|January 8th, 2005|
"Tommy's Dictionary Of The Trenches" WWI info
"Tommy's Dictionary Of The Trenches"
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.
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.
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.
A.O.C. Army Ordnance Corps. A department which deals out supplies to the troops. Its chief asset is the returning of requisitions because a comma is misplaced.
A.P.M. Assistant Provost Marshal. An officer at the head of the Military Police. His headquarters are generally out of reach of the enemy's guns. His chief duties are to ride around in a motor car and wear a red band around his cap.
"Apres la Guerre." "After the war." Tommy's definition of Heaven.
A.S.C. Army Service Corps, or Army Safety Corps as Tommy calls it. The members of which bring up supplies to the rear of the line.
"Back 'o the line." Any place behind the firing line out of range of enemy guns.
Baler. A scoop affair for baling out water from the trenches and dugouts. As the trenches generally drain the surrounding landscape, the sun has to be appealed to before the job is completed.
Bantams. Men under the standard army height of 5 ft. 3 in. They are in a separate organization called "The Bantam Battalion," and although undersized have the opinion that they can lick the whole German Army.
Barbed Wire. A lot of prickly wire entwined around stakes driven in front of the trenches. This obstruction is supposed to prevent the Germans from taking lodgings in your dugouts. It also affords the enemy artillery rare sport trying to blow it up.
"Barndook." Tommy's nickname for his rifle. He uses it because it is harder to say and spell than "rifle."
Barrage. Concentrated shell-fire on a sector of the German line. In the early days of the war, when ammunition was defective, it often landed on Tommy himself.
Barricade. An obstruction of sandbags to impede the enemy's traffic into your trench. You build it up and he promptly knocks it down, so what's the use.
"Bashed in." Smashed by a shell. Generally applied to a trench or dugout.
Batman. A man who volunteers to clean a non-commissioned officer's buttons but who never volunteers for a trench raid. He ranks nest to a worm.
Bayonet. A sort of knife-like contrivance which fits on the end of your rifle. The Government issues it to stab Germans with. Tommy uses it to toast bread.
"Big Boys." Large guns, generally eight inch or above.
"Big Push." "The Battle of the Somme." He often calls it "The First of July," the date on which it started.
"Big Stuff." Large shells, eight inch or over.
"Big Willie." Tommy's term for his personal friend, the Kaiser.
Billet. Sometimes a regular house but generally a stable where Tommy sleeps while behind the lines. It is generally located near a large manure pile. Most billets have numerous entrances-one for Tommy and the rest for rain, rats, wind, and shells.
Billet Guard. Three men and a corporal who are posted to guard the billets of soldiers. They do this until the orderly officer has made his rounds at night, then they go to sleep.
Biscuit. A concoction of flour and water, baked until very hard. Its original use was for building purposes, but Tommy is supposed to eat it. Tommy is no coward but he balks at this. Biscuits make excellent fuel, and give no smoke.
Bivouac. A term given by Tommy to a sort of tent made out of waterproof sheets.
Blastine. A high explosive which promotes Kultur in the German lines,
Blighty. An East Indian term meaning "over the seas." Tommy has adopted it as a synonym for home. He tries numerous ways of reaching Blighty, but the "powers that be" are wise to all of his attempts, so he generally fails.
"Blighty One." A wound serious enough to send Tommy to England.
B.M.G.C. Brigade Machine Gun Company, composed of Vickers machine gunners. They always put their packs on a limber or small wagon while route marching, which fact greatly arouses the Jealousy of Tommy.
"Body Snatcher." Tommy's term for a sniper.
Bomb. An infernal device filled with high explosive which you throw at the Germans. Its chief delight is to explode before it leaves your hand.
Bomb Store. A place where bombs are kept, built so the enemy cannot locate them with his fire. For that matter, Tommy can't either when he needs them.
Bombing Post. A sort of trench or sap running from your front line to within a few yards of the enemy's trench. It is occupied by bomb throwers who would like to sign an agreement with the Germans for neither side to throw bombs.
Brag. A card game similar to poker at which every player quits a loser and no one wins, that is, according to the statements of the several players.
Brazier. A sheet iron pot punched full of holes in which a fire is built. It is used to keep Tommy warm in his dugout until he becomes unconscious from its smoke and fumes. He calls it a "fire bucket."
Brigade Guard. Several men who are detailed to guard Brigade Headquarters. They don't go to sleep.
B.S.M. Battalion Sergeant-Major. The highest ranking non-commissioned officer in the battalion. A constant dread to Tommy when he has forgotten to polish his buttons or dubbin his boots.
Bully Beef. A kind of corned beef with tin round it. The unopened cans make excellent walls for dugouts.
Burm. A narrow ledge cut along the walls of a trench to prevent earth from caving in. "Burm" to Tommy is a cuss word, because he has to "go over the top" at night to construct it.
"Busted." Term applied when a non-commissioned officer is reduced by court-martial.
Button Stick. A contrivance made of brass ten inches long which slides over the buttons and protects the tunic in cleaning.
"Called to the colors." A man on reserve who has been ordered to report for service.
"Camel Corps." Tommy's nickname for the Infantry because they look like overloaded camels, and probably because they also go eight days, and longer, without a drink, that is, of the real stuff.
Candle. A piece of wick surrounded by wax or tallow used for lighting purposes. One candle among six men is the general issue.
Canister. A German trench mortar shell filled with scraps of iron and nails. Tommy really has a great contempt for this little token of German affection and he uses the nails to hang his equipment on in the dugouts.
Canteen. A mess tin issued to Tommy, who, after dinner, generally forgets to wash it, and pinches his mates for tea in the evening.
"Carry on." Resume. Keep on with what you are doing. Go ahead.
"Carrying in." Machine gunners' term for taking guns, ammunition, etc., into front-line trench.
Caterpillar. Is not a bug, but the name given to a powerful engine used to haul the big guns over rough roads.
C.C.S. Casualty Clearing Station. A place where the doctors draw lots to see if Tommy is badly wounded enough to be sent to Blighty.
Chalk Pit. A white spot on a painted landscape used at the Machine Gunners' School to train would-be gunners in picking out distinctive objects in landscapes and guessing ranges.
Challenge. A question, "Who goes there?" thrown at an unknown moving object by a sentry in the darkness, who hopes that said moving object will answer, "Friend."
Char. A black poisonous brew which Tommy calls tea.
"Chevaux-de-frise." Barbed-wire defenses against cavalry.
"Chucking his weight about." Self-important. Generally applied to a newly promoted non-commissioned officer or a recruit airing his knowledge.
Chum. An endearing word used by Tommy to his mate when he wants to borrow something or have a favor done.
"Clicked it." Got killed; up against it; wounded.
"Clock." "Trench" for the face.
"Coal Box." The nickname for a high explosive German shell fired from a 5.9 howitzer which emits a heavy black smoke and makes Tommy's hair stand on end.
Coal Fatigue. A detail on which Tommy has to ride in a limber and fill two sacks with coal. It takes him exactly four hours to do this. He always misses morning parade, but manages to get back in time for dinner.
