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!!!