Fritz: nickname used by Allied soldiers to describe Germans.

Gas mask: cloth and/or rubber mask connected to an air filter and used to protect the face and lungs from poison gases.

HQ: short form for "Headquarters"; a place from which military commanders perform their duties.

Home leave: permission given to soldiers to go home for an extended period of time.

Jerry: nickname used by Allied soldiers to describe Germans.

Kaiser: German word meaning "emperor". During the First World War, the Kaiser of Germany was Wilhelm II.

Lice: plural form of "louse"; a small, flat, wingless insect that lives off the blood of its host.

Lip: as in "crater's lip"; the edge of a large hole.

Lollygagging: to waste time.

Mortar: a type of cannon used to fire projectiles at high angles.

No Man's Land: the narrow, muddy, treeless stretch of land, caracterised by numerous shell holes, that seperated German and Allied trenches during the First World War. Being in No Man's Land was considered very dangerous since it offered little or no protection for soldiers.

Parapet: the inner wall of a trench, made of earth and wood and topped with sandbags, to protect soldiers.

Platoon: a unit of soldiers, normally consisting of 50 men.

Poison gas: type of gas which gives off a poisonous vapour, designed to kill, injure or disable a soldier by inhalation or contact.

Puttees: cloth strip made of wool and wrapped around the leg, from ankle to knee, to prevent trousers from being torn or soiled.

Sap: a tunnel within a trench, dug to a point beneath the enemy's trenches.

Sector: a portion or division of a large military area.

Shell: an artillery projectile containing an explosive bursting charge.

Sniper: a soldier, armed with a rifle and usually well hidden, who shoots at exposed individuals of an enemy's forces.

"Stand Down": permission given to soldiers to leave their defensive positions when an attack by the enemy is deemed unlikely.

Stick grenade: German hand grenade; small, metal container, attached to a stick, which explodes after it is thrown.

Tommy: nickname used by German soldiers to describe British (and Canadian) soldiers.

Trench: a long, deep and narrow hole in the ground, with the earth thrown up in front, dug to protect soldiers from bullets and other projectiles.

Webbing: a type of military back-pack, made of sturdy canvas and containing numerous pouches for carrying the ammunition, water bottle, bayonet, food, clothing and personal belongings of a soldier.

Western Front: the area of military operations during the First World War which ran from Belgium, through northern France, and to the Swiss border.

Work detail: a specific task assigned to an individual or group, usually entailing physical labour.


    Date created: January 30, 2004 | Last updated: October 7, 2009