"Cole." Tommy's nickname for a penny. It buys one glass of French beer.
"Coming it." Trying to "put something over."
"Coming the add." Boasting; lying about something.
Communication Trench. A zigzag ditch leading from the rear to the front-line trench, through which reinforcements, reliefs, ammunition, and rations are brought up. Its real use is to teach Tommy how to swear and how to wade through mud up to his knees.
Communique. An official report which is published daily by the different warring governments for the purpose of kidding the public. They don't kid Tommy.
Company Stores. The Quartermaster-Sergeant's headquarters where stores are kept. A general hang-out for batmen, officers' servants, and N.C.O.'s.
"Compray." Tommy's French for "Do you understand?" Universally used in the trenches.
Conscript. A man who tried to wait until the war was over before volunteering for the army, but was balked by the Government.
"Consolidate captured line." Digging in or preparing a captured position for defence against a counter-attack.
Convalescence. Six weeks' rest allotted to a wounded Tommy. During this time the Government is planning where they will send Tommy to be wounded a second time.
C. of E. Church of England. This is stamped on Tommy's identification disk. He has to attend church parade whether or not he wants to go to Heaven.
Cook. A soldier detailed to spoil Tommy's rations. He is generally picked because he was a blacksmith in civil life.
Cooties. Unwelcome inhabitants of Tommy's shirt.
Counter Attack. A disagreeable habit of the enemy which makes Tommy realize that after capturing a position the hardest work is to hold it.
Covering Party. A number of men detailed to lie down in front of a working party while "out in front" to prevent surprise and capture by German patrols. Tommy loves this job, I don't think!
Crater. A large circular hole in the ground made by the explosion of a mine. According to Official Communiques, Tommy always occupies a crater with great credit to himself. But sometimes the Germans get there first.
"Cricket ball." The name given to a bomb the shape and size of a cricket ball. Tommy does not use it to play cricket with.
Crime Sheet. A useless piece of paper on which is kept a record of Tommy's misdemeanors.
"Crump." A name given by Tommy to a high explosive German shell which when it bursts makes a "Crump" sort of noise.
C.S.M. Company Sergeant-Major, the head non-commissioned officer of a company, whose chief duty is to wear a crown on his arm, a couple of Boer War ribbons on his chest, and to put Tommy's name and number on the crime sheet.
"Curtain fire." A term-applied by the artillery to a wall of shell fire on the enemy communication trenches, to prevent the bringing up of men and supplies, and also to keep our own front lines from wavering. But somehow or other men and supplies manage to leak through it.
"Cushy." Easy; comfortable; "pretty soft."
D.A.C. Divisional Ammunition Column. A collection of men, horses, and limbers, which supplies ammunition for the line and keeps Tommy awake, while in billets, with their infernal noise. They are like owls-always working at night.
D.C.M. Distinguished Conduct Medal. A piece of bronze which a soldier gets for being foolish.
D.C.P. Divisional Concert Party. An aggregation of would-be actors who inflict their talents on Tommy at half a franc per head.
Defaulter. Not an absconding cashier, but a Tommy who has been sentenced to extra pack drill for breathing while on parade or doing some other little thing like that.
"Dekko." To look; a look at something.
Detonator. A contrivance in a bomb containing fulminate of mercury, which, ignited by a fuse, explodes the charge.
"Deruffs." "Deuxosufs." Tommy's French for "two eggs."
"Dial." Another term of Tommy's for his map, or face.
"Digging in." Digging trenches and dugouts in a captured position.
Digging Party. A detail of men told off to dig trenches, graves, or dugouts. Tommy is not particular as to what he has to dig; it's the actual digging he objects to.
"Dinner up." Dinner is ready.
Divisional Band. Another devilish aggregation which wastes moat of its time in practicing and polishing its instruments.
Dixie. An iron pot with two handles on it in which Tommy's meals are cooked. Its real efficiency lies in the fact that when carrying it, your puttees absorb all the black grease on its sides.
"Doing them in." Killing them. Cutting up a body of German troops.
Donkey. An army mule. An animal for which Tommy has the greatest respect. He never pets or in any way becomes familiar with said mule.
Draft. A contingent of new men sent as reinforcements for the trenches. Tommy takes special delight in scaring these men with tales of his own experiences which he never had.
Draftman. A member of a draft who listens to and believes Tommy's weird tales of trench warfare.
Dressing Station. A medical post where Tommy gets his wounds attended to, if he is lucky enough to get wounded. He is "lucky," because a wound means Blighty.
"Drill order." Rifle, belt, bayonet, and respirator.
Dry Canteen. An army store where Tommy may buy cigarettes, chocolate, and tinned fruit, that is, if he has any money.
D.S.O. Distinguished Service Order. Another piece of metal issued to officers for being brave. Tommy says it is mostly won in dugouts and calls it a "Dugout Service Order."
Dubbin. A grease for boots.
Dud. A German shell or bomb which has not exploded on account of a defective fuse. Tommy is a great souvenir collector so he gathers these "duds." Sometimes when he tries to unscrew the nose-cap it sticks. Then in his hurry to confiscate it before an officer appears he doesn't hammer it just right-and the printer of the casualty list has to use a little more type.
Dugout. A deep hole in the trenches dug by the Royal Engineer Corps; supposed to be shell proof. It is, until a shell hits it. Rat and Tommy find it an excellent habitation in which to contract rheumatism.
Dump. An uncovered spot where trench tools and supplies are placed. It is uncovered so that these will become rusty and worthless from the elements. This so that the contractors at home won't starve.
"Du pan." Tommy's French for bread.
Efficiency Pay. Extra pay allowed by the Government for long service. Tommy is very efficient if he manages to get it from the Government.
Eighteen-Pounder. One of our guns which fires an eighteen pound shell, used for destroying German barbed wire previous to an attack. If it does its duty you bet Tommy is grateful to the eighteen-pounders.
Elephant Dugout. A large, safe, and roomy dugout, braced by heavy steel ribs or girders.
Emplacement. A position made of earth or sandbags from which a machine gun is fired. It is supposed to be invisible to the enemy. They generally blow it up in the course of a couple of days, just by luck, of course.
Entrenching Tool. A spade-like tool for digging hasty entrenchments. It takes about a week to dig a decent hole with it, so "hasty" must have another meaning.
"Equipment on." Put on equipment for drill or parade.
Escort. A guard of soldiers who conduct prisoners to different points. Tommy is just as liable to be a prisoner as an escort.
"Estaminet." A French public house, or saloon, where muddy water is sold for beer.
Fag. Cigarette. Something Tommy is always touching you for, "Fag issue." Army issue of cigarettes, generally on Sunday.
Fatigue. Various kinds of work done by Tommy while he is "resting."
"Fed up." Disgusted; got enough of it--as the rich Mr. Hoggenheimer used to say, "Sufficiency."
Field Dressing. Bandages issued to soldiers for first aid when wounded. They use them for handkerchiefs and to clean their rifles.
