Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Over the Top -- Tommy's Dictionary of the Trenches, Part One -- May 31, 2017

Arthur Guy Empey was a member of the US Cavalry who resigned to volunteer for the British Army during World War One. He was wounded during the Battle of the Somme. When the US entered the war, he tried to rejoin the US Army, but was rejected because of his wounds and possibly because of some disparaging comments about American draftees. He wrote a book, Over the Top, about his experiences during the war.

"Tommy's Dictionary of the Trenches"  is a glossary of terms used by British soldiers.  I am presenting it in three parts.  

Hébuterne is a village near Arras.   Oxo cubes were beef stock. 

CHAPTER I -- From Mufti to Khaki
CHAPTER II -- Blighty to Rest Billets
CHAPTER III -- I Go to Church
CHAPTER IV -- Into the Trench
CHAPTER V -- Mud, Rats and Shells
CHAPTER VI -- "Back of the Line"
CHAPTER VII -- Rations
CHAPTER VIII -- The Little Wooden Cross

CHAPTER IX -- Suicide Annex  

CHAPTER X -- "The Day's Work" 
CHAPTER XI -- Over the Top CHAPTER XII -- Bombing  
CHAPTER XIII -- My First Official Bath    
CHAPTER XIV -- Picks and Shovels
CHAPTER XV -- Listening Post
CHAPTER XVI -- Battery D 238
CHAPTER XVII -- Out in Front  
CHAPTER XVIII - Staged Under Fire
CHAPTER XX -   Chats With Fritz
CHAPTER XXI -  "About Turn"
CHAPTER XXII -  Punishments and Machine-Gun Stunts
CHAPTER XXIII -  Gas Attacks and Spies
CHAPTER XXIV - The Firing Squad
CHAPTER XXV - Preparing For the Big Push 

CHAPTER XXVI - All Quiet (?) on the Western Front


In this so-called dictionary I have tried to list most of the pet terms and slangy definitions, which Tommy Atkins uses a thousand times a day as he is serving in France. I have gathered them as I lived with him in the trenches and rest billets, and later in the hospitals in England where I met men from all parts of the line.

The definitions are not official, of course. Tommy is not a sentimental sort of animal so some of his definitions are not exactly complimentary, but he is not cynical and does not mean to offend anyone higher up. It is just a sort of "ragging" or "kidding," as the American would say, that helps him pass the time away.


About turn. A military command similar to "About face" or "To the rear, march." Tommy's nickname for Hebuterne, a point on the British line.

Adjutant. The name given to an officer who helps the Colonel do nothing. He rides a horse and you see him at guard mounting and battalion parade.

A. D. M. S. Assistant Director of Medical Service. Have never seen him but he is supposed to help the D. M. S. and pass on cases where Tommy is posted as "unfit for trench service."

Aerial Torpedo. A kind of trench mortar shell, guaranteed by the makers to break up Fritz's supper of sausages and beer, even though said supper is in a dugout thirty feet down. Sometimes it lives up to its reputation.

Alarm. A signal given in the trenches that the enemy is about to attack, frequently false. It is mainly used to break up Tommy's dreams of home.

"All around traverse." A machine gun so placed that its fire can be turned in any direction.

Allemand. A French term meaning " German." Tommy uses it because he thinks it is a swear word.

Allotment. A certain sum Tommy allows to his family.

Allumettes. French term for what they sell to Tommy as matches, the sulphurous fumes from which have been known to "gas" a whole platoon.

"Ammo." Rifle ammunition. Used to add weight to Tommy's belt. He carries 120 rounds, at all times, except when he buries it under the straw in his billet before going on a route march. In the trenches he expends it in the direction of Berlin.

Ammo Depot. A place where ammunition is stored. It is especially useful in making enemy airmen waste bombs trying to hit it.

Ammonal. A high explosive used in the Mills bomb. The Germans are more able than Tommy to discourse on its effects.

"Any complaints." A useless question asked by an inspecting officer when he makes the rounds of billets or Tommy's meals. A complaining Tommy generally lands on the crime sheet. It is only recruits who complain; the old men just sigh with disgust.

A. O. C. Army Ordnance Corps. A department which deals out supplies to the troops. Its chief asset is the returning of requisitions because a comma is misplaced.

A. P. M. Assistant Provost Marshal. An officer at the head of the Military Police. His headquarters are generally out of reach of the enemy's guns. His chief duties are to ride around in a motor car and wear a red band around his cap.

"Après la Guerre." "After the war." Tommy's definition of Heaven.

A. S. C. Army Service Corps, or Army Safety Corps as Tommy calls it. The members of which bring up supplies to the rear of the line.


"Back o' the line." Any place behind the firing line out of range of enemy guns.

Baler. A scoop affair for baling out water from the trenches and dugouts. As the trenches generally drain the surrounding landscape, the sun has to be appealed to before the job is completed.

Bantams. Men under the standard army height of 5 ft. 3 in. They are in a separate organization called "The Bantam Battalion," and although undersized have the opinion that they can lick the whole German Army.

