Definitions of words and phrases used in this website
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(Most of the definitions given in this glossary have been taken from Wikipedia, the Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary and - please visit these websites for more information and for the copyright policies of the individual sites).

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A washing or cleansing, especially of the body.

ack-ack An anti-aircraft gun, or anti-aircraft fire. (British telephone code for AA, abbreviation for ANTI-AIRCRAFT.)
Admiral Scheer

The Admiral Scheer was a pocket battleship, was built in 1933 and named after Admiral Reinhard Scheer. Its designation as a "Pocket" battleship was by the British in 1939. In German it is called a Panzerschiff (Armoured Ship) or a Deutschland class battleship.

Of the Kriegsmarine's Capital Ships, the Admiral Scheer, under Captain Theodor Krancke, was by far the most successful commerce raider of WWII. Her longest raid took her as far as the Indian Ocean. Bombed by the RAF while docked in Kiel in 1945 she capsized and sank. After the war her upturned hulk was partially scrapped, with what remained being buried under rubble as the dock was filled in to make a car park.

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A-frame A simple structure shaped like an A, with two of its four beams sloping inward and meeting at the top to act as a weight-bearing device.
aft The rear of a ship, as opposed to 'forward', to the front.
Airbourne The British 1st Airborne Division was a military unit that fought in World War II. It suffered terrible casualties, especially in Operation Market Garden.
aircraft carrier A large ship that carries military aircraft and has a long, flat surface where they take off and land. (see Ark Royal)
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Allies (the) The countries, including the US, the UK, the USSR and France, that fought against the Axis in World War Two.
amphibious Vehicle which can act as either land or water-based.
anti-Semitic Discriminatory against or hostility towards or prejudice against Jews.
Anti-sub boom The anti-submarine boom net was an anti-torpedo and submarine defence net.
Ark Royal HMS Ark Royal (pennant number 91) was an aircraft carrier of the British Royal Navy that served in World War II. Designed in 1934 Ark Royal was built by Cammell Laird and Company, Ltd. at Birkenhead, England, and completed in November 1938. Her design differed from previous aircraft carriers. Ark Royal was the first ship on which the hangars and flight deck were an integral part of the hull, instead of an add-on or part of the superstructure. Designed to carry a large number of aircraft, she had two hangar deck levels. She served during a period that first saw the extensive use of naval air power; a number of carrier tactics were developed and refined aboard Ark Royal. Ark Royal served in some of the active naval theatres of the Second World War. She was involved in the first aerial and U-boat kills of the war, operations off Norway, the search for the German battleship Bismarck, and the Malta Convoys. Ark Royal survived several near misses and gained a reputation as a 'lucky ship'. The Germans incorrectly reported her as sunk on multiple occasions.

She was torpedoed on 13 November, 1941 by the German submarine U-81 and sank the following day. Her sinking was the subject of several inquiries; investigators were keen to know how the carrier was lost, given there were efforts to save the ship and tow her to the naval base at Gibraltar. They found that several design flaws contributed to the loss, which were rectified in new British carriers. Her wreck was discovered by a BBC crew in December 2002, approximately 30 nautical miles (56 km) from Gibraltar.


Arnhem is the capital of the Province of Gelderland; Oosterbeek is a village suburb about four miles from the city centre. It was in this area that the British 1st Airborne Division landed in September 1944 in their vain attempt to capture and hold the bridge over the Lower Rhine at Arnhem. The division made a stand within a gradually shrinking perimeter at Oosterbeek, holding out until all hope of relief by troops advancing from the south was abandoned and their supplies and ammunition ran out.

Many of those who died were buried on the south side of Oosterbeek, in what was to become the cemetery when large numbers of others were brought in from temporary graves. The cemetery is the scene of an annual ceremony organized by the local people. It is also often visited by Poles, as a number of their countrymen are buried here.

The cemetery contains over 1,600 British burials, over 30 Canadian, four each from Australia and New Zealand and 80 from Poland. There is an excellent museum nearby concerned with the fighting at Arnhem; it is owned and organized by the local authorities.

arrester wires Wires straddling the deck of an aircraft carrier used to snag a hook on the tail of a landing plane, to stop it suddenly.

The French town lies along the stretch of coastline designated as GOLD Beach during the D-Day landings, one of the beaches used by British troops in the allied invasion. Arromanches was selected as one of the sites for two Mulberry Harbours built on the Normandy coast, the other one built further West at UTAH Beach.

Sections of the Mulberry Harbour at Arromanches still remain today with huge concrete blocks sitting on the sand, and more can be seen further out at sea. Today Arromanches is mainly a tourist town. Situated in a good location for visiting all of the battle sites and War Cemeteries, there is also a museum at Arromanches with information about Operation Overlord and in particular, the Mulberry harbours.

Armoured Division

The development of the tank near the end of World War I prompted some nations to experiment with forming them into division-size units. Many did this the same way as they did cavalry, by merely replacing infantry with tank units and giving motorization to the support units. This proved unwieldy in combat, as the units had many tanks but little infantry.

Instead, a more balanced approach of balancing the number of tank, infantry, and artillery units within the division took place. By the end of World War II, in most cases armoured division referred to divisions with significant tank battalions and motorization for its infantry, artillery, and support units. Infantry division referred to divisions with a majority of infantry units.

Artificers A skilled worker; a craftsperson. One that contrives, devises, or constructs something.
artillery Large-caliber weapons, such as cannon, howitzers, and missile launchers, that are operated by crews. The branch of an army that specializes in the use of such weapons. Middle English 'artillerie' from Old French, from 'artillier' - 'to equip'
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ASDIC Anti Submarine Detection Investigation Committee, a type of radar.
Atlantic Wall The Atlantic Wall was an extensive system of coastal fortifications built by the German Third Reich during the Second World War along the western coast of Europe (1942-44) in order to defend against an anticipated Anglo-American invasion of the continent from Great Britain.
ATS Auxiliary Territorial Service - the women's branch of the British Army during the Second World War.
Austin The Austin Motor Company was British manufacturer of automobiles that rose to be a major motorcar brand, the dominant partner after merger with Morris in the 50s but declining after absorption into British Leyland.
Axis (the) The countries, including Germany, Italy and Japan, that fought against the Allies in World War Two, as in the Axis powers/nations.
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Baby Anderson The Anderson shelter was designed in 1938 by William Paterson and Oscar Carl (Karl) Kerrison in response to a request from the Home Office. It was named after Sir John Anderson, then Lord Privy Seal with special responsibility for preparing air-raid precautions immediately prior to the outbreak of World War II, and it was he who then initiated the development of the shelter. Anderson shelters were designed to accommodate up to six people. The main principle of protection was based on curved and straight galvanised corrugated steel panels. Six curved panels were bolted together at the top, so forming the main body of the shelter, three straight sheets on either side, and two more straight panels were fixed to each end, one containing the door - a total of fourteen panels. A small drainage sump was often incorporated in the floor to collect rainwater seeping into the shelter.

The shelters were 6 ft (1.8 m) high, 4 ft 6 in (1.4 m) wide, and 6 ft 6 in (2 m) long. They were buried 4 ft (1.2 m) deep in the soil and then covered with a minimum of 15 in (0.4 m) of soil above the roof. The earth banks could be planted with vegetables and flowers, that at times could be quite an appealing sight and in this way would become the subject of competitions of the best-planted shelter among householders in the neighbourhood. The internal fitting out of the shelter was left to the owner and so there were wide variations in comfort.

Anderson shelters were issued free to all householders who earned less than £250 a year, and those with a higher income were charged £7. 150,000 shelters of this type were distributed from February 1939 to the outbreak of war. During the war a further 2.1 million were erected.

Because of the large number made and their robustness, many Anderson shelters still survive. Many were dug up after the war and converted into storage sheds for use in gardens and allotments. They were popular with those who had gardens and it was said they could withstand anything but a direct hit. Due to the wartime shortage of steel, the Anderson eventually stopped being produced.

Bailey Bridge A steel bridge designed to be shipped in parts and assembled rapidly. Named after Sir Donald Bailey (1901-1985), British engineer.
barracks A building or group of buildings where soldiers live.
bashing Parade ground bashing is a term used for soldiers' drill, marching etc.
battalion A large body of soldiers organised to act together, typically consisting of a headquarters and three or more companies, batteries or other subunits of similar size.
batman The personal servant of an officer especially in the British armed forces.
Battle of Britain The crucial aerial battle, fought over southern England, around Kent and Sussex, early in World War II, between the German Luftwaffe, which carried out extensive bombing in Britain, and the victorious defenders, the Royal Air Force.
battery An emplacement for one or more pieces of artillery, a set of guns or other heavy artillery, as on a warship, and an army artillery unit, corresponding to a company in the infantry.
bayonet A blade adapted to fit the muzzle end of a rifle and used as a weapon in close combat.
bedstead The wooden or metal frame of an old-fashioned bed.
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bell-bottoms Trousers that are very wide below the knee favoured by sailors.
beriberi An endemic form of polyneuritis (nerve inflammation), due to an unbalanced diet, with a deficiency of vitamin B1(thiamin).
Bismarck The Bismarck was a German battleship and one of the most famous warships of the Second World War. The lead ship of her class, named after the 19th century German Chancellor Otto von Bismarck, Bismarck displaced more than 50,000 tonnes fully loaded and was the largest warship then commissioned. Bismarck took part in only one operation (lasting 135 hours) during her brief career. She and the heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen left Gotenhafen (Gdynia) on the morning of 19 May 1941 for Operation Rheinübung, during which she was to have attempted to intercept and destroy convoys in transit between North America and the United Kingdom. When Bismarck and Prinz Eugen attempted to break out into the Atlantic, the two ships were discovered by the Royal Navy and brought to battle in the Denmark Strait.

During the short engagement, the British battlecruiser HMS Hood, flagship of the Home Fleet and pride of the Royal Navy, was sunk after several minutes of firing. In response, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill issued the order "Sink the Bismarck!", spurring her relentless pursuit by the Royal Navy. Two days later, with Bismarck almost in reach of safer waters, Fleet Air Arm Swordfish biplanes launched from the carrier HMS Ark Royal torpedoed the ship and jammed her rudder, allowing heavy British units to catch up with her. In the ensuing battle on the morning of 27 May 1941, Bismarck was heavily attacked for almost two hours before sinking. Her destruction was reported on the front pages of newspapers around the world.

boatswain Naval crew member responsible for upkeep on the hull, rigging and sails. Pronounced 'bosun'.
Belisha (Hoare) Conservative Minister of Transport in 1934. Inventor of Belisha Beacons, the black and white poles topped by orange globes used to draw attention to zebra crossings.
billet Accommodation for service people. A private home or guest house providing temporary accommodation for members of the armed forces.
Blacklock We struggled to find any reference of 'blacklocks' as an accidental ingredient of a Cornish pasty, but suspect, to our disgust, that they might have been cockroaches!
Blackout A blackout in time of war, or apprehended war, refers to the practice of collectively minimizing external light, including upward-directed (or reflected) light. This was done in the 20th century to keep the crews of enemy aircraft from being able to navigate to their targets simply by sight. In coastal regions a shore-side blackout of city lights would also help protect ships from being seen and attacked by enemy submarines farther out to sea.

