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To understand the conduct of the war, it is important to understand the concepts and terminology used.

Below is a list of terms in use, their etymology - where possible - and the equivalent term in use today where applicable.

It is important to understand that many of the terms of rank, and many English words in general, had their origins in Latin, which was the lingua franca of medieval Europe. Not only was this the language of the learned, French was the language of the upper tiers of society. English, as it progressed through the 13th and 14th Centuries, usurped, borrowed, stole and adapted many words which, in turn, were anglicized, adjusted, misquoted, misused and bastardized. As English continued to gain predominance in the British Isles, supplanting French and Latin, it continued to borrow foreign words. As a result, the English language has developed into a flexible and dynamic entity in itself as it is today.



Click a letter to jump A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

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 Adjutant  An officer, usually a senior Captain, that serves as an administration assistant to the Commanding Officer. His main roles are non-logistical and concentrate on correspondence on behalf of the CO, the issuing of orders and other such administration.
 Administration  The management and execution of all military matters not included in tactics and strategy but mainly involving personnel matters, logistics and office matters.
 Advanced Dressing Station  A medical unit in or near the front line where casualties were first treated after the Regimental Aid Post. See Regimental Aid Post and Casualty Clearing Station.
 AEF American Expeditionary Force.  Those American troops that served under General Pershing during The Great War in Europe.
 Alliance  A formal agreement between nations to assist each other, usually militarily or to achieve an aim.
 ANZAC  Australian and New Zealand Army Corps, it was also the name given to the beach on the Gallipoli Peninsula where the troops of the Australian and NZ Army Corps landed. Later in the war it was used as a generic term for any Australian or New Zealand soldier belonging to one of the two ANZAC Corps. After The Great War, the term came to signify anyone who served at Gallipoli from Australia or New Zealand and this meaning is still in use today. Click Here for a more in depth explanation of how the term came about.
 Approach march  The movement of troops to the point at which they would conduct an attack. Usually the approach march would be made the night before the attack.
 Approaches  When used as a noun, the regions through which an attacker draws close or can draw close to an enemy position.
 Arc of Fire  The segment of a horizontal circle through which fire may be directed from a weapon without actually picking it up and shifting it. Interlocking arcs of fire meant that they overlapped and fire from two weapons could be brought on an area.
 Army  Generally, that element of a nation's defences that is designed and organised to conduct warfare on land. Specifically, it could mean a tactical and administrative element consisting of two or more corps. In the latter sense, it is usually called a Field Army and is commanded by a General.
 Artillery   A general term used to describe gunpowder weapons that are too large to be carried by hand. From the French artiller meaning to equip with weapons, artillery can be classed as field artillery, usually relatively easy to transport and using weapons not normally larger than 105mm in calibre, to medium artillery and heavy artillery. The respective regiments of artillery are thus known as Field Regiments or Medium Regiments. Heavy artillery does not presently exist in The Australian Army.
 Artillery formation   A formation by which troops could move across open ground to minimise the effects of artillery fire. In essence, the troops would not travel in close proximity so that an exploding shell would not cause casualties with a greater number of men.
  ASC Australian Service Corps. A branch of the AIF that concerned itself with the movement of materiel to the front.
  Attrition The method of reducing the effectiveness of a force by wearing it down. This was the tactic in use on the Western Front and other theatres of The Great War. The idea was that if more of the enemy's men could be killed or wounded than your own men then you would win. This tactic resulted in incredible hardship and a static front line as opposed to the more dynamic style of fighting of later years.
 AWL or AWOL   Absent Without Leave or Absent Without Official Leave. The charge applied to a person who leaves their post although it implies that the person was intending to return. Desertion, on the other hand, implies that the person had no intention of returning.
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 Bandoleer   A leather belt worn across the body draped over the shoulder and attached at the waist. The musketeers of the 17th Century wore such an article to carry the powder charges and bullets for their muskets (Customs para 288). The Australian Light Horse wore such an article as a part of their uniform and it has been said that the military symbol for cavalry, a rectangle with a diagonal line, was chosen to represent that piece of equipment.
 Bangalore torpedo   A pipe like device filled with explosives. The idea was that it could be pushed under barbed wire entanglements and exploded thus cutting the wire. Named after a town in India where they were first used.
  Barrage To throw explosive shells at the enemy. A Creeping or Rolling Barrage was one fired by friendly artillery to cover the advance of infantry. It would gradually move forward in front of the troops, creeping or rolling along the ground and would thus assist and protect them.
 Battalion   The basic unit of the Army. About 550 men at normal strength, it usually consisted of three to four companies and is commanded by a Lieutenant Colonel. Deriving from the Italian word battuo meaning beat, Roman soldiers would conduct battalia, or war exercises. The word battle stems from this origin through Italian and French. Battalions were groups of men that would be called upon to go into battle and were organised for this task. The French word for battalion - battailon - still exists today.
 Battery   When referring to artillery, a group of between four to eight guns (usually six but four was common in The Great War). It equates roughly to a company in its organisation and is made up of Sections of two or three guns.
 Bayonet A knife that was attached to the end of a rifle so that it could be used in close quarters combat turning a rifle into a spear. Early bayonets were spikes that were jammed into the barrel of a rifle but then later attached to the outside of the barrel so that the rifle could still be used for firing. From the French word bayoner meaning to put a tap in a cask or baïonnette, someone from the region of Bayonne in France.
 Billet   When used as a noun, usually a private home where a soldier was accommodated. Many French families allowed Australian troops to be billeted with them and strong friendships invariably grew.
 Billjim   Australian soldiers' nickname for themselves.
