In the early 20th Century British nicknames were much more common than is the case today, and to have a certain family name automatically gave the owner a specific nickname. A few examples are: White = Chalkie; Miller = Dusty; Jones = Taffy; Wilson = Tug. My own family nickname = Juicy; how and why I never learned. But even today, in my hometown, of Wellingborough, Northamptonshire, England, people still remind me of this.
Accordingly, it was inevitable that many notable individuals, or groups. would be given nick-names by which everyone knew them. Not least the different nationalities.
Nicknames of servicemen by nationality.
Some of the nicknames were given by other nationalities and some, far fewer, were given by the troops to themselves. In a few instances the nickname was used by both sides. The annotations below should clarify this trichotomy.
- ANZACs: Australians and New Zealanders (from A. and NZ. Army Corps).
- Americans: Yanks. For themselves = Doughboys. French version = Sammy. German version = Teufelshunde (Devil dogs, for US Marines)
- Australians: Aussie, Digger. For themselves = Billjim, Dinkum (for Australian Gallipoli veteran), Tazzie (from Tazmania), Westralian (from Western Australia).
- British: Tommy, (also used by the Germans), Tommy Atkins, Fred Karno's Army, Old Contemptibles. Also Jock = Scotsman, Mick = Irishman. Australian version = Kitch = (Kitchener's Volunteer Army).
- Canadians: Canuck.
- Egyptians: Gyppo.
- French: Frenchie, Frog. For themselves = Bon hommes (gentlemen) and Poilus (bearded ones).
- Germans: Alleyman, Boche, Hun, Jerry, Kraut (from Sauerkraut), and Square head (after the shape of the STAHLHELM M1916 steel helmet). American version = Heine. For themselves = Frontschwein (Front-line pigs)
- Italians: Macaroni, Itie.
- New Zealanders: Digger, Kiwi, Fern-leaf (after the NZ cap-badge), Enzedder.
- Ottomans/Turks: Abdul, Jacko, Johnny Turk.
- Pathans: Forty Thieves. (Indian troops from the North West Frontier Province, now Pakistan).
- Portuguese: Antonio, Geese, Pork and beans, Pork and cheese.
- Russians: Russkie.
- South Africans: Afrikaaner, Boer.
Nicknames of prominent Great War personalities.
Of the major personalities in the Great War, it was mainly the senior commissioned officers whose nicknames became to be generally known. John Bourne (Centre for First World War Studies, Birmingham University. UK.) lists 1253 British Generals who served of which 127 had nicknames; several with the same nickname e.g. Dad or Daddy. However, a few politicians were given what were thought to be appropriate nicknames as were renowned servicemen of lower rank. As some individuals received promotion/elevation after the end of the Great War, the positions given here are those pertaining to those of the duration of the Great War.
The decorations listed are Military for gallantry e.g. VC. Civil Awards, e.g. are not given although, amazingly, some have precedence over some of the gallantry awards, with the sole exception of the VC which is paramount.
- ALLENBY, Edmund Henry Hynman. 'The Bull'.
GOC Cavalry Division/Cavalry Corps/V Corps/Third Army, British Expeditionary Force.
GOC and C-in-C, Egyptian Expeditionary Force.
- BIRDWOOD, William Riddell. 'Birdy' and 'Bill'.
GOC ANZAC/Australian Imperial Force, Mediterranean Expeditionary Force.
GOC Australian Imperial Force/Fifth Army, British Expeditionary Force.
- BISHOP, VC, DSO+Bar, MC, DFC. William Avery. 'Billy'.
Lieutenant, 9th Mississauga Horse Regiment/7th Canadian Rifles, Canada.
Lieutenant, 7th Canadian Rifles, Canadian Expeditionary Force.
Lieutenant Observer, 21 Squadron, Royal Flying Corps/Flying Officer, 37 Home Defence Squadron, Royal Flying Corps, UK.
Flying Officer, 60 Squadron, Royal Flying Corps, Western Front.
Captain, British War Mission to Washington, USA.
CO 85 Squadron, Royal Flying Corps, Western Front.
Advisor, Canadian Flying Corps, UK.
CO Canadian Airforce Section of the General Staff, HQ Overseas Military Forces of Canada, UK.
Canadian top scoring air-ace with 72 officially confirmed victories (disputed). [See Mannock].
- BROWN, DFC+Bar. Arthur Royal. 'Roy'.