Lights can simply be turned off or light can sometimes be minimized by tarring the windows of large public structures. These benefits against air attack are now largely nullified in the face of a technologically sophisticated enemy. As early as World War II, aircraft were using radio-beam navigation and targets were detected by air to ground radar, e.g. H2X. Today not only are night vision goggles readily available to air crews, but sophisticated satellite-based and inertial navigation systems enable a static target to be found easily by either an aircraft or a guided missile.

During the Battle of the Atlantic in World War II the German U-boats were greatly aided in the "second happy time" with the sinking of unescorted ships in American coastal waters, because the ships were back lit by coastal lights. In any naval war this would still be an advantage which a blackout would help to nullify.
Blighty England, Britain or 'Home' from the Hindi word 'bilayati' which literally means 'foreign, European'.

The Blitz, a popular English contraction of the German word Blitzkrieg, meaning "Lightning War", was the sustained and intensive bombing of the United Kingdom by Nazi Germany during 1940-1941. Although the Blitz took its name from the German Blitzkrieg, it was not an example of "lightning war" but was an early example of strategic bombing.

It was carried out by the Luftwaffe against a range of targets across the UK, particularly concentrating on London. The campaign took place between 7 September 1940 through to 16 May 1941, although German aerial bombardment of UK targets continued until March 1945.

Bocage A type of countryside found in Normandy, characterised by narrow sunken lanes, flanked by earth banks and topped with stout hedges. Difficult terrain to cross yet ideal as defensive cover.
bow The bow is the foremost point of the hull of a ship or boat: the point that is ahead when the vessel is underway. The adjectives fore/forward and aft mean towards the bow and stern, respectively. The bow is generally the sharp end of the hull. It is designed to reduce the resistance of the hull cutting through water and should be tall enough to prevent water from easily washing over the top of the hull.
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Bren gun (and carrier) Light, air-cooled, gas-operated machine gun used by British and commonwealth forces in WWII. The 'carrier' was a tracked vehicle used to transport Bren guns.

The bridge of a ship is an area or room where the ship's navigational controls and other essential equipment related to ship operations are housed and operated. It is so called because it once was a bridge between paddlewheel housings on either side of early steamboats. This new vantage point was deemed so convenient that it was retained after the paddlewheels were superseded.

The bridge is especially useful when the ship is to be brought against a dock as it will usually extend out far enough so that the entire side of the ship may be viewed. The pilot house was initially only a small shelter on an otherwise open bridge, but modern ships will typically extend the pilot house across most or all of the span of the bridge, now the two terms are usually interchangeable.

bridgehead A forward position seized by advancing troops in enemy territory as a foothold for further advance.
'bully' beef A term used in Great Britain for corned beef, particularly canned versions.
buoy A float moored in water to mark a location, act as a tether, warn of danger, or indicate a navigational channel.
Bulolo Allied ship involved in the D-Day landings, June 1944.
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Caen French city, capital of Calvados dept., Northern France, in Normandy, on the Orne River. It is a busy port, canalized (by Napoleon I) directly to the sea. Caen's importance dates from the 11th Century, when it was a favorite residence of William I of England (William the Conqueror). The town, an architectural gem, was largely destroyed in the fighting that raged there during the Normandy campaign of World War II.
canon A Christian priest with special duties in a cathedral.
Cape (of Good Hope, The) The Cape of Good Hope is a headland in South Africa, near Cape Town, traditionally, and incorrectly, regarded as marking the turning point between the Atlantic Ocean and the Indian Ocean. (Technically, the division between the two oceans lies further south-east at Cape Agulhas).
Captain Captain is a rank or title with various meanings. The word came to English via French from the Latin capitaneus ("chief") which is itself derived from the Latin word caput ("head"). The term has different meanings in nautical, army, aviation, police and emergency services circles. This often causes confusion. Captain is the traditional customary title for and form of address given to the person in charge of a vessel at sea regardless of military rank. On most legal documents in the merchant shipping industry, he or she is correctly referred to as the ship's Master. A nautical "Captain" may be a civilian or a naval commissioned officer of any rank. See Master Mariner or skipper (boating). This usage originated in the Royal Navy in the 1300s. At that time, "Captain" referred to the commander of the contingent of soldiers boarded upon a ship. However, the actual sailing and maintenance of the ship was in the hands of the "Master" and (what became) the other warrant officers--using the same terminology as that used on a merchant ship of the period. In military circles, the rank of Captain has two different meanings: Captain, as an army rank, has existed since as early as the Roman Empire, and perhaps even before. Translated as "Head Man", a Captain was most often in charge of a company or column of soldiers. In the Middle Ages, the independent mercenary companies (or condottieri) developed a rank structure that typically had a captain (who commanded the company), a small number of lieutenants, and a larger number of sergeants. This basic structure was later taken over by national armies when they became professionalised during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.
Captain Mainwaring Captain George Mainwaring (pronounced 'Mannering') is a fictional bank manager and Home Guard platoon commander portrayed by Arthur Lowe on the BBC television sitcom Dad's Army, set in the fictional seaside town of Walmington-on-Sea during World War II. He has become widely accepted and regarded as a classic British comic character owing to both the popularity of Dad's Army throughout the years and Lowe's portrayal of him in this show.
carly rafts A form of invertible liferaft.
civil service Those branches of public service that are not legislative, judicial, or military and in which employment is usually based on competitive examination. The entire body of persons employed by the civil branches of a government.
civvy Shortened version of the word 'civilian', meaning outside the armed forces.
cockney A person from East London, who speaks Cockney, the type of speech used in the poorer part.
cockroach Cockroaches are rather large insects. Most species are about the size of a thumbnail, but several species are bigger. Cockroaches have a broad, flattened body and a relatively small head. Cockroaches are among the hardiest insects on the planet. Some species are capable of remaining active for a month without food and are able to survive on limited resources like the glue from the back of postage stamps.[17] Some can go without air for 45 minutes or slow down their heart rate. In one experiment, cockroaches were able to recover from being submerged underwater for half an hour. Pest species of cockroaches adapt readily to a variety of environments, but prefer warm conditions found within buildings.
cold feet Fearfulness or timidity preventing the completion of a course of action.
concentration camp A German/Polish camp where civilians, enemy aliens, political prisoners, and sometimes prisoners of war are detained and confined, typically under harsh conditions.
contraband Goods which are brought into or taken out of the country secretly and illegally.
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convoy A group of ships travelling together with a protective escort or for safety or convenience.
Corsair A swift pirate ship, often operating with official sanction.
Corvette A fast, lightly armed warship, smaller than a destroyer, often armed for antisubmarine operations.
cordite A smokeless explosive powder consisting of nitrocellulose, nitroglycerin, and petrolatum that has been dissolved in acetone, dried, and extruded in cords.
Cornish Pasty A pasty (pronounced like the word 'nasty'), is a filled pastry case, commonly associated with Cornwall, England. It differs from a pie as it is made by placing the filling on a flat pastry shape, usually a circle, and folding it to wrap the filling, crimping the edge to form a seal. The result is a raised semicircular package. The traditional Cornish pasty is filled with beef, sliced potato, turnip and onion, and baked. Because it is sealed it is an ideal food for a packed-lunch.
courting Courtship, traditionally the wooing of a female by a male, includes activities such as dating (dinner and cinema, a picnic, or general "hanging out"), along with other forms of activity, conversing over the phone, writing each other letters, and sending each other flowers, poems, songs, and gifts.
Coxswain A person who usually steers a ship's boat and has charge of its crew, shortened to cox in rowing.
crash gearbox A "crash" gearbox has no syncromesh and so gear changes need to be well-timed and carried out with precision if a nasty grinding of gears is to be avoided. A side-effect of the gearbox design is that at certain speeds a very characteristic "whine" is emitted.
crosscut saw A crosscut saw is a saw that is specially designed for making crosscuts. A crosscut is a cut made horizontally through the trunk of a standing tree, but the term also applies to cutting free lumber. Crosscut saws have teeth that are designed to cut wood at a right angle to the direction of the wood grain. The cutting edge of each tooth is angled back and has a beveled edge. This design allows each tooth to act like a knife edge and slice through the wood, in contrast to a rip saw, which tears along the grain, acting like a miniature chisel. Some crosscut saws use alternating patterns of the cutting teeth along with others, called "rakers", designed to scrape out the cut strips of wood. Cross saws have much smaller teeth than rip saws, which are used to make straight cuts going along with the grain. Some saws, such as Japanese saws, are designed to cut only on the pull stroke. Western saws, on the other hand, are designed and sharpened to also cut on the push stroke.
cruiser One of a class of fast warships of medium tonnage with a long cruising radius and less armor and firepower than a battleship.
curfew A regulation requiring certain or all people to leave the streets or be at home at a prescribed hour.
cutter A ship's boat, powered by a motor or oars and used for transporting stores or passengers. The name is also used for a heavy rowboat carried on large ships.
C.O. Commanding Officer
Company (Coy) A unit of soldiers usually consisting of two or more platoons.
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Dad's Army Dad’s Army is a British sitcom about the Home Guard in the Second World War, written by Jimmy Perry and David Croft and broadcast on BBC television between 1968 and 1977. The series starred several veterans of British film, television and stage, including Arthur Lowe (1915-82), John Le Mesurier (1912-83), Arnold Ridley (also a veteran playwright; 1896–1984), John Laurie (1897–1980) and Clive Dunn (b.1920). Relative youngsters in the regular cast were Ian Lavender (1946–) and James Beck (1929–1973), the latter dying suddenly part way through the programme’s long run despite being one of the youngest cast members. Popular at the time and still repeated, it was voted into fourth place in a 2004 BBC poll for Britain’s Best Sitcom. Previously, in a list of the 100 Greatest British Television Programmes drawn up by the British Film Institute in 2000, voted for by industry professionals, it was placed thirteenth.

