Glossary of some unfamiliar terms and expressions
(in alphabetical order)

(Composed by T. Powell, mainly for use by those who have not had the pleasure

 of serving in H.M. Armed Forces but perhaps worth reading by all and sundry.)


Ammo boots – Ammunition boots (for throwing at the enemy when the bullets run out?). Ankle-length boots with hard toes and made from leather covered in little bumps. To rid the boots of the bumps, see ‘Boned 

APC –  Significance unclear, perhaps  All-Purpose Cure (One type of medicine is good for all ailments). It seems a reasonable guess. 

A/T – Apprentice Tradesman (considered the lowest form of life in the Army). 

Bed-pack – Bedding had to be stripped off every day and made up into a bed-pack. Three blankets and two sheets would be folded into equal sizes of about 20 inches by 15 and made into a pile like a club sandwich, a blanket, a sheet, a blanket, a sheet and a blanket. Another blanket was then wrapped around the top, bottom and two sides and the pack ‘squared up’ using pieces of hidden hardboard or cardboard. 

Bint – Arabic word for ‘girl’ adopted into Army English. 

Blanco – Khaki green or white chalk material, used on a damp sponge to ‘clean’ webbing material (packs, straps, belts, gaiters etc.) by caking coloured chalk on. 

Bob – A shilling (5p of today). Five-bob, ten-bob,  

Bogs - Toilets 

Boned – Boning is the art of removing the little bumps on the leather of the ‘ammo boots’ to make the leather very smooth and shiny. (We all wondered why the boots were made bumpy instead of smooth in the first place). Boot polish is ‘boned’ onto the surface of the leather using a hard instrument (originally a piece of bone) such as the handle of your UTES or a toothbrush. This operation was then followed by spit and polish (bulling), where a small amount of polish was put onto a duster wrapped tightly around a finger accompanied by a small amount of spit (water doesn’t do the job nearly so well) and then rubbed in small circles until it forms a mirror-like polished surface. You then have to try to remove the ‘bulling rings’ that form by this action by polishing hard with the duster which in turn would create small scratches on the surface, to be removed by spit and polish which then had to be followed by ……..

This was the Army’s definition of perpetual motion. 

BRASS – High-ranking officers. 

Bulling – General term for cleaning and polishing zealously. 

Bullshit – False, deceit.

Bumped – A ‘bumper’ was a heavy piece of metal, around which would be tied a duster, attached to a broom handle and used to polish the hardwood centre strip of the dormitory floor. The strip would be ‘bumped’ throughout the night by A/Ts taking it in turns (about 20 to 25 minutes each) to ensure it was ready for inspection the morning after.

Civvies – Civilians or Civilian clothes.

CO – Commanding Officer

Collar dogs – The small badges attached to the high collar of the SD jacket denoting the regiment to which one belonged. A/Ts were part of the General Service Corps.

Cushier – Easier, more comfortable.

Denim rings – The working dress consisted of denim jacket and trousers. The jacket had removable buttons for laundry purposes and they had to be fitted on with split rings like those used for attaching keys. Split rings = split nails.

Drawers Dracular – Real name Drawers Cellular, jungle-green cotton underpants with draw strings, designed to castrate unwary A/Ts, so reducing the need for putting bromide in the tea. The most diabolical underwear ever designed. Indescribable. And why cellular?

Eleven fifty seven – The Army form used for kit issues.

Flog (off) - Sell

Gypped – Cheated, pushed in front of in the queue.

Halfcrown – A silver coin worth two shillings and sixpence (12½ p of today).

Hildebrand – Name of barracks on the other side of Pennypot Lane from Uniacke barracks. The church, sick quarters, YMCA and many playing fields were there.

Holdall – A waterproofed fabric bag for holding soap, toothbrush, comb, razor, etc.

Housewife – no, the Army didn’t give us a real housewife, our surrogate one was simply a small fabric bag containing needles, thread, buttons and a thimble.

HQ Company – Headquarters Company to which the apprentices of the new intake were assigned for six months before moving to their trade Company (A, B, C or (from 1955) D).

Jabs – Medical injections such as antitetanus.