Field Post Card. A card on which Tommy is allowed to tell his family and friends that he is alive; if he is dead the War Office sends a card, sometimes.
Field Punishment No. I. Official name for spread-eagling a man on a limber wheel, two hours a day for twenty-one days. His rations consist of bully beef, water, and biscuits. Tommy calls this punishment "Crucifixion," especially if he has undergone it.
"Fifteen-pounder." Still another of ours; shell weighs fifteen pounds. Used for killing rats on the German parapets.
"Finding the range." Ascertaining by instrument or by trial shots the distance from an enemy objective.
"Fireworks." A night bombardment.
Fire Sector. A certain space of ground which a machine gun is supposed to sweep with its fire. If the gun refuses to work, all of the enemy who cross this space are technically dead, according to the General's plans.
Firing Squad. Twelve men picked to shoot a soldier who has been sentenced to death by court-martial. Tommy has no comment to make on this.
Firing Step. A ledge in the front trench which enables Tommy to fire "over the top." In rainy weather you have to be an acrobat to even stand on it on account of the slippery mud.
Fire Trench. The front-line trench. Another name is for Hell.
"Five rounds rapid." Generally, just before daylight in the trenches, the order "Five rounds rapid" is given. Each man puts his rifle and head over the parapet and fires five shots as rapidly as possible in the direction of the German trenches and then ducks. A sort of "Good morning, have you used Fears Soap?"
"Five nine." A German shell 5.9 inches in diameter. It is their standard shell. Tommy has no special love for this brand, but they are like olives, all right when you get used to them.
"Flags." Tommy's nickname for a Signaler.
Flare. A rocket fired from a pistol which, at night, lights up the ground in front of your trench.
Flare Pistol. A large pistol, which looks like a sawed-off shotgun, from which flares are fired. When you need this pistol badly it has generally been left in your dugout.
Flying Column. A flying column of troops that waits from one point of the line to another. In case of need they usually arrive at the wrong point.
Fokker. A type of German aeroplane which the Boche claims to be the fastest in the world. Tommy believes this, because our airmen seldom catch them.
"For It." On the crime sheet; up against a reprimand; on trial, in trouble.
"Four by two." A piece of flannel four Inches by two issued by the Q. M. Sergeant with which to "pull through."
"Four point five." Another of ours. The Germans don't like this one.
"Four point seven." One of our shells 4.7 inches in diameter. Tommy likes this kind.
"Fritz." Tommy's name for a German. He loves a German like poison.
Front Line. The nearest trench to the enemy. No place for a conscientious objector.
Frostbite. A quick road to Blighty, which Tommy used very often until frostbite became a court-martial offence. Now he keeps his feet warm.
"Full pack." A soldier carrying all of his equipment.
Full Corporal. A N.C.O. who sports two stripes on his arm and has more to say than the Colonel.
Fumigator. An infernal device at a hospital which cooks Tommy's uniform and returns it to him two sizes too small.
"Funk Hole." Tommy's term for a dugout. A favorite spot for those of a nervous disposition.
Fuse. A part of shell or bomb which burns in a set time and ignites the detonator.
Gas. Poisonous fumes which the Germans send over to our trenches. When the wind is favorable this gas is discharged into the air from huge cylinders. The wind carries it over toward our lines. It appears like a huge yellowish-green cloud rolling along the ground. The alarm is sounded and Tommy promptly puts on his gas helmet and laughs at the Boches.
Gas Gong. An empty shell case hung up in the trenches and in billets. A sentry is posted near it, so that in case German poison gas comes over, he can give the alarm by striking this gong with an iron bar. If the sentry happens to be asleep we get "gassed."
"Gassed." A soldier who has been overcome from the fumes of German poison gas, or the hot air of a comrade.
"Gassing." A term Tommy applies to "shooting the bull."
"Getting a sub." Touching an officer for money. To be taken out of soldier's pay on the next pay-day.
"Getting the sparks." Bullets from a machine gun cutting enemy barbed wire at night; when a bullet strikes wire it generally throws off a bluish spark. Machine gunners use this method at night to "set" their gun so that its fire will command the enemy's trench.
"Ginger." Nickname of a red-beaded soldier; courage; pep.
"Gippo." Bacon grease; soup.
G.M.P. Garrison Military Police. Soldiers detailed to patrol the roads and regulate traffic behind the lines. Tommy's pet aversion.
G.O.C. General Officer Commanding. Tommy never sees him in the act of "commanding," but has the opportunity of reading many an order signed "G.O.C."
Goggles. An apparatus made of canvas and mica which is worn over the eyes for protection from the gases of German "tear shells." The only time Tommy cries is when he forgets his goggles or misses the mm issue.
"Going in." Taking over trenches.
"Going out." Relieved from the trenches.
"Gone West." Killed; died.
"Gooseberries." A wooden frame in the shape of a cask wrapped round with barbed wire. These gooseberries are thrown into the barbed-wire entanglements to help make them impassable.
"Got the Crown." Promoted to Sergeant-Major.
Green Envelope. An envelope of a green color issued to Tommy once a week. The contents will not be censored regimentally, but are liable to censor at the base. On the outside of envelope appears the following certificate, which Tommy must sign: "I certify on my honor that the contents of this envelope refer to nothing but private and family matters." After signing this certificate Tommy immediately writes about everything but family and private matters.
Groom. A soldier who looks after an officer's horse and who robs said horse of its hay. He makes his own bed comfortable with this hay.
Grousing. A scientific grumbling in which Tommy cusses everything in general and offends no one.
G.S.W. Gunshot wound. When Tommy is wounded he does not care whether it is a G.S.W. or a kick from a mule, just so he gets back to Blighty.
G.S. Wagon. A four-wheeled wagon driven by an A.S.C. driver. It carries supplies, such as food, ammunition, trench tools, and timber tor dugouts. When Tommy gets sore feet he is allowed to ride on this wagon and fills the ears of the driver with tales of his wonderful exploits. Occasionally one of these drivers believes him.
Gum Boots. Rubber boots issued to Tommy for wet trenches. They are used to keep his feet dry; they do, when he is lucky enough to get a pair.
"Gumming the game." Spoiling anything, interfering.
"Hair brush." Name of a bomb used in the earlier stages of the war. It is shaped like a hair brush and is thrown by the handle. Tommy used to throw them over to the Germans for their morning toilette.
"Hand grenade." A general term for a bomb which is thrown by hand. Tommy looks upon all bombs with grave suspicion; from long experience he has learned not to trust them, even if the detonator has been removed.
"Hard tails." Mules.
Haversack. A canvas bag forming part of Tommy's equipment, carried on the left side. Its original use was intended for the carrying of emergency rations and small kit. It is generally filled with a miscellaneous assortment of tobacco, pipes, bread crumbs, letters, and a lot of useless souvenirs.
"Having a doss." Having a sleep.
"Hold-all." A small canvas roll in which you are supposed to carry your razor, comb, knife, fork, spoon, mirror, soap, tooth brush, etc. Tommy takes great care of the above, because it means extra pack drill to come on parade unshaven.
