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Remembered Today:

Tommy Atkins


PhilB
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Any idea what the German equivalent of Tommy Atkins was? I believe the British used to refer to him as Fritz and I know Hermann Goring said you could call him Meier if bombs fell on Germany. But I`ve never heard Fritz Meier as the archetypal German frontschwein name.

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Among the Germans themselves the typical soldier was known as a Landser. Which is the equivalent to the French Poilu or British Tommy.

I think any other names, such as Fritz etc. were the names coined by their opponents.

Could be proved wrong though :)

Roger.

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Henry the Hun? ;)

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GrunD is ground it can be that...

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The other place I have seen grunt used is to describe American GI's, but Junger also uses it to describe German infantrymen in "Storm of Steel"

Tim

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The "grunt" in Storm of Steel would presumably be the English translation of Junger`s word (unless you read it in the German!). The dictionary gives grunzen - to grunt and das gruntzen - the grunt. Probably how it got into the US Army, which I have read (can`t remember where) has a lot of German influences. Phil B

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I read that the the reason for 'Tommy Atkins' being a generic term for a British soldier arose from the use of a nineteenth century soldier, one Thomas Atkins, of the forerunner to the Duke of Wellington's Regt, as emblematic of the average. Can't recall for what reason he was chosen, or even if this is verifiably correct, but it makes for a good story.

Richard

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TOMMY

I went into a public-ouse to get a pint of beer

the publican - e up he sez. "We serve no red-coats here"

The girls be,ind the bar they laughed an giggled fit to die,

I outs into the street again an to myself sez I

O its Tommy this, an Tommy that, an "Tommy go away",

But its "Thank you Mister Atkens," when the band beings to play,

The band begins to play, my boys, the band beings to play,

O its "Thank you Mr Atkens" when the band begins to play.

I went into a theatre as sober as could be,

They gave a drunk civilian room, - but adent none for me;

They sent me to the gallery or round the music-alls,

But when it comes to fightin, Lord! they shove me in the stalls!

For its Tommy this, an Tommy that, an "Tommy wait outside"

But its, - "Special train for Mr Atkens" when the troopers on the tide

The troopships on the tide, my boys, the troopships on the tide,

O its, - "Special train for Atkins" when the troopers on the tide.

Yes makin mock of uniforms, that guard you while you sleep

Is cheaper than them uniforms, an theyre starvation cheap;

An hustlin drunken soldiers when theyre goin large a bit

Is five time better buiness, than paradin in full kit.

Then its Tommy this, an Tommy that, an "Tommy ows yer soul?"

But its Thin Red line of eroes when the drums begin to roll,

The drums begin to roll, my boys, the drums begin to roll,

O its "Thin red line of eroes," when the drums begin to roll.

We arent no thin red eroes, nor we arent no blackguards too,

But single men in barracks, most remarkable, like you

An if sometimes our conduct isnt all your fancy paints,

Why single men in barracks, dont grow into plaster saints;

While its Tommy this, an Tommy that an "Tommy fall in be,ind",

But its "please to walk in front sir" when theres trouble in the wind

Theres trouble in the wind my boys, theres trouble in the wind,

But its "please to walk in front sir", when theres trouble int he wind,

O its "please to walk in front sir", when theres trouble in the wind.

You talk o better food for us, an schools an fires an all,

We'll wait for extra rations if you treat us rational.

Dont mess about the cook-room slops, but prove it to our face,

The Widows Uniform is not the soldiers, - mans disgrace.

For its Tommy this an Tommy that "an chuck him out, - the brute!"

But its "saviour of the country", when the guns begin to boom,

An its Tommy this an Tommy that, an anything you please,

AN TOMMY AINT A BLOOMIN FOOL --- YOU BET THAT TOMMY SEES!

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Sufficient German novels and personal accounts which were published in translation in the United Kingdom both before and after "All Quiet" use the term our "fieldgrays"in an affectionate way for me to believe that this was the common German version of "Tommy".

David

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Guest AmericanDoughboy

British - Tommy, Englishman, etc

French - Poilus, Frenchy, etc

German - Fritz, Hun, Boche, Jerry, Gerrie, etc

American - Doughboy, Sammie, Dogface, etc

-Doughboy

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Yes but does Tommy come from Tommy the character in the poem that Kipling wrote and if Kipling wrote the poem before Germany as a country was formed then the Tommy character in his poem must mean all versions---meaning the average soldier maybe

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The original Thomas Atkins was supposed to be a name chosen as an example to show how a particular army form should look when filled in. I don`t when or what form but I`m sure somebody out there.......

