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Tommy C and D  I  “Yankee” N and O  I   German T, U and V


Camel to Consumer Gift cigarettes sent from South Africa to troops in North Africa and later Italy. The packages were inscribed with ‘C to C’, which actually stood for ‘Cape to Cairo’. ‘Camel’ implied the draggingly slow mode of delivery.
came up with the rations Said of easily won medals, especially campaign –‘they just sent them up with the rations’.
Camp Comedian Camp Commandant.
cannon fodder Troops who were quite unreasonably expected to follow orders and as Tennyson’s poem says, ‘... not to reason why, ... just to do and die’. It specifically referred to infantry and other combat troops.
Canuck A Canadian.
cap badge A soldier ordered to report to the commanding officer on charges. Derived from meekly carrying his cap in hand, as required when reporting indoors.
caravan Clumsy unarmoured truck-like command-vehicle described as a caravan-office lorry.
carry the can To take responsibility for one’s own or another’s actions. To do the job assigned to someone else shirking the duty. See ‘Joe Soap’ and ‘pass the can’.
castor Good, okay. (Australian)
cat stabber Issue clasp knife, with a knife blade, marlin spike, screwdriver, and tin- and bottle-openers. Also ‘jack knife’.
catch a packet/dose To contract the dreaded VD.
category man Soldier who has been assessed by a medical officer (MO), judged unfit for combat duty, and reassigned to services.
Chad A graffiti character complaining of shortages. Originally ‘Mr. Chad’.
chagal Canvas water bag used to carry water supplies in the Far East. It was shaped like a goat-skin and the contents were evaporation cooled. (Australian/Indian Army)
chap A fellow, friend. Often considered a higher class than a ‘bloke’. A practice influenced by Public Schools usage, but not limited to that class; a fellow who is ‘one of us’, ‘of our class’. Generally more applicable to officers than humbler soldiers.
Chapplies Comfortable leather studded sandals worn by Indian Regiments. One pair was issued in lieu of boots. They allowed sand to fall out and feet to dry. To make sure all toes were retained, extra socks were worn in snowy conditions.
Char Tea. Indian units pronounced it ‘chai’. From the Chinese te chi, from which both ‘tea’ and ‘char’ are derived. Char is also the numeral ‘4’ in Urdu/Hindustani.
charpoy-bashing Siesta, a favourite leisure activity of the British troops in the Middle and Far East. A charpoy is an Indian word for a bed made from a wooden frame and string cord. It could also be made of bamboo poles and slats.
chatsby Substitute word for an unremembered technical word or mechanical part. Also ‘thingamajig’ or ‘doo-hickey’.
Chelo! ‘Move out!’ ‘Get a move on!’
cheval de frise The name of a medieval defensive obstacle, given to a portable wooden framework entwined with barbed wire. Also ‘knife rest’ or ‘Spanish rider’.
chew the rag/fat Excessive talking
Chicago piano Multi-barrel anti-aircraft guns
chi chi Red tape, fuss and bother, from the French slang. Also used to denote the sing-song voice of a person of mixed race in India.
China Mate, companion. So named because of the Cockney rhyming slang for mate – ‘china plate’
Chindits Deep-penetration brigades under Major-General Orde C. Wingate (1903–44) operating behind Japanese lines in Burma. The Chindit was a mythical Burmese beast (Chinthé) that guarded temples, half-lion, half-eagle. Also ‘The Chief’s Private Army’, the ‘Chief’ being Field-Marshal Lord Wavell, (see ‘Archie’), Supreme Commander of Allied Forces in Burma until August 1943.
Chinese attack Deception operation with a great deal of noise and activity, misleading the enemy into believing an attack was underway and to distract his attention from preparations for the actual attack.
chocko or choco Australian conscripted soldiers and militiamen who could not serve outside of Australia or its territories before 1943. The term is derived from ‘chocolate soldier’ owing to their dark khaki brown uniforms. See also ‘koalas’ and ‘weekend warriors’.
chook Powdered eggs, ‘chuff’.
chopped Dramatically and gruesomely killed, especially if by machine-gun fire.
Christmas tree order Full equipment. An infantryman decked out likean elaborate Christmas tree.
Chum A block-head, a silly fool. ‘Off his chump’ – out of his mind, stupid.
Civvy Street Civilian life. Refers to an individual’s pre-military service life.
clean fatigue Work dress.
clewing up Making contact, linking up, conducting liaison (coordinating), giving a briefing. Derived from ‘clue’.
clifty To steal. (New Zealand)
clifty wallah Clever, shrewd fellow.
