For centuries, the British military has existed to defend the kingdom from threats. From the Spanish Armada to the armies of Napoleon and the Nazi Luftwaffe, the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines serve the crown and protect the realm. Today, the military works to stop terrorist threats abroad so they cannot cause destruction at home. Below here you’ll find some interesting tidbits about the British Army, British Navy, Royal Air Force, and Royal Marines.
Get Out of Gulag Free
During World War II, many POW escapes from Nazi prison camps were the result of playing Monopoly. The Red Cross sent special Monopoly boxes marked with a red dot on the Free Parking space to let prisoners know. In the game box, the Red Cross hid German marks amongst the monopoly money, a compass in the dog counter, a metal file in the board itself, and silk maps of the prison inside hollow hotel pieces.
Bring the Family
During the American Revolution, many British soldiers serving in the colonies actually brought their wives and children along. Women in the army at this time served as nurses, washer women, and sutlers (merchants who sell items to soldiers), or took jobs to support their families. Approximately 20% of soldiers serving in America had their wives and children with them.
No Washers Nearby
In 2005, the Ministry of Defense gave soldiers the unique antimicrobial underwear. It can be worn up to three months at a time without needing to change.
The first British “standing army” was formed in 1661. Before that point, armies had only been raised when they were needed.
Keep Your Wig On
The regiment known as the Blues and Royals has a tradition of saluting even when not wearing a cover (hat). The origin of this act comes from the Marquis of Granby, who led a cavalry charge in the Battle of Warburg during the Seven Years War. His wig blew off as he led the charge, which originated the phrase “Going at it bare-headed.”
Never Again Volunteer Yourself
Contrary to popular belief, after the formation of the standing army in 1661, the army was a volunteer force until conscription was first introduced in 1916 during World War I. Conscription was reintroduced in 1939 for World War II. Following the second war, conscription became known as “National Service” and required all men ages 17 to 21 to serve in the military for 18 months. National Service ended in 1963 and conscription has not returned to Britain since.
Some Things in Life Are Bad…
During the Falklands War, the HMS Sheffield was hit by an Argentinian anti-ship missile and slowly began to sink. As the sailors awaited rescue, they began to sing “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life” from Monty Python’s Life of Brian. During the first Gulf War, RAF pilots would often sing it on their missions.
Bridge of the River Kwai
In 1943, the Japanese military utilized 60,000 Allied POWs and 180,000 Asian prisoners to complete the Thailand–Burma Railway. Thanks to horrible prison conditions and cruelty of guards, approximately 12,399 POWs and 90,000 Asians died during construction. Roughly 6,318 of the POWs who died were British.
In 1863, Queen Victoria commissioned the Victoria Cross during the Crimean War. It is the highest honour that can be awarded to a member of the British Armed Forces and is actually made from scrap metal taken from a Russian cannon captured during the war. Due to its rarity, the medal is a highly sought collectors’ item, and once fetched £400,000 at auction.
Cost Per Soldier
According to the Ministry of Defence, it costs £30,000 to train a soldier. The selection process costs £7,000, while Basic Training and the Combat Infantry Course cost £23,000.