 Bivouac A temporary assembly or encampment where troops could rest or remain, usually overnight and usually without shelter.
 Bomb   When used in reference to The Great War, it normally meant grenades, although it came to mean those explosives dropped from aircraft. Along with other types of explosive devices placed or thrown by hand, a bomb today usually means a purpose designed explosive device dropped from an aircraft or a hand placed explosive device used by terrorists/criminals. See Mills Grenade
 Bombard   Used as a verb, it means to pelt the enemy with shells or bombs. See Bombardier.
 Bombardier A rank in Artillery that is the equivalent of a corporal. A bombard was a form of cannon used in the middle ages; a bombardier was the person charged with using it.
 Bombstop   A construction of earth or other materials (such as wood and wire) so that bombs thrown towards a position could be deflected or stopped and detonate without harm. Some bombstops at Gallipoli were constructed so that they could be lowered to allow bombs to be thrown towards the Turks and then quickly raised to prevent the Turkish bombs falling into their trenches.
 Booby trap   A manner of rigging an explosive or some other device to injure a person. During The Great War Pickelhaubes, German spiked helmets, were often booby trapped and caused many injuries amongst Australian soldiers who were renowned for being souvenir hunters.
 Bracket   The manner by which artillery fire is adjusted so that it falls on target. Usually a shot would be fired on one side of the target and one on the other and then allowances made based on where the shots fell in order to get the correct range. Similar to brackets surrounding a word.
 Brigade   A formation of three to four battalions. Commanded by a Brigadier General, now known just as a Brigadier, three brigades made up a Division.
 Brigade Major   The senior major of a brigade responsible for much of the administrative duties on behalf of the Brigadier. Similar to an Adjutant in a battalion.
 Brigadier General   The General Rank commanding a Brigade. Today, the suffix General is not used and Brigadier is the correct term. See General.
  Bunker A small defensive position used to cover an important position such as a gun emplacement or troop area. May be made of reinforced concrete or other materials. See Pillbox.
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 Cadre  (pr Car-der) A group of specialists or otherwise experienced persons around which a unit could be raised and trained. In many instances in The Great War, certain troops were left out of battle so that if casualties were too great, the unit could be rebuilt around them. In The Australian Army today, regular army personnel are attached to reserve units to provide training. They are known as Cadre Staff.
 Caisson  The wagon on which a gun is carried and which is horse drawn. Also a device used in building bridges.
 Calibre  The diameter of a projectile and/or the bore of the barrel through which it is fired. Usually expressed in millimetres or inches, the standard weapon of the Australian soldier was the SMLE .303 where the calibre was .303 inches which equates to 7.62mm. Artillery could also be referred to by use of a weight. For example, the "eighteen pounder" fired a shell weighing 18 ½ pounds but had a calibre of 3.3 inches.
 Camouflage  The act of or the materials used to disguise a person or object so that it is made difficult to see. If the size, shape, colour and surface of an object could be altered so that it blended in with its surroundings, the enemy were less likely to be able to detect it.
 Camouflet  A landmine placed in or near an enemy's mining tunnel so that its explosion would cause it to collapse.
 Campaign  A phase or a stage of a war that involves several operations. It usually has a specific aim or strategic objective, for example, the Gallipoli campaign. Medals awarded for service in such campaigns were known as Campaign medals.
 Cannon  Usually meaning a large gunpowder weapon too heavy to be moved by hand. It can also be used to refer to a weapon with a calibre greater than 20mm so that cannon can be used to refer to weapons mounted on aircraft or other vehicles. Also the name for a specific type of artillery used in the 16th Century.
 Captain  The most senior of the Subaltern Rank. A Captain can be a platoon leader but usually will be found as a 2IC of a company. From Latin caput meaning head, it became capitaneus in late Latin meaning chief which then spawned capitaine in French. In general, it means Chief Leader or Chief of a Company and was used to describe a head general.
 Casualty Normally used to mean a soldier that was wounded, it could also mean a soldier wounded or killed when referring to the number of casualties after a battle if the two are not differentiated.
 Casualty Clearing Station  The primary medical establishment behind the lines where wounded were first brought before being evacuated to hospitals. See Advanced Dressing Station and RAP.
 Cavalry  Troops mounted on horseback trained in fighting from their mounts. Deriving from the Latin word for horse, caballus it spawned the words cavallo, (Italian), and chevalier, (French) meaning horseman. The cavalry differed from Light Horse in the manner in which they fought and were equipped. With the demise of the horse in warfare, the term went on to refer to armoured units or, in some American cases, helicopter borne troops esp dur the Vietnam War. See Light Horse, Australian.
 CCS  See Casualty Clearing Station.
 Chain of Command  The succession of commanders through which authority is exercised. The Administrative chain of command is permanent whereas an operational chain of command could be of a temporary nature and may only be established for the purpose of an operation.
 Chat  As a noun, a euphemism for body lice. As a verb, it meant to inspect one's self or one's clothes for lice.
 Chevron  A mark or insignia in the shape of a 'V' used to indicate rank. Also known as a stripe (mainly US) or a hook (mainly Australian).
 Chief of the General Staff   The senior officer of the general staff. A chief of staff is the head of an organisational staff where as the CGS is specifically the head of staff made up of General rank. In the modern military, this would normally mean the head of the nation's Army as opposed to the Chief of Air Staff who was the chief of the nation's Air Force or the Chief of Naval Staff who headed the nation's navy. This has since been changed to Chief of Army, Chief of Navy and Chief of Air Force who serve under the Chief of the Defence Force.
 CO Commanding Officer.   Usually the Lieutenant Colonel in command of a battalion or a regiment when used to refer to Army formations.
 Colonel  The highest of the Field Rank. Originally in command of a regiment, that role is now the domain of the Lieutenant Colonel who commands a battalion or regiment. Its origins date from 1505 when the King of Spain created 20 tactical formations, or columns known as "colunelus". The head of one of these units, which roughly equates to a battalion, was known as the "cabo de colunela" which literally means head of the column. The French adopted the unit and the rank, which was, in turn, adopted by the British. How the English got to pronounce it 'Kernel' is beyond me.