Barbed Wire. A lot of prickly wire entwined around stakes driven in front of the trenches. This obstruction is supposed to prevent the Germans from taking lodgings in your dugouts. It also affords the enemy artillery rare sport trying to blow it up."

Barrage. Concentrated shell-fire on a sector of the German line. In the early days of the war, when ammunition was defective, it often landed on Tommy himself.

Barricade. An obstruction of sandbags to impede the enemy's traffic into your trench. You build it up and he promptly knocks it down, so what's the use.

"Bashed in." Smashed by a shell. Generally applied to a trench or dugout.

Batman. A man who volunteers to clean a non-commissioned officer's buttons but who never volunteers for a trench raid. He ranks next to a worm.

Bayonet. A sort of knife-like contrivance which fits on the end of your rifle. The Government issues it to stab Germans with. Tommy uses it to toast bread.

"Big Boys." Large guns, generally eight inch or above.

"Big Push." "The Battle of the Somme." He often calls it "The First of July," the date on which it started.

"Big Stuff." Large shells, eight inch or over.

"Big Willie." Tommy's term for his personal friend, the Kaiser.

Billet. Sometimes a regular house but generally a stable where Tommy sleeps while behind the lines. It is generally located near a large manure pile. Most billets have numerous entrances—one for Tommy and the rest for rain, rats, wind, and shells.

Billet Guard. Three men and a corporal who are posted to guard the billets of soldiers. They do this until the orderly officer has made his rounds at night, then they go to sleep.

Biscuit. A concoction of flour and water, baked until very hard. Its original use was for building purposes, but Tommy is supposed to eat it. Tommy is no coward but he balks at this. Biscuits make excellent fuel, and give no smoke.

Bivouac. A term given by Tommy to a sort of tent made out of waterproof sheets.

Blastine. A high explosive which promotes Kultur in the German lines.

Blighty. An East Indian term meaning "over the seas." Tommy has adopted it as a synonym for home. He tries numerous ways of reaching Blighty, but the "powers that be" are wise to all of his attempts, so he generally fails.

"Blighty One." A wound serious enough to send Tommy to England.

B. M. G. C. Brigade Machine Gun Company, composed of Vickers machine gunners. They always put their packs on a limber or small wagon while route marching, which fact greatly arouses the jealousy of Tommy.

"Body Snatcher." Tommy's term for a sniper.

Bomb. An infernal device filled with high explosive which you throw at the Germans. Its chief delight is to explode before it leaves your hand.

Bomb Store. A place where bombs are kept, built so the enemy cannot locate them with his fire. For that matter, Tommy can't either when he needs them.

Bombing Post. A sort of trench or sap running from your front line to within a few yards of the enemy's trench. It is occupied by bomb throwers who would like to sign an agreement with the Germans for neither side to throw bombs.

Brag. A card game similar to poker at which every player quits a loser and no one wins, that is, according to the statements of the several players.

Brazier. A sheet iron pot punched full of holes in which a fire is built. It is used to keep Tommy warm in his dugout, until he becomes unconscious from its smoke and fumes. He calls it a "fire bucket."

Brigade Guard. Several men who are detailed to guard Brigade Headquarters. They don't go to sleep.

B. S. M. Battalion Sergeant-Major. The highest ranking non-commissioned officer in the battalion. A constant dread to Tommy when he has forgotten to polish his buttons or dubbin his boots.

Bully Beef. A kind of corned beef with tin round it. The unopened cans make excellent walls for dugouts.

Burm. A narrow ledge cut along the walls of a trench to prevent earth from caving in. "Burm" to Tommy is a cuss word, because he has to "go over the top" at night to construct it.

"Busted." Term applied when a non-commissioned officer is reduced by court-martial.

Button Stick. A contrivance made of brass ten inches long which slides over the buttons and protects the tunic in cleaning.


"Called to the colors." A man on reserve who has been ordered to report for service.

"Camel Corps." Tommy's nickname for the Infantry because they look like overloaded camels, and probably because they also go eight days, and longer, without a drink, that is, of the real stuff.

Candle. A piece of wick surrounded by wax or tallow used for lighting purposes. One candle among six men is the general issue.

Canister. A German trench mortar shell filled with scraps of iron and nails. Tommy really has a great contempt for this little token of German affection and he uses the nails to hang his equipment on in the dugouts.

Canteen. A mess tin issued to Tommy, who, after dinner, generally forgets to wash it, and pinches his mates for tea in the evening.

"Carry on." Resume. Keep on with what you are doing. Go ahead.

"Carrying in." Machine gunners' term for taking guns, ammunition, etc., into front-line trench.

Caterpillar. Is not a bug, but the name given to a powerful engine used to haul the big guns over rough roads.

C. C. S. Casualty Clearing Station. A place where the doctors draw lots to see if Tommy is badly wounded enough to be sent to Blighty.

Chalk Pit. A white spot on a painted landscape used at the Machine Gunners' School to train would-be gunners in picking out distinctive objects in landscapes and guessing ranges.

Challenge. A question, "Who goes there?" thrown at an unknown moving object by a sentry in the darkness, who hopes that said moving object will answer, "Friend."

Char. A black poisonous brew which Tommy calls tea.

