I Am Not ‘That Wife’

First, of all I have to tell you that I am not an ‘Army wife’. I am the estranged wife of an ‘air force’ pilot – a person who is the Royal Air Force. It’s a point that those not in the military fail to see the difference and so, invariably, I am referred to as an Army wife.

There is a huge difference between the three services and I am going to give you my girly, simplified understanding:

nickname ‘Pongo’ (possibly because they are stinky)
Soldiering – apparently live in sh*t conditions. Consider themselves the backbone of the military. Probably are.

Navy (includes Royal Marines – who are sort of a soldier version of the navy)
nickname ‘Matelot'(no idea why)
nickname ‘Bootneck’ (Royal Marines)
Warfare on ships – go away loads and for ages. Ships move around very slowly. They are the oldest of the three services so think they are very special.

Royal Air Force
nickname ‘Crab’ (too long to explain with various versions)
Warfare with aviation. Youngest of the three services – apparently they live in the best conditions and the other two services hate them because they are spoilt and don’t appreciate how lucky they are.

I should never have married into the armed forces. I am not cut from the right cloth. I am not ‘that wife’. I don’t like being told what to do. I think the rules are stifling. I don’t like uniforms. I don’t like guns. I don’t like fighting. I don’t like institutions and I can’t keep a secret.

Now, I wonder what I was thinking. I thought that the love would be enough but with an institution as big as the military and as old as the military – it doesn’t let me be who I want to be. But that’s just my opinion. I am just not ‘that wife’.

* I post on the forum Rear Party and one of the forum users Soleil posted this reply:


You mentioned that you don’t know why the word ‘Matelot’ is used for RN personnel. The word ‘Matelot’ came into slang use for Royal Navy personnel from French, ‘Matelot’ being a French word for a seaman or sailor; it’s also the French Navy’s equivalent of the Royal Navy’s ‘Rating’. I think that it crossed into British Naval slang about a century and a half ago. The word ‘Matelot’ in French was itself actually derived from a Dutch word meaning ‘Sharers of the same bed’ because sailors used to share hammocks, one sleeping in it while his ‘bedmate’ was on watch.

Just as a matter of interest, Royal Marines are called ‘Bootnecks’ because, in the 19th century, their tunics had leather fastenings on the collar to keep it closed. US Marine Corps personnel are called Leathernecks for similar reasons.

So now you know!!!


  1. I have a hard time being an “army wife” (still kills me that civilians don’t know the difference). I think it is mostly because I am so different from most other wives that I know. I don’t live my life through my husband. I don’t depend on my husband’s rank to know my worth. I am independent. I have my own agenda. I have my own schedule. He knows I love him, but I don’t “need” him. I just like to have him around more than I like to have him away.

    1. Viva la revolution – I was thinking we should get a spouse allowance paid to us directly for all the free childcare we offer during deployments, excercise and overtime!

  2. “still kills me that civilians don’t know the difference”… what a patronising comment. Why should ‘civilians’ know the difference? But hey, get this love. YOU are also a civilian. It is your HUSBAND who is not. You would do well to remember that.

    1. That comment was not meant to be patronizing at all. But when you are always called an “Army Wife” when you have never been an Army wife, it gets a bit old. Believe me I get reminded that I am a civilian all the time when I try to get something done and told that I can’t do that because my husband is the military member…and when he is deployed and I can’t get something simple accomplished because he has to do it. Consider me well put in my place.

      1. Yes – Kat get back in your box! How very dare you have the audacity to express an opinion about non-military types when you have not served your country directly. How does your husband manage to fulfill his responsibilities to his children by which he is legally bound without your loyal unpaid service to him? ahem…oh yes…that doesn’t count now does it?

        We are just housemaids, nannies and sex slaves!!

    2. Now Spoddy you are being snipsy bit patronising dear – please play nicely on my comments section. My granny told me that good manners don’t cost anything!