The show was set in the fictional seaside town of Walmington-on-Sea, on the South Coast of England. (though the external scenes were mostly filmed in and around Thetford, Norfolk).

Thus, the Home Guard were in the front line in the eventuality of an invasion by the enemy forces across the English Channel, which formed a backdrop to the series. The first series had a loose narrative thread, with Captain Mainwaring’s platoon being formed and equipped—initially with wooden guns and LDV armbands, and later on full army uniforms (the platoon were part of the The Queen’s Own Royal West Kent Regiment). The first episode, 'The Man and the Hour,' began with a scene set in the 'present day' of 1968, in which Mainwaring addressed his old platoon as part of the contemporary 'I’m Backing Britain' campaign. The prologue opening was a condition imposed after initial concerns by Paul Fox, the controller of BBC 1, that it was belittling the efforts of the Home Guard.

After Mainwaring relates how he had backed Britain in 1940, the episode proper began; Dad’s Army is thus told in flashback, although the final episode does not return to the then-present. Later episodes were largely self-contained, albeit referring to previous events and with additional character development. Since the comedy was in many ways dependent for its effectiveness on the platoon’s failure to participate actively in World War II, opposition to their activities had to come from another quarter, and this generally showed itself in the form of Air Raid Precautions Warden Hodges, although sometimes the Verger or Captain Square and the Eastgate platoon. However the group did have some encounters related to the war such as downed German planes, a U-boat crew, parachutes that may have been German, and German mines. The humour ranged from the subtle (especially in the relationship between Mainwaring and his sergeant, Wilson, who also happened to be his deputy at the bank) to the slapstick (the antics of the elderly Jones being a prime example). Jones had several catchphrases, including "Don’t panic!", "They don’t like it up ’em" and "Permission to speak, sir". Mainwaring said "Stupid boy", in reference to Pike, in many episodes.

The first series occasionally included darker humour, reflecting the fact that, especially early in the war, members of the Home Guard were woefully under-equipped and yet still prepared to have a crack at the German army. A poignant moment to this theme occurs in "The Battle of Godfrey's Cottage" episode, during which the platoon believes an invasion to be taking place. Mainwaring and a few volunteers decide to stay in the village to hold off any German advance so information can be relayed back by the rest of the platoon; "Of course, that will be the end of us!", says Mainwaring. "We know sir", replies Frazer, before getting on with the task in hand.

D-Day 6th June 1944, literally 'Day-Day', and used by the military to refer to the initiation day of any operation. Due to the importance of this particular D-Day, the term was adopted to refer specifically to 6th June 1944. Also used is H-Hour, the specific start time (as in H-Hour+8, meaning 8 hours after the start time). French 'J-Jour'.
decorated To confer a medal or other honor on: was decorated for bravery.
de-mobbed To de-mobilise armed forces, to stand them down. The end of military service, discharge.
disembark To get off a passenger vehicle, especially a ship or landing craft on D-Day.
destroyer A small, fast, highly maneuverable warship armed with guns, torpedoes, depth charges, and guided missiles.
dispatch rider A soldier, travelling by motorcycle, assigned to the role of conveyance or the delivery of goods.
Division A division is a large military unit or formation usually consisting of around ten to fifteen thousand soldiers. In most armies a division is composed of several regiments or brigades, and in turn several divisions make up a corps.
dog-fight Air combat between two or more fighter planes as witnessed over England during the Battle of Britain.
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The Vergeltungswaffe 1 Fi 103 / FZG-76 (V-1), known as the Flying bomb, Buzz bomb or Doodlebug, was the first modern guided missile used in wartime and the first cruise missile. Vergeltungswaffe means "reprisal weapon", and FZG is an abbreviation of Flak Ziel Gerät ("anti-aircraft aiming device"), a misleading name.

Called the Buzz bomb because of the characteristic buzzing sound of the engine, it caused considerable fear in targeted areas. People would listen for the missile approaching, but then be relieved when it could be heard overhead as that meant it had actually passed them. If the engine noise cut out, it was time to take cover, as the unpowered missile would go into its terminal dive and explode.

The V-1 was developed by the German Luftwaffe during the Second World War and was used operationally between June 1944 and March 1945. It was used to attack targets in south-eastern England and Belgium, mainly the cities of London and Antwerp. V-1s were launched from "ski-jump" launch sites along the French (Pas-de-Calais) and Dutch coasts until they were over-run by Allied forces. It was later complemented by the more sophisticated V-2 rocket.

drill routine A series of practised, choreographed manoeveures, especially in marching.
dry-dock Large dock in the form of a basin from which the water can be emptied, used for building or repairing a ship below its water line.

From DUKW, a sequence of codes used by General Motors Corporation: D, 1942 (first year of production) + U, utility truck, amphibious + K, front-wheel drive + W, tandem axle. The DUKW, popularly called the DUCK, is a six-wheel-drive amphibious truck developed by the United States during World War 2 for transporting goods and troops over land and water and for use approaching and crossing beaches in amphibious attacks.

The DUKW was used in landings in the Pacific, in North Africa, and on D-Day on the beaches of Normandy. At Normandy alone, DUKW carried 18 million tons of supplies ashore in the 90 days after the landing that the enemy held all available ports. See Mulberry harbour.

Dunkirk A city of northern France on the North Sea. In World War II more than 330,000 Allied troops were evacuated from its beaches in the face of enemy fire.
dysentery Any of various disorders marked by inflammation of the intestines, especially of the colon and attended by pain in the abdomen, tenesmus and frequent stools containing blood and mucus. Causes include chemical irritants, bacteria, protozoa or parasitic worms.
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embark To get on the ships or landing crafts in preparation for D-Day. Opposite: disembark
Epsom During World War II, Operation Epsom was a British attack to seize Caen, France. Three assaults by Canadian and Scottish units of VIII (U.K.) Corps from June 26 to July 1 1944 achieved local objectives but failed to take the city despite heavy casualties. The attack was preceded by a massive artillery bombardment that allowed the attackers to break the Nazi defenses west of the city and begin an envelopment to the south. Nazi counterattacks hit the British on their right, forcing the attackers to give up their attempt just south of Baron.
Equator An imaginary line drawn around the middle of the Earth an equal distance from the North Pole and the South Pole.
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Falaise Gap (aka Falaise Pocket, Chambois Pocket)

During World War II, the Falaise pocket (also known as the Chambois pocket, Chambois-Montcormel pocket, Falaise-Chambois pocket) was the area between the four cities of Trun-Argentan-Vimoutiers-Chambois near Falaise, France, in which Allied forces tried to encircle and destroy the German Seventh Army and Fifth Panzer Army. It marked the end of the Battle of Normandy, which started on June 6 1944, and ended on August 22, 1944.

With allied artillery and ground attack aircraft heavily bombarding the trapped troops, the retreat turned to a desperate flight along what became known to the Germans as the "death road" (Todesgang) between the villages of Chambois, Saint Lambert, Trun and Tournai-sur-Dives. Late on August 21, after French priest Abbé Launay pleaded with the German commander to do so, the remaining German troops in the pocket surrendered.

Although perhaps 100,000 German troops succeeded in escaping the allies due to the delay in closing the gap, they left behind 150,000 prisoners and wounded, over 10,000 dead, and the road practically impassable due to destroyed vehicles and bodies. The Canadians also suffered heavy losses, with over 18,000 dead or wounded.

Far East The countries and regions of eastern and southeast Asia, especially China, Japan, North Korea, South Korea, and Mongolia.
fascist/fascism Dictatorial government characterised by control of private enterprise, repression and extreme nationalism of Benito Mussolini in Italy from 1922 - 1943, later adopted in Germany under Hitler.
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field hospital A hospital established on a temporary basis to serve troops in a combat zone.
fjörd Geologically, a fjörd (fee-ord) is a long, narrow inlet with steep sides or cliffs, created in a valley carved by glacial activity.
flail tank A tank modified to clear paths through minefields. Flail tanks work on the simple principle of thrashing the ground ahead of the tank with weighted chains, on a revolving drum driven by an engine. The process was not perfect by any means; mines could be missed, and the equipment was easily damaged and soon wore out, but they reduced the risk to an acceptable level so long as their limitations were understood. Image from
flak Ground-based anti-aircraft fire (from German 'Flieger Abwehr Kanone' or 'Aeroplane Defence Canon'.
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flashes Coloured strips worn on military uniform to denote decorations received by the wearer. A small section of the colored ribbon to which a medal is attached.
Fleet Air Arm The Fleet Air Arm is the branch of the Royal Navy responsible for the operation of the aircraft on board their ships. The Fleet Air Arm currently operates the AgustaWestland Merlin, Westland Sea King and Westland Lynx helicopters, as well as the Harrier GR7/GR9. Helicopters such as the Lynx and Westland Wasp have been deployed on smaller vessels since 1964, taking over the roles once performed by fragile biplanes such as the Fairey Swordfish.
fo'c's'le Short for forecastle, at the front, top of ship.
forecastle The crew quarters on a traditional sailing ship forward of the main mast. Foc'sle, pronounced 'folksul'.
force 8 Moderate gale, from the Beaufort Scale, a scale of wind velocity ranging from 0 (calm) to 12 (hurricane). It employs a scale from 0 to 12, representing calm, light air, light breeze, gentle breeze, moderate breeze, fresh breeze, strong breeze, moderate gale, fresh gale, strong gale, whole gale, storm, hurricane. Zero (calm) is a wind velocity of less than 1 mi (1.6 km) per hr, and 12 (hurricane) represents a velocity of more than 74 mi (119 km) per hr.
forty percent 40% alcohol by volume - strong spirits.
forward (pronounced 'forrad'), meaning to the front of a ship, as opposed to 'aft', to the rear
frigate A frigate [frig'-it] is a warship. The term has been used for warships of many sizes and roles across eras. In modern navies, frigates are used to protect other warships and merchant-marine ships, especially as anti-submarine warfare (ASW) combatants for amphibious expeditionary forces, underway replenishment groups, and merchant convoys. But ship classes dubbed "frigates" have also more closely resembled corvettes, destroyers, cruisers and even battleships.
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garrison A military post, especially one that is permanently established.
gas mask A respirator that contains a chemical air filter and is worn over the face as protection against toxic gases.
GI GI or G.I. is a term describing members of the U.S. armed forces or items of their equipment. It may be used as an adjective or as a noun. The letters "G.I." stand for goverment issue. The term was later applied to all military equipment, then to the soldiers themselves. The term reached its apex with the deployment of American troops during World War II. However, the term G.I. was always used much more by civilians and the media than it was by Army soldiers themselves.
gib (Ken Simpson)
Glenn Miller Alton Glenn Miller (March 1, 1904 - missing December 15, 1944), was an American jazz musician, arranger, composer, and band leader in the swing era. He was one of the best-selling recording artists from 1939 to 1942, leading one of the best known 'Big Bands'. Miller's signature recordings include In the Mood, Tuxedo Junction, Chattanooga Choo Choo, Moonlight Serenade, Little Brown Jug and Pennsylvania 6-5000. While travelling to entertain US troops in France during World War II, Miller's plane disappeared without a trace over the English Channel. His body has never been found.
glider A light engineless aircraft designed to glide after being towed aloft or launched from a catapult. Has the advantage, in warfare, of being virtually silent.
Gneisenau The Gneisenau and the Scharnhorst were sister ships. Both were battle cruisers and both had done a great deal to turn the Battle of the Atlantic towards a potential German victory. Their dash up the English Channel in February 1942, Operation Cerberus, along with the Prinz Eugen, was a major embarrassment for the Royal Navy.
GOLD Codename for a French beach near Arromanches-les-Bains, Normandy, landed on by British soldiers on D-Day. It lay between Omaha Beach and Juno Beach, was 8 km wide and divided into four sectors. From West to East they were How, Item, Jig, and King.
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Goodwood (Operation)

