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Over The Top Arthur Guy Empey

"Tommy's Dictionary Of The Trenches"

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In this so-called dictionary I have tried to list most of the pet terms and slangy definitions, which Tommy Atkins uses a thousand times a day as he is serving in France. I have gathered them as I lived with him in the trenches and rest billets, and later in the hospitals in England where I met men from all parts of the line.

The definitions are not official, of course. Tommy is not a sentimental sort of animal so some of his definitions are not exactly complimentary, but he is not cynical and does not mean to offend anyone higher up. It is just a sort of "ragging" or "kidding," as the American would say, that helps him pass the time away.

Slang Terms, Sayings, Phrases, Etc.


"About turn." A military command similar to "About face" or "To the rear, march." Tommy's nickname for Hebuterne, a point on the British line.

Adjutant. The name given to an officer who helps the Colonel do nothing. He rides a horse and you see him at guard mounting and battalion parade.

A.D.M.S. Assistant Director of Medical Service. Have never seen him but he is supposed to help the D. M. S. and pass on cases where Tommy is posted as "unfit for trench service."

Aerial Torpedo. A kind of trench mortar shell, guaranteed by the makers to break up Fritz's supper of sausages and beer, even though said supper is in a dugout thirty feet down. Sometimes it lives up to its reputation.

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Alarm. A signal given in the trenches that the enemy is about to attack, frequently false. It is mainly used to break up Tommy's dreams of home.

"All around traverse." A machine gun so placed that its fire can be turned in any direction.

Allemand. A French term meaning "German." Tommy uses it because he thinks it is a swear word.

Allotment. A certain sum Tommy allows to his family.

Allumettes. French term for what they sell to Tommy as matches, the sulphurous fumes from which have been known to "gas" a whole platoon.

"Ammo." Rifle ammunition. Used to add weight to Tommy's belt. He carries 120 rounds, at all times, except when he buries it under the straw in his billet before going on a route march. In the trenches he expends it in the direction of Berlin.

Ammo Depot. A place where ammunition is stored. It is especially useful in making enemy airmen waste bombs trying to hit it.

Ammonal. A high explosive used in the Mills bomb. The Germans are more able than Tommy to discourse on its effects.

"Any complaints." A useless question asked by an inspecting officer when he makes the rounds of billets or Tommy's meals. A complaining Tommy generally lands on the crime sheet. It is only recruits who complain; the old men just sigh with disgust.

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Over The Top
Arthur Guy Empey

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