Phil B

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Most authorities on the subject, including the noted lexicographer, Eric Partridge in his "Dictionary of Historical Slang," date the phrase well before Kipling's poem.

Thomas Atkins was used as a specimen name for signature on attestation forms and in pay books. It is likely that it was being used from the mid-nineteeth century, or perhaps earlier and, according to Partridge, appears to have been used in at least one publication in 1883. It was a firmly established colloquialism by the 1890's.

Terry Reeves

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Thanks, Terry. I came across this :-

The lyrics here were written by Henry Hamilton, the music is by S. Potter.

Tommy Atkins is a term used for English soldiers. The official origin is that the name was used in 1815 as a generic name on War Office forms. It became widely known during the 19th Century and during the Boer War, particularly after Rudyard Kipling published his poem, The Ballad of Tommy Atkins in Barrack-Room Ballads (1892).

Folkore states that Wellington himself chose the name for the War Office form, inspired by a dying veteran he encountered during the Battle of Boxtel in 1794. The man had three wounds, a sabre wound on his head, a bayonet wound in his chest and a bullet wound in his lungs. The man's name was Tommy Atkins, and his last words to Wellington were, "It's alright sir. It's all in a day's work."

There is some doubt as to the War Office form origin as the term appears in correspondence as early as 1743.

O, we take him from the city or the plough,

Ta-ran-ta-ra

And we drill him, and we dress him up so neat,

Ta-ran-ta-ra

We teach him to uphold his manly brow,

Ta-ran-ta-ra

And how to walk, and where to put his feet.

Ta-ran-ta-ran-ta-ra

It doesn't matter who he was before,

Ta-ran-ta-ra

Or what his parents favor'd for his name;

Ta-ran-ta-ra

Once he's pocketed the shilling,

And a uniform he's filling,

We'll call him Tommy Atkins, all the same.

O!

Tommy, Tommy Atkins,

You're a "good un," heart and hand;

You're a credit to your calling,

And to all your native land;

May your luck be never failing,

May your love be ever true!

God bless you, Tommy Atkins,

Here's your Country's love to you!

In time of peace he hears the bugle call

Ta-ran-ta-ra

And in Barracks, from "Revally" to "Lights Out!"

Ta-ran-ta-ra

If "Sentry go" and "Pipeclay" ever pall,

Ta-ran-ta-ra

There's always plenty more of work about.

Ta-ran-ta-ran-ta-ra

As happy as a school boy, and as gay;

Then back he goes to duty,

All for Country, Home and Beauty

And the noble sum of half a crown a day.

O!

Tommy, Tommy Atkins,

You're a good un, heart and hand;

You're a credit to your calling,

And to all your native land;

May your luck be never failing,

May your love be ever true!

God bless you, Tommy Atkins,

Here's your Country's love to you!

In wartime then, it's "Tommy to the Front!"

Ta-ran-ta-ra

And we ship him off, in "Troopers" to the fray,

Ta-ran-ta-ra

We sit at home while Tommy bears the brunt,

Ta-ran-ta-ra

A fighting for his country - and his pay.

Ta-ran-ta-ran-ta-ra

And weather he's on India's coral strand,

Or pouring out his blood in the Soudan,

To keep our flag a-flying,

He's a doing, and a dying,

Ev'ry inch of him a soldier and a man.

O!

Tommy, Tommy Atkins,

You're a "good un," heart and hand;

You're a credit to your calling,

And to all your native land;

May your luck be never failing,

May your love be ever true!

God bless you, Tommy Atkins,

Here's your Country's love to you!

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This is all myth you realize ... not that it's not true, but we'll never, really know...

My bet is for the Duke. During the 1740s WO forms - if you can call them such were summaries ... individual roles were kept at the regimental levels and there was very little conformity about stuff but Faggots as they were termed, fake men, both allowed and expected were usually listed at the end of the reports versus the front where Atkins would have put them. Musters by name would have definitely would have been at the Regt level not the WO level till much later.

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It is said that Tommy Atkins came from the Duke of Wellington.

When he was venerable and after the napoleonic War he was, so it is said, asked to give a name that could be used as a specimen on forms to show where the men should sign.

He schose Tommy Atkins because, he said, he knew a man with that name who was the last man in line at some battle. Tommy was an old sweat and well known to the Duke.

After this particular battle the Duke found him lying on the ground coughing his life away with a bullet in the lungs. When the Duke got down to comfort him, Tommy isaid, 'It's alright sir, it's part of the life of a soldier'.

Whether the story is true or not I have no idea and I doubt that anyone else does either, but that is as written.

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