Clink Guard-room, ‘hutch’. Prison, ‘jug’.
clockwork mouse or mice An obviously powerful James ML lightweight motorcycle used by airborne troops.
coal box Black smoke detonations of high-explosive shells. Looked like a coal box had been dropped.
coal scuttle helmet German steel helmets, owing to their similarity to a coal scuttle.
cobber Mate, pal, close companion. (Australian)
cock Nonsense, bull.
cock it up Complete mess, blunder, as in ‘He’s made a cock-up of it’. Not to be confused with ‘crock up’, a nervous breakdown, although one might lead to the other. Derived from beer making – if the batch went bad they turned the cock (tap) up to drain the barrel
column snake Single-file formation in dense jungle or on broken ground.
combined operations A military slant on a love affair or marriage which stems from the term for operations involving all three services.
Come up! Meaning to ‘come up’ on the promotion list by putting in some service time to gain seniority.
compassionate Compassionate leave granted on death of a next of kin or for other serious reasons.
compo ration The composition ration fed 14 men three meals for one day. There was also a Pacific compo ration for six men. (The term was also used by US troops, as compos were issued to them in North Africa.)
conchie Conscientious objector, ‘Cuthbert’. One objecting to military service on religious grounds.
con depot Convalescent depot where wounded and ill troops recovered.
cookhouse Kitchen.
cookhouse fatigue Kitchen duty.
cookie Section or crew member who was adept at cooking, and was punished with the task of preparing meals.
cooler Guard-room, cell, ‘moosh’, ‘mush’.
cordex Detonating cord, primacord. Instantaneous detonating explosive cord similar in appearance to safety fuse. Used to link demolition charges together for simultaneous detonation.
corkscrew Steel barbed-wire picket post with a corkscrew-like end, allowing it to be quietly twisted into the ground rather than hammered in.
corp Corporal, ‘two striper’.
crack Move out fast. ‘Get cracking!’ ‘Get moving!’
crash action An emergency technique for rapidly getting artillery into action, taking shortcuts around the regular action stations drill.
creepers Lightweight, and very stealthy, suede leather shoes with crepe rubber soles worn on desert night patrols. Also ‘brothel creepers’ or ‘desert boots’. Officers had them custom-made in Cairo.
crib Complain. ‘To crib’.
crime Misdemeanour offence against regulations. To be put on a ‘fizzer’ (charge) was be ‘crimed’.
crime sheet A record of an individual’s charges and punishments.
croaker Medical officer, the term having a casualty-troubling connection with ‘croak’ – die. Also, and far more reassuring, ‘Doc’ or ‘medico’.
Cross Cocktail A 40mm cartridge case filled with explosives and fitted with a Mills bomb fuse. Developed by Sergeant A. Cross to attack pillboxes in Italy.
cushy Soft, easy assignment. From the Hindustani kjush (pleasure).


dag Electric battery, as known by signallers.
dah Burmese heavy cutting knife used by some British troops for jungle clearance and as a close-quarters weapon.
Dak US-made C-47 Skytrain transport, known as a Dakota to the British.
Dannert wire Oil-tempered, barbed, spring-steel coiled concertina wire introduced by the Germans in WWI and invented by a Herr Dannert. The Germans dropped the term, but the British retained it.
Deacon AEC Mk 1 6-pdr anti-tank gun carrier.
dead loss Useless person or a waste of time and effort.
dead man’s effects Appealing name for false teeth or dentures.
delousing 1) Baking clothing in a special oven to kill lice and their eggs. 2) Removing mines and booby traps, a far more dangerous irritant.
demmick Soldier on the sick list.
demo Demonstration. An exercise to show soldiers how to properly execute tactics, drills, and other actions.
demob Demobilization, to be ‘demobbed’, discharged from the service.
demon vino Cheap Italian wine.
Desert Rats The 7th Armoured Division. Mussolini in a speech referred to the division as the ‘desert rats’. The division quickly and defiantly adopted the name and the jerboa (desert rat) as its insignia. Lord Haw-Haw is also said to have referred to the Australian defenders of Tobruk as the ‘desert rats’.
desert rose Large tin with top removed, the bottom perforated with holes, and set in the sand as the crudest of urinals.
desert-worthy Men or equipment conditioned or suited for desert warfare.