"Chevaux-de-frise." Barbed-wire defenses against cavalry.

"Chucking his weight about." Self-important. Generally applied to a newly promoted non-commissioned officer or a recruit airing his knowledge.

Chum. An endearing word used by Tommy to his mate when he wants to borrow something or have a favor done.

"Clicked it." Got killed; up against it; wounded.

"Clock." "Trench" for the face.

"Coal Box." The nickname for a high explosive German shell fired from a 5.9 howitzer which emits a heavy black smoke and makes Tommy's hair stand on end.

Coal Fatigue. A detail on which Tommy has to ride in a limber and fill two sacks with coal. It takes him exactly four hours to do this. He always misses morning parade, but manages to get back in time for dinner.

"Cole." Tommy's nickname for a penny. It buys one glass of French beer.

"Coming it." Trying to "put something over."

"Coming the acid." Boasting; lying about something.

Communication Trench. A zigzag ditch leading from the rear to the front-line trench, through which reinforcements, reliefs, ammunition, and rations are brought up. Its real use is to teach Tommy how to swear and how to wade through mud up to his knees.

Communique. An official report which is published daily by the different warring governments for the purpose of kidding the public. They don't kid Tommy.

Company Stores. The Quartermaster-Sergeant's headquarters where stores are kept. A general hang-out for batmen, officers' servants, and N. C. O.'s.

"Compray." Tommy's French for "Do you understand?" Universally used in the trenches.

Conscript. A man who tried to wait until the war was over before volunteering for the army, but was balked by the Government.

"Consolidate captured line." Digging in or preparing a captured position for defence against a counter-attack.

Convalescence. Six weeks' rest allotted to a wounded Tommy. During this time the Government is planning where they will send Tommy to be wounded a second time.

C. of E. Church of England. This is stamped on Tommy's identification disk. He has to attend church parade whether or not he wants to go to Heaven.

Cook. A soldier detailed to spoil Tommy's rations. He is generally picked because he was a blacksmith in civil life.

Cooties. Unwelcome inhabitants of Tommy's shirt

Counter Attack. A disagreeable habit of the enemy which makes Tommy realize that after capturing a position the hardest work is to hold it.

Covering Party. A number of men detailed to lie down in front of a working party while."out in front" to prevent surprise and capture by German patrols. Tommy loves this job, I don't think!

Crater. A large circular hole in the ground made by the explosion of a mine. According to Official Communiques, Tommy always occupies a crater with great credit to himself. But sometimes the Germans get there first.

"Cricket ball." The name given to a bomb the shape and size of a cricket ball. Tommy does not use it to play cricket.

Crime Sheet. A useless piece of paper on which is kept a record of Tommy's misdemeanors.

"Crump." A name given by Tommy to a high explosive German shell which when it bursts makes a "Cru-mp" sort of noise.

C. S. M. Company Sergeant-Major, the head non-commissioned officer of a company, whose chief duty is to wear a crown on his arm, a couple of Boer War ribbons on his chest, and to put Tommy's name and number.on the crime sheet.

"Curtain fire." A term 'applied by the artillery to a wall of shell fire on the enemy communication trenches, to prevent the bringing up of men and supplies, and also to keep our own front lines from wavering. But somehow or,'bther men and supplies manage to leak through it.

"Cushy.". 'Easy; comfortable; "pretty soft."


D. A. C. Divisional Ammunition Column. A collection of men, horses, and limbers, which supplies ammunition for the line and keeps Tommy awake, while in billets, with their infernal noise. They are like owls—always working at night.

D. C. M. Distinguished Conduct Medal. A piece of bronze which a soldier gets for being foolish.

D. C. P. Divisional Concert Party. An aggregation of would-be actors who inflict their talents on Tommy at half a franc per head.

Defaulter. Not an absconding cashier, but a Tommy who has been sentenced to extra pack drill for breathing while on parade or doing some other little thing like that.

"Dekko." To look; a look at something.

Detonator. A contrivance in a bomb containing fulminate of mercury, which, ignited by a fuse, explodes the charge.

"Der uffs." "Deux oeufs." Tommy's French for "two eggs."

"Dial." Another term of Tommy's for his map, or face.

"Digging in." Digging trenches and dugouts in a captured position.

Digging Party. A detail of men told off to dig trenches, graves, or dugouts. Tommy is not particular as to what he has to dig; it's the actual digging he objects to.

"Dinner up." Dinner is ready.

Divisional Band. Another devilish aggregation which wastes most of its time in practising and polishing its instruments.

Dixie. An iron pot with two handles on it in which Tommy's meals are cooked. Its real efficiency lies in the fact that when carrying it, your puttees absorb all the black grease on its sides.

"Doing them in." Killing them. Cutting up a body of German troops.

Donkey. An army mule. An animal for which Tommy has the greatest respect. He never pets or in any way becomes familiar with said mule.

Draft. A contingent of new men sent as reinforcements for the trenches. Tommy takes special delight in scaring these men with tales of his own experiences which he never had.

Draftman. A member of a draft who listens to and believes Tommy's weird tales of trench warfare.

Dressing Station. A medical post where Tommy gets his wounds attended to, if he is lucky enough to get wounded. He is "lucky," because a wound means Blighty.

