In the trenches of human being War I, German and French troops would contact out over the trenches searching for “Tommy” when they wanted to talk to a brothers soldier. Friend don’t hear the term rather so lot anymore, but for centuries, Tommies reigned supreme.

You are watching: Why were british soldiers called tommies

How exactly British troops happened called Tommy is not fairly as complex as why German troops were known as “Jerry” (in case you were wondering, it’s thought to it is in either since “Jerry” is short for German, or because their helmets looked favor chamber pots).


Jerry supplies Tommy a light in this undated picture (IWM)

Britain’s royal War Museum claims the origin of the literal meaning nom de guerre is disputed. One theory states it originated with the duke of Wellington who made itthe nickname in 1843. Another says the royal War Office developed it in 1845 — a type of brother “John Doe.”

But the ImperialWar Museumfound evidence of “Tommy” much more than a century prior to Wellington supposedly coined it.

During the British preeminence of Jamaica, researchers discovered a 1743 letter to the war office the reported a mutiny among mercenaries there, speak “Except for those from N. America, ye Marines and Tommy Atkins behaved splendidly.”

It was also at this time the red coats worn by british regulars earned them the nickname “Thomas Lobster.”

since camouflage is for wimps.

By 1815, the British war Office was using the surname “Tommy Atkins” together a generic term – a placeholder name – because that sample infantry paperwork. One enlisting soldier can not to sign his name to his enlistment papers would make his mark – leaving the surname Tommy Atkins order out where his genuine name should have actually been.

“Tommy Atkins” and everyone well-known to background as Tommy Atkins had actually a distinguished career in the british military. During the Sepoy Rebellion in India in 1857, a soldier the the 32d Regiment that Foot remained at his article when many others already fled. The was, that course, overwhelmed and also killed. A witness the his heroism later wrote:

“His name happened to be Tommy Atkins and also so, throughout the Mutiny Campaign, once a daring deed to be done, the doer was claimed to it is in ‘a regular Tommy Atkins.’ “

Other thomas Atkins (or a variation thereof) also appeared together a royal Welch Fusilier in the American Revolution, the poems the Rudyard Kipling, and also indeed with the duke of Wellington in the 33rd Regiment of Foot at the fight of Boxtel in 1794.

See more: What Is The Atomic Weight Of Neon, What Is The Atomic Mass Of Neon

The last Tommy – Harry spot of the world War I-era British military – passed away in 2009, in ~ the ripe old age of 111.