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Co-written with Jack McGuire


As the first light sprawls over Flanders Fields
I stand and wait, alone.
I say a prayer for my comrades, and think
Of my mother, who frets back home.

Soon it's over the top, lads, and into the fray;
We'll be staring down death, come the breaking of day.
And it's one for the money, and two for the show;
So get ready, boys, over the top we go.

I have had my fill ... of the hard tack and swill
The catering wagons cook ...
Of laying wire ... of dodging fire ...
And of bedding down in muck.

Oh, it's over the top, lads, this trench life we lead,
Every day a routine of advance and retreat.
From the bowels of Hell, we'll charge into Hell's jaws,
With the beat of the shelling our only applause.

The pitch-black night it brings no respite,
A pounding echoes in my brain
Of the foe's barrage – sounds I cannot purge –
And I reach for sleep in vain.

We eke out our hours as we live day to day;
Tomorrow's a country a lifetime away.
I've forgotten the face of the sweetheart I left,
And the lice in my hair are the friends I know best.

Now it's rainin' hard, but we're low on shot,
So to the rear lines I must go.
Just then Fritz lets fly and I hear the pop
Of a bullet. Christ, that was close!

They lead over the top, lads, these gullies we track
Like rats in a sewer, or ants in a trap.
I'll be here forever, it seems to me now;
These hell-holes called trenches my last stomping-ground.

Every new day dawns with a stand-to yawn
As I shake the men from sleep.
"Fix those bayonets, boys", "ssh, don't make no noise
To rouse the Devil from the Deep".

The bugle has sounded a new day begun,
But will we outlast it? Or will we succumb?
The whistles are blowing, the reason is plain:
It's over the top we are going again.
fixing bayonets in preparation for the attack
public domain photo from the collection of the Imperial War Museum

Created: November 17, 2014. © Stephen Alsford