"Drill order." Rifle, belt, bayonet, and respirator.

Dry Canteen. An army store where Tommy may buy cigarettes, chocolate, and tinned fruit, that is, if he has any money.

D. S. O. Distinguished Service Order. Another piece of metal issued to officers for being brave. Tommy says it is mostly won in dugouts and calls it a "Dugout Service Order."

Dubbin. A grease for boots.

Dud. A German shell or bomb which has not exploded on account of a defective fuse. Tommy is a great souvenir collector so he gathers these "duds." Sometimes when he tries to unscrew the nose-cap it sticks. Then in his hurry to confiscate it before an officer appears he doesn't hammer it just right—and the printer of the casualty list has to use a little more type.

Dugout. A deep hole in the trenches dug by the Royal Engineer Corps; supposed to be shell proof. It is, until a shell hits it. Rat and Tommy find it an excellent habitation in which to contract rheumatism.

Dump. An uncovered spot where trench tools and supplies are placed. It is uncovered so that these will become rusty and worthless from the elements. This so that the contractors at home won't starve.

"Du pan." Tommy's French for bread.


Efficiency Pay. Extra pay allowed by the Government for long service. Tommy is very efficient if he manages to get it from the Government.

Eighteen-Pounder. One of our guns which fires an eighteen-pound shell, used for destroying German barbed wire previous to an attack. If it does its duty you bet Tommy is grateful to the eighteen-pounders.

Elephant Dugout. A large, safe, and roomy dugout, braced by heavy steel ribs or girders.

Emplacement. A position made of earth or sandbags from which a machine gun is fired. It is supposed to be invisible to the enemy. They generally blow it up in the course of a couple of days, just by luck, of course.

Entrenching Tool. A spade-like tool for digging hasty entrenchments. It takes about a week to dig a decent hole with it, so "hasty" must have another meaning.

"Equipment on." Put on equipment for drill or parade.

Escort. A guard of soldiers who conduct prisoners to different points. Tommy is just as liable to be a prisoner as an escort.

"Estaminet." A French public house, or saloon, where muddy water is sold for beer.


Fag. Cigarette. Something Tommy is always touching you for.

"Fag issue." Army issue of cigarettes, generally on Sunday.

Fatigue. Various kinds of work done by Tommy while he is "resting."

"Fed up." Disgusted; got enough of it—as the rich Mr. Hoggenheimer used to say, "Sufficiency."

Field Dressing. Bandages issued to soldiers for first aid when wounded. They use them for handkerchiefs and to clean their rifles.

Field Post Card. A card on which Tommy is allowed to tell his family and friends that he is alive; if he is dead the War Office sends a card, sometimes.

Field Punishment No. X. Official name for spread-eagling a man on a limber wheel, two hours a day for twenty-one days. His rations consist of bully beef, water, and biscuits. Tommy calls this punishment "Crucifixion," especially if he has undergone it.

"Fifteen-pounder." Still another of ours; shell weighs fifteen pounds. Used for killing rats on the German parapets.

"Finding the range." Ascertaining by instrument or by trial shots the distance from an enemy objective.

"Fireworks." A night bombardment.

Fire Sector. A certain space of ground which a machine gun is supposed to sweep with its fire. If the gun refuses to work, all of the enemy who cross this space are technically dead, according to the General's plans.

Firing Squad. Twelve men picked to shoot a soldier who has been sentenced to death by court-martial. Tommy has no comment to make on this.

Firing Step. A ledge in the front trench which enables Tommy to fire "over the top." In rainy weather you have to be an acrobat to even stand on it on account of the slippery mud.

Fire Trench. The front-line trench. Another name for Hell.

"Five rounds rapid." Generally, just before daylight in the trenches, the order "Five rounds rapid" is given. Each man puts his rifle and head over the parapet and fires five shots as rapidly as possible in the direction of the German trenches and then ducks. A sort of "Good morning, have you used Pears Soap?"

"Five nine." A German shell 5.9 inches in diameter. It is their standard shell. Tommy has no special love for this brand, but they are like olives, all right when you get used to them.

"Flags." Tommy's nickname for a Signaler.

Flare. A rocket fired from a pistol which, at night, lights up the ground in front of your trench.

Flare Pistol. A large pistol, which looks like a sawed-off shotgun, from which flares are fired. When you need this pistol badly it has generally been left in your dugout.

Flying Column. A flying column of troops that walk from one point of the line to another. In case of need they usually arrive at the wrong point.

Fokker. A type of German aeroplane which the Boche claims to be the fastest in the world. Tommy believes this, because our airmen seldom catch them.

"For it." On the crime sheet; up against a reprimand; on trial, in trouble.

"Four by two." A piece of flannel four inches by two issued by the Q. M. Sergeant with which to "pull through."

"Four point five." Another of ours. The Germans don't like this one.

"Four point seven." One of our shells 4.7 inches in diameter. Tommy likes this kind.

"Fritz." Tommy's name for a German. He loves a German like poison.

Front Line. The nearest trench to the enemy. No place for a conscientious objector.

