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)

The modern leader in defence

What it was:

Talk by a senior MOD leader to the ISS leadership cohort in Corsham on 9 October 2018.

What I learned:


  • You are a highly evolved ape!
  • Think about the psychological environment you create for your team
  • Systems of thinking, fast and slow
  • Self awareness is key
  • Create an environment that encourages Reasonable Challenge

A simple framework for leadership:

  • A leader leads three things: issues, people and change.

Leading issues:

  • The product: must be credible, consistent, defensible, logical, viable
  • Stakeholders: use empathy, trust and assertiveness

Leading people:

  • Be effective at what you do. This is fundamental to leadership.
  • Be a time traveller; see five years hence, and reflect on how things have moved.
  • Have a clear view of success and failure, beware the dangers of linear narratives,
  • take a probabilistic view of success and failure
  • Be human: learn about your people, which team they support, their children’s names.

Leading change:

  • Change happens to us. We adapt to change. Therefore leading change is really just leading adaptation.
  • In essence it’s the role of the leader to force the adaptation
  • Evolution is a good analogy – it can be gradual or drama
  • Reputation is the only real currency of leadership: The metric is what will people be saying about you / this in five years time
  • There are many different leadership models, both quiet and loud

In summary:

  • Lead through people
  • Make sure the team is adapting
  • Be conscious of your reputation

What I will aim to do differently as a result:

  • Think about things in terms of issues, people and change – not just issues
  • Use the framework above as a way of organising my planning time
  • Ask my people about themselves more.