"Holy Joe." Tommy's familiar but not necessarily irreverent same for the Chaplain. He really has a great admiration for this officer, who although not a fighting man, so often risks his life to save a wounded Tommy.
"Housewife." A neat little package of needles, thread, extra shoelaces, and buttons. When a button comes off Tommy's trousers, instead of going to his housewife he looks around for a nail.
Hun. Another term for a German, mostly used by war correspondents.
"Hun pinching." Raiding German trenches for prisoners. I
Identification Disk. A little fiber disk which is worn around the neck by means of a string. On one side is stamped your name, rank, regimental number, and regiment, while on the other side is stamped your religion. If at any time Tommy is doubtful of his identity he looks at his disk to reassure himself.
"I'm sorry." Tommy's apology. If he pokes your eye out with his bayonet he says, "I'm sorry," and the matter is ended so far as he is concerned.
"In front." Over the top; in front of the front-line trench, in No Man's Land.
"In reserve." Troops occupying positions, billets, or dugouts, immediately in rear of the front line, who in case of an attack will support the firing line.
Intelligence Department. Secret service men who are supposed to catch spies or be spies as the occasion demands.
Interpreter. A fat job with a "return ticket," held by a soldier who thinks he can speak a couple of languages. He questions prisoners as to the color of their grandmothers' eyes and why they joined the army. Just imagine asking a German "why" he joined the army.
"Invalided." Sent to England on account of sickness.
Iron Rations. A tin of bully beef, two biscuits, and a tin containing tea, sugar, and Oxo cubes. These are not supposed to be eaten until you die of starvation.
Isolated Post. An advanced part of a trench or position where one or two sentries are posted to guard against a surprise attack. While in this post Tommy is constantly wondering what the Germans will do with his body.
"It's good we have a Navy." One of Tommy's expressions when he is disgusted with the army and its work.
"Jack Johnson." A seventeen-inch German shell. Probably called "Jack Johnson" because the Germans thought that with it they could lick the world.
Jackknife. A knife, issued to Tommy, which weighs a stone and won't cut. Its only virtue is the fact that it has a tin-opener attachment which won't open tins.
Jam. A horrible mess of fruit and sugar which Tommy spreads on his bread. It all tastes the same no matter whether labelled "Strawberry" or "Green Gage."
"Jam Tin." A crude sort of hand grenade which, in the early stages of the war. Tommy used to manufacture out of jam tins, ammonal, and mud. The manufacturer generally would receive a little wooden cross in recognition of the fact that he died for King and Country.
Jock. Universal name for a Scotchman.
"Kicked the bucket." Died.
Kilo. Five eighths of a mile. Ten "kilos" generally means a trek of fifteen miles.
"King's Shilling." Tommy's rate of pay per day, perhaps.
"Taking the King's Shilling" means enlisting.
"Kip." Tommy's term for "sleep." He also calls his bed his "kip." It is on guard that Tommy most desires to kip.
Kit Bag. A part of Tommy's equipment in which he is supposed to pack up his troubles and smile, according to the words of a popular song (the composer was never in a trench).
Kitchener's Army. The volunteer army raised by Lord Kitchener, the members of which signed for duration of war. They are commonly called the "New Army" or "Kitchener's Mob." At first the Regulars and Territorials looked down on them, but now accept them as welcome mates.
Labor Battalion. An organization which is "too proud to fight." They would sooner use a pick and shovel.
Lance-corporal. A N.C.O. one grade above a private who wears a shoestring stripe on his arm and thinks the war should be run according to his ideas.
"Lead." The leading pair of horses or mules on a limber. Their only fault is that they won't lead (if they happen to be mules).
Leave Train. The train which takes Tommy to one of the seaports on the Channel en route to Blighty when granted leave. The worst part of going on leave is coming back.
Lee Enfield. Name of the rifle used by the British Army. Its caliber is .303 and the magazine holds ten rounds. When dirty it has a tasty habit of getting Tommy's name on the crime sheet.
"Legging it." Running away.
Lewis Gun. A rifle-like machine gun, air cooled, which only carries 47 rounds in its "pie-plate" magazine. Under fire when this magazine is emptied you shout for "ammo" but perhaps No. 2, the ammo carrier, is lying in the rear with a bullet through his napper. Then it's "napoo-fini" (Tommy's French) for Mr. Lewis.
"Light Duty." What the doctor marks on the sick report opposite a Tommy's name when he has doubts as to whether said Tommy is putting one over on him. Usually Tommy is.
Light Railway. Two thin iron tracks on which small flat cars full of ammunition and supplies are pushed. These railways afford Tommy great sport in the loading, pushing, and unloading of cars.
Limber. A match box on two wheels which gives the Army mule a job. It also carries officer's packs.
Liquid Fire. Another striking example of German "Kultur." According to the Germans it is supposed to annihilate whole brigades, but Tommy refuses to be annihilated.
Listening Post. Two or three men detailed to go out "in front" at night, to lie on the ground and listen for any undue activity in the German lines. They also listen for the digging of mines. It is nervous work and when Tommy returns he generally writes for a bos of "Phosperine Tablets," a widely advertised nerve tonic.
"Little Willie." Tommy's nickname for the German Crown. Prince. They are not on speaking terms.
"Lloyd George's Pets." Munition workers in England.
"Lonely Soldier." A soldier who advertises himself as "lonely" through the medium of some English newspaper. If he is clever and diplomatic by this method he generally receives two or three parcels a week, but he must be careful not to write to two girls living on the same block or his parcel post mail will diminish.
"Lonely Stab." A girl who writes and sends parcels to Tommy. She got his name from the "Lonely Soldier Column" of some newspaper.
Loophole. A disguised aperture in a trench through which to "snipe" at Germans.
Lyddite. A high explosive used in shells. Has a habit of scattering bits of anatomy over the landscape.
M.G.C. Machine Gun Corps. A collection of machine gunners who think they are the deciding factor of the war, and that artillery is unnecessary.
M.G. Machine Gunner. A man who, like an American policeman, is never there when he is badly wanted.
Maconochie. A ration of meat, vegetables, and soapy water, contained in a tin. Mr. Maconochie, the chemist who cornpounded this mess, intends to commit "hari kari" before the boys return from the front. He is wise.
"Mad Minute." Firing fifteen rounds from your rifle in sixty seconds. A man is mad to attempt it, especially with a stiff bolt.
Mail Bag. A canvas bag which is used to bring the other fellow's mail around.
Major. An officer in a Battalion who wears a crown on his uniform, is in command of two companies, and corrects said companies in the second position of "present arms." He also resides in a dugout.
Maneuvers. Useless evolutions of troops conceived by someone higher up to show Tommy how brave his officers are and how battles should be fought. The enemy never attend these maneuvers to prove they're right.
Mass Formation. A dose order formation in which the Germans attack. It gives them a sort of "Come on, I'm with you" feeling. They would "hold hands" only for the fact that they have to carry their rifles. Tommy takes great delight in "busting up" these gatherings.