Colours refer to the flag of a unit, corps or formation. The flag could be a flag in the normal sense or a guidon or other standard. It has evolved to be one of the most sacred symbols of a military formation and is usually emblazoned with battle honours showing significant battles the unit has fought.

The origin of colours will vary, depending on the historian, but it is safe to say that roman legions carried aloft the eagle motif (SPQR) as a symbol of the might of Rome, its army and senate. During the Middle Ages, the armorial bearings of knights were worn as a surcoat over their armour and were often held aloft as a rallying point that could be easily seen in the heat of battle. With the organisation of armies in the 17th Century, regiments were assigned colours.

Today, colours are presented by a monarch or other significant person and are held with the highest respect by the formation or unit. If they are ever paraded, they are usually done so with a ceremonial armed guard and if they become old and worn, they are to be disposed of in a dignified and solemn manner. In some instances, contained in a chapel or other sacred place and allowed to mould to dust.

 Command Post The place where command of an operation or other activity is undertaken. It will normally have appropriate communications equipment and a means of viewing the overall situation (eg battle maps, electronic mapping equipment, tracking equipment). The relevant command personnel will be in attendance and will oversee and coordinate all aspects of the operation or activity.
 Corporal   A rank below sergeant but above private. Usually in command of a section of men. The Latin cap, meaning head or highest, is the most likely source of this word which evolved through the Italian capodi which, in turn, meant the head of a section. The French word for corporal is caporal and is the most logical source of the name. Some examples cite the Latin corpus (body) as the origin where a corporal was in charge of a body of men. This is unlikely as the word corps originated from this word. Terms like corporal punishment inferred a punishment against the body and should not be seen as any reference to the rank of corporal. See Section and Lance.
 Corps From the French word for 'body', it means a body of persons organised into a formation. In the organisational hierarchy of the Army, it usually denotes three or more Divisions. It can also mean an organisational formation of a particular arm of the Army. In the Australian sense, each of the specialities of the Army are organised into 'Corps'. For example, all equipment, manpower and activities related to flying are organised into the Australian Army Aviation Corps. For all those activities and manpower related to transport, they are organised into the Royal Australian Corps of Transport. In the American sense, this would be called a 'branch'.
 Court Martial A disciplinary tribunal made up of military personnel concerned with hearing cases involving military personnel and offences against the Defence Force Disciplinary Act (in Australia) or the Uniform Code of Military Justice (in the US) or other such codified rules regarding military behaviour. Like many other military terms, the main noun is described first (in this case, 'Court') and then the modifying word or descriptor is second (in this case, 'Martial' meaning 'related to war or the military). So in proper English, it should really be called a 'Martial Court' but is known ubiquitously as a Court Martial. The plural of this is Courts Martial.
 CSM Company Sergeant Major. The most senior Non Commissioned Officer at sub-unit level. He or she is the right-hand man/woman of the Officer Commanding (normally Major rank). A CSM is known as a Squadron Sergeant Major in Aviation, Engineer, Armoured units and a BSM is a Battery Sergeant Major in Artillery units. See Sergeant.
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 Dead ground An area of ground that cannot be seen (or fired upon) by the enemy because it is shielded by terrain or higher ground or some other obstacle.
 Dead meat tickets (IDDisks) Another nickname for identity disks (dogtags).
 Defile/Defilade An area of ground where formed bodies of men must break formation (ie de-file) in order to pass through it.
 Digger   The term used to describe an Australian soldier. Today, it is more common to use the term in reference to Australian soldiers that are not NCOs or Warrant or Commissioned Officers, especially in the Corps of Infantry. The origin of the term is disputed. Some say that it has its beginnings in the Australian gold fields of the 19th Century where men there were called "Diggers". Others say that the high numbers of ex-gold miners that filled the ranks of the AIF gave birth to the term. Yet another theory is that General Hamilton, in charge of the forces on the Gallipoli Peninsula, when asked to decide if the ANZACs should be evacuated after the disaster of The Landing, wrote to General Birdwood and told him of his decision to remain. He ended his letter with a postscript. Bean's Official History (Vol. 1 p 461) cites it thus;"PS - You have got through the difficult business, now you have only to dig, dig, dig until you are safe. Ian H."
 Direct fire  
 Dog Tag A nickname for identity disks. See also 'Dead Meat Tickets'.
 DOW Died of Wounds. An abbreviation used to signify a person who was wounded and subsequently died, usually after being removed to a safe area or hospital facility.
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 Field Ambulance  
 Field Marshal  
 Field Rank  
 First Lieutenant See Lieutenant  
Fog of War  
 Force Multiplier  
 Forced March  
 Fortified Line  
 Fritz The German nickname for Freidrich. Prussian King Freidrich II and German Emporor Freidrich III were nicknamed 'Fritz' and the name went on to be used to denote the Germans in general, and German soldiers in particular. Used by the British during WW1 and in WW2, the American prefererance was for the term 'Kraut' after the German dish sauerkraut.
 Furphy Slang term for a rumour. From the name of the manufacturer of a type of water cart used to supply water in military camps. The cart was embossed with the name 'Furphy & Sons' and like a modern day water cooler in an office, men would gather around the Furphy cart to get a drink and to gossip. Thus, rumours obtained at the water cart were known as 'furphies'. Also shortened to 'Furph'.