Operation Goodwood was an Allied military operation of World War II from July 18 to 20, 1944. After the early successes of the Battle of Normandy the Allied advance had come to a halt. The key town of Caen was not taken on the first day as planned and over a month later it was still in German hands. The bocage landscape of Normandy was a serious impediment to attacking operations but the clearer land to the east, between Caen and Vimont, looked more promising.

The largest armoured assault yet seen in western Europe was planned as Operation Goodwood for July 18. Allied armour from the 2nd Army was chosen to lead the attack, and though it was expected to be costly, certain commanders had high hopes of a breakthrough. The main force would be the armoured divisions and the Guards would push through around Cagny and Vimont.

The target was to push the Germans from the higher ground of the Bourguebus Ridge. A Canadian force would cover the east flank and British infantry the west flank. The plan was developed by Miles Dempsey and was approved by the commander-in-chief Bernard Montgomery on July 10.

Graf Spee German 'pocket' battleship.
gratuity A sum of money given as a reward for a service.
green New to the rôle, inexperienced.
gung-ho Extremely enthusiastic about doing something, especially going to war.
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half-track A lightly armored military motor vehicle having continuous tracks in the rear for power and conventional wheels in front for steering.
hangar A large building in which aircraft are kept.
Haverstraw, NY Small town north of New York city in the state of New York. Situated on the east coast of the United States of America.
H.O.s Abbreviation which means 'hostilities only' (used by Royal Navy seamen).
Holocaust The systematic extermination of millions of European Jews, Romany people, Slavs, intellectuals, gays and political dissidents (people who disagree) by the Nazis and their allies in World War II.
Home Guard The Guard started off as the brain child of the Commander-in-Chief Walter Kirke. Witness to the destruction of Poland in September 1939, Kirke knew that it was but a matter of time before the tanks and warplanes of the Wehrmacht came to England's doorstep. Kirke also knew that, in such an event, Britain would be woefully underprepared. As early as 1939, following the torpedoing of HMS Royal Oak at anchor in Scapa Flow, Scotland, Winston Churchill wrote a letter to his Chiefs of Staff asking, "What would happen if 20,000 enemy troops were to land on the east coast of England?" General Kirke founded the Local Defence Volunteers in February 1940. Initially devised as a means to defend the critical port of Dover, the ranks swelled quickly with local volunteers, too old to enlist but eager to fight. Though not yet acknowledged by the British government, they began training to operate the batteries of four-, six-, and nine-inch artillery pieces which defended the port. Trained seaward to repel naval bombardment, these gun emplacements doubled in number with emergency positions which were being assembled even as the British Expeditionary Force left for Europe. While the coastal guns and the LDV stayed behind, the BEF marched to the borders of France and into battle.

Secretary of State for War Anthony Eden announced the creation of the LDV in a radio broadcast on 14 May 1940 and asked for volunteers, four days after the German Blitzkrieg started in France and the Low countries. We want large numbers of such men in Great Britain who are British subjects, between the ages of seventeen and sixty-five, to come forward now and offer their services in order to make assurance [that any invasion would fail] doubly sure. The name of the new force which is now to be raised will be the Local Defence Volunteers. This name describes its duties in three words. You will not be paid, but you will receive uniforms and will be armed. In order to volunteer, what you have to do is give your name at your local police station, and then, when we want you, we will let you know...

The announcement met with near-universal enthusiasm and over a quarter of a million men tried to sign up within the next 24 hours. The government had expected 150,000 men to volunteer in total, but by the end of the first month 750,000 men had volunteered. By the end of June 1940, there were nearly 1.5 million volunteers and the number never fell below a million for the rest of the organisation's existence although the peak was 1.8 million in March 1943.

On 17 May 1940, the Defence (Local Defence Volunteers) Regulations 1940 was passed, which officially brought the LDV into existence. Within ten days, the BEF had been pushed back and surrounded at Dunkirk.

The Home Guard also served as a cover for the Auxiliary Units, a force of more highly trained volunteer troops that would function as guerilla units if the UK was invaded.

The Home Guard did not, initially, admit women to its ranks. Some women formed their own Amazon Defence Corps.

In the rushed evacuation from Europe (Dunkirk), the British Expeditionary Force left much of its heavy equipment behind on or around the beaches of Dunkirk. Included among this were 40,000 assorted vehicles (including tanks), 400 anti-tank guns and most of its artillery pieces. Lighter equipment was also lost and many troops returned even without their rifles. One soldier wrote in his diary, "we arrived armed only with shoulders, we didn't even have cigarettes."

Thirty days after the surrender of France, Hitler issued Führer directive no. 16. This order laid out the plans and preparations for the invasion of Britain, Operation Sealion (Unternehmen Seelöwe). Although the details were not known to the British, it proposed that the invasion would proceed not as a concentrated thrust, but as a 40 mile wide landing, starting at Ramsgate and extending to the Isle of Wight. Moreover, in order to mount such an operation, the Royal Navy would have to be destroyed, which in turn required that the Luftwaffe obliterate the RAF. Coastal artillery from Cap Gris Nez would punch a hole through anticipated coastal defences to ensure a safe landing zone for 160,000 German troops. Finally, it must all be done by August to avoid winter storms.

The British were on the defensive, and for this they were largely unprepared. The Belgian front, a British network of trenches and pillboxes, had quickly collapsed in the face of enemy tanks and artillery. In fact, the only defences capable of stopping the German advance were French. The Maginot line alone remained defiant, lasting a full month after the rest of the nation capitulated, largely due to the fact that they had been almost completely bypassed by the German armies. However, at one hundred and sixty miles long, the Line had taken five years to build and consisted of over one hundred forts connected by a massive tunnel network and manned by over eighty divisions of French troops. Britain had fifteen divisions of unequipped infantry to defend four hundred miles of beach, and at most, six months do it.

The British had been able to observe the invasions of Poland and later Norway and experience fighting in France had provided advanced warning of their own inadequacy in battle. Finally, and most important of all, they had witnessed the full range of German tactics. In Poland, the Axis had shown themselves capable of mounting a swift and effective surprise attack. In Warsaw, Germans revealed their methods for urban combat. In Norway and the Netherlands, paratroopers landed ahead of the invasion to cause chaos well beyond what became the front lines. In France, the German Panzer divisions simply went around the Maginot line and operated a sickle shaped charge towards Paris. The lessons of Europe would prove critical in the summer of 1940.

Initially the LDV were very poorly armed, since the regular forces had priority for the weapons and equipment available. Their original role had largely been to observe and report enemy movements but it swiftly changed to a more aggressive role. Nevertheless they would have been expected to fight well-trained and equipped troops with negligible training and weapons such as pitchforks and shotguns or firearms that belonged in a museum. Patrols were carried out on foot, by bicycle, even on horseback, and often without uniforms - although all volunteers wore an armband that said "LDV". Many officers from the First World War used their Webley Mk VI .455 revolvers.

Ex-Communist and Spanish Civil War veteran Tom Wintringham, a journalist and key advocate of the LDV and later Home Guard, opened a private training camp for the LDV at Osterley Park, outside London, in early July 1940. Wintringham's training methods were mainly based on his experience in the International Brigades in Spain. Those who had fought alongside him in Spain trained volunteers in anti-tank warfare and demolitions.

On 23 July 1940, the LDV was renamed the "Home Guard", a name suggested by Prime Minister Winston Churchill. Within a few months they started to be issued with proper uniforms and equipment as the immediate needs of the regular forces were satisfied. After September 1940 the army began to take charge of the Home Guard training in Osterley, and Wintringham and his associates were gradually sidelined. Wintringham resigned in April 1941. Ironically, despite his activities in support of the Home Guard, Wintringham was never allowed to join the organisation himself because of a policy barring membership to communists and fascists.

It was not until 1943 that they were a properly trained and equipped force. They were frequently equipped with improvised weapons, or non-standard ones purchased by the government from abroad. As an example large numbers of P17 rifles were purchased for the use of the Home Guard. These used the (30-06) cartridge - an American 0.30 inch round which was a totally different ammunition from the 0.303 round used by the British Lee Enfield rifle. A 2-inch wide red band was painted around the fore end of the stock as a warning since a 0.303 round would load but jam the rifle. That the similar in appearance P14 rifle was supplied to the Home Guard in 0.303 calibre that took the British round only added to the confusion.

The Home Guard inherited weapons that the regular Army no longer required - such as the Blacker Bombard anti-tank weapon - or desired - such as the Sticky bomb. Their arsenal also included weapons that could be produced cheaply without consuming materials that were needed to produce armaments for the regular units - such as the Northover Projector - a blackpowder powered mortar, the No 76 Special Incendiary Grenade - a glass bottle filled with highly inflammable material, and the Smith Gun - a small artillery gun that could be towed by a private motorcar.

The Airspeed AS.51 Horsa was a World War II troop-carrying glider built by the British company Airspeed Ltd and subcontractors. It was used for air assault by British and Allied armed forces. Their advantage, compared to parachute assault, was that the troops were landed together in one place, rather than being dispersed. With around 28 troop seats, the Horsa was much bigger than the 13-troop American Waco CG-4A (known as the Hadrian by the British), and the 8-troop General Aircraft Hotspur glider which was intended for training duties only.

