Why does the British military have an almost mythical reputation?

Graham Charles Lear
16 min readJun 16, 2021


The spirit of the Bayonet is the will to meet and destroy the enemy in hand-to-hand combat with the Bayonet.

A lighthearted look at the British Miltary mainly the Army — — — well actually just the Army.

Well, there are two reasons:

First Reason: British officers don’t duck. This is weird but true. Read first-hand accounts of WWII battles. British Officers really don’t duck… probably why in every war since the Boer, far more aristocrats died in British wars (proportional to the number of men deployed) than any other social class. I think it has something to do with peacocking behaviour by the aristocracy — they all had money, they all had grand estates, and so they competed with each other on who has bigger balls. God forbid you were thought of as cowardly. The British aristocracy also had a thing about justifying their nobility — as in, they realised (in my view, due to the protestant reformation) that they were just people and had no god-given right to lord it over others…unless they could somehow show they were made of sterner stuff. Not ducking during a battle showed this in a way. Also, they seem to think it ‘inspired the men’ but most accounts I have read from squaddies British infantry grunts] seem to deride this behaviour as astonishingly stupid, in an inspirational way. Nevertheless, British soldiers do best when lead by officers who don’t duck, and whose strategic and tactical acumen is best summed up as ‘“Never mind the manoeuvres, just go straight at em.” This strategic and tactical genius will cost the life of many a Rupert — but wins battles and even once earned a statue in Trafalgar Square. Strictly speaking, though Nelson was not Army, but, Navy, however, he did go straight at em, rather slowly in his case, and in a straight line while the French and the Spanish looked on in amazement and pummeled the ships with cannon fire British officers know their priorities, straight at em boys.

1. Don’t duck;

2. Go at em — the men will follow.

It usually works (although it has to be said Zee Germans took some persuading).

Aside from this general quality, one finds in the British Officer corps, you also find a type of human that the British describe as ‘eccentric’.

Take Lieutenant General Adrian Carton de Wiart VC, KBE, CB, CMG, DSO as an example, who was shot in the face, head, stomach, ankle, leg, hip and ear; was blinded in his left eye; survived two plane crashes; tunnelled out of a POW camp, and bit off his own fingers, and when recollecting his experience of the war said — — — ‘Frankly, I enjoyed that war’.

Then there is Mad Jack Churchill, no relation to Winston who fought with a Scottish broadsword and killed a German soldier with a bow and arrow in an ambush. After fighting in France, Norway, Italy, and Yugoslavia, he made his way to Burma to fight the Japanese in 1945 only to learn that the Americans had dropped the nuclear bombs and caused Japan to surrender. Churchill was furious and is quoted as saying ‘If it wasn’t for those damn Yanks, we could have kept this war going for another 10 years!’.

John Malcolm Thorpe Fleming Churchill was born on 16 September 1906. Although there were many facets to his character, and he was a romantic and sensitive man, he will forever be remembered as a leader of men in battle. Known to posterity as ‘Mad Jack’, through his swashbuckling, sword-wielding style of fighting and the charisma which permeated his outstanding military career, it was a role he performed to perfection. He was never a man to be hindered by convention or overawed by it — on one occasion he appeared on parade at Sandhurst Military Academy carrying an umbrella: asked in no uncertain terms by bristling authority why, he replied succinctly, “Because it’s raining!” Mad you betcha ya

Or men like Digby DSO, who always carried an umbrella into battle so his men wouldn’t worry about the rain [a big concern here in the British Isles]. When it was suggested to him [possibly by a yank] that his umbrella wouldn’t do him any good in battle, he wisely pointed out that it wouldn’t do much ‘against the bullets old chum, but what if it rains?’. British officers don’t mind the bullets, but rain will make a gentleman look ridiculous and that will not do. Digby liked leading bayonet charges wearing a bowler hat and carrying his umbrella (which he once used to charge an armoured vehicle and stab a German in the eye through the vehicles driver side slit). Courtesy of the British army, there’s a German soldier whose obituary could read: Fine panzer driver, died serving the fatherland, at the hands of a British Officer wearing a bowler hat, who then thrust a very fine Saville Row umbrella into his eye socket through the panzer drivers slit… somewhere in Holland, 1944.

It’s not clear how many such ‘eccentric’ types the British Army’s Officer corps has or what impact they have made throughout history … but they’re there. And they’re polite. Just waiting for the next war and hoping the Yanks stay out of it this time so it won’t be a brief affair.