Frostbite. A quick road to Blighty, which Tommy used very often until frostbite became a court-martial offence. Now he keeps his feet warm.

"Full pack." A soldier carrying all of his equipment.

Full Corporal. A N. C. O. who sports two stripes on his arm and has more to say than the Colonel.

Fumigator. An infernal device at a hospital which cooks Tommy's uniform and returns it to him two sizes too small.

"Funk Hole." Tommy's term for a dugout. A favorite spot for those of a nervous disposition.

Fuse. A part of shell or bomb which burns in a set time and ignites the detonator.


Gas. Poisonous fumes which the Germans send over to our trenches. When the wind is favorable this gas is discharged into the air from huge cylinders. The wind carries it over toward our lines. It appears like a huge yellowish-green cloud rolling along the ground. The alarm is sounded and Tommy promptly puts on his gas helmet and laughs at the Boches.

Gas Gong. An empty shell case hung up in the trenches and in billets. A sentry is posted near it, so that in case German poison gas comes over, he can give the alarm by striking this gong with an iron bar. If the sentry happens to be asleep we get "gassed."

"Gassed." A soldier who has been overcome from the fumes of German poison gas, or the hot air of a comrade.

"Gassing." A term Tommy applies to "shooting the bull."

"Getting a sub." Touching an officer for money. To be taken out of soldier's pay on the next pay-day.

"Getting the sparks." Bullets from a machine gun cutting enemy barbed wire at night; when a bullet strikes wire it generally throws off a bluish spark. Machine gunners use this method at night to "set" their gun so that its fire will command the enemy's trench.

"Ginger." Nickname of a red-headed soldier; courage; pep.

"Gippo." Bacon grease; soup.

G. M. P. Garrison Military Police. Soldiers detailed to patrol the roads and regulate traffic behind the lines. Tommy's pet aversion.

G. O. C. General Officer Commanding. Tommy never sees him in the act of "commanding," but has the opportunity of reading many an order signed "G. O. C."

Goggles. An apparatus made of canvas and mica which is worn over the eyes for protection from the gases of German "tear shells." The only time Tommy cries is when he forgets his goggles or misses the rum issue.

"Going in." Taking over trenches.

"Going out." Relieved from the trenches.

"Gone West." Killed; died.

"Gooseberries." A wooden frame in the shape of a cask wrapped round with barbed wire. These gooseberries are thrown into the barbed-wire entanglements to help make them impassable.

"Got the Crown." Promoted to Sergeant-Major.

Green Envelope. An envelope of a green color issued to Tommy once a week. The contents will not be censored regimentally, but are liable to censor at the base. On the outside of envelope appears the following certificate, which Tommy must sign: "I certify on my honor that the contents of this envelope refer to nothing but private and family matters." After signing this certificate Tommy immediately writes about everything but family and private matters.

Groom. A soldier who looks after an officer's horse and who robs said horse of its hay. He makes his own bed comfortable with this hay.

Grousing. A scientific grumbling in which Tommy cusses everything in general and offends no one.

G. S. W. Gunshot wound. When Tommy is wounded he does not care whether it is a G. S. W. or a kick from a mule, just so he gets back to Blighty.

G. S. Wagon. A four-wheeled wagon driven by an A. S. C. driver. It carries supplies, such as food, ammunition, trench tools, and timber for dugouts. When Tommy gets sore feet he is allowed to ride on this wagon and fills the ears of the driver with tales of his wonderful exploits. Occasionally one of these drivers believes him.

Gum Boots. Rubber boots issued to Tommy for wet trenches. They are used to keep his feet dry; they do, when he is lucky enough to get a pair.

"Gumming the game." Spoiling anything, interfering.


"Hair brush." Name of a bomb used in the earlier stages of the war. It is shaped like a hair brush and is thrown by the handle. Tommy used to throw them over to the Germans for their morning toilette.

"Hand grenade." A general term for a bomb which is thrown by hand. Tommy looks upon all bombs with grave suspicion; from long experience he has learned not to trust them, even if the detonator has been removed.

"Hard tails." Mules.

Haversack. A canvas bag forming part of Tommy's equipment, carried on the left side. Its original use was intended for the carrying of emergency rations and small kit. It is generally filled with a miscellaneous assortment of tobacco, pipes, bread crumbs, letters, and a lot of useless souvenirs.

"Having a doss." Having a sleep.

"Hold-all." A small canvas roll in which you are supposed to carry your razor, comb, knife, fork, spoon, mirror, soap, tooth brush, etc. Tommy takes great care of the above, because it means extra pack drill to come on parade unshaven.

"Holy Joe." Tommy's familiar but not necessarily irreverent name for the Chaplain. He really has a great admiration for this officer, who although not a fighting man, so often risks his life to save a wounded Tommy.

"Housewife." A neat little package of needles, thread, extra shoelaces, and buttons. When a button comes off Tommy's trousers, instead of going to his housewife he looks around for a nail.

Hun. Another term for a German, mostly used by war correspondents.

"Hun pinching." Raiding German trenches for prisoners.


