By Mike Phifer British soldiers fixed their bayonets and waited tensely in the trenches for the order to go over the top. Officers glanced at their watches and counted down as the minutes and seconds ticked away to zero hour. “Five minutes to go!” shouted Lieutenant Ulrich Burke of the Devonshire Regiment down the right and left of his trench sector. Other officers along the whole British line were doing the same. At 3:50 a.m., the early morning came alive as thousands of British artillery pieces opened up. “A long, jagged line of flame burst from the ground [in front of me],” recalled Captain Thomas Owtram of the King’s Own Royal Lancaster Regiment. “I blew my whistle and shouted. Men struggled stiffly to their feet, and we advanced until the shells were bursting only about 50 feet in front of us.” Along the whole British line, other officers were blowing their whistles and shouting the same orders. Thousands of British troops climbed out of the trenches and began to follow the creeping barrage. “The noise was tremendous, and shout as hard as you could, it was impossible to make the man next to you hear,” wrote Stanley Bradbury of the Seaforth Highlanders. Hugging the curtain of shells, four corps from the British Fifth Army had just spearheaded a major attack on July 31, 1917, in the Ypres Salient. The Third Battle of Ypres had just begun. Field Marshal Sir Douglas Haig, the British commander-in-chief, had strong hopes for this offensive, believing th


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