Common UK Defence Metonyms

I compiled a list of the most common metonyms used in UK Defence, with some help from Twitter.

This list arose from a need to help User Researchers who are new to UK defence to get a quick handle on some of the words we use to describe the main organisations and groupings – and hence users. That’s why it’s specifically a list of metonyms, not general defence abbreviations or jargon – which would be a much, much longer list!

This list is deliberately non-exhaustive (I’ve omitted anything sensitive or derogatory!) so please let me know via Twitter if there’s anything major that I’ve missed or just got wrong.

Metonym General meaning Specific meaning or origin
Abbeywood Defence Equipment and Support; MOD’s procurement arm DE&S at Abbeywood, Bristol
Aldermaston Defence Nuclear Organisation or AWE AWE Aldermaston, near Aldermaston, Berkshire
Andover Army HQ Army Command HQ at Andover, Wiltshire
Base / The Base [typically of IT or equipment] The equipment based in UK, not deployed overseas “New Style of IT” Base programme
Blackpool Veterans services organisation DBS Blackpool
Chilwell “Passing through Chilwell” = being mobilised as a Reservist especially Territorial Army RTMC Chilwell (TA Mobilisation Centre)
Corsham MOD’s IT department, Defence Digital (formerly ISS) Defence Digital main site near Corsham, Wiltshire
Dark Blue The Navy; the Navy contingent within a wider group Uniform colour of the Royal Navy (literally Navy Blue)
Fleet Navy HQ (note “The Fleet” means the Navy’s ships not the HQ) Old name for Navy Command HQ
Glasgow Army Pay or Personnel organisation; army admin processing Army Personnel Centre, Glasgow
High Wycombe RAF HQ RAF Command HQ at High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire
Jack Tar A typical non-specific Sailor (cf. Joe Bloggs) Historic
Khaki or Green The Army; the Army contingent within a wider group Uniform colour of the British Army
Land Army HQ Old name for Army Command HQ
Lichfield Defence Medical Services Defence Medical Services at Lichfield, Staffordshire
Light Blue The RAF; the RAF contingent within a wider group Uniform colour of the Royal Air Force
London The Corporate Headquarters of Defence MOD Main Building, Whitehall, London
Main Building The Corporate Headquarters of Defence MOD Main Building, Whitehall, London
MODNET MOD’s main HQ IT system but sometimes refers to MOD office IT in general MODNET programme
Northwood UKStratcom HQ, or possibly PJHQ or the joint headquarters in general; UKStratCom HQ at Northwood, Middlesex
Porton Down Defence Science and Technology Laboratory as an organisation, sometimes the laboratories specifically DSTL HQ near Porton Down, Wiltshire
Portsmouth Navy HQ Navy Command HQ at Portsmouth, Hampshire
RAF Little Snoring (slang) a non-specific small military establishment, away from the centre Little Snoring in Norfolk (Former RAF site)
Senior Service / The Senior Service The Royal Navy as an organisation or Navy personnel RN was founded before the Army or RAF hence “senior”
Shrivenham The Defence Academy; “at Shrivenham” would usually mean being on a training course Defence Academy at Shrivenham, Oxfordshire
Strike RAF HQ Old name for RAF Command HQ
Sutton Coldfield Estates Management organisation, Defence Infrastructure Organisation DIO HQ at Sutton Coldfield, near Birmingham
The Centre MOD Main Building; sometimes specifically the central planning/resourcing function within Main Building Various – No specific meaning
The Sixth Floor Defence Ministers and Service Chiefs; the top brass Floor 6 of Main Building
Tommy Atkins A typical non-specific Soldier (cf. Joe Bloggs) Historic
Town London; the Corporate Headquarters of Defence MOD Main Building, Whitehall, London
Whole-Force / The Whole Force Regulars, Reservists, MOD Civil Servants, Embedded Contractors as a single group Same as general meaning
York [less common] Security Vetting organisation or process UK Security Vetting Organisation in York (formerly part of MOD)

Transparency – an experiment

Those of you that know me may have heard me talk about transparency, and how I feel this is important for good public service. I think that civil servants being more transparent about their work could have various potential benefits:

  • Greater accountability
  • Better learning / sharing of best practice
  • Promotes understanding of what civil servants ‘actually do’

Ultimately, the public pay my salary so there’s a reasonable argument they should be able to see what they get for the money.

The experiment

I’ve decided to conduct a personal experiment in transparency and accountability – effectively a form of personal radical transparency. The principal is that I will endeavour to publish as much information about my work as practicable.

The purposes of this experiment are:

  • To examine the value of greater transparency from civil servants – for example, does this give greater insight into what I do, or actively obfuscate that? Which things are useful and which aren’t?
  • To examine the practical considerations around being transparent – what tools / guidance / best practice / rules might help civil servants be more transparent?
  • To identify any other consequencs of transparency – for example, does it affect the way I work and/or the decisions I make, knowing that some of this will be published?

The (initial) ground rules of the experiment are:

  • I can’t give details of anything protectively marked / embargoed.
  • I can’t give details about my work that give away other people’s information (only my own information).
  • I can’t give way details that would otherwise compromise security – for example my personal security.
  • I do not have much time to dedicate to this so it will be on a ‘best endeavours’ basis.
  • Some of this likely won’t work, won’t be practical or won’t be sustainable – hence it is an experiment.

I’ll be adding more information (in this blog’s new “Transparency” category) over the coming weeks and months so stay tuned. Wish me luck!

My learning and development plan

What it was:

An activity to develop and share my personal learning and development plan.

