What was the nickname given to British soldiers?


Quick Answer

"Tommy Atkins," or "Tommy," is one common nickname for British soldiers. The term is associated with World War I in particular, but was used as early as the 18th century.

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Full Answer

During World War I, French and Commonwealth troops referred to British soldiers as "Tommies." German soldiers would shout “Tommy” across the trenches to get the attention of a British soldier. Use of the term declined in subsequent decades, although “Tom” is sometimes still heard in reference to paratroopers.

The origin of the nickname is uncertain. A letter from Jamaica in 1743, which was about a troop mutiny, refers to Tommy Atkins. Another theory says that the original Tommy Atkins was a British solider in the American Revolutionary War. A further explanation holds that the term came into common use when the War Office chose “Tommy Atkins” as a generic name in 1815.

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