  3. Oh you poor thing, I don’t think I could live that life. I read your other post about doo-dah from CBB and I had mixed opinions (only because I am a teacher & am aware of the public facade that must be maintained). However I understand completely, I couldn’t be told what to do by a bunch of men living in the wrong century let alone decade.

    1. Thanks – it’s been an eye opener!! All that restriction does bring out the rebel in me – like rebel tourettes – I know I shouldn’t but I can’t help myself!!

      Would you be cross if your husband publicly embarrassed you? Would it effect your job? I am genuinely asking.

      1. It depends on what you mean by publicly embarrassing me, and I don’t mean that obtusely. Getting drunk? Depends how drunk and what he did when he was inebriated! To be honest, we live in a small town and therefore don’t go out to the pub here because there’s always someone waiting to catch me out. It wouldn’t effect my job directly, but the reputation that you build up as a teacher can be destroyed quickly, and then why should the children or parents listen to you?

        Does that answer at all?

        1. Oh yes I can see it now – people would whisper ‘That’s Mrs Boyandme’ her husband gets *sliently mouths* ‘D-R-U-N-K’…. #first rule of teaching….never teach in the town you live 🙂

          People are so inward looking!! But yes – I get it. 🙂

  4. A wise lady once said to me, “Let’s see, you are a husband, a father, a fighter, a silly bugger … now look inside yourself and ask, ‘who is it being all these things?’ This is the person you must find”.

  5. I do love the juxtaposition between your writing about the problems of being a forces wife and the banner ad for uniformdating.com at the side – trying to draw more poor souls into our murky world… ; )

    1. Ha ha – it’s a Faustian pact! It’s like a sign saying ‘DON’T PRESS THE BUTTON’

      Please click on all the ads all the time!!! It’s a pay per click system! I have two kids, a rabbit, a cat and an aunty Pat to feed!!

  6. For what it’s worth from an Army officer’s perspective, and one who’s planning on either leaving the Army upon getting married, or certainly ensuring that I have the contacts, qualifications and experience to be able to do so, so I’m not in their thrall…

    Military historian and author Sir Basil Liddell Hart once said, “The only thing harder than getting a new idea into the military mind is to get an old one out.” The military has no selfless interest in spouses, i.e. beyond the grudging recognition that we have to keep them from getting so miserable that they make their husbands leave (for it is, of course, usually, husbands).

    The 19th-century Lord Chancellor’s rhetorical question remains true – “Did you ever expect a corporation to have a conscience, when it has no soul to be damned, and no body to be kicked?” (Edward, First Baron Thurlow 1731 – 1806). The military has no interest, per se, in people’s well-being. Senior echelons of the military are composed of individual officers civil servants, whether in MoD, Navy Command, HQ Land Forces, or Air Command, who are out for themselves, their careers, pensions and their families. Ministers and politicians are similarly motivated. Ask any Harrier pilot how ‘valued’ they were, upon the announcement of the SDSR last year: we’re all just a Ministerial sign-off away from a P45. It really shouldn’t be a surprise therefore, that the military evinces values at odds with the needs of individuals. It’s perhaps because we’re so good at blowing smoke up our own asses, that we actually believe half of the recruiting PR which we pump out. Dartmouth, Sandhurst and Cranwell also do their bit for the brainwashing effort.

    The phenomenon of officers only marrying women who wish to sit at home, run coffee mornings for the Other Ranks’ wives, and gradually allow their brains to rot as they drift in to Stepford Wives-esque conformity with the Navy/Army/RAF, started to disintegrate in the late 1980’s, as the military increased its graduate intake. While that conferred the benefit of getting smarted officers, unfortunately (for the military) the corollary of that is that graduates tend to marry other graduates, who – quell surprise – don’t wish to trade in either their independence or their higher cerebral functions, for a wedding ring.