Second Reason: British infantry squaddies are the ‘dogs bollocks’ — mostly made up of the ‘lower orders’ of society (i.e. working-class men that still have a pair / recently civilised savages like the Scots, Welsh and … the Northerners).

For those who don’t know, the Northerners are the bastard children of the Vikings and whatever meaner bastards survived the Viking migration, and then the ‘harrying of the North’ [read: extermination of the North] by the Normans and then the constant centuries-long border wars with the Scots.

The industrial revolution started there because these people were rough and tough enough to work in the hell-like conditions of the first industrial mills. These peoples are ferocious savages who are barely kept in check by the firm discipline of the British Officer Corps! Modern Sports Science considers them a type of ubermensch first theorised to exist by Nietzsche centuries ago.

In fact, the only reason the Northerners and Scots haven’t eaten the Ruperts from the Home Counties yet is that they think The Queen might not like it if they ate her officers. God help the world if we ever lose control of them. It would be like the Mongol invasions or Attila the Hun… they would consume the entire global supply of beer and bacon and make the rest of the world like the Middle East a desert with no beer or bacon. Terrifying thought.

The British Army only took a small number of such men due to the fact that the British army was small (proportionally to the size of the country). They also developed excellent martial spirit in their regiments which are ancient. I mean really, really old. Most of the British army is formed of regiments that are older than most countries today. Check out the Black Watch Regiment as an example. They were formed as the private army of this Lord or that Earl and have weird names and traditions and even ranks to boot.

These ancient regiments have halls with ancient flags documenting ancient battles they won. When you join the British army, you join a special regiment with its own nature, history, culture etc… sort of like a cult of war and death.

Only the British Army could come up with something called the Forlorn Hope although it’s said that the Dutch and Germans had them as well, and the French, the Forlorn Hope is a group of soldiers who volunteer to advance and take an impregnable position, any survivors if they manage to take that position is guaranteed personal advancement in the army promotion for junior officers, money for the scum of the earth as Wellington once called the ranks of private soldiers and even a promotion to officer status for Senior NCO. which when you consider it cost around £450 which in today's money is £4,000 in the 1800s to buy your way into the Officer ranks of the British Army and then if you wanted to become a Captain a further £1,800 which in today’s money £155,000. In fact, if daddy had millions to spend you could actually go in as a Lieutenant Colonel and daddy would pay £4,500, £565,000 in today's money. No training whatsoever. Who knows perhaps that's where the tactic of go straight at em, comes from. It's definitely what the Forlorn Hope did, straight at em lads I want to be a Captain. Perhaps for all, we know it was Daddy encouraging their sons to go straight at em, when you think about it, it would save daddy quite a packet if the young son did not come home and was buried in a far off land doing his duty for king and country, no more shelving out for his son's promotions.

You will be regaled with histories of how your regiment found itself in the 18th, 19th or 20th century, in this place, or that part of the world, facing this nation, or that tribe of tough bastards … and just went straight at em. You get excellent training and mostly decent equipment, and a penchant for the bayonet charge… this is so you can effectively and efficiently execute the complex stratagem of going straight at em.

The British Army will not have a war without bloody-well bayonet charging some bastards! If there isn’t a bayonet charge, then the whole affair is best forgotten. Did it to the Argie bastards in 1982, Afghanistan bastards and even the Iraqi bastards in 2003 at the Battle of Danny Boy where 100+ Al Mahdi Army insurgent bastards ambushed a patrol of Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders.

British army will only bayonet charge you if you are being a bastard and playing hard to beat. Just lay down your weapons and accept the Pax Britannia and the civility that comes with cricket, tea and biscuits… otherwise, we’ll set the Scott’s and Northern bastards on you with their straight at em strategy.

Here are examples of British military doctrine being implemented in the field:

Charge of the Light Brigade — fuzzy orders come from command — our generals sometimes believe their bond with junior officers is so deep that they can communicate orders telepathically, hence in this instance they didn’t waste time in writing things out clearly. A British officer in charge of the horse regiments looks at them. Orders are not clear.

But, this is the British Army so they could only mean one thing… Never mind the manoeuvres, go straight at em! So his totally unsupported cavalry advances through a valley with cannon to his right, and cannon to his left and right in front… it looked something like this.

The British Officers knew that mere Russian peasants could not possibly anticipate the sheer genius stratagem of rushing cavalry in a straight line right into the mouths of well prepared and heavily defended cannon positions! No Russian peasant was trained at Sandhurst so how could they? The result was about 40% casualties for these chaps… and Russian cannon positions overrun.