Identification Disk. A little fiber disk which is worn around the neck by means of a string. On one side is stamped your name, rank, regimental number, and regiment, while on the other side is stamped your religion. If at any time Tommy is doubtful of his identity he looks at his disk to reassure himself.

"I'm sorry." Tommy's apology. If he pokes your eye out with his bayonet he says, "I'm sorry," and the matter is ended so far as he is concerned.

"In front." Over the top; in front of the front-line trench, in No Man's Land.

"In reserve." Troops occupying positions, billets, or dugouts, immediately in rear of the front line, who in case of an attack will support the firing line.

Intelligence Department. Secret service men who are supposed to catch spies or be spies as the occasion demands.

Interpreter. A fat job with a "return ticket," held by a soldier who thinks he can speak a couple of languages. He questions prisoners as to the color of their grandmothers' eyes and why they joined the army. Just imagine asking a German "why" he joined the army.

"Invalided." Sent to England on account of sickness.

Iron Rations. A tin of bully beef, two biscuits, and a tin containing tea, sugar, and Oxo cubes. These are not supposed to be eaten until you die of starvation.

Isolated Post. An advanced part of a trench or position where one or two sentries are posted to guard against a surprise attack. While in this post Tommy is constantly wondering what the Germans will do with his body.

"It's good we have a Navy." One of Tommy's expressions when he is disgusted with the army and its work.

Next:  Tommy's Dictionary of the Trenches, Part Two

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Giants 7, Braves 1 -- May 30, 2017

I haven't had a chance to write about the Giants game we attended on Sunday.  We parked at Daly City BART and took a train to the Embarcadero, where we caught an N-Judah train to the ballpark.  We got seats. 

It was cold at the ballpark.  We were on the club level.  We walked around and visited the museum.  We had hotdogs and fries for lunch.  We watched RA Dickey, the Braves pitcher, warm up.  He threw one right past the catcher.  This is not unusual for a knuckle baller.  There are only two left in the majors. 

Dickey did not do well, giving up two in the first, four in the second and one in the third.  The Braves fans sitting around us did not understand how he lasted so long.  Johnny Cueto did great. 

We had to wait a bit for an S after the game, but we stood in the articulation of the car.  The BART train came quickly.  We went out to dinner with out daughter. 

I took the photo Sunday.  You can't get away from the Sales Force Tower. 

Gregg Allman and Denis Johnson, RIP -- May 30, 2017

I was sad to learn about the death of Gregg Allman.  There should be a nice Allman Brothers reunion in heaven.  They were on the radio a lot when I was a kid.

 I haven't read much Denis Johnson, but what I read was impressive.  I'm sorry he is gone. 

Monday, May 29, 2017

Memorial Day, 2017 -- May 29, 2017

On Memorial Day it is fitting and proper to remember the men and women who gave their lives, who continue to give their lives, to give us the country we deserve.

“Patriotism is supporting your country all the time, and your government when it deserves it” — Mark Twain

I took this photo on 14-December-2007 at the National Cemetery in the Presidio.
Happy 100th birthday to President John F Kennedy.  He was a World War II veteran, who had served on PT boats in the Pacific Theater.  He loved boats.  One of my earliest memories is of my mother crying while watching his funeral on television.  When I grew up, many homes that I visited had a photo of him hanging on a wall.  Later reports indicated that he was not always a nice person, but he deserved to live and watch his family grow up.  Many people see his murder as the beginning of a very bad decade. 

Working America

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Sales Force Tower -- May 27, 2017

The building with the slanted roof is the Leaning Tower of San Francisco, the Millennium Tower. at Fremont and Mission. Behind it is the nearly complete Sales Force Tower, which is now the tallest building in San Francisco. The two cranes make it resemble a Dalek.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Summer of Love 50 -- Mother and Child, Free Huey Rally, De Fremery Park, Oakland -- May 23, 2017

The San Francisco Arts Commission ( has set up a series of posters by artist Deborah Aschheim.  "The Zeitgeist" is part of a larger series for the 50th anniversary of the Summer of Love.  The posters in The Zeitgeist represent people involved in the Spring Mobilization against the War in Vietnam on 15-April-1967.

Huey P Newton, one of the founders of the Black Panther Party for Self Defense, was pulled over by an Oakland Police officer on 28-October-1967.  A gun fight broke out.  Newton was wounded and the policeman died.  Newton went to prison.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Ringling Brothers, RIP -- May 21, 2017

Tonight the Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey Circus. the Greatest Show on Earth, will hold its final performance at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Long Island, New York. My parents took me and my sister every year to see the circus at the Cow Palace. I can still smell it. 

Friday, May 19, 2017

French Railroad Guns Look Formidable -- May 19, 2017

Railway Age, 14-Jnaury-1918

A railroad gun is a large piece of artillery that is mounted on a rail car for transportation and often for firing.  They were common during World War One, but are no longer used because they are too inflexible and vulnerable to air attack. 

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

1897 New York Giants -- May 17, 2017

1897 Spalding Baseball Guide
The 1897 New York Giants finished in third place in the National League, with a record of 83 and 48.  Their manager was Bill Joyce.  I don't see pitcher Amos Rusie in this photo. 

