Discussion in 'Infantry' started by Outstanding, Feb 9, 2006.
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why do paras call their soldiers toms? Are they cats too?
This may provide you with the answer!
Going before Mr Kipling and his exceedingly good poems, when pay books were introduced in the mid 1800s, the Duke of Wellington, who was Prime Minister used the name of Thomas Atkins as the pretend name - like A N Other - so squaddies could understand it. Thomas Atkins was a private in Holland and was killed near the Duke. Hence ALL British Squaddies are Tommies and nowadays infantry in particular are called Toms.
....except the Micks, the Jocks and the Gurungs (sorry, made the last one up). I don't believe the Welsh infantry types have a collective noun, but thats probably because they are sub divided into north and south Walians and then further tribsalised into Valley and non-Valley boys.
Ah Ha!! The mist is clearing and the valley is mine!
Accepting the Tommy Atkins thing, why is it only Inf who retain this? Surely all soldiers are Toms, not just the PBI.
I direct the attention of the jury to AFN Clarke's << Contact>> M'Lud.....in it he (as a serving Para) posits that the apellation TOM is, I fear, less to do with Tommy Atkins than in fact a mere acronym....which stands for Totally Obedient Moron......In addition if I might quote M'Lud ?...ahem....
'AFN Clarke describes his two tours with the Parachute Regiment in Northern Ireland; Belfast in 1973 and South Armagh in 1976.This is the best book I have read concerning a soldiers point of view in Ireland.The soldiers are well trained and mostly well lead as they counter the IRA in this type of guerilla warfare but not without taking casualties. Clarke describes fear and frustration throughout this book as he puts his life on the line. '
no further questions thank you.
Quite who chose the name for Thomas Atkins on that first example pay book which was used to explain the system to the soldiers might be a moot point. I think I am right in saying that in the example pay book, the fictitious Thomas Atkins was in the 23rd Foot (The Royal Welch Fusiliers) and I believe that this was because some senior general wt the time was also of the 23rd and 'made it so'. If I had the time and my books to hand I believe that I could back this up with references.
While on the subject of the 23rd, "Welsh infantry types" do indeed "have a collective noun" and that is 'Boys' although some Welsh speaker will probably now correct me by saying that it actually comes from the Welsh "Bois" or something (I was told that once but I can't remember what the significance was).
Do you mean Boyo?
Shouldn't that be "What do you mean Boyo - was n't it!
He was a private in the 33rd Foot killed in Flanders in 1799. The commanding officer of the 33rd was Arthur Wellesley who, as the Duke of Wellington, later chose Thomas Atkins as the example name for the paybook.
The word Tommy refers to all British soldiers not just the para's the same as the sailors are known as Jacks after the nickname Jack Tars.
Separate names with a comma.