As well as troops, the AS51 could carry a jeep or a 6 pounder gun. The AS.58 Horsa Mk.II had a hinged nose section, reinforced floor and double nose wheels to support the extra weight of vehicles. Large numbers were subsequently used in the Normandy, Operation Dragoon, Operation Market Garden, and Operation Varsity (Crossing the river Rhine).

In Normandy, the first troops to land in France did so using Horsas, capturing Pegasus Bridge. On operations they were towed variously by Stirling, Halifax, Albemarle, Whitley and C-47 Dakota tugs, using a harness that attached to both wings. Glider pilots were usually from the Glider Pilot Regiment, part of the Army Air Corps, although Royal Air Force pilots were used on occasion.

'house-to-house' Literally moving from house to house, clearing out enemy soldiers in violent close-combat. Method used by invading forces moving through occupied towns and villages.
Howard, Leslie Film star and Officer on board Ken Harmon's ship. Starred in Romeo and Juliet (1936) as Romeo (son of Montague), Pygmalion (1938) as Professor Henry Higgins, and Gone with the Wind (1939) as Ashley Wilkes amongst others. Died 1 June 1943 in the Bay of Biscay. (casualty of war).
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infantry A body of soldiers who fight in an army on foot and are equipped with hand-carried weapons, in contradistinction originally to cavalry and other branches of an army. Infantry has often been divided into heavy infantry, which used to wear armor and now fights with tanks, and light infantry, which used to include skirmishers, slingers, and bowmen and now includes commandos and troops with only light tanks. In ancient wars, infantry was armed with swords, spears, slings, and bows.
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jeep Military vehicle named from G.P. 'General Purpose'.
Japs Japanese people/soldiers. Abbreviation.
jaundice A serious disease in which substances not usually in the blood cause your skin and the white part of your eyes to turn yellow.
Jerry A German, especially a German soldier. [Alteration of GERMAN] Sometimes used to refer to the whole German army as one individual.
Jervis Bay (HMS)

HMS Jervis Bay was an armed mechant cruiser, pennant F40, sunk on 5 November 1940 by the German pocket battleship Admiral Scheer. The ship was originally the Aberdeen & Commonwealth Line steamer Jervis Bay named after the Australian bay (the line named all of its ships after bays). She had been taken over by the Royal Navy in August 1939 on the outbreak of the Second World War and hastily armed.

She was initially assigned to the South Atlantic station before becoming a convoy escort in May 1940. She was the sole escort for 37 merchant ships in convoy HX84 from Halifax, Nova Scotia to Britain, when the convoy encountered Admiral Scheer. The captain of Jervis Bay, Edward Fegen, ordered the convoy to scatter and closed with the German warship.

However the 11-inch guns of the German ship easily outranged Jervis Bay and she was sunk with the loss of 190 crew and Admiral Scheer went on to sink a further 7 ships out of the convoy. The 65 survivors from Jervis Bay were picked up by the neutral Swedish ship Stureholm and Fegen was awarded a posthumous Victoria Cross.

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Junkers JU-88 The Junkers Ju 88 was a WW2 Luftwaffe twin-engine multi-role aircraft. Among the most versatile planes of the war, it was used as a bomber, close-support aircraft, nightfighter, torpedo bomber and reconnaissance aircraft.
JUNO Codename for a French beach near Corseulles-sur-Mer, Normandy, landed on by mainly Canadian, British and some Polish forces on D-Day.
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kamikaze A sudden violent attack on an enemy in which the person or people attacking know that they will be killed. The kamikaze flew their planes actually into enemy shipping without bailing out first.
kapok rafts Buoyant filling used in many liferafts.

Die Kristallnacht, also known as die Reichskristallnacht (literally Imperial Crystal Night), die Pogromnacht and in English as the Night of Broken Glass, was a massive nationwide pogrom in Germany and Austria on the night of November 9, 1938 (including the early hours of the following day). It was directed at Jewish citizens throughout the country and portended the events of the Holocaust. Vom Rath's assassination served as an excuse for launching a rampage against Jewish inhabitants throughout Germany.

The attack was intended to look spontaneous, but it was in fact orchestrated by the German government, specifically by Reinhard Heydrich, and the government drew on the Nazi party's organization in addition to formal government lines of authority to organize and carry out the riots. This pogrom damaged, and in many cases destroyed, about 1574 synagogues (constituting nearly all Germany had), many Jewish cemeteries, more than 7,000 Jewish shops, and 29 department stores. Some Jews were beaten to death while others were forced to watch. More than 30,000 Jewish males were arrested and taken to concentration camps; primarily Dachau, Buchenwald, and Sachsenhausen.

The treatment of prisoners in the camps was brutal, but most were released during the following three months on condition that they leave Germany. The number of German Jews killed is uncertain, with estimates ranging from 36 to about 200 over two days of rioting. The number killed in the rioting is most often cited as 91. Counting deaths at the concentration camps, around 2,000-2,500 deaths, were directly or indirectly attributable to the Kristallnacht pogrom.

A few non-Jewish Germans mistaken for Jews were also killed. Events in Austria were no less horrendous. Most of Vienna's 94 synagogues and prayer-houses were partially or totally destroyed. People were subjected to all manner of humiliations, including being forced to scrub the pavements whilst being tormented by their fellow Austrians, some of whom had been their friends and neighbours.

Many of the German people were disgusted at what they saw on the day. The Nazis merely tried to cover up that it was their doing by giving many SS troopers weapons and making them go plain-clothed, and then placed them in the crowds to make it look like the whole event was a national uprising.

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land army The Women's Land Army (WLA) was a British civilian organization created during the First and Second World Wars to work in agriculture replacing men called up to the military. Women who worked for the WLA were commonly known as Land Girls. In effect the Land Army operated to place women with farms that needed workers, the farmers being their employers In the Second World War, though under the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, it was given a honorary head - Lady Denman. At first it asked for volunteers. This was supplemented by conscription, so that by 1944 it had over 80,000 members. The WLA lasted until 1950. The Women's Land Army was the subject of the film The Land Girls. By March 1940, agriculture in England and Wales had lost over thirty thousand men to the British Army. Another 15,000 had left the land to join other occupations. The main reason for this was the low wages paid to agricultural labourers. In the summer of 1940 Ernest Bevin, the minister of labour, under pressure from the National Union of Agricultural Workers, forced the Agricultural Wages Board to institute a minimum wage of 48s. This was increased to 60s. in November 1941 and 65s. In June 1943. During the First World War the government established the Women's Land Army. The severe shortage of labour persuaded the government to reform the organization and by 1944 there were 80,000 women volunteers working on the land. The majority already lived in the countryside but around a third came from Britain's industrial cities. Women in the Land Army wore green jerseys, brown breeches and brown felt slouch hats. They did a variety of jobs and a quarter were involved in milking and general farmwork. Others cut down trees, worked in sawmills and over a thousand women were employed as rat-catchers.
landing craft Small flat-bottomed, open-topped boats with an angled front designed to drop down to allow men and vehicles to drive off onto land.

HMS Largs was a World War II warship, built by the French and named MV Charles Plumier in 1938. Following the French collapse it was transferred in 1941 to the Royal Navy and renamed HMS Largs. She took part in many operations including Operation Torch, the invasion of North Africa, and Operation Overlord, the invasion of Normandy.

In 1945 it was transferred to the Pacific War and used in actions in Thailand and Malaya. After the end of the war it was handed aback to France, and served for nineteen years. It was sold off to a private company from Greece in 1964 as a cruise ship, and given the name MV Pleias. It was scrapped in 1968.

Landing Craft Tank The Landing Craft Tank (LCT) was an amphibious assault ship for landing tanks on beachheads, used by the U.S. Navy in World War II.
Légion d'honneur The Légion d'honneur (Legion of Honor) is an Order of Chivalry awarded by the President of France. First instituted by Napoléon Bonaparte, First Consul of the French Republic, on May 19, 1802. It is the most senior Order in France, and appointment to the Legion is a great honour. The order is conferred upon men and women, either French citizens or foreigners, for outstanding achievements in military or civil life.
leviathan Something unusually large of its kind, especially a ship, taken from the name for a monstrous sea creature mentioned in the Bible.
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Lord Haw-Haw

Lord Haw-Haw, William Joyce, became a figure of fascination and hate in World War Two. Lord Haw-Haw's voice was heard on German radio especially during the dark days of the Blitz when the fighting spirit of Great Britain was put to the test. Haw-Haw started off his broadcasts with "Germany calling, Germany calling". This was the call sign of a Hamburg radio station which broadcast nightly news bulletins in English to the British people. The voice of the speaker belonged to William Joyce - nick-named Lord Haw-Haw by the "Daily Express".

In fact, possibly as many as three men were Lord Haw-Haw with Joyce being the most infamous. Another radio commentator was a former army officer called Norman Baillie-Stewart. However, Joyce is the name most frequently associated with the "Germany calling" nightly bulletins. Joyce was Irish by blood, American by birth and carried a British passport. He had belonged the Oswald Mosely's British Fascist Party - a political party in Britain that attempted to copy the Fascist Party in Germany.

Joyce's broadcasts were anti-Semitic and poked fun at the British war leader Winston Churchill. It is thought that on average six million people listened to Joyce each broadcast. Many found the broadcasts so absurd that they were seen as a way of relieving the tedium of life in Britain during the war. However, Joyce's broadcasts also provided the British public with information which had been censored at home.

On one occasion, Joyce asked the British public to question the Admiralty over the aircraft carrier "Ark Royal". In fact, nothing had happened to the "Ark Royal" but the seeds of doubt had been sown. Other stories were told by Joyce to unnerve the British public. He told the listeners things happening in Britain which he could only have known about through the German's spy machine established in Britain.

This also helped to unsettle the British public even if most of what he said was nonsense. Joyce was also credited with saying things in his broadcasts which he clearly did not say - such was his reputation at the time. At the end of the war, Joyce was arrested by British Military Police, taken to London where he was tried and found guilty of treason. He was hanged in 1946.

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Lancastria (RMS)

The RMS Lancastria was a Cunard liner sunk on June 17, 1940 during World War II with the loss of, possibly, 4,000 lives. On the 17th of June 1940 the 16,000 ton vessel lay 5 miles off St Nazaire and embarked troops, RAF personnel, and civilian refugees, including women and children, who were being evacuated from France, which was then on the verge of collapse.