Monday, May 15, 2017

1939 Packard Model 120 Darrin Convertible Victoria -- May 15, 2017

We visited the Blackhawk Museum in June, 2013 to drool over their collection of classic autos.  Dutch Darrin designed the Convertible Victoria for actor Preston Foster. Foster had the front end updated in 1941. (051/dsc_0132-133)

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Mother's Day, 2017 -- May 14, 2017

I'm grateful for my mother and my wife and my mother-in-law and sisters-in-law. All excellent mothers.

I took the photo at Good Shepherd School in Pacifica on 05-October-2008, during the school's 40th anniversary celebration.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Our Lady of Fatima 100 Years -- May 13, 2017

Attributed to Joshua Benoliel - in Ilustração Portuguesa no. 610, 29 October 1917, Public Domain,

100 years ago today, on 13-May-1917, three children tending sheep near the Portuguese village of Fatima saw a woman in white who asked them to pray the rosary and ask for an end to the war. Lúcia Santos and her cousins, Jacinta and Francisco Marto, saw the lady on other occasions and came to believe that she was Mary the Mother of God.

As is always the case with apparitions, there was controversy.  The government of Portugal had a strong anticlerical element. 

On 13-July-1917, the lady gave three secrets to the children.  I remember when the third secret was released in 2000.  Some people claimed that the Vatican did not release the full text.

Jacinta and Francisco died in the influenza epidemic.  Lúcia became a nun.  I remember when she died in 2005.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Shadow Comics -- May 11, 2017

The August, 1944 issue of Shadow Comics features "The Shadow Brings Terror to Tokio."  It took a while to standardize American spellings of Japanese names.  

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Doc Savage -- May 9, 2017
Doc Savage was a pulp character who debuted in 1933.  Doctor Clark Savage, Jr was a many of many talents, mental and physical.  He gathered a team of aides including Monk, Ham, Johnny, Renny and Long Tom.  Each had his own unique talents.  His cousin Patricia turned up in many stories.  Doc and his team had many adventures fighting evil around the world.  Lester Dent created the characters and wrote many of the novels.

I first got to know Doc Savage from reprints that Bantam Books did in the 1970s.  I often spent what little money I had at Canterbury Corner on Geary or Green Apple Books on Clement buying copies.

George Pal produced a bad movie in 1975.  I saw a still in Famous Monsters of Filmland and immediately knew that they had done a poor job with Doc's aides.  I went to see it anyway. 

DC did some comic books in the 1980s.

I never heard the NPR recreation of the radio show. 

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Tramp Steamers F. S. Ciampa and Cycle -- May 7, 2017

San Francisco Call, 22-September-1901
The drawing is from the 22-September-1901 San Francisco Call. William A Coulter did many maritime drawings for the newspaper. 

Talcahuano is a port in Chile.   Hyōgo Prefecture is in Japan. Kobe is the capital.

F. S. Ciampa, Flying Italian Flag, Drops Anchor in Port.

Among the fleet that made port yesterday were the Italian steamship F. S. Ciampa and the British steamship Cycle. Both were under charter to load wheat, but the Ciampa was twelve hours behind her canceling date, and now the charterer does not want to pay as high a rate. The matter will probably be amicably adjusted on Monday.

The Ciampa was 25 days coming from Talcahuano, while the Cycle was 24 days coming from Hiogo. The former is 4040 tons gross and 2634 tons net burden. She was built in Genoa, Italy, in 1899, by N. Odero and Co., and is 340 feet 5 inches long, 45 feet beam and 19 feet 8 inches deep. Captain Cafaiero, who commands her, has scores of friends in this port, as he traded here for years in the ship Francesco Ciampa.

The Cycle is 3411 tons gross and 2227 tons net burden. She was built in Sunderland. England, in 1900, by J. L. Thompson & Sons, Ltd., and is 331 feet 2 inches long, 49 feet beam and 24 feet 5 inches deep. Each steamship will take away about 5000 tons of grain.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Corregidor Surrenders 75 Years -- May 6, 2017

Seventy-five years ago today, on 06-May-1942, US Army Fort Mills, on the island of Corregidor in Manila Bay, after being under siege since 29-December-1941, General Jonathan Wainright decided that it was time to surrender to prevent a massacre by the invading Japanese soldiers.  Wainright sent a signal to President Franklin D Roosevelt: "There is a limit of human endurance, and that point has long been passed."  The stout defense put up by members of the Marine Corps, the Philippine Scouts, the Navy and the Army threw off the timetable the Japanese had planned to follow in conquering the Pacific. 

Friday, May 5, 2017

Happy Cinco de Mayo, 2017 -- May 5, 2017

Happy Cinco de Mayo everyone. General Ignacio Zaragoza Seguín led the Mexican army which defeated the French invaders at the Battle of Puebla in 1862. "The national arms have been covered with glory" General Zaragoza wrote in a letter to President Benito Juárez. Some people credit this defeat with preventing French interference in the US Civil War.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Ormer Locklear, Premier Acrobat of the Air -- May 3, 2017

Aircraft Journal, 07-June-1919

After serving in the US Army Air Service during World War I, Ormer Locklear became a barnstormer who specialized in wing walking. He and his partner Milton (Skeets) Elliot toured the country thrilling audiences. The Great Air Robbery was Locklear's first starring movie role. While shooting his second starring movie, The Skywayman (great title), pilot Elliot was blinded by spotlights during a night dive and both men were killed. The producers left the scene in the movie.  