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 General   The term General comes from the Latin Generalis, meaning of a particular kind. One derivitive, when used as a pre-nominal or immediate post-positive, is to have a superior or extended authority or rank, General Manager, for example. According to Military traditions and customs, (para 2-913), the reformation of the Army by Cromwell in 1645 after the English Civil War, created the army commander Captain- General Sir Thomas Fairfax, the cavalry commander, Lieutenant-General Cromwell and the infantry commander Sergeant-Major General Skippon. The prefixes Captain and Sergeant were eventually dropped which explains the anomaly of why a Major General is junior to a Lieutenant General (see Lieutenant and Sergeant). The Cavalry was the senior branch of the army, thus the senior general rank of the cavalry commander. The collective term for Brigadiers, Major-Generals, Lieutenant Generals, Generals and Generals of the Army is "General Rank".
 General Hospital  
 Gong A nickname for a medal, due to the similarity to the shape of a 'gong' that hangs from a frame.
 Gorget  Also known as a "Red Tab". Formerly, the cuirass, the front and back plates of armour that knights would wear, rested on a crescent-shaped piece of metal that hung around the neck of the warrior to protect the throat and support the cuirass. This was the gorget, from the Old French gorge, meaning throat. The wearing of armour discontinued, however the practice of wearing the gorget continued as the sign of an officer. The size of the gorget dwindled to an ornamental object suspended around the neck by ribbons. As uniforms changed and evolved, the two places on the collar from where the gorget hung, were signified by red cloth patches.(Customs paras 295-296)
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 Heavy HQ Coy, Bty, Tp etc  
 Hindenburg line  
 Hop the bags A slang term for leaving the protection of a trench and advancing towards the enemy. It stems from the practice of using sandbags to reinforce the top (parapet) of a trench. So in order to advance, one had to climb over the sandbags to get out of the trench, or 'hop the bags'.
 Hospital Ship  
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 Identity disc  
 Indirect fire  
Infantry   Foot Soldiers. The derivation of the word is said to come from the French word for children; enfants. This term alluded to manner in which the foot soldiers walked behind the mounted officers, similar to a line of children. The French word for Infantry is infanterie, and sometimes an Infantryman is still called an "infanteer". Other modifiers are used to describe different types of infantry. Mounted Infantry denotes infantry mounted on horseback or other types of beasts of burden. The Australian Light Horse were mounted infantry. Today, it refers to infantry that are in vehicles such as Armoured Personnel Carriers or the like. It does not mean that these vehicles belong to that unit, however. Mechanized Infantry are also mounted in vehicles. The difference being that the vehicles are an integral part of the unit's equipment and tactics are planned accordingly to incorporate this mobility. Light Infantry is a British notion with its origins in their war with France in North America during the 1750s. These men were lightly equipped and given special training allowing them to move quickly through hard terrain, use personal initiative and ambush and skirmish the enemy. It was so successful that the best soldiers in a regiment were chosen to fill the ranks of Grenadiers and Light Infantry and soon Regiments had companies of both. These companies were known as Flank Companies and were often combined with other flank companies to form special units. The use of Light Infantry became a compliment of the highest order. Heavy Infantry is a term not often found but can be used to differentiate between Light Infantry and other infantry equipped with heavier equipment.
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 Jump off
Jumping off tape
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 K.I.A. Killed In Action.
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 Lancers See Light Horse, Australian  
 Landing, The The term used to describe the landing of ANZAC forces at Gallipoli on 25 April, 1915. Also known as 'The Landings at Anzac (Cove)'.
 Lewis Gun  
 Lieutenant   The most junior of the subaltern ranks. From the French lieu, place, and tenant, holder, the holder of the place. As such, it meant a junior rank holding the position of a more senior rank or an assistant or deputy. Thus arose the ranks of Lieutenant Colonel and Lieutenant General which, over time, came to have their own responsibilities. Today, a Lieutenant is junior to a Captain and normally holds command of a sub-unit of the size of a platoon or its equivalent. A 2nd Lieutenant is junior to a Lieutenant who may be referred to as 1st Lieutenant when differentiation is necessary to avoid confusion. Along with Captain, they comprise the subaltern ranks. See Subaltern.
 Lieutenant Colonel   The Field Rank officer usually in command of a battalion or equivalent. Addressed or referred to by the shortened form, "Colonel", except when confusion may arise or when being announced. See Lieutenant and Colonel.
 Lieutenant General  The General Rank Officer commanding a Corps. Addressed or referred to by the shortened form, "General", except when confusion may arise or when being announced. Also see General
 Light Horse, Australian  
 Line of Communication  
 Listening Post  
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 M.I.A. Missing in Action.
 M.I.D. Mentioned In Dispatches. A form of acknowledgement of an act of bravery or outstanding service that is regarded as being of particular merit but not warranting other forms of acknowledgement such as a commendation or medal. In the Australian Army, an MID allows the recipient to wear an insignia. The origin of the process stems from..xxxxxxxxxx
 Machine gun  
 Major  The Field Rank Officer commanding a Company. See Sergeant.
 Major General  The General Rank Officer commanding a Division. Also see General or Sergeant.
 Mills Bomb  
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 No man's land  
 Non Commissioned Officer A person who holds an official position or office by virtue of being promoted above the rank of private (or equivalent). That is to say, a Lance Corporal, Corporal, Sergeant (or equivalent) holds an official position of authority by virtue of their rank, but do not hold a 'warrant' or 'commission' to wield that authority.
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 OC Officer Commanding. In the Army, this is usually person who commands a sub-unit and normally refers to a sub-unit of company size or equivalent and is usually of Major rank. The Commanding Officer (CO) on the other hand is the unit commander and is usually a Lieutenant Colonel. (The opposite is true of the Air Force where the OC is the unit commander and the CO is a sub-unit commander).
 Officer A person who holds an official post or office. There are three types of officer: A commissioned officer, a warrant officer and a non-commissioned officer. It is most common to refer to commissioned officers simply as 'officers'.