In the film many years later, at the end of the charge of the Light Brigade, a soldier, horse shot from under him wounded in a few places from grapeshot and sabre wounds staggers back to the British lines and Lord Cardigan rides slowly past him. The soldier looks up at him salutes and says shall we go again, Sir. They say that actually happened, If it did you can bet that the soldier was a Northern bastard that had just sabred a few Russians, hard bastards.

Battle of Bunker Hill— The King’s American subjects had started getting strange notions about ‘liberty and equality and all that nonsense and had decided to squat on a hill that belonged to King George… Not a smart move because the British Army was nearby. The British Army specializes in removing squatters from the King’s land … even if they have been there for hundreds or even thousands of years. In the case of the Australian aborigines, it was discovered by Captain Cook that they had in fact been squatting on King George’s land for around 50,000 years!

The British Army comes across well-prepared rebel American positions atop a heavily fortified hill and as is customary, the British officers carefully study the situation and after deliberation, discussion, tea, revision and decision (where they applied all their collective logic and thinking that their extremely expensive and lengthy education at the finest schools in the world afforded them) they issue orders to Fix bayonets and go straight at em.

As you can see here, instead of going from the side, or at least avoiding the redoubt, the British Marines and Foot Regiments went straight ahead, bayonets fixed… and lost 1/3rd of their men. But they got the hill back…

If the British public had seen such tactical genius, they would have applauded and exclaimed ‘Not since the time of Caesar have generals been so masterful!’.

The British would take this masterful thinking into WWI and have the troops slowly walk across no-mans land and into the teeth of German machine guns, repeatedly, for years, until they figured at that if they didn’t stop that they might run out of Scots, and Northern bastards.

North Africa Campaign 1940[9] — Italian Army in Libya with over 500,000 men. They want to reforge the Roman Empire. British Army has 80,000 in Egypt, and they’ve just been thrashed in France the previous year. Italians attack with over half their strength. The situation is dire. Defending France only months ago didn’t work. What to do… Enter Sir Archibald Wavell.

When aristocratic children were born in Britain in those days, they were given standard British Army regulation names — Rupert, Archibald, Bernard, George, Nigel … that sort of thing — we couldn’t risk British Army officers having names like ‘Chad’ like our cousins across the pond. God forbid an ancient British army regiment to be led by General Chad. The decline of the British military might can clearly be seen by the decline of standard-issue officer names like Nigel — in 2019, there were less than 10 baby boys named Nigel. WE British do not anticipate needing officers in the next 20 to 30 years at least so have reduced the output of Ruperts and Nigels. If Russian or Chinese intelligence is reading this answer — they should know that we can start naming baby boys ‘Rupert’ or ‘Nigel’ etc at a moments notice and in 20 years time, they would be in serious trouble!

Anyhow, as is customary for British Officers, Archibald calmly took stock of the terrible situation (ensuring that his upper lip remained stiff at all times) and carefully and methodically came up with a plan! He remembered that the previous year, the air in France had clouded the judgement of the British Army and instead of going at the Germans and taking the Rhineland (the industrial centre of the country) whilst the Germans were all in Poland, they sat around with the French eating croissants — that was the Phony War. Not even a bayonet charge insight. Best forgotten. Sir Archibald’s plan for North Africa is different. It’s clever. In fact, it’s genius! [But one should expect nothing less from the towering intellects that constitute the British Army’s officer corps].

Archibald takes about 35,000 men and goes into the desert, straight in the direction of the Italians (with some fake inflatable tanks for good measure as support and to also confuse the Italians) and …. well, completely crushes the entire Italian 10th Army about 7 times larger than his force, by going straight at em. Whoops.

Zee Germans hearing of this, send Rommel. He was a military genius — a clever Hun! He was somehow able to figure out our most advanced military tactic. Somehow, he knew we’d send our tanks straight at him (never mind the infantry support, they were too slow) — so he deployed a lot of anti-tank guns to chew us up. Because of his genius in anticipating our most advanced military manoeuvre, we remember him as the Desert Fox! He was almost able to outsmart the British… terrifying really. Entire libraries could be stocked with the books written about him by the British trying to understand how he could have so cleverly anticipated our genius tactic of going straight at em. In the end, we appointed a general on the autistic spectrum — Montgomery — to deal with this clever fox. Monty was able to use the new science of mathematics (pioneered by great Englishmen such as Isaac Newton)

Monty took the forces in Egypt and … [stay with me here — it might get a bit complicated for those of you who have not had a British education] … multiplied them by 2. Incredible! Merging the art of war with mathematics in this way was truly pioneering. For the more discerning among you, you can express Monty’s strategy in the following formula:

The force required to defeat Rommel = (current British forces in Egypt) x 2

It’s not for nothing that even Stalin said ‘The War was won by Russian blood, American money and British brains’.

