The village of Odiham in Hampshire is closely associated with Britain’s Royal Air Force, as the base at RAF Odiham is the home of the iconic Chinook helicopter. The nearby town of Aldershot is considered the home of the British Army, for whom the nickname “Tommy” became synonymous over the 19th and 20th centuries. But the eponymous Tommy was born in Odiham.
According to records, Thomas Atkins began serving in the British Army on August 31, 1815, as a private in the No. 6 Company of the 1st Battalion in Foot Regiment. But Thomas “Tommy” Atkins may not have actually existed. Thomas Atkins was a name used by the War Office when they produced a model example of how a soldier’s record of service should be completed within the Soldiers Account Book.
The Soldiers Account Book listed Thomas Atkins’s position, regiment, and place of birth, the village of Odiham. Though the book’s Private was likely inspired by a preexisting moniker ascribed to Britain’s common soldiers, it is from the War Office’s Odiham-born example that allies—and later enemies—took inspiration when nicknaming the British Army’s Tommys, during the First World War.