A commissioned officer holds a 'queen's commission' or 'king's commission' to hold an office or official post. A warrant officer holds a royal warrant to hold an office or official post. A non-commissioned officer holds an office or official post by virtue of promotion above the rank of private or equivalent.

 Order of Battle  
 Other Ranks or O.R.s A term used to describe all military personnel who do not hold commissioned officer status. In the US, the term is Enlisted personnel. In some instances, it excludes all Warrant Officers and Non-Commissioned Officers... but usually only two delineations are made; Officers and O.R.s. In the navy, the term used is Ratings. In the Air Force, the common term is 'Troops'.
 Over the top To leave the protection of a trench (or other defensive feature) and advance towards the enemy by climbing over the parapet. (See parapet. See 'Hop the bags'.)
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 Parados Similar to a parapet but to the rear of the trench. It may act as protection from the rear (from a surprise attach from enemy) or it could be used to prevent silhouetting of soldiers who may be peering over the parapet (known as 'skylining' because the shapes of the soldiers are silhouetted against the skyline).
 Parapet The built up part of a trench that faces the enemy and is used as protection from fire. A breastwork is similar but usually, as the name suggests, only reaches to chest height. A breastwork may actually be built and made of stone or sandbags or other protective material. A parapet is usually considered to be part of a dug trench system.
 Picquet or Picket  An actual line or place, or the activity of being placed,  forward of the main area to be guarded. A person/s or ship or vehicle on picket duties is there to provide early warning of enemy advance or activity.

