Monday 21 Oct, 2013

The 70th anniversary of D-Day: Student Tours – Front-line Slang


The rich history of World War II has been told and retold in countless fashion. One of the most engaging and meaningful ways to experience that crucial period of our history is with a trip to Normandy to see the same beaches where D-Day took place. Each year thousands of Canadian students have the opportunity to witness firsthand these remarkable locations – and many more –  through educational history tours.

June 6, 2014  marks the 70th anniversary of the Battle of D-Day and the invasion of Normandy, the largest seaborne invasion in military history. This assault saw over 130,000 Allied soldiers land on five separate beaches. Each had its own code name  – a special operative title – which they are still known as today.

You may remember them as Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno and Sword.

From secret code names to front-line slang, there are a number of interesting and unique terms that originated during the many battles spread across Europe and beyond. While away at war, it was common practice for soldiers to develop an extensive slang vocabulary to communicate. Here are some of my favourite terms from the Second World War:

Ack-Willy – From the phonetic letters for AWOL (Absent Without Leave).

Airships and Clouds – Sausages and mashed potatoes. Similar to “bangers and mash,” it is of Australian origin.

Bubble Dancing – Kitchen fatigue, experienced when washing pots in the kitchen.

Bully Beef Bomber – Rations being dropped from an aircraft. Also known as “biscuit bombers”.

Butterfly Bomb – A small, German bomb. The ends of the bomb opened as it descended, making it appear as if it was fluttering to the ground. Often painted green with yellow and red stripes, the bomb looked like a large, exploding butterfly.

Cookie – Section or crew member who was a skilled cook and was given the task of preparing meals.

Dressed Up Like a Dog’s Dinner – Wearing one’s best uniform for a special occasion.

Eating Irons – Knife, fork, and spoon.

Latrinagram – A rumour spread rapidly by word of mouth. Also known as “latrine wireless”.

Moaning Minnies – German rocket launchers. They were of large caliber, had slow flight, and made a loud screaming noise when launched.

Not a Sausage – Not to have anything of value, such as money, cigarettes, or food.

Roller Skates – Tanks

Sticky Bomb – Anti-tank hand grenade. The grenade was covered with very sticky glue and was supposed to stick to a tank when thrown. They had a tendency to stick to the person throwing it, and did not stick well to surfaces that were wet, oily, or dirty. The glue also dried out in storage, making them less effective. As a result, they were withdrawn from use.

Zizz – A nap. Given the name because snores were often depicted as “Z-Z-Z-Z” in cartoons.

German Butterfly Bomb

Photo via

If you’re starting to plan a tour now and are looking for a history focus, Victory in Europe Day happens each year on May 8th. VE Day represents the day allied forces accepted the unconditional surrender of Nazi Germany under the control of Adolf Hitler.

The 70th anniversary of VE Day is in 2015 and EF hopes you will join thousands of students, teachers, cadets and pilgrims who will travel to Europe on student history trips