Tommy is derived from the name Tommy Atkins. It was established in 1815, the year of Waterloo, when the War Office issued the first "Soldier's Account Book," however, there is debate over earlier origins. In this case, the name Tommy went on to become synonymous with that of a common soldier in the British Army, particularly during the First World War and typically as form of address. For example, Tommy (singular) was used by German soldiers whilst shouting across No Man's Land when they wanted to speak to a British soldier, or "Tommies" (plural), used as a form of address by French and Commonwealth troops. The full term "Tommy Atkins" has mostly fallen out of use in favour of the still preferred and abridged version, "Tommy," which is widely understood to this day as a result of, but not exclusively so, it's depiction in popular dramatisations and written media.
References / notes
- Edward Fraser and John Gibbons (1925). Soldier and Sailor Words and Phrases. Routledge, London p. 287.
- Tommy Atkins. Wikipedia: The free encyclopaedia. Accessed 26 February, 2017.
Glossary of terms and customs
This page forms part of our glossary of words and phrases of the Armed Forces of the United Kingdom of Great Britain during the Great War, which also includes: technicalities, trench slang, expressions in everyday use, nicknames, sobriquets, the titles and origins of British and Commonwealth Regiments, and warfare in general. Please feel free to help expand and improve this content.
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