Mate. A soldier with whom Tommy is especially "chummy." Generally picked because this soldier receives a parcel from home every week.
Maxim. Type of machine gun which has been supplanted by the Vickers in order to make Tommy unlearn what he has been taught about the Maxim.
M.T. Mechanical Transport. The members of which are ex-taxi drivers. No wonder Tommy's rations melt away when the M. T. carries them.
M.O. Medical Officer. A doctor specially detailed to tell Tommy that he is not sick.
"M. and D." What the doctor marks on the "sicker" or side report when he thinks Tommy is faking sickness. It means medicine and duty.
Mentioned in Despatches. Recommended for bravery. Tommy would sooner be recommended for leave.
"Mercy Kamerad." What Fritz says when he has had a bellyful of fighting and wants to surrender. Of late this has been quite a popular phrase with him, replacing the Hymn of Hate.
Mess Orderly. A soldier detailed daily to carry Tommy's meals to and from the cook-house.
Mess Tin. An article of equipment used as a tea-kettle and dinner-set.
"Mike and George." K. C. M. G. (Knight Commander of the Order of St. Michael and St. George). An award for bravery in the field.
Military Cross. A badge of honor dished out to officers for bravery. Tommy insists they throw dice to see which is the bravest. The winner gets the medal.
Military Medal. A piece of Junk issued to Tommy who has done something that is not exactly brave but still is not cowardly. When it is presented he takes it and goes back wondering why the Army picks on him.
M. P. Military Police. Soldiers with whom it is unsafe to argue.
"Mills." Name of a bomb invented by Mills. The only bomb in which Tommy has full confidence,--and he mistrusts even that.
Mine. An underground tunnel dug by sappers of the Royal Engineer Corps. This tunnel leads from your trench to that of the enemy's. At the end or head of the tunnel a great quantity of explosives are stored which at a given time are exploded. It is Tommy's job to then go "over the top" and occupy the crater caused by the explosion.
Mine Shaft. A shaft leading down to the "gallery" or tunnel of a mine. Sometimes Tommy, as a reward, is given the Job of helping the R. E.'s dig this shaft.
Minnenwerfer. A high-power trench mortar shell of the Germans, which makes no noise coming through the air. It was invented by Professor Kultur. Tommy does not know what is near until it bites him; after that nothing worries him. Tommy nicknames them "Minnies."
Mouth Organ. An instrument with which a vindictive Tommy causes misery to the rest of his platoon. Some authorities define it as a "musical instrument."
Mud. A brownish, sticky substance found in the trenches after the frequent rains. A true friend to Tommy, which sticks to him like glue, even though at times Tommy resents this affection and roundly curses said mud.
Mufti. The term Tommy gives to civilian clothes. Mufti looks good to him now.
Nap. A card game of Tommy's in which the one who stays awake the longest grabs the pot. If all the players fall asleep, the pot goes to the "Wounded Soldiers' Fund."
"Napoo-Fini." Tommy's French for gone, through with, finished, disappeared.
"Napper." Tommy's term for bead.
Neutral. Tommy says it means "afraid to fight."
Next of Kin. Nearest relative. A young and ambitious platoon officer bothers his men two or three times a month taking a record of their "next of kin," because he thinks that Tommy's grandmother may have changed to his uncle.
"Night ops." Slang for night operations or maneuvers.
Nine-point-two. A howitzer which fires a shell 9.2 inches in diameter, and knocks the tiles off the roof of Tommy's billet through the force of its concussion.
No Man's Land. The space between the hostile trenches called "No Man's Land" because no one owns it and no one wants to. In France you could not give it away.
N.C.C. Non-Combatant Corps. Men who joined the Army under the stipulation that the only thing they would fight for would be their meals. They have no "King and Country."
N.C.O. Non-commissioned officer. A person hated more than the Germans. Tommy says his stripes are issued out with the rations, and he ought to know.
"No. 9." A pill the doctor gives you if you are suffering with corns or barber's itch or any disease at all. If none are in stock, he gives you a No. 6 and No. 3, or a No. 5 and No. 4, anything to make nine.
Nosecap. That part of a shell which unscrews and contains the device and scale for setting the time fuse. Some Tommies are ardent souvenir hunters. As soon as a shell bursts in the ground you will see them out with picks and shovels digging in the shell hole for the nose cap. If the shell bursts too near them they don't dig.
Observation Balloon. A captive balloon behind the lines which observes the enemy. The enemy doesn't mind being observed, so takes no notice of it. It gives someone a job hauling it down at night, so it has one good point.
Observation Post. A position in the front line where an artillery officer observes the fire of our guns. He keeps on observing until a German shell observes him. After this there is generally a new officer and a new observation post.
O. C. Officer commanding.
Officers' Mess. Where the officers eat the mess that the O. S. have cooked.
O. S. Officers' servants. The lowest ranking private in the Army, who feeds better than the officers he waits on.
"Oil Cans." Tommy's term for a German trench mortar shell which is an old tin filled with explosive and junk that the Boches have no further use for.
"One up." Tommy's term for a lance-corporal who wears one stripe. The private always wonders why he was overlooked when promotions were in order.
"On the mat." When Tommy is haled before his commanding officer to explain why he has broken one of the seven million King's regulations for the government of the Army. His "explanation" never gets him anywhere unless it is on the wheel of a Umber.
"On your own." Another famous or infamous phrase which means Tommy is allowed to do as he pleases. An officer generally puts Tommy "on his own" when he gets Tommy into a dangerous position and sees no way to extricate him.
Orderly-Corporal. A non-commissioned officer who takes the names of the sick every morning and who keeps his own candle burning after he has ordered "Lights out" at night.
Orderly-Officer. An officer who, for a week, goes around and asks if there are "any complaints" and gives the name of the complaining soldier to the Orderly-Sergeant for extra pack drill.
Orderly Room. The Captain's office where everything is disorderly.
Orderly-Sergeant. A sergeant who, for a week, is supposed to do the work of the Orderly-Officer.
"Out of bounds." The official Army term meaning that Tommy is not allowed to trespass where this sign is displayed. He never wished to until the sign made its appearance.
"Out there." A term used in Blighty which means "in France." Conscientious objectors object to going "out there."
"Over the Top." A famous phrase of the trenches. It is generally the order for the men to charge the German lines. Nearly always it is accompanied by the Jonah wish, "With the best o' luck and give them hell."
Oxo. Concentrated beef cubes that a fond mother sends out to Tommy because they are advertised as "British to the Backbone."
Packing. Asbestos wrapping around the barrel of a machine gun to keep the water from leaking out of the barrel casing. Also slang for rations.
Pack Drill. Punishment for a misdemeanor. Sometimes Tommy gets caught when he fills his pack with straw to lighten it for this drill.
Parados. The rear wall of a trench which the Germans continually fill with bits of shell and rifle bullets. Tommy doesn't mind how many they put in the parados.
