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Peter Quantrill

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Thank you Michael, look forward to your report.
For what it is worth, the Gurkha battalion in which I served, never used the term "Batman," always "Orderly." Perhaps each Regiment has its own "form?"
As ever,
Peter Ewart

Joined: 31 Aug 2005
Posts: 1797
Location: Near Canterbury, Kent, England.
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Thanks Peter. It certainly would be interesting if Michael was able to locate it.

As someone with no personal military experience (the Wolf Cubs wouldn't count, I suppose?) I'm often confused as to when a "batman" might be called a "servant" or vice versa, or whether the two are/were separate. In accounts on the Great War we certainly read of both terms and, as far as I can recall, for previous times also.

It would be interesting to know if different regiments used different terms, as Peter wonders, but I suspect it would be very difficult to pin down, especially as the habit may have changed from time to time. For what it's worth, my grandfather's cousin, a private in the 15th Hussars, was always described by his sister as "batman" to Sir Thomas Lees, both before and during the period in which the latter was ADC to Lord Chelmsford, Governor of NSW, when they went out to Sydney in 1911. (Lees later died at Gallilopi after the Suvla landings, along with Lord Longford and the rest). Of course, my relative may have simply been using a commonly accepted expression without any specific knowledge, although no doubt this is how her brother referred to himself.

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mike snook 2

Joined: 04 Jan 2006
Posts: 920
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In most of the high Victorian sources I have read they use 'soldier-servant' and I fancy batman is a later term from about the turn of the century onwards. What is interesting me lately is the number of civilian servants who were also employed in the field, generally by more senior officers, in the high Victorian period. Some of them seem to be fairly dodgy types that hang around on the fringes of empire, and who are very much in temporary employment - for the 'duration of the campaign' sort of thing - whereas others seem to be discharged former soldier-servants now in the employ of the same military 'master' but in a civilian capacity, a job which presumably many of them did for many years. The famous war correspondents of the era, Forbes, Prior, Villiers, Burleigh, Fripp et al, who for the most part relished their unofficial officer status, all seem to have employed civilian servants in the field too.

When writing I tend to use 'batman' as being more universally understood amongst a modern readership, (though perhaps less so these days amongst the young), so as to avoid having to footnote or otherwise explain the archaic 'soldier-servant' - something which is not readily done in a single pithy sentence. Though it could be argued, I suppose, that it does 'what it says on the tin' and doesn't need much amplification. But ultimately there's much more to it than that.


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Cpl William Cotter- 17th Lancers.
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