In tactical terms for the Army, it usually denotes a guard or listening post. A staggered picket is a picket of two or more men who start and stop their duties at alternating times so that at least one person is fresh and rested. The term picquet is the old spelling of the word, but it is also a form of medieval torture.

 Pillbox  A fortified bunker, usually of concrete reinforced with steel and equipped with firing slits. So called because they resembled small pill-boxes that were common in the era to hold medicine pills. The German army was adept at using them and built a great number of them, especially along the Hindenburgh line and the area east of Ypres. Many awards for bravery were given to men who attempted to capture and or silence these strongpoints that often held up advances with deadly criss-crossing arcs of machine gun fire. Not a few of them were post-humous.
 Pioneer   In European armies of the eighteenth century, Pioneers were groups of men detailed to march ahead of regiments and clear the way. For this task they were equipped with axes and stout leather aprons. The term is used today to denote combat engineers who are tasked with destroying obstacles so that an attack may proceed.
 Platoon   A sub-unit of a company. Comprising of three or four sections, (24 to 60 men), it is commanded by a Lieutenant or formerly a Captain. Equivalent sub-units would be a Section of Artilleryxxxxxxx, or a troop of Cavalry xxxxxxx. It derives from the French word pelote meaning ball. Even today, peleton means a group of men especially of gendarmes or firefighters.
 Poilu   French slang term for a soldier, the equivalent of "Digger" in the Australian Army. It means lit. hairy or hairy one. Probably an indication of the unshaven front line soldiers.
 Puggaree   From the Hindi word pugre which was a thin scarf of muslin or similar material worn around the head or helmet with its end falling over the back of the neck in order to provide shade. A plain khaki hat band known as a Puggaree was worn around the slouch hat which was changed to a pleated, coloured puggaree denoting a branch of the arms or service. The seven folds in the current puggaree denote the members of the Australian Army that hail from the seven states and territories.
 Puttee The strips of cloth worn around the lower leg designed to keep the mud out of the boots. From the Sanskrit word for cloth, pattika, it became patti in Hindi.
 PW   Prisoner of War. Also known as a POW.
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 Quarter Master (The following definition is from Wikipedia and has been adjusted to make it relevant to the Australian Army).
In the Army the Quartermaster (QM) is the officer in a
battalion or regiment responsible for supply. By longstanding tradition, he or she is normally commissioned from the ranks (and is usually a former Regimental Sergeant Major or similar and holds the rank of captain or major Some units also have a Technical Quartermaster, who is in charge of technical stores. The Quartermaster is assisted by the Regimental Quartermaster Sergeant (RQMS) and a staff of storemen.
In the Navy, the Quartermaster is a position responsible for navigation rather than supply.

The term originates from the German Quartiermeister (master of the royal quarters) and denoted a person who was responsible for the monarch's quarters.

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 Rank   Usually the status or grade of a member of an organisation. Eg Corporal, or Captain. It also referred to the way in which troops were lined up in formation which consisted of ranks (lines of individuals) and files (columns of individuals) and thus the term "rank and file". The term "other ranks" refers to all members who do not hold warrants or commissions,
 Redoubt  A fortified position. Usually away from the main line of troops but could also mean a fortified part of the front line. Sometimes large shell craters were fortified to such an extent that they were called redoubts.
 Re-entrant In fortifications or defensive lines, a re-entrant is an area of the line that bulges into friendly territory and is held by the enemy. The opposite of a salient. In topography/geography, a re-entrant is similar to a gully or other feature of low ground, usually caused by the erosive effects of a stream or river. The opposite is a spur.
 Regiment   A regiment can be an operational unit or an administrative unit or even a notion, the name has changed meanings through the years. The origin of the word is Latin. Regere, meaning to rule, was later used in the word regimentum, meaning government. The idea of a Regiment as a military term is a little confusing to the uninitiated, and even to those who use it every day. Briefly, it can be explained thus.French monarchs during the later Middle Ages raised the first regiments from local areas. They were governed, that is commanded, by a Colonel and were usually maintained within a geographical area for defence of that area, say, the feudal lord's estate or the monarch's kingdom. The British Army raised regiments of infantry in geographical areas after the English Civil War. They usually consisted of two or more regular battalions, one that remained in England and one that was used overseas say, in the colonies. This was so that a soldier could serve both at home and overseas in the same regiment and be administered by the same unit. Regiments of mounted troops continued to be raised as well. As time passed, the idea of a regiment composing of two regular battalions of infantry faded such that the regiment was the main administrative functional command. To that end, one might find such names as "The Kennedy Regiment" in Queensland, or "The Sydney University Regiment". Even though they did not have the numbers of men to form two complete battalions, the regiment was the way they were administered. Another example is the Royal Australian Regiment, which is made up of many battalions of regular and reserve soldiers. Even though the term regiment is no longer used by The Australian Army to denote a unit of infantry of a specific size, it is still used by units that evolved from mounted troops such as Armoured Corps and Aviation Corps. Engineers also form along the same lines where a Regiment equates to a battalion in size and is made up of Squadrons. See Squadron, The Order of Battle, See RSM
 Rifle  The common meaning of this word is a shoulder fired weapon with a long barrel and used by a single person. However, it also means a spiral scratch or groove inside the barrel of such a weapon designed to make the bullet or projectile spin during its flight thus aiding accuracy. Deriving from the French rifler meaning to scratch, the term rifle can also mean to plunder. The word can also be used to modify a noun such that a unit may be called "Rifles" such as "The Adelaide Rifles". It was often used to denote armed men such as the expression "200 rifles in the line" meaning 200 armed soldiers holding a position. A rifle can also be a larger crew served weapon with rifling grooves however this term is not common.

