#AceBritishHistoryNews – June 21 – Tommy Atkins (often just Tommy) is slang for a common soldier in the British Army. It was already well established in the 19th century, but is particularly associated with World War I.
(Tommy, Tommy Aitkins Slang Term Across No-Mans Land)
It can be used as a term of reference, or as a form of address. German soldiers would call out to "Tommy" across no man’s land if they wished to speak to a British soldier. French and Commonwealth troops would also call British soldiers "Tommies".
In more recent times, the term Tommy Atkins has been used less frequently, although the name "Tom" is occasionally still heard, especially with regard to paratroopers.
Tommy Atkins or Thomas Atkins has been used as a generic name for a common British soldier for many years. The origin of the term is a subject of debate, but it is known to have been used as early as 1743. A letter sent from Jamaica about a mutiny amongst the troops says "except for those from N. America ye Marines and Tommy Atkins behaved splendidly".
A common belief is that the name was chosen by the Duke of Wellington after having been inspired by the bravery of a soldier at the Battle of Boxtel in 1794 during the Flanders Campaign. After a fierce engagement, the Duke, in command of the 33rd Regiment of Foot, spotted the best man-at-arms in the regiment, Private Thomas Atkins, terribly wounded. The private said "It’s all right, sir. It’s all in a day’s work" and died shortly after.
According to Lieutenant General Sir William MacArthur in an article in the Army Medical Services Magazine (circa 1950), "Tommy Atkins" was chosen as a generic name by the War Office in 1815. Richard Holmes, in the prologue to Tommy (2005), states that in:
1815 a War Office publication showing how the Soldier’s Pocket Book should be filled out gave as its example one Private Thomas Atkins, No. 6 Troop, 6th Dragoons. Atkins became a sergeant in the 1837 version, and was now able to sign his name rather than merely make his mark."
(Young Tommy Harry Patch)
On 25 July 2009, the death of the last "Tommy" from World War I, Harry Patch (at 111 the oldest man in the United Kingdom and also in Europe), Left Claude Choules as the last serviceman of the British forces in World War I.
(1898 – 2009 Died at 111 Years of Age)
Claude Stanley Choules – 3 March 1901 – 5 May 2011) was the last combat veteran of the First World War, and the last military witness to the scuttling of the German fleet in Scapa Flow. He was also the last veteran to have served in both world wars, and the last seaman from the First World War.
At the time of his death, he was also the third oldest verified military veteran in the world and the oldest known living man in Australia. He was the seventh-oldest living man in the world. Choules became the oldest man born in the United Kingdom following the death of Stanley Lucas on 21 June 2010.
There was a growing opinion that the passing of the last of them should be marked in an appropriate manner. This was the subject of a cross party campaign led by the politician Iain Duncan Smith.
It was originally proposed that the last veteran to die should be given a state funeral.
However, this met with opposition from the veterans themselves, few of whom wanted to be singled out in this way.
As of 28 June 2006, it was decided that a service at Westminster Abbey would be held upon the death of the last veteran