Now all roads lead to France and heavy is the tread
Of the living; but the dead returning lightly dance.
Edward Thomas, Roads

Saturday, March 10, 2018

About Those Tommies

  • "Tommy" as a name for British soldiers came from the name in the sample paybook given to new recruits in Wellington's time: Thomas Atkins.

  • The original 1914 British Expeditionary Force was composed of six infantry and one cavalry division, totaling 150,000 men.

  • 5,704,416 Tommies from the United Kingdom (Great Britain & Ireland) eventually served in the war.

Tommies As We Recall Them

  • About 2,670,000 volunteered, of which 1,186,000 had enlisted by 31 December 1914.

  • About 2,770,000 were conscripted.

  • 724,000 Tommies were killed; 2,000,000 were wounded; and 270,000 were POWs,

Tommies Heading Down That "Long, Long Trail A-Winding"

  • Besides the regulars, the British Army overseas was supplemented by "Territorials", volunteer reserves, originally intended for home defense but who could opt for "Imperial Service" overseas.

  • "Pals" battalions were special units of the British Army composed of men who enlisted together in local recruiting drives, with the promise that they would be able to serve alongside their friends, neighbors, and work colleagues ("pals").

  • By one count, there were 643 Pals battalions.

Source: The British Soldier of the First World War, Peter Doyle

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