Regimental Sergeant Major.

  The most senior Non-Commissioned Officer holding a Queen's Warrant (Warrant Officer Class One) and responsible for the discipline and administration of the soldiers. This rank holds a special place in the army and is given to a person of considerable experience and ability at Battalion level or greater. His position is usually found in close proximity to the Commanding Officer who relies on him for many tasks and duties. Even though the term Regiment is used in the title, this no longer applies as the unit sizes have changed and Regiments no longer hold the same meaning as in the past. A Regimental Sergeant Major denotes the most senior soldier rank, accordingly, Brigade RSMs and the RSM of the Army are also to be found. See Sergeant.
 RTA/RTU   Return to Australia/Return to Unit.
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 Salient   A bulge in the front line. A salient was a particularly volatile place in that both sides has troops firing at them from the flanks. The most famous salient during The Great War was the Ypres Salient. In heraldry, salient means 'in an upright position, or prancing'. From the latin Salire meaning 'to leap'. (eg to sally forth).
 Sam Browne Belt invented by General Sir Samuel James Brown, VC whilst serving in India as a Lieutenant Colonel. Having lost his left arm in the action where he was awarded his VC, he found difficulty in drawing his sword attached to his belt. To overcome this, he devised a strap to help support the belt and assist with the drawing of his sword. It was adopted by the British Army during the Boer War and is still in use for ceremonial purposes today.(Customs para 2100-2101) A black Sam Browne is worn by units derived from Cavalry such as Armoured Corps and Aviation Corps. These are not known as Sam Blacks but Sam Browne, pattern - Black.
  Sap A Covered Trench. See Sapper.
 Sapper  The equivalent to Private in the Engineer Corps. To sap means to undermine. It was common for soldiers to dig saps under forts or strong-points to undermine them. Covered trenches were also known as saps. Hence, the term to represent a rank in the Engineers. (Customs Ch 2 para 924.)
 Section The basic sub-unit of infantry. Usually between eight to 15 men and commanded by a Corporal or Lance Corporal. Three to four sections make up a Platoon.
 Sergeant   From Old French sergent, meaning to serve - the Latin servient meant the same. According to Military Traditions and Customs, para 2-926, the term dates back to the feudal system of medieval England when landowners used their serfs as soldiers, placing trusted servants - servients - in charge of them. The rank of Major was originally Sergeant Major - where Major denoted senior (from the Latin magnus meaning large or great). To that end, Sergeant Major was a term in itself that came to mean the rank of a man heading a particular group. Therefore, there could be a Sergeant Major, in charge of soldiers and non-commissioned officers, a Sergeant Major in charge of a company of men or the staff officer of a regiment, and a Sergeant Major General in charge of a corps of men (see General). In 1881, the sergeant majors heading non-commissioned officers, were given a warrant to serve, thus becoming Warrant Officers. A senior sergeant may be given a rank of Staff Sergeant.
 Sergeant Major  See Sergeant, Company Sergeant Major or Regimental Sergeant Major.
 Service Ribbon  
 Shock tactics  
 Shock troops Usually infantry that use tactics of shock and surprise to close with and engage the enemy and overcome the enemy's defenses and resistance. The term was first coined in WW1 as the German Stosstroopen, (Shock Troops) although the tactic was used earlier than that. Australian troops were particularly good at shock tactics and were used as shock troops by the British during WW1.
 Slouch Hat   Known as the Hat, Khaki, Fur felt. Originally developed by Colonel Tom Price in 1885, it was worn with the brim turned up on the right such that the soldier could look the reviewing officer in the eye as troops marched past in review order. The left brim was turned up as the muzzles of rifles slung over the shoulder on mounted troops would impinge on the brim. The Australian Colonial Armies adopted the style from 1890 and the formation of the Australian Army in 1901 adopted it officially.
 Smoke screen  
 Sniper A soldier (or other combatant) trained in accurate long range fire, usually with a rifle. The skill and weaponry of a sniper has progressed markedly from the 'sharpshooters' of the 18th Century. Sniper rifles can be of a large calibre (eg .50 Cal) and can be used to damage and neutralise machinery such as vehicles and aircraft.
 Soldier   The late Latin term for a gold coin was solidus. This became soudier or solde in 13th Century French. Even today, the French verb "to bribe" is soudoyer. A soldier originally derived from a term to mean a man who served for solde, that is to say, a mercenary. (Customs para 2-928)
 Squadron In Army terminology, a unit or sub-unit equivalent to a company in the infantry. In the Air Force or aviation units, it refers to an organisation of aircraft or personnel, depending on the context. In the Navy, it refers to an organisation of ships. (See Things you should know about the ADF for a more in-depth explanation.)
 Staff Sergeant See Sergeant.
 Start line  
 Stokes Mortar  
 Subaltern  Generally, a Lieutenant. Deriving from the Latin sub, meaning less or inferior, and alternus meaning alternate. When used as a modifier, subaltern means the lesser rank to Captain. However, it generally includes Captains when referring to Subaltern Rank.One of the traditions of the Australian Officer's Mess Dining-In nights (formal dinners), is the "Subbies Court" where Field Rank and General Rank officers are excused and the Subaltern Ranks proceed to hold a mock trial. Senior officers are usually included as defendants and are "charged" and sentenced in the name of good fun.
 Supporting artillery
 Supporting fire
 Surface burst
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 Tank   An armoured vehicle, usually on caterpillar style tracks and mounted with a weapon or weapons. The word "tank" was used as a code word in despatches while the device was being developed hoping to fool the Germans into thinking they were developing or moving tanks for water. The name remained and is still in use today.
 Task force

