The following are first hand quotes and diary extracts of soldiers going over the top into No Mans land in the First World War. They are taken from Paul Allens book 'Neath a foreign sky.'
Extract:The last campaign of the Great War
On the right of the assault had been the four companies of the Tenth Battalion. Former Hull school teacher Private J. Beeken of 'C'Company describes;
'We advanced to the attack, it was hell. Our shells were shrieking over us and bursting just in front. It was a creeping barrage advancing as we moved forward. The German shells were shrieking over us and bursting behind. Machine gun fire swept the whole front. Different coloured very light and rockets went up over the German lines'. 
Sorely decimated by the intense machine gun fire the survivors of the battalion had soon come across uncut wire, the men hacking at the entanglements with their spades and bayonets, some of the leaderless men [by this time the four company commanders had become casualties] had eventually been funnelled through the few gaps that had been made and had reached the enemy's first line of trenches, Private Beeken says:
"We couldn't see where we were going. All we could do was walk towards the lights."
'Although we were only about 100 yards from Oppy Wood I couldn't see it, for a mist had descended. The fumes almost choked us and I had a splitting headache. As we walked on we saw a number of dead lying about. Eventually we met the sergeant major and his party who were lost. I was not surprised for we couldn't see where we were going. All we could do was walk towards the lights'.
Extract:The Battle for Thiepval Ridge
Gallipoli veteran Sergeant Edward Miles, of the 8TH Duke of Wellington's Regiment had also conveyed his experiences that day in a letter he had written to his wife three days after the battle;
'September 17TH Phew! Those three days seemed like an hour's nightmare. We went up on the night of the 14TH with three days rations in our haversacks, and on our way up we passed field guns wheel to wheel from Crucifix Corner to Railway Alley [a trench leading up to the front line].
'There must have been a thousand guns there, and I think it was that that gave us the victory. We lost about two hundred [out of 500] killed and wounded and unfortunately my chum was amongst the wounded, being hit in the elbow soon after we went over. There was a tremendous amount of old iron thrown about but I was lucky enough to be missed. The chief praise is due, I think, to one of our companies and a company of the W.Yorks who as we went forward, came behind and dug a communication trench from 'Jerry' front line to our own. How those poor devils worked while we held on was marvellous. The Brigadier General, as we came out of the line, shook hands with each of us, [those that were left]. Of course it was a feather in his cap, but we didn't get anything. Still, who cares, we get a shilling a day'. "Bullets were dropping on the side of the trench, or what was left of it, like hailstones."
Private Hepburn takes up the ensuing story - 'It was afternoon and we were not in good form for attack for we had marched a good three miles to the trenches laden with ammunition and tools, still, at the appointed hour we were on the top, and after a stiff job racing up and down shell holes we reached a communication trench. This was being peppered with machine gun fire, and bullets were dropping on the side of the trench, or what was left of it, like hailstones. From here we had to move forwards to a German trench while another regiment was going over the top of it, and I was on my way when a bullet pierced my arm and sent my pick out of my hand. I wanted to stick it but as everyone was bent on moving up and I could not get my wound dressed... I had to clear out to the Dressing Station'.
Extract: Serpentine crawl
[Known to the men as Plugstreet] where they had remained until their call to the Somme in the middle of August. They had begun their journey to the front first by train and then on foot over ground increasingly torn and shattered by war, and had passed through broken villages and places with names synonymous with death, Fricourt, Mametz, Montauban, and Caterpillar Valley. On the way they had passed weary stricken men marching raggedly in the opposite direction, men gaunt with fatigue, ashen in face and haggard eyes, men who had witnessed very violent death at very close quarters. Now their replacements were making their final approach;
'Presently we dropped into a communication trench and then began that laborious serpentine crawl that seemed to have no end. At first it was not so bad; the companies behind kept touch and progress was steady, if slow. But messages began to pass along the line, from front to rear, from rear to front. We would come to a halt. 'Pass the word back to close up'. The message would fade away to silence along the line, and then there would be a seemingly interminable delay until the reply would come from the rear. We would stagger forward again... just like a concertina opening and closing... Dimly we realised from the shattered stumps that we were in Delville Wood and those gifted with a sense of smell experienced the stench of that horrible place... We encountered dead bodies at more frequent intervals, gruesome stinking shapes. The colonel with his torch identified on some the black buttons of the Rifles [King's Royal Rifle Corps]. Oh! That dreadful night during which we crawled like snails through the midst of horrors less darkly imagined than actually realised. Well was it called Devil's Wood'. So had written Sergeant Norman Carmichael of 'C' Company."The closer you kept to the creeping barrage the safer you were."
'We were the first to go in 'C'Company. I think our captain gave the order to advance a little bit before the time because we'd been trained that the closer you kept to the creeping barrage the safer you were. But we overdid it. We walked straight into it and it has to be said that there were many shorts. The artillery was good but they weren't all that perfect and they couldn't guarantee to put a curtain in a straight line that you could keep behind. I went down very early and I saw my officer going on just in front of me. He was brandishing his revolver and shouting,
'Come on number ten! and he just went down. He got a machine gun bullet right through the head. The Germans had got up by then and my platoon was literally put out of action in a very short time. The last I saw of them were about a half a dozen going through the smoke climbing up this ridge to get into the German trenches, and I was left lying there'.
Extract: over the top 1917 'At all costs' Monchy Le Preux in the Great War 23RD April—17TH May
The objectives of the 15TH Battalion [48TH Highlanders] from the Third Brigade of First Division assembled near the recently hard fought for village of Courcelette had first been a trench named 'Sudbury Trench. Their second objective, if all went well, had been to attack a section of 'Kenora Trench' which had been ahead and to their left, this was to have been followed by an attack on the formidable 'Regina Trench'. At Zero Hour;
'Fix Bayonets'! Came quietly along the line and the numbing tautness of the last few instants came only to be understood by those who know. 12-34pm. The machine guns opened with a storm of fire that utterly smothered a shout at arms length—and it was on! It had been unexpected, that machine gun racketing, and for an awful instant seemed to be the Hun's. A long moment to wait then they were going over the parapet in the glare of noon for miles, as the barrage opened with a crash that blotted the German front line'.
'The shrapnel breaks above it in rolling funnels of smoke and the H.E. [High Explosives] sending it spouting in geysers of black earth.
It was cracking down well beyond Fabeck Graben. The Highlanders were lining in No Mans Land under a terrific, unbelievable din that shut out thought. Faces were masks and men were moving as they do when facing a hail of fire, like automatons, appearing unafraid but with a white, strained look of waiting for something.
By mid afternoon the 15TH had achieved their second objective and with Regina Trench in sight the Battalion had followed in the wake of a British creeping artillery barrage towards their objective, it had however been unable to reach the position and instead of assaulting it had established a line of advanced posts opposite, thus forming a new line;
'Shell holes were being connected and the trench was deepening with German prisoners sweating and digging as they had never done before, with bayonets jabbing at their rears to spur them on when they tired. The Battalion had changed in appearance beyond belief in that long advance of a mile or so of constant isolated fights. But the task was finished and the day won, and all ranks were elated'.