View Full Version : WW2 Question - Tommys and Jerries...

07-06-2005, 06:05 AM
My question is, as the Germans referred to the English as Tommys and the English to the Germans as Jerries, is this where the Tom and Jerry cartoon names come from>?

I'm guessing that these names originated in WW1 and then were adopted for the cartoon characters from this, but this is just a guess.

Does anyone have the correct answer? I have always wondered about this.


07-06-2005, 06:25 AM
Tommy comes from Tommy Atkins a slang name for a British soldier. Jerry was the slang name for a chamber pot, which the British troops thought resembled the shape of German helmets. Hence Jerry.

The cartoon has no connection.

07-06-2005, 06:33 AM
didn`t know that, but i always wondered about this, thx for the good info Fox_3. http://forums.ubi.com/groupee_common/emoticons/icon_wink.gif

TgD Thunderbolt56
07-06-2005, 07:09 AM
Good explanation (and it makes sense) but I'd like to think it's a subliminal, psychological effort to show that despite at times radical differences (and initial propensities to settle conflict with violence), that in the end we can all be happy and play nice.


07-06-2005, 08:02 AM
It's funny that no one is offended if we call some folks a bucket of piss and stool---as long as they are European.


TgD Thunderbolt56
07-06-2005, 08:03 AM
I was hoping to leave that one alone.

07-06-2005, 08:50 AM
Originally posted by Tater-SW-:
It's funny that no one is offended if we call some folks a bucket of piss and stool---as long as they are European.


I have absolutely no idea what you are talking about.

Thanks for the info guys.

07-06-2005, 11:19 AM
In WW1, on recruitment forms, potential soldiers were given 1 blank form and 1 example form, explaining how to fill the blank one out. The example for "your name" was Tommy Atkins. Hence Tommy.
Jerry (Gerry)could just as easily have come from Germans, no-one really knows for sure.

07-06-2005, 12:28 PM
Why are English soldiers called "Tommy Atkins" or "Tommy"?

The origins of the term "Tommy Atkins" as a nickname for the British (or rather English) soldier are still nebulous and indeed disputed. A widely held theory is that the Duke of Wellington himself chose the name in 1843. Lt. General Sir William MacArthur however, in an article in the Army Medical Services Magazine, says that the War Office chose the name "Tommy Atkins" as a representative name in 1815. Specimen forms of the "Soldier's Book" issued for both the cavalry and infantry in that year, bore against the space for the soldier's signature; "Tommy Atkins, his X mark". With the improvement of education 'his X mark' was dropped.

The phrase "Tommy Atkins" however was used before 1815. Just over a quarter of a century before the Duke of Wellington was born, in 1743 a letter sent from Jamaica referring to a mutiny among hired soldiery there said "except for those from N. America (mostly Irish Papists) ye Marines and Tommy Atkins behaved splendidly". At about the same time the English soldier was also nicknamed 'Thomas Lobster', because of his red uniform coat.

The Duke of Wellington's use of the expression is said to have been inspired by an incident during the Battle of Boxtel (Holland) against the French on September 1794. Wellington, (then Arthur Wellesley), led the 33rd Regiment of Foot, and at the end of the engagement Wellesley spotted among the wounded the right-hand-man of the Grenadier Company, a man of 6 ft 3 inches with twenty years' service. He was dying of three wounds - a sabre slash in the head, a bayonet thrust in the breast, and a bullet through the lungs. He looked up at Wellesley and apparently thought his commander was concerned, because he said, "It's alright sir. It's all in a day's work", and then died.

The man's name was Private Thomas Atkins, and his heroism is said to have left such an impression on Wellington, that when he was Commander in Chief of the British Army he recalled the name and used it as a specimen on a new set of soldiers' documents sent to him at Walmer Castle for approval.

Another version, given in 1900 by an army chaplain Rev E J Hardy, tells of an incident during the Indian Mutiny in 1857. When the rebellion broke out at Lucknow, all Europeans fled to the Residency for protection. On their way they met a private of the 32nd Regiment of Foot on duty at an outpost. They urged him to join them, but he said he must remain at his post, where he was killed. "His name happened to be Tommy Atkins", wrote Rev Hardy, "and so, throughout the Mutiny Campaign, when a daring deed was done, the doer was said to be 'a regular Tommy Atkins'".

The poems of Rudyard Kipling helped to popularise the name throughout the quarter of the Nineteenth Century and especially during the Boer War, 1899-1902. Thus, by the outbreak of the First World War "Tommy Atkins" or "Tommy" was the almost universal nickname for an English soldier


As noted above, the term was popularized in the 1890's by Rudyard Kipling, in his poem of the same name. It's 'message' is that in Britain (and Any democracy, for that matter), the military is denigrated and underpaid and disrespected during times of peace; BUT, when there is danger for the nation, or war, then the military becomes highly praised and respected as they go out, as they always do, to defend their civilian counterparts.

"TOMMY" by Rudyard Kipling[[With some footnotes on language/cultural references]]

I went into a public-'ouse to get a pint o' beer,
The publican 'e up an' sez, "We serve no red-coats here."
The girls be'ind the bar they laughed an' giggled fit to die,
I outs into the street again an' to myself sez I:
..........O it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' "Tommy, go away";
..........But it's "Thank you, Mister Atkins," when the band begins to play -
..........The band begins to play, my boys, the band begins to play,
..........O it's "Thank you, Mister Atkins," when the band begins to play.

[[public-house -- a pub, drinking house]]
[[ publican -- the pub owner]]

I went into a theatre as sober as could be,
They gave a drunk civilian room, but 'adn't none for me;
They sent me to the gallery or round the music-'alls,
But when it comes to fightin', Lord! they'll shove me in the stalls!
..........For it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' "Tommy, wait outside";
..........But it's "Special train for Atkins" when the trooper's on the tide -
..........The troopship's on the tide, my boys, the troopship's on the tide,
..........O it's "Special train for Atkins" when the trooper's on the tide.

[[stalls -- Prime seats near the stage]]

Yes, makin' mock o' uniforms that guard you while you sleep
Is cheaper than them uniforms, an' they're starvation cheap;
An' hustlin' drunken soldiers when they're goin' large a bit
Is five times better business than paradin' in full kit.
..........Then it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' "Tommy, 'ow's yer soul?"
..........But it's "Thin red line of 'eroes" when the drums begin to roll -
..........The drums begin to roll, my boys, the drums begin to roll,
..........O it's "Thin red line of 'eroes" when the drums begin to roll.

We aren't no thin red 'eroes, nor we aren't no blackguards too,
But single men in barricks, most remarkable like you;
An' if sometimes our conduck isn't all your fancy paints,
Why, single men in barricks don't grow into plaster saints;
..........While it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' "Tommy, fall be'ind,"
..........But it's "Please to walk in front, sir," when there's trouble in the wind -
..........There's trouble in the wind, my boys, there's trouble in the wind,
..........O it's "Please to walk in front, sir," when there's trouble in the wind.

[[blackguards -- coarse ruffians(pronounced "blaggards")]]

You talk o' better food for us, an' schools, an' fires, an' all:
We'll wait for extry rations if you treat us rational.
Don't mess about the cook-room slops, but prove it to our face
The Widow's Uniform is not the soldier-man's disgrace.
..........For it's Tommy this an' Tommy that, an' "Chuck him out, the brute!"
..........But it's "Saviour of 'is country" when the guns begin to shoot;
..........An' it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' anything you please;
..........An' Tommy ain't a bloomin' fool - you bet that Tommy sees!