Deuce, the The second-in-command. Second only to the ‘Trump’, the CO. (Australian). See ‘Two I/C’.
di-da-di Morse code from the short (dots) and long (dashes) signals. A wireless set or anything related.
diffy Deficient or troublesome. ‘His rifle was diffy’.
dig Loss of privileges owing to charges. A mild disciplinary action.
Digger hat The distinctive wool felt slouch hat worn by Australian troops with a wide pleated puggaree (hat band) and the left side of the brim (leaf) turned up. ‘Slouch’ refers to the rest of the brim.
Diggers Australian troops, but also referred to Australian civilians. It is claimed that New Zealander troops coined the term, being derived from ‘gumdigger’ (one who digs for fossilized kauri gum), but was used by Aussies from 1916. Alternatively, some said it came from the Australian reputation for digging trenches, connected to Australian gold mining in the 1850s.
dig out To perform hard work, work with extra effort.
dimout Partial blackout of questionable effect imposed on Australian cities with the beginning of the Pacific War.
dim type Stupid or dull person.
dingbat An officer’s batman, personal servant. (Australian)
dinger Backside. ‘Dinger drill’ – sleeping. (Australian)
Dingo Daimler Mk I and II scout cars, light four-wheeled armoured reconnaissance vehicles. The Canadian-built versions were the Lynx Mk I, II, and III.
dinkey di Gospel truth, hence was often used when exaggerating. (Australian)
dinkum 1) Reliable person. 2) Reliable, good information, ‘fair dinkum’. ‘Dinkum oil’ – accurate, truthful report. (Australian)
dinkum digger Solid, reliable soldier or veteran. (Australian)
disasters Egyptian currency, piastres.
Div, the New Zealand Division, redesignated 2nd (NZ) Division on 29 June 1942 as the successor of the 1916 New Zealand Division.
dixie Small oval cooking pot with a frying-pan lid. Used for section and crew cooking, and also for carrying food to forward positions. Came to mean any receptacle for food. From Hindustani degchi (small pot).
dixie bashing Cleaning pots and pans on kitchen fatigue.
do a 406 Complete a vehicle inspection. Army Book 406 was a log stating a vehicle’s condition, repairs, defects, etc.
doddle A job that is easy to perform. ‘This’ll be a doddle’. Derived from Low German Dudeltopf meaning fool, hence an easy task that any old simpleton can do.
dodge the column Inventively avoiding unwanted duties. Derived from the old practice of individuals making the sick list or finding other duties preventing them from accompanying the column of troops departing for an exercise or campaign.
dog’s legs NCO’s chevrons.
domani Tomorrow. Italian word used in North Africa and Italy.
done over Wounded or exhausted. (Australian)
Don-Five D5 field telephone. ‘Don’ is the phonetic letter for ‘D’.
donga 1) Improvised dugout or shelter. (Australian) 2) A steep-sided water course, usually dry. Also a ‘wadi’ or ‘mullah’.
donkey’s breakfast Straw-filled palliasse (mattress), much like a donkey’s feedsack.
donnybrook A fight. (Irish origin)
Don R Motorcycle dispatch rider, from the phonetic alphabet.
doodlebug German V1 (Vergeltungswaff). The doodlebug is an Australian insect which makes an irritating buzzing noise, as did the V1. See also ‘buzz bomb’.
doover Useful word for any item with an unremembered name. (Australian)
doover hole Dugout or slit trench. Mainly used in North Africa. (Australian)
Dorchester Armoured command vehicle assigned to armoured brigade headquarters. It was a roomy and comfortable vehicle hence the name derived from London’s luxurious Dorchester hotel.
dragon Full-tracked vehicle for towing (‘haulage’) artillery.
draw the crabs To attract enemy attention and draw fire. (Australian)
draw the crow To be assigned an undesired fatigue party or task. (Australian)
dressed up like a dog’s dinner A soldier wearing his best uniform for an occasion.
drill pig A drill sergeant.
driver op Artillery tractor driver who doubled as the radio operator. This term was applied to any drivers who operated a radio as required.
drome Short for aerodrome.
drop To get into trouble.
drop a bullock A serious blunder, to let someone down or get him into trouble.
Duck General aquatic nickname for a Japanese floatplane.
duffy A quaint and understated name for the mind-breaking horror of a close-quarters jungle fire-fight. (Australian)
dug-in job Firmly set in a job, usually a cushy base assignment.
dugout A small personnel shelter dug into the side of a trench, gully, hillside, etc.
dug-outs Retired soldiers, sometimes WWI veterans, recalled to the colours after being ‘dug out’ of civilian life.
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