The exact number on board may never be known, but almost certainly exceeded 6000; some estimates were as high as 9000. The Lancastria was attacked and hit by bombs from German aircraft. The ship sank rapidly and according to the estimate of the Captain, only around 2500 of those on board were saved.

Owing to the scale of the tragedy, Winston Churchill forbade publication of the news in the interests of public morale, and hence the story of the Lancastria has never been generally known, although it is Britain's worst maritime disaster.

leave Time off from military duties.
Lewdown Village in Devon near Launceston nestled on the western edge of Dartmoor National Park.
lieutenant (pron. lef tennant) The rank below Captain in the British, Australian and Canadian armies.
line The forward line of an battle, position or formation, often directly engaged with the enemy.
Luftwaffe The German air force before and during World War II. From the German: 'Luft', 'air' + 'Waffe', 'weapon' from Middle High German 'wafen'.
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magazine A place where goods are stored, especially a building in a fort or a storeroom on a warship where ammunition is kept. A compartment in some types of firearms, often a small detachable box, in which cartridges are held to be fed into the firing chamber.
Market Garden Operation Market Garden. Operation Market-Garden was an Allied military operation in World War II, which took place in September 1944. It was an attempt to take bridges over the main rivers of the German-occupied Netherlands, enabling the Allies to advance into Germany without any remaining major obstacles. The operation was successful up to the capture of the Waal bridge at Nijmegen, but was overall a failure, as the final Rhine bridge at Arnhem was not held, resulting in the destruction of the British 1st Airborne Division.
Mate "Mate" on a merchant vessel is a deck officer. Ranked from 3rd Mate (safety officer) and 2nd Mate (navigation officer) to Chief Mate (head of the deck department and second in charge under the ship's Master.
mess A room or building in which members of the armed forces have their meals or spend their free time.
metal tripods Beach defences of the Atlantic Wall, designed to be submerged and pierce the bottoms of ships, or when not submerged prevent the passage of tanks. Also produced in reinforced concrete.
Middle-East An area comprising the countries of southwest Asia and northeast Africa. In the 20th century the region has been the continuing scene of political and economic turmoil.
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minesweeper A minesweeper is a military ship designed to locate and destroy naval mines placed in the sea by enemies. The same ships are sometimes used for mine laying. Onboard, these vessels include specialised sonar and radar to detect and track mines. To avoid detonation of mines, they are designed to produce much less noise than other ships, and are often constructed with hulls of wood, plastic or low-magnetic steel. Alternately, minesweepers are equipped with powerful electromagnetic degaussing fields to neutralise their magnetic field and/or jammers.
mine (landmine) Pressure-sensitive floating or buried explosive device, which could also detonate in proximity to metal.
minefield Area protected with mines.
Moaning Minnies Name given by British troops to describe the German World War One mortars, which made a moaning noise in flight. Term re-used in WWII for same reasons.
mortar A cannon with a relatively short and wide barrel, used for firing shells at a high angle over short distances.
Mulberry Harbour

A Mulberry Harbour was a type of temporary harbour developed in World War II to offload cargo on a beach during the Allied invasion of Normandy. Developed by J. D. Bernal and Brigadier Bruce White, under the orders of Sir Winston Churchill, the harbours called for many huge caissons, or barges filled with cement, to be towed across the English Channel and sunk to create a breakwater.

This plan was carried out and by June 9, just 3 days after D-Day, two harbours codenamed Mulberry 'A' and 'B' were constructed at Omaha Beach and Arromanches, respectively. However, a large storm on June 19 destroyed the American harbour at Omaha, leaving only the British harbour at Arromanches. In the 100 days after D-Day, this harbour, which came to be known as Port Winston, was used to land over 2.5 million men, 500,000 vehicles, and 4 million tonnes of supplies providing much needed reinforcements in France.

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The Navy, Army and Air Force Institutes (NAAFI) is a non-profit retaining organisation created by the British government in 1921 to run recreational establishments needed by the Armed Forces, and to sell goods to servicemen and their families. It runs clubs, bars, shops, supermarkets, launderettes, restaurants, cafés and other facilities on most British military bases and also canteens on board Royal Navy ships.

Commissioned officers are not usually supposed to use the NAAFI clubs and bars, since their messes provide these facilities and their entry, except on official business, is considered to be an intrusion into junior ranks' private lives. The supposed poor quality of its food etc. caused "NAAFI" to become a byword for "bad". Expressions such as "You're as dim as a NAAFI candle" (i.e. stupid) became commonplace. The later slang "naff" may be rooted in "NAAFI", or at least have become conflated with it.

Nazi Member of the German National Socialist Party that came to power under the leadership of Adolf Hitler in 1933. Taken from German for National Socialist 'Nationalsozialist'.
Nelson (Horatio)

Nelson is the greatest hero in British naval history, an honor he earned by defeating Napoleon's fleet in the 1805 Battle of Trafalgar. Nelson entered the Royal Navy at age 12 and commanded his first vessel at age 20; as a captain he was both praised and condemned for his aggressive and unorthodox tactics.

Nelson lost the sight in his right eye during the Siege of Calvi in 1794, and his right arm was amputated after it was shattered by gunfire during the battle of Santa Cruz at the island of Tenerife in 1797. Nelson was knighted in 1797 and made viscount in 1801. In 1799 he began a notorious affair with Lady Emma Hamilton; she bore him a daughter, Horatia, in 1801.

Nelson's most famous victory was also his undoing: at Trafalgar he was mortally wounded on the deck of his ship HMS Victory. His body was returned to England and he received a hero's burial in St. Paul's Cathedral. A statue of Nelson was erected on the top of a great column in London's Trafalgar Square. Just before the battle of Trafalgar Nelson sent a famous signal to his fleet: "England expects every man will do his duty"...

Nelson's own last words were "Thank God I have done my duty"...

Because of the distance from Trafalgar to England, Nelson's body was placed in a cask of brandy to preserve it for the trip.

Nissen Hut George Herman Nissen left Norway for the US to learn how to build Clipper Ships. However when he got to the US he realised that the clipper ship market was worth nothing and so decided to join the gold rush.

Here he entered in to the mining equipment industry where he became an expert on the "stamp mill" - which was used to crush the gold ore. After several attempts he decided the current stamp was not efficient enough and invented a better model. After moving around the mining reigns he travelled to Colorado Springs. The family moved to New York where he went back to being a stamp maker. Peter Norman Nissen was born on August 6th 1871, most lightly in New York. In 1873 George had saved enough money to return to Norway, where he found his father. The family then returned to New York. Soon after the Nissen family returned to Caroline were George moved around to be closer to the Gold Mine he was working in. It was here that Peter first showed his engineering skills. He had borrowed an old gun from a friend - when to his great dismay it broke. He ran to his father who just told him to "fix it". Peter presided to take the gun apart until he found a piece that had broken. He worked until he had made a new piece to the fit the gun. Once put back together, the gun worked as well as ever . Peter attended Trinity College and was part of the reformation from Trinity College to the Duke University in Durham, North Carolina.

After he had finished his education he moved to Britain to exploit his fathers invention. However when WW1 started he joined the Royal Engineers where in late 1916 he invented the Nissen Hut.

A Nissen hut is made from a sheet of metal bent into half a cylinder and planted in the ground with its axis horizontal. The cross-section was not precisely semi-circular, as the bottom of the hut curved in slightly. The exterior was formed from curved corrugated steel sheets 10 foot 6 inches by 2 foot 2 inches, laid with a two-corrugation lap at the side and a 6-inch overlap at the ends. Three sheets covered the arc of the hut (about 54 sheets in all were required). These were attached to five, 3 x 2 inch wooden purlins and 3 x 2 inch wooden spiking plates at the ends of the floor joists.
NVA Abbreviation of Normandy Veterans' Association.
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O.C. Abbreviation of Officer Commanding
Officer Somebody of rank or authority in the armed forces.
OMAHA Codename for a French beach east of Grandcamp-Maisy, Normandy, landed on by American forces on D-Day.

War cemetery lying about 5 kilometres north of Venray, Netherlands. The cemetery lies 1 kilometre east of the village, 90 metres south of the road from Overloon to Vierlingsbeek. In Overloon is also situated the National War and Resistance Museum. There was severe fighting in this vicinity in October-November 1944, when the Germans were being cleared out of the region south and west of the Maas in preparation for the final attack on the Rhineland.

Most of the 281 graves in Overloon War Cemetery are those of men who died during these months. The total of 281 burials is made up of 266 United Kingdom Army(4 unknown), 14 United Kingdom Royal Air Force (3 unknown) and 1 Dutch soldier.

Overlord Allied mission to invade and liberate Nazi-occupied western Europe, starting with the D-Day invasion on June 6th, 1944.
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padre A Christian priest, especially in the armed forces. From the latin for 'father'.
Palladium (The London Palladium) The London Palladium is a 2,286 seat West End theatre located off Oxford Street in the City of Westminster. The theatre started out as The Palladium, a premier venue for variety performances. The ‘London’ part of the name was added in 1934.

Panzer is German for armour. It is also an abbreviation of the WWII German designation for tanks, Panzerkampfwagen ("Armoured Combat Vehicle", abbreviated PzKpfw). The word Panzer (plural: Panzer) gained infamy in English during Nazi Germany's successful Blitzkrieg armoured advances of World War II. It is used in English as an adjective describing armoured forces (as in Panzer division), or simply as a synonym for tank.

Panzer is occasionally confused with the name of the Panther tank (initially known as the Pzkpfw V Panther). Panzers were used in both Waffen-SS and Wehrmacht. Panzer models include the following, which were battle tanks used by Germany in the Second World War: The Tiger II, the largest panzer of WWIIPanzer I, Panzer II, Panzer III, Panzer IV, Panzer V - Panther, Panzer VI - Tiger, Panzer VI - Tiger II, Panzer 35(t) (Czechoslovakian design), Panzer 38(t).

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passors key A hot chocolate drink with fat floating in it.
Pearl Harbour

The Japanese air attack on Pearl Harbour (on the Hawaiian island of Oahu), December 7, 1941, was the climax of a decade of rising tension between Japan and the United States. Throughout the 1930s, Japan had been steadily encroaching on China, and the United States had been trying to contain Japan's expansion. Since America supplied more than half of Japan's iron, steel, and oil, Japan was reluctant to push the United States too far, but it was also intent on getting control of its own sources of raw materials.

On September 27, 1940, Japan joined the Triple Alliance with Italy and Germany and began to expand into northern Indochina. The United States, in response, placed an embargo on aviation gasoline, scrap metal, steel, and iron. After Japan's seizure of the rest of Indochina in July 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt closed the Panama Canal to Japanese shipping and added oil to the embargo list. In October 1941 General Hideki Tojo, leader of the Japanese pro-war party, became premier.

