How did British soldiers come to be known as "Tommies?"
Was it because of Rudyard Kipling's poem "Tommy Atkins?"
Or does the practice of calling British soldiers "Tommies" predate Kipling?
If you enjoyed reading about "Tommy" here in TheHighRoad.org archive, you'll LOVE our community. Come join TheHighRoad.org today for the full version!
January 26, 2003, 12:10 AM
This is a tough one. Everything I've been able to dig up indicates that the term predates Kipling. The best I can come up with is that "Tommies" is an archaic British slang term for army rations, and that over time the term came to be applied to the troops themselves.
Why were the rations called "Tommies"? I have yet to find a clue on that.
Oh well. Maybe this tidbit points in the right direction.
And before anyone asks, no, I don't have a life, and yes, etymology is interesting! :p
January 26, 2003, 06:37 AM
In one of Barry Sadler's "Casca" books, circa WWI, he tells a story about several hundred (thousand?) men signing up using the name Tommy (Something?). But it may be the Kipling thing.
My Dad has the whole series, but it is an interesting additional thought-line to pursue.
Anyone got the book in question and can respond.
Quick reads and apparently Sadler did pretty good research on the battles historically.
January 26, 2003, 11:38 AM
"An' it's Tommy this and Tommy that, an' chuck 'im out, the brute! But it's saviour of 'is country when the guns begin to shoot."
January 26, 2003, 12:38 PM
Seems to be from Tommy Atkins(?). A name sometimes used on specimen forms to represent a typical British army private soldier. Said to be derived from a British soldier who distinguished himself at the battle of Waterloo.