What I learned:

I wanted to use this as an exercise in planning and discipline, so I adopted the “Goals > Objectives > Tasks” approach to make a logical, structured list

I used these sources:

Finally I used a text editor to write it and then Coggle to visualise it. There a few errors in the conversion, some of which I have fixed by hand, but the end result is close enough!

Here is the result, with the link to the full plan and a plain-text version pasted in for reference:

Personal Development Plan – As at 20 Nov 19
Become more disciplined and effective
Develop discipline as a habit
Develop a routine for removing distractions (eg Phone away etc)
Have a weekly plan and stick to it
Improve on following processes & procedures
Up to date on Leave recording
Performance management cycle
Conduct work pattern recording
Stay current and relevant in technical and professional skills
Grow my techical skills and experience
Complete Python ML Bootcamp course
Take a touch typing course
Maintain Professional PR and Digital skills
Complete CIPR CPD for the year
Compete a course on User Research basics
Be an intelligent customer for AI and ML
Complete real-world data science exercises that improve my life
Complete Python for Data Science learning
Execute and understand a sample ML exercise
Seek out opportunities and challenges and find a new role
Grow my Network
Social Media / LinkedIn / Defence Connect
Cross Govt
MOD Leadership
Find a new job
Update CV and expose it for feedback
Set up jobs monitoring
Complete Private sector applications – at least 50
Complete Public Sector applications – as many as possible
Explore new opportunities
Seek out a project delivery role at work
Take on a corporate challenge / wider activity
Become a senior leader, ready for SCS
Gather and act upon feedback
Gather feedback in one place
FLS feedback
Interview feedback
Psychometric feedback
Address weaknesses and shadows
Identify shadows and make a plan to address them
Develop Emotional Intelligence via training
Develop Commercial Acumen through practice
Develop SCS competences
Develop new competence examples for SCS
Review SCS behaviours and map to ‘how’ of my personal objective
Develop leadership
Practice Open Leadership
Identify an SCS buddy / mentor
Read: “why should anyone be led by you”
Develop personal leadership statement and reflect in my objectives
Keep learning and developing in a concerted way
Deliver this Learning and Development plan
Generate L&D plan
Review the plan at fixed intervals (monthly)
Maintain a log of completed activities
Set up self-coaching and reflection on earlier learning
Capture all learning and actions in a coherent system
Complete the backlog of write-ups
Collect notes from FLS coaching sessions
Set up a system for reviewing / reminding

What I will aim to do differently as a result:

The plan lists all the things I want to do as part of my learning. There’s a lot there so the challenge will be to stick to it and be realistic about how much of this is doable inside one year.

I’ll likely create a Trello board to track my learning actions – but that is for later.

Leading with Self: The personal leadership statement

What it was:

A talk, group and individual exercise led by Dionne Corradine. This was part of the Deputy Director Leadership Programme held in London on 16 and 17 September 2019.

What I learned:

A personal leadership statement can help crystallise your leadership style, your aspirations, and what you offer to the people you work with. It can also be used as part of your objectives and to measure your progress.

A personal leadership statement takes time to develop and should be considered a work in progress – it can be a blend of where you are and where you want to be.  It should answer the question “Why should anyone be led by me?”

We conducted a brief exercise to generate a first-draft personal leadership statement.  Here is my draft:


What do I stand for?

  • The power of science, technology and information to do public good
  • The Integrity, impartiality and objectivity of the Civil Service
  • Experimentation and taking decisions based on evidence
  • The importance of collaboration 
  • Development and growth for all

Why follow me? Because I am:

  • Inspiring:
    • Try to see where the future is going and get there early
    • Always work collaboratively, cohering teams into action
    • Work to set a compelling vision and concepts 
    • Work to engage people and stakeholders in that vision
  • Confident:
    • Enjoy communicating, engaging and influencing
    • See and do things differently
    • Practice open leadership, working out loud and being open to feedback 
    • Volunteer and step in when things are going wrong
    • Try to influence thinking outside my area
    • Aim to be aware of myself, my impact and be reflective
  • Empowering:
    • Create a team that’s fun, supportive, loyal to each other
    • Keep myself and my team at the leading edge, by driving change and developing forward-leaning skills
    • Try to help my team achieve their development dreams
    • Encourage and reward reasonable challenge, listen to evidence
    • Enable teams to do new things in new ways

Things I’m trying to be better at:

  • Servant leadership
  • Planning and managing the pipeline of work
  • Staying always a leader, not a manager or operator 
  • Maintain technical skills and being an intelligent customer 
  • Coaching and mentoring my team leaders
  • Maintaining and growing my and my team’s networks

What I will aim to do differently as a result:

  • Develop the statement above and then try to live it!
  • Bake my leadership statement into my personal objectives
  • Build in review / reminder points
  • Consider ways to test my performance against the statement
  • Get hold of the speaker’s slides for this session as they contained lots of useful thinking.

Meta: developing this blog

A quick post on developing the blog:

  • I’m slowly adding my notes from earlier learning opportunities – mainly these are notes from formal talks and lectures.
  • Turns out I have been capturing these notes on and off since 2010 so might take me a while to get up to speed
  • I’m trying to date the entries as per when the learning happened… so in some cases the entry date and publication date will be adrift by many years!
  • Soon I hope to start adding in more general learning points, for example personal reflections or post-activity retrospectives
  • I might also adopt a looser approach to capturing learning as I go  *tips hat to Weeknotes*
  • As you can see I’ve stripped out any bells and whistles and gone for simplicity, readability and focus on written content.
  • And – if you’re interested, I use a full WP install on some personal hosting provided by TSOhost.  Currently a vanilla install of the “First” theme by Themehaus but I’ll probably start tinkering with the code of that at some point.