 Theatre of operations
A tracer is a bullet with a small amount of pyrotechnics in the base of the round which allows the firer (or anyone at the right angle) to be able to see the round travel through the air.

In US and NATO standard ammunition this is usually a mixture of strontium salts and a metal fuel such as magnesium. This yields a bright red light. Russian and Chinese tracer ammunition generates green light using barium salts.

Ammunition that is not tracer is known as 'ball' ammunition.

This word depends on the context and it can mean a single soldier (eg there were over 200 troops deployed), a RAAF term for a junior non-commissioned officer or O.R. (eg "he was a troop before he got his commission). A sub-unit in armoured corps or aviation corps (eg There were three helicopters in the troop). Other corps and units may also use the term to denote a sub-unit, eg SASR.
Trooper A word describing the most junior rank in armoured or aviation corps, equivalent to a Private.
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An organised formation of troops. In Army use, it is usually of battalion size or equivalent and is normally commanded by a Lieutenant Colonel who is known as the CO or Commanding Officer. Any formation smaller than this and subordinate to the unit in the chain of command, is a sub-unit and is usually of company size or equivalent. (A formation that is not part of an immediate chain of command may be considered to be 'independent'.)
 Vickers Gun
 Victoria Cross
The highest award for valour and gallantry in the face of the enemy in the British, Australian, New Zealand Armies and the Gurkhas. The Victoria Cross, named after Queen Victoria, allows the recipient to use the post-nominals 'VC'. The actual medal is made from the bronze of cannons captured during the Crimean War in the 1850s. It is not well known that the cannons that were used and that were thought to be captured from the Russians were actually Chinese.
  W X Y Z
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Wounded in Action.
A nickname for the horse used by the Australian Light Horse regiments. A shortened form of the term "New South Walers" referring to the particular breed of hardy stock horse that was bred in the colony of New South Wales and which were preferred by the British Army in India during the 19th Century.
 Wire entanglement An obstacle made of wire, for example, barbed wire. It could be rolled into a long spiral (known as concertina wire), or it could have sharpened flat blades instead of barbs (razor wire) or it could be a combination of both. Wire strung at ankle height or leg height is euphemistically known as 'bastard wire.'




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Independent Productions and Aviation Services is the website of Conway Bown, Australian Army Official War Artist and Aviation Consultant. Services include portrait painting and other portraiture, aviation services such as CRM - Crew Resource Management - and Helicopter Underwater Escape Training - HUET - which may include Emergency Breathing Systems - EBS - training using Helicopter Aircrew Breathing Devices - HABD - or Helicopter Emergency Egress Device - HEEDs.

During 2006, Conway Bown deployed to the Middle East as the Australian Army's Official War Artist, what the US Armed Forces call Combat Artist. This website features the artwork created during this project as part of the Australian Army's Official Art Scheme.

For more information on War Art, Combat Artists, Helicopter Underwater Escape Training (HUET), Emergency Breathing Systems (EBS) or Crew Resource Management (CRM), please visit the relevant webpages:

HUET - RHO Aviation

CRM - RHO Aviation

EBS - RHO Aviation

Official War Artist - IPAS.