Aussie term 'digger' actually from NZ

  • Breaking
  • 14/06/2015

The term 'digger' is generally accepted as slang for an Australian soldier, and the myth is that it came from Australians digging trenches at Gallipoli.

But as it turns out, the term originally referred to Kiwis and had nothing to do with Gallipoli.

Military historian Chris Pugsley has studied thousands of letters and diaries from ANZAC soldiers at Gallipoli, and not one called himself or his mates "diggers".

Dr Puglsey says the nickname was first used by New Zealand trench diggers after Gallipoli, during the Battle of the Somme in France in late 1916.

"It was a term awarded by the British high command to the exploits really of our engineers because they were bloody good diggers," he says.

The original diggers were Maori and non-combat troops from Otago, responsible for the dangerous job of building vital communication trenches up to the front lines during battle.

"It reflected an enormous amount of pride, because the Somme is where the New Zealand Division is recognised as one of the outstanding divisions on the western Front."

Soon all New Zealand soldiers began to use the term 'digger' to describe themselves - before it was adopted by Australian troops.

"It was in early 1917 that the Anzac corps started to call themselves diggers," says Dr Pugsley. "That came from the New Zealand Division which started to use that term about the New Zealanders after the Somme."

So when you next hear an Australian proudly boasting about their country's ANZAC diggers, you might want to remind them where the original diggers came from.

3 News

source: newshub archive


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