When the British public heard about his victory, we were in awe of his military genius. Who, except the British officer corps, would have thought of taking the forces you had, and then doubling them, before attacking the enemy? This was totally new and caused some consternation with the Generals (and even Churchill himself). The controversy revolved around the question of whether it was cricket, for the yanks. This term refers to good sportsmanship to attack the enemy with double the number of troops. It was no small matter either because doing so would break with the ancient British tradition of attacking only when heavily outnumbered! It was considered grossly unfair to go man-for-man against the enemy which would not be using Scots and Northerners. In any event, it was decided that it was cricket because although we outnumbered Zee Germans if you counted their Italian allies we were still outnumbered [British Intelligence had commissioned a team of zoologists who carried out extensive zoological studies on the battles fought against the Italians and the Italian POW’s and concluded that the Italians appeared to be a unique group of ‘lions led by a peculiar species of bipedal sheep’ — it was further discovered that these lions and sheep were firmly bipedal and featherless and as such, in accordance with Plato’s definition of humans as ‘featherless bipeds’, they were classified as enemy combatants — British Science at its finest.

Monty counting the number of Scots he has so he can factor that into his complex equation.

As you may have noticed, the Scots have the custom of wearing skirts. They wear the skirt because they are less fearsome than their women who therefore have the privilege of trousers. Their women are so fearsome that it is said that if an Englishman were to mate with a Scots woman, his heart would explode in the process. The Scots have so much fire in their blood that they are sometimes born with red hair. When Scotland’s King took over England centuries ago, the English noticed that the Scots had many rivers with no bridges to cross them and decided to do the right thing and build their bridges … later the English discovered the Scots wouldn’t use these bridges because bridges were for ‘wee bairns, an Englishman’ [read: for toddlers and Englishman] — Scotsman cross freezing rivers with raging currents by lifting up the skirt and feeling the water where the sun don’t shine. It wasn’t until the invention of cars that the Scots were universally forced to use bridges.

Many decades later in the Falklands, the Argies had destroyed the ship carrying all of our helicopters. No helicopters? No problem! By George, this is the British Army and God saw fit to equip our troops with feet! And so, the British officer corps was able to come up with yet another genius plan — we would … {{{walk}}} … across the frozen Island, with almost no heavy weapons and then after an all-day gruelling march in frozen conditions, we would charge up a mountain right into the teeth of well prepared Argie positions [at night!] and take them… the lads would need some sleep after all this exertion, and the Argentinian conscripts had volunteered to keep the British Army’s sleeping bags warm for them.

During the worst of it, at the Battle of Goose Green, the Para’s attack was stalled by crack Argentinian infantry [trained for night fighting and mountain warfare in the Andies no less who were really keen on holding on to the sleeping bags! On comes Lt. Colonel H. Jones VC, OBE and the following British Officer-eque manoeuvre happens. Colonel Jones immediately seized a sub-machine gun, and, calling on those around him and with total disregard for his own safety, charged the nearest enemy position. This action exposed him to fire from a number of trenches. As he charged up a short slope at the enemy position he was seen to fall and roll backward downhill. He immediately picked himself up, and again charged the enemy trench, firing his sub-machine gun and seemingly oblivious to the intense fire directed at him. He was hit by fire from another trench which he outflanked and fell dying only a few feet from the enemy he had assaulted.

His men really wanted those sleeping bags now! A short time later [after watching this display of devotion the battalion fixed bayonets and got their sleeping bags. How? Yes, you got it going straight at em.

Cooped up in a small ship for weeks made the guys cranky, disembarking the ships under fire from Argentinian jets pissed us off, seeing some of their ships sunk made us seethe with rage because once the war was over, we might have to swim back home across the Atlantic … walking all day in the freezing wasteland of the Falklands to evict the Argentinian squatters was the last straw — these guys were not going to be pleasant when they arrived.

And that’s why the British Army is legendary — highly educated, towering intellects, who don’t duck, form the officer corps, and our squaddies (being recruited from fierce warlike tribes like the Northerners and the Scots) have a fetish for using the bayonet … so far, we’ve had the good fortune of encountering enemies that ‘don’t like it up em

Training to go straight at em




Graham Charles Lear

What is life without a little controversy in it? Quite boring and sterile would be my answer.