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The U.S. military adopted many of its traditions from the British military — including, apparently, the habit of giving units unusual names.

In the British army, the regiment is traditionally considered the most important unit, and many have long and distinguished histories. They also sometimes have long and seemingly not-so-distinguished names.

The Household Cavalry Regiment, based in London, is comprised of the Life Guards and the Blues and Royals, and has two main roles. Part of the regiment serves as an active armored reconnaissance unit while another is ceremonial, providing horse cavalry troopers for high-level state and royal functions.

The Life Guards has nothing to do with swimming. It is the senior regiment of the British army, formed in 1660 from a group of 80 Royalists who had gone into exile with King Charles II after his defeat in the Battle of Worcester in 1652.

The latter part of The Worcestershire and Sherwood Foresters Regiment name does refer to the woods of Robin Hood fame. The regiment has been around since 1694 and is currently deployed to Afghanistan, according to its official Web site.

Colors, it seems, have played a large part in the naming of British Regiments: there’s The Black Watch, The Green Howards and The Royal Green Jackets.

The Black Watch is a Scottish infantry regiment and has been serving for more than 250 years.

It takes the “black” part of its name from the dark color of the tartan that unit members wore for their kilts, and the “watch” from its original mission of guarding the Scottish highlands.

The “Howard” of The Green Howards came from an early regimental colonel, the Honorable Charles Howard. During the 1744 Wars of Austrian Succession, the unit was known as Howard’s Regiment. It picked up the “green” from part of the soldiers’ uniforms to distinguish them from another Howard’s Regiment serving in the same brigade.

The other unit became The Buff Howards, also a reference to their uniforms, and that regiment carried the name for more than 200 years.

The Tyne-Tees Regiment of the Territorial Army (similar to the U.S. National Guard) is one of Britain’s newest units, having only been formed in 1999. The first part is not pronounced “Tiny,” although it might look so at first glance, giving the unit a seeming reference to small undergarments.

According to the regiment’s Web site, the Tyne and Tees are rivers in the unit’s territory, and the overlapping “T”s on its unit patch when looked at from the side give the impression of an “H,” which represents another area river, the Humber.

British naval and air force unit names are tame in comparison to their army counterparts. Most RAF, Fleet Air Arm and Royal Marine units have squadron numbers instead of names.


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