Jankers – Punishment consisting of having to report to the Guardhouse at certain times during the day to be given fatigue work such as cleaning the greasy pans in the mess (or cookhouse). Cleaning the mess in the mess!

Lance-jack – Lance corporal

M&D – Medication and Duties (Aspirin and Work, the sure cure for all A/T ills)

Manky – Of poor quality.

MO – Medical Officer

MRS – Medical Reception Centre, in other words the doctor’s surgery and medication centre.

NAAFINavy, Army Air Force Institute, a combined shop, canteen & indoor games saloon providing material comfort to hard-worked and impoverished A/Ts.

Orderly Dog – Orderly Sergeant to oversee activities in the Company. He was present in the cookhouse during mealtimes, made sure lights were out in the dormitories on time (10 pm) and carried out Reveille (6.30 am). Most Permanent Staff (Regular Army) Sergeants carried out the duty for 24 hours on a rotation basis.

Pegged – To be put on Company Orders charged with some offence. The Army’s trial without jury.

Pennypot – The name of the rural road to the west of Harrogate where Uniacke and Hildebrand Barracks were situated.

Pics (Pictures, flicks) – The cinema

Poncho – The Army poncho, a rectangular piece of waterproofed fabric with a small curved cutout so you know where to fit your neck. It serves as a raincoat (to be worn  when ordered to water the regimental flowerbeds when it’s pouring down with rain) and as a groundsheet (to prevent the rain, which is leaking through your tent roof, from soaking into the ground).

Red sick report – If the MO thought the A/T was feigning illness (malingering) he would issue a ‘red’ sick report and the A/T would be ‘pegged’.

RP – Regimental Policeman

RQ – RQMS Regimental Quartermaster Sergeant and his ‘store’ where kit is kept.

RSM – Regimental Sergeant Major, the senior non-commissioned officer rank in the British Army and responsible for order and discipline in the unit. Second only (sometimes) to God.

Sally Ann – (Also known as the Sally Bash) Salvation Army canteen run by volunteers, usually kind elderly ladies who’s motto might have been “slow to serve but quick to bless”.

SD – Service Dress, the A/T’s uniform in which the jacket buttoned right up to the high neck (like in World War I) as opposed to the W.W.II style Battle Dress.

‘shun – Abbreviation of the command ‘Attention’ (in which the A/T was exhorted to ‘Bring your foot up underneath yer KNEE, NOT underneath yer BOTTOM!’ before slamming it down next to his other foot).  See ‘Stan the Man’ below.

Squeegee – Rubber-edged implement fitted with a broom handle for squeezing the water off a smooth surface such as a tiled or concrete floor.

Stag – A roaming guard patrol. Also the on-duty periods, as opposed to the off-duty periods, of a 24-hour-long fire-picquet.

Stan the Man – RSM Stanley Lonsborough of the Coldstream Guards, overall responsible for discipline and drill. He ruled the roost and even officers would avoid him like the plague. Thought of with affection (NOW, 50 YEARS later!)  His daughter, Anita, whom we knew as a young teenager, won a gold swimming medal for Great Britain at the 1960 Olympics in Rome. She was ordered to and so had no choice.

Stash – Hoard or pile (of money and valuables)

Tara – From T’RSM, the Yorkshire version of ‘The RSM’. See Stan the Man

Uniacke – The barracks housing the Army Apprentices School, Harrogate.

UTES – Short for ‘utensils’, in other words, knife, fork and spoon.

Yellow Jack (or Yellow duster)– Yellow flag flown on the ship’s mast to indicate “Yellow Fever” or similar infectious disease aboard.

YMCA – Young Men’s Christian Association canteen offering similar services to the NAAFI but possibly slightly cheaper.

Zebo – A black greasy fluid used for ‘cleaning’ cast-iron grates, stoves, etc. A/Ts used it mainly for blacking the wooden dormitory floors. It was then polished using shoe brushes until it acquired a dullish gleam. The makers guaranteed that it would stay on your hands for longer than it lasted on the floor!

With thanks to  Trevor "Bill" Powell for this contribution