Acting Flight Lieutenant, Royal Naval Air Service, Ottawa.
Flight Lieutenant, 9 Squadron Royal Naval Air Service, UK.
Flight Lieutenant 4, 9,11 Squadron Royal Naval Air Service/ Flight Commander, 9 Squadron Royal Naval Air Service/ Flight Commander 209 Squadron Royal Air Force, Western Front on 21 April 1918.
Brown claimed Rittmiester Manfred von Richthofen as his 10thvictim (total =11 victories). Recent research finds that Richthofen probably was killed by Australian ground-fire, but any BEF infantryman/machine gunner who was in range could have fired the fatal round.
- BYNG, Julian Headworth George. 'Bungo'.
GOC Third Cavalry Division/Cavalry Corps/Canadian Corps/Third Army, British Expeditionary Force.
- CHARTERIS, John. 'The Principal Boy'.
Chief Intelligence Officer, GHQ, British Expeditionary Force.
- CHAUVEL, Henry George. 'Light Horse Harry'.
GOC Australian Division, Mediterranean Expeditionary Force (Gallipoli).
ANZAC Mounted Division/Desert Column/ Desert Mounted Corps, Egyptian Expeditionary Force.
- CHURCHILL, Winston Leonard Spencer. Winnie'.
First Lord of the Admiralty.
CO Royal Scots Fusiliers, British Expeditionary Force.
British Minister for Munitions.
- CLAYTON, MC, Thomas Bayard, 'Tubby'.
Chaplain, British 6th Infantry Division, British Expeditionary Force. Founder of 'Toc H' and 'Talbot House'.
- CLEMENCEAU, Georges. 'Tiger'.
Newspaper Owner/Prime Minister of France.
- CONGREVE, VC, Walter Norris. 'Squibs'.
GOC XIII Corps/VII Corps, British Expeditionary Force. [Only Corps commander to be wounded on the Western Front. His son Billy also won a VC on the Somme in 1916; one of only three father/son combinations].
- GOUGH, Hubert de la Poer. 'Goughie'.
GOC Fifth Army, British Expeditionary Force.
- HAIG, Douglas. 'DH.' and 'Butcher'.
GOC 1st Corps/First Army/ C-in-C British Expeditionary Force.
- HALL, William Reginald, 'Blinker'.
Naval Captain, HMS Queen Mary. Director of Naval Intelligence, Admiralty UK.
Created the Admiralty Room 40 intelligence apparatus.
- HARPER, George Montague. 'Uncle'.
GOC 51st (Highland) Division/ IV Corps, British Expeditionary Force.
- HUNTER- WESTON, Sir Aylmer Gould. 'Hunter-Bunter'.
GOC 29th Division/VIII Corps Mediterranean Expeditionary Force (Galliopli). GOC VIII Corps, British Expeditionary Force.
- KIRKPATRICK, (real surname = SIMPSON) John Simpson. 'The Man with the Donkey'.
Private, 3rd Field Ambulance, Australian Army Medical Services, 1st Australian Division, Mediterranean Expeditionary Force (Gallipoli).
Killed in action on 19th May 1915 by machine gunfire in Monash Valley near Anzac Cove, Gallipoli.
Kirkpatrick has five memorials in Australia, one in England and one in Gallipoli. His image appeared on the Australia 5p stamp and the Millennium Year ANZAC badge.
- KEMAL, Mustapha. 'Ataturk'. [Kemal = Perfectionist].
CO 19th Turkish Division, Gallipoli. [Victor critical battle of Chunuk Bair that halted the Allied advance].
Corps Commander, Turkish Army Caucasian Front.
C-in-C 7th Turkish Army, Palestine Front.
C-in-C Turkish Armies in the North.
- LLOYD GEORGE, David. 'The Goat' and 'The Man Who Won the War'.
British Chancellor of the Exchequer/British Minister of Munitions/British Secretary of State for War/British Prime Minister.
- MANNOCK, VC, DSO+2 bars, MC+1 bar, Edward Corringham. 'Mick'.
Private cum Sergeant Major, Royal Army Medical Corps/Second Lieutenant Royal Engineers (Signals) British Expeditionary Force.
Flying Officer and Flight Commander 40th Squadron Royal Flying Corps/
Flight Commander 74 and 83 Squadrons, Royal Air Force. Western Front.