Parapet, The top part of a front trench which Tommy constantly builds up and the Germans just as constantly knock down.
Patrol. A few soldiers detailed to go out in "No Man's Land," at night and return without any information. Usually these patrols are successful.
Pay Book. A little book in which is entered the amount of pay Tommy draws. In the back of same there is also a space for his "will and last testament"; this to remind Tommy that he is liable to be killed. (As if he needed any reminder.)
Pay Parade. A formation at which Tommy lines up for pay. When his turn comes the paying-officer asks, "How much?" and Tommy answers, "Fifteen francs, sir." He gets five.
Periscope. A thing in the trenches which you look through. After looking through it, you look over the top to really see something.
"Physical torture." The nickname for physical training. It is torture, especially to a recruit.
Pick. A tool shaped like an anchor which is being constantly handed to Tommy with the terse command, "get busy."
Pioneer. A soldier detailed in each company to keep the space around the billets clean. He sleeps all day and only gets busy when an officer comes round. He also sleeps at night.
"Pip squeak." Tommy's term for a small German shell which makes a "pip" and then a "squeak," when it comes over.
Poilu. French term for their private soldier. Tommy would use it and sometimes does, but each time he pronounces it differently, so no one knows what he is talking about.
Pontoon. A card game, in America known as "Black Jack" or "Twenty One." The banker is the only winner.
Provost-Sergeant. A sergeant detailed to oversee prisoners, their work, etc. Each prisoner solemnly swears that when he gets out of "dink" he is going to shoot this sergeant and when he does get out he buys him a drink.
Pull Through. A stout cord with a weight on one end, and a loop on the other for an oily rag. The weighted end is dropped through the bore of the rifle and the rag on the other end is "pulled through."
Pump. A useless contrivance for emptying the trenches of water. "Useless" because the trenches refuse to be emptied.
"Pushing up the Daisies." Tommy's term for a soldier who has been killed and buried in France.
"Queer." Tommy's term for being sick. The doctor immediately informs him that there is nothing queer about him, and Tommy doesn't know whether to feel insulted or complimented.
Quid. Tommy's term for a pound or twenty shillings (about $4.80). He is not on very good terms with this amount as you never see the two together.
Q. M.-Sergeant. Quartermaster-Sergeant, or "Quarter" as he is called. A non-commissioned officer in a company who wears three stripes and a crown, and takes charge of the company stores, with the emphasis on the "takes." In civil life he was a politician or burglar.
Range Finder. An instrument for ascertaining the distance between two objects, using the instrument as one object. It is very accurate only you get a different result each time you use it, says Tommy.
Rapid Fire. Means to stick year head "over the top" at night, aim at the moon, and empty your magazine. It there is no moon, aim at the spot where it should be.
Ration Bag. A small, very small bag for carrying rations. Sometimes it is really useful for lugging souvenirs.
Rations. Various kinds of tasteless food issued by the Government to Tommy, to kid him into thinking that he is living in luxury, while the Germans are starving.
Ration Party. Men detailed to carry rations to the front line; pick out a black, cold, and rainy night; put a fifty-pound box on your shoulder; sling your rifle and carry one hundred twenty rounds of ammunition. Then go through a communication trench, with the mud up to your knees, down this trench for a half-mile, and then find your mates swearing in seven different languages; duck a few shells and bullets, and then ask Tommy for his definition of a "ration party." You will be surprised to learn that it is the same as yours.
Rats. The main inhabitants of the trenches and dugouts. Very useful for chewing up leather equipment and running over your face when asleep. A British rat resembles a bull-dog, while a German one, through a course of Kultur, resembles a dachshund.
"Red Cap." Tommy's nickname for a Staff Officer because he wears a red band around his cap.
Red Tape. A useless sort of procedure. The main object of this is to prolong the war and give a lot of fat jobs to Army politicians.
Regimental Number. Each soldier has a number whether or not he was a convict in civil life. Tommy never forgets his number when he sees it on "orders for leave."
R.P. Regimental Police. Men detailed in a Battalion to annoy Tommy and to prevent him from doing what he most desires.
Reinforcements. A lot of new men sent out from England who think that the war will be over a week after they enter the trenches.
Relaying. A term used by the artillery. After a gun is fired it is "relayed" or aimed at something out of sight.
Respirator. A cloth helmet, chemically treated, with glass eye-holes, which Tommy puts over his head as a protection against, poison gas. This helmet never leaves Tommy's person, he even sleeps with it.
Rest. A period of time for rest allotted to Tommy upon being relieved from the trenches. He uses this "rest" to mend roads, dig trenches, and make himself generally useful while behind the lines.
Rest Billets. Shell shattered houses, generally barns, in which Tommy "rests," when relieved from the firing line.
"Ricco." Term for a ricochet bullet. It makes a whining noise and Tommy always ducks when a "ricco" passes him.
Rifle. A part of Tommy's armament. Its main use is to be cleaned. Sometimes it is fired, when you are not using a pick or shovel. You also "present arms by numbers" with it. This is a very fascinating exercise to Tommy. Ask him.
Rifle Grenade. A bomb on the end of a rod. This rod is inserted into the barrel of a specially designed rifle.
"R.I.P." In monk's highbrow, "Requiscat in pace," put on little wooden crosses over soldier's graves. It means "Rest in peace," but Tommy says like as not it means "Rest in pieces," especially if the man under the cross has been sent West by a bomb or shell explosion.
"Road Dangerous, Use Trench." A familiar sign on roads immediately in rear of the firing line. It is to warn soldiers that it is within sight of Fritz. Tommy never believes these signs and swanks up the road. Later on he tells the Red Cross nurse that the sign told the truth.
"Roll of Honor." The name given to the published casualty lists of the war. Tommy has no ambition for his name to appear on the "Roll of Honor" unless it comes under the heading "Slightly Wounded."
R. C. Roman Catholic. One of the advantages of being a R.C. is that "Church Parade" is not compulsory.
"Rooty." Tommy's nickname for bread.
Route March. A useless expenditure of leather and energy. These marches teach Tommy to be kind to overloaded beasts of burden.
R.A.M.C. Royal Army Medical Corps. Tommy says it means "Rob All My Comrades."
R.E.'s. Royal Engineers.
R.F.A.'s. Royal Field Artillery men.
R.F.C.'s. Royal Plying Corps.
Rum. A nectar of the gods issued in the early morning to Tommy.
Rum issue. A daily formation at which Tommy receives a spoonful of rum; that is if any is left over from the Sergeant's Mess.
Runner. A soldier who is detailed or picked as an orderly for an officer while in the trenches. His real job is to take messages under fire, asking how many tins of jam are required for 1917.
S.A.A. Small Arms Ammunition. Small steel pellets which have a bad habit of drilling holes in the anatomy of Tommy and Fritz.
Salvo. Battery firing four guns simultaneously.
Sandbag. A jute bag which is constantly being filled with earth. Its main uses are to provide Tommy with material for a comfortable kip and to strengthen parapets.