    Plus ça change, plus c’est la même…

    ‘Wives feel treated like ‘excess baggage’. At times an officious mentality can almost make an anomaly in allowance regulations the fault of the soldier or wife concerned. Some seem to forget that soldiers and their families have not asked to be moved, but are simply following orders. No civilian organisation could get away with treating its employees and their families in such a manner. The Army and the government have had enough warnings from their own research that they cannot count on that sturdy blend of loyalty, fatalism and dogged good humour much longer, especially amongst the new generation of officers’ and soldiers’ wives. But the Whitehall preferences for tinkering, usually a cosmetic package with emollient declarations ‘on a no-cost basis’, has not altered. And the delusion that soldiers’ lives and aspirations could be determined by imperial edict has been extraordinarily persistent.’ (p55)

    ‘[An Army wive] may well feel unfairly trapped. Her life is controlled by the Army. She is almost as subject to its whims as her husband, yet she is never a truly accepted part of it. If she has a place in the order of battle, it is as the most overlooked rear echelon of all. Her husband, meanwhile, experiences a far more intense existence: he goes to interesting places, and enjoys a comradeship which seems calculated to exclude women.’ (p61)

    ‘Service life extracts a heavy toll on marriages. The divorce rate as has sometimes been suggested, but it is still on average 18 per cent higher than that for England and Wales, without allowing for divorces which take place just after a soldier has left the Army. (PS4(A), MoD figures). A former CO pointed out that the divorce rate does not indicate the true level of service marriages in trouble: ‘An artificial cement holds many couples together’, he said.’ (p64)

    ‘Many officers’ wives also consider that the Army, or the government, is a bad employer because it still expects something from them in a welfare role, while the salaries offered for jobs within the garrison or HQ bear little resemblance to standards rates for the work, either in Germany or the UK. They resent the underlying assumption that, to avoid harming their husbands’ careers, ‘we aren’t going to chain ourselves to the railings’. (It is a phrase used with revealing frequency in different contexts.) …’The Army wife is a vanishing breed,’ said a colonel’s wife. ‘My generation just followed the flag and did good works. In those days we weren’t saving for houses. But the financial ballgame has completely changed…’ (p102)

    ‘Even the most dedicated soldiers now dislike the idea of inflicting their way of life and their brother officers’ wives on someone they love. And those who stay in after marriage are far more likely to encourage a wife to keep her own career. As subaltern in the Royal Engineers who has been singled out as the more promising in the regiment expressed his dilemma when he admitted in private his intention to leave: ‘The Army is no place at all for a married man. If I was going to stay single it would suit me very well. It’s a great shame because I don’t want to leave and the idea gives me a physical feeling of being torn in two.’ The problem, he felt, resulted largely from official attitudes: ‘Generals seem to expect us to marry a brigadier’s daughter who’s been bred for the job.’ He then wondered how many brigadier’s daughters were prepared to marry an officer nowadays – a question that was later echoed by several senior officers who remarked that their daughters had no intention of marrying back in to the Army. In any case, the Army demanded ‘the right sort of wife’ – one who had no independent existence and no career of her own, who did not mind being ‘wheeled out for regimental occasions’ and keeping quiet the rest of the time. ‘But the last thing I want’, he said, ‘is to marry someone who’s only interested in coffee mornings and flow-arranging. A Mrs Lieutenant So-and-so who’s expected to run the wives’ club’. (pp93-94)

    ‘The 1987 officer attitude study was based on those attending the junior division of the staff college… results which concerned married life were striking: 62 per cent of the married officers were dissatisfied with the long-term career prospects for their wife…’ (Beevor, p384)

    http://www.amazon.co.uk/Inside-British-Army-Antony-Beevor/dp/0552138185 – an analysis of the British Army in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s.

    1. Why don’t you marry me??!!

      That was the most exciting comment ever!!! So they know and are just hoping the subjugated women will say nothing forever…they probably will from what I have seen!

      But for me the time has come said The Walrus to The Carpenter…

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