Killed in action 26th July 1918. British top scoring air ace officially accredited with 73 victories (Disputed: 61 victories are the modern consensus).
- MAXWELL, VC, Francis Aylmer. 'The Brat'.
CO 12th Battalion Middlesex Regiment/GOC 27th Brigade, British Expeditionary Force.
Killed in action by sniper in the Ypres Salient on 21st September 1917.
- MURRAY, Archibald James. 'Old Archie'.
COS British Expeditionary Force.
Deputy Chief/Chief British Imperial General Staff.
GOC and C-in-C Aldershot Garrison, England.
- NORTON- GRIFFITHS, John. 'Empire Jack'.
Liaison Officer, Royal Engineers Specialist (Mine) Tunnelling Companies, British Expeditionary Force.
Advisor to HM Government on destruction of Roumanian oil fields.
- NORWEST, MM+Bar, Henry. 'Ducky'.
Lance Corporal/Sniper, Albert Regiment, 50th Battalion Canadian Infantry, British Expeditionary Force.
Killed in action 18th August 1918 with British record of 115 confirmed sniper kills.
- PLUMER, Herbert Onslow. 'Daddy', 'Drip' and 'Plum'.
GOC V Corps/Second Army, British Expeditionary Force.
Advisor to the Italian Army on Italian Front.
- RAWLINSON, Sir Henry Seymour. 'Rawly', 'The Cad' and 'The Fox'.
C-in-C IV Corps/Fourth Army/Fifth Army, British Expeditionary Force.
- RICHTHOFEN, Pour le Mérite, Manfred Freiherr von. 'The Red Baron' and 'Red Knight'; 'Petit rouge' = (Little Red) and 'Le Diable Rouge' = (The Red Devil); 'Der Rote Kampfflieger' = (Red Battle-Flier) and 'Der Rote Baron' (Red Baron), 'Ace of Aces'.
German Cavalry Lieutenant (Ulanen Reg. 'Kaiser Alexander III' von Russland), Eastern Front/Western Front.
Lieutenant Observer, Feldflieger-Abteilung 68, German Army Air Service, Eastern Front.
Trainee Pilot, Feltflieger-Abtelung 22, German Army Air Service, Western Front.
Lieutenant Pilot, Kasta 8, Kagohl 2, German Army Air Service, Western Front and Eastern Front.
Lieutenant Pilot, Jagdstaffel 2:Boelcke, German Army Air Service/ CO Jagdstaffel 11:Richthofen/Commandant Jagdesschwader 1, Western Front.
Killed in action 21st April 1918. With 80 confirmed victories, von Richthofen was the highest scoring air ace of the Great War.
- ROBERTSON, William Robert. 'Wully'.
Quartermaster, General British Expeditionary Force.
Chief of General Staff/Chief of Imperial General Staff.
- SHUTE, Cameron Deane.'Tiger'.
GOC 63rd (Royal Naval) Division/32nd Division/V Corps, British Expeditionary Corps.
Became notorious and derided due to a ditty about him written by a disgruntled officer of his own Royal Navy Division.
- SMITH-DORRIEN, Horace. 'S.D.'
GOC II Corps, British Expeditionary Force.
- SMYTHE VC, Nevil Maskelyne. 'The Sphinx'.
GOC 1st (Australian) Brigade, Mediterranean Expeditionary Force, (Gallipoli). GOC 2nd (Australian) Division, British Expeditionary Force.
- SOPWITH, Thomas Octave Murdoch. 'Tommy'.
Highly successful aircraft designer and manufacturer, e.g. One-and-a-Half Strutter, Pup, Tri-plane, Salamander, Snipe and, the most famous, Camel. Total Great War production exceeded 16,000 Sopwith aircraft.
- TRENCHARD, Hugh Montague. 'Boom'.
Wing Commander, First Flying Wing/GOC Royal Flying Corps.
Chief, Air Staff, Royal Air Force.
- WILHELM II, 'Kaiser Bill'.
King of Prussia and Emperor of Germany.
- WILSON, Woodrow. 'Schoolmaster of Politics', 'Coiner of Weasel Words. and 'The Phrase maker'.
28th President, United States of America.
- WILSON, Henry Hughes. 'The Intriguer'.
Director, Military Operations/ Liaison Officer with French Army HQ/ GOC IV Corps, British Expeditionary Force.
GOC Eastern Command, England cum Military Adviser to British Prime Minister.