Negotiations seeking a peaceful settlement went on in Washington, but both sides seem to have decided that war was inevitable. On November 25, 1941, though continuing the discussions, the Japanese dispatched aircraft carriers eastward toward Hawaii and began massing troops on the Malayan border. American military leaders, expecting a Japanese attack on Malaya, gave only general warnings to U.S. forces in Pearl Harbor. Adm. Husband E. Kimmel and Gen. Walter C. Short, in command on Oahu, took few precautions; there was no effective air patrol, and neither ships nor planes were safely dispersed.

Japanese planes attacked Pearl Harbor at 7:55am, December 7; a second wave hit an hour later. By the time the planes returned to their carriers at 9:45, most of the American planes on Oahu were wrecked; eight battleships, three destroyers, and three cruisers had been put out of action; and two battleships, Oklahoma and Arizona, were utterly destroyed.

A total of 2,323 U.S. servicemen had been killed. The next day President Roosevelt spoke for the American people when, before a joint session of Congress, he proclaimed December 7 a "date which will live in infamy."

With only one dissent, Congress granted Roosevelt's request to recognize the state of war that existed between the United States and Japan. With that vote, America entered World War II.

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Persian Gulf An arm of the Arabian Sea between the Arabian Peninsula and southwest Iran. It has been an important trade route since ancient times and gained added strategic significance after the discovery of oil in the Gulf States in the 1930s.
phoney war A period when enemies are officially at war but not actively engaged in armed conflict eg. the period of relative calm at the beginning of World War II (end of 1939).
Pickelhaube The Pickelhaube (plural Pickelhauben; from the old German Pickel = "point" or "pickaxe", and Haube = "bonnet", a general word for headgear) was a spiked helmet worn in the 19th and 20th centuries by German military, firefighters, and police. It is most closely associated with the Prussian army.
platoon A subdivision of a company of soldiers usually led by a lieutenant and consisting of two to three sections or squads of ten to twelve people.
PO Abbreviation of Petty Officer, a Naval rank.
Pocket Battleship A small German battleship built to conform with treaty limitations on tonnage and armament (from 1925 to 1930).
POW Abbreviation of Prisoner of War.
promenade A public place for such walking, often parallel to a beach.
propaganda Information or publicity put out by an organisation or government to spread and promote a policy, idea, doctrine or cause. Can often, in wartime, be deliberately deceptive, distorted, and misleading.
PT Abbreviation of Physical Training.
Pusser Pusser is Naval slang for a purser, a ship's pay officer in the Royal Navy.
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quislings A term that was most commonly used in reference to fascist and collaborationist political parties and military and paramilitary forces in occupied Allied countries which collaborated with Axis occupiers in World War II, as well as for their members and other collaborators
radar A system which uses radio waves to find the position of objects which cannot be seen.
RAF Acronym of Royal Air Force.
rammer (from Ken Harmon) Someone employed to drive, batter, or crush by forceful impact, probably in loading the breech of a large gun, or the plunger or piston of a force pump or hydraulic press.
ramp Bottom-hinged, sloping door at the front of a landing craft, dropped to allow rapid disembarkation.
rank Military ranks of United Kingdom army from lowest to highest reads: Private, Lance Corporal, Corporal, Sergeant, Staff/Colour Sergeant, Warrant Officer (1st/2nd Class), Second Lieutenant, Lieutenant, Captain, Major, Lieutenant Colonel, Colonel, Brigadier, Major General, Lieutenant General, General, Field Marshall.
RASC Acronym of Royal Army Service Corps
Rawalpindi (HMS)

In early November 1939 the Rawalpindi set out from Tilbury to Scapa Flow in North Scotland to escort convoys on the North Atlantic route. On 23 November, disaster struck the Rawalpindi as it was patrolling the North Sea to the north of Faroe.

It was intercepted by the German battleships, Scharnhorst and Gneisenau. The Rawalpindi didn't stand a chance against these superior battleships and after a brave fight was sunk in the cold, grey waters. There were 38 survivors, but sadly 238 went down with the ship. This was only the second naval action in WW2.

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recce An inspection or exploration of an area, especially one made to gather military information. French, from Old French reconoissance, recognition, from reconoistre, reconoiss-, to recognize. Reconnaissance (by shortening). Pronounced 'recky'.
recoil The sudden backward movement that a gun makes when it is fired.
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Regiment A military unit of ground troops consisting of at least two battalions, usually commanded by a colonel.
Renown (HMS)

HMS Renown was the lead ship of a class of two 26,500-ton battlecruisers of the Royal Navy. She was built at Glasgow, Scotland. Completed in September 1916, she served with the Grand Fleet in the North Sea during the remaining two years of World War I. During 1923-26, she was extensively refitted to increase her protection against gunfire and torpedoes.

After a decade of further service, Renown was again reconstructed, greatly changing her appearance and giving her a modern anti-aircraft gun battery, much enhanced aircraft-handling facilities and up-to-date gunfire controls. This work was completed in September 1939, just after the outbreak of the Second World War. Renown's high speed made her a valuable asset during World War II. In late 1939, she was sent to the South Atlantic to search for the German pocket battleship Admiral Graf Spee.

She covered minelaying operations along the Norwegian coast in early April 1940 and, on the 9th of that month, engaged the German battlecruisers (or light battleships) Scharnhorst and Gneisenau, damaging the latter. Later in 1940 and into 1941, she operated with Force "H", based at Gibraltar to provide strategic presence in both the Atlantic and Mediterranean.

While with Force "H", she participated in a bombardment of Genoa, Italy, in February 1941. After Home Fleet service in 1942-43, Renown was sent to join the Eastern Fleet in the Indian Ocean. Operating from Ceylon in 1944-45, she helped contain the Japanese in the East Indies.

reveille Wake up call. The sounding of a bugle early in the morning to awaken and summon people in a camp or garrison. Alteration of French réveillez, second person plural imperative of réveiller, to wake. Pronounced in the Anglicised way as 'rivally'.

Rifling is the means by which a firearm gyroscopically stabilizes a projectile. Most rifling is created by a number of grooves that have been cut with a machine tool, pressed or forged into the barrel of the weapon. The grooves are the spaces that are cut out, and each of the ridges sticking up is a 'land'.

These lands and grooves can vary in number, depth, shape, direction of twist ('right' or 'left'), and 'twistiness' (turns per unit of barrel length). The spin imparted by rifling significantly improves the stability of the trajectory, improving both range and accuracy.

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Rommell (Erwin)

Rommel, Erwin, 1891-1944, German field marshal. He entered the army in 1910 and rose slowly through the ranks. In 1939, Adolf Hitler made him a general. Rommel brilliantly commanded an armored division in the attack (1940) on France. In Feb., 1941, he took the specially trained tank corps, the Afrika Korps, into Libya. For his successes there he was made field marshal and earned the name 'the desert fox.'

In 1942 he pressed almost to Alexandria, Egypt, but was stalled by fierce British resistance and lack of supplies. A British offensive overwhelmed (October to November 1942) the German forces at Alamein (see North Africa, campaigns in). Rommel was recalled to Germany before the Afrika Korps's final defeat. He was a commander in N France when the Allies invaded Normandy in June, 1944.

Allied success led Rommel, who had lost his respect for Hitler, to agree to a plot to remove Hitler from office. Wounded in an air raid in July, he had just recovered when he was forced to take poison because of his part in the attempt on Hitler's life in July, 1944.

Roosevelt, Franklin D. Franklin D. Roosevelt (1882-1945), the 32nd President of the United States. Also known by his initials, FDR was a central figure in world events during the mid-20th century, leading the United States during a time of worldwide economic crisis and world war. He worked closely with Winston Churchill and Joseph Stalin in leading the Allies against Germany and Japan in World War II, he died just as victory was in sight.
roster A list of the names of military officers and enlisted personnel enrolled in a particular unit.
rough gunfire Crossfire from one side across area covered.

An alcoholic liquor distilled from fermented molasses or sugar cane, traditionally associated with the British Royal Navy, which began in 1655 when the British fleet captured the island of Jamaica. With the availability of domestically produced rum, the British changed the daily ration of liquor given to seamen from French brandy to rum.

While the ration was originally given neat, or mixed with lemon juice, the practice of watering down the rum began around 1740. To help minimize the effect of the alcohol on his sailors, Admiral Edward Vernon directed that the rum ration be watered down before being issued. In honor of the grogram cloak the Admiral wore in rough weather, the mixture of water and rum became known as grog. The Royal Navy continued to give its sailors a daily rum ration, known as a 'tot' well, until the practice was abolished after July 31, 1970.

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sapper A military engineer who does sapping (digging trenches or undermining fortifications), and lays, detects, and disarms mines.
savon French for 'soap'.
Scapa Flow A body of water in the Orkney Islands, Scotland, United Kingdom, sheltered by the islands of Mainland, Graemsay, Burray, South Ronaldsay and Hoy. It is about 312 square kilometres (120 square miles). It has a shallow sandy bottom not deeper than 60 metres (200 ft) and most of it about 30 metres (98 ft) deep, and is one of the great natural harbours/anchorages of the world, with sufficient space to hold a number of navies. Viking ships anchored in Scapa Flow more than 1000 years ago, but it is best known as the site of the United Kingdom's chief naval base during World War I and World War II.
Scharnhorst The Gneisenau and the Scharnhorst were sister ships. Both were battle cruisers and both had done a great deal to turn the Battle of the Atlantic towards a potential German victory. Their dash up the English Channel in February 1942, Operation Cerberus, along with the Prinz Eugen, was a major embarrassment for the Royal Navy.
scurvy An illness of the body tissues which is caused by a lack of vitamin C, a vitamin found in foods such as citrus fruit, green leafy vegetables, tomatoes and potatoes, important for healthy bones, joints, teeth and gums, and for fighting infection.
scuttle To cut or open a hole or holes in a ship's hull, and to deliberately sink a ship by this means.
Seafire The Supermarine Seafire, or Sea Spitfire (the official name), was a naval development of the Spitfire, and was the first modern carrier-based fighter fielded by the Royal Navy. Primarily developed for carrier use, the Seafire incorporated changes such as a tail hook, attachments for catapult use, and on later variants, folding wings. The Seafire was not the ideal carrier fighter and landings were especially difficult; but its performance outweighed the disadvantages. The Seafire had a short range, but its fast climb and agility made it a very good Fleet defence fighter. Extract from
Seydisfjördur Probably Seydisfjördur on the East Iceland coast.
shell An explosive projectile fired from a large-bore field gun, ship's gun, tank or mortar.
shell-shock A psychiatric (mental) disorder caused by stress of active warfare, especially shellfire. Also known as combat fatigue.
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The M4 Medium Tank tank was the main tank designed and built by the US for use in World War II. In the UK lend-lease M4s were dubbed M4 General Sherman after Union General William Tecumseh Sherman, continuing a practice of naming American tanks after famous Generals. The name is often shortened to M4 Sherman or simply Sherman, and quickly became popular in the US as well. It was comparatively fast and maneuverable, reliable, and easy to produce and service and served with the US, British (including Commonwealth), USSR, French, and other allied forces.

