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Tommy Atkins

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Generic term for a British squaddie, made famous by Rudyard Kipling's poem].

If this isn't true, it should be:

"The great Duke of Wellington stood on the path which runs round the ramparts of Walmer Castle on a sunny day in July 1843. Near him, standing at attention, was a young Staff Officer of the Adjutant-General's Department. He had just asked a question on a small matter of detail which the War Office thought should, as a matter of courtesy, be referred to the Commander of the Forces. A name typical of the British private soldier was required, for use on the model sheet of the soldier's accounts to show where men should sign.

The Duke stood gazing out to sea while the young officer waited, searching in a long memory stored with recollections for a man who typified the character of Britain's soldiers. He thought back to his first campaign in the Low Countries where he had fought his first action with his old Regiment, the 33rd Foot. When the battle was over and won, Wellesley rode back to where little groups of wounded men were lying on the ground. At the place where the right of his line had been lay the right-hand man of the Grenadier Company. Thomas Atkins. He stood six foot three in his stockinged feet, he had served for twenty years, he could neither read nor write and he was the best man at arms in the Regiment. One of the bandsmen had bound up his head where a sabre had slashed it, he had a bayonet wound in the chest and a bullet through the lungs. He had begged the bearers not to move him, but to let him die in peace. Wellesley looked down on him and the man must have seen his concern. 'It's all right, Sir,' he gasped. 'It's all in the day's work.' They were his last words. The old Duke turned to the waiting Staff Officer. 'Thomas Atkins,' he said.

The Ypres Times

April 1929"'


Quoted in:

1914, The Days of Hope, MacDonald L, Penguin, 1989. ISBN-13: 978-0140116519

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