Sap. A small ditch, or trench, dug from the front line and leading out into "No Man's Land" in the direction of the German trenches.
Sapper. A man who saps or digs mines. He thinks he is thirty-three degrees above an ordinary soldier, while in fact he is generally beneath him.
Sausage Balloon. See observation balloon.
S.B. Stretcher Bearer. The motive power of a stretcher. He is generally looking the other way when a fourteen-stone Tommy gets hit.
Scaling ladder. Small wooden ladders used by Tommy for climbing out of the front trench when he goes "over the top." When Tommy sees these ladders being brought into the trench, he sits down and writes his will in his little pay-book.
Sentry Go. Time on guard. It means "sentry come."
Sergeant's Mess. Where the sergeants eat. Nearly all of the rum has a habit of disappearing into the Sergeant's Mess.
Seventy-fives. A very efficient field-gun of the French, which can fire thirty shells per minute. The gun needs no relaying due to the recoil which throws the him back to its original position. The gun that knocked out "Jack Johnson," therefore called "Jess Willard."
"Sewed in a blanket." Term for a soldier who has been buried. His remains are generally sewn in a blanket and the piece of blanket is generally deducted from his pay that is due.
Shag. Cigarette tobacco which an American can never learn to use. Even the mules object to the smell of it.
Shell. A device of the artillery which sometimes makes Tommy wish he had been born in a neutral country.
Shell Hole. A hole in the ground caused by the explosion of a shell. Tommy's favorite resting-place while under fire.
Shovel. A tool closely related to the pick family. In France the "shovel" is mightier than the sword.
Shrapnel. A shell which bursts in the air and scatters small pieces of metal over a large area. It is used to test the resisting power of steel helmets.
"Sicker." Nickname for the sick report book. It is Tommy's ambition to get on this "sicker" without feeling sick.
Side Parade. A formation at which the doctor informs sick, or would-be sick Tommies that they are not sick.
Sixty-pounder. One of our shells which weighs sixty pounds (officially). When Tommy handles them, their unofficial weight is three hundred weight.
Slacker. An insect in England who is afraid to join the Army. There are three things in this world that Tommy hates: a slacker, a German; and a trench-rat; it's hard to tell which he hates worst.
"Slag Heap." A pile of rubbish, tin cans, etc.
Smoke Bomb. A shell which, in exploding, emits a dense white smoke, hiding the operations of troops. When Tommy, in attacking a trench, gets into this smoke, he imagines himself a magnet and thinks all the machine guns and rifles are firing at him alone.
Smoke Helmet. See respirator.
Sniper. A good shot whose main occupation is picking off unwary individuals of the enemy. In the long run a sniper usually gets "sniped."
Snipe Hole. A hole in a steel plate through which snipers "snipe." It is not fair for the enemy to shoot at these holes, but they do, and often hit them, or at least the man behind them.
"Soldiers' Friend." Metal polish costing three ha' pence which Tommy uses to polish his buttons. Tommy wonders why it is called "Soldiers' Friend."
"Somewhere in France." A certain spot in France where Tommy has to live in mud, hunt for "cooties," and duck shells and bullets. Tommy's official address.
Souvenir. A begging word used by the French kiddies. When it is addressed to Tommy it generally means, a penny, biscuits, bully beef, or a tin of jam.
Spy. A suspicious person whom no one suspects until he is caught. Then all say they knew he was a spy but had no chance to report it to the proper authorities.
"Spud." Tommy's name for the solitary potato which gets into the stew. It's a great mystery how that lonely little spud got into such bad company.
Stand To. Order to mount the fire step. Given just as it begins to grow dark.
Stand Down. Order given in the trenches at break of dawn to let the men know their night watch is ended. It has a pleasant sound in Tommy's ears.
Star Shell. See Flare.
Steel Helmet. A round hat made out of steel which is supposed to be shrapnel proof. It is until a piece of shell goes through it, then Tommy loses interest as to whether it is shrapnel proof or not. He calls it a "tin hat."
Stew. A concoction of the cook's which contains bully beef, Maconochie rations, water, a few lumps of fresh meat, and a potato. Occasionally a little salt falls into it by mistake. Tommy is supposed to eat this mess--he does--worse luck!
"Strafeing." Tommy's chief sport--shelling the Germans. Taken from Fritz's own dictionary.
Stretcher. A contrivance on which dead and wounded are carried. The only time Tommy gets a free ride in the trenches is while on a stretcher. As a rule he does not appreciate this means of transportation.
"Suicide Club." Nickname for bombers and machine gunners. (No misnomer.)
Supper. Tommy's fourth meal, generally eaten just before "lights out." It is composed of the remains of the day's rations. There are a lot of Tommies who never eat supper. There is a reason.
S.W. Shell wound. What the doctor marks on your hospital chart when a shell has removed your leg.
Swamping. Putting on airs; showing off. Generally accredited to Yankees.
"Swinging the lead." Throwing the bull.
"Sweating on leave." Impatiently waiting for your name to appear in orders for leave. If Tommy sweats very long he generally catches cold and when leave comes he is too sick to go.
"Taking over." Going into a trench. Tommy "takes over," is "taken out" and sometimes is "put under."
Taube. A type of German aeroplane whose special ambition is beating the altitude record. It occasionally loses its way and flies over the British lines and then stops flying.
Tea. A dark brown drug, which Tommy has to have at certain periods of the day. Battles have been known to have been stopped to enable Tommy to get his tea, or "char" as it is commonly called.
"Tear Shell." Trench name for the German lachrymose chemical shell which makes the eyes smart. The only time Tommy is outwardly sentimental.
Telephone. A little instrument with a wire attached to it. An artillery observer whispers something into this instrument and immediately one of your batteries behind the line opens up and drops a few shells into your front trench. This keeps up until the observer whispers, "Your range is too short." Then the shells drop nearer the German lines.
"Terrier." Tommy's nickname for a Territorial or "Saturday-night soldier." A regular despises a Territorial while a Territorial looks down on "Kitchener's Mob." Kitchener's Mob has the utmost contempt for both of them.
Territorial. A peace-time soldier with the same status as the American militiaman. Before the war they were called "Saturday-Night Soldiers," but they soon proved themselves "every-night soldiers."
"The Old Man." Captain of a company. He is called "the old man," because generally his age is about twenty-eight.
"The Best o' Luck." The Jonah phrase of the trenches. Every time Tommy goes over the top or on a trench raid his mates wish him the best o' luck. It means that if you are lucky enough to come back, you generally have an arm or leg missing.
"Thumbs up." Tommy's expression which means "everything is fine with me." Very seldom used during an intense bombardment.
"Time ex." Expiration of term of enlistment. The only time Tommy is a civilian in the trenches; but about ten minutes after he is a soldier for duration of war.
"Tin Hat." Tommy's name for his steel helmet which is made out of a metal about as hard as mush. The only advantage is that it is heavy and greatly adds to the weight of Tommy's equipment. Its most popular use is for carrying eggs.
