Be British boys be British


Anna Mcpherson

Smith's famous qoute,and there is a meaning why Smith yelled this out to his men.
By what I read,Smith had a hidden code to this statement/quote and this is it (Be British boys,be British)= "Be polite like an English man would do in this situation,unlike the pushy Americans" Has anyone know about this or know that Smith had 'hidden reasons' for his quotes?
In the context, I would think he meant "Be brave", referencing the battle of Waterloo, in which the British beat out the French by a slender margin. Wellington called that battle "a close-run thing; the closest run thing I ever saw" (or words to that effect).
Luke:Thanks for you're answer. In the battle of waterloo,did any officer used the term of be "British boys be british"than used the phrase "be brave"?
Why not just say "Be brave" than say " Be British boys be British" If you are in a war zone,I would think the officers would used the shorter term to get there message out,kind of does not add up in a sense.
The problem here is that there is no credible evidence that Captain Smith ever said that, much less any reliable reports that he was even seen in the water after the ship went down.
Wellington had no illusions about the finer qualities of the men under his command at Waterloo. The equivalent today would be a regiment of skinheads and football hooligans.

"Our army is composed of the scum of the Earth" ... "People talk of their enlisting from their fine military feeling - all stuff - no such thing. Some of our men enlist from having got bastard children, Some for minor offences, many more for drink" ... "I don't know what effect these men will have upon the enemy, but, by God, they frighten me."
As for "Be British", Smith might have said it, or something like it. Certainly others did in similar circumstances in other situations. It stems from the fact that many Britishers in that politically-incorrect age openly considered themselves to be the epitome of all that was best in the human race, so the call to 'be British' was a call to exercise those qualities and to be an example to others of less fortunate parentage. This confidence that all could be relied upon to 'do the right thing' was extended to other English-speaking peoples like the Americans, Canadians and Australians, but not much further.
I don't know about Waterloo, but Admiral Lord Horatio Nelson, during the naval battle of Trafalgar, had his flagship signal his fleet with flags that were deciphered as "England expects every man to do his duty." That was also during the Napoleonic wars.

To 'be British' was a call to be as brave as the heroes the English schoolboys in Queen Victoria's day learned about in their history books. The Victorians were committed to empire building.

I suppose it started with the Elizabetheans defending their isle (and the waters off Newfoundland) from the Spaniards (and fishermen from other nations) and getting in some piracy and slave trading while doing it. "If Spain had an empire, why not we English? After all, we trounced their Armada, God being on our side. So, we must be the best and bravest, and God has given to us the right and responsibility of governing everyone else."

By 1912, Great Britain had lost the United States (The Americans who fought were mostly of English and Scottish stock, so the English saw it as British defeating British), but they had Canada, Newfoundland, India, Australia, New Zealand, a few large chunks of Africa and a significant number of other islands and colonies, as well as influence in the Middle East. All due to British pluck and bravery. So the Edwardian Englishman was pretty proud of his "British race", and had to live up to his heroes and his bloodlines. As Bob Godfrey said, many Britishers considered themselves to be the epitome of all that was best in the human race.

Many Anglo-Americans and Anglo-Canadians saw themselves as such too. Other immigrants and their descendants were seen as inferior stock, useful for farming the prairies but not for governing the nations. Even lower class English were not really 'Grade A'. The slum child sent by Dr. Barnardo's Homes to work for an Ontario farmer was certainly not considered an empire builder (He was sent to 'decrease the surplus population' at home, as E. Scrooge once put it, and his employer or his employer's father might have been considered 'surplus' too, if he had not emigrated.); though the younger son of a gentleman or noble who received an allowance to set up as a gentleman farmer was supposed to live up to what his family and school had taught him because he was of 'the better classes'.
England expects every man to do his duty. England is the most sanguine country on the face of the earth, and will find itself continually disappointed - Charles Dickens.
I've always been dubious of the story myself and have only come across one account by a 'crew member' that referred to Smith using the words "Be British". It sounds like a sound bite as we call them nowadays, a come-on to sell books and papers.