The Sherman was not just one tank but a whole series that did differ significantly in across models depending on intended role and traits, including the heavily armored and gunned "Sherman Jumbo" to the amphibious DD Tanks. The most common tank Shermans faced during the WWII were the many Panzer IV variants.

The only other Second World War tank produced in comparable numbers was the Soviet T-34 series which had some design advantages over the Sherman. The Shermans' battlefield performance did vary wildly especially when used outside the intended roles but this was true of other tanks as well.

shrapnel Metal balls or fragments that are scattered when a shell or bomb explodes.
Skipper A nautical term meaning the master of a ship.
slit trench A narrow shallow trench dug during combat for the protection of a single soldier or a small group of soldiers.
sniper Somebody who shoots at people from a concealed position.
Spam Spam is a canned precooked meat product made by the Hormel Foods Corporation. The labelled ingredients in the classic variety of Spam are: chopped pork shoulder meat with ham meat added, salt, water, sugar, and sodium nitrite to help keep its color. Spam's gelatinous glaze, or aspic, forms from the cooling of meat stock. The product has become part of many jokes about mystery meat which has made it part of pop culture and folklore. Spam was one of the few meat products excluded from the British food rationing that began in World War II, and continued for a number of years thereafter.
Sphinx A great sculpture carved from the rock near the Egyptian pyramids in about 2500 b.c. It depicts a creature from Egyptian mythology with the head of a man and the body of a lion.
Spitfire British fighter aeroplane vital in securing air superiority over the German Luftwaffe in the Battle of Britain.
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squadron A naval unit consisting of two or more divisions of a fleet. An armored cavalry unit subordinate to a regiment and consisting of two or more troops. A cavalry or armored unit of a European army, corresponding to a company. A basic tactical air force unit, subordinate to a group and consisting of two or more flights.
'square bashing' Army marching drill, from the act of tramping up and down on a square area of concrete of tarmac.
S.S. Abbreviation of German 'Schutzstaffel', literally 'defence squadron'.
Stalag In Nazi Germany, Stalag was a term used for prisoner-of-war camps. Stalag is an abbreviation for "Mannschaftsstamm und -straflager". According to the Geneva Conventions of 1929, those camps were only for prisoners of wars, not civilians.
starboard The right-hand side of a ship or aircraft as one faces forward.
stations Assigned positions or activities/roles for military personnel in particular times and situations, for instance 'Action Stations'.
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Sten gun

The Carbine, Machine, Sten or Sten gun was a British submachine gun from World War II, notable for its simple design and low cost of production, being made from only 47 different parts. It was even cheaper and more spartan than the German MP38/MP40, the previous benchmark in the field of mass-produced infantry weapons. The simplest version of the Sten gun, the Mark III, required only five man-hours to produce.

It was distinctive for its bare appearance (just a pipe with a metal loop for a stock), and its horizontally-orientated magazine. The name Sten is an acronym, deriving from the names of the weapon's chief designers, Major Reginald Sheperd and Harold Turpin, with the EN derived from "ENfield", the location of the Royal Small Arms Factory (ROF) at Enfield Lock in London.

Pictured is a Sten Mk. III Submachinegun, 9mm calibre from the Musée du Débarquement, Gold Beach.

stern The back part of a ship or boat.
strafing To attack (ground troops, for example) with a machine gun or cannon from a low-flying aircraft. From German, strafen, to punish.
swastika An ancient cosmic or religious symbol formed by a Greek cross with the ends of the arms bent at right angles in either a clockwise or a counterclockwise direction. Such a symbol with a clockwise bend to the arms, used as the emblem of the Nazi party and of the German state under Adolf Hitler, officially adopted in 1935.
SWORD Codename for a French beach near Ouistreham, Normandy, landed on by British soldiers on D-Day.
synchromesh gearbox An automotive system for shifting gears in which the gears revolve at the same speed and so shift smoothly.
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tanner A sixpenny coin formerly used in Britain; a sixpence.
telegram A message transmitted by telegraph, a communications system that transmits and receives simple unmodulated electric impulses, especially one in which the transmission and reception stations are directly connected by wires.
Teller mine German anti-personnel mines used extensively on French beaches to prevent Allied invasion. Teller mines were attached to concrete and metal obstructions to cause damage to both men and landing craft.
theodolite An optical instrument consisting of a small mounted telescope rotatable in horizontal and vertical planes, used to measure angles in surveying, meteorology, and navigation.
Tiger tank See Panzer
tinfished Torpedoed by a German U-Boat.
Tirpitz Tirpitz was the second Bismarck class battleship of the German Kriegsmarine, sistership of Bismarck. She was named after Admiral Alfred von Tirpitz. She saw very limited action. In fact, she never fired a single shot against an enemy ship, but spent almost the entire war in various bases in Norway, where her mere presence was a great threat to the Allies, tying up huge naval and air forces to make sure she could be dealt with if she ever made an offensive sortie. Due to her role and bases of operations she was dubbed the "Lonely Queen of the North" ("Den ensomme Nordens Dronning") by the Norwegians.
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Top Brass High-ranking military officers or other high officials.
touch wood

When in discussion on a subject regarding good luck and health, the custom of touching a piece of wood is normally carried out with the right hand. It is usual for the person to hope that, whatever topic is being discussed, it will be protected from failure or misfortune. The custom is thought to originate from Pagan times when trees were held in high esteem.

People believed that 'wood spirits' inhabited the trees and woodlands. To touch a tree with respect is thought to indicate that the person was in search of protection from the particular wood spirit.

It is thought also that the action may be a result of the Christian belief in The Crucifixion. Christ was crucified on a cross made of wood and hence touching wood may now be a sign of this belief, and a sign of deep compassion and reverence for Christ's resurrection. This would of course have no connection with the Pagan reasoning, but perhaps the action may be seen as result of two distinctive belief systems.


Violation of allegiance toward one's country or sovereign, especially the betrayal of one's country by waging war against it or by consciously and purposely acting to aid its enemies. A betrayal of trust or confidence.

In the United Kingdom treason was still theoretically punishable by death until 1998, although the last death sentence for treason was given in 1945, and this last hanging carried out in 1946). The death penalty for treason was abolished in the United Kingdom by the assent of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998.

tracer (bullets) Bullet which has been treated with chemicals so it leaves a visible trail as it flies, so that its direction can be monitored.
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UTAH Codename for a French beach near Quinéville, Normandy, landed on by American forces on D-Day.
Union Jack The flag of the United Kingdom.
U-Boat A submarine of the German navy. Translation short for Unterseeboot: unter, under + See, sea + Boot, boat.
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V-2 rockets The V-2 rocket (German: Vergeltungswaffe 2 or "reprisal weapon 2", or A4 a short form of Aggregat 4, the fourth rocket type) was an early ballistic missile used by Germany during the later stages of World War II against mostly British and Belgian targets.
V.E. Day Victory in Europe. Tuesday 8 May 1945. German surrender, and it marked the formal end of Hitler's war.
very lights A flare gun is a gun that shoots flares. They are a common item in rescue kits. Flare guns are sometimes called Very pistols (and misspelt as verey pistol), this term was named after Edward Wilson Very (1847-1910), an American naval officer who developed and popularized a single-shot breech-loading snub-nosed pistol that fired flares. Modern varieties are frequently made out of brightly-colored, durable plastic. The older type of very pistol, typical of the type used in the second world war, are of one inch bore. Newer models fire smaller 12-gauge flares. In some countries, such as the United Kingdom where posession of fire arms is strictly controlled, the use of very pistols as emergency equipment on boats is less common than for example the USA. Flare guns may be used whenever someone needs to send a help signal. The flares must be shot directly above, making the signal visible for a longer period of time and revealing the position of whoever is in need of help. While not intended as a weapon, they have been used as one in emergencies. In 1942, at Pembrey Airfield in Wales, a German pilot mistakenly landed at the field. The Duty Pilot, Sgt. Jeffreys, did not have a conventional weapon; he grabbed a Very pistol and used that to capture the German pilot, Oberleutnant Arnim Faber. Flare guns have also been used in fiction as weapons. In fact, many people have been shot with flare guns and have been incinerated on the spot.
V.J. Day (or night) Victory in Japan. 15 August 1945. The Japanese surrender marked the end of World War II, the day that victory over Japan was celebrated by the Allies. The Japanese did not actually sign the surrender document, aboard the USS Missouri, until the 2 September 1945.
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W.A.A.F. Acronym for Women's Auxiliary Air Force
wave On D-Day the massive groups of forces landing on the beach were separated by periods of time. Each separate group to disembark was called a 'wave'. Groups of aeroplanes involved in attacks on the enemy were called 'waves'.
WReNs The Women's Royal Naval Service (WRNS; popularly and officially known as Wrens) was the women's branch of the Royal Navy. Members included cooks, clerks, wireless telegraphists, and electricians. It was formed in 1917 during the First World War, and by the end of the war had 5,500 members, 500 of them officers. It was disbanded in 1919. It was revived in 1939 at the beginning the Second World War, with an expanded list of allowable activities, including flying transport planes. At its peak in 1944 it had 75,000 people. During the war there were 100 deaths. One of the slogans used in recruiting posters was "Join the Wrens -- free a man for the fleet." (Some sailors used to retort, "Wrens joined up to free a man to go to sea, and I've been looking for her ever since.") It remained in existence after the war and was finally integrated into the regular Royal Navy in 1993. Before 1993, all women in the Royal Navy were members of the WRNS except nurses, who joined (and still join) Queen Alexandra's Royal Naval Nursing Service, and medical and dental officers, who were commissioned directly into the Royal Navy, held RN ranks, and wore WRNS uniform with gold RN insignia.
Yank Term referring to somebody from the United States. Shortening of 'Yankee' from a song first popular in the American War of Independence, 'Yankee Doodle'.
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