T.N.T. A high explosive which the Army Ordnance Corps prescribes for Fritz. Fritz prefers a No. 9 pill.
"Tommy Atkins." The name England gives to an English soldier, even if his name is Willie Jones.
Tommy's Cooker. A spirit stove widely advertised as "A suitable gift to the men in the trenches." Many are sent out to Tommy and most of them are thrown away.
Tonite. The explosive contained in a rifle grenade. It looks like a harmless reel of cotton before it explodes,--after it explodes the spectator is missing.
"Toots Sweet." Tommy's Preach for "hurry up," "look smart." Generally used in a French estaminet when Tommy only has a couple of minutes in which to drink his beer.
"Top Hats at Home," Tommy's name for Parliament when his application for leave has been turned down or when no strawberry jam arrives with the rations.
Town Major. An officer stationed in a. French town or village who is supposed to look after billets, upkeep of roads, and act as interpreter.
Transport. An aggregation of mules, limbers, and rough riders, whose duty is to keep the men in the trenches supplied with rations and supplies. Sometimes a shell drops within two miles of them and Tommy doesn't get his rations, etc.
Traverse. Sandbags piled in a trench so that the trench cannot be traversed by Tommy. Sometimes it prevents enfilading fire by the enemy.
Trench. A ditch full of water, rats, and soldiers. During his visit to France, Tommy uses these ditches as residences. Now and again he sticks his head "over the top" to take a look at the surrounding scenery. If he is lucky he lives to tell his mates what he saw.
Trench Feet. A disease of the feet contracted in the trenches from exposure to extreme cold and wet. Tommy's greatest ambition is to contract this disease because it means "Blighty" for him.
Trench Fever. A malady contracted in the trenches; the symptoms are high temperature, bodily pains, and homesickness. Mostly homesickness. A bad case lands Tommy in "Blighty," a slight case lands him back in the trenches, where he tries to get it worse than ever.
"Trenchitis." A combination of "fedupness" and homesickness, experienced by Tommy in the trenches, especially when he receives a letter from a friend in Blighty who is making a fortune working in a munition plant.
Trench Mortar. A gun like a stove pipe which throws shells at the German trenches. Tommy detests these mortars because when they take positions near to him in the trenches, he knows that it is only a matter of minutes before a German Shell with his name and number on it will be knocking at his door.
Trench Pudding. A delectable mess of broken biscuits, condensed milk, jam, and mud. Slightly flavored with smoke. Tommy prepares, cooks, and eats this. Next day he has "trench fever."
Trench Raid. Several men detailed to go over the top at night and shake hands with the Germans, and, if possible, persuade some of them to be prisoners. At times the raiders would themselves get raided because Fritz refused to shake and adopted nasty methods.
Turpenite. A deadly chemical shell invented by an enthusiastic war correspondent suffering from brain storm. Companies and batteries were supposed to die standing up from its effects, but they refused to do this.
"Twelve in one." Means that twelve men are to share one loaf of bread. When the slicing takes place the war in the dugout makes the European argument look like thirty cents.
"Up against the wall." Tommy's term for a man who is to be shot by a firing squad.
"Up the line." Term generally used in rest billets when Tommy talks about the fire trench or fighting line. When orders are issued to go "up the line" Tommy immediately goes "up in the air."
V.C. Victoria Cross, or "Very careless" as Tommy calls it. It is a bronze medal won by Tommy for being very careless with his life.
Very-Lights. A star shell invented by Mr. Very. See Flare.
Vickers Gun. A machine gun improved on by a fellow named Vickers. His intentions were good but his improvements, according to Tommy, were "rotten."
Via Blanc. French white wine made from vinegar. They forgot the red ink.
Vin Rouge. French red wine made from vinegar and red ink. Tommy pays good money for it.
Waders. Rubber hip boots, used when the water in the trenches is up to Tommy's neck.
Waiting Man. The cleanest man at guard mounting. He does not have to walk post; is supposed to wait on the guard.
Washout. Tommy's idea of something that is worth nothing.
Water Bottle. A metal bottle for carrying water (when not used for rum, beer, or wine).
Waterproof. A rubber sheet issued to Tommy to keep him dry. It does when the sun is out.
Wave. A line of troops which goes "over the top" in a charge. The waves are numbered according to their turn in going over, viz., "First Wave," "Second Wave," etc. Tommy would sooner go over with the "Tenth Wave."
Wet Canteen. A military saloon or pub where Tommy can get a "wet," Most campaigns and battles are planned and fought in these places.
"Whizz Bang." A small German shell which whizzes through the air and explodes with a "bang." Their bark is worse than their bite.
"Wind up." Term generally applied to the Germans when they send up several star shells at once because they are nervous and expect an attack or night raid on their trenches.
"Windy." Tommy's name for a nervous soldier, coward.
"Wipers." Tommy's name for Ypres, sometimes he calls it "Yeeps." A place up the line which Tommy likes to duck. It is even "hot" in the winter time at "Wipers."
Wire. See barbed wire, but don't go "over the top" to look at it. It isn't safe.
Wire Cutters. An instrument for cutting barbed wire, but mostly used for driving nails.
Wiring Party. Another social affair for which Tommy receives invitations. It consists of going "over the top" at night and stretching barbed wire between stakes. A German machine gun generally takes the place of an orchestra.
Woodbine. A cigarette made of paper and old hay. Tommy swears by a Woodbine.
Wooden Cross. Two pieces of wood in the form of a cross placed at the head of a Tommy's grave. Inscribed on it are his rank, name, number, and regiment. Also date of death and last but not least, the letters R. I. P.
Working Party. A sort of compulsory invitation affair for which Tommy often is honored with an invitation. It consists of digging, filling sandbags, and ducking shells and bullets.
"Zeppelin" A bag full of gas invented by a count full of gas. It is a dirigible airship used by the Germans for killing babies and dropping bombs in open fields. You never see them over the trenches, it is safer to bombard civilians in cities. They use Iron Crosses for ballast.
"The best form of taking care of troops is first-class training, for this saves unnecessary casualties." Erwin Rommel
|January 8th, 2005|
I did find a site that had them, but I had to cut and paste from a few pages to get everything in here. It was a treat to read all these after finnishing the book. I am interested to see what some of our British members think.
Hey Redleg, there be more than a few artillery terms in the dictionary. "Curtain fire." amuses me greatly
|May 27th, 2008|
Hey! Iam familiar with some of the terms which we still use in our Army and is the legacy of the British rule. Want to add that the worb "Barndook" has its roots again in India where a rifle is still called a "Bandook" or it may be vice-versa. Real cool collection, kudos for the pains you took to come out with the same.
|January 27th, 2009|
Barrack Room Lawyer a soldier who claims to know Kings or Queens regualtions better then officers, sometimes bordering on mutiny.
Good conduct and long service medal, awarded for undetected crime.
Lance Jack, Lance Corporal
Full Screw. Full Corporal
Red Cap, Military Police
I try to be the man my dog thinks I am.
Last edited by BritinAfrica; January 27th, 2009 at 14:03..