Josephus Daniels was the Secretary of the Navy. Harry Hawker, who had been chief test pilot for Sopwith, tried to fly non-stop across the Atlantic on 18-May-1919.  His plane crashed in the ocean and Hawker and his navigator had to be rescued.  Hawker criticized the first transatlantic flight, made in May, 1919 by a group of US Navy flying boats.  It was not a non-stop flight and it was not intended to be one. 

Ormer Locklear, Premier Acrobat of the Air

Thrilling Feats Performed by Him and Others Before the Memorial Day Spectators at Sheepshead Bay

Lieut. Ormer Locklear trifled with death standing erect on the upper wing of a speeding airplane and later jumped from one plane to another, May 30, at Sheepshead Bay Speedway.

Lieutenant Locklear’s feats were the most sensational in the view of most of the crowd, but the aerial antics of Lieuts. Shirley Short and Milton Elliott, his pilots, and of Jean Momenjoz, caused the worst shudders to army and navy aviators in the crowd. Lieutenant Elliott, especially, took a long chance on his skill with the stick, when, starting at a thousand feet he come downward, his machine rolling around, upside down, with wings vertical, tail downward, and every which way, seemingly absolutely out of control, but actually under the most rigid guidance. He finished less than 200 feet from the ground with an Immelman turn and a few other rotations which seemed like certain death.

Locklear’s Daring Feat

Lieutenant Locklear’s most daring trick came at the end of the program. Curtiss plane No. 7, with Lieutenant Elliott at the stick, on whose eye and arm Locklear usually depends most for his safety, went out of commission just before the aerial derby, so he went up in the plane of Lieut. H. B. Shields. Higher and higher the plane mounted, followed by another Curtiss plane piloted by Lieutenant Short.

Finally at probably a thousand feet Lieutenant Short dropped over the side a flimsy looking rope ladder, which was sent whirling backward by the force of the speed of the plane. Then the risky work began, the business of getting the two speeding planes sufficiently near and yet not near enough for the collision which would mean death for three men. To add to their difficulty the two pilots, their planes making better than 60 miles an hour, must get together at just the right time so that the public, sitting comfortably in the stands, could see the whole thing at as close range as possible.

Black against the blue sky the figure of Lieutenant Locklear suddenly appeared in the upper wing of Shields’ plane. He stood erect, his body inclined against the rush of air which would throw an average man to his face on the ground, his arms stretched outward and his head up, with eyes fixed on the swaying ladder dangling from the plane above. Slowly, almost imperceptibly the machines drifted together, while Locklear somehow retained his footing on the smooth, curving surface of the plane.

Has No Imitators

Then the ladder swung for an instant within reach. Locklear grasped at it, and as he did so the plane below dived downward and the one above loomed upward with his body swinging below the ladder. He had successfully accomplished once more the feat in which he has as yet no imitators.

Lieutenant Locklear had begun his exhibition in or rather on Lieutenant Elliott’s plane at a much lower altitude, walking out on the lower wing and thrusting one arm and leg outward into space, standing erect on the upper wing, sliding down to the tail and crawling up again and dangling by his knees from the axle of the plane with head downward.

The Aerial Derby

Four men started in the aerial derby, an alleged race of 20 miles in which the pilots, Domonjoz and Lieutenants Shields, Short and Micelli, rested themselves and their spectators by some straight flying. Little Domonjoz and his Bleriot, which, it is said, is a 1913 model, were left far behind by the other pilots. To soothe his feeling Domonjoz left the race flat and went further aloft to comfort himself and soothe his machine by a little more upside down flying. He refused to come down until long after the race was over and Locklear was about to perform his most dangerous trick.

The other pilots buzzed around the 2-mile track and over the stand about ten times, and then speeded up for the finish, making real speed for a few moments. Lieutenant Shields was officially first, with Lieutenants Short and Micelli following. The time was 16 minutes 45 seconds.


Resents Hawker’s Slur

Ormer Locklear, airplane acrobat, has wired to Secretary Daniels as follows:

“Like all red-blooded Americans, I resent the slur cast by Mr. Hawker on the great flight across the Atlantic by our naval fliers. To prove that Britain has no corner on courage among fliers I deeply desire to make an attempt to fly to Europe under conditions identical with those surrounding the Hawker attempt. I wish no convoys nor assistance from the government, except to be supplied with an able navigator. I am sure there are many men in your service who gladly will volunteer to make the trip with me. I am asking the American airplane and motor builders to join me in the attempt.

“I propose to defray all my personal expenses, pledge the London Daily Mail prize, if won, to the Red Cross, and agree not to accept one penny from any source as a reward.”

Locklear purposes to start within thirty days without any long drawn out preliminaries.

Monday, May 1, 2017

May Day, 2017 -- May 1, 2017

Today is International Workers' Day. Business owners did not give us the 40 hour week.  Workers had to fight for it.