The Taylor test is an important means to determine the response of materials to dynamic loading. In this work it is used to determine the dynamic response of heterogeneous orthotropic carbon-fibre-epoxy laminates. Experiments record the fracture of a series of multi-layered composite plates with high-speed photography. The ensuing damage occurs during the shock compression phase but three other tensile and shear loading modes operate during the test. This hierarchy of damage across the scales is key in determining the suite of operating mechanisms; such information cannot be correlated using traditional sectioning and observation using optical or electron beam microscopy or post mortem examination of recovered cylinders. Only dynamic imaging and damage characterisation will advance quantitative damage and thus constitutive model development. It is shown that fibre and ply orientations influence the fracture response, but most important is the impact speed. The 0° Taylor cylinder impacted at 268 m s-1 in addition to extensive interlaminar fracture demonstrates a pseudo-plastic behaviour due to progressive fibre crushing, dissipating larger amounts of energy in comparison to that tested at the lower speed of 148 m s-1.